June 2002 Archives


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We've had heavy rains three nights in a row. Which is good for the drought, but not so nice if you're out driving in it. Last night we got caught in the middle of one of the worst electrical storms I've ever seen. We had gone out to Cary and were headed back to Pittsboro on route 64. The rain was so heavy that at times we literally could not see the road at all. Plus we were on an unfamiliar country road, which made it that much more fun. The heavy lightning was actually a blessing because it was a little easier to see the road when the sky was lit up.

It was so bad that we missed the turn onto Russell Chapel Road and accidentally drove into a ditch next to the road, because we couldn't see where the road was. Luckily it was a really shallow ditch, so we didn't have any trouble getting out of it once we figured out where the road was. I say "we" but really I mean Georg, who maintained amazing composure driving through that maelstrom. If I had been driving, we would have pulled over and waited it out on the side of the road!

Remember that little brown toad I mentioned the other day? Yesterday morning I spotted him again. He had gotten into the swimming pool and couldn't get out. I watched him swim around the edge for a few minutes, looking in vain for a place to climb out. But three of the cats had gathered around me and one of them, Darla, spotted him too. She would have scooped him right out of the water, but I shooed her away.

I wanted to rescue him but when I walked away to get the pool skimmer, Darla made a beeline for him every time. I had to stand right by him to keep her away. So I ended up slowly walking the entire length of the pool, guarding over the toad, until finally Georg came outside to ask what in the heck I was doing.

Georg scared away the cats (not because there's anything scary about Georg! Just because he hasn't been spending quiet time sitting outside reading, letting them get used to him.) long enough for me to get the pool skimmer, scoop out Mr. Toad and deposit him in some nearby brush. I hope he wasn't in the chlorine long enough to make him sick. I don't think the water is all that heavily chlorinated (it has some water bugs in it) so he's probably fine.

Unfortunately, now Darla is mad at me. And I was really making headway with her; before the Mr. Toad incident she let me pet her back once or twice. Oh well, Mr. Toad would have made her sick anyway. She should thank me for chasing her away from him!

I had another altercation with the plumber. He called yesterday afternoon and left a message on my office phone, letting me know that since I had not paid the invoice he was not going to be coming out on Monday to finish the job. So could I please call him to straighten it out.

My first thought was "invoice? what invoice?" I called him right back, and with suitable apologies told him that I hadn't been looking for an invoice and of course I would pay him immediately. I also neglected to point out that I had asked him at the outset if I needed to pay a deposit, and that would have been a good time to tell me that I would need to pay for the first stage of work before he would do the second.

(Today I dug out the contract and sure enough, it says "80% payment after rough in, balance after fixtures installed" right on it. So I guess I can't get all indignent about him not informing me of the payment terms. Still, he could have mentioned it beforehand. A simple "I just mailed the invoice for the rough in" phone call would have been nice.)

Afterwards I called the contractor, who had already talked to the plumber. Apparently the plumber had just assumed that I was stiffing him and the contractor assured him that he thought I intended to pay him, so why didn't he call me. Of course this is all from the contractor's point of view, it might not have really happened exactly like that. But still, it sounds like I was lucky to have the contractor to sort it out. The contractor did say that this is the best plumber he's ever worked with. I guess I can put up with him being a little persnickity, if he's that good.

In any case, it's all sorted out now. I dropped the check off at his office today (which is luckily very near my house) so he'll be there Monday as planned. We also talked about him putting in a "hand shower" which is mounted on the wall, so we'll have a regular shower head and the hand shower too. I had asked him if he could put in a shower head with a hose, which is what we had before. Because it's a lot easier to bathe the dogs that way. And he suggested the separate hand shower instead.

He also mentioned that bathing the dogs in the tub is probably the cause of our drainage problems. I'm sure he's right. He suggested putting a little Draino down the drain every couple of months as a preventative measure. Which is a good idea, but I think we'll use Nair (you know, the hair removal lotion) instead. We tried it on a hair clog last month and it worked really well! The only problem with Nair is it's really slow on standing water, because it's a lotion and doesn't sink down the drain like Draino.

Anyway, they're almost done! Today someone is there finishing the sheet rock. On Monday the plumber will put in the toilet and faucets, and we'll be able to sleep there Monday night! Yay!! !!!

They'll have to come back Tuesday to paint the walls, so I can't spring the dogs until Tuesday night alas. But still, it will be so wonderful to be back in my own house. Everything dusty and covered with plastic, furniture shoved out of the way, I don't care. I can hardly wait!


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It rained last night. First rain in over a month. One storm won't end the drought, but it's a start. The guest house has a tin roof so we could really hear the rain. At some point in the evening a little brown toad came and sat on the edge of the door. I guess he was trying to stay dry, but it made it a little tricky to get our bags in from Georg's car, without either hurting the toad or letting him in. He jumped against the glass like he was trying to get in, but I don't think he got hurt. I wonder if that symbolizes anything, when a toad is trying to get into your house?

Georg took pictures of the tile for me last night. It looks great! Tonight I'll try to remember to get the cable for my camera so I can post the photos on the site. I can't wait to see it in person.

Haven't heard from the contractor yet today, but the batteries in my cell phone went dead and I can't find the recharger. So he couldn't get right through to me even if he did call. I'll check my voice mail around 4 -- that's when he usually calls -- and call him either way. At least I know where the car recharger is (at home, duh!). Tonight I'll pick it up so I can at least charge the phone while I'm driving. It won't charge all the way in an hour but that will at least get it working again.

I started reading the Book of Thoth again last night. This time I'm finding it much more engaging. I still wouldn't call it an easy read, but it does seem more straightforward than the last time I tried to read it. He really does go through every image on each card and explain what it means, albeit in his own rather overwrought style. Maybe it's because I just read that Sutin biography which helped me to understand Crowley's references and writing style a little better.

I have to say, on the one hand it's an inconvenience to be staying out in the country an hour away from everything. Sure it means hours of driving every day and everything put on hold. But on the other hand, it's like a forced vacation from my life. The cell phone doesn't work out there, I don't have my computer so I can't get any work done, no TV to distract me. Which is extremely annoying at times, but at other times is really nice. When was the last time I sat down and read a good book? And then read another, and then started on a third?


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I just got off the phone with the contractor. The tile is all in! They are going to do the grout tomorrow but the tile is all in place today. Damn, I wish I could see it! But I have to work late tonight, and since we're going back out to Pittsboro tonight, stopping at the house would add an hour of driving. So I guess I'll just have to wait until tomorrow. Oh wait! Georg has my suitcase in his trunk and the camera is in it. So he can take pictures for me. Yay, I'll get to see it after all!

We also talked about the vanity. The contractor says that the plumber took it upon himself to move the vanity without taking the door into consideration. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but I'm not really concerned about who's to blame as long as it gets fixed. Also as long as no one thinks it's my fault and therefore I should pay for fixing it.

Anyway. The contractor says that if at all possible, they would like to avoid ripping out the wall and redoing the plumbing. Which I can certainly understand as I'm sure that would be costly. They are going to try moving the vanity as far to the right as they can while leaving the plumbing where it is. So that inside the vanity, the pipes will come out of the wall on the left edge and then bend to the right on their way to the sink top. Did that make any sense at all? He had a technical way of explaining it which I forget, but that was the gist of it.

They may still have to put the door on the outside, but again that would be okay with me. It really seems silly when you think about it, to have the door on a 4' x 8' bathroom open in. The door practically takes up half the room.

In a way this may turn out to be an improvement. With the vanity moved to the left, we might have room to put one of those pretty storage towers in there, for towels and so forth. Right now we keep all the towels in the hall closet and it would be really nice to have a towel right there if you forget. As long as it's not blocking the door, having it moved over a bit might be really nice.

Of course the situation isn't resolved yet -- it won't be truly resolved until the vanity is in there -- but so far I'm happy with the way Rick is handling this. He seems to be trying to resolve it, not point fingers, which is nice. Also he was extremely apologetic about the air conditioning, and about their not being done until Monday. (as well he should be!)

OK, do I have anything else to report. Right, the guest house has been flea bombed so we are on our way back there tonight. Georg will probably get there long before me as I'm working late at Stoneline. They have just been put on a weekly tax deposit schedule, which is a collossal pain in all our asses. I only go there once a week so I have to estimate the deposit, and then each week make sure we weren't under the week before. I wonder if the IRS knows, or cares, what a burden this is for a company with only eight employees.

I've read two sf novels in the past couple of days so I'm taking the Book of Thoth with me tonight. How's that for light bedtime reading? Maybe I'll look at a card each night and see if I dream about it.


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OK, so we got to our motel last night safe and sound. It was a bit of a step down from the hotel we were just in for the NY Tarot Festival, but it was clean and had a working bathroom. That's all I cared about.

I finished The Difference Engine. Enjoyed it very much, up until the ending. Up until it stopped, I should say. As the book didn't really seem to have an ending.

Next I started on American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Which I also enjoyed immensely. It was on a shelf at my friends' guest house so I borrowed it. It was a fast read; I finished it last night. Unfortunately, it was a bad printing and pages 373 to 404 were missing. I was still able to figure out pretty much what was going on, but was that ever frustrating! I'm going to have to get the book out of the library and read those thirty pages.

I forgot to mention that we've had a couple more cost overruns on the bathroom. First, there's currently no insulation in the walls, floor or ceiling, which it will cost a couple hundred dollars to add. Maybe I did mention that already. Second, they needed to add a dedicated line to the heater, so there's an additional charge there as well. I think it's worth it though. We used a space heater in there all winter long.

I had asked them to move to light so it was centered over the vanity and the contractor said that would be no problem. But last night we noticed a note on the wall, from the plumber to the contractor, saying that he had moved the plumbing to be centered under the light. Unfortunately, that means he moved the plumbing to the left. But the bathroom is such a tight fit that the door barely opened before. If the vanity is moved to the left, I don't think there will be room for the door.

I called the contractor this morning and mentioned this to him, and all he would say was "we'll make it work." Which I think means that he didn't think of that but he realizes that he should have. He also said that since we don't have the vanity yet, it's difficult for him to reposition the light & etc. Which I can certainly understand, but I thought that's why he needed those specs. I told him that centering the light over the vanity isn't really important to me, but leaving room for the door to fully open is.

I also mentioned that the way the plumbing is set up, it looks like they are fixing to have the sink on the left side of the vanity. But the sink we bought is in the center of the vanity. The old sink was way over to the left of the vanity but I wanted the new one centered so we could get one of those single-surface deals. I know I mentioned that we were going to do that, but it was a long time ago and I didn't repeat it recently.

Anyway, now it looks like the plumbing is way over to the left but the sink is supposed to be in the center. I mentioned that and he said that looking at the vanity specs, he didn't think there would be room for the pipes to have the sink in the center. Which doesn't make sense to me at all, because the example in the store was exactly that. I mean we bought the exact size and shape of the display model, and the sink on the display was centered. I told him that and he suggested I go back to the store and ask them to confirm that the plumbing really fits that way, that it isn't just for show.

I understand that it's difficult for him to set all this up without having the actual vanity to look at. But still, I'm finding this a bit alarming. My friend Pete (who just built a house) says this kind of thing is typical and I shouldn't get worked up about it.


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Just had my daily phone update from the contractor. I really appreciate that he calls me every day to let me know where things stand. Unfortunately I missed the call so he had to leave voicemail. He said that they're done putting in the new floor and the plumber will come in tomorrow. Also we had our second cost overrun, but it's not only a minor expense, but highly worthwhile. Turns out that one of the reasons our bathroom is always so cold is that it has no insulation in the walls or floor. He strongly suggested we spring for some insulation. I think that one's a no-brainer.

I tried to call him right back but his cell phone wasn't receiving calls. I don't know why I can't leave voicemail when his cell is turned off, but I just get an error message telling me to call back. I had his home number also, so I called there and left a message telling him to go ahead with the insulation and reminding him that we'll be out of town tomorrow. He can still call me on my cell phone, but if he needs anything that I forgot to buy, he'll have to get it himself and bill me.

How did I get by without a cell phone? I used to hate them, I thought they were the playthings of selfish annoying yuppies. But this bathroom thing would have been ten times more difficult without the phone. Not to mention Georg's misadventures in the Atlanta airport two weeks ago. The company screwed up the reservation for his rental car, so he was left stranded in the airport. I shudder to think what that would have been like if he hadn't had the phone with him.


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We spent last night with our friends Christa and Ray in Durham. They have an awesome house that Christa has worked really hard on decorating. I had to work late last night, so I didn't have a chance to go by our house before heading to Christa's. Georg was on the radio until 10 so he didn't get there until about a half hour after I did. We watched the end of "Annie Get Your Gun" with Christa and Ray, and then went right to sleep.

These late nights are starting to wear me down. Luckily, my photography class was cancelled due to lack of interest. Which makes tonight a lot easier (it would have been the first meeting tonight). I ought to be disappointed about the class, but at this point I'm relieved. It's one less thing to deal with right now. I'll probably be disappointed in a couple of weeks when we're back home and I've had time to catch my breath.

They are finished ripping out the old bathroom, and today they start rebuilding. By some miracle we managed to get them everything they needed -- the shower valves, the tub, and detailed specs on the vanity which Georg downloaded from the net -- in time.

And I think that's all I have to report for now. Tomorrow we're heading for NY. I'm so not ready! None of the things I was going to do for the trip got done. Oh well, it can't be helped now.


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Yay! The faucets are arriving today! The plumber won't be mad at me!

No need to put you through the saga of the shower valve now. In fact, there is no saga of the shower valve. They don't need it until tomorrow, and it's arriving today. So everything is fine.



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We just found out that Blossom Dearie will be performing in Manhattan this weekend. And we'll be there anyway for the tarot festival. Oh man! I love her singing. Most people my age probably would recognize her as the voice of "Figure Eight" from Schoolhouse Rock, but she is one of the great jazz vocalists of the 60s. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's rare for a singer of her caliber from that era to still be alive, much less still performing. It would be a crying shame to miss it.

And yet. The show is really expensive, plus a cab into the city would just about double the cost. This isn't a good time for extravagences with all the bathroom craziness right now. It says "reservations strongly recommended" which leads to me think that it might be tough to get a reservation so close to the event. And we'd have to miss the dinner banquet at the festival, not to mention Ruth Ann and Wald's handfasting ceremony.

Argh!! It's bad enough to live in a sleepy town and read about all the great cultural opportunities in other cities. But to actually be there and miss out on something like this? It's killing me!


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We got the tub, the toilet, toilet seat, and heater/vent last night. Also I bought the drain fixture for the tub because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to provide that or not. Luckily, we managed to find everything at one store, which saved some time. However, they only had one right-hand Americast tub -- that's this new substance that feels like cast iron but is light enough for Georg and I to carry -- and the box was already opened. They looked at it and told me there was nothing wrong with it, but I left a note for the contractor to check and let me know if that was true.

Back at the house, we were kind of amazed by the extent of it. I had thought they were just going to rip out one wall and part of another. But they completely gutted the bathroom. It's an empty shell. I guess it's better for them to remove everything and start over, than to try and rebuild over all the layers of previous bathroom. I saw scraps of linoleum under there that I had never seen before. They must have put the linoleum we saw on top of old stuff. Which explains why it had been a little lumpy.

We also noticed that, under our nasty wood medicine cabinet which sat on the wall, there had been a hole in the wall for a smaller, set-in medicine cabinet. I guess that might have been the original cabinet, and when they gave the room a face-lift they just bought a bigger one and covered up the hole.

You can really see the deterioration too. The beam on the corner of the wall, at the end of the tub, was rotting totally away. I hope that beam didn't support anything! Good thing we got them in when we did. I wonder what would have happened if we'd let this leak get any worse.

I took lots of photos of the hole where our bathroom used to be, and the pile of junk in the backyard that used to be the bathroom -- tub, toilet, sink, sheetrock, and pipes. But unfortunately, I left the cable for the camera at home, so I don't have any way to download the photos just yet.

OK, so we made good time I thought, but what with going to Lowe's, buying all that stuff, taking it home, a quick dinner, and the hour drive to Pittsboro, we didn't get out to Pete and Judith's place until about 10 pm. It looked like all the lights were out, so we didn't even both knocking on the door, we just headed for the guest house. It's a cute little house! Two rooms, a full kitchen, a decent bathroom and a huge shower. They lived there for over a year while they were building their house.

A few minutes after we got there, Judith knocked on the door. Turns out they weren't asleep, at least she wasn't. She showed us where everything was and took us up to the house to show us around a bit. We oohed and aahed over the main bathroom and the kitchen, but since Pete was already asleep and we were exhausted we didn't stay too long.

We did take a walk down to the barn so Judith could get some lighting catalogs out for me and we could meet her horses Winston and Gossip. Gossip seems a bit diffident about new people, but Winston liked having his neck rubbed. At first I thought he was really into us, but then I found out that he was waiting expectantly for some alfalfa hay!

I only managed to read the lighting catalogs for about ten minutes before I had to turn out the light and go to sleep. I'm not sure that I'll be able to order anything from the catalogs because of the time frame -- the electrician is coming Monday and I'll be out of town Friday through Sunday. But at least I can get ideas from it. The lights sold as "bathroom lighting" in Lowe's and Home Depot are hideous, but they have some nice wall sconces. Maybe we could use them instead.

I was surprised by how quiet it was overnight. They are truly out in the country and I didn't hear a single car on their road all night. Too bad it was overcast so we couldn't look at the stars. We woke up early this morning -- early for us at least -- and got ready quickly. When you have nothing with you but a change of clothes, there isn't really much to do except get dressed and get going!

We caused Pete and Judith's cats much consternation this morning. I guess they noticed that someone was in the guest house because they kept pawing at the door to be let in. But when they saw us at the door, they would start and run away! Lucky for us that Pete and Judith had had the foresight to shut the cat door before we got there. Otherwise the cats might have discovered strangers in the guest house by climbing into bed with us. Wouldn't that have been fun!

Oh, one more thing about Pete and Judith's place. I forgot to mention the bull. Apparently, yesterday during the day a 2,000 pound red bull wandered onto their lawn. He came right up to the paddock gate and stood there. Judith called animal control, but it took them a while to connect her with the right person. (I can only imagine the conversation... "There's a bull in my yard." "Ma'am? A what?") When she talked to the right people, they came right away. But by then, the bull was gone. Only later did it occur to Judith that she could have closed the horses off in another area and coaxed the bull into the paddock. But at the time she didn't think of it. Oh well, I'm sure they'll find him.

Ok, that's the update of last night. I'm sure you're as tired of reading this right now as I am of writing it. So I'll write later about the saga of the shower valves.

In the meantime, here's some actual news about the deck. Georg just informed me that for the first time ever, our sales rank on Amazon UK is better than on Amazon.com. We've been hovering around 13,000 on American Amazon, but on Amazon UK we're at about 6,500 right now!

I don't know what that means in terms of actual sales, but I have deduced that we are selling about a copy a day on Amazon.com. Because two days ago they said "Only 4 copies in stock! More on the way," then yesterday it was "Only 3 copies in stock!" and today it says 2 copies. So I am guessing that a sales rank of 12,000-14,000 means selling a copy a day.


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They began work on the bathroom today and we had our first cost overrun in less than two hours. See, it turns out that the water heater was once in the kitchen. It was moved into the crawl space under the bathroom at some point. But instead of replacing all the pipe as they should have done, they just ran new pipe from the new water heater to the place in the kitchen where it used to be. So when we take a shower, the hot water has to go from the heater, out to the kitchen, and back to the bathroom. All through rusty, leaky galvanized pipe. No wonder the hot water is funky.

So they replaced all the pipe in the house today, not just under the bathroom as they had been intending to do. It cost $450 extra, which is not bad for doing the whole house. But then again, it's a small house.

Also the plumber mentioned that the hot water heater is looking rusty. It's only 4 years old, but it's, as he put it, "sitting in a hole." The entrance to the crawl space is tight, so if we wanted even 30 gallons (barely enough for 2 people) we had to get a heater that was too tall for the space. So they had to dig a hole for the heater to sit in. It's on blocks but I'm not surprised that it's in bad shape. However, we're talking about replacing it with an instant water heater anyway, and I think it will last until we get there.

While we were talking, the plumber mentioned that the contractor wanted him back Thursday at noon to work on the new tub. I told him I had arranged a pickup truck and I was going to pick up the tub tonight. He asked if I was going to get that Americast tub and I said I was going to get a whirlpool tub instead. Well he pretty much freaked out.

I didn't realize there were so many additional issues at play with a whirlpool, but apparently there are. The plumber was really not happy & he kind of went off on me. I think he's a bit high-strung. He really sounded very upset. I promised to print out the spec sheets from the American Standard website and drive them right over. Which meant leaving work in the middle of the day, which I really can't be doing right now, but I had to, so I did.

On the way over I thought it over and realized that I was going to drive all the way over there (half hour each way), and all that would happen is they would chew me out for not properly informing them of the job specs and I wouldn't get my damned whirlpool anyway. So I pulled off the road and called the plumber. He wasn't at his cell phone, I guess he was under the house working on the pipes. So I called the contractor. He was much more calm & much easier to talk to. I'm really glad we have him on this job.

The contractor said that if we really wanted the whirlpool tub, he could do it, but he explained several reasons why he wouldn't recommend it. First of all, apparently those removable aprons are really cruddy. They're cheap plastic and they tend to buckle and pop out whenever the tub flexes (like every time you fill it). He said that if we got one like that, we would have problems with it forever. And that's the only kind we can have because in such a small space, there's no other way to get access to the pump.

Also, we would need to bring in an electrician to run a new circuit to the pump. I can't believe I didn't think of that. But because of the water it has to be a dedicated circuit, so there would have to be an electrician. Which would slow down the job and raise costs.

The contractor, Rick, was really nice about it & he said that if we had our hearts set on a whirlpool, he could do it. But that he wouldn't advise it, wouldn't put one of those in his own house. And whatever we do, he needed to know immediately so he could plan for it. So I told him that we would go back to the original plan & I would get a plain old tub tonight. I'm disappointed about not getting my whirlpool tub, but it's better not to spend money I can't afford on something that wouldn't work right anyway.

I told the contractor that I thought I had freaked out the plumber & he just laughed and said "Don't worry, I do that all the time." I tell you, I am going to try and deal with the contractor as much as possible from now on. He's seems accustomed to talking to stressed out homeowners, who don't know what they're doing, in emotionally charged situations. The plumber and I were kind of yelling at each other, "you can't change something like this after we've started!" "I really want this tub!" But the contractor completely defused the situation.

[Later] The contractor called me around 4 just to let me know they were finishing up for the day, what they had accomplished and what they're going to do tomorrow. Have I mentioned that I love this guy?

Apparently the deterioration under the bathroom was worse than they had expected, but since they were already planning to replace the entire floor it's OK as long as the rotten wood is limited to the bathroom. Which it seems to be.

Right now I'm waiting for Georg to get to my office. We'll head to Home Depot and pick up the bathtub, which they need tomorrow so they can measure the wall. And the heater/fan, which they will need on Thursday when the electrical work gets done. And the toilet, which they won't need until the end but if we get it now we won't have to deal with it later. I was hoping we'd have time to go to the mail center and see if our faucets are in, but since they close in a half hour I don't think that's going to happen.

After dropping off the tub, the toilet and the heater at our house, we'll turn right around and drive out to Pittsboro, where we are staying in my boss' guest house. It's really really nice of them to let us stay there. Wish they lived a little closer :) It's only about 1/2 hour from the office, but in the opposite direction from my house.

It's hard to believe that on top of all this, we're going to the NY conference in three days. Just think, last week I was planning on getting my hair done for the trip! Now I'll be lucky if I have time to pack.


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OK, so I don't want to be one of those lame people who talks incessently about their home removations, but things have quickly gotten out of hand with our bathroom. In the week since I last wrote, I've hired a contractor who works with the plumber, found out that the job will take twice as long and cost about 60% more than I had expected, and found out that the bathroom will be completely nonfunctional during the 2 weeks that they're working. And just today I found out that they have to start tomorrow. Aie!

Luckily we have a couple of places to stay lined up already. We certainly cannot live in a house whose only plumbing is a kitchen sink and a port-a-san for two weeks! I spent most of the evening driving around picking up some supplies that I thought we could get next week (like, the rest of the tile, the sink top, a key for the contractor). Georg did most of the work of packing up the bathroom and the side of the bedroom by that wall. Here's a scan of the tile in case you're interested. I think it's going to look pretty.

We're going to paint the walls very light grey, and put in a simple maple vanity. The medicine cabinet is a problem, because all the medicine cabinets at Home Depot and Lowe's suck. This week I'm going to look online and see if I can find something more attractive that isn't too expensive.

Last but not least the dogs have to go to the kennel first thing tomorrow. I hate to board them for so long, but it's not fair to expect the contractors to worry about keeping the gate closed & etc. Besides, it would be really upsetting to them to see a bunch of strangers trooping through the house, knocking down walls and making all kinds of noise. Better for them to spend the duration in a nice calm kennel, and come back after it's all over.

first TRACK meeting

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Yesterday we had our first meeting of TRACK, Triangle Regional Art Car Klub. Our club is small -- only 3 members as yet: myself, Deb Allen and Toby Galinkin. But you have to start somewhere! Deb and Toby are two really cool, creative women. After being a solitary kook for so many years, it's a thrill to be part of a "local art car community" that includes them.

all pods go to roswell

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Join Lisa Linn and hundreds of New Beetles as they travel to Roswell to meet the mothership. Oh, and also to have a cool car show. Lisa (the original car cam queen, and still reigning as her cams, unlike mine, actually work) is documenting her trip at www.allpodsgotoroswell.net. Check it out!


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Talked to the plumber last night. Turns out that we have old pipes that need to be replaced, so one entire wall and part of the other will need to be torn out. He thinks we will be without a tub and sink for a full week at minimum, but he thinks the toilet will only be out of commission for a day or two. (Have I mentioned that we only have one bathroom?) And the fixtures I bought at Lowe's are a bad brand. He said he could put them in, but he guaranteed he'd be back in a year to repair them. He recommended I go to a plumbing supply store and get Delta instead.

Also he suggested replacing our old water heater, which barely provides enough hot water for one shower, with a new "instantaneous" water heater. There's no tank, so it's supposedly much more efficient. And we already have gas heat. It sounds like a great idea, but I'm not sure if we can afford it on top of everything else. Well, everyone did tell me that renovations always end up costing way more than you expect!

Georg is out of town for work until Thursday. The house is kind of lonely but I've got lots to do, so it's not like I'm sitting around moping.

I've been wanting to use more photography in my collage work. Not to start using a "photocollage" style but just to solve some copyright problems by taking my own photos of objects, textiles etc. I have been reading up on digital cameras and had finally settled on the Nikon 995 as the right camera for me. I couldn't afford a high-end digital SLR, and it would be too much for my needs anyway. I think the 995 will be a good fit for me.

I wasn't going to buy it just yet, but the Durham Arts Council is offering a digital photography course in their summer catalog. I could really use some instruction in how to use a camera's manual settings, but until now all their classes required a film camera. I don't see why they don't allow digital cameras in the non-darkroom classes, but their teachers can make whatever rules they want I guess. Anyway, they are finally teaching a class for digital photography. So I ordered the camera and signed up.

The price has been dropping due to availability of newer models, but wasn't as good as I had expected because of the "grey market" thing. Apparently lots of dealers buy cameras in other countries and resell them here for cheap on Ebay. It's a great price and it's not illegal (thus the term "grey market" rather than "black market"). But a grey market camera has no US warranty, often no manual, etc. If parts are missing or the camera is defective, you're out of luck. I guess I'm lucky I found out about this before buying the camera rather than after. Besides, it was still a good price. Just not as good as I had expecting from browsing Ebay.


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Know what a true friend is? A true friend is someone who will listen to a malfunctioning Realplayer stream that sounds like a broken radiator for a full half an hour, because she promised to listen to your show and she know you have odd taste in music, so she thinks you're playing some godawful bleepy experimental IDM thing. But she listens anyway. That is a true friend.


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Salon.com today has an interview with Richard Florida, author of a book called The Rise of the Creative Class and How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. Now, I haven't read the book and I have no opinion about its validity. But I've just got to love a book that defines scientists, engineers, tech people, artists, entertainers, and musicians as a "supercreative core" who are the driving force in the economy.

He says that the key to thriving cities is building an environment which the creative class will find fun to live in. Hey, I'm a tech worker and an artist. Does that make me the ultrasupercreative core? He's saying that entire cities should cater to me, me, me! Mr. Florida, flattery will get you everywhere!


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I heard back from Lisa, she sounds really on the ball. She is in the middle of another project so we're going to talk about VRT publicity early next week. Yay!

In other news, we have finally gotten it together to get the bathroom fixed. We have a slow leak behind the tub, which has caused the wall to get all gross, and there's also a soft spot in the floor. The bathroom is old and wasn't that nice to begin with, so we figured while they're tearing out walls, might as well replace everything. It will be really nice to have a decent bathroom, and I've heard that bathrooms (along with kitchens) are good investments for the resale value of a house. We aren't all that into DIY (not Trading Spaces candidates is what I'm saying), so we're going to do the tile ourselves but hire someone to do everything else.

Scheduling the bathroom work may be a bit tricky, because Georg will be away for work for four days next week, and then the weekend after is the NY conference. We might have to wait until we get back. But the good news is that the construction guy suggested a schedule that would minimize the length of time the bathroom is out of commission (it's our only bathroom). We were planning to stay at the Day's Inn near us, at least while the toilet isn't working. Which may only be one night, thank goodness.

There's a monthly meeting of the local internet professional social club tonight. I've been meaning to go to one of these meetings for years, and tonight's is even at a restaurant I really like (El Chilango in Carrboro). But every month it's the same thing -- I fully intend to go, but meeting day rolls around and I don't feel like it, I'm either tired or there's something I want to do at home.

This time it's the bubble machine. I think I might finish beading it tonight if I get an early start. Which would mean skipping Internetworkers. Which is sounding more and more like a good idea as the day wears on. I'm sure I'd have fun if I went, but then again, I'd also have fun if I didn't go, and that would require less effort. You see, this is how I talk myself out of going every single month. I think I'm not a "people person."


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I know that most of the teeming, ah, well not exactly multitudes, but multiples perhaps -- anyway most of the people reading this diary are not located in central North Carolina. But those of you who are, and who appreciate independant music, might want to know that Radio Free Records in Durham was robbed two nights ago. The store was pretty much cleaned out; they took almost all the CDs and about 150 punk vinyl LPs. They did not, however, take the CD cases; just the CDs which were behind the counter. They did not have insurance so this is a devastating blow to them. Several local clubs are planning benefit concerts and there is a paypal address to make donations: radiofreerescue@yahoo.com.

No matter where you live, if you like to buy used or unusual CDs and you happen to see any CDs without their original packaging, in green and white computer disk sleeves, they could be stolen from Radio Free Records so please ask the dealer where s/he got them.

beaded bubble machine

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My new bubble machine arrived! The bubble machine I had brought to the parade was a big disappointment. The bubbles were tiny, and after running for a few minutes it got all foamy and stopped producing bubbles at all. I saw other cars at the parade with better bubble machines, that ran and ran and cranked out tons of bubbles. So I asked to artcarz list for recommendations, and got a professional machine made by Chauvet.



Robbye is officially gone from Llewellyn. I wrote a note this morning to our new publicity person, Lisa, to introduce myself. Haven't heard back yet but I'm sure she's got a lot going on. I'm not sure if she will be handling VRT permanently or just until we're assigned to someone new. I'm also not really sure where things stand with VRT publicity -- Robbye had a lot of leads she had been pursuing (like getting us listed in catalogs & such) and I don't know if more followup needs to be done or what. So I'm looking forward to hearing back from Lisa.

In other news, yesterday was a great day. First, I did my radio show in the morning. It was a fun show if I do say so myself! I had tailored almost the whole show to a friend who had promised to listen online. Normally I would play mostly electronic and world music, but I played a bunch of rock that I thought she would like. Except she overslept and missed the entire thing except the last song! (Which was Black Box Recorder in case you were curious.) Argh! Well, at least she liked that one song, and I did have fun. She said next week she would call when she started listening.

I only got one call during the show, and it was one of those lame "can you tell me the name of a song that was played yesterday at 2:30 in the afternoon?" calls. I actually tried to find out for her, but they had collected the week's flowsheets late the night before, so I couldn't look it up. Then she started telling me the lyrics and asking me if I recognized the song! I suggested she call back at the same time next week, so she'd get the same DJ, and ask them what song they had played. Luckily I had a long song playing or I wouldn't have had time to be so accommodating.

Then after the radio, I went to the mail center, where my new bubble machine for the car had arrived! (I know I should be writing about this on the car site, not here, but whatever.) The bubble machine I had brought to the parade was a big disappointment. So I asked around and got a professional machine, marketed to club DJs. Personally, I would be annoyed if a club had one of these bubble machines running because it churns out thousands of bubbles, and you would end up all sticky from the bubble soap. But that's just me!

Anyway the new bubble machine arrived. I had been thinking about making a cover for it shaped like a fish, so the bubbles would come out of the fishes mouth. But as soon as I got it, I knew that wouldn't work. The shape was wrong -- too square, not long enough -- and the back has a big air intake that can't be covered.

Luckily, a few days ago I had received a big order of blue, teal and silver beads. I haven't started putting the beads on the car yet, so I decided to start with the bubble machine. AMC was showing Audrey Hepburn movies so I parked my butt in front of the TV and watched Breakfast at Tiffany's and Sabrina while I worked. What a great way to spend the afternoon! It's slow going: I spent 5 hours gluing and got about half the bubble machine covered. But it looks pretty good if I do say so myself!

Interesting trivia of the day: The Dimitri from Paris song "Un Very Stylish Fille" is built around a line of dialogue, a woman saying "I am a very stylish girl," which is sampled from Breakfast at Tiffany's. It's from the scene where George Peppard breaks it off with Patricia Neal. First he says, "you're a very stylish girl, can't we do this stylishly?" and then she says "I am a very stylish girl" and offers him money. That was so cool to recognize the line from the song! I must have seen that movie ten times but I never caught that line before.


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I should be asleep right now, but my annoying redneck neighbors are having a party. I guess all of my neighbors are sort of rednecks. The one to the left of us like to practice shooting his crossbow into the side of his barn, and the one behind us has a confederate battle flag flying in front of his house and a neon Lite Beer on the back deck.

But the ones to the right of us are the ones who like noisy parties, so they are the annoying redneck neighbors. Tonight's party doesn't feature the usual loud country rock. Which ought to be a blessing, but instead of "Sweet Home Alabama" tonight we are treated to some woman screaming her head off. The screaming has been going on for over half an hour. It sounds like drunken revelry screaming, not fighting or angry screaming, but it's still pretty annoying.

I got a nice email from someone who was researching the Duchess of Argyll and stumbled onto my site. (She's the Princess of Wands in VRT.) Anyway, this person said the figure in the Empress looks like she's in her underwear. She suggested the figure might have been a prostitute. I was a little dubious that the London Illustrated News would have run an image of a prostitute, but Georg said that he recalled the article making some allusions to ladies of dubious reputation or somesuch. So it's possible that the VRT Empress is a prostitute. Which puts an interesting spin on the card don't you think?

(On a vaguely related note, I recently learned that Jane Austen alludes to prostitution in Pride and Prejudice -- she comments that it would have been better for the neighbors if Lydia had "come upon the town" rather than marrying the evil Mr. Wickham. Apparently "come upon the town" was a euphamism for prostitution. So Austen was saying that the local gossips would have had more to talk about if Lydia had been abandoned by Mr. Wickham, cast out by her family and forced to become a London streetwalker to survive. Such a dark undertone in such a charming book!)

my car needs more stuff!

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I've heard that the typical reaction to attending an art car event is to come home thinking, "I need more stuff on my car! right now!" Which is exactly how I've been feeling since I got back from Houston. I was so impressed by all the bead and mosaic cars -- especially Erin's -- that I've decided to add beads in all the blank spaces in between the carpet.

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