July 2002 Archives

you have no idea...

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Before I continue the Artscape trip report, just wanted to mention that my car is fine. One of the exhaust pipes had rusted through, that's why it was so noisy. It was a bit expensive -- I guess it must have been a big pipe! But anyway, at least it's fixed and it was nice to see my mechanics, who I really like. They wanted to hear about the parades, and I told them about the sunflower car in Houston, which really impressed them. The funny thing is that now my car is so quiet, when it's idling I can't even tell it's on! The car must have been getting gradually louder as the pipe rusted out for a while now.

follow that poodle!

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Before picking up on the Artscape trip report, I have to mention that my car is in the shop. Between the parade and the horrible traffic jams, it was a weekend full of really hard driving. When I drove to work yesterday morning, I noticed that the engine was sounding loud all of a sudden. Not just loud, but loud, hole-in-the-muffler loud. At least I hope it's just a hole in the muffler. We dropped it off at my mechanic this morning.

hurry up and wait

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Saturday was the big Artscape day and we had lots to do, so we got up early. The hotel had a nice big breakfast, still basically cafeteria food, but a cut above most hotel breakfasts I've seen. So we took a few minutes to eat and read the morning paper. Now, I'm not much of a "morning paper person" myself -- given the choice between a leisurely breakfast over the newspaper, and fifteen extra minutes of sleep, I'll take the sleep every day -- but it seems to be an essential ritual for Alix and so I was happy to partake.

I am your traffic jam entertainment

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Artscape was a blast! We drove up on Friday, stayed with our friend Alix in Columbia on Friday and Saturday nights, and came back Sunday. I wanted to write updates as it was happening, but the hotel we were staying at promised a computer room which turned out not to be functional. No big deal, I'm posting now instead!


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I logged in this morning meaning to post about the bathroom, but I got all wrapped up in The Royal Tenenbaums and Blockbuster and so forth, that I forgot to say anything about the bathroom. So here's the update:

We're done! Actually, we're not done. They're done. The contractor and plumber are finished, paid and gone. The vanity is in, the faucets are installed, the hand shower is up, and the door is rehung. I'll take some photos tonight but I'm really happy.

The hand shower is really cool looking! It's mounted right on the wall, under the showerhead about half way up. It seems like an odd place to me, but I asked the plumber to put it wherever he thought best, and he's seen way more of these things than I have. So I'm sure we'll find when we start to use it that this is the most convenient location.

The door opens in again. It would have been nice to have them switch it, would have given us more room inside the bathroom, but we would have had to get used to a whole new traffic flow in the hallway. So maybe it's for the best that they rehung it the same way. It was probably a big relief for them, not to have to deal with rehanging the door.

The vanity is huge. I mean HUGE. I had gotten used to the bathroom looking so spacious, and now there's this honking big piece of furniture right in the middle of it. Well it was inescapable. Even if we had put in a pedestal sink, then we would have need some other furniture to put all our stuff in.

It's also taller than the old one, I think. It's hard to tell because I didn't take any "before" photos (d'oh!) But I think the old vanity was about the height of the toilet tank and this one is taller. I guess that's because they needed room above the drawers for the sink, so the sink could be centered. In any case it's much better furniture than the old one. (Which I feel a little silly even saying, since everything in the room is nicer than before.) The back is some kind of wood composite, but the front is solid maple and the drawers as well. Basically everything you can see is solid wood. It's got nice smooth hardware for the drawers to pull out on, and the top drawer has a little extra drawer inside it. So it's really three drawers, one full height and two half height.

We ended up going with cool colors, blues and greens and greys, for the entire room so I was worried that the sink would clash. But it really doesn't. It's not as sandy as I had remembered, it's more off-white. So it looks pretty good I think. And the faucets look great! I've always loved these fat porcelain cross handles.

It's funny because another thing I've always loved and wanted was a real down pillow. Somehow I had this idea that a down pillow was the ultimate luxury. It took on this monumental importance in my mind, totally out of proportion with a pillow's actual relevance in my life. A real down pillow became some kind of symbol of having finally arrived at the life I wanted to have. If that makes any sense. Well, about six months ago I threw caution to the wind and bought myself that down pillow. And you know what? I hated it! I kept waking up all night long because the filling would mash down, and I had headaches all day from sleeping with my neck at a bad angle. It was awful. I replaced it with a good extra-support foam pillow and now I sleep much better.

Anyway, the point is that my dalliance with a down pillow taught me to be a little wary of these symbols of the good life. Just because I've always fantasized about having something doesn't mean that it will actually make my life better. Which is all to say that, it's kind of a relief to discover that I could get these cool knobs that I've always wanted, and they weren't expensive and didn't cause any problems, and they do make me feel happy every time I look at them.

So what's left for us to do? Well we have to find a medicine cabinet, buy it, hang it, hang the glass shelf underneath it, hang the towel ring by the sink and the robe hook on the door, find switchplates, and patch those extra holes by the toilet paper holder (which they forgot to patch). And I have to call the contractor and get them to pick up their darned extension ladder which is still in our yard.

Also, we still haven't resolved the problem of the Too Small Handles on the vanity. Maybe after work today I'll stop at the home depot and see what kind of backplates they have. If they aren't too hideous that would be an easy solution. Georg found some really pretty handles online that come with backplates, but they're 3 1/2" which might be too wide for the drawers. Also they're kind of mission style, which wouldn't go with our retro faucets and lamp.

Oh! At this same website Georg also found a gorgeous medicine cabinet. This is the first cabinet I've seen that I really liked. It would look beautiful in the room. They send it unpainted so we could paint it to match the trim, or varnish the natural wood. The only problem is it has to mount in the wall, and they only make one size. All day long I've been wanting to run home and check the hole in the wall to see if it will fit. Even if it does fit, the hole in the wall isn't centered over the vanity. If we got a wall-mounted cabinet we'd just get one wide enough to center while still covering the entire hole. But this one would be off to the left, which will look kind of weird.

Still, who cares really? I'm just excited to finally find a cabinet that I wholeheartedly like. Here's a picture of it on their website. They've even got a shelf below it like the one we've got.



I watched The Royal Tennenbaums last night. Wow, what a great movie. I hate that I missed it in the theater. But on the bright side, that means I got to rent the excellent DVD from the Criterion Collection. Which, of course, was kind of a waste because I didn't have time to watch any of the special features before the movie had to go back.

I got it from Blockbuster. Normally I am pretty much violently opposed to Blockbuster. I've read that they modify films for content without saying so on the box, which is outrageous. Even if that weren't true, which if it is, film lovers everywhere should boycott them, but even if it isn't, I still wouldn't be crazy about them. Because they offer such a limited range of films and their dominance of the market narrows the choices for everyone. I'd much rather rent from a place like Visart that has thousands of interesting and unusual movies, than a place like Blockbuster that has 500 copies of Shallow Hal but nothing by Wong Kar Wai.

(No, I'm not just saying that to be pretentious. I really like Wong Kar Wai. I used to work for an Asian film festival, remember? Actually now that I think about it, we didn't show any of his movies at the festival during the years I was with it. I got in the habit of watching lots of Asian films at the time just to try and keep up. Which must have been how I got into Wong Kar Wai. But I digress.)

So anyway, it's been at least six years since I had been in a Blockbuster and I thought I never would again, but they're running a special right now for $25 which gets you 10 movies (one a week for ten weeks) and a copy of the Lord of the Rings DVD when it comes out. Which we would probably have bought anyway, so it's sort of like getting 10 free movies. Which is enough of a deal that I swallowed my film geek pride and signed up for my little laminated Blockbuster card.

So I guess the moral of the story is, go get the Lord of the Rings DVD from Blockbuster for cheap, make sure your 10 movies are non-controversial films that they aren't likely to have edited, and then go right back to Visart! Or your local equivalent.


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I got my car inspected this morning. I'm finally legal again! It expired at the end of May. I know, I know, that's terrible. But you've got to admit, I've had a lot on my mind lately! I actually took it in for inspection about a month ago, right after the grace period ended. But Jiffy Lube screwed up and changed the oil instead. This was the first chance I had to take it back. I've been cringing every time I see a police car for the past month. It will be nice to breathe easy on the road again!

They came yesterday to put the vanity in. They set it in place and told me that they were going to have the plumber come back and make sure it would fit before they anchored it to the wall. Unfortunately, they didn't tell me they were coming back today. I thought they were going to let me know when the plumber was free so I took the key with me this morning. Oops!

I feel really bad about it, but on the other hand, how am I supposed to know when they're coming if they don't tell me when they're coming. I offered to drive right over but he said no, they'd be back tomorrow. I guess the plumber didn't feel like cooling his heels and I can't really blame him.

I realize this isn't really your "link of the day" type of blog, but I can't resist this quote that someone sent me from this article.

"To point to the hurry and stress of modern town life as the cause of half the ills to which flesh to-day is heir has become commonplace. However, children cope more easily with the new necessities of life, and new arrangements which perplexed and worried their parents become habits easily borne. Thus we may imagine future generations perfectly calm among a hundred telephones and sleeping sweetly while airships whizz among countless electric wires over their heads and a perpetual night traffic of motor cars hurtles past their bedroom windows. As yet, it must be sorrowfully confessed, our nervous systems are not so callous."

--Scientific American, 1902


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We brought the vanity home today! Here's a photo of Lina checking it out as we unload it. Actually I think she was checking out the truck. It's the truck I drove for about a year before I bought Undersea Mah Jongg. The dogs loved riding in the back -- I'd put a water dish back there and drive them around for fun. So she might have been remembering those fun trips.

Driving the truck again this afternoon, it's hard to believe that was my daily driver for a whole year. It's so hard to drive compared to Undersea Mah Jongg! I'm a pretty cautious driver, so the handling isn't as much of a problem as the visibility. Because of the camper top it has a really big blind spot. Changing lanes is a little nerve-wracking.

We went to Restoration Hardware to look at handles and soap dispenser & toothbrush. They only had one soap dispenser I really liked, and it was $40! That's just ridiculous. I'm going to try Bed Bath & Beyond and the net and see if we can find something a little more reasonable.

We did pick out our handles. Only to find that the pulls don't fit! The pulls currently on the vanity are 2 1/2", but the ones we picked are 3". Which is apparently the standard size. Why in the heck would they sell new cabinets with non-standard hardware on them? If I had known, I would have asked them not to drill the holes at all. I just assumed it would come without hardware.

I don't care for the pulls that came with it. They're not hideous, but they totally clash with the faucets and towel bars. The ones we just bought are a much better match. So I guess we're going to need a backplate to cover the extra holes. Darn.


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The vanity is in! The vanity is in! But first, here are a few more photos:

I forgot to mention that we don't have a door. They left the door for us to hang when the paint dried, but we can't find the pins that go in the hinges. We've been using this curtain until they come back.

Here's the lamp from Restoration Hardware. I really love it! I checked their website and it wasn't listed, but they had it in the store. It's called "Packard."

I found this pretty shower curtain at Bed Bath & Beyond. I was planning to get a linen shower curtain and a plain liner, but this vinyl one is so nice I don't think we need anything else.

Here's the floor register from Restoration Hardware. This is the reason we went into the store in the first place. I thought they only sold things like this and handles. I hadn't known about all the furniture and rugs and things.

Here are the infamous extra holes in the wall. The contractor promises they'll patch them when they come back to do the vanity.

They've left this space to put in the vanity. See how the pipes are way over to the left? We're crossing our fingers that the door will open once it's in.

Guess I can't really say we're finished yet. We haven't yet found a mirror or switchplate covers. Restoration Hardware has nifty swiveling mirrors, but I think one of those would let the hole in the wall show. We need something mounted right up against the wall to cover the hole.

OK, so the story on the vanity. It actually came in on Wednesday. I rushed at Stoneline -- didn't quite finish the taxes in fact -- so I could get to Home Depot before they closed. Just made it too. Then stood around for half an hour, waiting for them to find it in the back. So we could discover that it would not fit in my car.

I hadn't realized how big it was going to be. I thought it would slide right into the back seat. No way, no how did it fit. They took it out of the box, tried the back seat & even tried wedging it into the trunk, thinking we'd strap it down. It didn't go in at all. Argh!

Only a minor delay however. I'm borrowing a friend's truck tomorrow and Georg and I will take it home. We've already got the sink to go on top. The contractor will come back on Tuesday and put it in, and then he'll call the plumber. I don't know when the plumber will be in but when we comes, our bathroom will finally be fully functional!

I have to admit, now that I've seen how big the room looks without a sink, I kind of wish we had bought a pedestal sink instead of a vanity. I think it's going to look half the size when they put the vanity back in. Oh well, if we'd gotten a pedestal sink we would have had no storage space. So we would have had to put in some kind of storage cabinet. Which would have made the room look small anyway.


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How about some Tarot news? After all, this is allegedly the "Victoria Regina Tarot Diary" not the "Sarah's Bathroom Remodeling Diary."

To be honest, the reason I haven't been talking much about the deck is that there isn't much to tell right now. We don't know, of course, how it's actually doing and we won't know that until we get the royalty statement later this year. But things seem to be going OK.

The flurry of reviews seems to be over but I do see new reviews from time to time. Lately I got a preview of a great review from K. Frank Jensen. Frank, as I'm sure you know, is a prominent collector and reviewer from Denmark. He also organized the "Mail Art Tarot" and similar projects in the 90s, though I'm not sure if he's still doing that. I've known of him as a heavyweight in the world of Tarot for a long time, and his opinion carries a lot of weight with me.

One of the things I really respect about Frank is that he's not afraid to give his honest opinion. If he doesn't think much of a deck, he says so. He doesn't sugarcoat it or say nice things he doesn't mean in order to "support the community." I think this is really important for Tarot as a whole. Our critics need to be honest critics, not cheerleaders, if we are to be taken seriously as a genre. (This is one of the many great things about Tarot Passages as well. Which makes me wonder why Frank doesn't write reviews for Tarot Passages? It seems like a natural.)

In any case, this is all my rather roundabout way of saying how much a good review from Frank Jensen means to me. I have to admit that I was really nervous about his review. If anyone would say the emperor has no clothes, Frank would. So it's a great relief to know that he doesn't think that.

I was especially concerned about his opinion of the book. Because I've read about his distate for Tarot books that exist solely because the publisher wanted there to be a book. In a sense, that's true of the VRT book: we started writing it because we knew that most publishers prefer book/deck sets. As we went along, I felt (and hoped) that we got beyond that, and ended up with something to say besides, "Hey look, this book is the reason you paid for a set not just a deck."

In other news, our amazon.com sales ranking has tanked, but on the bright side our sales rank on both amazon.co.uk and amazon.co.jp are really good. I don't think either of those have the volume of US amazon.com, but it's still nice to see that we're doing well there. I must admit, I was hoping we'd do well in Britain but I'm a bit surprised about Japan. I guess Tarot is more popular there than I had realized.

On the other hand, I'm unsurprised to note that our sales rank in German Amazon is completely pathetic. If I had to pick countries where I expected VRT to be popular, Germany would not be one of them. There are some very nice German Tarots but they're quite different from VRT.


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It's been over a week since my last post and I'm wondering, where does the time go? I've been wanting to post a trip report on the NY Tarot festival, but I'm waiting for a photo of me from our Friday night outing. When I get the photo, I'll write up the trip!

Here's a quick update on the housing situation: The bathroom is finished except for the sink, because the vanity had to be special ordered. We've been living in the house since the 1st, the workmen left on the 3rd, and we've spent much of the intervening time cleaning up the mess, putting all our furniture back, etc.

The paint color turned out really nice. It's a light grey on the walls, with the trim one shade lighter, almost white. It's subtle and cool, and I like it a lot. On the downside, the guy who painted didn't do a great job of finishing up. First of all, he didn't clean the blobs of spackle off the tile like he said he would. He couldn't hang the towel bars because the paint was still wet, which was fine. But what wasn't fine was that he didn't put up all the brackets, and the ones he did put up were backwards. So I had to take them all down, drill the holes for the ones he hadn't done, and put them all back up.

Most annoying, he drilled extra holes for the toilet paper holder, and then just left them there! There are two extra holes in the wall right next to the toilet paper holder. I've heard that this kind of thing is to be expected. But really, it seems to me that if you're going to go to all this work and effort (not to mention money) to have a nice new room, you should count on them not to leave extra holes in the wall. I talked to the contractor about it and he said they'd patch the holes when they come back to put in the vanity.

Over the weekend we went to Restoration Hardware to look for a vent cover (which I have since found out is called a floor register. Who knew). I had never been in there before, but it turns out that it's full of nice things for the bathroom! It's probably a good thing I didn't know about that store until this stage of the project. Otherwise I would have bought everything there and would have ended up spending about four times as much. It would have been a totally beautiful bathroom with a pedestal sink, white tower cabinet, gorgeous fixtures, etc. But this is a totally beautiful bathroom and at a more reasonable cost.

We did get a couple of things at Restoration Hardware: the aforementioned floor register, a cool retro lamp, and a shelf for under the mirror. We can't find a medicine cabinet that's not either 1. painted white (and thus won't match the maple vanity) or 2. hideous. So we're going to hang a plain mirror with a shelf under it, and a cabinet over the toilet. Also I bought a little thing to hang keys on that's shaped like a row of cats (you hang the keys from the cats' tails) and gave it to Pete and Judith to thank them for putting us up for two weeks.

I took pictures of the floor register and the lamp, but haven't uploaded them yet. Now that this is almost done, I can't believe I forgot to take "before" pictures of the old nasty bathroom. You would have been amazed by the difference. I should have at least photographed the big mushy spot on the wall.

Here's something funny about Restoration Hardware. They have several different styles of bathroom fixtures, all really cool and retro. Amazingly enough one of them, called "Lido," looks a lot like the towel bars we had bought at Lowe's. What luck for us! Lowe's just had your basic towel bars and toilet paper holders, but Restoration Hardware had lots of additional fixtures like a glass shelf, soap dish, toothbrush holder, and even a wacky shaving mirror that extends on a telescoping arm.

We didn't want to clutter up the wall with all that stuff so we just got the shelf. They couldn't find one in stock (one of the weird things about that store is that the entire floor is display. All the stock is in the back so if you want to buy almost anything, you have to have an employee get it for you) so they had the Cary store ship it to me. Which was very convenient and they didn't charge for the shipping.

It arrived in a couple of days and when we pulled it out of the box, lo and behold, it doesn't just look similar, it's actually the exact same thing that they are selling at Lowe's. The box was the same and everything. They had changed the name at Restoration Hardware, but the box said "Franciscan" like the ones at Lowe's.

I guess we could have special ordered the shelf from Lowe's, but without having seen it we probably wouldn't have chosen it. Still, I'm very glad we got most of the towel bars from Lowe's. They were a lot cheaper, as you might expect. I didn't write down all the prices but I do remember that the double towel bar was $80 at Restoration Hardware. I know I didn't pay that much at Lowe's.

I wonder if the other styles of bathroom fixtures at Restoration Hardware are also available at Lowe's? One of them had "Restoration Hardware" printed on the porcelain so I'm guessing that one isn't available anywhere else. Still, if I needed to buy more bathroom fixtures (which I hope I don't for a long, long time) it would be worth checking into.

It just goes to show how much of a product's appeal is in the presentation. Here I was, sighing over the cool retro fixtures at Restoration Hardware, wishing I'd seen them first, and feeling like the ones at Lowe's were plain jane by comparison. When it turns out that the ones we bought at Lowe's were exactly the same as the ones in the store! They just look cooler amidst all that blonde wood and faux-antique furniture.


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What a great feeling to be in my own house. And to be able to go to the bathroom!


Before I write up today's bathroom saga, here are some new photos:

Today they sanded the walls so they can paint.

Because the guy on Saturday missed this one tiny spot, they won't be able to finish tomorrow.

I never though I'd be so happy to see a toilet.

It works too!

The tub is finished and looking really good I think.

I like the faucets a lot.

I guess we'll need a new vent cover. Every day there's something else to buy!

If it wasn't for this note, we might not have realized the vanity was too far over until they put the door back on and discovered it didn't open.

The plumber was here when I got here, installing the toilet and the faucets in the tub. He can't do the sink because the vanity hasn't arrived yet. But he's doing everything else & will come back for the sink after the vanity comes in. The faucets in the tub look great! I know they're not terribly unique, but I love those fat white knobs that say "hot" and "cold."

Speaking of which, if I haven't yet done so, let me take a moment to plug FaucetDirect.com. I ordered the faucets from them and was really happy with the experience. I looked at several faucet websites, and theirs was the easiest to follow -- they made it really easy to be sure I had ordered everything I needed, handles and etc. Then I had to contact their customer service to track the delivery, and they responded really quickly.

Not to sound like I'm shilling for FaucetDirect.com or anything. But I would definitely buy from them again if I ever needed more faucets. Which I guess would only be if I were renovating the kitchen. (saints preserve me!)

Anyway. I had hoped to spend a quiet afternoon tidying up, putting the clothes back in the closet, etc. But the plumber let me know around 1:30 that the toilet was missing its handle. He said he couldn't check to make sure it was working without it, so I ran out to Lowe's to get a new handle.

They were really nice, gave me a new handle at no charge even though I didn't have the receipt. I rushed back to the house and gave it to the plumber, proud of myself for solving the problem so quickly. Well he put it in and discovered that it didn't fit. They had given me the wrong handle!

Back into the car with me, out to Lowe's again. This time I talked to someone else and made sure I got a handle that would fit. I guess this is why people pay a little extra to have the contractor buy all the fixtures. If he had provided the toilet, it would have been his responsibility to deal with any missing parts. But I had saved a little money by buying it myself, so I was the one who had to drive across town twice in one afternoon.

I also stopped on the way back to pick up Nutty, who's going to stay with us for a few days while Sean is away. Luckily I got to him about fifteen minutes before a torrential downpour. He would have been drenched if I hadn't gotten there in time.

By the time I got back home the plumber was gone, but another guy was there. He's going to be painting the walls but he was sanding today. He was pretty nice so we chatted for a little while. Turns out he can't finish tomorrow, because the guy on Saturday forgot to patch one little spot under the light switch. He did it today, but will take a whole day to dry, then he has to sand it and smooth it out before he can paint it. So he won't be finished until Wednesday.

Argh! Actually, I'm not too upset about it. After all, we're home. And the toilet and the tub work. Waiting one more day to have a shower curtain up isn't that big of a deal. The only major disappointment is having to wait until Wednesday night to have my dogs back. I miss them so much. This is the longest I've been separated from them in over ten years. I keep telling myself how much better off they are at the kennel, rather than here seeing all kinds of stranger troop through the house.

Besides, I have Nutty to keep me company tonight. He's a sweetie. A little perplexed by the absence of Lina and Thirteen, and all the paper taped to the floor throughout the house. But he's too laid-back to make much fuss about it.

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