Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Bathroom is finished!

A story in (a lot of) pictures.



















Tuesday, December 27, 2005

All right, who told?

The secret is out.  Someone spilled the beans.

I am talking, of course, of what used to be the great secret of going to Disneyland on Christmas Day.  When everyone else is home opening presents or sleeping off an eggnog hangover.  It was a great day to go to Disneyland.  There was a time when my family would go every year.  'Course that was, like, 20 years ago.

I went again this Christmas.  More precisely, I tried to go this year.  As I approached the parking structure, I saw a little sign reading, "Disneyland is full -- California Adventure is open."

OK.  There goes my plan to ride the new (and allegedly improved) Space Mountain.  But, y'know, my annual pass is good for both parks.  I can go over to California Adventure for a couple hours -- ride Tower of Tower, maybe the roller coaster again...

I notice my vehicle is not moving in a forwardly manner.

This is because, although there must be about 15 lanes driving into the parking structure, none of them is actually moving.  The entrance to the parking garage was, well, a parking lot.  My lane was the worst of it (if you could possibly be going slower than stopped) -- the little booth at the end of the lane to my left was closed, so everyone from that line was trying to merge into my lane.  A process that was going fairly slowly because, y'know, whoever was at the front of my line didn't appear to be coughing up his $10 (or whatever) and moving along.

At this point, I am struck by a thought.  And that thought is:  Once I actually get into this lot and get parked (which was looking to be -- and I say this without hint of exaggeration -- upwards of an hour), I am going to have to get in line for the shuttle to the parks.  With all of these people.

I wait until the dude to my left merges into my lane, and then I take his spot in the "Closed" lane.  A Disney employ-- sorry, "Cast member" walks by and I ask him where the "Turn around and get the heck out of here" lane is.  Bonus:  I'm sitting in it.  Once all the people in front of me merge their way into the (theoretically) open lane to the right, my lane will be turned into an exit lane.  A few minutes later, the cast member returns with a stack of bright pink papers, on which has been printed the word "EXIT."  He puts one on my windshield.  Now I officially belong in this lane.  Fifteen or so minutes later, I finally get to turn around and leave the parking lot.

I believe this is the official end of my Christmas trips to Disneyland.

Monday, December 26, 2005

King Kong

Saw King Kong today. 

I was alternating between totally enjoying it and totally marvelling at how much I was enjoying it.  You know, when you mentally step out of the movie for an instant and realize you've been sitting there with your mouth agape for the last twenty minutes?  I was doing a lot of that.

I wonder whether it's going to hit everyone the same way it hit me.  I doubt it.  I especially wonder if it's going to work as well for those teenage boys adventure movies are supposed to be geared toward.  I think you have to be a certain age to really get what's so marvellous about this.  Timing is truly everything.

I'm 37.  I was too young to really take note of any sort of feminist revolution -- but I was young enough to take advantage of its benefits.  Which is to say that although I was never burning bras, I was also never told that I wasn't supposed to be good in math.  I grew up taking for granted gender equality.  But I also grew up understanding that it required a certain level of vigilance -- and that certain female stereotypes had to be avoided, so they would not be reinforced.

I grew up watching Murphy Brown and Designing Women.  My formative movie years were spent watching Karen Allen keep up with Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark.  People of my generation came to expect women in adventure movies to be like Ripley in Alien.  We hated the thought of "heroines" who simply screamed their way through movies needing to be rescued by men.  Hey, Julia Roberts spelled it all out in Pretty Woman -- "She rescues him right back."

And even if we never actually saw the original King Kong, we knew that Fay Wray epitomized everything about that old stereotype that we hated.  I mean really.  She's tied up in classic "virgin sacrifice" pose, and the story is all about her being just so beautiful she captivates the monster.  Hell, my generation even had that 1976 version with Jessica Lange, in which they went out of their way to make her something more than a pretty blonde doll who screamed a lot.  (She called Kong a "chauvinist pig ape," which -- besides telling you something about the quality of the writing -- also shows exactly how far moviemakers were willing to go to cater to the feminist ideal.)

And what is so absolutely marvellous about Peter Jackson's current remake is that it's a film that unabashedly honors its source material -- and if that means Naomi Watts has to spend every single one of its 187 minutes not wearing sensible shoes, so be it.  "It's 2005," the movie says, "if everyone is comfortable enough with gender equality that we can have a gay cowboy movie showing on the next screen over, do you think we can stop being so concerned about the image of on-screen women for a few hours that we can all just enjoy a good old-fashioned damsel-in-distress picture?"

Apparently, we can.  And Jackson has realized that it's about damn time that we do -- because there's a whole generation of us who never actually have.  Sure, this movie is a remake, with a new script and some really spiffy effects.  But it doesn't apologize for the 1933-ness of its gender roles; it downright revels in how much fun it is to sit on the edge of your seat, knowing that if the hero doesn't get out there and save his lady, she just isn't going to be saved.

And I freely admit that it is fun -- and I'm a little surprised that I never actually noticed that before.

Friday, December 23, 2005

My Pre-Christmas Adventure

Being a person of Jewishness, I don't have a Christmas tree my own self.  But that doesn't mean I don't enjoy other people's trees.  I like going into a house that's got a tree all decked out for Christmas -- especially real trees, 'cause they have that great scent that just smells like holidays.

My neighbors (who asked to remain anonymous on this one) have a tree.  Had a tree.  The problem being ... the tree died.  Two days before Christmas and ornaments are falling off this thing.  They're afraid to switch on the lights for fear it will go up in flames.  And the scent wafting through their living room is no longer-- what I'm trying to say here is that "death" isn't really a smell you associate with Christmas.  So they decided to buy a new tree, and asked if I wanted to accompany them.

Well, sure!  I've been Christmas Tree trimming before, but I've never been Christmas Tree shopping.  Sounds like a perfectly good experience to try out.

As we approached the first lot, we couldn't see a whole lot of trees there.  I was thinking that two days before Christmas, you could probably get a pretty good deal on a tree -- an "Everything Must Go" type of situation.  My neighbor said that it's kind of like shopping for a pumpkin on Halloween afternoon.  (This I can relate to.  The pumpkins are about a penny a pound, but they're the ones that are all smashed up on one side, or have already sprung a leak.  I lowered my tree expectations accordingly.)

There were maybe a dozen trees there, but they were all over seven feet tall.  We were looking for a five foot tree -- our ceilings just aren't that big in this building.  They had itty bitty foot-and-a-half jobs (aka "Charlie Brown Christmas Trees") but nothing in between.  We left and went to the second lot.

Second lot was worse.  They had three trees left.  Well, three green trees -- they had a small forest of those pre-sprayed white trees.  And the trees they had were way pricey.  $179 for a tree!  We started to walk away, and the guy (who clearly wanted to unload these trees) said "half price, no tax" -- but $90 still seemed like an awful lot to pay for a tree.  Especially a tree you only needed to last about 48 hours.

We gave up and went to dinner.  On the way back from dinner, we stopped at one last lot -- it was in a smog check station that had been converted from an old gas station.  A banner read:  "Santa's Forest.  Nobody Leaves Without A Tree."

We walked around.  This was clearly the largest selection of trees we'd seen all night, but they still didn't have anything in the five-foot range.  A salesguy came over to us and tried to sell us on one of the taller trees.  We explained the height thing.  He said, "I can make one shorter for you."  Next thing we knew, he opened up the back of a U-Haul that was parked nearby, revealing a truck full of trees.  They each had their branches tied up (like great big umbrellas) and were stacked on their sides.  He hauled one out and went to work on its trunk with a chainsaw.  He then ripped off the cord that was tying it and the branches immediately dropped down -- instant five foot tree.  He offered it to my neighbors for $30.  That sign was right -- nobody does leave without a tree.

So, yeah, my neighbors got a tree they bought off the back of a U-Haul.  :)  I hope this one makes it through Christmas.

The Most Decadent Thing $4 Can Buy

I love pomegranates.  Love 'em, love 'em, love 'em.  My absolute favorite fruit (although raspberries are a close second).  The little dudes are only available in autumn, and I try to pack in a whole year's worth of enjoyment during their three-month season.

In some ways, it's surprising that I like a fruit that requires so much effort.  (Because, really, I'm the sort of person that selects my dinner based on which frozen dinner has the shortest cooking time.)  But ever since I was a kid, I sorta had my way of addressing a pomegranate....

When you get it from the store, keep it in the plastic fruit bag it came in.  You'll need that.  Then get out a big knife and a cutting board.  Put the pomegranate -- still in the bag -- on the cutting board.  Slip the knife in there and cut that bugger in half.  Then cut each half in half.  If you hadn't kept the pomegranate in its bag, you'd have red sticky juice all over the kitchen.  Conveniently, the bag has trapped it all.  Now clean the knife, wash down the cutting board, and move on to step two.

Put a quarter of the pomegranate in a bowl.  Take two napkins.  (Trust me, you'll need them.)  Then, address the pomegranate.  Peel the white bits off and leave them in the bowl.  Eat the red juicy seeds.  (I just learned that they're called arils.  Go figure.)  Usually, you'll have to pick the arils out and eat them one at a time.  Sometimes, you can bend the quarter in such a way as to present ten or fifteen seeds in your general direction.  You can try to bite them all off at once -- you'll usually miss, and the red juice will spray around the room, onto your clothes, and down your arm.  This is where those napkins come in handy.

It generally takes me two napkins for each quarter of a pomegranate.  When I was little, I used an apron as well.  A friend once taught me that you can fill a bowl with water and then pick out the pomegranate seeds under water.  This works because the white pulpy bits will float, while the arils will sink.  When you're done, skim off the pulpy bits, strain out the water and voila -- a small bowl of pomegranate arils.  The payoff is pretty good, butI find that the separating under water thing takes too much effort -- so generally I stick with the two napkins to a quarter plan.

And then I saw them in the store -- in the refrigerated food section:  Pomegranate arils.  Eight ounces worth.  Already separated from their pomegranates.  Big and dark red and juicy and ready to eat.  They sold for $8 each -- which was highway robbery -- but it was only $3.99 with a store club card.

I spent the evening, sitting in front of the TV, eating the entire eight ounces (allegedly three servings) right out of the bowl.  With a spoon.  None of this one-seed-at-a-time crap for me.  Just big hearty mouthfuls of tasty pomegranate goodness.  Man.  This is the life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Real Live Actual Taiwan Pictures

OK, remember the trip down to Taroko Gorge?  Here's my photos from the day trip:

First, the Hualien airport.  Which is a small local airport handling commuter flights.  And looks an awful lot nicer than most commuter-type airports I've seen.  Largely because the main industry in the area is marble.

I mean, this was the bathroom for cryin' out loud.

(I probably shouldn't think about bathrooms right now, as my remodel is, of course, ongoing.  It would've come awful close to finishing today, if I'd settled for the wrong shower door.  But, I mean, if I've gone this far, I might as well wait for the right door.  Enough about my shower.  Back to Hualien.)

So.  Before we went to Taroko Gorge, we went to a marble factory where they process the marble from the gorge.  Some people on the tour were underwhelmed by the factory, but I was kinda impressed by it.  Just piles and piles of these huge slabs of marble.

So, finally, we actually go to the gorge. 

I mentioned that it's narrow, right?

Get a load of this one.  We're looking down into a (rather grayish) river.  And that's just marble right around it.  Never really thought about where marble comes from.

After we left the gorge (and the shop where we had to buy stuff), we had a little time to kill, so Mr. Su took us to a nearby beach for a few minutes.  They had some cute (and bizarre) sculptures there.  I liked this one, of a tail:

Then there was this one, which we also thought might've been of a tail:

When we were walking on the path to the water, I noticed some sort of military installation on the other side of the street.  And I felt like I was on the border of two completely different worlds -- the beach side had a pretty blue sky, and nature, and sculptures; and the other side had a foreboding wall and grey skies.  I swear to you -- I was standing in exactly the same spot (and just turning my head) when I took these two pictures:

Weird, huh?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

We're Hibernating

Despite yesterday's post to the contrary, they did not paint yesterday.  They sprayed texture coat yesterday.  In the master bathroom, which is not the one in which all the major renovations are being done.  (They just needed to retexture half a wall prior to painting.)

They painted today.  Both bathrooms.

When I came home from work, my front door was open.  (Ack.)  About a minute after I went inside (and closed the door), a certain purry little princess of my acquaintance cautiously came out from her hiding place behind the washing machine.  (She must have been back there all day.)  Upon coming out, she made a beeline for the guest bathroom.  The one with fresh paint all over it.  Including the door.  I picked her up before any damage was done.

So, I mean, there's no way to keep her from all the wet paint unless I keep her away from the whole hallway.  Only choice is to lock her in my bedroom.  I plopped her in the bedroom, and she stayed there pretty obediently.

Here's the thing about my cat -- she doesn't snuggle much, but she likes being near me.  Same room.  When I sit on the couch to watch TV, she sits on a nearby table, or curls up on the couch.  On the other side of the couch.  But if I put us in separate rooms with a closed door between us, she is Not Happy.

So... she's locked in the bedroom; so I'm locked in the bedroom.  I'm sneaking out every so often to put some laundry in the dryer (and I've gotta eat at some point), but, basically, I'm in the bedroom.  Lying on the bed, watching TV, typing on the laptop.  Jasmine is sitting on the bed, grooming.  (About a foot and a half away from me.) 

She's content; so I'm content.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It's cold!

OK, maybe it's not cold to the rest of the country, but it's 53 degrees out here, and I have the window open.

On the whole, I'd rather breathe the paint fumes.

(And I do hope that when the paint dries, the color will actually match the rest of the room.  Pretty please?)

Finally, more Taiwan pics!

I figured we could all use a break from the saga of my remodelling.  Here is the second "photo essay" I put together.  Remember when I talked about this bizarre Asian thing for cute?  Here's a little bit of what I'm talking about.  It's just a small collection of photos -- sadly, I was unable to get a shot of the cartoon bird poop in the Avian Flu warning video.  I did, however, include the rubber duckies from my hotel room.


Monday, December 12, 2005

Post Script to the entry below

I find out today that my father doesn't even want that particular present.


Well, that buzz didn't last long

You ever do something really stupid?  And then you're sitting there looking at the undeniable evidence that you've just done something really stupid and you can't quite get out of it.  (And you're looking frantically for that button that says "No!  I didn't mean that!")

OK, here's the thing.  I wanted to order something online for my dad.  (Yeah, mom, it's that thing we talked about.)  And I saw it on the merchant's official site for a certain price.  And I saw it on amazon for about $4 more.  And I thought, well, there's free shipping on amazon -- so I really have to see how much the merchant charges for shipping to find out which is the better price.

So I made like I was going to order it on the merchant's website, in order to get to the "summary of charges" page.  But to do that, I'd have to give it all my info.  And I didn't want to type in my name and address and phone number and email address.  So I typed "test" in every line, except I put a 9-digit California phone number in and, where it wanted an email address, I made something up like "test @" (not the actual address).  Then I clicked ahead and they said shipping was only $3.  So it was the better deal and I was going to buy it from them.

So I went back to the previous page and changed all the info, giving it my real name, real address, real phone number, and real email address.  (They make you confirm the email address so I gave it my real address twice.)  Then it went ahead to the billing page and I gave it my real credit card number and it said, "Hey, are you sure you want to buy this?" and I said, "Yes, absolutely," so I hit the button.

And then it said:  "OK, we've processed your order."  And it listed my billing address and my shipping address (all correct) and the email address of "test @"  ACK.  And it said, "We've sent an email confirmation of your order to "test @"  DOUBLE ACK.

Of course, they have no live human being at customer service this late at night, so I sent them an email.  But, right now, the nice dude who has the screen name of "test" (again, not the actual screen name) has an email waiting in his box confirming his order of a thing he didn't buy.  And the email might also have my address on it.  Perhaps my telephone number.  And (excitement) my credit card number.

It probably won't.  Most email confirmations I've received from other companies just list the last 4 digits (for security).  And it's possible ... maybe even likely ... that "test" will see the email, know he didn't place this order, assume that it's spam and just ignore it.  Also possible that "test" is a perfectly nice guy who won't steal my credit card info and identifying information and go on a spending spree.

On the other hand, I'm sort of holding my breath till tomorrow when the merchant (hopefully) sends me a copy of my order confirmation and I can find out exactly how much information got sent to "test."  For all I know, I'll have to spend Monday on the phone with my credit card company, cancelling the damn card.  During the holiday season.  When I've been buying all these presents.

Oh damn oh damn oh damn

Edited to Add:  Account duly cancelled.  I tried to look at my account online to see if there were any unauthorized transactions, and I got caught in Password Hell.  (You know, when you forget which password you used, so they ask you your security question, and it's "what street did you grow up on?" and you moved when you were seven, so you're not sure which street you gave them when you signed up, and then they block your online account access.)  So, I called them up and asked them to just give me a new card number.  You know, better safe than totally freaking out. 

Of course, when all of this went wrong yesterday, I was in the middle of my online holiday shopping -- so I'd put about four transactions on the card.  The nice lady on the phone said they'd only received two transactions from last night so far -- one of which I'm sure was me and a second which very well might have been me.  (She doesn't have the name of the actual merchant; she just said, "a clothing store."  I didn't buy anything from "a clothing store" last night, but the amount of the charge sounded an awful lot like one of the charges I did make.)

This shouldn't be too much of a hassle.  She said that the cancellation goes into effect now, so everything I charged last night will actually go through (even if they haven't processed it yet) -- and, in about a week or so, they'll send me a copy of the final statement and an affidavit I could use if I need to dispute any of the charges.  So if our buddy "test" tried to go on a spending spree, I'll be able to get those charges cancelled.

I still feel like an idiot, but at least I'm an idiot with a new credit card number.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Now, the Happy Post

About a year ago, I talked about all the coins I had, and my plans to donate them to charity.  I'd had plans to send used Harry Potter books to kids in Fiji, but the school that was supposed to work with me on that kinda backed out.  (Or, more precisely, the woman who said she'd help collect the books never got back to me.  After repeated reminders.  I think she just didn't care as much as she'd said she did.)

And I didn't find another school to help with the books, and the coins didn't get rolled, and I let it drop.  :(

Well.  The nice people at Coinstar are running a promotion where (at certain machines) if you get your payment in an amazon gift certificate, they waive the fee.  In other words, full value for your cash if you turn it into an amazon gift certificate.  This seemed like the time to take in my coins.  I shop at amazon all the time.  I figured I'd get the amazon gift certicate to use for my regular online shopping (over the next year), and then donate an equal amount to charity. 

So.  I found my nearest coinstar machine that was doing the amazon promotion, and I hauled my coins down there.  (Not all of them -- I didn't bring home my office coins, so this was just the stuff at home.)

After what seemed like an hour feeding coins into the coinstar machine, it displayed the cheerful total of $318.38!  And printed me out a gift certificate in the same amount.

I took it home and tried to figure out what to do with that money.  The first thing I wanted to do was go back to donorschoose and see how much was needed to finish up that proposal I'd talked about before and buy them freezing kids in Chicago blankets and heaters.  And when I clicked on it, I found that that one was fully funded!  I guess other people were as moved by that one as I was -- and I was so glad to see they'd be getting the help they needed.

Which, of course, left me with $318.38 to donate and nowhere to give it.  I poked around donorschoose some more until I found a proposal that fit me perfectly -- helping a low income middle school start a Harry Potter book club.  For less than $318.38.  :)  Clicking the "Fund this proposal" button just filled me all the warm fuzzies in the world. 

And today, I emptied the coins from my pocket and put 'em in my empty coin jars, so I can do it all again next year.

First, the Frustrated Post

Yeah, so, the bathroom guys were an hour late on Thursday.  This was because (they explained) they went to pick up the bull-nose tile (for the corners) and found it wasn't available, so they had to order it. 

(I did not think this fact would come into play later.)

Now, Friday -- in case you'd forgotten (or I failed to mention it) -- was they day that the contractor had originally said everything except the shower door would be done by.  I probably never mentioned it because I didn't believe it.  Not for a second.

A lot of tiling got done on Thursday, but not nearly enough.  The contractor himself (the boss guy) came by and yelled at everyone for how behind schedule they were.  "Why isn't the cabinet installed?  That should be in there tonight so we can put in the countertop tomorrow."  "Why isn't the green board replaced?"  "You should be finished with the tile so we can grout tomorrow."  He told me they'd come on Saturday to get back on schedule.  After he left, I told the guys I hadn't meant for them to get yelled at.  They laughed and said it didn't matter.  I guess he yells at them all the time.

And it kinda worked.  They stayed an extra hour Thursday to get the cabinet installed.  I mean, that's something, right?  And they replaced most of the green board in the ceiling.

I came home Friday expecting to see all the tile done and grouted (including the tile on the floor) and the counter fitted on the cabinet.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

No grout at all.  Some tile had been placed on the floor, but it hadn't been completed.  And the cabinet was still top-free.  And that one piece of green board was in the ceiling.  Pretty much all that had got done was a bunch of tile had been placed. 

But, y'know, the cat was still here, which was a big plus.  They'd run butcher paper and painters' plastic down the hallway to protect the carpet, and Jasmine had figured out how to rip it.  And go underneath it where she'd ripped it.  And she thinks running up and down the hall while under the plastic is tons of fun.  Scares me that she'll suffocate herself down there, so I've tried to pull up some of the weighted-down edges.  The result -- after a few days -- is shreds of paper and plastic, covered with cat fur and construction dust.

Saturday, I wake at 7:30 and am out of the house by 9:00.  I come back around 2:00 and park in my spot and think, "Hey, shouldn't the workers be parked in my spot?"  And I go upstairs and open the door and find that nobody has been here to work on my bathroom

I put a call in to the contractor.  He called me back a couple hours later.  Apparently that whole running out of excuses thing is totally forgotten.  Remember that the tile they'd ordered on Thursday? -- still not ready.  The store had told them it was in the warehouse so would be there on Saturday but when they went there that morning the store said the tile wasn't in the warehouse after all so they'd have to order it for real this time and (blah blah blah) it won't be ready till Tuesday.

I believe I actually screamed into the phone, "Tuesday?!  You mean nobody's going to do any more work on my bathroom until TUESDAY?!"

No, no, he explained.  He'd send someone on Monday.  The painter.

"Isn't it a little early for the painter?"  (And if he could work now, why didn't you send him today?)

No, no.  The painter can strip the wallpaper and otherwise prepare to paint.  It'll work out.  The whole job (except the shower door) will be done by Wednesday.  I promise.

This time, I know I said, "Come on."  I mean, I'd known that the whole last Friday thing was an impossible estimate, but the idea that they'd have everything done by Wednesday?  Puh-lease.  They won't even finish laying the tile until Tuesday.  If they grout it on Wednesday, maybe they can get the plumber out on Thursday.  And they still need the electrician to swap out the fan; and the painter to paint after everything else has been installed.  And, y'know, we still have that piece of green board in the ceiling ...

He agreed that maybe Wednesday was a bit optimisitc.  But "Friday, definitely."

And then I said, "Look, I just want you to be done by New Year's."

And he actually said, "New Year's ... maybe."


Friday, December 9, 2005


-Why is it that when I set my alarm, wake up on time, shower, dress, and am totally ready for the contractor they come an hour late?  But when I oversleep to about five minutes before they're supposed to come, and I take the world's fastest shower, they show up on time -- when I'm still wrapped in a towel?

-OK, it isn't that I really mind when the mentally not-all-there homeless person goes up to the ATM and punches all the buttons, making an imaginary transaction (although she lacks an ATM card), but does she really have to cut in line to do it?

-Why is it that when I want to post three things in my journal, I can only remember the first two?

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Still not the Taiwan pictures

I think we finally turned the corner on the bathroom remodel. 

I worked at home today so I could babysit the cat.  And/or the contractor. 

They said they'd show at 9:00.  I, of course, woke and dressed by 9:00, and they didn't show till 10:00.  Seems they'd forgotten to buy the bullnose tile for the corners, so they had to go order it.  Eh, whatever.

So, I spent today watching them tile what will (someday) be my new shower.  Good thing I was home, as I had some decisions to make (how far to space the tiles, where to put the border).  Looks good.  (There will be photos.)  They also placed the cabinet in there, and will come in with the countertop tomorrow. 

Today was also time to address everything the inspector found -- which meant ripping out the green board on the ceiling and replacing it with drywall.  They also had to deal with the fact that the four lights they'd installed were not fluorescent, while the rule is that my primary light must be fluorescent.  They will solve this problem by tearing out the fan they'd installed two days ago, and replacing it with a fan/fluorescent light combination.  Which will be on a separate light switch.

Now, he'd already given me a bid for tearing out and replacing the wall in my other bathroom (where I'd had that big ol' leak the other day).  That wall happens to house that bathroom's really lousy fan.  Hmmm.  I can't help but notice that we'll have a perfectly good brand new fan on our hands tomorrow.  What can we possibly do with that?   Heh heh.

We should -- hypothetically speaking, if everything goes according to plan -- have nearly everything done by this weekend.

Which would be really good.  Not that I mind having the workmen here everyday; but I do think it may be driving my cat up the wall.  She spent today hiding behind the washing machine.  All day.  Poor little thing.  The sound of that nail gun must have scared her poo-less.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

What a world

I'm generally not one to plug specific charities ... I mean, hey, give to whomever you want to give to ... but I want to share something I saw today.

There's this charity called Donors Choose.  The way it works is this:  teachers who want something specific for their students (or their classrooms) submit proposals.  The organization reviews them, figures out how much they'll cost (hopefully getting a discount from the provider) and then lists the proposals on their website.  Then donors (that's you) scope out the website, find a project that appeals to them, and fund it -- either in whole or in part.  The organization also sends a cardboard camera to the school, and has the teacher take pictures of the project in action, and the kids write thank-you notes, and then all that stuff is forwarded to the donor who made the project possible, and everybody feels all warm and fuzzy.

Here's the thing.  I'm randomly poking around the Donors Choose website.  And I see lots of teacher proposals for computer equipment, or digital cameras, or field trips.  And then I think, that's almost a "luxury item," and I'd rather fund something where the need is more fundamental.  And I see proposals where schools need books, or math supplies, or maps.

And then I see a proposal from a teacher who needs paper.

And then I saw this one, from a teacher in a school in Chicago, who is teaching 16 low-income third-graders in a room with no heat, who wants enough money to buy a few portable heaters and a blanket for each student (as many of them lack warm clothes).  I mean, damn.  How can we think we're giving this generation of kids a chance to learn if they've got to sit in a freezing cold Chicago classroom in a t-shirt and some hand-me-down jeans?  Just... damn.

Little Ball of Stress, I am a

Where'd I leave this story?  Sunday?

So, the contractor said he couldn't do anything else until the inspector came.  So he (the contractor) planned to go to City Hall on Monday to get the permit, and would schedule the inspector for Tuesday.  At which time work could recommence.

He calls me Monday night and says the City said they were really backed up, and that I didn't need a plumbing inspection, but I would need an electricity inspection, and that dude couldn't come until Wednesday.  But, says the contractor, since we don't need a plumbing inspection, he could get back to work on Tuesday and start cementing up the walls to prepare for the tile.

Sounds good.  I lock the cat in the bathroom Tuesday morning.  I return from work Tuesday evening.  The cat wants out of the bedroom.

You'll have to use your imagination on what those seven words actually entail.  It's a lot of meowing that sounds rather like a baby crying.  And bodily throwing herself against the bedroom door.  (It's one of them french doors, so she can see me through a window pane.)  She knows I'm there and she's mighty annoyed that I'm not listening to her.

But I can't let her out.  Not just yet.  See, the workmen have put cement all over the floor (and walls) of the bathroom.  And they've taken the door off the hinges to let it dry.

Picture a room full of wet cement, a curious and impatient cat, and the only thing standing between the two is a door lying on its side in the hallway in front of the open doorway.  (The door actually made it worse.  Had it been completely open, there was the potential that she'd sniff the cement, decide she wasn't interested, and just walk away.  But the door in the hallway meant she'd take a running start, leap over the door, and land all four paws in wet cement on the other side.  Good plan.)

I try to think up a solution to this problem, but it's hard to think with the meowing (punctuated by the occasional attack on the french door).

The answer presents itself in the form of a folding door which used to be cover my washing machine closet,but which kept falling off its track and was presently being stored out on my balcony for no known purpose.  (Actually, I'd been thinking I should probably get these contractors to cart it away.  I mean, it has been out there for about a year.  Through rain and termites and ...  yeah, I should toss that.)  ANYWAY, with the assistance of one of my neighbors ("Can you do me and my cat a really big favor?") the folding door was hauled in and propped up in front of the open bathroom door (conveniently leaving a ventilation opening at the top) preventing cat entry.

I let the cat out of the bedroom and she tore out of there like ... a cat being released from captivity.  (Tip:  If you see one coming, get out of its way.)

Oh... one more thing.  You notice I said nothing about the whole hole-in-the-wall-where-my-neighbor's-stove-is thing?  In the morning:  hole in the wall.  In the evening:  cement over entire wall.  I knock on my neighbor's door and tell them that something has been done to their stove, but I'll be damned if I know what it is.  (Interesting note.  This is the first time I've seen inside my neighbor's place, and their stove is the original equipment that was installed when this place was built.  Which suggests that the hole in the wall with the possibly-dangerous pipe venting into it was done by the original builder.  Just fills me with confidence.)

Which leads us to this morning.  Morning comes, and I prepare to shut the cat in the bedroom again.

My cat is no idiot.  She doesn't come anywhere near my bedroom after, oh, 4:00 in the morning.  No way I'm going to just sneak the door closed on her when she's in there for our usual morning pet-fest.  (She takes a pass on pet-fest altogether.)  I eventually find her behind the television set.

The television set is fairly sizeable.  It's sitting in the center of a corner wall unit and ... hell, there's no point in describing it.  The bottom line is:  If I stand on a chair I can see her curled up behind the TV, but there's no reaching her to get her out, and the TV is way too heavy for me to move it.

Meantime, theworkers arrive -- here to install a second coat of cement.  I ask them what they did to deal with the stove issue yesterday, and they look at me like I'm speaking Spanish.  (Well, actually, they speak Spanish.  They're looking at me like I'm speaking English.  Which I am.)  They say they didn't do anything to the stove -- they're just the cement guys.

I put a call in to the contractor.  He had told me the other day that he'd take care of the stove issue, and now it seems like his guys did nothing and just cemented over it.  (Apparently, we're operating under different definitions of "take care of it.")  I won't let the guys put a second coat of cement on if they're going to have to break through the first coat.  So we're all sitting there watching cement dry for a half hour while the contractor fails to return our call.  We finally get hold of the contractor's brother (who had diagnosed the stove problem at the start).  He explains that the wall needs to be patched from my neighbor's side, so he just went ahead with the cementing here.  (He, of course, volunteered to do the work in my neighbor's unit.  For an additional fee.)

So.  (Anyone still reading?)  I tell cement dudes to commence with the cementing.  I also (after a final futile effort at coaxing the cat out from behind the TV) tell them to be on the lookout for a small cat of the black and white persuasion.  Because they'll be working with the front door open all day.  "If she aims for the door;" I say, "stop her."

I go to work and freak out all day that I'll come home and find my cat missing.  Or, alternatively, that I'll come home to find the contractors have left and she's cemented herself to the bathroom floor.  I finish my work early (hurrah!) and get home around 4:30.

Cat still behind TV.  Huge sigh of relief.  I doubt she's moved all day.  She still won't come out, in fact -- and eventually only leaves when the contractors are gone.  (Good to know, but I'd still prefer keeping her safe when they're here.)

The contractors are still here. 

I notice I can't turn on my TV and the clocks are blinking.  Right around the time I aim for the electrical box to flick the fuse they've obviously blown, cement dude asks me where the electrical box is.  They said they'd plugged something in and all the power went.  They'd been looking in the garage for the box.  (Funny enough, the box is in my bedroom.  Where they never would have found it had I successfully locked the cat in there.)  Anyway, I flick the fuse and all is well.  Cement dude also says the inspector came.  When there was no electricity.  That would be the electrical inspector. 

Anyone think I passed?

Actually, there were three things the inspector didn't like:  the no power thing (of course); the fact that my "primary light" had to be fluorescent (and wasn't); and the fact that "green board" had been used on the ceiling (and was not allowed).  [I googled it.  Green board is "water-resistant drywall."]  Wonder what the inspector would've said if he'd seen my neighbor's stove peeking out between the studs where my shower will be.

Put another call in to the contractor.  Left a message on his voice mail regarding these issues.  [Note to self:  Good thing I was adamant about the permit.]

Thought it might be nice to go out to dinner.  Thought I'd maybe go with my downstairs neighbor, Ally.  I called Ally.

Funny thing.  Ally didn't think I was calling to invite her to dinner.  Ally thought I was calling about the leak.


Seems there was something else the cement guys hadn't been eager to tell me.  Ally heard (and then saw) some water leaking into her bathroom.  From my bathroom.  She'd spoken with cement guys, who told her that the only thing they'd done was reinstall the toilet...

... I pause here to point out that when I got home, the toilet was not, in fact, installed.  And it couldn't be, because there was wet cement all over the floor.  Why would they have installed it if they knew they had to take it out?  Oh heavens, were they installing it just to use it?

Ally said cement guys stopped the leak.  And that they'd said they'd refilled the thing (thing??? toilet? shower? floor of my bathroom?) with water but couldn't recreate the leak.

I am working at home tomorrow -- will keep an eye on the cat and the contractor.  (Tomorrow is supposed to be Tile Day!)  Contractor returned my call tonight and I missed it -- I eventually called him back at 9:30 (very likely waking him up, but he did say to return his call and put no deadline on it).  He'll be coming by tomorrow to deal with the lighting requirements, replace the greenboard on the ceiling, and, um... I'll have to mention the whole toilet leak thing.  Excitement.

I think I want to curl up behind the TV.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

The Bathroom Remodel -- Part two of ... ?

The contractor was supposed to come on Saturday.

Guess the key word in that sentence.

I asked, on Friday, if they work on Saturdays and, if so, when I could expect them.  Somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00, he said.

I was disappointed.  I'd actually hoped they'd take Saturday off because I really needed to sleep.  It wasn't so much jet lag as stupidity -- but I'd been getting 4 or 5 hours of sleep each night, and I had really wanted to sleep in on Saturday.  Drat.  But still, I'm all about getting the remodel done quickly, so I went with it.

Got home Friday night to find some progress had been made.  New lights and a new fan had been installed.  Also, something had been done to the base of the shower, 'cause it was filled with a couple inches of water.  I guess they were water-testing whatever surface they'd put in.  Good.  I questioned, though, whether they were really going to come at 8:30 the next morning, since I'd thought a water test traditionally went 24 hours.  And the thought also skipped through my mind that this might be the time they needed the inspector from the city to come out -- because I always get a permit for these things (yeah, I'm all law-abiding and stuff) and since the rough plumbing and electric was done, I thought this might be the time for that.

Still, he'd said 8:30, so I set the alarm for 7:30.  I was not happy when it went off the next morning (although I think I'd managed six whole hours of sleep that night).  I got up, showered, locked the cat in the bedroom, and waited.

And waited.  And waited.  Called his office around 9:30 to see what was up.  (I had left his cell phone number at work.  Where it was doing me a lot of good.)  She said she'd page him. 

No return call for an hour.  I paged him again.  Finally, around 11, I got a return call.  It began with, "I owe you an apology."  A good start.  "Do you know what I need to apologize for?" he asked.  I took a stab at it, "Because no one is here working on my bathroom?"

Got it in one.  Seems Iwas right about the inspector thing -- and he had totally forgotten about it when giving me time estimates on Friday.  So he'd need to go down to City Hall on Monday and make an appointment, and then I'd get an inspector out on Tuesday, at which time he could continue construction.  

(Wow, we're gonna have one serious four-day water-test.)

"No problem," I said (as I let the cat out of the bedroom).  "I don't mind that it'll take you longer; I just need to know in advance whether you're coming or not."  And my contractor, who clearly has a sense of humor about this sort of thing, says (not entirely incorrectly), "I believe I've run out of excuses on this job." 

On the bright side, I realized this meant he wasn't coming on Sunday either.  I got to sleep in with no alarm at all.  Got about 15 hours of sleep.  Man, I needed that.

Friday, December 2, 2005

What? Where?

I don't know what's more depressing -- the fact that I am only capable of sounding like Vinny Barbarino right now, or the fact that a good chunk of you probably don't even know who that is.

See, here's the thing.  You know that whole bathroom thing?  The guest bathroom that I need to remove the wall from because of the mold?  (If you've forgotten, I'll have more pictures in a future update.)  Well, before I went to Taiwan, I called the contractor who had given me the best bid and told him I wanted him to remodel the place.  Said he should call back after Thanksgiving and we could meet and finalize a contract. 

So, he calls me on Monday and says he can meet me Tuesday night.

Seems a little rushed ... but why not, right?

So, he shows up at my place Tuesday night and we write up a contract.  We shake hands.  I give him a check.  He then says, "I'll start Thursday."

I blink several times as I'm trying to process this.  I haven't selected tiles or faucets or fixtures or fans, or cabinets or any of this.  When I remodelled my other bathroom (probably 8 years ago) this was a lengthy process.  Involving weekend trips to the tile store.  (Hell, I'd special ordered some tiles that it took the nice artist lady six weeks to prepare.)  Not to mention the half-dozen times I had to go to Home Depot or Home Expo or Great Indoors or whatever it was -- and I usually had to keep going back because how the heck am I supposed to know which of the ten thousand light fixtures they have is the one I want?  (I will always remember Ron, a fellow I was dating at the time, because he helped me pick out the shade of grout for my floor tiles.  Grout color.  Honest.)

And all this is going through my head while I'm blinking at Manny, who says he wants to start in about 36 hours.

So, Wednesday night, instead of putting together more Taiwan/Hong Kong entries -- (I haven't even looked at the photos Peg and Sabing emailed me.  And I probably should, as theirs are better than mine.  I mean, heck, Peg's digital camera actually has a zoom.) -- Where was I?  Oh yeah, Wednesday night.  Instead of doing photos or paying bills (the pile on my desk just keeps growing) or finishing unpacking or doing laundry... instead of all that, I'm on my hands and knees cleaning out the under-the-sink cabinet in the guest bathroom, so they can demolish it the next morning.

(By the way, I highly recommend cleaning out your under-the-sink cabinet every few years.  Seriously.  I found bath oil so old it had separated.  And cough medicine that expired in 1998.  Come to think of it, the cleaning process didn't take all that long, as it was mostly all about digging stuff out, being amazed that I still owned it, and carting it out to the trash chute.  Well, it would have been easy if the garbage bag I'd thrown everything in hadn't started coming apart at the seam.  The last garbage bag in my house.)

So, yesterday, Manny comes in bearing a faucet that meets the vague description of what I'm looking for, and 7 tile samples for me to choose from.  I pick one wall tile and one floor tile and go to work.

And then, I arrive home to inspect the hole where my bathroom used to be, and the demolition guy is still there and he wants to show me something he found behind my bathroom wall:

My neighbor's stove.

I am so not making this up.  Near as I can tell, once you get down to the insulation and the studs, there's really only a quarter-inch wide piece of ... wall that actually separates my unit from the neighbor's.  And someone had backed their stove up against it on the other side, cut a piece out of the wall separating us, and sent some gas-carrying line to the inside of my wall.  The demolition guy was suggesting that this was, perhaps, dangerous.  Pointed out that the black dirt I'd seen on the insulation (and had assumed was a huge mold problem) was in fact smoke.

So, I spend last night trying introducing myself to my next-door neighbor and asking her if she has any idea what is venting into my bathroom.  (Nice girl.  She's a renter, though, and just moved in a few months ago, so she has no clue what I'm talking about.  But said she'd contact the owner.)

Meantime, the contractor said he'd return today to finish the demolition.  "At what time?" I ask.  This is important to me, because I'd like to be awake and clothed when he arrives.  He says, "Between 8 and 9."  I ask if he can narrow that down a bit more ('cause I'd hate waking up a whole hour earlier for no reason) so he says, "Between 8:30 and 9:00."

Guess when he came.

Go on.

You said "8:00," right?

Try 7:15.  Turns out that while the demolition guy was coming at 8:30, they were sending out the electrician just after 7:00.  And they'd got their wires crossed.  (Get it?  Electrician?  Wires crossed?  Never mind.)  Of course, I was so not ready for him at 7:15, I was in the shower and didn't even hear him knocking out there.  Cat was going crazy -- I'd thought she was just angry that I was locking her in the bedroom again (to keep her safe from all the construction... and the open doors that go along with it) -- but, in retrospect, I think all that meowing was Cat for "Idiot, there's a stranger at the door."

Which, pretty much brings us up to now.  I'm about to head home and see what sort of progress has been made ... and/or what new and exciting surprise is waiting for me.