Monday, August 27, 2007

Mea Culpa

No, I haven't posted for awhile.

As a close reading of this blog will have revealed, I have A Secret Identity. Two, actually. I not only am a hapless and not very efficient house renovator, I also am a Licensed Architect.

And an Ordained Minister in the Presbyterian Church USA.

Shocking, ain't it?

I got laid off my fulltime architecture job early last April; shortly thereafter, the head of my presbytery told me the ministry committee wanted to interview me for some fulltime pastorates in the area.

This would have been ideal. So I called repeatedly since then to bug the committee to put me on the agenda. Wait, I was told. Agenda's full this month. Then, oops, summer's come, we don't meet in July; maybe we fit you in in August.

Late July, I rang the presbytery exec. And he told me that the churches in question had gotten tired of waiting for the presbytery to act and had found pastors on their own. Didn't know they could do that, under their particular circumstances, but I guess they could. Learn something new every day.

So since the first week in August, I've thrown myself into sending out resumes for architecture jobs and going to the subsequent interviews. And I've adopted and am domesticating two semi-feral kittens some friends found in their new barn. And I've discovered the mindless joys of making lolcat macros (well, when you have cute kitties, it's ungodly tempting). So other than a fiddling and failed attempt to install a ductwork grille and clearing out space in my basement to set up my sawhorses for woodwork stripping, I've done absolutely NOTHING on the house.

Nothing, that is, unless you count cataloguing the contents of the numerous physical file cabinets in my study. I have files and papers everywhere: Papers I haven't sorted for years: items I brought home from my recent architecture job: brochures, warranty manuals, business cards; correspondence, notes, phone messages; receipts, statements, invoices; articles, clippings, web printouts. I'm tired of years of making new file folders and discovering I had one of that category already. I'm sick of not remembering where anything is, especially when I need that particular bit of paper now. I'm weary of toting tons of paper from abode to abode, when a great deal of it could just be thrown away. I have to get this mess organized.

So I'm cataloguing my files, and when I'm done, I'll know what to do with the mess. And no, the answer is not, "Throw it all away." Not yet.

The really important thing is that I clear up my study so I can do freelance architectural work in it. I go for a second interview at a certain area firm tomorrow. I may or may not finally want to work for them; they may or may not finally want me. Whether or not, I've got a line or two on some contract work, and a bit more income could only help.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fitting a Simple Ductwork Grille, or, Let's Watch Kate Have Kittens!

As I reported on my cat-and-dog blog, a week or so ago, my friends Hannah* and Steve* rescued a feral kitten from the barn on their new property out in the sticks. Little pinky-yellow dirty fluffy thing. A lot more amenable to being picked up and held than you might expect. (Thank God.)

Couple of days later, they trapped and brought home (to their old house) its littermate, a stripey tabby.

Great fun for their young children, not so fun for Hannah and Steve. How can you properly domesticate a couple of feral kittens when you're a) trying to move out of your house in town before the closing date, b) working frantically to get your new 100-year-old country house habitable, and c) bunking with the in-laws until b) is accomplished?

The closing on their old house is tomorrow. Everything has to be out before 10:00 AM. So I've volunteered to get the kittens out from underfoot until the bathrooms and kitchen at the new house are in and my friends can get more settled.

I pick up the kitties later this evening. So this afternoon I had to tackle a project I've had on the To-Do list since I first looked at this house in June of 2003: Fit and secure the grille for the forced air duct outlet in the guest bedroom, soon to be known as the Kitten Room.
I'd realized soon after I moved in that the grille wasn't screwed on because the flange overlaps the top of the wooden baseboard. I was worried back then that my cat would go exploring down the hole, but she's never shown the least interest.
But kittens? Kittens are a different matter. The pinky-yellow one had already had to be lured out of a hole in the floor at my friends' new house. Kittens down the ductwork at mine? Kittens in the bowels of the furnace?? Do not want!

I'd been putting off cutting that baseboard because I didn't have the right tools. Two years ago, I pushed the bed up against that wall and forgot about it entirely.

But now I have a nice jigsaw. That should do it, right?


Get the extension cord, plug in the jigsaw. Nothing. Plug a lamp into the outlet. It shines. Plug the lamp into the extension cord. It shines on.

I check the saw owner's manual. No help. I call Black & Decker for tech support. They have no idea. Besides, the saw's out of warranty. Call somebody local? Damn! It's only two years old! It was working fine last time I used it a year ago!

I get an idea. Plug the saw directly into the outlet. It works.

Oh. It just doesn't like that particular extension cord!

Get a different, beefier cord. Jigsaw runs fine. Jigsaw does not cut the wooden baseboard. Bounces off. Dangerously. Not the right tool.

Do I need a reciprocal saw? No time to buy one this afternoon!

I then try the various little coping saws I find down in my cobweb-festooned basement workshop. No use, either.

So I resort to the Brute Force Method: My trusty hammer and chisel. And after a bit of labor, I come up with this:
Not bad, really. Edges need eased and the exposed wood needs sanded and painted, but otherwise, adequate. The flange of the grille fits in there just right.

But now I find that the grille won't fit into the duct outlet opening. The metal duct collar isn't big enough. How can that be?

Never mind. Hole has to be covered. Can't afford to have kittens over this--I'm going to have kittens.

I remove the collar and try to fit the grille in without it. Still too big! The heavy-gauge sheetmetal at the mouth of the duct is thick and wrinkled and won't let the grille neck in. Damn, again. That means a visit from the A/C and heating people.

But not today. So I got a piece of screening and my handy-dandy roll of duct tape and covered the opening over. Then I shoved the bed back against the wall and dropped a 12" x 24" plank between it and the duct opening. It rests nicely on the top of the baseboard. No kittens are getting in through there!

But why, oh why, do I have a grille that doesn't fit the duct opening?

Memory flies back to the day I stood there with the PO. I hear her telling me it'd been like that when they moved in and they'd never gotten it to fit, either.

Ah, yes. The dear POs-1 and their mania for Victoriana. Must've picked this pretty grille up at some antique shop or flea market sale. Thought it'd be perfect for the back bedroom. Got it home, discovered the duct was too low or the base was too high. Left it sitting there against the wall. "We'll install it someday."

Someday, for them, never came. Nor for the POs. Someday, for me, will be when I can afford to have the heating and cooling guys over. Or when heating season begins. Whichever comes first.
*Fake names!
(Yes, this is a backdated entry!)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Oh, Tragedy!

Somewhere on this blog I've called my house "the ugliest on the block." But oh, woe, my next door neighbors are competing for the (dis)honor!

They've got a nice wood-sided foursquare. They had it painted a couple years ago, and I respected them so much for doing so. The painters who came didn't take the tongue-and-groove siding down to bare wood, so true, the texture is a little rough. And I've noticed the color has faded a bit-- obviously they didn't use the best paint in the world.

But it's not peeling or flaking that I can see.

Yesterday, however, my neighbor was out till dusk ceiling the underside of his open back porch with cheap-looking aluminum strips. Well, maybe he wants to keep the birds from getting in.

Late this afternoon, though, I came outside and saw that he and a friend were replacing the side door. I asked, "What's up?"

He said, "Oh, we're getting ready to put siding on the house."

"Oh," I looked blank. "You have siding now."

"I mean, aluminum siding. We only painted the house two years ago, and . . . "

. . . And instead of letting it gently fade or getting a crew out to paint it properly this time, they're going to shroud their dwelling in cheap tin. It's bad enough having the dirty wide asbestos siding on the house on my other side. Now I get aluminum on this. Damn.

Officially, it's none of my business. It's their property, to do with as they will. But visually and emotionally, it is my business.

I have to look at it!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Querying the Legitimacy of Back-Dated Posts

Tell me, is it the done thing to back date posts? So much happened at the Lime Plaster workshop at Howard Hall Farm a week ago, it's impossible to sum it all up in one retrospective post. So may I please "pretend" I posted during that time, and keep things clean and tidy?