Sunday, April 29, 2007

A work in progress

The backyard construction zone at sunrise. Still much to be done.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I just realized we have a wedding shoot booked for July 14, which, besides being my birthday, is right smack in the middle of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America International Rally.


My Treo smartphone reminds me of birthdays and anniversaries. The reminder icon was blinking when I turned it on this afternoon.
Today would have been my parents' 68th wedding anniversary. So here they are, circa 1950.

The Deck is Done

The deck crew showed up about 10 a.m. and had the project finished by noon.
Dave, the foreman (back row, far left), decided the support post (sticking out of the top of his head) needed to stay. The original thought was that it served no purpose, but after a couple of days without anything under it, he noticed the porch roof was sagging a bit.
No big deal. We've been walking around it for six years and didn't think of it as a significant problem.
Dave opined we should give the concrete footings about a week to set up properly before moving the hot tub onto the deck, so that gives us a few days to apply Thompson's water seal to the deck and to properly clean and stain the redwood enclosure on the hot tub.
It's great to have full use of our back door again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cool logo

One of my favorite t-shirts - from Portland, Ore.


We drove to Bloomington yesterday, leaving the deck crew hard at work about noon.
The mission was to witness the induction of Maria's daughter, Morgan, into Phi Beta Kappa.
For those who aren't up to speed on academic honoraries, Phi Beta Kappa is the premiere liberal arts honorary with such illustrious members as Tom Brokaw, Michael Crichton, Joe Lieberman, Angela Davis, Bill Clinton, Lynne Cheney, Elizabeth Dole, Sen. Dick Lugar, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clive Davis, Henry Kissinger, Susan Sontag, Alen Specter, Stephen Sondheim, George H.W. Bush, Betty Friedan, Caspar Weinberger, Robert McNamara, Richard Helms, Dean Rusk, Dr. Jonas Salk, James Michener, William O. Douglas, Alfred Kiinsey, Dean Acheson, Pearl Buck, John Foster Dulles, Felix Frankfurter, Theodore Roosevelt, william Howard Taft, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Samuel Morse, Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams and John Marshall. So she's in pretty good company.
When we returned about 11 p.m., we found much of the deck completed, including the screening fence on the driveway side. We learned this morning that they stopped because they ran out of lumber. As you can see from the photos, there's still a big opening just outside the back door. That will be covered by a raised level of decking. This morning was a washout because of rain and since it's almost 3:30 p.m. now, I expect we won't see the crew until tomorrow at the earliest.
The hot tub will be placed between the screening fence and the back door.
So far, we're pleased with the way it's coming together.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Deck

We expected Dave, the deck guy, to show up this morning, sit down at the kitchen table with us, drink a cup of coffee with us and hash out a plan for our new deck.
Instead, a crew of five guys appeared about 9 a.m. with sledge hammers and other implements of destruction to rip what was left of our deck from the rear of the house. We had left the small platform and steps just outside the back door, so as to facilitate the use of the door, which is about four feet above ground level.
They were well along by the time Dave arrived. His design style is to walk around the site and point out what he thinks should go where. At no time did he turn to pen and paper. This seat-of-the-pants style makes me pretty freaking nervous, but I went along with it.
We ended up agreeing upon a plan that places the hot tub on the deck between the back door and the driveway with a 9-foot-high screening fence between the tub and the driveway, shielding the tub from the sight of neighbors to the south. The projection of the kitchen from the rear of the house blocks the view from the neighbors to the north and in both cases we should get relief from the wind.
After staking and stringing out the outlines of the structure, Dave left and the worker bees dug post holes and set the main support posts in concrete. Dave seemed to think the deck could be finished tomorrow, which seems pretty ambitious. We shall see.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dress shopping

I'm sitting in a chair outside the fitting rooms while Maria shops for a dress at the Lafayette Macy's and a woman goes in with this boy in tow. He whines like a baby and drops to the carpet right in front of the door. Looks like he's 14 or 15. Kinda creepy.
One more reason why I dislike shopping.
Added later:
The kid was with his grandmother, mother and sister as they shopped for a prom dress for the sister. She, by the way, looked like the brother, only with longer hair and she whined constantly about the dresses she was being asked to try on.
Meanwhile, the boy flopped around on the carpet, blocking the aisle to the fitting rooms. After three women had to step over him, he decided to lie under one of the clothing racks. Several shoppers were clearly weirded out by this, but no one said anything. Oh, and he whined that there weren't enough chairs outside the fitting rooms. I was in the only chair available and presumably he thought I should give it to him. It was the most egregious example of people not knowing how to behave in public that I've witnessed in a long time.
Here's a six-frame sequence of the amazing display. That's his mother, stepping around him, in the last frame. It obviously hadn't occurred to her to tell him to get the hell off of the floor and act his age.


Looking for deck ideas at Barnes & Noble.

Needing a morel compass

We went mushrooming yesterday afternoon at the invitation of Lauri and Jim at their place in the country. They live in an area of woods and ravines and creeks where the wily morel mushroom abounds.
It has been many years since I went mushrooming. My fondest recollection is of a day when I was about 10 and my dad took me mushrooming at the farm of his oldest sister and her husband up in Carroll County, east of Ockley, Ind. We tramped around the woods on their farm and, while I was a miserable failure at finding mushrooms, my dad and my uncle more than made up for it. We returned to the house with a huge haul of morels, which my Aunt Mabel soaked in saltwater, rolled in flour and fried in butter. We ate until we couldn't eat any more and it was fabulous.
Yesterday's haul was less impressive, but we had a great time tramping around the woods and watching Lauri and Jim's two sons romping around like two puppies.
We came home with a couple of handfuls of smallish morels that Maria washed and soaked in salt. Sometime around 11 p.m., we got the munchies and began eyeing the mushrooms. Maria had never prepared morels, but you wouldn't have know it from the final result. Morels have a complex flavor that especially excites the tastebuds on the sides of the tongue near the back. I won't try to describe the taste because I can't think of anything to compare it with.
But it left us wanting more!
Lauri opined that our relatively small haul yesterday was probably because it's a little early in the season.
Good. That means there's more to look forward to this spring!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Soooooo tired

Maria and I have been working nights - at least 3-11 p.m. and usually later - since she had to fire a flaky night copy editor in early January.
She also lost her prize-winning page designer in December and the 19-year-old kid she hired as a replacement is learning, but still needs supervision. Some weeks we work five nights, some weeks it's six. I have mixed feelings about it. I enjoy working with Maria and it's fun being back in newspapering on my own terms, but we're both desperately longing to get our evenings back.
I'm a morning person and this late-night stuff means I get to sleep around 2 a.m. or maybe even as late as 3 a.m. Pete the Aussie is also a morning dog and starts yarking in his kennel in the kitchen when the sky begins to get light around 6:30 a.m. That means one of us has to get up and let him and Ruthie out to do their doggy business in the back yard. If we're lucky, we can get back to sleep for another two or three hours. As often as not, I'm sufficiently wide awake by the time the dogs come back in that more sleep is out of the question.
Then there's the tricky midnight-or-later drive home. The 17 miles of twisty two-lane state highway that we drive from home to the office and back again is thick with deer. One night earlier this week, we counted nine deer strung out along the roadside. And for every deer we see, there are probably three or four nearby that escape our notice. I've had to jam on the brakes a couple of times when they dart across the highway, but mostly I just putt along at 45-50 mph with dashboard lights dimmed, scanning the road ahead.
Maria has hired a couple of new staff members, but they won't come aboard until early June, so we will probably have to soldier on for another six weeks or so.
I guess there isn't any point to this rambling post other than to say I'm very tired of giving up our nights and whatever social life we might have had and of having to run the deer gauntlet every night.
Anyone want a job as a page designer or a night copy editor at a medium-sized Indiana daily newspaper?

Crisis averted

Our contractor and the building inspector were here this morning and we took a more accurate measure of the property line based upon a surveyor's report that was prepared at the time we bought the place in late 2001.
According to the survey, the north property line is 11 feet north of the side of the house. Extending this line east to the garage foundation slab, we discovered we are, at the worst, only 5.5 feet from the property line and most probably a full 6 feet, which is the required setback.
The building inspector seemed confident that our problems are over with regard to the setback. Now we have to see if he can fast-track the permit to continue. In the meantime, we're charging ahead with the deck, which does not require a permit.
Our contractor said his deck man will be here about 9 a.m. on Monday to work out a deck design for us.
That means we'll soon have our hot tub back in operation, which will be a huge relief.
Now that the old deck is mostly gone, we have discovered the reason our kitchen plumbing freezes every winter. Some morons removed a concrete block from the foundation to run electrical conduit to the garage and did a sloppy job of trying to plug the opening with foam insulation. (See photo above.) We will, of course, correct this and look forward to our first winter without frozen pipes and dishwasher repairs.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Interim report

We have a meeting set for 9 a.m. tomorrow with our contractor/project manager and the town's building inspector and I'm generally optimistic. I think the building inspector genuinely wants to help us.
In the meantime, Ruthie the Wonder Dog has finally figured out that the invisible fence dog containment system is not functioning. The labor crew came to me on Tuesday afternoon to report that she'd taken off and was down the street by the elementary school. I grabbed a leash, hopped into my del Sol and chased her down at the park. She did it again yesterday and, of course, thinks it's great fun to run away when I call her or pursue her.
So I went to the basement this afternoon and dug out the set of little white boundary flags that we used to train her with the invisible fence. I set them around the perimeter of the yard and, when she came outside, I admonished her, "Bad flags!" She eyed them disapprovingly, but she stayed in the yard.
Pete the Aussie has never paid much attention to the electric shocks from his collar when he crosses the line. We can't figure out whether it's just his super-thick fur or if he just doesn't care. I phoned Innotek, the manufacturer of the system, a couple of weeks ago and they suggested trimming his throat fur and coating the contacts on his shock collar and the area they touch on his throat with petroleum jelly. We tried it, but didn't notice any change. He still ignored the line and enjoyed his now-regular run around the two houses to the south.
Once our construction work is far enough along, we're going to install a new system that will be powerful enough to get his attention. In the meantime, I'm keeping an eye on both dogs whenever they're outside because neither of them has any traffic sense.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The concrete slab is in, but now we're stuck.

A six-man crew of laborers showed up at 8 a.m. today and tore out all of the unwanted trees and shrubs around the property and finished demolishing the deck behind the house.
At the same time, the concrete guys prepped the space for the concrete slab and the pouring started about 1:30 p.m.
That was minutes after we learned from George, our head construction guy, that the town officials do, after all, think they have some jurisdiction over this project and have to issue a permit for us to continue.
George said he checked first with the county planning office and learned that our town had opted out of the county-wide planning and zoning scheme - something we had already known. Then he contacted the town officials and was told they had no authority, but nonetheless they wanted us to gravel and roll the alley that we use for a driveway. It seemed incongruous, but we were happy to comply. After all, it needed gravel anyway and I'd much prefer riding my motorcycle over compacted gravel than struggle in deep loose gravel.
But today, somehow, George learned that we apparently do need a local permit for the project. We dug a little deeper and found that the town needs to issue a building permit for the project which will involve periodic inspections. And the issuing agency only meets on the second Monday of each month, so we missed the April meeting and may be forced to put the project on hold until after the May 14 meeting. This, of course, completely fucks George's construction timetable, as well as our expectations.
What it comes down is reminiscent of the line from Animal House: We fucked up. We trusted him (George) to know what he was doing and get all of the paperwork in order before we started.
So we await clarification, which should come when we contact the building inspector tomorrow. He's a nice, reasonable guy and we hope he'll cut us some slack.
If not, we wait.
The good news is that the concrete slab is poured and is curing. Even now, I can hear the concrete guys knocking the wooden form apart. If nothing else, we'll have a really nice small basketball court with a drain in the floor.

Quote of the Day

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, when asked by a member of Parliament why he believes so much in the United States:
"A simple way to take the measure of a country is to look at how many want in... and how many want out."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Back on track

It's sunny and 60 degrees and the concrete guys showed up today. Our construction guy was here at 9:30 a.m. to stake out the site and then the concrete guys started building the forms. They laid in some rebar and shot in a truckload of gravel(above). Pouring occurs tomorrow, so Pete and Ruthie will spend the day indoors - or at least until the concrete sets up enough to be immune to doggy footprints.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

From The Kansas City Star

Imus isn’t the real bad guy
Instead of wasting time on irrelevant shock jock, black leaders need to be fighting a growing gangster culture.

Thank you, Don Imus. You’ve given us (black people) an excuse to avoid our real problem.

You’ve given Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson another opportunity to pretend that the old fight, which is now the safe and lucrative fight, is still the most important fight in our push for true economic and social equality.

You’ve given Vivian Stringer and Rutgers the chance to hold a nationally televised recruiting celebration expertly disguised as a news conference to respond to your poor attempt at humor.

Thank you, Don Imus. You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it’s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred.

The bigots win again.

While we’re fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s or Young Jeezy’s latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos.

I ain’t saying Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas.

It is us. At this time, we are our own worst enemies. We have allowed our youths to buy into a culture (hip hop) that has been perverted, corrupted and overtaken by prison culture. The music, attitude and behavior expressed in this culture is anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive, pro-drug dealing and violent.

Rather than confront this heinous enemy from within, we sit back and wait for someone like Imus to have a slip of the tongue and make the mistake of repeating the things we say about ourselves.

It’s embarrassing. Dave Chappelle was offered $50 million to make racially insensitive jokes about black and white people on TV. He was hailed as a genius. Black comedians routinely crack jokes about white and black people, and we all laugh out loud.

I’m no Don Imus apologist. He and his tiny companion Mike Lupica blasted me after I fell out with ESPN. Imus is a hack.

But, in my view, he didn’t do anything outside the norm for shock jocks and comedians. He also offered an apology. That should’ve been the end of this whole affair. Instead, it’s only the beginning. It’s an opportunity for Stringer, Jackson and Sharpton to step on victim platforms and elevate themselves and their agenda$.

I watched the Rutgers news conference and was ashamed.

Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for eight minutes in 1963 at the March on Washington. At the time, black people could be lynched and denied fundamental rights with little thought. With the comments of a talk-show host most of her players had never heard of before last week serving as her excuse, Vivian Stringer rambled on for 30 minutes about the amazing season her team had.

Somehow, we’re supposed to believe that the comments of a man with virtually no connection to the sports world ruined Rutgers’ wonderful season. Had a broadcaster with credibility and a platform in the sports world uttered the words Imus did, I could understand a level of outrage.

But an hourlong press conference over a man who has already apologized, already been suspended and is already insignificant is just plain intellectually dishonest. This is opportunism. This is a distraction.

In the grand scheme, Don Imus is no threat to us in general and no threat to black women in particular. If his words are so powerful and so destructive and must be rebuked so forcefully, then what should we do about the idiot rappers on BET, MTV and every black-owned radio station in the country who use words much more powerful and much more destructive?

I don’t listen or watch Imus’ show regularly. Has he at any point glorified selling crack cocaine to black women? Has he celebrated black men shooting each other randomly? Has he suggested in any way that it’s cool to be a baby-daddy rather than a husband and a parent? Does he tell his listeners that they’re suckers for pursuing education and that they’re selling out their race if they do?

When Imus does any of that, call me and I’ll get upset. Until then, he is what he is — a washed-up shock jock who is very easy to ignore when you’re not looking to be made a victim.

No. We all know where the real battleground is. We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show. There’s no money and lots of danger in that battle, so Jesse and Al are going to sit it out.

To reach Jason Whitlock, call (816) 234-4869 or send e-mail to For previous columns, go to

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bobcat in the rain

The concrete demolition guys showed up in the cold (41 degrees) drizzle about 11:15 a.m. and attacked the old garage foundation with a Bobcat-mounted jackhammer. Very impressive.

It's now about 3:30 p.m. The demolition guys have left, having broken up and hauled off the concrete footprint of the old garage and scraped off a bunch of topsoil where the new garage will be built. And it's 38 degrees and spitting sleet and snow.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Non-progress report

Just for a warmup, I figured my stepdaughter's taxes on Wednesday and started on ours yesterday. So far, it looks like we're going to owe about $2k, (ouch) but I still have a few deductions that may soften the blow.
In the meantime, I have my Honda del Sol back with a quiet exhaust system and all new brakes for $1,444. Ouch.
We haven't seen any work on the garage project since Monday. It's sunny and 47 degrees - the best weather in several days - and nobody showed up today to break up the concrete floor of the old garage. WTF?
I've been playing phone tag with our construction guy for four days, but no luck again today.
He called this afternoon to say the concrete demolition and site prep guys will be here tomorrow. Of course it's supposed to be overcast with a rain/snow mix and a high of 39 tomorrow.
Then he'll be here Monday morning to stake out the footprint of the new garage. At last!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


No work on the garage project today. Cold and rainy with more of the same forecast for tomorrow.

Who is here

As promised, The put the Indianapolis Who Concert CD/DVD package in our mailbox this morning.
I've already ripped the CDs to iTunes and put them on my iPod. It's worth the price just to have the amazing My Generation/Cry if You Want jam.
I think I said so earlier, but I have to repeat that his is a brilliant piece of marketing, especially since the profits go to Who charities.
Now, back to the DVD...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Who the fuck are you? says our CDs/DVD of last month's Who concert in Indianapolis shipped last Friday. If they came via UPS or FedEx, they could be waiting for us at home right now. If they were mailed, we might see them tomorrow.
The excitement is building...


Everybody has their hand out to me today.
The construction company doing our garage project sent a guy up today to collect for the demolition - a bill I wasn't expecting just now: $2,170.
And the Honda dealer says I need all new brakes and some exhaust system work that will run me another $1,800 (I save $600 because the muffler has a lifetime warranty). It would be another $1,100 if I wanted to get the body work done that it needs, but that will have to wait. And wait. And wait.
So I ran to the bank and got a cash advance on a credit card (24% APR!!!) to cover it until our home equity line of credit becomes available in a few days.
I still haven't done our taxes, but I fear we'll take a hit for an IRA I cashed in last year.
And the first draw on the actual construction - $10k+ - is due on Friday.
For a guy who prefers to pay as he goes, I'm getting a little twitchy over all of this juggling.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Plugging along

Our work crew was down to one guy this morning after his partner got shunted off to another job.
The remaining worker - a good kid whose aunt was a high school classmate of mine - got the remainder of the garage debris into a dumpster and was poised to start tossing deck debris into the dumpster by the time we had to leave for work at the newspaper.
The appraiser hired by the bank came around after lunch and scoped out the place. I told him it would be very helpful if he could fast-track his appraisal, since the first draw on the garage project is due this Friday and we still haven't been approved for our home equity line of credit.
I had planned to get started on our taxes this morning, but instead got drafted for house cleaning in anticipation of the appraiser's visit. Maybe tomorrow.
We dropped my del Sol off at the Honda dealership in Lafayette Saturday morning after it became obvious that it was developing a serious brake problem. Something is dragging on the brake rotor on the right rear wheel and all of the brakes screech badly whenever I stop. It's probably a case of me waiting too long to replace brake pads. I just hope the rotors aren't hosed, which would mean some serious money. Unfortunately, this comes at a time when winter refuses to go away - we drove through snow flurries on the way to work this afternoon - which makes motorcycling a less-than-attractive alternative form of transportation while my car is laid up. I just checked my home voicemail and found a message from the Honda shop, left about 5 p.m., asking me to give them a call. Since it's now 11:19 p.m., that call will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Are we done yet?

Waiting for Maria to finish up at the paper on Sunday night.

The scariest woman in America

Sorry, but I can't see her as the leader of the Free World. She's the poster girl for PMS.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The horror, the horror

Shopping mall Easter bunny.

Early birthday

In Bloomington to celebrate Morgan's 22nd birthday. Mother and daughter at Cheeseburger in Paradise. The Pina Coladas are dangerously good.

Operator error

A receptionist at the newspaper tells Maria her computer mouse has just gone crazy.
Maria sends Brent, the resident geek to check it out.
Brent comes back shaking his head.
"She had her mouse turned around, so the cord was coming out of the bottom," he said. "It was so pathetic, I didn't even have the heart to laugh at her."

Yes, some of them want us there

From Iraq The Model, a blog by Iraqis in Baghdad.

Midnight Company.

I often find myself in arguments with people about the behavior of American soldiers when they search homes and many of the people I talk to base their argument and negative impression on the footage of some raids we see on TV or on experiences of presumed relatives or friends.

When I try to counter the idea of 'they knock down doors unnecessarily, steal jewelry and treat people bad' by saying that there must be a good reason the troops sometimes act rough and that 'for every reaxction there must have been an action' I often get the response of "what do you know about that? The Americans never searched your home"

Well, last night they did…

It was around midnight and we were gathered around the fire in the backyard when we heard someone talking in English in the street.
Go see what that was, Mohammed told me.
I approached the front door and peeked into the street, a number of Humvees were there.
I returned to the group and told them we might have some company.

Almost every Friday night we gather with some friends for drinks and barbeque and we all take turns hosting the nights. Yesterday it was our turn.

I went to the living room where my father was having a heated political debate with his friend and told them the house would likely be searched. The two men stopped talking, looked at me carelessly for a second and then resumed their loud debate.

I went back to tend the fish we were preparing for our Masgoof dinner and then heard the front door open and a flashlight beamed into the driveway.
I walked to meet the night visitors; 6 or 7 American soldiers and an Iraqi translator wearing a black ski mask walked in.

Good evening gentlemen, how can I help you?

Hi, that's a lot of cars you got here! Are they all yours? The lead soldier said, obviously suspicious about the number of cars we had in the driveway.

That one is ours, the rest belong to our friends. And explained that we had guests and that in order to avoid the curfew they are spending the night here.

As was speaking two of the soldiers were using the lights on their rifles to look through the glass into the cars.

Who are those people back there?

Those are our friends and my brothers, I said as I lead the way into the back yard.

The Iraqis and Americans exchanged words of greetings.

The soldiers now began to feel a bit relaxed seeing the relaxed friendly mood, the barbeque and the drinks in Iraqis' hands.

That's a large fish! Looks good! One soldier noted.

There's enough food and drinks for all of us here, please join us, said one of my friends.

Nah, we can't do that. Thanks anyway.

We know the Americans were on duty and had a job to do so we didn't repeat the offer violating the tribal Iraqi tradition of persistently offering food.

One of the soldiers asked for the keys to the cars and he and his colleague started checking them one after the other.
I lead three others into the house showing them the rooms explaining what each one was.
When we entered the living room they were surprised to see 4 laptops scattered around.

What are these for?

One's mine, the other is my brother's and the rest are our friends', I said and explained that our friends always bring their laptops with them when they come because they can use our wireless.
My brother and I are bloggers, our friends work in the computers business, I added.
Ah, you got wireless! I should bring my laptop too next time I come here, one of the soldiers joked.

We went up to the second floor, then the roof and they looked around around, opened a few drawers, asked if we had any weapons. I told them we didn't have any.

That's fine, no problem.

Within roughly 20 minutes the soldiers had completed searching the house and by now they seemed convinced that this household is 'clean'. So we all went back to the back yard and gathered around the tasty-smelling fish and we all had some short friendly talk about food, booze, the city, the war, the internet, etc.

At the end we stood to take some pictures together.

These are bloggers dude, cover your face if you don't want to be seen nude on the internet tomorrow! One soldier said to his colleague as I snapped this photo, and we all chuckled.

And I know what you're thinking; Mohammed and I do not appear in this one.

The Americans and Iraqis shook hands and exchanged take care's and stay safe's.
They went on to continue their patrol, and we went back to our fish.
Some of us will definitely have a joke or a short story to tell from this night, I thought.

I realize that for some other Iraqis having their homes searched wasn't as smooth or as pleasant an experience as ours but this is my story and I thought I'd share it.

Posted by Omar @ 22:34

Friday, April 06, 2007

Today's shirt

The only place to buy a real cowboy hat.

The pitfalls of being Pete

Remember the cliche Lassie bit where little Timmy falls into the well and Lassie goes for help, barking excitedly until rescuers follow her to pull the hapless kid to safety?
Ruthie the Wonder Dog had just such an opportunity this morning, but she failed miserably. But then, it was Pete the Aussie - her constant companion and frequent tormentor - who needed rescuing. So maybe she chose to ignore his plight so as to be rid of him.
I had finished my workout at the gym when I checked my cell phone and found I had missed a call from Maria. I called her and she got me up to speed on the progress, or rather the lack of it, on our garage project. The two-man crew had filled the dumpster by 11:30 a.m. and, since the trash hauler couldn't get a fresh one to our site before this evening, Maria cut them loose. That's another half-day down the toilet because of inadequate dumpster service. And, she said, Pete had gone Walkabout and was nowhere to be found. We figured he would show up eventually, so I opted to shower, bank my paycheck and grab a bite of lunch before heading home.
When I got back to my locker from the showers, my cell phone was ringing again. It was Maria, saying she had found Pete. He'd fallen into the open cistern that we uncovered a couple of weeks ago when we tore out the rotting wooden deck behind the house. The previous owners had dumped great shards of broken glass and other construction debris into it and we tossed in whatever rocks and bricks fell to hand in an effort to fill it. I covered it with a piece of drywall that I found in the garage. That worked fine until it rained. It soaked up the water and went soft and mushy. Pete had apparently assumed it was still a solid surface and fell through. Maria said she noticed the hole in the drywall and peered down to find Pete gazing balefully up at her.
He hadn't barked or done anything else to attract her attention.
Ruthie, in the meantime, was larking around the back yard and taking no notice whatsoever of her young friend's plight.
Maria called her dad and he came over, held her by the ankles and she reached down and plucked Pete from the pit. She said he was subdued, but apparently uninjured.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Half a day wasted

It's about 6 p.m. and the trash hauler just drove away with a full dumpster, leaving an empty in exchange.
We needed him to be here a full six freaking hours ago!
When I got home from running errands about 3:30 p.m., I found the two-man wrecking crew just doing busy work as they waited for a dumpster to show up. They had the one that was delivered yesterday afternoon stuffed to overflowing by 11:30 a.m. and spent the rest of their time here breaking up debris into small pieces.
I cut them loose, rather than pay them for standing around.
The trash hauler showed up at 5:35 p.m. and spent about 20 minutes tossing stuff out of the dumpster onto the ground because he apparently didn't think he could haul it without debris falling out onto the roadway.
Clearly, we could be moving twice as quickly if we had dumpster exchanges in a timely fashion. I sincerely hope this clusterfuck doesn't repeat itself tomorrow.

Progress report

The crew, still one man short, is back at work today. They took down the second garage/shed and continue to hack away at the roof of the garage they dropped yesterday. They've filled a second dumpster and are now waiting for an empty to be delivered. While they wait, all they can do it keep hacking the remaining debris into smaller pieces.
This was projected to be a three-day process, but they still have to rip out a bunch of trees and shrubs and the trash hauler can't keep them supplied with empty dumpsters as fast as they can fill them, so I expect it to run into four or more days.
It's midday and the temperature has only risen to 33 from an overnight low of 30, but at least the sun is shining.
The top photo was taken about 10 a.m. yesterday. The bottom at 12:20 p.m. today.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Going down!

After a couple of days of futzing around due to delays on other projects, our construction guy finally got two-thirds of a work crew here to start tearing down our two crappy garages.
Of course, the weather has turned bitterly cold. It was 32 degrees and spitting snow when we got up and hasn't warmed up much since then. Nevertheless, when the guys arrived they got right to work and in less than two hours had the main garage on the ground.
And they managed to do it without having to move the hot tub. It will have to be moved later, but for the moment at least, we can relax about that issue.
The plan calls for the trash hauler to bring us a fresh dumpster this afternoon, so with any luck at all, both structures will be gone by tonight and tomorrow's work will likely focus on breaking up and removing the concrete footprint of the larger garage.
Then, we can start moving dirt around and ripping out shrubs to prep the site for the new garage.
It's a huge relief to get this business underway.
I should be doing our taxes, but this is too engrossing. Maybe tomorrow.


The view from east of our property before the two garages in the foreground came down. That's Ruthie the Aging Wonder Dog on the right.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Before the deluge

Looking west about 10 minutes before the heavy rain hit. A strong cold front and line of powerful thunderstorms swept across Indiana this afternoon. We were walking to a cafe for lunch when I shot this.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Counting down to G (garage) Day

The bikes are in my neighbor's barn, the beer fridge is on the back porch and the surplus fridge and Franklin stove are on the front lawn and we have almost all of the "keeper" stuff out of both garages.
We figure we can clean out the last of it early tomorrow morning before the demolition crew and the dumpster arrive.
I wrestled the refrigerators single-handedly, which is probably why my back and legs are killing me tonight.
Maybe I'll get a chance to work out some of the kinks tomorrow at the fitness center, but probably not, since we have to supervise the demolition, including the relocation of the hot tub to a spot in the front yard. Our place is going to look like some kind of hillbilly haven for the next few weeks, with the front yard and porch loaded with stuff that shouldn't be there. I can only hope it ends well.
The forecast for tomorrow is sunny and 70 degrees, so the Weather Gods are on our side for the moment.

Saturday lunch

Lunch at Qdoba.