Archive for the ‘Biography’ Category

Bathhouse 71

The cottage kits came with materials to build decorative railings around the porch areas, which we didn’t use because we were incorporating the cottages into the larger structure.  So when it came time to build the external walls for the atrium, I decided to see if those leftover parts might be useable (which would save both time and money).  Lo and behold, many of the logs were exactly the right length to build the south wall (right side of the picture), and less than two hours after I went to look at our stock, I had the wall in place.  The north wall (left side of the picture) was much trickier, but with the help of Grace and a table saw, we were able to get it done by early the following afternoon.  I was really jazzed because not only did I get to save money, time, and effort, I also feel as though the new walls are aesthetically pleasing in that they match the cottages.  The top halves of both walls will soon be screened, but I haven’t done that yet; over the next few weeks you’ll see what I have been doing, and I think you’ll be impressed.  The atrium has quickly gone from looking mostly like an outdoor construction site to mostly like a big room, and now that I’m done with the excruciatingly-slow roof-building, this part feels like it’s being accomplished at lightning speed.

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That was Then, This is Now

Those of y’all who follow me on Twitter know that every day, I tweet links to my columns of one, two, and three years before on that date.  We recently passed the two-year mark on my annex construction, and I noticed the differences in the pictures are pretty striking, so I figured I’d share them with you in juxtaposition.

May 29th, 2020

May 21st, 2022

July 18th, 2020

May 17th, 2022

September 5th, 2020

May 16th, 2022

September 15th, 2020

June 6th, 2022


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Last week I wrote about how much I appreciate my readers’ generosity, and I got ample proof of it again before the week was out.  On Wednesday I drove into Seattle as I do every three weeks, and I discovered this collection waiting for me (along with Vangelis’ last album) from a reader who often gets me nice things (and the note he included gave me an extra smile).  Then the next day, I published a request for help with travel funds (because the skyrocketing price of fuel and everything else has really exacerbated my typical summer & travel anxieties), and within hours I had received about 70% of what I estimate the trip will cost me.  And let me tell you, there is nothing as good for anxiety as feeling supported and cared for!  As I sit at my desk writing this, there’s a dramatic difference in my emotional balance from when I wrote the request just a week ago; I feel calm and I’m looking forward to the journey, whereas last week I was trying to decide whether to rethink the whole thing.  So thank all of y’all for being so amazing; it’s no exaggeration to say that y’all saved my whole trip.

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Bathhouse 70

Last week started out dry enough that I was able to get up on the roof and fix the one persistent leak we still had.  It was in the first roof section involving multiple panel directions; I hadn’t learned yet to think about how the rainwater would flow, so I attached one section under a joint when it should’ve gone over, thus producing a steady drip that grew worse as a rainstorm continued.  It would’ve been a nightmare to take it all apart and redesign it, but fortunately I didn’t have to; I simply used a few short pieces to install an outer layer to act as a guard, the sealed the edges with silicone.  I didn’t have to wait long to test it; last Thursday it rained cats and dogs all day, and not a single leak.  So I can now declare the roof officially solid!  I still have to install gutters and trim out a few spots that don’t look nice, but at least we can now walk from the back door to either cottage without getting wet.  I can leave the tools there safely overnight, and we were even able to work on the walls Thursday while it was raining, safe and dry within the atrium.  You’ll see pictures of that next week, but here’s the current one; I tried to get a picture which would clearly show the ridgecap, but most of the angles made it look really strange or bent, so I settled on this one.

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Not much scares me outright, but anxiety is a different matter; I’ve suffered from it since childhood, and though it never completely goes away, I’ve mostly learned to manage it pretty well except for circumstances I’ve mentioned before:  air travel, long summer days, dealing with bureaucracy, etc.  But there’s one cause I haven’t had to worry about since my early teens and had hoped I would never have to worry about again: inflation.  I’ve always thought that was a serious misnomer, because the problem isn’t really that prices are going up; it’s that the value of the currency is going down.  I’ve never been any good at saving, so at least I don’t need to worry about cash reserves shrinking in value.  But now that I’m semi-retired, my budget is much tighter than it used to be, and I don’t have a lot of wriggle room; also, I’m not yet finished my construction project, and the price of everything I need for it has increased dramatically.  And next month, my normal summer and travel anxieties will be compounded:  I’m going to a conference in Las Vegas, but summer standby flying is even more nerve-wracking than ordinary standby flying; not only are there more people traveling, more of them are airline employees (often with kids), therefore far fewer available seats.  And even when my outbound flights are OK, the return flights into Seattle are usually a negative-number-of-seats-available nightmare (I’m told it’s due to the fact that many cruises depart from Seattle).  So I’m planning to drive to the conference instead of flying; I want to make two other stops on the way there, so the flights would just be a logistical mess anyway even if I wanted to try it.  However, the skyrocketing cost of gasoline is causing me considerable anxiety about that strategy; I estimate it might cost me as much as $1000 (still cheaper than if I had to buy multiple airline tickets, but stressful nonetheless).  So if you aren’t hurting and appreciate my work, would you consider a gift of fuel funds so I can get to Vegas to A) meet with a couple of folks about possible consulting gigs that might stabilize my financial situation for the next few years; and B) rattle some cages about supporting sex worker rights?  If it helps, remember that I actually kinda like road trips, and one of the stops is to visit a friend I haven’t seen in almost three years, so you’d also be subsidizing a little vacation for me.

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Every so often I like to remind my readers and patrons how important your support is to me.  In these uncertain times, it’s really reassuring to know that my writing is important enough to many of you that you choose to do more than simply throw a compliment my way now and again.  For some of you, support takes the form of a subscription, money you send every month to help me pay my bills; in lean times (such as right after tax season) those small amounts add up and keep me in the black.  Others prefer to send me nice things from my Amazon wishlist; I try to keep it populated with lots of things I really want, rather than just expensive trinkets and designer gewgaws.  Take this book a reader (who prefers to remain anonymous) sent me a couple of months ago; it’s a collection of early comic strips from one of the creators of the genre.  It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time, but since it’s out of print I couldn’t justify the rather steep price, but since one of my admirers sent it as a present I could enjoy it without guilt (as I’m currently enjoying the second volume, received from a different reader just last week – you know who you are, and thank you!)  So whether you prefer to send me practical help to put food on the table, or to send “hyacinths to feed my soul”, please know that “appreciation” is far too mild a word to describe my feelings of gratitude to all of y’all.

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Bathhouse 69

And here it is at last: all the coarse roof work is done, and I’ve moved on to the finish work.  If you look closely at the northwest leaf (running from center to center left in this picture), you can see that I had to put in several extra braces and supports to get the design to work without letting any rainwater through.  But the work paid off, because the next time it rained the only places that got wet were the areas between the sections, and once the ridgecaps were in place (which I accomplished in two days last week), there was an immediate and dramatic reduction in leaking.  I spent last Friday caulking the spots where water was still getting through, and at last it’s possible to walk around the entire area without getting wet unless the wind blows it in from the sides.  As I said last week, that work really doesn’t show up well in pictures, but I’m going to try to get a good shot showing the ridgecaps for next Friday’s column, by which point I should be finished installing the gutters if the weather cooperates.

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Customer Disservice

I understand that big companies believe that they can save money by deflecting as many customer service questions as possible to the FAQs and moron-bots; I also recognize that there are fewer supervisors than regular phone drones, and since they probably get paid more it behooves a company to instruct its employees to try not to pass a problem up the chain of command unless it’s pretty clear they really can’t do anything for the caller.  But once that has become obvious, why in the world do these employees continue to obfuscate, misdirect, pretend it’s the customer’s responsibility to solve a problem on the company’s end, and even lie, rather than just connect the caller to a supervisor?  As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not exactly stupid; by the time I call customer service, I’ve already tried everything obvious that would be listed in the FAQs, and the few times I got tricked into trying the bots I quickly discovered that they’re basically a slower, more time-wasting version of those same FAQs.  So I get pretty annoyed pretty quickly when it become clear that a human operator is reading from that same damned list.  And when they claim they’re unable to do something I need done, I immediately ask for the supervisor (whom decades of experience has demonstrated time and again will nearly always be able to do that which the front-line operator claimed was impossible).  But you’d be amazed how tenaciously they resist granting that simple request, even when I start growing increasingly angry at their insistence that the hundred-dollar billing error was somehow my fault, and even when I point out that they aren’t being paid enough to deal with a demanding, infuriated crazy lady.  I mean, do they get demerits for calling in a supervisor?  Does the company actually want to pay an extra hour’s wages to the operator to not solve the issue, on top of whatever they pay the supervisor for the five or ten minutes it takes to actually solve my problem once I finally get the first operator to grasp that I’m not going to go away and eat the extra charge, accept the wrong item instead of the one I ordered, or otherwise let myself be screwed over?  Why must I always be put in a position where yelling at some poor working stiff who absolutely isn’t being paid enough to deal with me is the only way to actually get my problem solved?  Of all the asinine shit modern companies do, I think this is probably the most incomprehensible and least forgiveable; unfortunately, it also seems to be almost universally unavoidable.

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Diary #623

I’ve had tankless water heaters for over a decade now, and I’ll never go back.  Since all this hair takes a long time to wash, my showers tend to run about 30 minutes; that means I deplete all but the largest tanks by the time I’m done, and there are very few things I hate more than having to rush a shower to avoid getting hit by cold water while I’m trying to rinse the conditioner out.  I’m not generally fussy about most things, but I view long, hot, high-volume showers as a basic necessity, not an indulgence; this also means any new shower head must be modified to remove the government’s mandated “improvements” before it can be installed, because I’m not gonna try to wet my hair under a fucking trickle because too many Americans choose to live in deserts while I prefer to live in places where the issue is too much water rather than too little, and politicians think I should suffer in solidarity or something.  Anyhow, we recently started having weird little problems with the heater: strange noises, temperature fluctuations, that sort of thing.  Since it was installed in the autumn of ’17 I figured it needed some kind of maintenance, so I asked Dr. Quest if he knew what the problem was since A) I know he also has a tankless heater; and B) he’s good at figuring out such things.  He told me that the flow sensor (that tells the unit when to turn the heat on and off) was dirty and needed cleaning, so Grace did some research and bought this kit (endorsed by the heater’s manufacturer) to add a couple of valve assemblies into the inflow and outflow lines.  Once the valves are in place, all one need do is close the water valves, turn off the breakers to the unit, and attach the hoses visible in this picture to a pump immersed in two gallons of plain white vinegar, then let it run for 90 minutes (if you’ve ever had to clean a coffee maker you already know about vinegar dissolving sediment deposits).  After that, one detaches the pump, switches the valves back to let water through, and flushes the system with clean water by opening a hot water tap for about ten minutes (and don’t forget to turn the breakers back on when done).  The noises are gone, and the temperature seems much steadier; I figure we’ll probably set up a schedule to clean it annually so it doesn’t build up as much.  And given that there was nothing about this in the heater’s manual, I figured those with tankless heaters (which I highly recommend if you’re replacing your old heater) might want to get one of these kits, especially if you have your own well or the pipes carrying your city water are old.

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Bathhouse 68

I’m now done with all the coarse work on the roof, and by the time you read this I’ll have been doing the finish work all week.  But as I’ve pointed out before, a lot of that won’t show up well in pictures, and besides I’d rather document the process step by step.  The new section in this picture went very smoothly; it only took me three days to do, and though it has rained several times since then there isn’t a drop under that section, so I guess I did it correctly!  As you can see if you look closely, the main roof deck of this leaf is rectangular, with two wedge-shaped sections to carry water from the edges down onto that rectangular deck.  Now, the next section (which is still open in this picture) was much more difficult, because the bathroom area extends much farther along the wall of the cottage than the other side.  So, I had to come up with a design and build it on the fly as it were, because Grace couldn’t really see from below what had to be done.  But done it is, and you’ll see it next week; by the time the following week rolls around, I hope to be able to show you the finished roof!

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