Thursday, July 17, 2014

Handy Man

Husband can fix anything.

Apparently as a child, he had a fondness for taking apart various electronics in his house and reassembling them.  His parents didn't always notice - though they caught him in the act of taking apart the phone one time. 

The slow progress of the Buick restoration notwithstanding, Husband is really incredible.  For example, there was awhile during law school when my car wouldn't start.  Husband went out and tried starting it a few times, came back in and read the Internet for fifteen minutes, went back outside, and I heard the car start.

Liz:  How did you do that?  What did you do?
Husband:  Well, the solenoid is getting jammed when the engine cools off and so you just need to knock on it a bit to get it to start.
Liz:  The what?  Where?

Husband showed me in the engine where to knock and gave me a screwdriver to knock it with until we could get it fixed.  So I had a week or two where I felt very cool and mechanically inclined; if I was going to drive someone and my car wouldn't start, I'd just casually remark, "Oh, it's probably just the solenoid, let me take care of that," grab the screwdriver, pop the hood, and handle it.  No one could ever see that I was literally just banging on a piece of the engine with the screwdriver, so I looked cool.
Aside:  I used to play the excellent video game The Sims* all of the time, and occasionally they would need to fix an item in their house, and the way they would do so would be to wham on the item with a hammer.  So you'd see the Sim sitting there, just banging the screen of her TV with a hammer for a few hours of her time, and then her TV would be fixed.  Based on this and my experience with the solenoid, the only way I know how to fix anything is to wham on it with some sort of blunt tool.  
A week later, Husband took the car into the shop.  He came back not very long later.

Liz:  Did they fix it?
Husband:  They wanted A THOUSAND DOLLARS to fix it.
Liz:  Is my car worth a thousand dollars?
Husband:  No.
Liz:  What are we going to do?
Husband:  I'm going to fix it.

Husband went on, bought a part for $45, and two days later spent twenty minutes installing it.  The car was fixed perfectly.

When we hired a monthly  housecleaner in our old house on a trial basis because we were living in squalor (in my defense, I was commuting for three hours a day) and she proceeded to yank our entire showerhead out of the wall in the process of cleaning the shower (?!?!????) and Husband found water literally leaking into the wall, he was able to fix the problem with the pipes until a plumber could get out the next day.  

In our new house, Husband installed a dimmer switch when I wanted one for the chandelier in the family room - a chandelier which he had wired in after I bought it on craigslist.  He installed the new oven.  He crawled under the house to figure out why a few boards in the dining room floor were squeaking  and reinforced the subfloor so they wouldn't.  He replaced the rain gutter on the front of the house (because the old one only went 30% of the way across the roof, and then stopped abruptly, creating a fountainous stream of water shooting out over the porch).  He installed a proper downspout.  

He also makes a mean pie.

Blackberry.  From scratch.  I know, too dreamy.

In short, Husband is entirely the functional adult I will probably never be, and I am so thankful that my best friend just happens to also be the most competent person I know.

*  The Sims was the first video game ever to sell more copies to women than to men.  It was also the best selling video game ever for a long time (until, I think, one of the Calls of Duty finally bumped it).  Not a coincidence.

Monday, July 14, 2014

We're okay, iPhone...

Like my fellow Millennials (bleh, that name), I'm quasi-apathetic when it comes to my privacy - I tried deleting my Facebook account once but brought it back to life within a few months.  But I got kind of horked off when I was making a list of movies I want to watch later in the "Notes" app.  I added 22 Jump Street because, whatever, take your foreign cinema and start a restaurant named after it.  When I closed out, I saw that the app had highlighted and underlined 22 Jump Street.  Are you kidding me?  You're going to turn a note I made into an ad for a movie?  Are you actually somehow giving Fandango access to my Notes app?

I clicked the link out of rage and just like I thought, my iphone opened up the app for...


It thought I was typing in an address and might need to find it.


I can't stay mad at you, C3PO, when you do cute stuff like that.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

American Planes

Flying on a plane is always wonderful.

When we went to visit my cousin Bebop for his high school graduation last month, there was a man on the plane successfully executing the loudest snoring I had personally experienced being generated by a human being.  I could hear this guy snoring from several rows away over the roaring of the jet engines.  This was the kind of snoring that illuminates for you where the turn of phrase "sawing logs" came from.  And then you realize that the expression came from the days of manual saws, and in fact this is more like a "chainsaw" kind of log-sawing sound, or a "coordinated orchestra where all of the instruments have been replaced with buzzsaws" kind of sound, or perhaps an "entire paper mill processing a tree into pulp in under a minute" kind of sound.  That's the kind of loud snoring this guy was producing.

On the way home from that trip, out of revenge and a sense of wanting to enhance the suitability of the plane's name, I proceeded to conk out for the entire four hour flight back on the dreamliner (while Husband patiently tried to type on his laptop despite having me sprawled out into his seatspace).

Even knowing that no one could ever snore louder than the guy I heard on that one flight, the latest flight I took was destined to be terrible.  We flew last Thursday night - the night before the Day of Independence miraculously and wonderfully fell on a Friday.

like it specifies in Article III.
But that had its consequences, which were primarily consequences to the sanity of those waiting in line for security at the airport.

Specifically, the lines were insanely long and insanely unfair.  We had a moment where one of the TSA agents was going to shuffle us into either the teal line or the red line.  (Of course we couldn't go in the green line because that was the TSA pre-check line and of course I can't GET pre-check because the waiting time for an interview is currently, literally, five months.)  And though maybe I'm not illustrating this quite right, you can see that the teal line is three times as long as the red line.

It's not a great picture, but it's better than the rage-versions I drew on the back of a blank page of a brief while on the plane.

You can guess which line we ended up in.

Of course, the gray line hadn't even started when we got in line: they opened it up once we were a little bit into the red line and just stuck there.  In sum, we had plenty of time to ponder the gross unfairness of the line system.  It was both unjust and inefficient, which is like a double whammy to an attorney with an econ degree.

Once we were on the plane, Husband and I didn't get to sit together, which was meh but okay since I had some work to do.  I watched out the window a bit, half-listening to a small British child discussing with her mother the merits of buses while realizing I forgot my earplugs.  When we reached cruising altitude, I (with great resignation) pulled out my stack of papers to read and BAM -

the girl in front of me reclines DIRECTLY into my face.

Here is a public service announcement for the people of the earth: if you are not SLEEPING on the plane, don't recline!  Spare your posture and sit the heck up.  You will also be sparing yourself my undying loathing to the extent that interests you.

I am trying to work with the seat in front of me three inches from my face, realizing I can't look up any cases because airplane wifi is $19 and essentially worthless anyway, when the girl in front of me starts watching a movie.  Out loud.  With no earphones.

Which is, in more orderly societies, punishable by 18 months hard labor cleaning TSA rubbermaid bins with nothing but a toothbrush MOISTENED BY YOUR OWN SALIVA AND...

and then I saw the sunset throwing magenta light against a mountain glowing against a lavender twilight.  I glimpsed my own profile cast in sharp relief on the cabin wall by the orange sunset fire from the opposite window.

It was very instagrammable.

And I then noticed that the girl in front of me was taking a photo out the window too.  While her movie still played on out loud.  As she ignored it.

Sunset or no, it was lucky that we landed soon after.  Lucky for her, that is.  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

So Expensive: Part 3

Part 3:  Install New Garage Doors

(read part 1 and part 2 of our adventures in expensive house fix-ups)

As is fairly established by now, Husband likes spending time in the garage taking a certain vehicle apart.  The new house has a stand-alone garage.  The old house had a connected garage, and the washer and dryer were in the garage, so I would go into the garage on occasion (and inevitably manage to bash my arm on a tailpipe suspended, improbably, four and a half feet in the air).  But the new one is all on its own and literally jammed to the brim with the Old Car.  I never go in there.

Haunted by rusty ghosts.  Really, just rust.
But Husband is in there all the time.  He shimmies around the edges in the narrow path he's made to get to whatever rusty part of the Old Car he is disassembling at any given moment and doesn't even look like he minds it.  When he isn't working, or sleeping or baking pies, or hanging out with me discussing plot inconsistencies in the Transformers franchise, he's out in the garage working on his car.

Husband:  I think we need a new garage door.
Liz:  Why?  What's wrong with the old one?
Husband:  The springs are really old, and the door is really heavy, and I'm worried the garage door is going to collapse on me and kill me.
Liz:  We're getting a new garage door.

He wasn't delusional: the old garage door had no automatic lift and was made out of solid wood, and every time Husband lifted it, it made a terrifying dying-badger sound.  It was just that a) I knew it would probably be a bunch of money and b) after the heinous floor experience, I didn't know if we were ready to deal with another upgrade.  But Husband's life was at stake this time, so it had to be done.

Miraculously, this time, finding a service provider was easy: Husband found a guy on Yelp and called some people, and one of them was remarkable:
  1. He actually replied
  2. He seemed reasonable on the phone
  3. He was willing to come out the very next day to give a quote...
  4. ...even though the next day was Sunday.
It was amazing.

He came out on Sunday and brought a brochure of doors we could pick from.  He showed us the one he suggested, which was one of the cheapest ones, and a very good door as well, because it's really just a garage door and who needs...

Liz:  I want that other one.
Garage Door Man:  Oh.  Well, that one is a fair amount more money... 
Liz:  I don't care.  I want that one.

The Garage Door Man seemed baffled that I was willing to spend more money to have a better-looking garage door.  Or maybe he was trying to be sensitive: on the weekends, I generally dress like a twelve-year-old and I'm not old enough looking that when I'm dressed like a twelve-year-old that people can see, ahem, another sixteen years past that.  
Aside:  One time, right after I had taken the bar exam, I sat on a plane next to a director at a company I really like and chatted very intelligently with him about the directions his industry was taking (as I'd done a 120-page paper on that industry my last term of law school).  Mr. Director kept doing double takes / expressing incredulity that I had a JD - because I was wearing jean shorts and an old t-shirt from a mock trial tournament.  Whatever!  It was summer!  I had just taken the bar exam.  I'm not some person insistent on throwing back to the 60s by dressing up to sit on a sweaty Southwest flight.   
Machine washable clothes save the world, too.  Down with dry cleaning.
So the Garage Door Man probably through we were stone cold broke and I was some sort of 18-year-old bride.  Instead of what I actually am, which is a stubborn lady who intends to buy new garage doors only once in the rest of her existence and is thus going to get attractive ones that look like carriage doors.

(Which Husband also wanted.  I'm not some kind of garage door tyrant wife.  Which is going to be the title of my next blog.)

The Garage Door Man nicely acquiesced, and began telling us about his nine (nine!) children and beloved wife while he went to inspect the current door.  Which was the best part, because our garage door was no regular garage door.  As you can see, within the door was another, regular-style door, complete with glass panes and a locking doorknob, though you have to step up over the ledge to enter through it.  Also, the garage door had in it a separate cat door.

This was part of the reason it was so heavy and why Husband and I were genuinely concerned he could get smushed under it.

Garage Door Man, admiringly:  You know, I've seen doors in a garage door before, but I've never seen a cat door in the garage door before.  Two doors within the door.  That's a first.

We were pretty proud to have a garage door unlike any the Garage Door Man had seen before.

We agreed on a price and signed the contract.  After he left, though:

Husband:  I'm sorry - I forgot to negotiate with him at ALL.
Liz:  Don't worry about that - he has like a million children to feed.  I don't want to negotiate with that guy.  

The very next day, Garage Door Man sent the oldest of his million children over to install the new garage door, which did require Husband to roll part of the disassembled Old Car out of the garage.

But other than that, the garage installation was easy and quick - the guy worked outside on it for half a day, and by 5 p.m. we had a brand-new garage door that went up and down by itself and had a nice keypad on the outside.  Just like regular people do.  No cat door.

Which is really a loss in case Husband ever trains a cat to help him put the Old Car back together.

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Functional Adult Goes Running: A Second Time?

Amount of time spent generating really kickass playlist to inspire exercise times and uploading said playlist onto severely antiquated iPod shuffle:  28 minutes

Amount of time spend running / walking:  22 minutes, or, in other measurements, eternity.

After the 22 minutes I absolutely had to stop because I had to get inside and make Husband some chicken for dinner.  And by "to get inside and make Husband some chicken for dinner," I mean "a simultaneous side cramp and asthma attack, as well as ear coldness event, which meant I would have collapsed if I tried to go farther."

In unrelated news, my neighbors, who I do not know very well, have been looking at me funny this week.

So Expensive: Part 2

Part 2:  Install new floors.

[read part 1 and part 3 on how our new house is proving so expensive to fix up]

The old floors in the kitchen and family room were insane tile of the brownish-shape-pattern variety. It was not a good look.

If you look closely, you can see that the pattern is repeating perpendicular dog bones.

The rest of the downstairs had hardwood floor, so we decided to get hardwoods to match. We knew it would cost, but would be worth it in the long run. So all we had to do was find someone to do it. Easy enough right?

WRONG. It is unimaginably hard to pay someone to install a new floor for you.

I dont’ know if there is a profession-wide state of willful insouciance amongst floorpersons, or if floor installers are just rolling in the dough and don’t need work, or if they all just dislike Husband and I personally. But it was nigh impossible to get someone to do hardwood floors in our house. Here is a flowchart of how our process with hiring these guys went:

Finally, we hired someone, which after all of that felt like a miracle. Floor Guy had the excellent credentials of "being the first person to have answered his phone." Our standards were low.

We bought the wood from the guy.  That meant waiting for the wood to ship, which took a couple weeks.  And then once the wood arrived, we had to leave it to "cure" in the house. Apparently wood is moody and needs to get used to the ambiaaaaaaance before you install it.

That would have been just fine. We didn't mind having a ton of planks of wood in the family room - we didn't have any furniture to put in there anyway. It was fine having planks of wood around for Husband's birthday party.

What wasn't fine was that by the time the wood had cured, the floor guy had vanished. He wouldn't answer calls or e-mails. Oh, had I mentioned?  This guy didn't have a website.  He wasn't actually on yelp.  All we had of him was a phone number, that he wouldn't answer, and an e-mail address, that apparently meant nothing to him.

It was like he had been a figment of our imaginations, except for the pile of red oak he had left.  Which meant that we restarted the process:

Finally, one of the earlier non-answerers picked up and agreed to come install the floor. When he came by, he made a big fuss that we had ordered waaaaayyy more wood than we needed. Waaaayyyy more. Husband ignored Floor Guy #2's histrionics and firmly said, "Okay, fine, we will be glad to have the extra for spare then."

We set up a schedule with Floor Guy #2 to install the floor.  But this meant first that Husband and I had to manage to move the entire refrigerator through various narrow passages in our house out of the kitchen.  We were going to put the fridge in the laundry room.  Except it turns out our fridge is wider than the door to the laundry room, or to the bedroom next to the kitchen, or to anywhere but the back door.

So onto the back porch it went.  I wish I had a picture of how our back porch now looked like we were trying some avant-garde experimental kitchen project.  No, wait, it just looked weird.  And was very inconvenient to have to go outside.  In the winter.  To get milk.

Did I mention it was the winter?  Everything in the refrigerator doors froze.

Floor Guy #2 got to installing the floor.  Which you'd think is a fairly simple process.  But it wasn't at all; it was instead days and days of process:

  1. FG2 comes to remove the old tiles from the floor.
  2. FG2 comes the next day to sand down the gunk from under the old tiles.
  3. FG2 comes to install the new wood.
  4. FG2 comes to install the pegs and the wood filler on the wood.
  5. The wood filler cures endlessly.
  6. FG2 comes to sand the floor.

All of the above was complicated by the fact that he was incapable of showing up when he had said he would, or of informing us when he would show up.  So Husband would leave work early to wait around for the floor guy to show up, when he wouldn't; I would be at home on a conference call and answer the door to find, unexpectedly, that today was evidently Sanding Day.

Once he got the wood down, at long last, it looked nice, but pretty raw.

raw floor in kitchen

raw floor

And for blah blah blah reasons, he couldn't stain and finish the floor (which itself was a multi-day process) for another x number of days because he probably enjoyed making our lives difficult. Don't tell me it wasn't intentional.  He could see the fridge out on the back porch.

So for another week or two we stepped very gingerly and carefully on the unfinished floor on our way out to the back porch to the refrigerator.

The floor guy finally stained the floor after Husband signed a BLOOD CONTRACT that the stain was in fact the stain we wanted.  And Husband has a good eye, because it looked awesome:

We were enjoying the finished product until we had a near-simultaneous recollection of a conversation that had happened approximately 300 trips to an outdoor refrigerator ago.

Liz: "Where's all the extra wood he said we would have?"
Husband: "Maybe it's in the garage?"

It wasn't in the garage. It was nowhere.

When we called Floor Guy #2 to ask him where he had taken the rest of our wood, he played dumb. I don't think it was a tough act for him. But he wasn't prepared to deal with two disgruntled homeowners, one of whom was a cranky lawyer with experience in litigating over home construction cases. And if there's one thing you learn in law school, it's that the one still holding the money has the power.

After writing a series of terse letters to Floor Guy #2 (i.e. Stealy McStealerson) that featured the charm of a young litigator and the lyrical elegance of an engineer, we finally agreed to pay Floor Guy #2 a certain amount, which was less than he had quoted us, to compensate for the disappearing wood.

A slightly less aggravating detail of this was that the new flooring also involved removing the old wood-burning stove that was in one corner of the room, which took up a lot of space and made little sense in a place with central heating.

Husband wanted to keep it because it was old.  I pointed out that we had plenty of old stuff around already and that the entire garage was, in fact, full of something old.  He agreed.  We replaced the large black eyesore of a stove...

with a large black eyesore of a really old TV.

But the stove didn't show me episodes of Chopped while I wash dishes, so this is definitely a net improvement.  Though the downside of the TV is it also shows me HGTV, including episodes of shows where people effortlessly install hardwood floors in a single day, and there's no flowchart I can draw to show how enraging that is after all of these shenanigans.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

So Expensive: Part 1

"Fixing up our new house is so expensive."

"How expensive is it?"

"It's so expensive Jay-Z raps about fixing up our new house."
"It's so expensive it's becoming suggested as a comparable alternative to law school."
 "It's so expensive they sell it exclusively at Whole Foods."
"It's so expensive Kim and Kanye made it a part of their wedding."

In addition to re-painting the cabinets, which was well worth it to eliminate the pumpkin color scheme, there were a few more necessary things to do to the new house... all of which were expensive.

Part 1: Installing a new oven

The old oven was a double oven, which is great for if you want to bake a ton of stuff, which, ahem, I always do!  But it was really old.  You just looked at it and knew it was really old.  The clock/timer had analog roll-y numbers on it, which is practically Pleistocene.

I mean... come on.

The black oven and orange cabinets have a nice Halloween look.
In addition, there was no built in microwave, and I didn't want to bring our crappy old countertop microwave, which had lived for many years under Husband's dorm room bed (that was the place one kept a microwave in our dorms. they were small.)  So we decided to get a new oven, which was a microwave on top (that could also be a small convection oven) and the oven on the bottom.

Getting a new oven was especially feasible because I got a discount on appliances because someone at my law firm either once sued someone or defended against a suit from someone on behalf of an appliance manufacturer.  I was pretty jazzed about getting a discount, because I love a good sale.  But it was terrifying how much appliances cost even WITH a discount.  Who decided refrigerators are a four-figure operation?  How did this oven cost twice as much as my 3D plasma TV?  Either there is some shady oven cartel happening or TV manufacturers are getting a raw deal.

Once I was over my sticker shock with ovens, I bit the bullet and bought a new one, strengthened by the thought of how ugly the old one was.

The game was afoot.  The first task was to remove the old oven.  Neither of us had previously pondered what one should do once one has removed an enormously heavy oven from a wall.  The solution we settled on was to set it on a milk crate as if we were on  MythBusters testing the load-bearing capacity of milk crates.

Ready, steady...
Answer: A milk crate can support at least one oven.  
Once the oven was out, we discovered that there was a different shade of green paint underneath the orange paint on the cabinets.  How deep did the conspiracy go???

Look above the cooktop and to the right of the ovenspace.
Because this would be shorter than the old double oven, we got a contractor to build a space for a new drawer on the bottom (and in the meantime the painting occurred). 

Husband got excited for me to blog about the oven because, in his words:

  •   It was really heavy to move the old oven out and the new one in
  •   It took forever to install the new oven
  •   He has a bunch of pictures of the installation process.

Unfortunately, I think he forgot the main obstacle to me blogging about it, which was.... I totally left him to do all of the work and didn't help at all.  Everything was too heavy!  The Brothers were over to help with the lifting!  I .... am horrible and selfish and didn't want to deal with it and don't have experience hardwiring appliances or ANYTHING ELSE and... had important iPad games to play.  I only helped a tiny bit at the very end to side in the new oven once they had it installed.

I know.  I am a terrible person.  Unlike Husband, who is a brilliant person who can fix literally anything.  It's very impressive.

What I can tell you is that this oven BARELY fits onto the wall.  It has like half a millimeter of clearance on either side.  If we put too many coats of paint on  the wall, it won't fit anymore.

It also has a digital display because this is America.

But I do remember this.  Once the new oven was installed, we were waiting on the new drawer to come for the space beneath the new oven.  Husband came in to the house holding a drawer.

Liz:  Did the contractor drop that off?
Husband:  No, I just found this in the garage?

Husband experimentally tried the drawer in the hole in the wall - the hole that, keep in mind, the contractor had JUST BUILT and built expressly to fit our new oven.

The drawer fit perfectly.

We were both baffled.

Liz:  But he's already building the new drawer.
Husband:  Well, now we have this one as a spare, I guess?

It was HIGHLY improbable.  But I guess with all of the money we paid the contractor to build and for the new oven, it was nice to find something - however duplicative - for free.

return next week for parts 2 and 3 of the saga in "Home ownership is expensive, no duh Liz, everyone knows that"!