Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Opening Lines

Call me Ishmael.   Moby Dick

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  A Tale of Two Cities

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.   Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Friday, December 18, 2009

Let Me In!

I listened to a story on immigration this morning.  So many people – people presumably just like me – seem so angry about immigrants and are dead-set about open borders.  That got me thinking as to how I got here.

I’m an average American citizen, or so I like to believe.  I was born in the USA; as were my parents and grandparents.  Before that, however, at some point every one of my ancestors arrived on this continent as an undocumented alien, but – big distinction here – with open arms.

Most of my ancestors came from Holland, Germany, England and Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Their children were instant citizens and we’re all living happily ever after.  Some of my ancestors arrived 5-10,000 years ago from Asia – so long ago that they are now considered “natives.”

Let’s face it.  Throughout all of human history, until the middle of the industrial revolution, no one ever voluntarily relocated.  Relocation is a messy and dangerous effort.  It takes an affluent society to allow voluntary relocation.  My ancestors were desperate enough to hop in boats or walk thousands of miles for a chance at a less horrific life.  My existence shows they lucked out.  Many millions did not.  Who are we to shut our borders to people who want to risk everything on a chance for a better existence when our ancestors did the same thing, just earlier?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Rule of Four

I got hit by the rule of four this afternoon. After I returned from a movie and before I even set foot in the house, I decided to replace the garage door bottom seal. It's just a U-shaped piece of rubber that rides in two channels at the bottom of the door. I already had the replacement part; how hard could it be?

I figured it would take 10-12 minutes to complete the project. If I had thought it would take any longer, I would have had lunch first.

Taking out the old was more involved than I thought because somewhere in the door's history, it hit something that pinched one of the channels. It took a while to spot that but it only took a screwdriver to fix.

Putting the new seal in would have been no big deal if I had taken the seal out of the package and let it stretch. Instead, I had a piece of recently folded rubber that wanted to stay folded, bending the little tabs that slide through the grooves. A little silicon spray and and a lot of muscle and in it went.

All told, the project took about 45 minutes. Let's see - I estimated 10-12, it took 45. Yep, smack dab inside the rule of four.

I came up with the rule of four when I was repairing the junkers I drove during my twenties. I was always replacing or repairing something and I noticed it always took about four times longer to replace that alternator or starter or do that oil change than I originally estimated. Later, in college, I noticed it took four hours to write a computer program that at first glance I thought would take one. Today, at work, cleaning customer data, keying in orders, preparing for meetings, whatever, they all take four times longer than I expect. No wonder I miss so many deadlines. Of course, I'm not the only one who does it, so I fit right in.

Even this blog post. I estimated it would take five minutes to write. It's been 20. And that folks, is the rule of four.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Destroying My House - in a Good Way

I haven't finished reassembling my downstairs powder room after its repainting last weekend (trim is still undone) but I've started to prep the upstairs bathroom for repainting.  The first thing was removing some wallpaper flower appliques near the ceiling.  I only did a little damage there.

Next, I decided to get rid of this thing. It could charitably be called a cabinet.  I've just been calling it an eyesore.

It's a standard bathroom fixture - pressed wood with two shelves covered by the doors and one shelf open.  I've always associated it - and I've seen them in dozens of bathrooms over the years - with cheap.  My house isn't crafted of the highest quality materials necessarily but it is within my power to remove this cheap cabinet so I did.

See how the room opens up without it? Maybe it's the extra four square feet of reflective area but I think the whole room is now brighter without the light-sucking wood-like veneer.  I'll have to install some open shelves or something in the future but for now, I'm enjoying the wide open space.

I was going to trash the cabinet but I think I will hang it in the garage.  One can always use more storage space in the garage, especially since the unit is already paid for.

My camera doesn't record true colors very well. The actual color of the bathroom is best described as olive and these pictures show it lighter than it really is.  What color will it be in a week?  Wait and see.

OK, it'll probably still be olive, only with areas of spackle on it.  You'll have to wait and see to find out what the new color will be - eventually.