Second roof estimate: optimistic

Water Wall

Last week I was in Houston for a business conference. (Apologies to those of you who were subjected to my presentation. I understand I sustained 80 words a minute with hurricane gusts of up to 170.


Nervousness. I hope you enjoyed the live demos. Also, my joke about including “the gratuitous store separation” animation was not intended as disrespectful. Instead, it’s (a) an observation that the example occurred no fewer than a dozen times and (b) hope that I’d someday get access to the data set showing the store being dropped by an F18, B1 bomber or Imperial Star Cruiser. As it stands, I only have a delta wing attached to… nothing.)

Anyway, to answer some questions my friends have had about this week:

Marble Slab
  • Gas was only $2.07/gallon (For comparison, it’s about $2.69 here.)
  • Temperatures were in the upper 80s, with 1,000% humidity. I was drenched whenever my skin came in contact with outside air.
  • Iced tea is excellent. Here, it’s either been brewed in a coffee maker or made from a powder.
  • I ate well, too 🙂 Best meal was El Tiempo with my parents.
  • Rice’s campus had a lot of new buildings and dorms. The surrounding neighborhood has improved, and is a lot prettier than I remembered.
  • The Water Wall’s over twenty years old.
  • Houston is a textbook case for zoning. I saw: churches in strip malls, liquor stores in strip malls, strip clubs in strip malls, all randomly sequenced.

I’m glad I went, but am glad to be back home.

Rots, cracks and burns

I’ve heard people recommend cedar shingle roofs because “they look beautiful.” Those people are on psychedelic mushrooms and/or haven’t owned one on a residential home. What they neglect to mention is cedar shakes are renowned for their ability to harbor moss, split, rot, attract crows and burn baby burn. On top of that, I understand the lifetime — with frequent maintenance and good fortune — is 15 years. Maybe cedar is a good choice relative to tissue paper or a good choice if you’re a roofing company.

Mine’s 20 years old and… not so beautiful. Though the homeowner association has finally relaxed the rules, allowing alternate to the cedar peril. They don’t offer hints on what kind of numbers to expect… so I feel as if I’m about to be cast into the wolves’ den.

This crawlspace is clean

Big enough to swallow my car

When I first moved into this house in 1997, I wanted to mulch the plant beds and side of the house. I called around, giving the dimensions of my lot as recorded on the encylopedia of house closing forms. One company calculated I’d need “12 yards,” and mentioned they had a special, “buy 12 yards, get one free, and free delivery.” I had no concept of a “yard,” but the guy seemed earnest. I realized my mistake when the dumptruck left a mound: I hadn’t subtracted for the house, driveway and mulch covering most of my postage stamp-sized lot. Several hours of shoveling later, a layer of mulch three to six inches deep covered the perimeter.

A “small” dumpster was stealthily dropped off sometime Friday morning while no one was home. Deja vu struck as I got home that evening. This thing was huge. I’m not sure how they got it in my driveway (it’s a downward slope), but they were nice about putting it flush on one side of the driveway so my car could still fit.

How long do your appliances last?

My washer has become a sullen teenager, leaving an occasional, unremovable streak of rust on random areas my clothes. I didn’t realize this until recently. Actually, I had assumed the kids had left a funky pen in their pocket and it was washed with our comingled laundry. Thank goodness my spouse figured it out; otherwise, with my luck, I’d have some ‘splainin’ to do.

Obeying the stereotype of being a late-30s guy with tools, I took the washer apart. The agitator was fine, but there was a nickel-sized spot of rust on the inner spire basket. It’s not something I’d be confident sanding out and covering with Krylon (that sacred knowledge is gained when I turn 42), so the whole piece needs to be replaced. I priced parts at about $200, half of the original cost of the washer.

I’m sorry, Jim, I’m afraid
I can’t wash that

Thus begins the walk down the slippery slope of wanton consumerism. For $200, I fix a teenage washer that may have other areas of rust or wear. For $500, I can buy a new, energy- and water-efficient washer with more capacity and a warranty. For $1,200, I can buy one of those HAL-9000 washers named after legends. If the marketing is to believed, the appliances summon angels to make my colors brigher, whites whiter and tropical fish fishier. (Optional fish feeder and fish pedestal not included.)

Consumer Reports had a washer and dryer issue in February. While I admire their attempt to provide useful information, it’s not as helpful as I’d like. For example, I’ve found that it’s incredibly difficult to match up the model numbers to the specific units they list. The methodology has changed, too. Is “average washing capability” necessarily bad? Too bad I can’t compare it to my current washer, before the rust streaks appeared.

Two down, ? to go

Long ago, I abandoned any pretext of keeping a second car in my two-car garage. The non-car half waxes and wanes with junk. For example, a ripped pouffe — initially a small hole exacerbated by a curiously nimble four-year old fascinated with “fluff” — and a lopsided table — don’t ask — have been collecting dust for nearly a year. Had we not discovered rodent dookie along the wall last week, I am confident both pieces of furniture would be there next year. See, the only way I can get rid of them is to haul them to the dump.

I hate going there. I think it’s because I have guilt pangs at throwing something away that could conceivably be repaired by someone with Shao-lin mastery of furniture maintenance. Typically, I talk myself into keeping whatever-it-is with the hopes that I’ll actually need it, or could possibly repair said item into serviceable condition again. It never happens. With my guilt trumped by my newly-found motivation at minimizing the places rodents can hide and things they can eat, I spent most of Sunday cleaning out my garage.

I was more or less done by 2pm, though there was ample space in the car for anything else I could find. The crawlspace had some lumber from the previous owner (7+ years ago) that I’d been keeping “just in case I had a project.” For the most part, the wood is leftover, unrecyclable scrap that the previous owner didn’t want to take to the dump, either. When I went into the crawlspace, I noticed two of the traps. One had tripped empty while the other was still set. There were two more, but I didn’t really think to look for them since I was channeling my efforts into getting to the dump before it closed.