Monday, January 21, 2008

where did the time go?

Coppertop claims her old watch is dying: it's running slow, losing time.

I know better.

In the far future, people will have wildly advanced technology. But time, as they say, will still be money. People will be willing to pay quite a bit for a well-placed extra few minutes here, or an hour there. But time, like the other spacial dimensions, can neither be created nor destroyed. So where do you get it?

Easy. Mine it. From the past. From around the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, when people are so distracted by all the social changes that they'll barely notice it. They'll just chalk it up to being busy. Take just a few milliseconds out of every second, or even a good chunk of each second during peak demand periods. Squeeze it there in the past, stretch it out here in the future, and sell it at premium prices.

When you look up at the clock and wonder where your day went, well, now you know. Some future person with cash to burn is enjoying an extra few minutes lingering over drinks, or some desperate student who hasn't been born yet just scored another hour to cram (or fritter away trying to cram) before a final that hasn't yet been planned for a subject that doesn't yet exist.

Somehow, in all the mining, they missed Coppertop's watch. It's not losing time; it's keeping it just fine. It's the rest of us that are losing it.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

working on the master bath

We made more house progress today. The previous owner had removed the doors from the master bathroom, probably to make access easier. We discovered one of the doors in the garage and the other stored in the shelves built along the garage's ceiling. Coppertop cleaned both of them and we re-hung them today. I spent a good bit of time trying various miracle cleaning products on the stains in the shower (and occasionally releasing some really nasty fumes when two products that are never supposed to be used together accidentally came into contact.) After much scrubbing with Lime-Away, Soft Scrub, soap scum cleaner, and whatever else I could think of to try, the stains are somewhat better but still not great. We may decide to put down epoxy paint as a temporary measure until we can afford to do some serious work on the bathroom.

We also met the neighbor on one side of the house and briefly exchanged pleasantries.

Much progress, but much more remains to be done.

so what DO you put in a time capsule?

Long Views has an article entitled How Not to Do a Time Capsule, on a time capsule containing a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. At the end, Kevin Kelly makes this observation:
One conclusion from this mishap is that time capsules should attempt to preserve not popular items, but things that have no fans, no enthusiasts, no one to care for them. You should stuff them with artifacts that people currently find dumb, stupid, worthless, and insignificant. That’s the stuff that won’t be saved, and will therefore be of prime interest in 100 years.
Fair 'nuff. I remember reading that there are no bread recipes that have reached us from the middle ages because bread was so common that everyone knew how to make it by heart, so they didn't bother to write it down.

But it got me thinking: what stuff today is "dumb, stupid, worthless, and insignificant"? (Ooh, and Kevin scores a point for using a serial comma!) Even further along those lines, what are things we consider dumb, stupid, worthless, or insignificant that won't wind up in the city landfill in good enough shape that future archaeologists can't just excavate them from there. Given these criteria, what would you put in a time capsule? I've been brainstorming a list:
  • A package of disposable ballpoint pens.
  • A package of disposable razors.
  • A coffee maker, filters, half a pound of vacuum-sealed, ground beans, a measuring scoop, and instructions.
  • A copy of the 2008 IRS Form 1040 and instructions.
  • A package of chewing gum.
  • A gift card to a store. Bonus style points if it's one that doesn't expire.
  • A credit card.
  • A 6-pack of major-brewery beer, in bottles. And a 6-pack of microbrew for comparison.
  • Several packages of seeds for garden flowers or vegetables (especially if it's a long-duration time capsule.)
  • A map of the area.
  • The yellow pages.
  • A box or bottle of dish soap or laundry detergent.
  • A new toothbrush and full tube of toothpaste.
Because of the landfill criterion, the inexpensive cell phone you get for free when you sign a 2 year contract didn't make the list.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

a weekend working on the house

We spent a lot of time this weekend working on the house. Right now there are a couple goals. One is to make it feel clean and cozy for when we move in; the other is to get some of the remodeling-type work done that'll be especially inconvenient if there's furniture and the two of us in the way.

Saturday morning, I met our general contractor and our decorator first thing in the morning. We're trying to figure out what the 5-year plan for the house is and prioritize the work that needs to be done. A bit later, my parents came to the house and were a tremendous help with cleaning and taking care of odd fix-it jobs. I replaced a second outdoor faucet that'd been leaking, something ever so much easier to do in the daylight. The master bathroom had both a curtain on a rod and an enclosure for shower doors, but the doors themselves have gone AWOL. My dad and I removed the enclosure. We also removed several grab bars that the previous owner had mounted around the house, changed the toilet seats in a couple bathrooms, and removed the washlet, which, all-in-all, seemed a better solution than trying to teach guests how to use the thing. (If you're interested, I can cut you a great deal on a washlet. Remember, Clean is Happy!) We measured the whole house to lay out a floorplan, which will feed into a master plan for remodeling and decorating over the next several years. My mom also cleaned the ovens (go mom!) and did a ton of clean-up around the kitchen.

Today, Coppertop and I were there again. I climbed up into the attic and discovered the gas to the furnace had been shut off, which is why the furnace wasn't working yesterday. I turned it back on and re-lit the pilot, leading to a much warmer day of housework. We changed the seat on the remaining toilet, re-caulked the shower pan in the master and the holes left by removing grab bars, got the shower somewhat cleaner where we'd removed the door enclosure, polished the chrome in the bathrooms, and tried but failed to clean the shower pan itself. I'm not sure yet how we're going to deal with that shower pan. We also put in new shower heads, replaced an outlet cover, cleaned and polished the outsides of several cabinets, and changed several more burned-out lightbulbs.

After cooking tonight's dinner and preparing the ingredients for tomorrow night's dinner[1], we're both pretty much pooped. But at least the house is coming along.

[1] Tommorw's dinner's homemade pizza. A busy schedule means we had to measure out the ingredients and prepared the toppings tonight.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

adventures in plumbing

Today's big housing adventure was dealing with a leaking outdoor faucet.

One of the hose faucets has a worn-out washer that's leaking. To replace the washer, you need to turn off the water to the house. It turns out the new place has a quick shutoff valve (which I finally found in a cabinet in the garage), but after some experimentation it became clear that valve shuts off the supply to the house itself, not to the outside faucets. A call to Parental Tech Support (thanks, Dad!) turned up the right answer: shut off the main valve to the house, which is under the rectangular cover marked "water" (as opposed to being under either of the round covers also marked "water.")

The faucet itself is stuck behind the sort of over-sized geranium you only get in Southern climes. Trying to damage the plant as little as possible, I removed the nut at the top of the faucet and discovered I couldn't get access to the washer that way. That triggered another Parental Tech Support call, which resulted in my removing the entire faucet.

At that point, I could see the washer but couldn't figure out how to get it out of the faucet. So it became necessary to replace the entire faucet. Which meant I needed to buy a faucet. Which meant I needed to wash the crud off my hands from messing around with the plumbing. Which meant I needed to turn on the water again. Which meant I had to put the worn-out faucet back on the pipe or suffer a geyser as soon as the water came back on.

So, faucet back on and geranium looking a bit the worse for wear, Coppertop and I headed for a quick trip to Home Depot. Quick because it was getting dark and starting to rain. Long story short, we got back after it'd already gotten pretty dark and the rain was coming down pretty hard, but I wasn't going to put off replacing the faucet because removing the old one and putting it back on had left it leaking worse than before. So Coppertop, who hates rain, bravely volunteered to hold the flashlight while I installed the new faucet. It was a damp job, but the new faucet seems to be holding up well, I now know how to control the water to the house, and we were still able to clean up, change clothes, and make it to dinner on time.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

the ambiance of a spa in your own private retreat

Oh, the things you learn.

In the new house, there is a funky electric toilet in the guest bath. After some research, we've determined that it's an older model of a Washlet, a device the Toto company created "to help you create the ambiance of a spa in your own private retreat." The "clean is happy" link (which is not cube-safe in many work environments in the U.S.A.) is most enlightening.

All of which is great, but if we want to keep this thing around we may have to put a laminated instruction sheet next to the remote (yes, the toilet seat has a remote) so guests know how to use it. And having an instruction sheet for your toilet seat strikes me as being right up there with putting instructions on a box of toothpicks.