shannon_a: (Default)
We had painters in the house three and two halves days last week. I always find this sort of thing exhausting because it involves people interactions and folks being in my space. Also: early awakenings.

However, it's now done, and we're very happy with the results.

This was the finale to some work that's spread throughout the year. We've been rehabilitating the back (really, the southwest corner) of our house, which previously had 1 boarded up window (from before we moved in, patched on the inside to look like there was no window there) and 2 badly damaged windows (of which I tried to clean up one of them maybe a decade ago, but without sufficient expertise).

So the two damaged windows got redone in March, and then we decided to get the boarded up window (which had also been sized down at some time, but never reframed, so I have no idea what it looked like before the boarding up ... but my guess is not good) rebuilt, reframed, and rewindowed too. That bonus window got done more recently, in May or June. But at that point we had a back-of-the-house which was a mess. It had always been cracked and flaky, but now there was fresh stucco and primer standing out in contrast to the stucco itself.

The big part of this week's painting was thus the repainting of the southwest corner of the house. Beforehand, it was so bad that when the second time we tried to refinance the house, they refused unless we redid the whole exterior of the house, with particular concern for that boarded up window. (Or, at least that was the claim; I'm pretty sure there was also some discrimination going on, so we ended up dumping them, sure they'd keep finding one "problem" after another.) Now, it looks mostly pristine with major windows all reframed and the older trim on the upstairs deck all cleaned up and everything painted over. Whew.

We also got a bit of work done inside the house. The laundry area got repainted because we'd messed it up by taking out a shelf to free up the space for the aforementioned new-ish window. Then the back of the kitchen got redone, because our contractor had replaced a window there too, right above the sink, and put some primer on the wall, and never told us that it was just primer and not waterproof. So over time it became clear that the wall's paint wasn't aging right.

At this point we are very done with home improvement. I mean, we've spent as much money as we should for several years. But we've also spent as much emotional energy as we have at the moment.

I could certainly point out more things I'd like to see done (replacing the single-paned windows in the sun room, specially the ones in my office; touching up some interior paint on some of the areas where windows got reframed; buying a new dish washer), but none of it's a priority, so I'm happy to let it sit for a few years at least.
shannon_a: (Default)
Life has continued on since the start of the year. I'm working on a few new projects for Skotos, which is a nice change of pace from last year. Personally, I haven't jumped into anything new, but I'm continuing work on D&D Classics and the Moorcock book I'm writing. (I may look into some newer stuff after the Designers & Dragons Platinum Appendix goes out.) Kimberly has been sick (with a cold) and sick again (with another cold). I've mostly avoided them thus far, though last Sunday I spent the day in bed because I was exhausted, either from fighting off her plague or from getting poor sleep the week because of it. I've played new games at almost every board gaming session this month, and they've all been good.

However, I think our biggest focus in the year (so far) has been home improvement.

Or, perhaps, I should say home breakdowns, because that's what got us going. It started in November or so when the lock on our mailbox suddenly stopped working. Then in December the lock on our foyer door broke too! Then this month our very old* dryer's knob finally broke, requiring us to now start our dryer with a wrench (!) and a bit of finesse. Somewhere in there, winter happened and we started to get the occasional, very unpleasant early morning drafts into our bedroom through the windows.

I did what I could on these problems. I got us a new secure (and hopefully much more robust and hopefully more waterproof) mailbox, but I didn't really want to install it because it required laying cement. I also got us a new set of locks to replace our old ones, and I was able to replace the one in the foyer door, but I discovered the new bolts were just a little too big to fit into the front and back doors and I didn't have a fancy drill bit to fix that. And the drier ... well, I figured out how to get it started with a wrench. And no, I don't replace windows.

So, we've freed up some money to do some home improvement, something that we do every year or two, using the interest from our investments.

On Tuesday we had a handyman out to deal with many of these problems. He put in our new mailbox and after some concerns about its location made it easier to access with a new cement pad in front of it. Then he replaced the locks in the front door using one of those special drill bits that I don't have. Then he peeled off the innermost layer of molding on the archway that our washer and dryer are set into, which should give us enough room for new models at a standard 27" size.

On Wednesday we had a window guy in who measured seven of our windows, including the two in our bedroom, and gave us a replacement quote that we OKed. This will also replace all of our remaining horrible aluminum frame windows, put in at some point by some idiot who for the most part couldn't even get them sized right, so that the windows didn't open smoothly (and that's a dramatic understatement). We're also replacing a big sheet of plexiglass or something right by the back door, which I hope will help with our heat loss back there. (And the handyman measured the back door, another trouble source for heat loss, while he was out here, and hopefully will get us a quote for replacing it.)

On Friday Kimberly ordered us a new washer and drier, which should now fit.

And today I spent about two hours in the back and side yard cleaning out ivy and vines to make sure that delivery men have enough space to get washers and driers in and out.

* If I had to guess from the look-and-feel, I'd say the laundry machine is from the '90s and the dryer is from the '60s ... but it's surely newer than that. In any case, they were both here when we bought the house in 2000, alongside a now-gone refrigerator and a still-here dish washer, none of which were great. We've been replacing them one-by-one with super energy-efficient stuff, which I'm sure will pay for itself

Whew! So everything is in process now. There is still work to be done, including: a bit more work on the yard once I have space in a green bin (Tuesday night), delivery of new appliances (Thursday), more accurate measuring of windows (soon), and installation of new windows (next month).

For the moment, however, a few of the problems are dealt with and we can see the end in the distance for the rest. Whew.

Home ownership. Yep.
shannon_a: (Default)
Groceries. Tried out another new grocery store last week, this time the Safeway out on Solano. It was a loser. Their selection was a little snotty and their store design was horrendous, so that for example you can't get through the front of the store if there's anyone in line to check out. The biggest minus, though, was that there are hills both ways between us and the Safeway on Solano. Fairly notable hills if you're biking. I suspect we shan't be repeating that again.

Shakespeare's. Stopped by Shakespeare's Books on Sunday, which is something that I haven't done much in recent years. I was very surprised to find a new energy there. New staff, books priced as if they were competing with the internet, discussions of what was selling and how to make it sell better. It was almost a whole new store. Apparently the owner has brought in a new manager to run the store for him. Which is a good thing, because it had become increasingly moribond over the years.

Trees. Our new trees have leaves again! Buds started appearing a few weeks ago, and this last week they bloomed(?) into leaves. So, I guess we kept them alive through a first winter. Now we just have to keep watering them for another year+ more, and then they'll hopefully be robust enough to get by on their own.

Bike Computer. Figured out the other day why my bike computer has become so unreliable. You see, I read the manual and was reminded that the bike computer is supposed to reboot itself (erasing all its data) if you press both of its buttons simultaneously. As of a few months ago, it started doing that when you just press one button. Whoops.
shannon_a: (Default)
A slightly busy Saturday.

Today was the annual board game auction at Endgame, so I headed out there in the morning. As usual, Aaron L. was back to MC, so I got to chat with him for a bit (which is one of the reasons that I've been attending the auction in recent years).

Afterward, I sat with Eric V. and Jon S., kibitzed, and watched the first hour and a half or so of the auction. I bid on three or four things, but the only thing I was really enthusiastic about was Wolfgang Kramer's El Capitan. Sadly, I dropped out at $15 or so and it went for $17 or $18.

That was one of the higher-priced euros. Generally, the auction seemed to be a buyer's market today. I expect I'll have less credit than I have in other years, but since the primary goal was to clean as much as I could out of the house, it's all good. (That goal is also why I didn't bid very aggressively on the stuff I bid on.)

While at Endgame, I was happy to receive compliments on Designers & Dragons.

Aaron said he was impressed by the neutrality of the Wizard's Attic mini-history, as Wizard's Attic was a company run by my great friend Eric R. (now sadly gone across the sea). I told him that I'd really striven for it in the book, and that though some earlier drafts of articles like FGU and Palladium came out less than neutral, fans and employees helped me out with that as they read drafts. I've actually seen quite a few compliments about the book's neutrality.

Jon also offered kind words about the book, which he'd quite enjoyed, I believe for its nostalgic value.

I should note how nice the bike riding was today. Nicest day of the year, up in the high 70s or so. It actually would have been a little hot if not for the breezes I worked up by riding. But totally beautiful.

(Aaron said he'd brought the weather from Boston, which was hitting 90 degrees before he left. Ugh.)

I had lunch out, picked up some healthier cat food for the cats (since I hope we can feed them healthier now that super picky eater Cobweb is, alas, no longer with us) then enjoyed the rest of the evening at home.

This evening, we received delivery of a custom built paperback bookcase from Fernand P., a local craftsman who sells bookcases at the Ashby Flea Market. That got installed in the hallway upstairs (where I'd taken away a bookcase for the games closet when I rearranged it a few weeks ago). It seems to fit my paperbacks well and now holds May through Zelazny.

Bolting the bookcase to the wall got me into the home improvement mood, so I also took on a long-delayed task: putting in a second curtain rod for our bedroom. The first was a real pain in the butt, between setting six anchors, then screwing the six screws into those anchors. Finicky, careful work that also took a lot of elbow grease (as power tools weren't useful for most of it). The second was much the same, but an hour later I had new curtains up. Hopefully these will keep Lucy from playing with the blinds in the morning and waking us up (and protect the bedroom a bit more from light, especially as we head into summer).

Tomorrow, I mostly have R&R planned. I've got some tax refund money to spend, since it didn't go to the auction, so I'll be browsing for books, CDs, and comics that I've been wanting, but haven't gotten. Fun, fun.
shannon_a: (Default)
Not the best couple of days.

Thursday night I had bad dreams which left me discombobulated. Then Friday night Cobweb took a very abrupt turn for the worst. She was headed in to get some food, then she just collapsed, largely unable to use her back legs.

She's been hobbling around since, but much worse than before. I've also found her lying where she'd peed twice in that time, and she generally seems unable to get in the litterboxes any more. She hasn't really been moving much on her own at all, for that matter, and I haven't seen her even think about trying to the stairs. Her affect has also been very poor. Mostly ignoring us and everything else. Except when given food. Or treats.

It seems pretty clear to me that she's gone into dying animal mode, and unless there is an equally abrupt (and totally unexpected) turnaround tomorrow, we're going to take her in to be put to sleep in the next couple of days. I'm fairly confident that it's time unless (as I said) there's a super turnaround.

We had seen her just seem to give up one other time, back in 2009, but she had more weight then and fewer problems. She turned around after about 24 hours that time, which we're now coming up on. So, I think we'll have given her plenty of time.

Life does go on. Yes, we're worried about our cat (or at least feeling bad about her), but we've also been expecting this for, well, two and a half years.

Friday night Kimberly and I had dinner again at that Ramon's baja restaurant, out at El Cerrito Plaza. We then shopped at Lucky's for groceries. Prices seemed a little higher on average than Safeway, but within the limited selection of sales, we got good prices. And some variety from the stuff we get at Target and Safeway.

Today I was out and about for a few hours. I saw the revamped library in North Berkeley (very pretty, especially the wooden ceilings), but I'm not sure I'd ever seen it before so I can't make a comparison. I'll be more interested to see how the Southside library is revamped, as I've been in there many a time and it was a cramped and ugly place before.

I also stopped by the Ashby Flea Market. While getting a little high from second-hand pot and walking around people clustered on the ground dicing for money I managed to find a bookshelf maker I'd been looking for. I think he's going to be able to build us a second paperback bookshelf to go in the upstairs hallway but haven't figured out all the specifics yet (as I wanted to check the very reasonable price of ~$50 with Kimberly and he's very hard to get ahold of as he has no cell and no email). Worst-comes-to-worst I'll stop by again next Saturday after spending some time at the auction at Endgame.

Tomorrow, Kimberly and I had planned a bike ride in Lafayette, but that's no longer to occur. We're not actually getting lots of Cobweb time by staying home, as she's so tuned out, but I don't think either of would be happy if we hadn't made the possibility of that time.  
shannon_a: (Default)
Cats. Cobweb seems better today. She's been drinking water, which she wasn't doing yesterday, and seems to be more comfortable and not breathing funny. Trying to get herself clean too. We'll try her out with some food later today.

Rats. So last year a bunch of students occupied Wheeler (Hall; on the UC Berkeley campus) to protest higher fees. All of the helicopters annoyed me, but I can understand the need for civil disobedience. After the showdown, the students were given the opportunity to get-out-of-jail-free by the university, who simply asked for agreement to a code of conduct and an essay reflecting on their actions.

Now, some students refused to do so, which I can understand too. Principals and all of that, you know. Or so I thought until I read this article about the student-conduct trial of one of the protesters.

She's defending herself against the charges laid against her, but instead of standing for principals or for her disobedience, she's saying how she was just making banners and not actually blocking the doors (to Wheeler Hall) or anything. Here's a quote from her defense:

"I saw some people barricade the last door," Zelko said. "I think maybe they put a chair on it."

Asked to elaborate, she acknowledged the door had "several chairs."

That's right, she was just watching. What could she do!!??

What a weak-willed bunch of ninny protesters Berkeley has nowdays.

Toys. A month or two someone threw a blue stuffed animal atop our garage. I wasn't willing to brave the crumbling building, so it sat there until builders took down the roof last week. Then last night someone threw a red stuffed animal atop our garage. It landed on the ground, there not being a roof, but you get the idea.

What's up with that?

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