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CowTown and RD Padouk: Handy Guys

[Two guest kits of a similar theme. The first is by RD Padouk, the second by CowTown.]

The Swimming Pool
By RD Padouk

My troubles began, as such troubles often do, with a simple request. My wife wanted me to install an above-ground pool. She feels that our daughter lacks the necessary commitment to the community pool experience. Fifteen minutes after arriving at the pool my daughter is fussing that she wants to go back home. Not only is this exasperating, but it also makes our pool membership, when evaluated on a per-minute basis, ridiculously expensive. A home pool seemed a good solution.

We went to our local Kmart and selected a state-of-the-art 15-foot "quick set" model. The pool is designed such that the hydrostatic pressure of 3,000 gallons of water balances evenly so as to provide symmetric stability. At least that's the theory. Although the directions warn you that a level surface is needed, I assumed this meant the flat portion of a typical suburban backyard. Events would soon suggest to me that what this really meant was a surface whose degree of smoothness is normally associated with precision optical components.

I began to suspect that things were not as they should be when, about two hours after I began filling the pool with water, a protrusion formed like some monstrous aquatic hernia. I sensibly buttressed the edge of the pool with large bags of rotting grass clippings. Then I shut off the water and went to bed. It was my expectation (read - desperate and irrational hope) that when my wife resumed filling the pool the next day the pressure would, you know, even itself out.

I cannot say I was terribly shocked when my wife called me deeply concerned that catastrophic failure was imminent. I decided this was a good day to take a little comp time and head home early. The misshapen mass of latex that was our pool looked like a tragically malformed sea anemone caught at low tide. This was not supposed to happen.

So I decided to drain the pool and level the spot. I attempted a controlled discharge by gently pressing down on one of the walls. Unfortunately, 3000 gallons of water tends to have a mind of its own. So now we had an empty pool sitting in the middle of muddy yard.

"No problem!" said I, with the enthusiasm of the weak-minded optimist. I was confident that the muddy sod could be easily scraped from the high end of the slope to the low end. After all, we were talking about a grade of less than a quarter-inch per foot. And I had all evening.

It took but a few moments to realize that the clay-based mud of Virginia is heavy, sticky, and stubbornly resistant to productive manipulation. Through my manly strenuous exertions, I managed to create a world-class 15-foot mud pit.
With no apparent improvement in the grade.

And so I decided to undertake plan B. Sand. Looking like a swamp creature, I drove to our local hardware store and returned with 16 fifty-pound bags of high-quality leveling sand. My 44 year old muscles, already feeling abused, began open rebellion as, with the evening gloom gathering about me, I carefully distributed 800 pounds of sand over a base of sticky muck. After about an hour of raking, measuring, and raking some more, I stopped. I stood, painfully, and gazed proudly at what I dearly hoped was the flattest spot of backyard this side of Omaha City.

Then the thunderstorm started. Accompanied by torrential rain.

I urgently tried to haul the 15-foot latex monstrosity into position before the rain washed away the sandy plateau I had so painstakingly created. I tugged heroically on the rain-soaked latex until it finally shifted into place. I stopped and took a step backwards - onto an especially slick patch of mud. I am sure the modified triple Lutz I then executed was a sight to behold. Although, at that moment, I cannot say I was in the proper state of mind to do so.
Instead, I lay there, covered with mud and sand, my muscles screaming in pain, blood welling from a gash in my hand, and experienced a profound revelation.

I am not a handy person.

Eventually I arose, like some primordial organism emerging from the elemental ooze, and returned to the house. I showered and climbed into bed, where sweet oblivion soon claimed me.

When I returned home from work the next day I saw that my wife had finished filling the pool. The hot triple-digit temperatures had dried up the mud. The pool, although still marginally deformed, was clearly within the design tolerances. And in the pool was my daughter.


After several moments of careful planning and contemplation, I decided to
paint my basement floor the other day. I have no particular talent for home
improvement. But I do have an implacable faith in my own ability to get
things done coupled with a clear sense of the correctness of my mission.
Guided by these virtues alone, I set to the task of painting the floor.
Boldly, and with the speed of a workplace rumor, I spread three gallons of

viscous waterproof paint like a caffeinated Jackson Pollock before I took my
rest in the far corner of the basement, far from any door.

Hours later, my wife came home and found me cowering in the basement. There
were several unpainted or lightly painted areas on the floor. There was also
some paint on the wall. And on the washer and dryer. Only the corner,
containing me, remained unpainted.

Alarmed at the mess I had created, my wife tartly pointed out that the
basement floor had been serving its essential function since having been
built over 30 years ago without apparently having been painted once. She
noted also that my claims that the paint would retard the incursion of
subterranean moisture were questionable, as were my repeated assertions that
the work was done with the safety of our family in mind.

My rejoinders were swift and harsh. I stressed the danger of hydrostatic
pressure on basement walls in the water-saturated Midwest. I argued
forcefully that floor paint made the basement floor less slippery and
therefore essential to the health and well-being of our accident prone
teenage children. I questioned her commitment to preserving our hard-won
domicile and to protecting our children from certain peril. In a final
rebuke, I observed that she lacked any plan for my escape from the basement

My wife, of course, proclaimed the entire endeavor to be a gross mistake.
She is incorrect. This project was undertaken with the best of intentions
and for purposes that are at least debatable, regardless of the poor
results. It is clear that this endeavor was not considered a mistake because
of any lack of purpose or clear benefit. It is judged a mistake because (so
says my spouse) I "muffed it." Success tends to obscure deficiencies in

Having been married for nearly 20 years, I'm accustomed to being criticized
for taking impulsive or frivolous action in the pursuit of legitimate ends.
To accomplish important things, you need to take action. The more you think,
the less you get done. If your goal is rendered unattainable because of fate
or incompetence, make a new goal - one that fits your results. That spells

So I'm adding another coat to the basement floor. I'm covering the
footprints I left after the first coat. I'm going over the bald spots, and I'm
covering the dust balls I neglected to wash away before starting this
project. I'm staying with this floor until it's done, perhaps in October.

Anything else would be just cutting and running.

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 20, 2006; 7:30 AM ET
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CowTown and I were clearly separated at birth.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 20, 2006 7:41 AM | Report abuse

Oh boy, I'm enjoying these.

Gonna read 'em again slowly over a mug of coffee.


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Excellent, guys, just excellent. What a wonderful way to start a morning!

Posted by: slyness | July 20, 2006 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Wow. Good job RD and CowTown. Have only had time to read the guest Kits these days and I'm impressed.

I wonder what the boss is doing today.

Posted by: TBG | July 20, 2006 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Since others have begun to confess...
I am a homeowner and I am not handy.
My wife says that I have a "toilet touch". Everything I touch, turns to cr*p. Our first house had a 1-car garage with a wooden door. My first project as a homeowner, was to paint the garage door. I spent an entire weekend scraping every last molecule of old paint from the door. I waited until we had 3-4 days of bone dry weather before applying 2 coats of S&W most expensive primer. I waited 2 days before applying 2 coats of the finest S&W exterior something or other paint, guarenteed to last a millenium. Two days later, it rained and every last drop of primer and paint washed off of the door and into the yard. I now had a naked garage door and a large patch of dead grass. The helpful associate at the S&W store explained it all with "Hmmm, sounds like you did something wrong". The blog filter won't allow me to explain the wrong that I offered to do the sales associate. This was the last time that I painted anything in our house. I leave it all up to my wife, the expert.

Posted by: 1st_timer | July 20, 2006 8:31 AM | Report abuse

RD, that was hilarious.

>world-class 15-foot mud pit.
Have you considered the value of a really nice quoits pit?

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 20, 2006 8:31 AM | Report abuse

I must simply say the two of you did an exquisite job in your guest kits. Kudos!

Posted by: J | July 20, 2006 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Cowtown, RD, great stuff! I have a short backyard waterpark story to share from last weekend:

My sister broght over one of those 12 foot blowup water slides for my son's 4th birthday party. Hammer 6 stakes into the ground, connect hose and extension cord. Boom! Done! A dozen kids, including teenagers had a blast. Cost: $300 for complete ownership.

Unfortunately, upon setup, my brother-in-law snapped a stake in half hammering it into the ground and the stake busted out the lens on his glasses. Cost: add $214. thankfully, the cut on his eye wasn't serious enough for hospitalization.

Posted by: Pat | July 20, 2006 8:40 AM | Report abuse guys have me laughing.

I think it's an inherent trait of us guys that, lacking any specific technical knowledge on a subject, we nevertheless are confident that we can complete jobs which in the real world require entire teams of trained professionals. And despite painful past experience, we are compelled by some unknown force to undertake these projects at no small danger to life, limb, and sanity.

We all know what kind of projects I'm talking about--things like installing a toilet, fixing that leaky faucet, or building that methane reclamation plant in the basement. My most recent experience wa giving myself a two inch gash on my forehead, when, in a fit of abscentmindedness, I forgot there was a car on top of me while changing the oil. The significant other always expresses doubt, and we always repeat the universal mantra, "How hard can it be?" Hundreds of dollars in property damage later, we are forced to call a professional, thereby proving to the women in our lives that they were right, we were wrong, we are stupid, they are smart.

Now--I just need to figure out why the dryer won't dry clothes. How hard could it be?

Posted by: jw | July 20, 2006 8:42 AM | Report abuse


Any suggestions for a dirt basement floor?

(Yes, the place is that old.)

Maybe just pour it in through the window to a depth of 2 inches?

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 20, 2006 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Bravo! Bravo! Kudos, chocolate, wine, anything you want! Excellente!

I must say, Cow Town, that my first thought upon reading your kit was that you would end up painting yourself in a corner.

Your comment on thinking too much as a prime factor in any procrastination reminded me of what I suspect is an "old Irish saying" that "if you want to plow a field, you can't turn it over in your mind. . . .". Yep.

Great kits, guys! Keep 'em coming.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | July 20, 2006 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Great kits guys, RD, you have my sympathy, several years ago my husband and I separated, (we have reconciled in the meantime). At the time, I was ascerting my new independance and I thought the girls needed a pool. Funds were limited so I purchased the middle size of pool like RD chose.

However, I knew my backyard was not level so I spent one weekend carving out a 14' diameter circle of grass and topsoil, attempted to level, but unlike Virgina where I am the soil is almost pure sand. The result while not bad had a definite lilt, with caution it worked.

Then the raccoons came, one night a raccoon fell in the pool and must have made a desparate attempt to get out and left a six foot line of claw marks on the top inflatable ring which holds the water in the pool. Many attempts at patching later and the pool was done. Children being children the girls ended up having just as much fun using the deflated pool as a splash pad until the algae became too much.

My next problem was how to rid the backyard of one large ruined pool. Leaving it to rot in the sun didn't work, so one day I had to lug it to the side of the house which was as far as I could drag it. I also had to deal with the mound of grass and topsoil that sat on my driveway for two years, didn't plan on how to get it off the property.

Alas all issues were solved this year when we made the decision to move, waste removal bins were brought in to clean up my projects, topsoil was recycled to fill in the large brown circle in the backyard.

Don't even get me started on painting. I have one error I repeat almost everytime I paint, at some point I will forget where I put the paint tray and will proceed to step in it. I am not if not consistent.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Last time I went to Home Depot, there was a little food court inside that sold hotdogs & soda. No beer, not yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time...

Posted by: Pat | July 20, 2006 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Error, my parents have a cobblestone basement floor. Would that work?

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Great Kits, and I suspect from what I've read so far of the Boodle...this will go down as the best boodle of '06. (dmd, you really made me laugh)

Posted by: omni | July 20, 2006 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Along the same lines, but with a dash of romance:

The Allure of the Tool Belt
Published: July 20, 2006

Renovation, according to the National Association of Home Builders, is at an all time high. And with the warm weather, which marks the peak of renovation season, come the contractors in their tool belts, which, for many a client, carry a romantic charge. (Men who don't get it might want to consider the garter belt.) They invade still-occupied houses, taking charge of renovation projects and spending several weeks in close proximity with their owners. Often, even today, it is the woman of the house who is home all day long; in summer resort areas like the Hamptons, she is sometimes there alone with the children from Monday to Friday. Who can blame her for harboring dreams of the contractor?

"They've been totally sexualized, like the U.P.S. man," said Stephen Drucker, the editor in chief of House Beautiful. "I can't tell you how many times when I hear somebody give a recommendation for a contractor it inevitably ends with the four words, 'And he's really cute.' "

Which only makes sense, he added. "It's all very intimate. You're making plans for how you are going to live your life with this person in enormous detail. And let's face it, they take off their shirts a lot and that doesn't hurt."

Posted by: Loomis | July 20, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

You painted over the dust bunnies? Now I *am* laughing!

Posted by: Loomis | July 20, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Funny, you guys.
Both of these are great. I've been there, usually when I undertake a project that's been initated by my wife.

These illustrate some interesting personality traits along the lines of "There are two kinds of people in the world: Underestimaters and Overthinkers."

My wife is an Underestimater, and the projects as run by her would have gone pretty much as you describe.

I, on the other hand, am an Overthinker. My first question would be "What could go wrong with a 3000 gallon pool, and how could I minimize the damage should something happen?" I'd have surveyed a spot to locate the pool (starting with my hand-updated copy of the county plat for my property that indicates drainage fields, underground gas and electric lines, etc.) in the optimum possible location based on several factors: 1. for maximum exposure to the sun so that the water retains the most heat overnight 2. to take advantage of the best possible level land with close proximity to the house. 3. to not take up space already preallocated for future projects (porch, detached shop/garage, extended patio, etc.) in The Plan. 4. to avoid possible problems owing to location such as drainage, proximity to septic field, tree root systems, etc. for both normal use and for Failure Modes. I'd say this would take an entire day.

I'd read the instuctions on installing the pool For Best Results (call it an hour).

Once I'd derived the best location, and forearmed with the information from the instructions, I'd start in with measuring tape, stakes, strings, plumb bobs and the bubble levels to determine the grade and how it would have to be changed to make it As Level As I Could Possibly Make it, and lay my estimated footprint of the pool over it so that I could gauge Exactly How It Would Go. This would take about a half a day.

Then I'd try to persuade the construction guys working down the street to bring up a Bobcat for "15 minutes and I'll pay ya $40." Of course, I'd measure progress after every 5 minutes or so, requring putting the strings back, plumb bobs, measuring tape, levels, etc. I'd still give the guy $40, but my 15 minutes likely end up being 45-50.

Then the first round of tamping the ground down (by hand, with a black iron tamper), measuring every few minutes to assure Quality. Call that an hour. Then I'd calculate how many bags of sand I'd need to fill in that 15' circle 1/4" deep to aid drainage. Go to the store, pick them up (plus one bag Just In Case), bring them home, spread the sand and repeat the tamp/measure/tamp/measure process again. Call that a half-day.

Finally, I could put the pool on its foundation and begin filling it, however long that would take with a garden hose, marching around it every five minutes to check for potential problems.

Providing nothing went wrong, we're looking at roughly 2.5 days of bc labor, plus time, materials, and services. And Overthinking.

As far as waterproof painting the basement, I'd have to start by cleaning the enitre basement, however long that would take.

Since we couldn't do without washer/drier in my house (there are 5 of us, we're washing pretty much every day) for any significant period of time, I'd have to build rollaway stands for both with 2"x4"s and casters (locking casters, natch). Call that a half day, measuring, going to the store buying the materials, and building them. Oh, and I'd need some help heaving them onto the stands.

Once I had the basement cleared out and the w & d able to be repositioned quickly, I'd find some old house fans at the local junkyard (you know, the old electric fans with square metal housings), and build some quick framing around the basement windows so that I could set the fans in front of the windows and use them to exhaust the coming fumes. That would be a full day right there, getting the fans, repairing as necessary, measuring/purchasing/building the fan perches, running extension cords and testing.

Then to the paint - oh, not so fast mon frere - assuming this is a concrete basement, I'd have to acid etch all the surfaces to be painted, so that the paint will adhere properly (IMO) to the concrete. To the store to buy the acid and a big floor squeegee for spreading it, then doing so, half of the floor at a time (and moving the washer and drier when etching that half of the room).

When the acid etching is complete and dried (according to the instuctions), I'd repeat the steps for the acid with the paint; half the room at a time, allowing for complete drying so that I can move the washer drier and other stuff from side to side as necessary. 24 hours to dry for each side, right? I'd feel compelled to put down two coats, so that painting process will take me 4 days alone, though I certainly would be doing other stuff instead of watching the paint dry.

Sorry for the length, folks. For all that, thinking isn't always my strong suit.


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Nobody at my house is handy. My husband's line is that he doesn't do any chore where "metal touches metal" (he likes designing and building furniture and picture frames, but no car maintenance/repair, plumbing, electrical, etc.) I'm really good at just making do with whatever I've got, so repairs are never a big priority for me. As you can imagine, our home is, well, let's be nice and say it looks "lived-in."

When the laundry room light stopped working because the pull-chain switch was broken, I just worked around it by turning on the light in the next room over and doing my laundry chores in the semi-darkness. Husband rarely enters the laundry room so, no problem for him either. Except, then we had an issue with the hot water heater and he needed to SEE something in that room. Immediate emergency situation! Light must be repaired! But not by him, of course.

His solution: wait until I'm at work and then order our 18-year-old daughter to "get in there and fix that light." Her total qualifications? Pretty much zero: all her DNA came from either her dad or me, so that's no help; training, well, she's had a year of art college.

She called me at work to describe the experience: "Mom, at one point there was a big spark! After that, I turned off the electricity." End result: after a trip to Home Depot and some trial and error, she succeeded in replacing the wiring and the switch and now the light is better than new.

And she knows more about home repair than both of her parents put together.

Posted by: kbertocci | July 20, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse

This has nothing to do with the kits, but I found this story inspiring. A young girl in Kingston just finished swimming the 32 km across Lake Ontario. Amazing feat, even more so as she has cerebal palsy and cannot use her legs.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 9:53 AM | Report abuse

How many American kilometers is that? What's the exchange rate?

That's amazing--for me 800 meters (or metres if you must) is a workout. I didn't see it in that article, but just to put things in scale: 32-km is equivalent to 1,280 lengths in your average lap pool. Most people would struggle with 20!

Posted by: jw | July 20, 2006 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the nice comments. This was a lot of fun. However, the more I read my kit the more I realize I overused both modifiers and esoteric vocabulary words. I clearly need an editor to pull my purple prose back to a respectable shade of mauve. I am sure the results would have been punchier and funnier.
You know, more like what CowTown wrote.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 20, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

jw, I agree I was a swimmer when I was young we averaged about 10,000 yards a practise. Imagine treading water without the use of your legs.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Ok, that's it, I officially turned blue this morning. Here I am waiting with bated breath for the bc/Curmudgeon kit, and I laugh myself silly reading your kits guys. Bravo on your excellent, recherché, meritorious, splendiferous kits of the first water. I'd have said more but my thesaurus ran out of superlatives.

Mr. dr is one of those guys who can and I do thank heaven for him. He is prone to having his eyes glaze over when I talk about projects, and if you talked with him, he'd likely say that his eyes are mostly glazed over.

Way back on the farm in the tiny house, we desperately needed somewhere for coats to hang. After asking, wheedling and downright abject begging, I decided to do it myself. I picked up some brackets in town, and went out to the shed to find something to adhere them to the walls with. Spikes? Sure why not. Done.

I then went out to the barn, and checked out what kind of wood was on hand. Not much choice in the length department, but there was a 2 x 10 covered in bird droppings and dirt that looked about right. I hosed it off (with soap) and lay it over the brackets. Not level.

I was hot sticky and had 3 babies looking for lunch, and if Mr.dr wanted a straight shelf, he should have done it himself. So I put up the salvaged broom handles, and hung things up. Mr. dr never said a word. Next time I talked about shelving, he gave me a nice little level.

Posted by: dr | July 20, 2006 10:05 AM | Report abuse

RD Padouk, you're well on your way to taking over Joel's job with that sense of inferiority.

Posted by: jw | July 20, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

My plans for today and tomorrow are to repair a few things around the house -- a broken trellis, a broken light bulb still in the lamp, re-cover a few dining chairs, etc. (Children are great, aren't they?) But judging by today's kits/boodle, I should probably just settle in with a good book.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 20, 2006 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Yeah jw - but Joel does inferiority far better than do I.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 20, 2006 10:11 AM | Report abuse

>Error, my parents have a cobblestone basement floor. Would that work?

Hmm, good idea dmd! I'd have to resist the temptation to put in cafe tables though.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 20, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Error, well if your basement is like my parents you could call it the dungeon cafe!

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I'm good at handy if you're not too picky about neatness. Like the bookstand with the gaping jagged hole and the bent nails showing underneath.

I can generally put together those dang IKEA type furniture no problems. Once I was kind of enthusiatic and didn't really think about the final design, and assembled my TV stand beautifully. It would take a direct missile hit. Except for this one piece of wood that wouldn't fit in.

Now, I have a roommate who has been known to call maintenance when the closet door comes off its tracks.
I had to twist his arm to allow me to at least try hanging and banging that door back in place. I knew it was a lost cause for him to figure out how to fix it. Heck, he has problems figuring how to put toilet paper on the roll.

My roommate observed the deeds of my arduous labor and said "you put one wall in backwards."

And, he was right. And bigger than me, so he lived. The spare plank was a shelf that could not be put in.

Since that TV stand was made up of heavy wood. I said I'd disassemble it "Later."

5 years later, it is still the way it was when I put it together. And it has borne over 500 pounds in all that time without a hint of falling apart.

Who cares about stupid shelves, anyway?

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 10:38 AM | Report abuse

As Padouk shows, there are certain advantages to living on an enormous pile of sand.

While living in Portland, I got annoyed that a sloping area in the yard of the church where I was a member tended to send rivulets of slippery clay/silt mud into the parking lot. This being on the slopes of an extinct volcano, slippery could be a serious matter. So I used my Geo Prizm hatchback to haul many, many 50-pound bags of sand, lots of vermiculite, perlite, gypsum, peat moss, and every other soil amendment I could think of to make the soil more receptive to water. After that much effort, it seemed stupid to simply leave the area devoid of plant life, so in went crocuses and small narcissuses (big daffodils make too many leaves--have you ever tried to harvest daffodil hay?). It took 2 years. One box of crocus bulbs from a great catalog supplier weighed 8 pounds. The cost, compared to shallots or garlic wasn't that bad. First time I thought about the cost per pound. Costco was raided. Repeatedly. End-of-season sales brought in more goodies. It actually worked out--kids didn't mess with the narcissuses and the resident squirrel never seems to have figured out that crocuses are edible and nutritious. I guess the critter must have sampled a poisonous narcissus first.

During the project, I got to meet several homeless people and watch a skateboarder coming down the volcano nearly get nailed by a car. Boarder and driver apologized profusely to each other. The board did get hit, but was evidently uninjured.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 20, 2006 10:40 AM | Report abuse

My major water accomplishments include:

swimming a mile in a pool, treading water for I forget how long, retrieving a five pound weight from bottom of pool, perform various surface dives in the pool, make a temporary flotation device using shirt and pants, a bunch of other stuff I forget (about thirty years ago folks). For this I got a Boy Scout merit badge. Nowadays: Fugedaboudit.

Probably saved a friend's nephews (two) from getting pulled out to sea at Wildwood, NJ (we were in an area without lifeguards) when we got caught in an undertow (they thought it was a game, I was on the verge of being terrified).

Swam across the Delaware Water Gap, twice in a row (after first across and back a friend said "bet you can't do it again", ha, showed him).

Oh yeah, and accidentally did a back flop into a water filled abandoned slate quarry from 36 feet. The crazy thing is though, it didn't hurt...

Posted by: omni | July 20, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Excellent work, guys (well... excellent work on the *kits*, anyway).

My neighbor was trying to set up a similar pool and apparently had the same optimistic view as RD that the yard was "level enough". No strange bulges in the sides of the pool, but was only able to put 3' of water in what's supposed to be a 4' deep pool (let's just say it was 3' on one end, 4' on the other).

When he decided this wasn't suitable, I offered to help. Discovery Channel to the rescue! How did the Egyptians create perfectly level bases for the pyramids? Water.

I probably would have never thought of this myself because it's so obvious. Dig channels in the ground around the perimeter of said pool/pyramid's footprint and then pound stakes into the ground (inside the channels) at regular intervals. Fill the channels with water and then mark the water level on each of the stakes. After the water drains, leave the stakes in place. Tie twine to each stake at the mark and then tie the other end to the opposite stake at it's mark. You can now remove all the sod/soil/whatever that is above the twine in the area to be leveled and fill in the low points. You'll have to untie/retie the twine to make sure it's taut during the course of this procedure as you remove/add sod/soil/whatever, but ultimately (if you haven't stepped on or otherwise disturbed the stakes), the twine should end up being perfectly level with the surface.

Works great for creating level patio and sidewalk bases, too.

Posted by: martooni | July 20, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Dave, I bet that slope is gorgeous in the springtime.

Posted by: slyness | July 20, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I am completely swamped at work this morning. Thanks for the accolades. Great work, PD!
And it's clear I should have consulted with my fellow Boodlers before attacking the basement floor. And, yes, Linda, I have dust bunnies painted into the floor. Problem with that?

Posted by: CowTown | July 20, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I also suspect that the Egyptians didn't carve and hoist those limestone blocks whole-- limestone dissolves in carbonated water, so basically they could have taken a lot of smaller chunks and then cast them into a whole block in situ. They'd still have a lot of heavy lifting, but it would make the top rocks easier.

And it would explain how the stones fit so damn well with each other, no?

Concrete is basically limestone with stones and sand in, and the Romans developed concrete from the Egyptians' example somehow. Hmm?

But then, this is just a flaky theory of mine.
I coined this after getting sick of reading about how impossible it was to put those tons of limestone bricks so high up, and aliens or Atlantians must have helped.

Not one chipped block and limestone is basically, you know, chalk. Hmm. Pyramid power must have done it.

Of course, the odds that Egypt wants somebody to test those blocks for yet another crackpot theory to be disproved is slim to none ;).

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Cowtown, I can't speak for Loomis, but I have absolutely no problem with painted dust bunnies. Did you also get to paint some spider webs without breaking them? That would be a tour de art.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Great guest kits, RD and CT! I do note the common use of "hydrostatic", thereby fulfilling the scientific term requirement.

I find that swimming laps is an activity that if you haven't done it in, ahem, awhile, doesn't take long to get tired. One of the benefits of getting out of swimming shape is that my entire turn-around time for a trip to the gym to swim is about 1/2 hour.

CowTown, nice use of the home improvement project as metaphor! In that regard, I don't think you'll be done with your project until you also paint your basements of your neighbors on each side. Hydrostatic pressure, you know.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I hope Joel doesn't know how well the guest kits are doing; it'd ruin his vacation. I see him sitting peacefully at the outdoor cafe with his family, drinking in the sights and sounds of the City of Lights, blissfully unaware that he is about to become the Wally Pipp of blogdom. I mean, can the Boodleblog be stopped at this point?

Kudos to mo, Stampede, Jack, EF, L.A., CT and RD (and anyone I missed). All outstanding!

BTW, I am contributing to the overproliferation of posters with the word "lurker" in the handle so, consistent with my current mission in life, I will henceforth post as follows:

distant lurker = Bill Everything

Posted by: Bill Everything | July 20, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Bill Everything, that sounds like the name of the toad lawyer to "Rob Anybody" in Wee Free Men (Terry Pratchett) ;).

I like. Are you a lawyer or a contractor?

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, that's a very interesting theory!

My own response to those theories (aliens etc) is that one should never underestimate what can be done with gigantic amounts of labor and a decade or century long schedule.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

My recent adventure painting a basement floor went pretty well, but it didn't dry quite as quickly a I had thought... So under the nice new flooring there are many pawprints. And my cat didn't enjoy us getting the paint off his pads. Oh, well....

Posted by: Les | July 20, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

And I, personally have moved large blocks that I could not lift directly (i.e. my TV set, which is quite a motherlover), with surprisingly minimal ease, it's all about rotating and leverage, although I admit the image of rotating a few tons makes me nervous.

Maybe they built it as a pyramid-spiral staircase and just "walked the blocks up" the stairs.

Who knows? All of that makes more sense than these pet theories about giant ramps and such.

Posted by: wilbrod | July 20, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Musclewise, with that technique (rotating blocks to ladder them up), there's no reason why a team of 5-10 men shouldn't be able to move a ton or two with ease, especially with bracing sticks, ropes, and other equipment.

The only question is whether the block is hard enough to take that kind of tumbling.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Oh my gosh! I am married to BC!

Posted by: nellie | July 20, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

It's your basement, why should I have problems with that? Just laughing hilariously, that's all.

Stop, stop, stop worrying obsessively about your prose. It's fine. But with a line like:

"Instead, I lay there, covered with mud and sand, my muscles screaming in pain, blood welling from a gash in my hand, and experienced a profound revelation."

how can we do anything but take pity or have sympathy? I think it's the Clara Barton instinct in many women. Lucky for you, it was a moment of epiphany (which also had me laughing)!

Because of time and space constraints as well as fear of mortal danger of being drawn, quartered, sliced, diced and fricassied, I would tell you of the many instances in which my husband *thought* he is/was the handyman--and the disasterous consequences.

Posted by: Loomis | July 20, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

"So under the nice new flooring there are many pawprints. And my cat didn't enjoy us getting the paint off his pads." We put a new office in the back of our carport. The back of van sticks out a bit from under the roof, but the extra space is worth it. We decided to put down one of those "engineered wood" floors, which are glued down with a mastic that is about the consistency of tar. Our cat got into the area while our contractor was laying the floor, and he quickly became an VERY unhappy camper, both before we got him unstuck and during the paw cleaning. Always know where your pets are during home improvement activities!

Posted by: ebtnut | July 20, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Hi, hon.

Should I pick anything up on the way home for dinner?


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I am actually very proud of my use of the phrase "hydrostatic pressure." It really should make its way into literature much more frequently.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 20, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

"I am actually very proud of my use of the phrase "hydrostatic pressure." It really should make its way into literature much more frequently."

I always like to insert the term "piezoelectric effect" whenever possible. ;-)

Posted by: ebtnut | July 20, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Great kits, guys. No offense intended, and hope you don't take umbrage, but you guys are a couple of klutzes. I, on the other hand, have been around tools all my life. My father built the house I grew up in. I've torn down walls in our house, completely remodeled the kitychen/dining room, completely renovated the attached-single-car garage and converted it into the master bedroom w/ master bath and hot tub, etc. I have a workbendh in the garage with half the tools known to Tim Allen. My wife considers me to have the engineering skill and acumen of Frank Lloyd Wright.

You know the difference between your skill level and mine? Zero. Zip. Nada. Does not exist. Cannot be measured by any instrumentaion yet known to mankind. The Great Harry Homeowner Fallacy is, that there IS such a thing as a successful do-it-yourself project. All those shows you see on television? HAH! That's just Hollywood magic, special effects!

The Truth (and it IS out there) is that the gods of home-ownership are a cruel and malicious bunch, and their one and only delight is to afflict poor souls such as yourself and me with the delusion that, yes, if something is broke, or needs renovation, or even just "some assembly required," that we mortals can do it. Then, while we mere foolish mortals drive to Lowe's or Home Depot, they call each other up, giggling with anticipation, get the brewski and chips and dip, and pull up their chairs trhere on Mt. Olympus, or wherever they are watching us from, ready for the show to begin. And then like fans watching the Super Bowl, they watch, hoot, holler, and laugh as we attempt to paint, hammer, fix, "adjust" (hah! "adjust" is the single most malign verb in the entire homeowner's lexicon), repair, adorn, or whatever our projects require.

When you discover that there is some kind of leak in the hall half-bath, and it takes you two hours to determine it came from the now-leaky seal at the bottom of the toilet tank, and you drive to Lowe's to get a new gasket, do you have ANY FREAKIN' IDEA who you're up against? You think it's just you versus the tank, mano a mano? Hah! Unbeknownst to you, the gods have completely rusted away the wing nut holding the tank to the toilet. No, not the wingnut on the side away from the wall that you can reach easily. The other one, on the other side. The one you can't see, but only feel. The one with zero room to get a wrench or any other tool in there, because the toilet is built in right next to a wall. Do you know what position you have to be in to reach that wingnut in such a way as to get some leverage on it? Here's a hint: you have to be completely upside down, and you need scuba gear, and if you accidentally hit the flush handle with your flailing foot, you'll wind up washing your hair and finding Nemo while on Olympus the gods of handimanitude are doing High Fives and taping the show for submission to Tom Bergeron.

There is no such thing as a five-minute honey-doo. Might as well believe in unicorns. We are all doomed, gentlemen.

(BTW, painting dust bunnies is an excellent way of incorporating anti-skid compounds into painted basement floors, Cow Town. At least, that's what I tell my wife.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 20, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, we had a giant freezer in my basement when we bought the place (despite specifically putting into the contract that we did NOT want it). My three largest friends and I couldn't maneouvre this thing up the stairs. Then my 150 lb building construction friend (apparently with an eye for spatial manipulation) practically did it himself. Not directly related to the pyramid scenario, just thought of it after your comment.

Personally, I think ramps. It was also the Roman response to Masada. Brilliantly simple. "Oh yeah, fording great plan" saith the soldier with the shovel.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Hats off to bc, the Overthinker! His philosophy is mine, and it serves well. In my opinion, his words should be printed, laminated, and re-read when necessary.

The theory may contain a flaw, which is summed up in this question: How much do I pay myself for thinking? By this, I refer to Jumper's 1st Principle, which is actually under attack at this moment. By myself. It occurred to me a while back that I should decide on a theoretical pay scale to guide myself in doing optional jobs or chores for myself. I decided work at home is worth at least $15 per hour, and if I could get someone to do it for less, I would. In other words, I would ask myself, "Is it worth 15 bucks an hour to paint this floor?" And if I thought so, I would go ahead and do it myself. or, "would I pay someone 15 bucks an hour to turn over my compost?" The answer here is "no" so I forget about it. That compost works for me, I don't work for it, so forget about it, it will decompose on its own schedule, and I say to heck with it.

This appears reasonable, but recently I had a thought that threw me into profound philosophical uncertainty: my entire 1st Principle is at risk.

I thought if I DID theoretically pay myself only $2 per hour, then it would be like slave labor, which I am against. But then, I thought that it would be like having ACCESS to slave labor, which is more economically enticing! And the "con" of working for slave wages, is exactly offset by the "pro" advantage of having myself to use as my own slave!

I can't find flaw with my own logic. I was much more comfortable with the intact 1st Principle. I relaxed more.

I will log off now and go turn the compost. For nothing. I think.

Posted by: Jumper | July 20, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

You must not have seen that programme in which they proposed a ramp that would have been as big as the pyramid itself, nearly. I think it'd have been simpler to make the pyramid itself a ramp and build a lot of it that way, and then come up with a new solution for the rest of it.

Because if you propose an external ramp for it all: where did the dirt (and/or logs) go afterwards? The Romans just left the dirt in place at Masada, even with erosion you can still see the ramp remmants.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Here's a theory that vision evolved in primates in order to see snakes better.

The relevant quote: "Neurological studies by others show that the structure of the brain's visual system does not actually fit with the idea that vision evolved along with reaching and grasping, Isbell said."

Or being handy.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse


I think the DIY Gods live on Mt. Sherwin Williams. Or was it Mt. Kubota?

And as for pool-leveling and such...

Dad's an engineer through and through, although he plied his trade mostly in the electronic arena. Nevertheless, he had the mental tools (and contacts at AT&T) to expertly deposit in the earth three ex-telephone pole segements with an ex-telephone pole segment crossbeam to make a swing set for the ages. With minimal assistance from friends (since kids were small and scarce at the time).

Once the kids (me, particularly) were available, however... Dad wanted to upgrade the above-ground pool, and he WAS aware of the need for a level base. I think he was aiming for slightly concave, but all I remember are a few afternoons and weekends walking a man-powered roller around the sand he'd laid down. The pool lasted a good long time, though.

And I've sprung for pool passes for the kids ever since. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 20, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I think I may be imagining the same thing as you in that I'm not talking about a straight line ramp to the pyramid.

I'm not too worried about the difficulties of disposal on any form of ramp theory though; again with the long timelines and "labor".

BTW Bill Everything. Congrats on the name change. I was starting to lose track of all the lurker-handles.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod -- When it came to actually constructing the pyramids, post-design phase, I think they handed that job off to slaves. They didn't have to care about how hard it would be, so long as they didn't have to do the work.

Just interjecting (say, do you think interjection might have helped?).

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | July 20, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

that ramp idea just keeps reminding me of sisyphus

my mother likes to think she's quite the handy-man - she once decided to "fix" the problem with the cable in the apt - somehow she succeeded in pulling the entire length of cable from the whole tier of apts (9 floors) into the living room - the cable men came the next day...

then she thought she could fix the leak in the toilet... she managed to flood all 4 floors below us all the way down

now i don't even let her change a lightbulb...

Posted by: mo | July 20, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

i'll betcha nani has some great "fix-it" stories... dontcha nani? *poke, poke*

Posted by: mo | July 20, 2006 12:26 PM | Report abuse

I think you are thinking of a wrap-around ramp too, yes.
Just seems easier to use the pyramid itself as a wrap around ramp-- saves labor and materials. If you're prone to being beheaded for being late on schedule, this would make sense ;).

Apropos of nothing, I saw this story about "long face syndrome" and how allergies can cause facial changes, teeth problems, and apnea. Parents, get your kids treated for allergies now before you get lots of money in dental bills ;).

For a look at long face syndrome requiring surgery:

Some very excellent before and after pictures. What a change in looks indeed.

Milder cases of allergies still may affect the face, not as drastically.

Sleep apnea can also affect attention (since the child is sleep deprived) etc.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Splendid kits, both of you. There was much laughter. RD, your use of vocabulary, modifiers etc. in explanatory paragraphs very neatly sets up the simple sentences that follow -- "With no improvement", "then the thunderstorm", and the hilarious "I am not a handy person." I figured you did this on purpose.

Neither Ivansdad nor I are particularly handy but we have been persuaded by circumstances to be at least facile with home improvement. We live in the house my father built and have done some renovation. Mostly we try and keep up with basic maintenance (before the Boy was the Malignant Agent of Chaos, the house had that title). Dad was in big-building construction, so part of our ceiling is held up by a steel I-beam, and the rest of the place is similarly sturdy and not quite standard. He wasn't an electrician, though, so we learned quickly that all but the simplest electrical projects require licensed professional help. Usually one comes out and calls for a buddy, if only to marvel.

Ivansdad combines the Underestimator characteristics (oh, let's just start this) with Overthinking once it has begun. This can lead to VERY LONG project times. I am more an Underestimator, keeping in mind the family motto of "Well, it's better than it was when we started." This phrase justifies all sorts of marginal results, painted dust bunnies (not that I would, of course) and the liberal use of duct tape.

Duct tape can fix anything.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 20, 2006 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of "idiot handymen", I had somebody come up and set a videophone. Turns out the tv and the computer modem had to be connected and they were in opposite rooms. The installer wanted to proceed anyway without waiting for me to move one or the other.

Add a large puppy in the mix, and of course the puppy decided to play with the thick cable laid across the apartment and nearly broke the set-up. It was then I convinced to let him wait just a minute while I moved the computer desk to an better location so the set up and testing could proceed.

Jeez, anybody could see that stringing long wires across an apartment was a safety hazard.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

And did I mention that the puppy nearly tripped him in his own cable?

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Very funny, true to life kits Rd and Cowtown. I feel a bit left out here -- having no spouse to harangue, or out-perform in home improvement adventures.

I suppose one could provide a perfectly level surface by building a wooden deck (on the ground, to handle the weight) -- or even get really "handy" and pour a cement "floor" for the pool (and paint it, natch).

But, when cement comes into the picture, it might be just as well to start digging, and actually build one's own in-ground pool! Now there would be a job!

I've spent three years painting my small apartment - a different color for every room, two complementary colors for the large LR/DR area. All the trim as been painted in lovely high gloss paint. My previously mentioned 2"x12" board bookcases painted to match the trim in LR.

I just finished the bathroom last winter.

I found out this week that all the apartments are going to be renovated completely. I'm even going to have to move for three or so months.

When I come back to my super-duper energy-efficient apartment, with new appliances, new sinks, toilets, tubs, etc, (this is not a bad thing!) -- the walls will be apartment offwhite again.

Back to square zero.

I can't bear the thought of doing it all over again. The ceiling still has colored paint splotches all over it; I never cleaned it up. The tub area is decorated with long dribbles of satin finish paint -- I've been working one bath at a time to get it all off.

When it's time to come back to my place, I'll be hiring an acquaitance who is a professional painter to redo the whole place.

If anyone has any ideas on how to protect plants from flying construction debris(i'm hoping they do my place in late winter/early spring) please let me know.

I ain't moving the garden. I've done this twice now.

Mudge, I think Lowe's and Home Depot actually invented the HGTV and DIR channels. They are the direct beneficiaries of all amateur DIR folks. Especially when the project fails and in desperation the DIR person pays for the installation.

My brother actually does the DIR and does it beautifully. He finished his entire basement, including most of the plumbing work (he hired a plumber and an electrician to do the technical stuff).

He has made a lot of the furniture in the house -- not Stickley, mind you -- but decent, workable pieces.

I've no idea where he got this talent. My own parents' philosophy on home improvement, heck, home maintenance, was to let the house fall apart. Period.

Or, my dad would hire "handymen" he knew -- they were in fact mostly alcoholic patrons of the pub he owned after he sold the gas station.

After one of these gents finished making things worse, with my mother ranting at my father for hiring them in the first place, a real pro would have to come in and fix the essential stuff (plumbing, electrical problems, gas lines).

I think painting dust bunnies, intact spider webs, the odd beetle or two, into the wall or floor adds nice texture and good conversation starters. Like a shellaced bug collection.

Posted by: nelson | July 20, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom - that was what I was trying to do, but sometimes reading my own words is like looking at myself in my skivvies under fluorescent lights.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 20, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

RD Padouk, thank you SO much for that mental image. It just helped my diet.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to TBG, there is now a photograph of my blue bottom on the Web, at

Thanks, TBG. It was nice of you to get behind me, so to speak.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 20, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - anything to help, but personally, I would have thought the discussion of Mudge's blue bottom would have done the trick.

Also, I wanted to point out that Joel suggested a small though crucial edit to my kit, which is why there is no mention of British Science Fiction shows of the 1960s.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 20, 2006 1:01 PM | Report abuse

RD--It wasn't the skivvies, it was the fluorescent lights. They give me migraines.

1960 British sci-fi? Yeah, a little obscure for us boodlers who just happened to be born after that year.

I know, nobody under 45 shoulda be allowed on this boodle. I'm gonna take a guess that the show was "Dr. Who".

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Beautiful boat Mudge.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 1:07 PM | Report abuse

hey wilbrod - i under 45! don't make me hafta take some of 'mudge's umbrage... i don't wanna go near his blue bottom!

Posted by: mo | July 20, 2006 1:09 PM | Report abuse

(actually mudge - i'm kidding... she's beautiful!)

Posted by: mo | July 20, 2006 1:11 PM | Report abuse

After hurricanes Frances and Jeanne, I was waiting to check out at the supermarket. One of the two ladies ahead of me was explaining to the other that she was telling her [expensive barrier island second-home] clients to not even visit. Everything had to be ripped out because of the flooding. But it was good to be able to redo the houses from a clean start. An interior designer, obviously.

Best wishes with your benevolent, non-violent, non-wet renovation.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 20, 2006 1:11 PM | Report abuse

So, she's called "Scribe," eh? How true to form, how appropriate, how funny? How could she be other?

Posted by: Loomis | July 20, 2006 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I take it that you didn't see the Flavin exhibit at the National Gallery a year or so ago--he made sculptures using fluorescent light. I got introduced to his work as a Penn State student. The people who ran the little gallery in the student union let him install ultraviolet tubes around the baseboards. Everyone wandered in and glowed.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 20, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Anonymous | July 20, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

That 1:18 post really says it all. :)

Posted by: Bill Everything | July 20, 2006 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, I don't factor my costs for thinking, because my thinking is demonstrably worthless.

RD, I'm trying to figure out how a Dalek or a Call Box/TARDIS would fit into your Kit.


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Nice yacht, Mudge. I like the blue. Loomis is right, the name is ultra-appropriate.

Houses are so much trouble. My issue is that I have never moved into a house that I didn't hate what previous owners had done or failed to do.

A previous kitchen comes to mind. It was renovated in the 60's with apple green counters that matched the green in the green/gold/yellow/brown starburst pattern flooring. The kicker was that they also put the vinyl covering above the cabinets. And it was crooked.

In my present home, all the interior trim was originally painted with oil paint. The yahoos I bought the place from tried to cover it with latex. Do you know how hard it is to scrape all that latex off so that you can properly prime and then paint again?

The kicker, though is the wallpaper on the back wall of the foyer closet. It wouldn't be so bad, but the wallpaper, which they actually used in the foyer, is unbelievably ugly. The late 60's/early 70's were NOT a good design period. I gotta fix that closet, but the job includes taking latex paint off the door as well as scraping the wallpaper. Once I retire, I'll think about doing it.

Posted by: slyness | July 20, 2006 1:30 PM | Report abuse

You guys have it all wrong about the pyramids. They actually started out with little building blocks the size of LEGOS® and use these to construct a scale model of the finished tombs. Next they liberally sprinkle the entire model with Miracle-Gro. Add water and step back reeeeal far. An presto. Giant pyramid.

Posted by: omni | July 20, 2006 1:32 PM | Report abuse

bc, I'm thinking that link to the British SciFi show that had those "skydiver" photos would have been appropriate (as it would be in almost all contexts, at least in my opinion).

This reminds me, since I didn't comment on it before, that I don't think that "predestination" software is a very good idea, as we all know where all roads on the internet lead to.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I was making an oblique reference to my unseemly obsession with the female submariners on the show "UFO." This had been discussed some time ago. Where are Tim and Error Flynn when you need them?

Seriously, Joel did very kindly point out and correct a common error I was making. That fellow seems to know a thing or two about this writing stuff.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 20, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the warning. Nope, never seen Flavin.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Guys, guys, guys: UFO, of course.

I find that with sufficient overthinking, DIY disasters can be avoided through the time-honored technique of Perpetual Procrastination. On those occasions that the ScienceSpouse has induced embarkation upon a plan of renovation, it has been an embarkation on a Cruise to Grumpy-Land.

For exhibit A, I offer the following: this month marks 4 years since we have slept in our master bedroom. The walls and trim now are painted. The flooring finally is down. I am rebuilding the closets, but I am stymied by finding daylight hours in which I am neither working nor previously scheduled to another activity (you know, those on-line comics won't read themselves), during which I hope/dread to finish-sand the (louvered) closet doors in preparation for the final coat of polyurethane. It's been 1.75 weeks now since the last coat. After the closets, the baseboards get cut to size and finish-painted, and a few more bits of baseboard get cut and painted and installed. Then, 4 years after we ripped out the ugly carpet that smelled of cat-urine (our cat) and began scraping the very well-glued wallpaper, we move in. I have warned the ScienceSpouse that I would like for our bedroom, finally, to have curtains instead of roller blinds. Since she has no faith in my ability to select fabric (even if I learn to operate a sewing machine), she will have to be intimately involved in the process of curtain-acquisition and installation. Or, I'll just go to IKEA and grab something serviceable and bland.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 20, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

RD, ha! I knew it!

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

We too moved in to a poor design choice. After my dad died & I moved away, Mom finally had the house to herself and could fulfill her long-time desire to paint the interior green. We moved back to avocado-green walls. In every room. Although (color choice aside) my mother had excellent taste, she was apparently persuaded to hire an interior designer for this project. He must have gone to great trouble to find an ugly paint color which would also mildew with age. We spent the first month stripping down walls & ceiling with TSP/Clorox and steel wool, painting with KILZ, then repainting all surfaces.

We also spread two tons of gravel by hand after it was dumped on the old driveway (tip: always check to see that delivery includes installation). There were things we couldn't do, so we hired folks to dig a new well, put in new hot water tanks, take out the broken garbage disposal, add some grounding to the electrical system -- oh, I'll stop there. Too much misery for one afternoon. This is why Ivansdad insists that our next house be already redone by someone else.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 20, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

I've made my own curtains. If you're not picky about how they look, they ain't hard to do, and cheap too if you get the fabric second-hand, or even cut up a few old clothes or sheets that were originally intended to be used for dust rags.

Didn't even need a sewing machine, just poke a few holes with a needle with thread in, and all done. You can always cut off what comes out crooked after you're done, so better cut extra large so you can hem.

If you're sick of the needle-jabbing, a stapler always works. I like to add an inner layer, too.

The best part, you DEFINITELY won't be able to find anything near as classy in a store anywhere.

So encourage your SciSpouse to get in the spirit of house improvement! It's one thing she can do sitting down while you sweat and ripple your muscles scraping walls or spackling or whatever. She should count herself lucky.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 1:47 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, it took us several years to finally refinish/sand our louvered closet doors. We had to do it, though, since they were not standard size (see previous post) and couldn't be replaced off the shelf. Good luck to you.

RD, are skivvies and fluorescent lights the worst you can do? You've clearly never tried on bathing suits after childbirth and middle age take their toll. Lighting has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 20, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, I'm thinking, here. It seems to me that an enterprising person could make a decent business out of selling houses built out of prefab rectangular blocks. This would not be your old-fashioned prefab house, but a modern structure employing standardized parts assembled in arbitrary ways, like a people-sized Lego set.

Punch-out regions would be available in the walls and ceiling to permit modules to be attached to each other in configurations to fit the owner's liking, with prefab window units able to be popped into the punch-outs. The walls/floors/ceilings would be provided with pre-installed stadard ductwork and electrical wiring. Plug two segments together, per the instructions, and the wiring and ducting link up automatically. Attach the household service unit, toilet unit, and kitchen unit, the roof unit(s), and the siding (which would have handy plug-in locations) and you've got yourself a decent house. Because you can choose which modules (from a catalog), how many, and where you put them, the architecture is unique.

Where can I get funding?

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 20, 2006 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I thought of you Boodlers yesterday when I was in the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. They have a charming ceramic Bactrian camel on display there.

I was going to call myself "left coast lurker" but after Bill Everything's conversion on account of lurker proliferation, I just couldn't.

My first post and it's completely off-topic. I'm so proud of myself.

Posted by: ac in sj | July 20, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse

>RD, I'm trying to figure out how a Dalek or a Call Box/TARDIS would fit into your Kit.

Oh yeah, UFO and the girl from the sub. Don't forget Moon Base. sigh

Funny, I was thinking you were going to refer to "Danger Man", which ran as "Secret Agent" in the states. He gets found out and beat up on a fairly regular basis, but always manages to pull it off in the end. Sounds like that could apply too.

You can see a lot of things in there Patrick McGoohan referenced later in "The Prisoner", like the bicyle motif in a pic on the wall, and an episode about "retiring".

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 20, 2006 2:00 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, I can recommend Wilbrod's curtain idea, I have the matching sheets to my bed as curtains, worked for years, looks good and simple. I used new sheets, poked a rod through the top part of the sheet, hang it up.

I have also used fabric shower curtains for the kids rooms (being washable helps), one room on regular round shower curtain hangers on a curtain rod, one set attached with self stick velco. (I do not sew). Lots of choices to choose from, sturdy material but shorter in length.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

dmd, your post is good--my mom used to make curtains out of old sheets too.

This also brings us to the next logical trend in keeping it simple...


Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

great kits rd and ct! i personally subscribe to the underestimator and duct tape school of diy, when not procrastinating that is. however, i'm also closely related to several people of the overthinking school (those engineers, let me tell ya).

ac in sj: as a fellow left-coaster, welcome!

Posted by: L.A. lurker | July 20, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Welcome ac in San Jose!

Posted by: Loomis | July 20, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Duct Tape rule, my husband came home from the hardware store last night, picked up a few things we needed plus duct tape - Why? when all else fails - duct tape.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Welcome, ac in sj! In the Asian Art Museum you had cause to trammel?

Wilbrod, are you a graduate of the Achenbro School of Interior Design? If you use a flag with a Harley Davidson logo it also functions as an improvised security system.

dmd's idea of shower curtains for kids' curtains is so crazy it might work! I see no reason why you couldn't use the plasticized ones either. Inexpensive, and changeable as per the whims.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Dmd, I hope you two never fail in child-rearing, then.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, my youngest is a handful, trust me duct taping her still for just a few minutes has crossed my mind on occasion.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I sense Dmd could get a gig doing design on "Trading Spaces", or "While you were out"-- design on a budget. After that woman who decided a orange-and white circus tent in a living room was a great idea, brightly colored shower curtains seems downright tame.

Another kiddie room design idea i got from a mother was to tie old toys to the ceiling by fishing lines. I never did find out how she dusted them, though. Maybe she used big toy cars instead of stuffed animals, that'd collect less dust.

I'm not so much on bikers.

My idea of an improvised security system would be a "chewed out hole" in the curtain big enough for my dog to pop his large head through.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, you may not know this, but bc already has a duct tape wallet, and I fear you just put a very dangerous idea into that noggin of his.

Posted by: omni | July 20, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

This "chewed curtain" would be even more effective if it appeared to be made of wood or metal.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Just remember when the older girl was going tobagganing with my friend and her son, my husband wanted to make sure no snow got down my daughters boots or in her mittens. Solution - DUCT TAPE.

This is a true story.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Damn, now if any of us write a story on "The Duct Tape Man" they'll have to pay you royalties, Dmd...

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 2:23 PM | Report abuse

We haven't watched TS as much as we used to, but I've noticed that Hilde (sp?) seems to have dialed it down a notch. I guess it was only so funny/avant garde to cover someone's actual living space with cardboard and/or plastic flowers.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

No, here is the true "King of Duct Tape", from a show here in Canada.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, that's exactly it. I do not want everyone think that my home is full of completed projects just because my husband can do things. His glazed eye period is immediately followed by Perpetual Procrastination.

I would submit as exhibit 'A' a badly broken slate tile on the livingroom fireplace hearth. I did not care about it since my normal decorating style is puntuated with piles of books, and baskets of yarn and uncompleted sewing projects. The day we took possession of our house Mr.dr said with great feeling that he would fix that right away.

It still is broken, 15 years later. Remember he cared about this.

I would also submit 'Dad's 3rd Law', "a project once begun has a 10 year time limit', and its corollary, "after 10 years you can toss it but only if a new project is immediately under disscussion". Come to think of it, these might be 'Mom's Law'.

Anyway, you have 6 years before you need to worry Tim. you are good to go. (PS, handyman hint, you can hang fabric panels in front of those pesky louvered closet door panels. Way faster than repairing broken slats, or painting.)

Posted by: dr | July 20, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

SoC don't forget the feathers, I hope that person wasn't allergic to feathers like myself.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Hilde is close to what I remember-- Broom Hilda. Yeah, TS said they wanted a little disaster every few shows to keep the suspense in, and Hilde was good with that. But "While you were out" and the hit of ABC "EM:HE" seems to show that always having a winner isn't bad for ratings.

My dad watched that circus tent episode briefly and said that woman was nuts and should be shot.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

UFO was a 70's show IIRC. 1970, I think.

It would have been a funny yet obscure "Prisoner" reference if the misshapen latex monstrosity had started bouncing and chased RD around the yard.


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 2:29 PM | Report abuse

The TS episode that sticks in my mind is the one where they took a very nice bathroom and hot glued artificial flowers to every speck of wall space. Can you imagine the dust and mildew from that? Eeewwwww. Not to mention that it was tacky as he11.

Posted by: slyness | July 20, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

AC in SJ, we're proud of you, too. Welcome aboard. (Do you know the way to SJ?)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 20, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

One of the first things I learned in college: just about anything can be built, or fixed, with some combination of the following 3 items: a medium-size swiss-army knife, a universal tool (aka hammer), and a nice big roll of duct tape!

Posted by: axe | July 20, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, is this along the lines of the modular buildings you had in mind? Two different types. You could also look at a website for tumbleweedhouses . com.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

dmd: gettin' there, gettin' there. What I have in mind is a step beyond, but these are a beginning.

Some oddities that would arise from a modular house: no single circuit-breaker panel can serve the whole house, except as a master cut-off. Each individual module would have to have its own circuit-breaker(s), and possibly a circuit-breaker for its pass-through wiring that connects to the next module.

I'll have to give this some more thought, but I think it's do-able. A tricky aspect is to make each module well-insulated for exterior use, but avoid having super-thick interior walls.

Thinking, thinking, thinking...

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 20, 2006 2:59 PM | Report abuse

"the misshapen latex monstrosity had started bouncing and chased RD around the yard." Misshapen AND SQUEALING latex monstrosity...
Secret Agent was pretty decent as TV fare back then went. The theme song by Johnny Rivers made it into the Top Ten, I believe. The Prisoner was almost totally indeciperable (sp?). It was McGoohan's own project, which probably indicates what kind of pharmacueticals he was fond of.

Posted by: ebtnut | July 20, 2006 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Tim, if you add wiring connections, and plumbing to that prebuilt idea, you have it made if you go striaght to FEMA for funding.

Posted by: dr | July 20, 2006 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Spanking blue bottom you have there, Curmudegeon.

Posted by: dr | July 20, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, if you can design a modular home that could be so set up to have courtyards in the middle, that'd be nifty.

Alas, bricks are still the most popular modular building material ;).

as for the insulation, maybe transparent aluminium? Viceroy Homes has "superwindows" that has very high insulation, structure, and quality price. It's interesting.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 3:06 PM | Report abuse

Transparent aluminum? Great, here come the Trekkies.

Posted by: jw | July 20, 2006 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, are you thinking Roman villas? I would have to have a splashing fountain in the middle.

Posted by: slyness | July 20, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, check out the Tumbleweedshouses site, these are custom made tiny houses, some trailerable. On the frequently asked page he talks about how efficient they are, small walls yet well insulated.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Great stories, Cowtown and Padouk. Made me count my blessings, the first of which is "S" and his handyman talents. Also inspired me to join the discussion after being mostly silent and barely able to keep up with the kits for the reasons below. Since we moved two months ago, it has been one continual home improvement project: phone jacks, electrical plugs and switches, light fixtures, shelves, closet poles, furniture refinishing, new doors and knobs, screen repair, window blind installation, wall paper stripping, spackling, sanding, and painting. Last weekend, S built himself a workbench, attached a vise and ran electrical outlets and lighting to it. It may seem backwards to not build the workbench first, but between his stuff and mine, he had to clear enough space in the cellar to fit the darn thing. Now that he has his bench, he can start on the cedar storage closet he promised me, although I don't know where he's going to relocate all the stuff that's in the corner where the closet will be, maybe hooks on the ceiling? He is very talented with plumbing, electric and woodworking, but more importantly, he has patience, except for last night when the air turned blue because he couldn't locate the studs to nail the baseboard trim into. I was about to suggest Gorilla Glue, which has become the new duct tape in our house (that stuff will hold anything together), but thought the better of it. I don't think guys want to hear suggestions from "the little woman" at a time like that.

Meanwhile I am stripping, patching and painting the living room in thirds, moving the furniture and boxes around the room as I go. The walls were never primed before they were papered, so paper removal has been tedious and I'm becoming a very good spackler. It appears that the former owners experimented with some sort of bizarre decorative painting on the final wall being stripped and I fear that I will have to learn how to do skim coat plaster or hang new sheetrock. And did I mention the aggravation of my carpal tunnel? Last weekend I painted the trim around 48 panes of glass, twice. I think the sense of accomplishment and memories of my Dad doing similar projects (not to mention the money saved) is what drives me onward even when my hands are throbbing.

And the start of my kitchen remodel is still at least a month away. That's one project we're leaving to the pros. I built the last two houses I lived in (well, not personally...but you know what I mean) so all the hard work was done for me. It was great, but I feel more bonded to this little old house because we've had our hands all over it.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | July 20, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

But how tornado-safe are they? I would hate to find out if Oz is real for myself.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

I don't have time to list all the uses I've put duct tape to over the years. Thanks for remembering my wallet, omni. True fact: My wife bought me a new quilted fall work jacket because she got tired of the duct tape patches on the elbows of the old one.

And Mudge and I did discuss duct tape for our co-Kit. Really, there was no discussion.


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse

this is evidence of the duct tape wallet

Posted by: mo | July 20, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, I should clarify that discussion/non-discussion:

I said that we'd need duct tape.

And he nodded and said yup, as in, "Of course, dummy."


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

You're good, mo.

That was *quick*.


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers, you are very wise. The last thing a man needs when he's cussing a blue streak because something isn't working/broke/parts missing, etc., is advice from anyone (no matter how correct/useful/helpful it might be; merit has nothing to do with it).

I believe duct tape may have come up in the conversation, bc. I shall have to consult the minutes of the meeting.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 20, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse

That wallet looks fancy, is that designer duct tape? :)

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Congrats on the progress, Bad Sneakers. Sounds like you're going to have a treasure when you're done.

I find that sleeping with wrist braces on helps my carpel tunnel problems. Have you tried that?

Posted by: slyness | July 20, 2006 3:39 PM | Report abuse

for carpel i find the best thing that works for me is to put on a glove, make a fist, then wrap prodigious amounts of duct tape around it.hehe

Posted by: omni | July 20, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

sorry, I shouldn't be making jokes about carpel, I take back my previous post

Posted by: omni | July 20, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Bad Sneakers, good luck, as someone who will be moving soon I am looking forward to getting in and making the new house our own. Fortunately not much wallpaper, if any to strip.

Here is a link to a Chinese Lantern Festival that just started at Ontario Place in Toronto. Huge lanterns on display. Best pictures are under the Media tab. I have to work a few days at Ontario Place in the fall and look forward to viewing the displays.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Slyness, thanks for the suggestion. I have a brace for my left hand which I try to remember to use. Need to get one for the right. When the intensity of the work slacks off, my hands will be almost normal. Of course, it's going to be a while and I don't know how to slow down. Once I get into a project I can't wait to see it finished.

Mudge, thanks for the compliment, I just learn from past relationships/mistakes or is that mistaken relationships?

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | July 20, 2006 3:53 PM | Report abuse

We are beginning to seriously contemplate moving, which of course means that all the stuff we were going to do "eventually" in the house will now have to be done in 3 months or so so we can get a presentable product on the market. And of course we won't be able to enjoy any of it. I shudder at the thought.

Posted by: ebtnut | July 20, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

ebtnut, that "eventually" list in our house got completed in three weeks when we decided to move. Its amazing how fast it goes once you put your mind to it. When it was all done, I looked around and said "we are moving why?".

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Omni - LOL, I may try that! Even if it doesn't work, laughter eases pain.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | July 20, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Well -- not to bring a damper to activities. Great boat Mudge.

I just found out that not only is my apartment being redone, but that I am no longer considered "low-income enough" to stay. They changed the financial requirements. I have $600 a year more than the new upper income limit.

I'm being kicked out. I've lived in this community for 5 1/2 years -- it was my saving grace after I had to commit bankruptcy in '00 because I could not afford both rent and medicine.

I just finished my hysterical crying. Supposedly there are programs to help people like me buy homes (yucky condos in Williamsburg start at about $170K).

I'll be losing my garden, my affordable rent; I'm at a loss for words.

I was so grateful when i found this place after the bankruptcy -- I was faced with the same situation of unaffordable rent and medical bills -- now I don't know what I'm going to do.

Just finished crying -- talking with my mother. Wil now go pick up samples of migraine meds 'cause I'm gonna have a helluva migraine tonite!

I have always wanted so much to own a home so I could paint dust bunnies into the floor. But being single and on a limited disablity income I knew this was impossible. So I made this little apartment into a very nice place.

Love all the posts to the boodle today. Love the splendid writing and sense of humor that is always on display here.

Humor is the one thing I always turn to help in rough patches.

So keep it coming guys and girls.

Dave of the Coonties -- yeah, it would have been nice to have brand new everything -- at least I'm not being displaced like the folks that got hit by the hurricanes.

My folks lost their boat, which was their home at the time, in Frances.

Gonna go get those migraine meds now.

Posted by: nelson | July 20, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Well -- not to bring a damper to activities. Great boat Mudge.

I just found out that not only is my apartment being redone, but that I am no longer considered "low-income enough" to stay. They changed the financial requirements. I have $600 a year more than the new upper income limit.

I'm being kicked out. I've lived in this community for 5 1/2 years -- it was my saving grace after I had to commit bankruptcy in '00 because I could not afford both rent and medicine.

I just finished my hysterical crying. Supposedly there are programs to help people like me buy homes (yucky condos in Williamsburg start at about $170K).

I'll be losing my garden, my affordable rent; I'm at a loss for words.

I was so grateful when i found this place after the bankruptcy -- I was faced with the same situation of unaffordable rent and medical bills -- now I don't know what I'm going to do.

Just finished crying -- talking with my mother. Wil now go pick up samples of migraine meds 'cause I'm gonna have a helluva migraine tonite!

I have always wanted so much to own a home so I could paint dust bunnies into the floor. But being single and on a limited disablity income I knew this was impossible. So I made this little apartment into a very nice place.

Love all the posts to the boodle today. Love the splendid writing and sense of humor that is always on display here.

Humor is the one thing I always turn to help in rough patches.

So keep it coming guys and girls.

Dave of the Coonties -- yeah, it would have been nice to have brand new everything -- at least I'm not being displaced like the folks that got hit by the hurricanes.

My folks lost their boat, which was their home at the time, in Frances.

Gonna go get those migraine meds now.

Posted by: nelson | July 20, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, I am so sorry to hear about your news. I hope things work out.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 4:04 PM | Report abuse

sorry about the double post. Don't know how that happened.

Posted by: nelson | July 20, 2006 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Ebtnut and dmd, moving is right up there with death and divorce as a stressful event. But it's effects are not as lasting and eventually you locate most of the stuff that goes missing. I found that it pays to be ruthless in throwing stuff out prior to the move. With almost every box I open, there is at least one thing in it that makes me ask myself, "why did I keep this?" It's also a revelation to find how much of your stuff you don't need on a weekly or monthly basis. At least half of my boxes are still unopened, waiting for rooms to be finished. I do miss the sound of my ship's bell clock though.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | July 20, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm thinking about through-bolts to hold the boxes together, built-in ductwork with docking adapters to fit them together, and electrical plugs at the edges. I'm a little stymied by the thought of how to do the walls so that they are serviceable both as interior and as exterior walls, so I'm thinking that the boxes may come as cages with built-in electrical and ducting, then different skins can be applied to the different surfaces, complete with cut-outs for windows and doors. Boxes can be assembled as shotgun shacks, or with hallways connecting a complex of boxes, or the boxes could be assembled with wrap-around hallway modules on the outside. I think that plumbing is too hard to connect from room-to-room, and too hard to fix. Better to have a few pre-plumbed modules that are fed by a central location. Although, you should be able to stack plumbed modules so that they can share a soil-stack.

The skeleton probably should be welded steel or aluminum. I like wood, but wood joints are terrible for tensile strength. This thing would have lots of butt-joints between modules that would need to be fastened by through-bolts. The house needs to maintain integrity at the module joints as well as between the modules.

An advantage of over-engineering with a steel-skeleton house is that you can imagine some really wild constructions. For instance, put a central module on top of a piling that goes down 30-40 feet, and hang all the other modules off of it like a Christmas tree. Or, build a steel-frame arch with a wire-cable basket that supports the central module and hang the whole house in the air (plumbing would need to be entirely internal, with a composting toilet that is periodically emptied). Build a house in the shape of an arch, with staircases connecting successive vertical modules.

Thinking, thinking, thinking ...

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 20, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse


*HUGS* You're going to be fine in much less time than you think. Do check with the W-burg Housing Authority and see what rules there might be about allowing a "transition period," or whatever phrasing they use, so that you can find something for you.

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 20, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

dmd, yes, that's designer ductape.

The adhsive does not roll off into wads of black stickiness easily, nice stuff.

Nelson, I hope your situaton gets better. I'll be thinking about you.


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 4:17 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, heres a pre-fab, steel, modular house. Might help with the ideas.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Oh Nelson, I'm so sorry. I will send good thoughts your way.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | July 20, 2006 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Best wishes with housing assistance.
In central Florida, I'm seeing some really junky rental apartments being condo-ized. If I were moving here now, I might be stuck in one of them, thanks to rising prices.

Assuming housing necessities get taken care of, gardening opportunities are likely to be available. My sister runs an off-site rose garden. I'd be in demand if the time were available.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 20, 2006 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Tim what you might need is a whole corner component and then an inside trim and outside trim. Like inside and outside corners for drywall. This could be a bit wider for access and repair, but, but once you have the connection designed, it could be finished in a hundred different ways. It could be just a narrow panel of the interior or exterior finish to cover the access end, say 4-6 inches? If you look at your standard office finishes, it's just a butt joint where the finish goes right round the whole board. A little visible but not at all bad looking.

Posted by: dr | July 20, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

SciTim, how about walls of inner and outer skins, with tubes running between the inner and outer walls. I'd be more inclined to use a plastic or some sort of composite than a metal; who wants to live in a beer can when the wind starts blowing or the rain starts coming down? I 'spect it'd be like living in a drum.

Moving air makes a fine insulator, though you should use some other insulator in the walls as a noise deadener.

The tubes could serve as conduit (for electrical or water lines - heck you could use rubber or braided steel or plastic hose with the conduit to protect/channel it), ductwork, or just fill with insulation if you want. The walls would have vertical tubes, the floors horizontal. Snap in some 90 deg bends when you're assembling, and you can direct a lot of what you want where you want it, provided you plan it out ahead of time.

This is an interesting idea.


Posted by: bc | July 20, 2006 4:43 PM | Report abuse

600 dollars doesn't seem like much, nelson. There has to be something they are missing. Surely within the week, the cost of your meds is going to go up. Is it a gross income type submission without taking into account the costs?

Is it possible to talk with your representative in gov't?

Posted by: dr | July 20, 2006 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, I wish disability supplies/medicine was more than just tax-deductible-- disabilty per se should be considered an income burden.

The fact is, it's much more expensive to be disabled than non-disabled no matter your income statement says. Not as expensive as having a kid (although it depends, some people really need a lot), but still expensive.

What is never covered is the wasted money because you needed taxis, movers, and many other miscellaneous expenses for assistance that become key, things like that. Who can keep all of that straight and record that for the IRS?

$600 over the cap, yes, but your actual disposable income to be used for rent etc. is a lot less.

Such a big shock, too-- I empathize.

I think you need to be calling your local housing authority AND HUD and seeing if anything can be done-- those apts tend to have to follow affordable housing guidelines, and that depends on income in your area, going market rate, etc.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Dr, I can definitely say they do not take in account expenses for disability. You have to submit your income tax and your income information, as well as any savings in 401Ks, etc.

And then there is an acrane formula they use to decide that you make too much. The upshot is that affordable housing income/price ratio and caps always seem to be designed to keep you poor and stuck there-- good luck saving anything without getting kicked out for being poor AND frugal.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Missing link from before.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Whew. I expect the rigamarole one goes through for subsidised housing is much the same here.

Surely the costs for transportation is tax deductible? bus? Any tax type people, accountants familiar with her area, who might be able to give nelson a hand to find $600 more allowable expenses?

Posted by: dr | July 20, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Let's say for a given place, HUD affordable housing guidelines say it must be no more than 60% of median market price.

$1 too much, and you're supposed to be able to afford a place that costs 167% of what you're paying right now?

Those affordable housing rules do help keep affordable housing available (let's face it, a 40% income loss is considerable for the landlord, and HUD guidelines are tough too-- it's safe and easy dough and they aren't about to get in trouble from a HUD crackdown).

But affordable housing rules do not address the true underlying problem-- out-of-control real estate and income inequality, and the lack of opportunity to buy homes at affordable prices.

There are HUD programs, all with elaborate rules designed to prevent fraud-- buying houses for cheap and then reselling at profit, again due to the real estate market issue.

I think the tax laws are extremely biased towards real estate, making it the most profitable property transactions you can do.

For instance, why SHOULD anybody get a tax break for having a mortagage while I don't get any for renting?
Why can you sell a house tax-free after age 65, but not a business, a boat, etc?

Fact is, we're subsidizing real estate agents and developers as much or even more than we're subsidizing farmers. And that's a lot.

It's something Error needs to address in his tax reform package. Error in '08!

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 5:03 PM | Report abuse

nelson, I'm so sorry. When you land where you're going to be, I'll bring you plants from my yard. My mother gave me much of what I have, and I will be delighted to share. Can we do anything to salvage what's in the current garden for future use?

Posted by: Slyness | July 20, 2006 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Up here we envy the ability to deduct mortgage interest. You're right though; it may be an incentive for home ownership but it's also a subsidy for people that aren't limited to renting.

Where in the U.S. would a fixed income go furthest these days, do you think?

nelson, good luck.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 5:26 PM | Report abuse

For retirement-type fixed income...

Minnesota, Michigan, possibly-- any place with high unemployment and lousy schools is also likely to have low real estate costs since people are moving away for jobs. The tradeoff is that hospitals and cultural events etc. may not be of the best.

I hear Montana is good, too, if you don't mind seeing nobody but coyotes all day.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

wilbrod - part of having a mortgage is also having to pay property tax above the mortgage payment - mine is due this month and it's pretty darn big...

Posted by: mo | July 20, 2006 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I have to agree about the distorting effects of real estate tax laws. I benefit greatly from the mortgage interest deduction, but I will not unilaterally give up this benefit, because the other costs of living are distorted to accommodate it. It was a bad idea, and now we're stuck with it.

The mortgage interst deduction distorts the whole housing system. It was created to make house-purchase affordable on low income. In practice, it has allowed house prices to inflate, and jack up the commissions of real estate agents. The same low-income persons now are frozen out of the housing market, not precisely by the cost of mortgage payments, but by the cost of transaction fees at the time of purchase, which are based on the inflated cost of the house. The problem is, it's a very hard system to scrap, because most voters (and certainly most campaign donors) benefit from it. Scrapping the system not only takes away a benefit -- it really slams people who purchased their home with the system in place. You need to devise a plan to fade away the mortgage-interest deduction without suddenly slamming existing homeowners/sellers.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 20, 2006 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Try living in Alberta and seeing nobody but the Montanans watching out for coyotes.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Scottynuke -- thanks for the HUG.

Thanks all for the supportive posts. I'm too much in shock to think about much of anything right now.

One would think there is some sort of standard income base. The DO Agriculture is the department that subsidizes these apartments.

The previous limit was actually an astounding 36K (they had lost some sort of tax status). When I first moved here it was about $23K -- and that has gone up over time. My income is $21,700. The new limit is $21,100.

$21,700 may seem to be a fair amount of money (not really, but better than say, $10,000).

But until Medicare Part D (the prescription drug disaster) came along, I was paying upwards of $5,000 a year for medicine alone. I get a lot of my meds from samples from good docs (hence my running out to pick up migraine samples).

Then there are the doctor bills to pay, say, another $500 a year.

I will almost reach the Part D "catastrophic coverage" amount this year, $3,500 out-of-pocket. This is actually a savings. But I won't actually get to the point where they pay for all my meds. I bought the most expensive program I could find, so my generics are covered in the so-called gap. And yet I'm still gonna spend close to $3000 or more.

I can only think of all the people who make $600 over the $14,000 figure (I think) that is the cut-off for full prescription drug coverage under Part D. Same situation. How the hell does someone pay $3,500 out of $14,000?

The irony is that under the old program, I actually qualified for rental assistance, instead of paying the nominally low straight rent, because my medical costs are so outlandish.

I've no idea how the new income levels were decided. I was too busy crying in the rental office to ask. But they are not in line with other low-income housing in this area -- it's about $3,000 less.

I was told they will subsidize my rent elsewhere for 42 months, so that it will stay the same.

This new company also has a mortgage assistance program. But I think it has to be on their properties, which are all in Virginia Beach. Due to certain circumstances, I can't leave Williamsburg.

I don't know how long I have to make new arrangements. But I do seem to have some leeway.

Slyness, thanks so much for your offer of plants! I should post some pictures of my garden before I tear it out this fall and give it all away. It's been a great haven for me and a source of endless pleasure (even though I had to cut back al the roses -- the dirty japanese beetles won -- they're swarming; ten or more on each bloom).

I duno -- I'm just shell-shocked. I'll figure out something.

Or it may be the time to really hit up my parents for help and finally be able to move back home, to the West. Albuquerque is very affordable (can afford to go back to Colorado).

It's a real struggle to make ends meet when one has not enough money to pay for meds and other necessities, yet too much money for any assistance. I've been turned down by every single assistance program I tried until I found this housing development.

Sigh . . . .

Posted by: nelson | July 20, 2006 5:50 PM | Report abuse

mo, the tricky thing about real estate subsidies and property taxes is that Wilbrod and other renters DO pay those taxes. Property owners set rent high enough to pay the mortgage and the property taxes, so the renters really are paying for it. The rental property breaks even, while the owner graciously accepts the tax benefits. The property doesn't begin to genuinely produce a profit until after the mortgage is paid off. Then the owner either sells it and reaps the equity that his renters have conveniently purchased for him, or continues to rent it out with no mortgage expense to pay. Is it any wonder that old rental properties become run-down? Rent is almost entirely profit after the mortgage is paid. Why dilute that with the cost of maintenance? Before retiring the mortgage, there's an incentive to maintain the facility, because the owner may prefer to take profits through the sale of the structure, so it has to be in good condition.

In the long run, it makes more sense for an owner to rent a property than to sell it. However, we live in an economy that favors quick profits and liquidity rather than the long haul, which I suspect is why cheaply-built instant condos are so popular. Maintenance costs and responsibiltiies go away, profits are immediate (though not so great as they could be), and you get to milk the "owners" for facility-upkeep fees.

This business is especially egregious with renting single-family homes. In that case, the renter is paying what it would cost to buy the place (except for real estate inflation from when the owner originally purchased it). The difference is that the renter does not have the initial funds to get past the fees and downpayment -- which have been artifially inflated by the mortgage-interest deduction.

Hmmm. mo, I thought that you just bought recently. Isn't your property tax paid by your mortgage-holder?

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 20, 2006 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Leastaways you got moose and golf in Alberta, SoC, as well as the leftover Olympic stuff from the games in Calgary.

I heard that an old classmate of mine is now growing pot in Montana.

So, the law enforcement up there are probably watching out for stoned coyotes.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Am I correct, I believe you can also deduct the interest on mortgages for vacation property, boats etc? Wouldn't a portion of rent include an amount to cover property tax?

Where I am we have a land transfer tax, when you buy a house a percentage is taxed, roughly 1 to 1.5% that was there solution to prevent property filling that was out of control in the late 80's.

On a funny note I read an article yesterday from Buffalo bemoaning the fact that employers can't get employees because people don't want to live in Buffalo, due in part to NY taxes, despite affordable living costs.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Hmm, how outrageous ARE those taxes? I thought the problem with NY taxes was they were so endlessly complicated?

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Just heard from Joel, who writes:

"There's wine here. I kid you not.

" Louvre has a whole bunch of paintings. I mean like dozens and dozens. It would take literally at least an hour to see the entire Louvre.

"Also, Saint Chapelle would be perfect for a baseball "Home Run Derby" in which you get points for hitting the ball into the stained glass at the end of the chapel, with 100 points if you can hit the bullseye."

Sounds like he's having fun.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 20, 2006 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod -- I for one, would love to go to Montana or Wyoming, or even Canada and visit our Northern boodlers!

But it's too dadgum cold for me anymore.

If I weren't alone, and sick, I would move to Mexico or some other Spanish speaking country in a heartbeat. Spain, maybe. I'm in love with the culture and architecture of many Spanish-speaking countries. Living in one would certainly heighten my sense of real poverty. Maybe too depressing.

I don't know a thing about mortgages and taxes, closing costs, etc. because I've never been able to afford to buy. am afraid that even if I found something that, with some assistance, had an affordable mortgage, I would get in trouble with the problems like maintenance, taxes, etc.

Posted by: nelson | July 20, 2006 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, without going into any great (revealing/personal) detail, what is the source of your income? Is there some way it could be "reduced" by $601 and then made up some other "unseen" way?

Is the threshold a "net" or a "gross" figure? Whichever, is there some way an accountant could show your "true" income (whatever that means) is actually $601 less than it appears? There's gotta be a way...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 20, 2006 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, split your time, up here in summer, today we we 3 degree F cooler than Washington, somewhere warm in winter. Although pretty expensive here for some things.

Wilbrod I believe the complaint with NY taxes was that in comparison to NC (example used) it just wasn't comparable. We have similar situations here, different provinces have different tax rates.

This topic is intesting as I had a discussion with a friend the other day about your mortgage deduction provisions and the various implications is causes.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Tim, some real estate mortgages require that you pay the real estate tax as part of your monthly mortgage payment; then they hold it in escrow, and then make the payments for you. Some just require half, some not at all. There's a lot of variation between local mortgage brokers, state laws, etc. on this. Impossible to generalize across the board.

Also, when you buy a house, often there's a sizable sales tax and other taxes built into it, and they are included as part of the mortgage. This is especially true in areas where the zoning people are trying to hold down development, or imposing major add-on fees to pay for schools, infrastructure, etc.--somethimes pretty sizable fees. So these are included, and the mortgage company pays them right off the bat, and then you repay them just as a part of your mortgage payment; you might not even be very aware that they are there if you haven't paid attention during closing (not that you can do anything about it).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 20, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

tim - i bought about 8 months ago - the initial taxes were covered but i just got a bill... i'm so confused! i wish i had an accountant who could figure all this stuff out for me... i really don't have a head for realestate!

Posted by: mo | July 20, 2006 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Great Googly Moogly!

This inspires me to create a catchphrase for Honest Error in '08 when trying to explain the errors of overlegislation (monkeying with) of basic property purchases:

"There's always less banana for the money when there is more monkey for the money."


Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, the last time we refinanced, the deal was you put money in escrow for taxes and insurance (on which you get no interest) or you paid an extra point (1%) fee/or the rate was an eighth of a point higher. We went with the escrow, but it's a pain. What really frosts me is how they estimate it annually and change what you owe. Ours went down $50 a month this year, because they overestimated last year and had too much in the account.

Posted by: Slyness | July 20, 2006 6:32 PM | Report abuse

mo-call your mortgage company or look at the statement they send you and see whether they take anything out for taxes. I own a townhouse with my parents that the mortgage company pays the taxes for (with the escrow and all that), but we still periodically get bills from the gov't for taxes because they hadn't gotten the check before the date they sent out the bills.

Posted by: GyppedOne | July 20, 2006 6:34 PM | Report abuse

mo, check your e-mail.

Running for the bus now.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 20, 2006 6:35 PM | Report abuse

That's, um, great Wilbrod. Is Error the monkey or the banana?

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 6:39 PM | Report abuse

How polite of you, SoC.

Well if he was running against W, no question who the monkey is...

Besides it does not matter if the monkey is Democrat or Republican, they all want bananas. (Or ARE bananas.).

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 20, 2006 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Well, it can't be any worse than my suggestion of "Vote for Error and You'll Never Have to Vote Again"

He let me down easy and said it was a little "off message".

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Well, it can't be any worse than my suggestion of "Vote for Error and You'll Never Have to Vote Again"

He let me down easy and said it was a little "off message". And something about sticking to the talking points.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Mudge -- The source of my income is Social Security and private disability insurance. Can't do anything to alter these.

I've been lying in bed wondering how the hell they managed to deduct stuff before, like Medicare premiums, etc, to get a net maxiumun income, and now it's just straight gross?

I'm not certain they have calculated this correctly. Or if what they are doing is within the spirit of the law.

Think I'm gonna do some investigating before I start to pack up and dismantle the garden.

The whole thing just seems too bizarre.

dmd -- I bet summers are a lot nicer. Where are you in the Great North?

Was in Ontario once in June -- it was crazy hot!

Posted by: nelson | July 20, 2006 7:35 PM | Report abuse

This is only tangentially related to Tim's exploration of modular homes, buulated concrete construction when I first came across it a few years ago:

Posted by: Bob S. | July 20, 2006 9:05 PM | Report abuse

"buulated" was acually supposed to be:

"but I was intrigued by this foam-insulated ..."

Posted by: Bob S. | July 20, 2006 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, I am in Ontario, near Toronto, and it does get crazy hot mostly due to humidity.

Bob S, saw that link to Tim's ideas got me curious, I was always a fan of Habitat at Expo 67.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 9:13 PM | Report abuse

>It's something Error needs to address in his tax reform package. Error in '08!

Whew, the whole thing is a mess. When I rented I had people give me a hard time because I got some property tax rebates. They said "but you don't pay any property tax!" To which I said, "What, you think it's not wrapped up in my rent? You think the landlord just sucks that up?"

That said, my property taxes just went up $2k/yr. Ouch. It's pretty unusual for your rent to go up $180/mo out of nowhere, although they are on the rise. There are also a ton of expenses to owning rather than renting. A ton. The mortgage deduction does help quite a bit. Not sure what the number is but I believe there is (or should be) a cut-off at some point around $500k to prevent people from loading up on a huge mortgage just to get the deduction and game the system.

I'm sure it does encourage home owneership to some extent, but in general I'm against using the tax code to do social engineering. The thing about engineering is real engineers can do calculations and test their results. Social engineers just throw crap at the wall and can't possibly ever know or prove that their ideas result in any good. It distorts the real estate market just like business deductions distort year-end spending. Businesses buy stuff when they don't need to and can't buy it when they should. If you think drilling a well or doing some research will help your business you should do it, not do it because of some bought-and-paid-for Congress-critter stuffed a loophole in an unrelated bill.

Nelson, I dearly hope you will find an even better garden somewhere. I think it really speaks more to our absurd health-care situation than subsidized housing though.

Maybe it's not too late to get delivery on those t-shirts...

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 20, 2006 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Error if I could vote for you I would.

Just wish politician on either side of the border could be so honest.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 9:36 PM | Report abuse

heh, thanks so much. If it keeps getting hotter I may make the move after all. Wonder if that "Marry An American" site is still up.... that cracked me up.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 20, 2006 9:43 PM | Report abuse

When I was a young Air Force guy in California in the 80's, renters got a tax credit (not a deduction, but a credit directly off of the taxes, which would increase the refund if they owed you money), in recognition of the fact that they were, in fact, the ones paying the mortgages. It wasn't a heck of a lot (a couple hundred bucks, as I recall), but every little bit helped!

Posted by: Bob S. | July 20, 2006 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Is that mortgage interest deduction for any mortgage? The only thing we have is that your primary residence does not incur capital gains.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 20, 2006 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Its still there Error, I had never heard of it, pretty funny particularly the FAQ page.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Sacre bleu! There's wine in France and pictures in the Louvre? Who'd a thunk?

Hope Joel is having a good time. I see Landis took the lead again today in the Tour.

Error -- I'm with you 100% on the health care problem. I, and thousands of others like me wouldn't be squeezed like this if the country would fix our health care.

My hope is to one day have a flourishing xerophilic garden in New Mexico -- if I can ever figure out mortgages.

Get the t-shirts ready! Who is your running mate? I have experience on the campaign trail . . . heck, I even have a picture of me shaking hands will Bill Clinton, while Hillary stands near smiling! I look like a young version of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the picture (sans glasses) so Hillary was nice to me. That was a very long time ago -- ancient history.

Bob S. -- thanks for the link to DAC site. I see they have straw bale house plans. Would love to build, or at least live in one.

Have a friend who built how own straw bale house in Surrey County, Virginia. He had to jump through incredible hoops to get a building permit (this ain't Caleeforneyah down here). It's a very nice house, with radiant heat flooring, and a wood stove for most of the heating functions.

He had a saltwater aquarium in that house, really intricate one. When Isabel blew through here in '03 -- he drove three hours one way to find a generator to keep the animals alive.

Somehow I missed Tim's modular homes post -- is it in this boodle? I scrolled back through but didn't see it.

dmd -- how cold does it get in Toronto near Ontario in winter? I bet pretty cold with weather coming off the lake.

I think an American might still do okay in Canada using the American dollar. Maybe.

Off to bed. Thanks all for suggestions on the housing problem. Will start making phone calls tomorrow. Gotta put it in perspective -- it's not Katrina or some other awful catastrophe.

I'm really hoping the Hurricane Gods give us all a break this year. May they all blow out to sea and lose their steam. May no one lose a home this year.

Posted by: nelson | July 20, 2006 10:08 PM | Report abuse

SoC Primary or Secondary residence upto 1.1 mil.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 10:10 PM | Report abuse

Winters here vary, but moderated by the lake, we do have cold spells though, similar in weather to Chicago, just not much snow.

Posted by: dmd | July 20, 2006 10:14 PM | Report abuse

I believe you can still deduct vacation home mortgage as well as boats.

The funny thing is changing the mortgage deduction is politically untenable, but it's really the least of the reasons to buy a house. It's certainly not why I bought a house. I bought because I wanted some self-determination. I wanted a little more space, I wanted relief from the lunatic woman below me who had two dogs that freaked out whenever I touched the doorknob, from the people screaming in the parking lot behind me at 2am, relief from the thieves trying to steal my cars.

I lucked out big-time, and basically own a small park with no visible neighbors. I have about the same floor space as my apartment. For this I pony up nearly $3k/mo., so I won't lie, I appreciate the mortgage deduction.

What we need to do is cut spending so we can all have some relief. Did you see the article about farmers getting checks for $40k for federal drought aid when they had no drought?

This kind of stuff is the real problem with the whole system.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 20, 2006 10:19 PM | Report abuse

nelson - Yup, it's this 'boodle. Tim & others have noodled it a bit, starting here:

[Posted by: ScienceTim | July 20, 2006 01:57 PM]

Posted by: Bob S. | July 20, 2006 10:20 PM | Report abuse

RD, CowTown, great Kits! I was trying not to laugh too loud while reading at work - and after a work-related call in the middle of the night, I needed some laughs! I couldn't resist the "continue" button to finish CowTown's story, so I read the boodle too. What are they gonna do, fire me? (Well, yeah.) My favorite line from RD -
"Unfortunately, 3000 gallons of water tends to have a mind of its own."

And CowTown - "You muffed it" is now in my vocabulary. (Have your wives seen this?)

bc and Mudge, you have a hard act to follow!

nelson, so sorry to hear about your housing woes. I hated renting because I always had to leave gardens - or wasn't allowed to have a garden. I hope it works out for the best for you. And I'll gladly contribute seeds or bulbs or whatever you need for your new garden, wherever that is. New Mexico sounds good to me. I also know an economically depressed area in western Pa where housing is quite affordable - but it gets cold in the winter.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 20, 2006 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Great kits, CT and RD. Overthinking is right up my alley. My wife is of the opinion that I must have been separated from you two at birth. I could offer numerous exhibits as evidence, but suffice it to say that any task associated with our ongoing restoration takes twice to three times as long as planned. Lately it has been reglazing a double hung three over three set of sashes. I have ten hours in these pieces at this posting, and it's killing my hands. All of the old, wavy glass has been saved but it has been a 24K you-know-what in the process. Keep at it Bad Sneakers its worth it.

Nelson: I'm sorry to hear of your predicament. Needless to say, the advice in the boodle will be productive and everything will be alright. Don't be like me and make a mountain of things...I get quite distressed over what turns out in the end to be of little significance. Peace be with you.

Slyness: I hope you read my post about the upcoming Carolina's Chapter BPH. Soccer and a dog show are during the same weekend. My wife and I have no choice to divide and conquer. Thus, I'm not sure at this point where I'll be, but I know I'll be able to find you, TBG, et. al., at Harpurs. Let me know the date and time.

Posted by: jack | July 20, 2006 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, I echo the comments of others to hang in there. There should be a way to remedy your situation. Wish I could help more than moral support but, based upon experience, be firm, be reasonably polite, but under no circumstances take "no" for a final answer until you are completely convinced you gotta go elsewhere.

Woody Allen famously said that eighty percent of success is just showing up. At LEAST eighty percent of getting a result you really want or need is just stubborn persistence.

Sorry if this seems like hollow advice. This stuff really cheeses me off. Like Governors that slice medicaid benefits as thin as possible despite the impact to the most vulnerable to justify monikers they may have "earned" as Budget Director in Washington.

Posted by: Bill Everybody | July 20, 2006 10:50 PM | Report abuse

Test: Mohair

Posted by: Bob S. | July 20, 2006 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, just trying to figure why a post is being "held" for review.

Posted by: Bob S. | July 20, 2006 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Maybe JA holds these posts in escrow for a desparate day when he's got nothing else left to say?

Posted by: Bob S. | July 20, 2006 11:03 PM | Report abuse

Sigh... "desperate" day, that is.

Posted by: Bob S. | July 20, 2006 11:05 PM | Report abuse

To leaven the last diatribe, a couple other WA quips:

"I'm not really the heroic type. I was beat up by Quakers." (Sleeper)

"The key is, to not think of death as an end, but as more of a very effective way to cut down on your expenses." (Love and Death)

SCC: Everybody - Everything (Freudian jurisprudential slip?)

Posted by: Bill Everything | July 20, 2006 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Excellent kits, fellers. The most accurate description of my home repair skills is that I'm like the three stooges all by myself. Only not as funny.

Forturnately, the wife is both very forgiving and very handy.

Good luck, Nelson. Two pieces of advice: 1) Squeaky wheels get the grease; if some bureaucrat cannot help you, make it clear that you need to speak with someone who can. 2) To echo what someone said earlier, elected officials can help you. They're especially effective when you're getting caught by rules being changed mid-stream, or by rules being applied inconsistently. Polite squeaking is recommended in this venue. Hang in there.

Posted by: silvertongue | July 20, 2006 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I should just shorten my handle to bdl if everyone is getting lurkered out? Good idea?

I really enjoyed the Kit(s) today and laughed heartily with all the do it yourself stuff. Great posting RD and CT. Your turn of phrases and mental image making were wonderful.

Slyness, thanks for the info in the last boodle about comparative prices for tree downing. She (my daughter) is getting quotes of extra charges for stump and wood removal.

I also wear braces on my wrists at night to prevent the carpal tunnel syndrome from recurring. Best thing I did when first had problems twenty years ago was change my hand and arm position when using the computer and get a wrist rest. I didn't need an operation and haven't been bothered much since. I had an orthop. surgeon who wanted me to manage it without surgery. Highly unusual but it worked.

Mudge - like your blue bottom. I raced sailboats on Lake Michigan many years ago and like any kind of watercraft but now live among cornfields with little navigable (SCC) water nearby.

Since I am an accountant I can shed some light perhaps on tax and mortgage deduction questions. Most of you have answered previous queries, but I will add my two cents. Mo, do check with the mortgage company to see if they are collecting taxes with your payment as part of escrow. Sometimes govt. send out tax bills and then you need to send them to the mortgage co. or else they send duplicates so you have an idea what to deduct on your taxes.

Nelson - Sorry to hear about your apt problems. I helped manage an apt project funded by the dept of agric. many yrs ago and they figured medical expenses in the formula for the rental assistance and charges for rent. Everyone was always saving medical bills for the recertification. Ask some questions about the process, because it seems odd that it would suddenly change by so much. Don't give up, keep seeking answers.

Wilbrod, you mentioned not having to pay fed. taxes on selling your house if you are over 65. In 1997 they changed the laws so that if you live in the home used as a personal residence for a total of 2 out of 5 yrs you can exclude $250,000 of gain if single and $500,000 if mfj (in most cases) without any reference to age. One can do this once every two years. (IRCode Sec. 121(b)). Of course there are all kinds of rules and exceptions, this is the simplified explanation.

Keep the kits coming, boodlers, they are great.


Posted by: boondocklurker | July 20, 2006 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Bdl, or you could find a new word in lieu of "Lurker"... BoondockLox? ;)

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 21, 2006 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Boondocklurker, didn't mean to impose "lurker" handle guilt on others; thought I was the the most recent one to come on board that way, so decided to be "clever." New handle also helps the shop steward keep track of the tally of the plague of lawyers.

Posted by: Bill Everything | July 21, 2006 12:12 AM | Report abuse

I googled Havanese dogs - they are pretty cute. Are you the dog handler, or does that duty fall to someone else? Good luck - sounds like a fun thing to do with the whole family.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 21, 2006 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Great kits, everyone!

Jumper--would theoreticially paying yourself minimum wage for thinking solve the slave labor problem?

Posted by: Boodleaire | July 21, 2006 2:11 AM | Report abuse

Great kits, everyone!

Jumper--would theoreticially paying yourself minimum wage for thinking solve the slave labor problem?

Posted by: Boodleaire | July 21, 2006 2:11 AM | Report abuse

Yipes, sorry about the double-post.

Posted by: Boodleaire | July 21, 2006 2:12 AM | Report abuse

Great kit(s)! It reminds me why I don't do house improvementy if I don't have to. Not that I am incabable, merely that it is far too time-consuming.

SciTim - Regarding your lego block style house building material; it is unfortunately in existence. I saw it being used last year whilst working on gas lines. Its construnction is a white plastic covered wood(i believe) two and three-sided with aluminum bracers between. it is filled with concrete for foundations and ductwork/electrical above ground.

It's off to the races for me this weekend. Yay, Hooray. Grand Prix of Edmonton go champ cars.

Posted by: Kerric | July 21, 2006 2:40 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. RD and Cow town, your kits are excellent. Just really, really, great guys. I needed to laugh, and I certainly got that with both. If the writing keeps getting this good, do we need our fearless leader? Just kidding, Joel. Hope the vacation is everything and more. I'm up, can't sleep. It has been a long week. Last class today. Hopefully we'll get out early.

Still hot here, but getting a lot of rain in the form of thunder boomers.

I seriously hope Nani writes a kit. If you're lurking, come back, we miss you, Nani.

I love those DIY shows. They make that stuff look so easy, but I don't believe it to be so. I think they have expert to do the work so people will run out to Lowe's and Home Deport to buy stuff. Yet I enjoy watching Home and Garden and DIY, I believe because of the creativity.

Please be careful in the heat. And know that God loves you more than you can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Nelson, sorry about your situation, but I would look deeply into it before packing any boxes. There just might be a loop hole. You will be in my prayers.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 21, 2006 3:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm fairly certain that my marriage of 14 years has survived because of a single mantra that both my husband and I adopted early on, after attempting to hang wallpaper together. It is beautiful in its simplicity:

"Hire a professional."

Posted by: Pixel-back-in-VA | July 21, 2006 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, what I meant to say was, "Great Kits, Handy-Guys!"

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