Friday, December 25, 2009
That's all. Back to the pies.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I haven't blogged for a while. The reason is that the computer smoked itself.
A puff of smoke came out and it quit.
That is a true demonstraion of "Halt and catch fire" in the real world.
Friday, November 27, 2009
I have added to my blog the ability to leave comments. Please be gentle.
To avoid excessive noise from the SPAM bots that cruise the net I have made use of the CAPTCHA technology on the comments page. You can see a brief introduction to CAPTCHA here. It simply requires you to enter some letters and numbers that appear in the CAPTCHA image at the bottom of the page in order to verify that you are a real person and not a malicious program.
The letters in the CAPTCHA are upper case, and the test is case sensitive. I appreciate your patience with this unseemly, but necessary encumbrance imposed on us by the piratical forces that sail the internet.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Speaking of architecture, we have begun the business of demolishing this old house and rebuilding on the lot in earnest. This is the beginning of a financial blood-letting which we have not experienced before - even after putting two children through college.
As a bit if background material, I have been described by a colleague at work in the following way:
"You are so tight you could squeeze a buffalo nickel and get fertilizer out of it".
Well, now we get to start writing the Big Checks. We have sent a retainer to the surveyor so that he can start surveying the lot for the project.
Let the fun begin.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I work in Cambridge Massachusetts, and buildings are going up all the time there. Even during this recession they are building on every square foot of land. We have the MIT Sloan School of Management being built and the Koch Cancer Research Center being built along with lots of other things. The architecture is all the same... ugly glass boxes with gewgaws on them.
Back in the old days, buildings were made of natural materials and designed to stand up. Construction details revolved around the load-bearing members and keystones which kept the whole building together. Decorations were added to make the necessary props and beams presentable. For example, the flying buttress on the French cathedral is a structural member that keeps the walls from tumbling down. Arches and gargoyles were added to dress up the prop, and after a few hundred years the buttress became a fashion statement.
In these modern times, the invention of new building materials has allowed the architects to construct just about any kind of building they want to in any shape they want to. The decorations on these buildings are stainless rails and bars and overhangs that are just overhangs with no function. There are cantilevered windows and walkways with no way to access them.
There is one building I walk past that has a tiny little fire escape that starts four stories up and follows twists and turns down the side of the building until it ends at a tiny ladder above the main entry, too high to grip. The thing is painted bright purple, and it is useless unless you happen to be six inches tall. Even then, that last step would kill you. It looks ridiculous.
I think I like the old way better.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
I work in Cambridge Massachusetts. To get to work I ride the train into Boston and then take a bus from Boston out to Cambridge.
On my bus ride we go down First Street in Cambridge, and on that street there is a shoe store called "David's Shoes". On the side of the building that houses David's Shoes is a sign that says "Shoes On First".
That seems clever to me... which proves that I am pretty groggy that early in the morning.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Now that we are seriously thinking about building a new house I have been paying attention to architecture a bit more than I used to.
I work in Cambridge Massachusetts which is known for its "interesting" architecture... witness the Stata Center at MIT. Here is a link.
The word "weird" comes to mind.
But that is not the subject of this entry. Today I was walking down the street past the Whitehead Institute on Main Street, and I noticed something. The Whitehead Institute is a nicely designed building with a faux stone and tile facade and a nice brick courtyard out front. On one of the handrails leading up to the courtyard is a small oval sign made of metal. The sign is copper colored, and cast into it is the message:
"BICYCLES ATTACHED TO RAILINGS WILL BE REMOVED"
in all caps... just like that.
Once I had seen it, I could not make it go away. It draws the eye to it like a defect in a perfect piece of furniture. This ugly bit of urban discipline is the pimple on the cheek of the debutante. It is the flyspeck on the wedding cake that, although tiny, ruins the whole affair. This is the cough in the quiet part of your favorite musical performance.
The architect designed and worried, and the investors invested, and the craftsmen took pains to erect the building to perfection... and then they bolted a blight to it. Somebody had to decide that it was a good idea, have it manufactured, and then bolt it to railing and walk away.
It makes me wonder, "What were they thinking"?
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
We had an interesting incident on Monday. We are talking to an architect about designing a replacement house for us. Just as we were about to be visited by the architect, the clothes dryer started making a horrendous noise. We were hoping that the appliances would hold out until the bulldozers put them into the dump.
Coincidence? I don't think so.
So, the architect showed up and we explained what was going on, and the architect said, "Oh I know a guy who can fix that for you." and gave us a name.
The next day, we called the guy up and he came out right away. He tore the beast apart and found a masticated, burned up sock stuck in the fan. He cleaned it all up and put it all back together and it works. This sort of thing never happens!
To attribute this to chance is just not possible. I think that the house knows that we have found our "Ghost Busters", and that it is doomed.
I also think that this blog might turn into a "How I Built A House" page, similar to the "How I Built a Banjo" pages I wrote..... but longer and with more weeping.
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
House From Hell
We have a house.
We are going to tear it down and build a new house on the same lot.
We are doing that because it is the House From Hell.
Have you seen the movie "The Money Pit", or perhaps the movie "Mouse Hunt"? Well those houses were a cakewalk compared to our house.
Our house was built in the mid 1940's, the Dark Ages of architecture. The design of the house is horrid, being made of cinder blocks and stucco with single pane, steel casement windows. And to top off the bad design, the construction of it was botched as well.
Here is an example. The slab of our house... yes the house is on a slab.. was poured on fill that was not properly tamped down, hence, shortly after the house was completed, the slab sank at the front and cracked in the middle. This is not an insignificant drop. It has settled at least six inches over the years.
So all the floors on the ground level are slanted toward the street. If you put a marble on the floor, it will inevitably roll toward the front of the house until it disappears into the maw between the broken slab and its footing. Pens and pencils will likewise disappear into the abyss. The remains of small rodents are entombed there, the poor creatures unable to climb out against the force of gravity. We feared for our children when they were small. In fact, the grade of the living room floor is so steep that three or four times each week we have to push the sofa back up the hill into the middle of the room because it has crept down toward the front of the house.
I don't believe that the gap in the floor is capable of swallowing an entire sofa, but we have not let it go that far to find out.
I am not going to try to tell all of the stories about our house in this one post because that would take more words than you would care to read. Instead, I will do to you what the house did to us and feed the information out slowly over many agonizing months.
Friday, October 30, 2009
Blue Light Special
You have probably seen those super-bright, blue headlights on cars. Those are high intensity arc lamps, and they are way brighter than they need to be to allow folks to see well enough to drive around. One of those cars found me this morning.
It is dark out when I drive down to the train station in the morning to catch my train to work. That is because I leave the house a six a.m. The streets are pretty empty at that time because most people are still in bed. Well, this morning on the way to the station, one of those Yuppie cars with the blue lights found me, and drove right up behind me and let me have it with both beams.
I had to lean over toward the middle of the car to avoid the Klieg lights reflecting off the side mirror and blinding me. It was annoying.
So, here is a philosophical question. Does the use of those lights turn people into morons, or do you have to be a moron in the first place to buy them and put them on your car?