Friday, October 31, 2008

The Kitten Wants to Wish You Happy Halloween!

She's apologizes for being a bit blurry . . .

. . . but she must have gotten into the cider.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rube Tube

This post will be less about American Dream #1 - owning one's own home, than about American Dream #2, having one's own television show.

Remember back in the good old days when conservatives with out-sized personalities made a career for themselves in show business first before going into politics? Think Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sonny Bono and that Law & Order guy.

These days, it seems to be done in reverse. They go into politics as a springboard for their entertainment ambitions.

I wasn't the least bit surprised when it was announced that Mike Huckabee would be joining Fox News. I thought he was a natural (and actually, from the beginning I suspected his candidacy was really about his show biz ambitions.)

But then there was this article in Thursday's Hollywood Reporter:

Sarah Palin: Future Media Star

If you don't want to read the whole thing, let's just say it's about how to best mold a show business career for Sarah Palin in the likely event that she doesn't get the job of waiting to take over the reins of the most influential nation on the planet.

Something tells me this is what she's been waiting for all her life. She said she never had a moment's hesitation before accepting the invitation to become the running mate. No hesitation at all? Not even a little? But now it makes sense. Why would she hesitate? She never seriously believed her team could win. The way she's veering from the headliner's message, it looks like she's really in this for herself and the promise of a long and happy career on Fox.

Is it just me or does it seem that the neo-cons are plotting world domination via cable TV?

On the Incompatibility of Hammers and Nails

I confess. I am useless.

I swear, I am not a girly-girl, yet I do not like working on the house. I DO like having long nails.

Not this long:

But long enough.

You see, I have so few talents in this world. In fact, they are so few I can enumerate them in toto here:

1. I can stand on one leg for a seriously long time. In fact, I challenge anyone to a balancing competition (yet, I cannot bear ladders or walking around on the roof.)

2. I can spot dog droppings on a sidewalk from a freakishly long way away. While I cannot read a city map to navigate, I am nonetheless a useful traveling companion when sightseeing in European cities. The truth is, I cannot even fold a map, European or otherwise. But I can steer clear of droppings from dogs of all nationalities.

3. I can grow really long fingernails. I also grow thick and healthy hair. I guess I have a talent for anything involving keratin.

Upon leaving the nail salon the other day, I thought, “well, now I can’t get anything done today.” That meant no gardening, no serious cleaning, not much of anything that would threaten the fresh finish on my fingernails.

So, while I may be a well-balanced, luxuriously groomed and uniquely useful traveling companion, I am utterly useless at helping remodel a house.

The application of unnatural color to ones fingernails and toenails is a curious thing. I don’t know how long it’s been in fashion but I’m guessing it’s an invention of the 20th century. But this artifice renders a woman completely useless. At first, I was tempted to think of this in terms of being a gender issue, like foot-binding, in which a physical trait is altered for the sake of beauty, to the detriment of the woman's ability to fully function. However, the comparison falls apart when you consider the crippling effects of foot binding vs. chipped nail polish.

In reality, this is a class issue. Painting one’s nails is a way of announcing, “I don’t have to work.” Literally, “I don’t have to lift a finger.”

Thinking recently of our contemporary disdain for work I realized that there is a long history of disrespect for those who work.

In earlier times, European courtiers wore pale white makeup as a way of distinguishing themselves from the working classes that toiled in the fields. If you had white skin, it meant you had the luxury of staying out of the sun. But the makeup contained lead, which ended up poisoning the courtiers.

In contemporary society, we go to tanning salons as a way of distinguishing ourselves from the working classes that toil in offices under fluorescent lights. If you have tan skin, it means you have the luxury of spending time on the beach or sporting outdoors. But he tanning beds emit UV rays, which ends up giving us skin cancers.

Those who work are never respected; leisure class indolence becomes fatal fashion.

When the revolution comes, I just hope I don't break a nail.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Floor Man Returns

The floors are finally done! Well, mostly. The Floor Man started on Tuesday of last week and finished on Friday. He has to return to do the the stairs. Finally, after walking around on plywood for the past eleven months, we have beautiful hardwood floors. Finally, after spending the first five years of our residence here walking on Listerine green carpet in the living room, parquet-effected vinyl in the dining room, pink and white embossed vinyl in the kitchen and Pepto-Bismol pink carpet on the backstairs, we have a unified home. Finally, exactly six years and one week after moving into the nightmare fixer-upper, it is all coming together and I can really see the end.

It started in the dining room because it has the longest stretch, from the front of the house, all the way to the end.

Side by side with the area that had been covered by adhesive for vinyl tile

The floor of the library is done!

It all went smoothly and wasn't nearly as dusty or messy as we’d anticipated. Obviously, as you can see in the line below the paneling here, the living room floor is still not level.

I just hope this doesn’t affect my Jenga game. I love Jenga. I wish Jenga were an Olympic event. If they have to, they can cut Greco-Roman wrestling to make way for Jenga. But I digress.

Ok, now onto the other project – the paneling. The house next door, our sort-of sister-house still has her original board-and-batten paneling with plate rail. It’s painted white but it’s in good shape. When K removed the crappy 60’s paneling that covered drywall that covered the original plaster, we could see the outlines of where our plate rail had been. Long, long gone.

So we’re replacing the paneling. K’s already mounted the oak panels.

They’ll be framed in by simple battens of 1x4s and 1x6s stained. The window frames need staining too. So that’s the next challenge, selecting the stain.

Here are the sample options:

We considered matching them to the mahogany pocket doors.

It turns out that we have the choice between too dark or too light, too brown and too red. Who knew Goldilocks had it so rough?

But what about the floor color? The floors are “Golden Oak.” We didn’t want the floors to be mahogany. That’s a lot of dark for a lot of small rooms. Mmm. We originally wanted to get the stain on the walls before the flooring went in - thinking that we would receive the floorboards and have a chance to compare to the stain sample before the work started. But because the delivery of the floorboards was so delayed, there was no time.

Soooo – Dark Walnut? Red Mahogany? Golden Oak to match the floors but serious contrast to the doors? Decisions. Decisions. The winner may be Dark Walnut. I think that's the one on the right in the picture above. It's a little warmer and without as much drama. I'm seldom opposed to drama but I think the browner will complement the furniture better. We do have furniture, not just the deck chairs as some might believe.

On Saturday, the Floor Man will tackleth the staircase.

I just want this all done so I can get back to Jenga.

We Wanna Win Us a Ceiling Fan!

The awesome gang at One Project Closer is having another giveaway. This time, it's for a ceiling fan from Home Depot. I've watched enough HGTV to know that ceiling fans aren't for everyone, but I really like 'em. Some are nicer than others and of course, the nicer ones are on the pricier end. That's why winning one is so handy.

If I won the gift card, I would put a fan on my back patio. See, it gets really hot back there during our 9 months of summer. There's an overhang and it traps heat and for some reason, flies like to buzz around that area too. If I had a nice outdoor fan it would circulate air around the patio, keeping us a little bit cooler and it might drive away some of those nasty flies. It would really be a benefit to the public health.
This is what is lighting our back patio now . . .

. . . it's a orange paper lantern. Sad, huh? Happier than a white paper lantern, but still pathetic.

And here's the real reason I want a fan for the back patio - it's for when we break out the tiki bar. When we bought the house, K couldn't wait to get a tiki bar. Since then, we've hardly used it, being so busy with the remodel. But soon we'll be in a position to relax a little and actually enjoy our house. So don't you think that this man, who has worked so hard to turn a crummy little fixer-upper into a comfortable home, . . .

. . . deserves to enjoy his tiki bar in breezy, fly-free comfort?

Let us drink mai-tais until our livers are laden with rum and our pancreases shut down from the sugar. Let us pass out under a cooling, artificial breeze. Let the flies not alight on our pineapple garnish. That's all we ask.

Let us have a ceiling fan.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


The weather's been crazy. Not this past week but the one just before (I've been sluggish about the blogging) the temperature was in the 90's. Then on that Friday, the 10th, the temps dropped so much that, when leaving work, I wished I'd brought a jacket. That night, the Santa Ana winds came to town with unusual ferocity and the next morning we discovered this catastrophe at the house two doors down:

Uh Oh!


Ouch Again!

For quite a while prior to this, I'd noticed what looked like a giant mushroom growing at the base of this dead tree. It must have been a fungus that invaded the roots.

The homeowners have never been really good about taking care of their house, a lovely Craftsman with a number of fissures and other structural problems around their front steps and their retaining wall. They didn't take care of this tree when it was sick and now I don't know how or when they're going to get around to taking care of the broken fence.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Villa Weepah Ha-Ha!

I saw this ad in today's Hollywood Reporter. I guess there are some people who are still doing OK - assuming this thing rents, of course.

I see ads every day for over-the-top real estate, but there was something about this one that called to me to cut out and post. Maybe it was the "Bordelloesque master bedroom." How is "bordelloesque" a selling point? Maybe it was the 16 camera security. And who can resist a bubbling neon jukebox?

I've taken out the phone number but if this place sounds right for you, let me know.

Seriously, Let's Get Back to Work

I am neither economist nor historian. In fact, all I know about economic theory can be summed up in the following – "The rich get richer, the poor get children." All I know about history is that whether we learn from it or not, it seems we are doomed to repeat it.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the Great Depression; looking at which administration to blame. Herbert Hoover gets a bad rap because he was the one in office at the time of The Crash. However, we really have to cut him some slack because he had only been in office for 8 months before the crash. He’d hardly had time to do too much harm. Calvin Coolidge preceded him, but while Silent Cal was famously pro-business, historians don’t seem to lay much blame at his feet. The notorious Harding came before Coolidge. Harding is famous for having had the most corrupt, scandal-plagued cabinet but I don't know if blame for the economic collapse falls on him.

Then there was that Dust Bowl thing. It was the early 20th century version of climate change.

It took Franklin Roosevelt to do what was needed to guide the country through the crisis.

In the current situation, the finger is pointed at the mortgage crisis and the housing bubble. I heard that only 8% of homeowners are defaulting. Only 8% and the world’s economy is brought to its knees? How did this happen?

I confess, my husband and I are the beneficiaries of sub-prime lending. We were smart enough to get a 30-year fixed, but we weren’t smart enough or disciplined enough to save for a down payment, so 0% down it was for us. If we had been required to cough up 20% of anything, the best we could do would have been a Barbie Dream House. So as we slam the sub-prime trend, also remember that it benefited a lot of us.

If it hadn’t been for the attractive interest rates and easy lending of the time, we wouldn’t have considered buying a house. We’d still be living in our beautiful West Hollywood apartment – enjoying our weekends, entertaining friends, going to museums and movies while the housekeeper came in every two weeks. On the downside, we would likely be spending the rest of our lives in that apartment or risk losing the benefits of our rent-controlled status – ‘cause under rent control, you can check out any time you like but you can never afford to leave.

We started our path to home ownership on the day that Bush 43 was sworn into office. I remember listening to the inauguration ceremony while on the way to a class about the ins and outs of mortgages.

When house prices started to really rise, with noticeable rises every week, we didn’t exactly panic, but there was pressure to get into something quickly. I can see where others might panic. So here we landed, with a sub-prime mortgage in a sub-prime house, in a neighborhood that wasn’t exactly my style. Six years later, the house has been almost completely rebuilt from the inside out; the neighborhood’s improved and so has my mood.

So much else has gone to Hell.

I don’t blame the 8% who defaulted. Not entirely, anyway. I don’t blame the banking system. Not entirely, anyway.

I blame our collective addiction to the lure of making money with money. I blame our collective failure to honor the value of Work and the Worker.

Back in the old days, people used to make money from working. Lately, people make money from money. It’s not enough to go to work and earn a paycheck. You’re expected to invest. You’re expected to plan for your own retirement and make financial decisions that you may be unprepared to make. We’re all expected to be professional gamblers. In the investment frenzy of the past decade, those who didn’t get caught up in the frenzy were looked down upon, dismissed by those who were making more money investing than they were making by working.

And in what were they investing? There is little manufacturing left in this country. Jobs are outsourced. People in this country make nothing. We make nothing and many of us have nothing. Many of us haven’t stocks or bonds or tulips
– but we have houses. Many of us have been living off the fat of our own houses, a kind of mortgage ketosis. And those who have much more than just their houses were willing to take advantage of those who have much less.

When we live in a time when money is made only from money, the rich can only get richer and richer while the rest of us scramble just to keep up.

There have been religious injunctions against making money from money. The sin is called usury.

There was a time when laws against usury were used to support bigotry against other cultures. Let us not return to bigotry, but let us return to Work.

It is time to honor Work and be done with Capitalism gone amok.

FDR understood the importance of honoring Work. That’s why he created the Works Progress Administration.

In his time, buildings of function and distinction were built –

Beautiful art was created –

And public infrastructure transformed this country and prepared us for the challenges of WWII.

Instead of investing in our society, recent political mantras have called for less government and lower taxes. This led to a country in which bridges fail, levees collapse and school children have limited access to libraries.

It’s time to stop living off of money that we didn’t earn and maybe build a few nice post offices. It’s time to get back to Work.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In These Tough Economic Times . . .

. . . it doesn't hurt to try a little magic (or Feng Shui).

From this
web site let me paste the part that applies: A common Feng Shui cure to improve your finances is to tie a red string or ribbon, measuring 6, 9 or 18 inches in length, around the pipe under your sink. On very rare occasions, this can cause a back-up in the sink. If this occurs, remove the string immediately. Check for any blockages in the plumbing and repair if necessary.

So, now you know. Let me know how it worked for you.