Saturday, September 15

Ten thousand more

Progress on the house ground to a halt when the bid from the electrician came in. As usual, it was $10,000 over what we had planned. Sometimes I think all these contractors get together and say, “Okay. Whatever you can do the job for and still make a profit, add another ten grand.” Finally fed up with the ten-grand-upcharges, I said that’s it. We’ll find another way.

A small part of the silvery snakes in the attic.
Note the white plastic pipe to the right side. "What's that for?" I asked the installer. "That's the furnace's stove pipe," he answered. The furnace is so efficient it uses ordinary PVC for its exhaust!
Karla and I were making a progress payment to the air conditioning company owner. His people had finished stuffing the attics with silvery pipes going every which way. We told him about our frustration regarding the electrical job. He said, “You can do it yourself. It only has to be to code.” That got us thinking. When I was in the Navy, I was an electronics technician. Put an old vacuum-tube radar in front of me (or one of those new-fangled transistorized gadgets) and I can fix it with my eyes closed. But modern house wiring isn’t the same. It is the most heavily-scrutinized part of building a house. Every circuit, every connection, every wire run is pored over till you are drenched in sweat, waiting for the inspector to spot a piece of cable that’s too close to one of the nailing plates on a ceiling joist. Or too many outlets in a run. Or wire size too small for the circuit’s potential needs. Or a hole in a wall stud that isn’t exactly centered, making the wire going through it just a tad too close to the wall where you could possibly pound a nail to hang a picture and touch a hot wire.

We still needed someone who knows the code by heart. I could pry it out of a book, but an experienced eye is priceless. We know an electrician who used to work for a pack station at the lake. We hadn’t seen him in years, but had his phone number. Karla called the number but it didn’t go through. Had he moved? We were stymied. Then guess what? We found out that he was in the campground by the dam. He hadn’t come back up to the area in years, but when we needed him, he walked into the store. He had 45 years’ experience and said he would love to help us with the wiring. When asked what he would charge, he said, “Cost plus my salary plus ten thousand, just like everybody else.”

Just kidding.

Friday, September 7

An observation about sneezing

At this very moment I am sneezing. Why? I don’t know. There isn’t any sneeze aggravator in the air. Recently I have observed that my sneezes don’t come in twos but threes. For most of my life I have sneezed twice per sneezing session. Now I almost always sneeze three times. My current sneezing spasm has produced five sneezes. It seems to me that as you grow older such events as sneezing should diminish since the body is less capable of supporting their energy expenditure. Does this make sense? Do bodies really have less capacity to sustain such wonderful releases as the sneeze? I hope not.

I love sneezing; it feels good. Sometimes the best thoughts of my day occur during a sneeze, at least the really brief thoughts. All body pain is masked during a sneeze unless that pain is from a bruised or broken rib. If I’m tired, I get invigorated during a sneeze and for a brief few moments afterward. I would sneeze all the time if I could, but several things would have to be put off till later, such as if I’m preparing a meal for others. Ditto talking on the phone. Or while soldering a micro-picofarad capacitor to level four of an eight-level circuit board next to a multi-gigabyte memory chip during a thunderstorm while soaking wet and naked.

Or picking my nose with an untrimmed fingernail.

Wednesday, September 5

There’s a reason for the silence

I haven’t been pouring on the coals in the blogosphere recently. Sure, we’re building a house, but how much can I show about the plumbing, or the air conditioning pipes threading through the ceiling? After all, most houses have all that stuff, and once they’re inhabited, those things are invisible. The showy, cool, really neat visible stuff is not happening now.

We have a set of plans at the county planning department for a back patio and the front approach to the entry. The county guys are thinking about how they can challenge the plans to thwart our intentions, I’m sure. I mean after all, when you’re a faceless government bureaucrat with ultimate power over a mere citizen’s wishes, you have to wrack your feeble brain in order to get your way and slow progress and inflict pain; it gives meaning to your otherwise unpardonable existence. But if the plan you’re judging is exquisite and has elegance written all over it, it takes longer to do the pain thing. So you just stop the process and shove it aside.

So that’s where we are now. The county can use its age-old excuse about suffering from budget cuts and reduced staff, but it really comes down to just plain reluctance to allow mere citizens to get their way without a fight. Once the project gets going again, I’ll have some stuff to show you.