Tuesday, July 30, 2013

In Which I Analyze My Problems

OK, I am attempting to calm my recent, "OMG, my house is going to need foundation repairs and it's going to cost more than $10,000 and I'm going to die broke!" panic by considering the following facts:

1. I did have a structural engineer check out the house when I bought it. His opinion was that what it really needed was better drainage.

2. My drainage still sucks. All I did was replace some of the gutters.

3. When I took a closer look at the gutter in the corner of the house that's leaking, I saw that said gutter is not just leaking at the seams, it's actually got big holes in it that are undoubtedly dropping water right down onto that corner of my foundation.

4. The fact that I didn't see this problem until I unblocked that gutter could be coincidence. It's even possible that this was happening for ages and I just didn't notice it, or it didn't rain hard enough to be an issue. But it is, at least, suggestive.

5. My next-door neighbor is currently having his yard regraded, so obviously I'm not the only one with this problem, and at least somebody else in this neighborhood thinks better drainage is also their solution.

So. Plan of action:

1. I already applied some sealant to the downspout as a temporary measure. It might at least help, for now.

2. I will get those gutters replaced ASAP. I can call the guy who did the ones on the back of the house.

3. It is probably a good idea to find another structural engineer and get a second/current opinion about the state of my foundation, advice on adequate drainage, and thoughts about whether there are cracks in the concrete that need to be patched. Finding one out in this backwater might be problematical, but I can make some calls.

4. Depending on exactly what said engineer might say, I should look into my options for better drainage. Even if I have to have the whole yard regraded, it will almost certainly still be cheaper than foundation repair. If I see my neighbor, I should ask him about his experiences. (Although, a) it's not actually his house, it's his late mother's, and he's not around much, and b) He seems to be doing a lot of the work himself, which is not really an option for me.) I should also talk to the contractor who does the gutters and see if he knows anybody. I did see him talking to some of the guys working over there, actually, when he came out a while back to remove the old internet antenna from my roof. (Also, part of the problem is likely that there are some goddam trees that keep trying to grow right at that corner of the house, and while I keep hacking them down, they keep growing back. That can't be good for anything at all. If I'm getting my yard dug up for drainage, hopefully I can get those removed at the same time.)

5. Try not to panic, or despair, or wallow in self-recrimination about not addressing any of this stuff sooner. One way or another, it'll get handled, right?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

It Never Rains But...

Well, Mother Nature has helpfully answered one question for me: it's definitely not a broken pipe. One more torrential rainstorm confirms it: my house is leaking. I hear the rain start, I run and pull up the carpet I'd just got all dried and put back into place, and, sure enough, there comes water leaking in through the corner. I don't think I've ever gone through so many towels so quickly in my life. Well, at least that saves me a call to the plumber. Although obviously I'm going to need to make a few other calls...

I Sometimes Think Half My Problems Involve Water Being Where It Shouldn't, Or Not Being Where It Should.

So, guess what exciting surprise I had last night? If you said, "Stepping on my bedroom carpet and finding it wet and squishy in a manner that brought back flashbacks of the Great Pipe Break Incident of 2011," congratulations! SIGH.

Naturally, my first thought was of another broken pipe, so the first thing I did was to go and turn off the water. Which is a royal pain in the ass. That valve is not easy to turn, both because it's stiff, and because there isn't enough room to turn a wrench properly in there. I never did manage to get it all the way off, but I did reduce it to a trickle. A night without water, what fun!

But, on reflection, I don't think it was a pipe this time. I think I'm to blame, for actually cleaning out the damned gutters. Sigh. You see, the gutter on that corner of the house was completely plugged up when I turned my attention to it. And now it no longer is. But the elbow bend on the downspout is not exactly watertight, and, worse, I knocked it slightly askew when I was messing with it. So I think what happened is that in the massive rainstorms we had Friday night, water was pouring down right into that corner of my foundation, which is undoubtedly more porous than it should be. I'll have to put some sealant on that gutter, but I have to wait until it's going to be dry for a couple of days in a row, which, this time of year, is problematic. Of course, it's also a reminder that I really, really need to look into getting my foundation repaired. I've put it off far longer than I ought to already. But, man, at this point affording that is going to be... interesting. Again, I say, SIGH.

Mind you, I still need to completely rule out a pipe leak. I should have been able to do this myself. The technique is: turn the water to the house on, make sure that all the taps are off, and check whether the water meter is continuing to increment. If it is, clearly water is still flowing somewhere, thus, leak. Well, mine is continuing to increment, very, very slowly. But. The faucet in my bathtub is a bit drippy, and for some insane reason the valves that I thought turned off the water to the bathtub don't seem to do anything. I... am very confused. Clearly, I'm going to have to get the plumbers out on Monday morning, in any case, to make sure there's no broken pipe, and to figure out what the hell is up with the bathtub.

The good news is that the wet spot, unlike during the Great Pipe Break Incident, was comparatively small, and comparatively less wet. With the help of a couple of fans, I seem to have gotten it mostly dry already, so I don't think I'll be needing the professionals this time. Although I can't help being a tiny bit paranoid about the possibility of mold. Not to mention the possibility of this happening again. Maybe I should put some plastic sheeting down under the carpet or something, as a temporary precaution. Since I already have it pulled up.

Gaah. I really do get disproportionately stressed out about this kind of thing, you know. My brain starts out with, "Aaargh, I'm not entirely sure what to do about this problem, and even once I figure it out, it's going to be a pain in the ass!", then quickly moves on to "I am a failure as a responsible adult and should not even be allowed to own a house," and before you know it, it's breaking out the crampons and scaling the heights of Existential Dread Mountain, triumphantly staking out the summit with "Everything falls apart! Entropy is a fundamental law of the universe, and it eats everything in the end! One day, I, too, will fall apart, and I'll probably die broke and alone on account of my failures as a human being! Waaaah!'

Some days, I hate my brain. Also my house.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Well, I took the car by the tire place today... And was told that the tire actually had no damage at all, that what looked like a little scrape with some bits of rubber shredding off was actually just peeling glue. But the guy applauded my conscientiousness in checking. Why there was glue on my tire, I do not know, but I am not sure I have it in me to care. As long as I can avoid a repeat of last night's car-related anxiety dreams, in which, among other not-very-fun things, all kinds of bizarre dashboard warning lights I'd never seen before were coming on, and AAA still hadn't shown up three hours after I called them.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Bet Giant Monster-Fighting Mecha Never Have These Kinds Of Problems

Well, that was an interesting trip.

I realized that I hadn't driven the car out of town since I came back from my vacation, and I've been making a point of trying to get it out on the highway on a semi-regular basis, to keep the battery charged and prevent that thing that happened with the Neon, where the terminals would get all corroded because I wasn't using it enough. So I did what I usually do in such circumstances: made it an excuse to drive to Los Lunas and go to the movies.

Brief review of Pacific Rim, by the way: the monster-fighting is awesome, the attempts at having an actual plot less so.

Anyway, then I started to drive home. And got caught in an apocalyptic rainstorm. It was so bad I literally could not see three feet in front of me and had to pull over for a while. Twice. All while worrying that I might run out of gas, because I'd figured I had enough to make it there and back, but the gauge was starting to make me think maybe I'd miscalculated. And then, after pulling back onto the highway, my low tire pressure indicator came on. By the way, I love my car manual's advice for what to do when that happens: pull over in a safe spot and inflate the tire. With what, guys? My mouth? Anyway, I did pull over, into a rest area, waited for the rain to slack off, then looked at the tires. And managed to convince myself that one of them did look really low, enough so that I was afraid to use the tire gauge on it, lest I accidentally let out even more.

I then drove the last twelve miles home very slowly with my hazard lights on, fearing a blowout. But when I got to a gas station with an air pump and actually did check the tires, they all showed a little over 30 psi, which did not seem that horrible to me. I pumped them all up a couple psi, anyway, and by the time I got home the light was off. Possibly this was just an ill-timed coincidence, as I haven't actually put any air in those tires since I got the car, and they were bound to need it eventually. But I am nervous now, especially as I did notice that one of the tires has a scraped spot on it. I have no idea from where. It doesn't look like very deep damage, but I think I'll take it to the tire place tomorrow and have them take a look at it. Somehow, I have the sinking feeling this is going to end up costing me money.

Sigh. I try to do something nice for my car, and look how it repays me.

Here, Have Some Random Links

10 Life Lessons from Calvin & Hobbes: Definitely one of the better places from which to draw life lessons. Awww, man, I miss Calvin & Hobbes.

Extermimaze! Extermimaze! Doctor Who fan creates huge Dalek that covers an entire 18-acre maize field: The single most amazing thing to have been done with plants since the dawn of agriculture.

How to Live with Introverts: Not that much different from a million other "how to live with introverts" guides on the web, and not as useful as some, but I just had to link to it, mainly because I now desperately want to be able to tell extroverts to stop stealing my sweet, sweet energy juices.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Escaped The Dome

So, I got three and a half episodes into Under the Dome before admitting to myself that I just didn't believe in or care about any of the characters, and shut it off. It was very liberating.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mind In The Gutter

Today's big accomplishment: cleaning out the gutters on my house. This was not actually a difficult job, but it was a slightly disturbing one, mainly because in one spot there was enough dirt piled up in there that plants were starting to sprout. Note to self: do this job more often.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

In My Case, That's Pretty Much A Permanent Embrace

Amusingly enough, I just got an e-mail from the Science Fiction Book Club informing me that today is "Embrace Your Geekness Day." Who told them it was my birthday?! And, geez, I know I've bought way too many books from them, but celebrating me that way seems a bit above and beyond.

Friday, July 12, 2013

I Will Also Be The Title Of A Doctor Who Episode.

Tomorrow is my birthday! It is, in fact, that geekiest of birthdays, which, for a brief while, enables one to claim to be the answer to the ultimate question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. It did fleetingly cross my mind that it might be fun to celebrate with a Hitchhiker's-themed birthday party or something, but I've never thrown a party in my life, and 42 seems a bit old to start changing the habit of a lifetime. Plus, I have to work this weekend, anyway. Still happy birthday to me! And thanks to everybody who's sent a card, or wished me a good one in advance, or, in the case of my mother and grandmother, given me a blanket with a picture of Kirk and Spock on it, because they know me just that well. Heh.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

I Watch More TV.

Speaking of TV shows that fall into that annoying gray area where I'm not that into them but don't exactly want to stop watching them... I'm now five episodes into Millennium. And, OK, it's definitely a much better-made show than Under the Dome is. But I'm already tired of the formula where Lance Henricksen catches the serial killer of the week by the handy expedient of Just Magically Knowing Shit. Whatever else Millennium might be -- and I do get that it was going for something a little different -- it's also the cheatiest cop show in history.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I Watch TV.

Now that I have a 21st century TV and a nice selection of channels, I've been slightly more inclined to watch TV shows as they air, instead of waiting for them to come out on DVD. Not much, but slightly. I have, for instance, been tuning in for Under the Dome. So far, though, my reaction to the series has been much the same as my reaction to the book: it's a great premise with lots of potential, but the execution seems kind of off. And since the premise itself is no longer remotely novel to me, having read the book, I think I'm even more lukewarm towards the show. Even if I do really like Dean Norris (and find this a wonderfully amusing choice of role for him in the wake of Breaking Bad).

Man, it's always irritating to me when a show falls right in that ambiguous spot where it's not doing enough for me to make me feel enthused about watching it, but also isn't so awful that I don't want to give it a chance. This, I think, is one of the big advantages of watching stuff on DVD. By the time it's out on disc (or, these days, on Netflix streaming), I can find other people who've already watched a whole season to tell me whether it's worth bothering with, and to reassure me that if I stick with it through those almost inevitably awkward first episodes, it'll get better. Said awkward first episodes are generally more enjoyable to watch, somehow, when you feel reasonably confident that investing your time in them will pay off down the line. Whereas watching something as it's broadcast, well, you pays your money and you takes your chances. It might continue in that twilight zone between decency and suckitude forever. It might end up just pissing you off. Or it might get really awesome, and then get cancelled on the world's most frustrating cliffhanger. I hate that kind of uncertainty.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Currentlies For July

Current clothes: Blue checkered shorts. A souvenir t-shirt from the Australian outback, tan, with various relevant words and place names scrawled on it. Bare feet, because I spilled water on one of my socks earlier and had to take them off.

Current mood: Not too bad. But I've been weirdly tired and sleepy since I got back from my vacation. Actually, since a couple of days before I got back from my vacation. I'm not at all sure what that's about. It seems not to matter a whole lot how much sleep I get, which is odd. Maybe it's just that I'm not used to waking up early for weeks at a time like this.

Current music: Nothing at the moment. Last time I played anything on it, my iPod was coming up with an even weirder and more random mix of stuff than usual.

Current annoyance: Humidity. Oddly enough, it didn't really bother me on my east coast trip. I think maybe the higher oxygen content at sea level offsets the discomfort for me, or something. But when it gets humid here, it's downright stifling. Not that I'm complaining about the rain we're having lately, though; we certainly needed it.

Current thing: Nothing whatsoever. I am entirely thing-less.

Current desktop picture: Still the same Earth from space picture as last time. I seem to have gotten very lazy about changing it.

Current book: The California Roll by John Vorhaus, a fun novel about a con man.

Current song in head: "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club, which has been drifting in and out of my head at seemingly random intervals for no discernible reason for at least a year now. Although sometimes my brain tries to re-write it into a song about The Walking Dead: "Zombie, zombie, zombie, zombie, zombie apocalyyyyypse." My brain is odd.

Current refreshment: Nothing right now. I had some lemon mint tea earlier.

Current DVD in player: Disc one of season one of Millennium. I watched the first episode of this way back when it first aired and didn't feel particularly inspired to keep going with it, but I have friends who were very taken with it and still think of it fondly, so I figured I'd give it another chance. So far, it's still really not clicking with me, but I'm only three episodes in, so we'll see.

Current worry: I keep expecting my roof to start leaking again, but so far it hasn't.

Current thought: Seriously, it's 8:30 PM and I'm feeling sleepy, and that's just so wrong.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Seriously, Could This Get More Perfect?

So, whoever left this bookmark on my desk at work while I was gone? You win everything forever.

I Hope The Neighbors' Fireworks Aren't Too Loud

Happy Independence Day to my fellow USA-inhabitants! I am celebrating by, uh... going back to work after my vacation, and then going to bed early tonight, because I have to get up tomorrow morning, plus I'm still on East Coast time. Yay?

Monday, July 01, 2013

What I Did On My Summer Vacation, East Coast Edition

OK, so, the trip! The family reunion thing was pretty much the same as the last one I went to -- which, somewhat to my surprise, turns out to have been six years ago. Surely it can't have been that long, can it? But there was lots and lots of food, and various aunts and uncles and cousins I mostly hadn't seen in years, and a few conversations with people I'm still not sure how I'm related to. The main thing that struck me was the reproductive explosion my various cousins have gone through since I saw them last. They now have more little kids between them than I can honestly keep track of. Well, hey, at least somebody's carrying on the family genes so I don't have to!

Besides the reunion, we also did a couple of side trips. Including one "down the shore," as I still cannot help but think of it. (You can take the girl out of South Jersey, but...) We frolicked in the waves a bit, and helped my nephew hunt for seashells, and walked along the boardwalk, which was chock-full of childhood nostalgia. Skee-ball and funnel cake and salt water taffy and Italian water ice and watching the tram car... South Jersey people, you know what I'm talkin' about! The rest of you: no Snooki jokes, please. Those get old before they even start.

My sister and my nephew and I also did an overnight road trip to Washington D.C. In my grandmother's 20-year-old car with no air conditioning, which I think was extremely brave of us (not to mention extremely cheap), but which was not nearly as bad as you're probably imagining. In fact, it was mostly fine, especially as I made my sister do all the driving. (I have lived too much of my life in New Mexico. Traffic kind of scares me.) Anyway, that was nice to do, because despite spending my entire youth only a fairly short drive from the nation's capital, I'd only been there once before. when I was a teenager. And that was for a bowling tournament, and we didn't have a whole lot of time for sightseeing. Mostly, I remember being vastly disappointed that my parents wouldn't take me to the Air and Space Museum, because that's the kind of geeky kid I was. Well, that has now finally been rectified! And I had my nice, satisfying Smithsonian geek-out only a quarter century or so late.

In fact, we not only went to the regular Air & Space museum, but also to the annex in Chantilly, Virginia, which now houses the space shuttle Discovery. Which also pleased me, since I just missed being able to see Atlantis when I was in Florida. It was something of a thrill to be able to see a shuttle close up and in person, but I found it an oddly melancholy experience, too. That vehicle just looked like it belonged on a launch pad, pointed at the sky, not sitting forlornly in a museum. Poor obsolete space truck.

We visited the National Museum of Natural History, too, although we saw only a fraction of what there was to see. There is a lot in those Smithsonian buildings, and I could happily spend months exploring them. In fact, when I finally figure out how to teleport, I think that's what I'm going to do with my free weekends and afternoons.

We also took a tour of the Capitol building, walked past the White House, and briefly visited the Library of Congress. (Where, apparently, my, "Ooooooh, books!" reaction was of immense amusement to my sister.) So that was a pretty packed two-day trip. Four days later, and I'm still feeling kind of tired from it. Man, I'm just really glad I don't have to go back to work until the 4th.