Nibbled to death by ducks

My aged laptop (9 years old) is apparently attempting to gradually consume my money. In addition to its already irritating tendency to reboot itself at random moments, the replacement (used) power supply cable is starting to break (but I’m really unwilling to pay for a new one for it), and… now the right speaker has failed.

Not in a “oh, the right speaker isn’t working” way, but in a “oh, it’s horribly distorted” way.

Problem is I don’t really feel like I have the cash to throw at a decent replacement. Indeed, my broad intention was not to replace it. And perhaps that’s the path down which I need to go. I have the Pinebook I can use for things where I need to do a decent amount of typing, and the Yogabook for things where I want to do only a little typing.

But trying to research stuff for the house on either of those is less than ideal. While the Yogabook is adequately quick, it is at the end of the day a tablet, and while the pinebook is more laptopy, it is at the end of the day a Raspberry Pi in a posh box.

The reason I don’t want to replace the mac is a two-parter. One is that I am intending to get a decent PC when we have the house finished, and the other is that if I were to replace this I’d want to replace it with something actually good.

But I’m disappointed Apple. My last laptop, the ever disintegrating Dell, beyond its murderous approach to battery management never actually had component issues. The case gradually broke, and it got painfully, painfully slow to use as software requirements got greater. But it always actually worked. And I sold it at about the same age as this Macbook is now.

But the Macbook I can’t sell as a working computer (not that it’s worth much) because of its faults. *looks at Apple*.

Ah, yes, that about describes it.

Here is the current learning curve: Overhanging cliff by Jason Priem, via Flickr

So, back when we were planning to build our house from scratch there were many things we didn’t need to learn. Why? Well, because we had an architect who was able to inform us of how we should do things. Now, because we have a contractor for just some of the work – and he’s asking us exactly what we want (which is exactly as it should be), we’re getting to make exciting decisions like “how do we want to vent the roof” or, in our case, not vent it.

Having spent some time reading up on vaulted roofs, our now expert opinion is that we should fork out for a thin layer of closed cell insulation over which we can throw fiberglass (because that’s what we can afford) to meet the required R-value in the space allowed. That means, ideally, tweaking the roofing to have a small gap under the metal to allow it to dry out in an upward direction.

Which means adding furring strips.

Which weren’t in the original quote.

Which means changing something.

Which means getting someone to ring me back.

Which it turns out is proving difficult this morning.

Of the 6 people I’ve contacted this morning I’m running about a 50% return rate (well, actually, it’s exactly 50%). Unfortunately, the 50% that’ve called me back are:

– The porta-loo company (which I don’t need to book yet)
– The insulation company (which I would like a quote from, but he’s asked to do it by e-mail)
– Our contractor (who’s asked for a bit more time to get an answer).

The electrical, the guttering, and the roofing.. the people I actually more urgently need to speak to? They haven’t yet called me back. I’m hoping they will, as they’ve been pretty good about returning calls, but it’s not always been rapid. Problem is I don’t really want to head out until I’ve got answers as I really could do with the answers while I have my big book of notes to write them in, and not them calling me back in the middle of a shop. Which is obviously what will happen.

Not to count chickens but…

Quoth the e-mail this morning: “The above-referenced permit has been approved and is ready to be issued”.

Just the electrical permit to submit and I need to check on my waste water plumbing plan.

Now the terror begins.

In which I think out-typed some more

I’ve been feeling this melancholia or even the vague edges of depression again. I cheer up around Kathryn and around friends, but even then at times I’m feeling the edges of something that’s concerning to me. And I’m not sure exactly why. I know I miss Europe – and I miss feeling comfortable with traveling. I miss a sensible length of paid holidays, not worrying that the the next illness could suck all the money from our scant savings.

I know that the rise of the right wing has fucked up much of Europe as much as it’s fucking up America, and I don’t really know what to do with that in my head. I know that the UK that I thought at least partially existed is nothing more than a mirage from living in left-leaning liberal bits of England where people who weren’t white and weren’t English were welcomed.

I get that. It hurts. But I get it.

It’s funny, because in many respects, job-wise we’re both better off than we’ve ever been. If we can ever get this house project moving and, indeed, get it done, it’s much closer to building our own house than we’ve ever done before. I mean, it’s frustratingly not building our house on the land we bought for that purpose. And that leaves it with an edge of frustration. As does the startling discovery that the city really care about the appearance of that street.

I dunno. It all just feels vaguely unsatisfactory and I can’t entirely explain why.

I’m hoping this will improve when we actually get started on something, as at the moment my brain is mainly occupied with being frustrated about things we can’t afford to do.

Well, that was astonishingly pricey

So, I went to my new optician today and hope to the goddesses that he’s right about his diagnosis, as at the end of the appointment I was $1000 lighter than when I went in.

Having had a long discussion about the sort-of-double vision I get when I’m tired, and when I’m reading…

…and the fact it’s been around since I was in my 20s, but it seems to be getting worse…

…and the fact that the prism added for strabismus (or ‘squint’, or ‘turned eye’) helped for the past two years, but seems to have stopped helping…

…and that it gets better if I take my glasses off…

…and many other things…

…and then following about 90 minutes of eye examination (although that did include the check for glaucoma and macular degeneration) he concluded that what I actually have is accommodative esotropia. Which basically means I get crosseyed, very slightly, as I try and near-focus. At far focus my eyes do something else (I forget what). As a result, my brain has, it seems stopped bothering with focusing my left eye (which is probably why I get headaches when I spend the day at home dinking), which was very weird. That seems to have been a result of adding prism, as I never had a problem focusing it before but today even with much tweaking of my lenses, the left was vaguely fuzzy.

That should, hopefully, get better with this new prescription.

The optician is clearly someone who very much enjoys his job (I’d recommend him to people, so long as you’re happy with blunt cheerful honesty about how terrible your eyes are), so that part at least was actually kinda enjoyable. Insofar as a sight test can ever be enjoyable.

But I’ve gone from a relatively simple prescription to a super complicated multifocal one which, to top it off, I need two of. That’s because I really, really need sunglasses to reduce the probability of me getting macular degeneration. I did once have “transitions” lenses – which they also sell, but my last wearing of them resulted in me having glasses that went dark in the cold. Since then I’ve been unwilling to retry them. So I had to buy two pairs of the painfully expensive glasses (although the sun glasses were marginally less expensive lens wise, as they don’t do the really good quality multifocals in sunglasses yet).

As a ‘bonus’, they recommended larger glasses, because to accommodate the multifocal variation they really need more glass-estate. So I’m back to my teenage-owl glasses look, which I’m not sure about, but I’m going to have to like, because $1000. I considered some 1960s style ones but felt a little too much like photos of my dad from the 1960s.

I could, obviously, have taken my prescription to some online place and tried to get something cheaper – but given the crappitude of my eyes it’s probably not worth the torment.

Apparently I can expect at least a couple of weeks of discomfort when I get them, too, as my brain attempts to remap the visual cortex to handle this new system for seeing. Which sounds super fun. And of course, having had atropine drops in my eyes I got to spend the day as a vampire with pain from sunlight and eventually a moderately cracking headache from not being able to focus on anything.


Despite that Kathryn and I got out in the garden as the evening wore on and planted four trees – A ranier cherry, a bing cherry, a mountain maple, and a buckthorn – all thanks to Sarah for the ace tip about the native plant sale and the tree sale. We said Hi to our neighbours and had a nice chat with our arborist who’s made the area around the trees at the back much prettier and healthier (bramble reduction, adding mulch). He also helped us plant the two cherries – digging holes for us as we trundled out to grab them in the pickup.


In house news, we’re still getting quotes in, and waiting on news of a final quote from our contractor (he gave us a ballpark which we were happy with). We’re working with the city to come up with a plan for the frontage that we – and they – are happy with. While it’s stressful and tough, I think we might be making progress.

Note to self

Traditional order of dressing: Bra, then teeshirt. Not vice versa*.

* Limited applicability to superheroes.

Another bad decision

I increasingly feel like every decision we’ve made regarding housing and property in the US is bad. Our land is a fucking disaster area that’s sucked up half our money and is like some albatross around our neck that we can’t sell. Thanks Thurston for that shit.

Our house is turning into a complete pigging nightmare. Our contractor actually seems like a good choice, at last, but he’s small fry in a pool of bigger fish, I suspect. Why? Because our possible truss delivery date has gone from the mid-end of November to January.

I’ve called an additional 7 truss companies (on top of the 3 local ones he called) – and as we move further away, the cost for shipping gets insane, but so far the only place that could actually get them to us quicker is in Texas and would add $4500 on for shipping.

But the problem of the trusses means that:
– Ideally we should be doing windows after trusses, which means trying to do windows in January.
– We miss the deadline for a bunch of rebates that expire in December, meaning we’re possibly losing an additional few thousand dollars because we won’t have heating, or electrics installed and working by the end of the year.
– We’re stuck paying mortgage on a house we can’t live in.

So this is all fucking depressing.

Movement (of plants at least)

So, our arborist has been around and hacked down our holly tree, chopped it into bits and stacked the burnable bits (yay). He’s also trimmed the tree of unknown origin* at the front which is interesting. It’s one of those, I’m not exactly sure what he’s done, but it looks much better, things. I mean I can pinpoint some things, like he’s trimmed the low hanging stuff and I know he’s thinned out some dead stuff, but it’s still broadly the same shape and size, but somehow it looks much more cared for.

I’ve also moved two of the four roses (which is why I’m sporting a wrist splint again today). Something I did in the process upset my left wrist, which has been upset since I started hacking this house to bits.

Still, the two roses (which may or may not survive) are now quite definitely far enough from the house that they won’t cause any more damp. One of them also, will no longer be attempting to disrupt the sewage line out of the house, because the person who planted it planted it directly over the sewage line, and one of its roots had grown between the sewage line and a waste pipe that joins the sewage line, and was attempting to push them apart. Not an ideal state of affairs. The roses may or may not survive the transplant. The anchor root seemed pretty healthy, but there seemed to be very little else in the way of roots. I’m used to there being a big clump of rootyness and then a big anchor root. These seemed to have nothing much except the anchor root which might be why they look so sad, but also means that their transplant may not go well, since I certainly didn’t manage to get the entire anchor root.

There’s still two other sad roses that need to be moved, also we’ve some lillies we were gifted that need planting. And there’s some plants that we’re not sure we want to keep, that may be offered up for collection. At least one of them looks healthy, but we can’t decide if it’s the source of a smell we don’t like. Alternatively, it may just be endless, endless cat / rat pee.

Still it felt good to be out making the house look more presentable; at least until my wrist went crunch, at which point I rather rapidly wrapped up proceedings.

In a not entirely surprising turn of events, the soil around the house is absolute shit. I mean, it’s terrible. Almost like a mixture of sand and large pebbles. I foresee an almost infinite amount of mulch in our future, as we attempt to turn the almost completely ungardened space into a garden. I had, originally, thought that someone had done some nice edging of a disappeared bed in big pebbles they’d got from somewhere. It’s now become apparent that’s just what’s beneath the soil.

Another (interesting) difference between Britain and the US discovered today is that the sewer line from our house is PVC just lying in the earth. In the UK that would be surrounded by a trench of gravel. No such anything here. Just dumped in the ground. I don’t know if that’s “to code” (either now or at the time), since I’m just trying to learn enough plumbing code that I can do the in house plumbing right… The whole venting thing here is way more enthusiastic than in Britain.

On which note – the house is drying out! Not having water constantly oozing into the fabric of the building has led to a distinct reduction in dampness at the front entry. Although the temporary sink is leaking pretty badly from the drain. Given that it leaked before I moved it this is not entirely surprising.

The bucket placed underneath it seems to be doing an adequate job though.

Also, in interesting news, it turns out that we can submit what we have for a partial permit – with the final permit deferred for the trusses. This means exciting things could happen. Drywall can come down, electrics can be taken out, plumbing could actually start, repairs under the floor could begin.

I wish I’d known this a while ago, but nudging the planning guy at the city with another round of “what about doing this – can I take the drywall down now?”** led to him to point out that this deferment of the full application submission is a thing that can happen. So that gives me something to do this weekend.

* I keep meaning to ask him what it is.
** He’s so far been a very patient and incredibly helpful person. So yay.

So I accidentally created an open plan bathroom

Today I had a few little jobs planned. Turn off the water, cap off the leaking pipes, cap off the bathroom sink taps (where the valves didn’t work) so I could remove the sink and the rotting subfloor below and the leaking drain, cap off the leaking cold tap from the laundry area. I’d spent yesterday digging out my plumbing tools – although I can’t find my awesome little pipe cutter*.

Rothenburger self-tightening clip on pipe cutter

Instead I had one of the tedious manual-tightening one that seems to be all that I can see in the store here**. Still, with only 2 pipes to cut (I thought), it wouldn’t be so much of a problem. Of course, to use that pipe cutter meant that I had to remove great chunks of drywall, but I wasn’t too hassled about that. And so I set to on the shower. Having turned off the water at the main I started removing the drywall – and discovered exciting things like “oh, hey, you clearly damaged the mains wire running through the wall behind the bath when you remodelled, but insulation tape is a fine solution to that…


And having a crossbar crushing it as it goes through the stud is totally not a problem.

As a side point, I am intrigued to know what the purpose of this string is…


I suspect it’s “holding up” plumbing, or it was, it’s disconnected now :-/

Eventually it became apparent that the only way I was going to be able to successfully cut these pipes was to whip out the two studs. Since they were stood on rotting timber I wasn’t convinced they were adding much to the wall anyway… the only problem was I ended up having to disconnect the cable that was running through them. That necessitated removing more drywall.

Eventually I managed to get the pipes capped off – after scraping the pipes back to the metal to get a good enough seal – my wire wool was insufficient to get rid of the corrosion from the leaking, which wasn’t a surprise, but was tedious.

Success! Onto the next bit I thought. I whipped off the leaking laundry tap – and replaced that with a cap…

On to the the sink.

It rapidly became apparent that the sink cabinet was held on with hidden nails… and the cabinet was sturdier than the wall it’s attached to. Despite the fact that bits of the cabinet were well and truly rotten from the leaking pipework. Which was (is) faintly unnerving. Still, after a brief conversation with Mrs. Sledgehammer, the cabinet was removed. The sink and granite counter I managed to save so they can go to Habitat.

Then I went to remove the failed valves. Only… it turns out that they’d not screwed the adaptor to the crossbeam in the wall. Well, they sort of had. One screw however is not sufficient to hold it well against a possibly 40 year old valve being undone. So while I managed to get one of the valves off from the nipple, and replace it with a cap; the other copper-pipe-90-degree-to-the-nipple*** – that fractured at the soldered joint.

Which I suspected, then confirmed when I turned on the water. So then I had to run into town to grab another (expensive) cap – make a large hole in the wall to get the pipe cutter in (thankfully no studs needed to be removed for this one) and then lop the end off the pipe. At which point I discovered it’s not actually attached to anything under the floor – thankfully I had a good enough hold on it that it didn’t escape. It’s now held in place by the earth cable which I repositioned.

Then I finally capped it off and cleaned up.

And then realized we now have a very open plan bathroom…

Still, all that drywall will have to come down, but we’re waiting on the quote before we can get the**** truss diagrams so we can submit this permit. I’m beginning to feel pretty frustrated by the inability to progress, at all, because everything is contingent on the main permit. And the main permit is contingent on us finding a contractor.

And no one seems to have any urgency, except us. But you can’t be shirty with people about timeframes because there’s so much work available they don’t need to do it.

I’m really beginning to wonder if we should just have done the roof ourselves.

* For the sake of speed, I did have a quick look in the DIY shop today, but couldn’t see one… Do they exist in the US? Anyway, not finding it means I’m going to have to search harder.

** Though I haven’t looked very hard.

*** Whatever that’s called. There’s a whole bunch of bits of plumbing I’m not sure of the name of.

**** sodding