Monthly Archives: October 2006

Rants – Boilerplated Watersheds

Oh to be a master of vocabulary is to be understood by no one.  That is because for every great word are a thousand people who have no idea what it means.  Most vexing for me are those obscure idioms that have lost their contextual meaning.

Take the word “boilerplate”, please.  It is used in the legal practice to describe a rule without exceptions and standard terms in legal documents.  An actual “boilerplate” on the other hand is the steel plate used to make boilers.  I only know this because I looked it up in a dictionary.   Like most people, I have no exposure to actual boilers.  In fact, I and most people I know have switched to using high efficiency furnaces that have very thin sheet metal walls.  No one would reference a “high-efficiency-furnace-plate” rule. 

How about the phrase “watershed event”?  Unlike boilerplate, I have seen a watershed.  A watershed is where water drains into a lake or river.  Watersheds not only soak up extra water during wet seasons, they also hold water during dry seasons.  They are like sheds for water.  Watershed events are some kind of big important change like the Civil Rights Movement or when Ross and Rachel broke up.  I have run this through my mind for hours and yet I cannot see the correlation between water drainage basins and turning points in our history.  It is maddening.  For the sake of my sanity I will not even go near the phrase “sea change”. 

There are many other phrases that do not make any sense anymore, like “don’t beat the dead horse to death”.  This just doesn’t make sense especially considering the wanton hatred of horses it takes to beat a living horse.  Do animal cruelty laws count for nothing?  I do know one thing, after beating a horse to death, never look in its mouth.

One phrase that has long vexed me is “wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve.”  If my heart were on my sleeve I bet I would be as dead as the horse.  Maybe I could still live if there were tubes running from my aorta and along my arm to supply blood to my out of body heart I could still live.  No wonder I would be sensitive; I would have tubes all over my upper torso and an organ attached to my shirt.

Thankfully, more modern and sensical expressions have emerged.  For example, the phrase “thrown under the bus” means to discard someone as a sort of sacrificial lamb.  We all know what buses are and understand that to throw someone under a bus is to effectively kill them.  More mysterious is whether real people have literally been purposefuly thrown under buses.

But I have belabored this point enough, i.e. I have started to morbidly beat dead horses despite the cries of passing children.  My point is this, if you don’t know the literal thing is that you are figuratively referencing then make something up that actual makes sense. 

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Personal Stories – Mom saves my marraige

That title may be a bit of an exaggeration, but my Mom did help my wife and I to get a little time in alone.  This blog is already a memorial to my Dad's track record of helping me out, but my Mom is just as helpful in a different way.  All Mom has to do was sit around my house at the right time.  Specifically, she has to sit around my house after my little baby boy does to sleep and before he has his late night nursing. 

I must say that my wife and i love our baby.  He is totally the best and cutest we can imagine a baby to be.  But after about 7:00 pm he is asleep and generally sleeps like a baby for about 11 hours.  Someone has to watch little man, so my wife and I or I are trapped in our own homes like Martha Stewart until he wakens again.  Babysitters to parents are thus like Governors granting furloughs.  At no time in the last 9 months had both of us been out at night together.  Last week, My Mom sat for us three heavanly times.

The first night out was on a weekday night, our anniversary to be specific.  We had a romantic dinner at a not-so-local restaurant, Bravo! Cucina Italiano(tm).  Bravo! is not our favorite place, and in fact we had never been there before.  We thought it might be nice and romantic with the whole Italian theme and all posted on the sign.  Diners beware, Bravo! is not actually romantic; the restaurant was one huge loud open room with fake ruins and the word "Bravo!" printed on the dinner plates.  The food, however, was excellent, and we stuffed ourselves silly.  Besides, our romance is not dependant upon themed restaurants, it is a fire that burns in our hearts at many millions of British thermal units in addition to many non-british thermal units.  After dinner, we did what every parent with time away from their children would do, we bought baby food at a local grocery store.  It was intoxicating!

By the way, we noticed several folks sitting at the bar at Bravo!.  How does one chose which chain restaraunt's bar they will sit at?  What makes the bar at Bravo! better than the one at Applebee's, Chile's, or The Cheesecake Factory?  Much like a Bob Dylan song, how many chain restaruant bars does one sit at before they realize how sad it is to sit at the bar of a chain restaraunt?  I'm so glad that I am married and do not need to make those kinds of decisions.

The next two babysitting nights were Friday and Saturday.  These were back to back nights and by Saturday the novelty was wearing off.  We still stuffed ourselves silly with food both nights, but by the end it was becoming somewhat of a chore.  Friday was an especially special night because we hung out with some friends while not quite watching "The Princess Bride" on DVD. Extra special was watching this movie on HDTV.  Thank goodness for bachelor friends with expendible income and no qualms about children watching too much TV.  Too bad he refuses to buy a Playstation 3.  After many hours of this fun, we returned home to find my Mom rocking little guy back to sleep for us.

In the responsible world of parenting, wasting a whole night chatting through a near twenty year old movie is almost heretical decadence.  We made up for our sins on Saturday, when after eating and shopping we cleaned up our garage and basement.  Mmmm, basementy garage dust (a mix of concrete, drywall, lumber, solvents, and dryer lint) never smelled so sweet.  

Huzaa to Mom!

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Rants – Breaking News

Big news today, there was an earthquake in Hawaii.  I was working at my office, which should indicate I have no religious aversion to working on Sundays, when the quake headline appeared on my personalized Google homepage.  Rabid to know more at the very onset of this disaster, I fired up my web browser.  The following are contemporaneous headlines describing the same event:

The consensus seems to be that this earthquake is at least "strong" and maybe even "powerful".  There also seems to be agreement that this quake "rattled" Hawaii.  Some sources consider the quake to be a premeditated "hit" or "strike" on the Pacific islands.  There remains some room for debate on the strength of the earthquake, but it is clearly not near the very powerful 10.5 magnitude that shook, rattled, and rocked the continential United States in a rivetting movie that struck my TV earlier this year.

Apparently some power is out, a road has been covered by a mudslide, and news organizations are bad at getting information. And yes, this is a media eating media kind of post. 




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Personal Stories – My Dad saves the day, again

     May parents swung by while on their home from vacation, and my Dad saved my family from potential bodily harm.  My Dad the understated hero has already helped me out with home improvements and stalled cars.  This time, he single handedly prevented my front porch from collapsing under my weight and possibly killing us all. 

     The problem was that not everyone is a hero.  One of the previous owners of my house-o-ills had improperly installed a deck.  Apparently he or she could not be bothered with little details like actually attaching the deck to the house.  Over the years the deck had pulled dangerously far from house and only barely resting on its hangars.  I tried to push it back in place but my jelly-fish-like musculature was no match for hundreds of pounds of rotting wood.  Woe was me.

     After my initial failure to repair the deck, my wife suggested that I not try to do it alone or I my hurt myself.  Sure, I've hurt myself in the past, but it was nothing that required an emergency room visit.  Nevertheless, when my parents rolled into town, she asked my Dad to give me a hand.  My Dad

decided to just do the entire project himself.  Armed with a jack and an innate knowledge of leverage, he pushed the deck back into place.  A few nails later, everything was as it should be.  He even shored up an improperly built railing.  I did my part and re-mounted a latch which reminds me of my quick tip of the day for preventing wood from splitting.  Too bad he could only stay for a day because there is plenty of other crap wrong with my house.
Huzaa for my Dad, again.

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Quick Tips – Always pre-drill

Before driving a screw, always pre-drill.  It is best to drill a pilot hole with a diameter slightly less than your screw, or about the diameter of the screw without its threads.  Also drill your hole about an eighth of a inch deeper than your screw.

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Personal Stories – My First Day without My Family

    What do I do when I'm alone in the house with no wife and no baby?  I spread lead everywhere of course!   

    On Sunday, my wife took our ittle baby to see her grandparents a few hours away.  Because she wanted to stay on a weekday and I wanted to finish some projects at home, I stayed behind.  This would be the first time is nine months that I wouldn't see my wife and baby when I woke up and went back to bed.  I thought it would be nice to not worry about the baby while I spread lead dust around and operated power tools.  Besides, it would only be a day or two, so would I even miss them?

            It turns out that I would, or I should say I did.  I missed them to the point of depression.  Well, maybe not that badly, but I was bummed out.  The problem was that I expected to be perfectly happy having some time to myself to work on my to-do-list, watch TV again, and enjoy the serenity of “alone time”.  My expectations did not meet reality.  The TV was a dull substitute for the conversation of my wife and the monkeyesque antics of my baby boy.  The big empty bed was not luxurious, it was lonely.  The project was also not as satisfying with no one there to see my accomplishments.  Perhaps during my wife’s next trip I’ll be better prepared for how I’ll feel.  I cannot make her stay at home (without being a jerk that is) so I’ll just have to learn to cope.

           The project I worked on, by the way, was preparing a damaged plaster wall for a few coats of plaster compound.  The wall was cracked and I had already removed pieces of loose plaster.  I gouged grooves into the cracks so I could later fill the cracks with plaster compound.  Our plaster walls are more like concrete than the white chalky stuff I would normally associate with plaster, and gouging the walls is hard work. 

All of the home improvement books I have recommend using an old-fashioned style can opener to score the cracks.  In my experience, this takes forever and is a good way to go through a lot of can operners.  I now use use a chisel.  This is a much faster to use if not messier tool.

I replaced the missing plaster pieces with drywall.  Cutting drywall to the shape of each hole is not quick and easy, but I have gotten better at it over time.  I prefer to save as much of the real plaster as is possible; drywall is feels soft and cheap compared to plaster.  How the wall came to full of cracks and holes is another story for another post.

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