Category: Solely personal

Guest bathroom renovations (before and after)

In December 2015 I bought the Lake Shore Drive apartment I’d been living in for three years. It’s a great space, in a location I love, with killer views, but it needs some work. So for 2016 I am going to be having fun customizing it and upgrading it as I find the money, the energy, and the parts.

I decided to do the guest bathroom first because everybody said it just needed to be nuked. With the help of my trusty contractor, that’s what we did. Amazingly, he was able to get this done in just a few weeks and in time for the Apex Airways party.

It’s not completely done — I still have a glass shower door and some shower trim to order — but that’s coming soon. It’s done enough that I wanted to show it off now.

By the way. The coolest thing, to me, isn’t even in these pictures. If you look inside the medicine cabinet, there are outlets in there! I have never seen this. But it makes sense. If you want to charge stuff, do it in there. No outlets hanging around by the sink. (The old bathroom had no outlet by the sink, which was an annoyance supreme.)

The next project is the master bathroom.

Everything comes out OK

This weekend was somewhat truncated because I had a little delay getting in on Friday and had to leave on Sunday afternoon to get back to work. Pretty much I did some nesting and relaxing, but also found time to work out, pick out some more lighting for the new bathroom, and even go and look at cats to adopt.

This guy is Richmond. The cat people picked him up off the street where he was living with a pack of feral cats. Somehow it seemed like a good idea to get to know him. He was extremely relaxed even around all these strange new people. But he also had a really playful mood too. I could easily see myself finding him lying around when I got home.


Cityboy goes green

Lately I’ve found the time to read a ton of books in the sort of earthy/environmental vein.  That and the impending Florida move have made me just feel a lot “greener.”  Let me explain.

When I was growing up, we had all kinds of things in the backyard: apple trees, a cherry tree, a peach tree, grapevines, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries (disgusting), asparagus, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, carrots, beans, sunflowers, corn, and God knows what else.  We had a shed, which my dad built from the ground up to hold all the tools, and a compost pile (a mysterious shaggy creature).  We also had some kind of mini-greenhouse on legs, which I think was used to grow herbs.  In the front yard we had a huge lilac bush and a ton of flowers.

It’s kind like I’m going through repressed memory therapy here, but I’m just realizing that damn, I grew up with a ton of gardening going on. It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.  I’m sure I assumed everybody kept a grape arbor in the backyard, if I had even decided to think about it, which I’m sure I hadn’t.

Now I’m thinking that reviving this life would be a great thing to do on my own, but living downtown in a condo isn’t exactly conducive to having a garden and a compost pile.  The next best thing is to read about it, so I did.

I went down to the library and picked up Compost, a deceptively small book about composting.  The British author says you should actually compost food waste and paper waste in equal quantities — great, because I generate huge amounts of paper waste.  I also read The Square-Foot Garden, a classic that eschews the traditional row method of planting in favor of little squares that you never walk on, so as not to compact the soil.  (I now am realizing our garden looked like that — another thing I just assumed everybody else did.)  For a human perspective, I tried to sift through The 3,000 Mile Garden, a book of sort of gardeny love letters between an Englishman and a Maine cat lady, but it got too creepy.  (I tried!)  Because it was there (in the gardening section! what a scam the Dewey decimal system was!), I also picked up and devoured Silent Spring, the 1962 classic that helped launch the environmental revolution and crusaded against broad-spectrum synthetic pesticides like heptachlor, dieldrin, and DDT, all of which are now off the market.  I read all this stuff in the span of about three days last week, when I should have been studying, then I slept on it.  I heartily recommend all these books except the one.

After all this ecological ferment, I’ve decided: I can’t wait to move to Florida so I can grow a garden.  Apparently the soil is crummy (either sandy or clayey, and full of nematodes), but you can fix that, and you can grow up to five crops a year because of the wonderful sun, temperatures, and humidity.  I also decided I would like to try to never throw anything away, again, ever.  According to Compost, you can even compost things like old clothes (they’re cotton, a natural fiber) and cardboard.  I already recycle all kinds of stuff, including my cans, paper, electronics, and so on.  The only things you really can’t recycle are certain plastics — what else is there to throw out?  So, once the move comes, everything’s going on the compost pile or in the recycling.  I even researched how to compost meat, which everybody says is a bad idea (rats and flies), and I came across “bokashi,” a Japanese invention involving a sealed bucket, wheat bran, and bacteria, which is a process that anaerobically “pickles” your meat, permitting it to then be composted.  Sounds gross, though, to leave a bucket of rotting meat outside, but if it works, why not.

Amusingly, these decisions have led me to realize I’m going to have to live on a lot with some sun and some amount of land, i.e., I might actually have to move to the suburbs or the country (!).  Cityboy might go on hiatus for a while.  But I think it will be enjoyable to come home, change from the suit into the play clothes, go muck about in the garden for an hour or so, then get a shower and have a refreshing drink while admiring the garden, and have a dinner including vegetables I grew myself.  That kind of life should give plenty of time for contemplation.  Shouldn’t life be relaxing and innately rewarding?

Lighting out for the territory

Gentle reader, my summer of relaxation has come to an end. From August ’04 to May ’07, I was in school and working full time continually. Over this summer, I’ve been lucky enough to just have to work, and that felt like a vacation. But all things come to an end, and school starts up again this month.

I’m taking one last trip before the final push. I’ve decided to drive out to Denver to visit my friend Amy, then come back via Chicago visiting my friend Dave. Along the way I’ll get to add a few new states to my list and see just how big this big country really is.

God willing, you’ll hear from me a little bit each day, as I post my adventures here. People tell me the drive across Kansas is a killer, and I guess we’ll find out. Since I’ve gotta stay overnight there and in Nebraska, there should be plenty of time to read and write. I’m looking forward to it.

Two endings

OK, so I’ve been away for a while… but I have good reasons not for writing! I was preoccupied last month with the ABA’s National Appellate Advocacy Competition, which was a competition my partner and I started dealing with back on December 2nd and ended (for us) last weekend with absolutely fine results on March 4th, last Saturday. As part of the problem, we had to write a brief for the governor and elections commissioner of the fictional state of Calisota, and then in March we went to Washington to argue both sides of this state against other law schools.

I have to say we both hated writing the brief and we put its completion off until the last hours. I printed all the important cases and put them into a 4-inch binder, then lugged them around with me on my New York City trip before Christmas… you know, just in time for the transit strike. I didn’t read many then. Our brief had to be filed in the middle of January, and these awful cases weighed heavily on my mind. They had to be read before the writing could start, but who wants to plod full of hundreds of contradictory pages. (Of course, looking back on it, I like it. This always happens.)

So as I say, last month we went to Washington to compete. If we won all the rounds in D.C., we would have made it to Chicago to compete in April.

Our first round was against two students I dubbed John Edwards and Tape Recorder Girl. John Edwards looked and spoke exactly like the failed vice-presidential candidate (except this one confessed to being from Tennessee). He was impassioned but a little over-eager for my money. Tape Recorder Girl had perfectly scripted responses to judges’ questions, which drove me crazy. They beat us by only 1.777 points out of a possible 100. We were crushed and spent the entire next day moping around and blaming ourselves, wondering why we had gotten into this and considering throwing the rest of the competition. (Everyone was guaranteed to participate in three rounds, but your performance in those rounds qualified you for more.)

So the next day, as I say, we practiced and practiced for the second round, which was not until 6.15pm. I have never beaten myself up so much in my life, and for what? All day, my stomach was flooded with angst and a pervasive sense of foreboding. (Yes, I’m being a drama queen, but that’s how I felt.) Either we would fail again and be further humiliated, or we would succeed, and have to go on further in the competition and be humiliated there. Either way, it was a nice day in D.C. and I’d rather be doing something else!

The second round featured opponents we eventually decided reminded us of characters from Doogie Howser, M.D., particularly Vinnie. This guy could not keep his hands still, but he was so short the judges could not see them gyrating behind the podium. We were confident that we had him beat. Both of us felt very good about our performance. So you can imagine our shock to hear we had lost again, but this time by only 0.444 point out of 100.

At this point, we were ready to drown our sorrows in the comforting embrace of alcohol and fitful sleep. What could be done? We clearly were going home humiliated. Then I learned the other team from Capital lost their second round by 13 points, and the clouds parted a bit. :-)

The preparations for the third round were even more farcical. The rules of the competition provided only 16 slots for the fourth round, and your performance in rounds 1, 2, and 3 qualified you for round 4. Since our record was 0-2, we didn’t think we would qualify for round 4 and would therefore be permitted to escape our suits and ties and go outside to play. Unfortunately… Since we had lost rounds 1 and 2 by the tiniest of margins, we were ranked as the very best 0-2 team. And that meant we had to play the very worst 0-2 team in round 3. As I put it, the best of the worst had to play the worst of the worst (North Carolina State, and they actually were the nicest people at the competition!), which was the team that had lost by a cumulative 32 points. This was going to be a painful round, I thought. People who don’t like arcane math things can skip the rest of this paragraph.  The problem with this whole setup was that if we beat our hapless opponents in round 3, our record would then be 1-2. So if some other 1-1 team lost its third round, it would also be ranked 1-2.  And if our margin of victory was higher than theirs — and it would have to be, since we were going into this thing with a -2.222 score — we were going to leapfrog some other teams, qualify for the fourth round, and we would then face the strongest team at the competition.  And of course, we were to face certain defeat, agony, and have to sit around in our suits for another four hours! Why wouldn’t the ABA just let us go have a nice lunch and forget about all this madness?!

And that’s exactly what happened. Round 3 was a real drubbing for the other side, even though I tried to help them as much as possible by stuttering, flubbing, and even waving my arms and saying (about the avoidance canon of statutory construction), “But that’s what we fought an entire Civil War over!” We won by some 13 points anyway and had to play Southern Methodist University in round 4, a team that was comprised of two judicial cyborgs whose smooth-tongued orations had been programmed by Daniel Webster himself. We lost (but only by four and a half points!) and were finally permitted to go home.

All in all, it was a fun experience, even though I probably spent two hundred hours reading cases, writing stuff, and practicing three times at week at the law school. Moot court is hard work. I wound up wondering why I was doing it, though… unless we were the absolute #1 team in the country, the road to victory was certain to end before I wanted it to. Of course, it’s fabulous experience to read, think, write, and talk, and I did get to sit on the bench of the Federal Circuit during a break, but my God, the strain it can put on a person is a lot to bear. I’m glad to have it over with, at least until the fall when we do it again!

Berlin trip photos

Still continuing the monthlong extravaganza of returning from vacation. I actually think coming home and getting all those text messages and voice mails was more exciting than going on the trip! Happy new year to all y’all brothers and sisters, etc. (What song did they play at Axis at midnight???)

I finally got around to writing up descriptions for all the good photos from Berlin, which was only the first half of my trip. (I might do Amsterdam later, but let’s be honest, I wasn’t there as long and I didn’t take as many good pictures anyway. Also, I’m kind of busy all the time.) But, you’ll look at the Berlin pictures and you’ll like them!

It was such a fun time. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of everything that happened, for example, visiting Cafe Maredo on the first day because my mother had discovered it the night before. (When I was in high school, we learned that Maredo was a kind of cheesy chain, and it was.) The hateful waiter put a bib on me solely out of spite, or else it was because Matt and I ordered the fajitas. I guess I actually do have this photo, but I’m not giving it to you. I also don’t have a picture of the little girl on the subway to whom, at the last second, my mom gave a euro because she felt sorry that the girl had to travel around with her mother and “that loser boyfriend.” (This was the unlikely Geschenk.)

In other news, if you get BBC America, I suggest you look for the ten-minute science filmstrip spoof “Look Around You.”

I wore a Buckeyes ballcap on vacation

Greetings from Amsterdam! We left Berlin after four lovely days and just got here today. It has been so good to get out of town, to relax, to perambulate among the narrow streets, and to use my German.(Unfortunately, I don’t speak any Dutch, and after only a few hours I am already feeling homesick for it.  So I withdrew 300 euros auf deutsch, and that made me feel a little better.)

There have been a lot of great stories, including one terrifying luggage tragedy where I thought our bags were lost, and a guy in Oompa-Loompa coveralls told me I would have to make a report. I thought you had to claim your luggage and then re-check it after Customs, like you do at home, when transferring to a domestic flight. (Wrong!) Many of my stories center around bossy Germans who assume I don’t speak their language. For example, on the flight from Munich to Berlin, the flight attendant didn’t like the way I’d stowed a bag, and snarled at me, “What do you think this is, a train?!” So, Germany is as I left it ten years ago, a land of bossy perfectionists who want you to know you’re wrong. (As in my other recent entry, no comments, bitte.)

The country made a much better impression on me than it did last time. Berlin seemed a comforting jumble of high classicism, banal modernity, GDR-era bomb shelters, and typical urban townhouses. It was possible to see new development cheek by jowl with scary socialist apartment blocks. But the people looked cool, the hangouts were great, and the food was good too.

I should get up to my room now and unwind, as it’s been a long day on the train and the cute conductor got off just as I’d advanced to the cafe car to make my move. Also, I was pretty ill last night, and as I memorably said today, “I’m sweating and I bear the stench of the sick.” I feel better, but do need some rest. When I have more time, I’ll tell you about Maredo, an unlikely Geschenk, the Sharon Stonewall Bar, and other fun stories.

So long and thanks for all the fish

Well, everyone, I’m off to Europe for a much-needed week of rest and relaxation. I’m going to Berlin first, then Amsterdam. Barring any more labor unrest over at US Airways, I’ll be on the plane for the big 2-0-0-5. (Did I just dial it out one digit at a time? Yes.)

We’re gonna take one laptop and, by my count, eleven bags, three cameras, and four phones. I think this is about right. I’m also carrying two dictionaries and three passports. (Don’t ask.)

I’ll be trying to post entries and maybe a photo or two for my adoring fans, so watch this space. But I can’t guarantee that I’ll answer e-mail or even write here; I’m sure you understand I’d prefer to be out enjoying myself in freezing weather than stuck in the hotel on a computer.

Recent events and COTA observations

In case you’ve been wondering where I’ve been over the last several months, I’m still here.  Moving downtown has had the effect of joining the witness protection program.  Add to that the fact that I now have a new Rival brand Crock-Pot Slow Cooker and I couldn’t be more home-bound.  So here’s an update from Bill.

I got a parking ticket last week from the good folks at the City of Columbus Parking Violations Bureau. I realize I’m ruining any future political aspirations by admitting this in such a public forum, but I have to explain how it happened.  The short version of this story is, the meters on the new 670 cap are enforced from 7am until 10pm on Saturdays, except for the fact that they’re not enforced from 4pm to 6pm.  (Logical for a day that doesn’t have a rush hour, isn’t it?) Anyway, I tried to get out of it because I didn’t bother to read the sticker carefully and because the meters just a hundred feet away shut off at six, but it didn’t work and they sent me a nice all-caps letter telling me to pay up.  Oh well — it was my mistake.  Anyway, gentle reader, be careful parking on that bridge.

I have to give a shout out to the good people at the Mozilla Organization.  I got their new Firefox browser and it is really good.  In fact, it is the first web browser since Netscape 2.0 I’ve liked better than Internet Explorer.  It’s based on the old Netscape code, in fact, so it’s nice to come full circle.  They’re pitching it as a good alternative to the security nightmare that is Internet Explorer.  Even if you don’t worry about that, though, it’s really fast, and it has tabbed browsing, great keyboard shortcuts, and this wicked cool orange fire logo.  Best of all, Windows SP2 makes it pretty seamless to replace IE with Firefox.  So, click this button, and if you like it, then, all right.
Get Firefox!

I feel compelled to discuss the recent dust-up in the papers about COTA and its last-ditch attempt to save its light rail dreams.  This week, MORPC agreed to help COTA borrow $4 million for an environmental study on the line.  At the same time, the Federal Transit Administration reminded us that its support for the COTA rail plan came with an expiration date, and the support ends soon because COTA never came up with the local matching funds to build the line.

COTA is therefore taking one step forward and one step back.  Some of my friends, and some letter writers in the Dispatch, have suggested that we need to get this sales tax moving so that we can regain federal approval.  Faithful friends and readers of mine will know nobody likes the idea of urban rail transport — or anything that supplements the highway in our cities — more than I do.  But as I’ve been saying for years, COTA’s been so mismanaged that I just can’t support a tax increase until it cleans up its act.  Firing the censured manager Ron Barnes was a great first step, but the agency has a lot more to do to rebuild the public confidence.  How about starting with firing drivers who run red lights?  And fixing the signs that still don’t make sense?  How about a web site that works?  When COTA takes basic steps such as these and improves its existing operations, I’ll be able to push for the tax increase.  Until then, I vote no.

And finally, on a related issue, I believe it’s a mistake for COTA to depend on the sales tax to raise its revenues.  Because a light rail system is a fixed, physical infrastructure improvement, and it does primarily benefit those landowners in the region of the corridor, the economically optimal funding source would be a property tax — say on those landowners within two miles of the route plus all of Downtown.  This undercuts some of the legitimate argument of those who say they would never use the system and shouldn’t have to pay for it.  (However, any decreases in air pollution would benefit the region as a whole, so there should be some way to recover that benefit through a more broad-based tax.)  The other main argument I have with a sales tax is that it is regressive, which means the poor spend the largest share of their income meeting the burden of the tax, and the irony of that is that better transit service benefits the poor more than anyone else.  The sales tax giveth away and taketh back.

The last COTA levy, which was countywide, predictably had its greatest support along the North High Street corridor and lowest support in the low-density south.  The tax increase could have passed comfortably in certain quarters of the city.  COTA should explore a funding mechanism, some kind of special district, that would put the cost on those who would use the service and who demonstrably wanted it the most.

Latest news

Why do they advertise diapers during Will and Grace?

I went to Kroger today and found a stockwoman. She was reading Jello. “Incredible Hulk pudding? Turns green when you add milk? Yeah. Yeah, that’ll be the day! Ha ha… nuts.” Then she walked away. “Ahhh, Miss!” I blurted out, as I thought she could be helpful, not having talked to her. I was looking for the little can of pre-crumbled Oreos (for ice cream), since this product makes eating so much more fun. She glared at me and said, “You know. You could just buy Oreos and crumble ’em yourself.” …I know that.

I no longer believe in humanity.

I sort of met a guy at work whose name I had to strain to read off his ID. I thought it was Austin. But, later, I realized it could be Dustin. Or, Justin. Or, Custin, or Lustin or Qustin. How will we ever meet again?

I realize many of you have been complaining there have been no log entries in a good while. Actually it’s only been like six weeks — come on, adoring public, give me a break! My goal is to post at least one every calendar month.  This is something I’m proud to say I’ve managed to achieve. If you’ll remember back in entry one or two, I said something like, I didn’t want to post the serious events of my life in public for everyone to read. Unfortunately, I’ve run out of impersonal drivel. Anyone who wants me to go all reality-TV and start posting every minor detail of my life, please write me back.

Finally, in other news, since I last wrote, I moved into a new place, signed up to purchase another new place, got a new job and a new window seat, and became single again. But if you’re reading this, you probably knew that.