rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Busy day. I gave a talk at lab meeting at noon, so I spent the morning scrambling to pull together data and analyses from multiple ongoing projects. We had an extended lab meeting so that a visiting scientist could also tell us about her work studying lipid biosynthesis in parasitoids. Parasitoids are insects that lay their eggs inside of other insects, eventually killing their hosts. Apparently there are multiple cases where different parasitoid species have completely shut off the biochemical pathways for lipid biosynthesis. This is pretty crazy if you consider that the pathways for lipid biosynthesis are broadly conserved across animals. Investigations as to why and how are ongoing.

After that, Monday cricket care duties, with help from a new undergrad, which basically means everything takes the same amount of time or slightly longer while I explain everything.

I have a late-night timepoint tonight, and then I'll sleep on the lab couch so I can remove food from more crickets tomorrow morning at 8 am, for the 11 am timepoint tomorrow.

At least I got the full 5 long-winged crickets with pink flight muscle, unlike on Friday when only 3 out of 14 crickets still had pink flight muscle.

So anyway, that's why I'm on eBay, doing a search for "vintage Tupperware." Apparently one of the containers that I have is actually an "ice cream keeper." We've been using it for various cheeses, but I don't like doing that because the plastic sides aren't completely smooth, so cheese gets smeared in the cracks and the whole thing gets moldy quickly. Maybe it's for people who still buy ice cream in those box cartons, so the leftover ice cream doesn't get horribly freezer-burned?

It does sound like the Tupperware cheese-keepers will hold a full 2-pound block of Tillamook, but then we would want something else for the other miscellaneous cheeses. Fridge space is at a premium in this house.

And maybe I should consider getting more of the 16-ounce square containers for freezer storage. [personal profile] scrottie and I both hate it when sacks of food slip out and fall onto the floor.

And on the third hand, too.much.stuff.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I am fighting either allergies or a head cold.

Our doors rattle and squeak when the wind is blustery.

One wall of my room consists of a pair of double doors with a dead drop down to L's studio apartment. If we leave the doors open too wide, Emma sits out on the ledge and thinks about jumping out to tackle the yard kitties. So we've been propping the door open to just the width of a roll of duct tape, which has been great up until the mosquitoes started emerging from pupation and started coming in to bite me. Waking up itchy isn't very fun.

I am thinking I should construct some sort of screen to cover the whole door opening. That would aid in both keeping the cat in, and the mosquitoes out.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Last night, S helped me finish up Project Bike Security.

It looks like there were two different layers of concrete poured in the garage. The upper layer was much more tough than the lower layer, so I made great progress with drilling the pilot hole, to the point where I was ready to switch over to the 1/2" bit and drill the final hole. The hole widening went FAST, probably because it's easier for a bigger bit to scrape out the sides than for the smaller bit to bore downwards.

While I worked on that, S added another layer of metal to the deadbolt's strikeplate, and then he helped me attach the lower cane bolt. Once that was in place, we decided it would really be a good idea to add a top bolt as well. Fortunately, the top bolt only had to go into wood. It felt like drilling through sawdust, after the concrete episode.

The whole thing feels like a real set of doors now.

Door security complete

Five bikes can squeeze in, if necessary, but with four bikes it's still possible for L to get over to the washer and dryer to do laundry. The doors won't bang around in the wind anymore. And we won't find ourselves fiddling with the dang luggage lock in the dark. There is one hook that is not entirely convenient (with a bike on it, it blocks the light switch), but that project has to wait until L's available for input.

Hooray, hooray, hooray, whew. I can move on to other projects.

...maybe I should build myself a piano bench. *laughs maniacally*

John Henry

Feb. 8th, 2016 10:50 am
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
[A story in which our heroine confirms that water is wet and concrete is hard]

So, weekend.

I went rowing Saturday morning. The weather was glorious, and the rowing was no worse than it has been on recent days. Maybe even marginally improved. After rowing, I came home and we got ourselves geared up for a tidepooling expedition out at the Point Reyes National Seashore, because the weekend was an extreme low tide and [ profile] sytharin had learned that supposedly it was a good spot for tidepooling.

I found it highly enjoyable, especially because we kicked things off with a picnic on the beach:

Shoreside picnic

The only other picture I took, however, was of a few found artefacts:


This is a picture of: some human-made substance heavily weathered by time in the ocean; a large and smelly dead, rotting chiton; and some animal's fin-bone.

I guess I spent most of the rest of the time poking anemones (never gets old!) and enjoying being out along the beach, as I failed to take any other pictures of anything, including of the beautiful sunset. We also saw: a small dead dolphin; several starfish; some fish in the tidepools; sea urchins; adorable hermit crabs; regular crabby-crabs; sea grass and algae; a tiny living chiton; and, well, you get the idea.

When it got dark, we returned home and burbled in the hot tub for a bit.

Sunday was devoted to projects. I am still working on the overall bike storage situation. This has been the subject of a great deal of conversation in the household. The original garage for the house has been converted into a studio apartmet, where L lives. The front portion of the garage area was walled off, with room for a little bit of storage, a couple of bicycles, and a washer and dryer. The garage doors were replaced by a set of handmade double doors, which up until now have been secured with a tiny luggage lock looped through two screw eyes in a half-inch gap between the doors. The doors are made of two-by-fours and plywood, and like to expand and contract as the humidity changes.

Not especially secure or ideal, but the doors are beloved by our itinerant landlord, so they're what we've got to work with. He was in town for about a week in January, during which he added a deadbolt lock across the gap, but we're still concerned that it would be too easy for someone to come along and pull the doors open and help themselves to a few too many bicycles, so further measures are needed.

Based on some ideas from [ profile] scrottie, I eventually decided that a cane bolt would make a tremendous amount of sense, especially because it would keep the doors from slamming around so much on windy days. He determined that the Ace Hardware didn't have any, so I set off for the Despot instead.

The only trouble is, the bolt needs to go into some concrete.

...long story short for the moment. The Despot's selection of fencing supplies was in horrible disarray, but I somehow miraculously managed to find a single intact cane bolt, hurrah-phew. After about an hour of drilling in total, I've made it an inch into the concrete so far, with a pilot 1/4" bit, in preparation for a 1/2" diamter hole, which I think I'd like to get up to about two inches in depth. This is with a standard drill and multi-purpose masonry bit, contrary to WikiHow's recommendation for drilling into concrete. Since I don't plan to do much concrete drilling, I am figuring I should be satisfied with this progress so far, even if it is slow going.

While waiting for the bit to cool down between rounds of drilling, I worked on other bike storage elements. For one thing, I put in a base board below the hooks in the bike garage, so our rear wheels aren't digging into the insulation. For another thing, I got Froinlavin securely stored away in the workshop, finally.


There's a large screw-eye with a ring in it behind the U-lock, so Froin's attached to the wall and not just hanging there.

It's frustrating to have to pause in the middle of a large project, especially because in the meantime we're using both the luggage lock AND the deadbolt and it's fiddly to get in and out of the bike garage. But, it's progress. I'm going to try and do a bit of drilling every evening this week to keep at it.

After wrapping all that up, I cooked. It was not the most glorious of cooking, but consisted of: bran muffins, chocolate-marmalade cake, bbq tofu (for weekday sandwiches), seitan fajitas, and chipotle pinto bean puree. There is food in the fridge and we won't starve this week.

I sort of feel like I should have had some time in there to sit down for a minute, or maybe get some work done, or maybe work on a creative project instead of house-fixing, or maybe just think a little more about the manuscripts. Mostly it would just be nice to have the bikes all situated to a point where we don't have to think about them or work on things anymore. It will happen. Soon, I hope.


Nov. 22nd, 2015 09:34 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I think we're maybe at about 80% packed. I play a mean game of Moving Truck Tetris. I can also tell that I have gotten a decent amount of practice at this game over the last couple of years. I suspect my younger sister [ profile] sytharin is still going to be horrified by how much stuff I own. A byproduct of living in my own house and hating furniture shopping. That said - I still have a few too many boxes of t-shirt memorabilia.

In the morning:

-Go to lab, pack up dried ant samples, turn in keys and ID card, pack lab stuff into moving truck
-Pack up remaining kitchen items, dresser, roll-up futon bed, remaining three bicycles, door-table
-Cleaning sweep, then we're off.


Nov. 20th, 2015 03:45 pm
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
Packing up my office at work took all of 15 minutes.

Properly disposing of the remaining radioactive samples has been taking considerably longer, in particular because I need to make sure the data are sufficiently high-quality. But that's almost done now, too. I feel good about my contributions towards lab clean-up overall. Campfire rules and all that.

The ant samples won't finish drying until Monday morning, which is when I'll stop in to drop off my keys and ID card, and haul away the stuff that's boxed up here. I could do it as two bike trailer-loads (one of office stuff and ants, one of cricket cages), but I suspect I'll just swing by in the moving truck instead.

It makes my brain hurt a little to think that I will have lived in 3 different states this year. And that's just geographical states, not mental ones.

I really am getting better at paring down my possessions, although I will confess that I am saving some chunks of foam pipe insulation that I should probably just toss (used them to pad Froinlavin when I took her to Europe). For instance.

I'm probably just alternating between stages 3-5 by now.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Umm, yeah.

[ profile] scrottie and I had a useful discussion over the weekend about the house-moving logistics, and it is starting to feel like things are falling into place, in a kind of amazing way, thanks to friends and family.

One of the things I'm a little sad about is realizing that Princess TinyHouse should probably stay in Nebraska. That leaves 'er in a good place for the purpose of visiting friends and relatives in the Midwest, but also means fewer opportunities to just bop around like glamorous hobos in other parts of the country. For now, at least.

On the other hand, for me it is less nerve-wracking to think about instead driving a moving truck halfway across the country through a couple of snowy, mountainous states. And, [ profile] annikusrex and my sis-in-law's family have come up with some good ideas for what to do about all of the household goods and furniture I wish to store while living in the Bay Area. Yay-phew. Now all we have to do is get them all packed up. Details.

I found myself regressing back to Stage 1 Packing on Saturday. But I feel good about it, because I got a whole bunch of stationery stuff organized, got all my old financial files organized and archived for Deep Storage, and managed to consolidate some of the random stuff living in various file folders. Progress.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I have reached Stage 2.

(side note: why couldn't a Google-powered search of my own blog pull up an entry that's only slightly over a year old? Google, you suck. I had better luck searching my old Facebook entries, then going through blog archives by hand!!).

Things are going into three different categories this time around:

1. Stuff I won't need for the next 2 years (large furniture items, leafcutter ant containers, bulky cooking items like the KitchenAid mixer and mixing bowls, all of the decorative ceramics that have survived previous culling, Mister Pushy the push-mower).

2. Stuff that I might want occasionally that will fit through the small entrance to the attic in A's house (new housemates: A and P, yay!). E.g. large pot for canning, canning jars, mementos.

3. Stuff that will go in my new bedroom. It's gonna be crowded in there, yo.

Things that are going to go away: cheap IKEA coffee table, large particle board shelf, small particle board shelf, massive three-drawer filing cabinet (I have VIVID memories of hulking that thing up the back steps into this apartment. That and the loveseat were the most challenging to move by myself.).

For Category 1, I have a dilemma. Where should I store these things? [ profile] scrottie found a decent storage place here in Lincoln. Denver and Salt Lake City will be en route for the drive, and I know people in both cities, so those are candidates, too. I'll be middle-of-nowhere Nevada is cheap. Berkeley is probably too expensive and I won't plan on needing access to any of the Category 1 items - so, like the moving pod but for a longer timeframe.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Let's see. When I was packing things up for the move out of the Villa Maria house, in the early stages I industriously went through my jewelry box and whittled it down, as part of the first stage of moving (full list of stages of moving at the end of this post, ha ha ha).

This time, I am working on pantry management. I enjoy a well-stocked kitchen, but on the other hand it makes me really sad when stuff sits around for 5 years and gets stale and gnawed on by bean beetles (I'm looking at you, erstwhile chickpea flour. Also you, masa harina.). As such, I have too much: cumin seeds, turmeric, black mustard seeds, and fenugreek seeds. Would anyone like an Indian spices collection? These are all in quantities that would be useful if you've run out - I just happen to have double of what I will realistically use.

I also have a variety of delicious Taiwan green tea, and some mild and tasty Bai Mu Dan (Chinese White Peony tea). Trouble is, I will never manage to drink them because coffee is my go-to caffeine source and I'm too caffeine sensitive to consume more than one caffeinated beverage a day.

I will happily send these things to you - just message me your address.

It will get more interesting when I am ready to dispose of this heavy duty three-drawer filing cabinet, eh? I suspect I won't be shipping it to anyone.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
When you read this you will be able to tell immediately that the severe insanity of the week has passed, and now we're back to just normal levels of insanity. THANK GOODNESS. That sucked, but it was necessary.

Fall has announced its arrival. Nighttime temperatures got down to 33 degrees last night, and the radio is forecasting 30 degrees for tonight, so I took some time this morning to do some rearranging and bring most of the plants inside other than the tomato plant (sorry, tomato) and the kale, which likes a little frost. Emma is pleased with this development - more things for her to chew on.

Most of the plants are out of her reach on the newly relocated Gorm, though (wood IKEA shelf). In doing the rearranging I am also starting to think about what's going to be involved in moving to California. Time to do even more downsizing, going from a 2-bedroom apartment to just a bedroom. Hmm, reminds me of my friend AP's recent move. This time I know that in the very least I am going to get rid of two sets of terrible particle board shelves, a terrible and cheap IKEA coffee table, and the twin bed (in favor of the twin-size and queen-size roll-up futons). Farewell to the adequate but not great furniture. The cool furniture and housewares will mostly get put into storage somewhere, but I don't know just where, yet. Somewhere cheap and marginally accessible from Berkeley, hopefully.


I bought a pair of sugar pie pumpkins last weekend because I will admit to enjoying some of the fall pumpkin mania. I've had a sufficient amount of pumpkin beer, so now it's time for other pumpkin things.

So, this morning, pumpkin scones (recipe listed in my recipe directory). But now I still have about 1.5 cups of pumpkin puree left, and am undecided on how I want to proceed. Maybe something savory?

The plant-rearranging and scone-making this morning came at the expense of working on the caterpillar drawing. BUT cricket work is WAY less insane today, so assuming that I gave myself enough of a break last night to avoid general crash-and-burnout, I should have more time and energy for these sorts of things.


Jul. 30th, 2015 10:34 am
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Sunday's bike ride ran so late that I didn't have a chance to attend to all of my planned chores, argdarnit. To top that off, on Saturday night, just as I got ready to bake a loaf of sandwich bread, I discovered that the gas oven had stopped working. The last time this sort of thing happened was when I was living in the Farmer house, trying to bake some scones. That time around, we managed to save the scones by firing up the gas grill, but I don't have that grill anymore, so I just stuck the bread dough in the fridge and crossed my fingers that the replacement oven lighter would show up sooner rather than later.

It finally showed up last night, so instead of working on an overdue manuscript review I took apart the oven and installed the replacement while thinking about how I don't really make enough money to afford to hire a handyman to do this kind of work for me (and no, I don't trust the apartment management to get this stuff done in a time-efficient manner; they always want me to stay home from work). It took much longer than necessary because I didn't think I had a wrench of the correct size and so I removed most of the tiny bolts with an adjustable wrench that kept slipping off of one stripped bolt in particular. Eventually I determined that the socket wrench set did indeed have the correct metric size and finished up the job. Now I want a handy-man merit badge for fixing the oven. The loaf of bread is really flat on top, and more sour than usual, but edible. I also made muesli and more yogurt, chores that I can usually wedge into everyday activities more easily. It's hard when they all pile up at the same time.

I also had to deep-clean the litterbox. On Monday, I noticed a tan smudge on the lid, which upon closer inspection was a full-blown mite infestation, the same kind of mites as we get infesting our cricket and ant colonies. They love dead and decaying material. I think the humidity just finally caught up with the wheat-based litter I prefer. So, time for a major cleanup. If it happens again after this deep-cleaning and complete replacement I may need to switch over to something else instead. The humidity has really been something else this year.

This morning, it was the worm bin that needed immediate attention. I'd hoped to empty it last Sunday, but had put it off, but too much new compost material has been accumulating. It's still kind of in experimental mode at the moment, but at some point I might go through to try and describe how I'm maintaining a worm bin for apartment living because there aren't enough good explanations of this stuff on the interwebs. My apartment method involves giving away a lot of worm dirt to various gardening friends because I'm producing more than I can use for my small collection of potted plants. I'm pretty sure my bin size is large enough for my personal vegetable consumption rate, but I'm less sure that it can accommodate both myself and [ profile] scrottie. I also haven't been keeping it at quite the right ratio of vegetables to worm bedding because it has been on the smelly, moist side. Hopefully I can generate enough shredded paper to balance things out better.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Even though it's just me in a sizeable apartment, I'm still finding that I need to sweep all the floors about once a week. It's not an especially terrible chore, really, and vastly better than having to vacuum! Just interesting to observe. I really HATE walking on crumbs.

Yesterday, before and after work, I did some window-washing, at least partly inspired by reading this Apartment Therapy about five things to clean. The windows had been nagging at me anyway, especially the smudged glass doors in the living room and what looked like either animal or small child smudges in the front bedroom. If I wanted to be super-meticulous about things, I think I'd need to do at least two more repeat cleanings, but I don't know that I'll be all that inspired. It reminded me of window-washing as a kid. It's really a great chore for kids.

Cleaning the windows here also reminded me of cleaning the windows at the Villa Maria house, although the ones here feel slightly less like manure-polishing. Only *slightly* less, because they also have badly flaking paint that gets everywhere. It makes me sad to see things reach that sort of state, although I understand how it happens.

The kitchen window was the most crazy. Apparently at some point, someone thought it was a great idea to plant some vines that would grow up the brick exterior of the place. This person must not have realized that the vines would happily grow up and over the window screening. Everything was dead and mostly removed by the time I moved in, but there were clumps of rootlets that had grown through the kitchen window screen. It took me a little while to realize that the windows in this place all have proper storm windows, although the storm windows don't seem to have substantially improved the apartment's insulation, to judge by the first month's $300 electricity bill (though equal blame probably goes to an ancient, failing furnace). When I originally checked the place out, I tested out the main windows in every room, but not the storm windows, so it wasn't until later on that I discovered that the storm window in the kitchen would not budge.

I will just sum up and say that I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday basically sitting in the kitchen sink, and eventually I got that kitchen storm window out, with minimal damage to the screen. It wasn't a pretty process, but the outcome is more fresh air for the kitchen, and a much cleaner window, hurrah! I spend enough time at the sink to warrant a nice view.

If only I wasn't experiencing such terrible pollen allergies. No sinus headache, but a whole lot of congestion.

I should also note that I haven't been noticing the sour milk smell. I suspect I've just gotten used to it, but it could also be that I'm doing a decent job of replacing the mildew spores with other interesting microorganisms as things warm up and I open the windows more. The worm bin has been happy, and the sourdough cultures and yogurt, too.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I did a stupendous job of channeling Helga today. Helga is my hyper-cleaning OCD alter-ego, in case you haven't met her before. I really should make up some calling cards that just say, "Helga was here" so I can leave them in places after I've Cleaned.

I think I will be eligible to leave one at the Sour Milk House upon my departure. Assuming I keep things up.

I found some actual mildew this morning, along a crevice in the doorframe to the front bedroom - the room that had a ceiling collapse due to water funneling in from the balcony above it. I think I'm going to make "mildew spot-checks" a biweekly or monthly task, particularly in those high-up places that are easily overlooked. I also finished bleaching the hallway and dining room, so the only two spaces that remain are the bathroom and the back entryway. The end is in sight, hallelujah.

I also started to vacuum out the air intakes for the furnace. Those were looking mighty fuzzy, but the fuzz is mostly dust. Still, gross.

Then I came in to work to help an undergraduate with cricket stock maintenance. The lab is currently understaffed in that department, so it's up to me to step up. No problem; it isn't like I have a busy social life at the moment or anything. It's menial work but satisfying to see things neat and tidy. I have great contempt for scientists who find themselves utterly unable to care for their study organisms (job's beneath them, they're slobs, et cetera). TZ seems to agree with me in that department, which is great. Life's so much better when one's boss has one's back.

I've been doing some mental calculations about the stuff I've got in the storage pod. I've been paying ~$100/month for storage, which would work out to $600 to store things for the 6 months I'm here. However, if I leave stuff in the pod and have it shipped off to the Great Beyond (whatever my next destination happens to be), I'll still have to pay shipping fees again. Plus I'll have to rent another small moving truck, no matter what I do. So it seems most financially reasonable to have the pod delivered and then do my next move entirely by truck or entirely by pod. That will add another layer to the sorting and organizing, but once the bleaching is finished I think I'll be ready for it. Plus it will be nice to have access to things like bike tools and parts and desk space and spices.

Time to go do laundry.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
No gas leaks last night, and I was able to cook myself a simple birthday dinner of macaroni and cheese from a box, with sauteed carrots, peas, mushrooms, and onions. Oh, and a dab of the delicious jalapeno sauce my mom sent me for my birthday (thanks again, Mom!). I bought some random brand of chipotle salsa from the grocery co-op that was labeled as "hot," but forgot that midwesterners have zero heat tolerance, so the salsa is all smoke and no fire. I sent an emergency message to my friend J to Please Send Halp in the form of peppery goodness, but it will take a little while for him to get a package assembled. I happen to know he has a good collection of dried jalapenos and serranos, plus some really good Korean hot pepper flakes.

Anyway. It also felt good to be back in an office yesterday, working on manuscript revisions. Too much sitting at home makes me anxious. I took the day off from the bleaching project, too.

For those who might want to see a photo tour of the place, plus a handful of photos from the trip up here, click on the photo below.

Side door

I think I'm going to wind up leaving the stuff that's in the storage pod, in the storage pod. It was entertaining to go through and decorate the living room in an extremely minimalist fashion after I finished bleaching it. Even with the minimalist furnishings, it's a comfortable and pleasant space, and I think it will be useful to have the space once I finish the cat test-quilt and start in on the larger quilt.

People keep asking me about what I'm sleeping on. It's one of these roll-up futon mattresses. While it seems like it's on the thin side, it has been incredibly comfortable. I might eventually put a tatami mat underneath it, but I haven't gotten that far in my shopping yet. Using my sleeping bag as a comforter is giving me motivation to finish the quilt. I found the coffee table propped up out back behind the building, so I'm assuming it's free for the taking.

I need to write some stuff about the book I'm reading and about sourdough sometime soon.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)

The gas man was supposed to come by this morning,  but a few minutes before the end of the scheduled time window the gas company called to say he'd been delayed by a gas leak. So I'm still at home. At least the maintenance man has been by to fix the kitchen light switch and re-key the front and back doors, so the place is becoming more civilized. I also got through bleaching another room, so there are just three rooms to go and they're smaller ones at that. The bleaching is hard work, but this place will be _clean_ when I'm finished.

The only downside is that I'm concluding that much of the lingering mildew smell is in the HVAC system and I forgot to ask the maintenance man about the location of the furnace intake so as to find out about installing an allergen-removing filter. One thing at a time, I suppose.

I was hoping to set up home internet by tethering my computer to the sab-n-dab, but apparently my sim card won't allow it. The data speed here also makes me think I might have to find a different carrier if I want to pursue this option. On the other hand, phone-only internet might be adequate for the long run, once I am going in to work on a regular basis.

So much mental clutter, really.  Don't ask me about shopping lists right now.

I'm still making many a mental comparison between the move-in here versus the move-in in Texas. I am sure that Texas has prepared me in many ways for the whole experience of moving to a city where I know almost no one, but there are still some important contrasts. For one thing, I don't feel trapped in this house in the way I felt trapped at Villa Maria when living there by myself. The neighbor across the street has already introduced herself and invited me over for tea (reminiscent of my most awesome neighbor ever in AZ, though this one has just 2 cats). I've met two of the residents here, so far, and suspect I would have no problem getting a cat-sitter, if necessary.

As with the Villa Maria house, this apartment is pretty large for just me by myself (especially with most stuff still in the pod). But it doesn't feel like the sad dwelling of a schizophrenic. Instead it feels like I am just going for some sort of spare modernist aesthetic. I am concluding that I like living with less stuff, altogether, although I miss a few things from the pod, like the toaster oven.

Bleachy II

Feb. 9th, 2015 06:25 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)

Yesterday's stuck-truck saga put me behind schedule on moving projects, so I wound up taking today off to continue. The gas man is coming tomorrow, so I had cold breakfast and no coffee. But at least, unlike Villa Maria, the electricity is on. Nothing like a little perspective sometimes, eh?

Firsr I biked over to Target, as it seems like the most appropriate place to acquire household goods in the Midwest.  I'd been thinking about getting one of those futon couches, but decided to postpone that purchase for now. Instead, I spent all my birthday money on an air filter. I woke up this morning with mildew fumes lingering and a nasty taste in the back of my mouth. Seemed pricey for a pair of filters and a fan, but it's definitely helping with air quality in the little bedroom.

In the early afternoon, I bleached the walls of the living room and mentally empathized with obsessive-compulsive people. That's two rooms down, five to go, if hallways all count as a room.

This place has some beautiful elements, although it hasn't aged completely gracefully.  I could live pretty contentedly in just half of the total space (I don't have anything in the living room or big bedroom at the moment), but it seems like a genteel sort of place, which distinguishes it greatly from the poor, dumpy, stuffy Villa Maria house, which was never that great to begin with.

This place also has a luxurious cast-iron bathtub.

I just hope the pesticide and mildew issues work out. One room at a time. And boy am I glad to have only pared-down belongings during this period while I'm shuffling between the rooms.

rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Small chicken sculpture
Small chicken figurine given to me by my Aunt L, who originally gave it to my grandfather, then regifted it to me upon my grandpa's death

Have you yet witnessed the next "simplification" trend that has been hitting the US recently, manifested in the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo? I've seen it appear in several different scattered-around places - for instance, apparently it's been the #1 bestseller on NPR's hardcover nonfiction bestseller list (what? NPR has bestseller lists?!). Anyway. The first and uncharitable thought that crosses my mind is that it's hilariously ironic that people are buying a book to figure out how to declutter.

However, the thoughtful and more charitable folks over at Root Simple have rolled up their sleeves to give the approach a solid test-run, and their thoughts on their experience with the process are making me reconsider, to some extent. The hubbub might not be sufficient to convince me to actually acquire the book, but I'm taking away some useful insights from the secondhand experience.

For example, as Kelly points out, the Shinto-influenced tendency to personify objects speaks to the emotional element of dealing with stuff. It's easy for me to get stuck when dealing with possessions for this reason. I have several boxes full of handwritten notes and cards sitting in a storage pod somewhere in Lincoln, NE. It does make sense to me to hold objects and ask if they bring me joy. It's a reminder that I live in luxury.

And gifts. Somewhere, over the course of the "stuff-purge" commentary, it was pointed out that gifts should not be kept for so long that they become a burden. It makes sense to me to say thank-you to the gift-giver and the given object, and then let go of the object after a period. Some things will linger longer than others. In the case of the small chicken figurine pictured above - I am grateful that my aunt thought of me and my chicken-keeping ways, but the photograph will be more than sufficient as a memory. Figuring out where to put the thing rather quickly becomes a burden with figurine-type objects. I should know, for I have burdened myself with many such things over my ceramics-making periods.

Another thing I appreciate about the Root Simple approach is that I know they share my desire to avoid simply throwing things away, but they're also human about this desire - we have to do the best we can to send orphaned things to the right home, but we also have to avoid getting too caught-up in the process of trying to get everything to exactly the right place (for instance, trying to sell all of one's purged rare books on Amazon won't necessarily move them along quickly).

I'm also going to have to figure out how to store my clothes when I move to Lincoln (dresser's in the moving pod), so the tips on how to fold your clothes may become really handy really soon.

And, only partly related, here's today's reminder-to-self to get off the internet occasionally:
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
There are days when all of the unknowns seem manageable - if all else fails, I can afford to pick up and relocate back to Seattle, and I have a feeling that I have enough connections there that I would be able to find some sort of meaningful job and establish a reasonably content life, with the hopes that I could convince [ profile] scrottie to go up there with me.

Other days, the unknowns are overwhelming. I need to allow some imagination when reading job ads - could I really picture myself living in Oklahoma? That's a hard one. I've been to Oklahoma before. Supposedly there's some Cherokee ancestry way back there on my dad's side of the family, and connections to Oklahoma. But - Oklahoma has the same sort of economy as big stretches of Texas, dependent on extracting depleting fossil fuel and natural gas reserves, and shares a lot of cultural similarities with Texas, too - bible-thumping Cowboy Country. Plus, it is still so very, very far away from family and friends. I don't think my boss always realizes this, and how it becomes a big deal when almost all travel has to involve airplanes. Really, that's a part of the calculation for ideal living spaces for me: is it possible to live well without a car, and travel predominantly by bicycle, bus, and train. As a friend recently learned, the drive from here up to Seattle is days-long.

Do I live with others, or live by myself? In my experience, it can be challenging (but not impossible!) to find others who have a similar temperament and lifestyle (reuse or recycle everything, cook from scratch, use cleaning products made from scratch and keep things tidy and organized, don't watch TV). If I live with others again anytime soon, I'm going to go back to being very selective about it.

I've spent a lot of time admiring all kinds of Tiny Home configurations, but after all of it I'm not sure that's what I'm really after, either. A couple of posts from a Tiny Home blogger made that hit home recently (har har) - as just two examples, she wrote about how important it can be to consider Universal Design when planning out a tiny house, and also about the planning needed to live in a tiny house with pets. Both of those make me think - whew, I'm not inclined to dig into home design projects, and I'd rather live in an older, preexisting structure than figure out how to construct a new one that I am likely to eventually outgrow anyway. I'm more inclined to agree with Virginia Woolf, who wrote in A Room of One's Own about how vital it is for a writer to have just that - a space with a door that can be CLOSED. The introvert book agrees with me - not that I take the introvert book as the gold standard, but still.

Aside from that, and an interest in historic spaces, much of my focus is on exterior elements, like transportation, access to the arts, the outdoors, a sense of community, and "public-private" spaces like libraries and coffeeshops (preferably with the bible-thumping and business-planning kept to a minimum). But am I asking too much? Am I failing to imagine some possible lives that could be more fulfilling in the long run? (note that I do not ask about happiness, for I think that's a false priority)

What about for you?
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Some recent conversations and the stupid NYT bestseller book have gotten me to contemplate living arrangements in greater depth - both the ideal, and the real. A recent chapter in SNYTBB talked about how American society has transitioned from a culture idealizing strong moral character to one that idealizes extroverted personalities. In association with that change, which has affected the qualities that are sought out in businesspeople, there have been changes to how workplaces are constructed, such that the majority of workplaces emphasize group work and shared space. Ugh.

This can be harmful to introverts, or really anyone requiring quiet space for concentration (see: my current lack of office and terrible academic writing productivity). A large part of the book's premise is that introverts should receive equal attention and respect (reminds me of Somebodies and Nobodies), and I agree. So, how should this affect the shaping of our spaces, public and private?

Back to living arrangements in particular. I'm trying to reflect on what sort of living arrangements would be my ideal, and how that matches up with where I've lived previously. In this post I'll begin by reflecting on where I've lived so far, before trying to think about what might be ideal for the future. We all start out in living arrangements that are primarily driven by someone else. In the house I grew up in, it was easy to find nooks and crannies to squirrel away in as necessary - we kids all had our own bedrooms, and the house had three stories, so I could happily hide in an attic room or in the basement. Dorm life, in contrast, was a hard transition - I had to sleep and work in shared spaces (stressful), but I found relief by going to the library, hiding in the chemistry building, or walking down to the Someday Cafe. I do have a vivid memory of not being able to find somewhere safe to cry, though. 90 Bromfield was pretty glorious, once I moved out of the little stuffy room on the bedroom floor and down into the drafty room on the main floor, further away from my 3 housemates. I could look out the windows for hours, and read books on the balcony. 89 Bromfield was similar - I spent hours in my room, staring at the wall, thinking. It helped that most of my roommates at 89 Bromfield were introverted. Both Bromfield spaces had the benefit of public areas and private areas, and the benefit of multiple levels. I'm a major proponent of multi-level dwellings.

First Street, in Tempe, was not so great, because it was a single story and my housemate liked to stay up late watching television. Also, the neighbors had a super-barky dog, which would wake me up frequently, and the airplanes flying overhead were so noisy it was impossible to have a private phone conversation in the postage-stamp yard. Maple Ave was particularly difficult, between life in a bedroom right off of the kitchen (single-floor dwelling again) and trying to maintain even keel with a highly extroverted roommate who would barge in a lot. Also, late-night dinner parties hosted by a roommate in a single-floor dwelling aren't fun when I'm trying to go to sleep so I can get up early and go rowing.

Then, the Garage period. In some respects, the Garage was glorious - any messes were ones that I made myself, and the space was beautiful and peaceful, all bricks and rafters, tucked away under a big mesquite tree. I was close enough to the main house to not feel completely isolated, but still had my own space. It just wasn't quite enough room to invite over much company, though, and a bit awkward when half of the seating was on my bed and I had to perform furniture origami all the time to get anything done. I also grew weary of its stuffiness, and the lack of insulation. Keeping it cool was a challenge.

Things were pretty good in the Farmer House, although there the yard situation was kind of the opposite of the Garage - a little too much space for my tastes. I like having room for a garden, but when the yard's too big, it generates too much maintenance work in addition to the gardening space. I am thinking of the hours and hours spent pruning and managing tree branches there, and raking up and composting ornamental citrus. On the other hand, one of the greatest things about the Farmer House was that the two bedrooms were on opposite ends of the house, so even though the house was only one story it was still possible to retain a level of quiet thinking space. The house itself was also a nice size, overall - large common area for hosting friends, plenty of counter space in the kitchen, and a bike room for projects.

What about Villa Maria? It was too large for me by myself, too isolated, and way too noisy. Another large yard full of dying trees requiring way too much maintenance time. The bedrooms were adjacent to each other, separated by a paper-thin wall which is far from ideal. The kitchen didn't get any natural light whatsoever, and the whole place felt stuffy and claustrophobic. I've griped enough about it lately.

Beck Street is great in some respects, but still leaves certain things to be desired. On the one hand, the bedrooms are arranged fairly well, and the common areas interact well, too - while the kitchen itself doesn't have windows, the adjoining dining space lets in plenty of light. The house is a little strange in that it's one of those "antisocial" dwellings where there's minimal interaction with the street out in front, and maximal garage instead. The privacy and quiet can be great, and the garage does get opened up and used in a more public manner on occasion, but I keep thinking that something crazy could happen right outside the front door and we'd never be the wiser.

On top of all this, it's difficult to find quiet space when living with a five-year-old who is still getting familiar with the concept of "personal boundaries" (although he can be cute with his polite interruptions). I suspect most mothers would agree. My room is close enough to the living room that it can be difficult to filter out activities there (especially because my cat yells if I close the door all the way, even though she doesn't actually want to go out due to the ever-vigilant Luda). On the other hand, I'm now closer to downtown Bryan, and there are a couple of places there which I can easily reach if I need some time and space to think in an anonymous setting (library, coffeeshop).

So - based on previous experience, I think the Farmer House is close to ideal. My parents' house was a good size for a family with three kids, but if it were just me, myself, and I, it would be WAY too big. Maybe the Farmer House with a modified backyard, with the part along the train tracks converted to something low- or no-maintenance, and consolidated gardening spaces.

How about for you?
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Part of me is still wondering, what was I spending all of my time on in the old house?

I don't know that there will ever be a good way to account for it, but what I do know is that I'm satisfied with how the new household routines are shaping up, and I'm also happy with the layout and organization of the new space.

The kitchen layout here is completely different from the previous one. This goes back to an article I wrote about but can no longer find (argh Google I hate you), arguing in favor of keeping cooking and kitchens behind closed doors so that one can hide the mess and focus on entertaining when guests are over. Maybe it's true that Americans have ever-larger open-plan kitchens just as they are watching ever more cooking shows, but going out to eat more often than ever before in the past. All that said and done, this kitchen is getting heavy use, and I'm grateful for ample, well-organized counter space and the wraparound bar that allows guests to sit and watch (and help) while the chef(s) prepare food. The Villa Maria kitchen was dark and antisocial.

Both J and K have to be at work by 8 am, and have to drop B off before work, so there's a lot of activity between 7 and 7:30. I've set my alarm for 6:30, so I can crawl out of bed and make some coffee and breakfast in time to share breakfast with others. J and K aren't big breakfast eaters, but if something tempting is sitting there, ready to eat, they'll happily partake, and I'm absolutely happy to cook and share because it's about the same amount of work as just cooking for myself.

Once that hustle and bustle is over, the house gets really, really quiet, aside from an occasional whine from Luda the dog. That moment might be my new favorite time of day: I'm up and awake, I don't have to hustle in to work just yet, and the house is peaceful, so there's space to think. I can wash a few dishes, tidy a couple of things, say hello to and water the plants, make my lunch, and then bike in to work.

In the evenings, I'm not the only one thinking about what to cook and eat, although now cooking winds up being interspersed with providing entertainment for a five-year-old. And vacuuming. It's a relief to have roommates who are equally sensitive to cleaning up fur explosions. I'm finally back to a point where I am getting consistent exercise, between the daily five-mile commute, the Monday Social Ride, rowing on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the Wednesday Ride. The "hurry up and get it done" project of the bike hooks is complete, so there's time for other things outside of chores. A relief, even though it all never fills in the big hole whenever [ profile] scrottie leaves town.

I'm now feeling one of those pauses that occur at different times in life. I keep thinking back to the first months at Villa Maria, when I was broke and didn't have internet at home, and would come back to the schizophrenic living room where the only entertainment was reading a book. Will I read more books, with the current newfound free time? Or will I finally get myself to sit down and start quilting the grandma quilt? Hard to say, just yet. There's a feeling of stasis, while waiting to see how the science schedule and agenda will shape up for the fall.


rebeccmeister: (Default)

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