The Story of Gertrude

Names matter. They matter in business, in life, in friendship, and in bed. But they matter a lot in how we think about things too. People name their cars, parts of their anatomy, their pets, and even create nicknames for people and things that already have names. Imagine my nephew’s surprise when he learns to talk and discovers that his given name is not “Pooper.” I named my house.  In part because it’s the sort of place that demands a name.  It’s unique in scale, style, and history.  It has a personality, and I intend to make a lot of memories here.  Memories with friends and family will be much easier now that I have the heat on, but I’ll get to that in a second. I joked with friends about choosing the perfect name, and I came up with a few that have stuck, and a system whereby I can have more than one name.  As a whole, I call my house Castle Danchester, but I decided that each door will get a name.  Mostly because I got so many good suggestions for names.  The grand front entryway is Danton Abbey, the funky rear entrance to the hall is Dr. Tuba’s Banjo Emporium.  There are 6 exterior entrances, so I have some time. But I also decided to name the steam boiler.  In part because it’s hard to ignore the giant cast-iron radiators in every room, and the giant blue box in the basement, but also in part because having my own steam boiler is somehow wild, exotic, foreign.  Maybe those seem like strong words.  It took a...

Sucker

I’m a sucker for a girl with brown eyes.  I’m also a sucker for thrift store clothes.  To the uninitiated, a tour of my house might suggest that I’m a sucker for instruments that appear in Far Side cartoons.  To me, I’m a sucker for my house, but specifically the front porch. Here’s a shot of the real reason I bought my place: the porch.  Granted, I’m an epic cheapskate and have a hard time walking away from a deal.  And the house was a great deal.  But in this case, my imagination did all the work for me, and I pretty much bought it on the spot.  I imagined taking lunches or dinners or brunches or ALL THE MEALS out here.  Perhaps take up pipe smoking.  Definitely have friends over, and fill it up with good memories. This is a 90 degree panoramic shot, and yes I’m letting it run over the edges of the page on purpose.  You need to get a sense of how big it is.  Go ahead and click the photo.  I’ll wait. I’m not posting the picture of the porch to gloat though.  Because what sort of asshole gloats about his porch.  Instead, I got to thinking this week: it’s the holidays and I’m up at my parents’ place in MI, out in the suburbs, and all the lovely little houses have lovely little wreaths on their lovely little porches.  And those porches are too small to use for sitting, too small to fit a chair and your knees, too small for a little table and a glass of tea.  Certainly too small...

Avoiding Death

I like to avoid death.  I’m pretty good at it.  So it should come as no surprise that when I moved into my new (old) house, I got right to work avoiding death. Let’s throw dismemberment in there as well.  I’m less good at that, judging from the number of burns, scrapes, and lacerations I have gotten in just the last couple weeks.  But I work actively to not die, to not be dismembered, and tell my mom I love her. This was one of the first hazards I dealt with.  The back of the kitchen used to have laundry machines.  The washer apparently leaked.  FOR A LONG TIME.  The floor rotted, and it spread.  There were probably termites at one point.  The pest control company says there was an infestation, but it is no longer active.  The back of the kitchen is noticeably lower and less solid than the rest of the house.  It still seems mostly sound, but it will eventually need a great deal of effort to bring back.  But for the short term, not having a hole will be all the luxury I need. Here is what it looks like after some plywood, a floor mat, and a Hoosier cabinet to distract the eye. There were some lovely holes in the hallway walls as well.  I wasn’t sure what the holes were about until I stuck a screwdriver in one and fished out some wires.  I already knew the bad news, but I got out the volt meter anyway and… yup.  They were live wires stuffed into the wall with no caps.  So I capped...

The Doors

No, not the band.  The things that keep thieves out of our houses.  And raccoons and stuff. Incidentally, the plural of one raccoon is many raccoon, so auto-correct is red-squiggly-ing the word “raccoons” above.  English is sorta whacked when you think about it. When I moved into the house, I had a lot of work to do, but before I could even move in, I had to make sure other people couldn’t casually break into my house.  As if breaking in is something one does casually.   The break-in before I owned the place was a pretty interesting one.  Or perhaps it was several interesting ones.  At the very least, some enterprising individual put his hand through the wall of the building to get to the door knob.  When I did the repair work, I didn’t take a “before” photo because I was on a mission to get things buttoned up and moved in. The exterior walls of the porch were clad in paneling: that cheap, thin wood-stuff that seemed all the rage in the 70s.  That was on the outside.  The photo above is one of the panels laid back up where it had been, because I replace the wall with this:   This is primed bead-board.  I clad the other side in plywood (it’s still a porch after all), and it’s insulated.  I got the expanding foam stuff and sealed all the cracks around the brick.  Then the weather turned cold, like actual cold.  And I could rest easy knowing that the cold breeze blowing through my living room wasn’t coming from that one spot. But Wait, There’s...

Lost in Translation: WinJS, Web Apps, and Jquery

WinJS is a New Country With the Same Language. I recently wrote a Windows 8.1 tablet app for my company, Parse3.  I learned a lot about the framework, async programming, and even (at my jaded old age) JavaScript.  This is the first in a multi-part series about my learning experiences with WinJS and its strengths and weaknesses. In the latest release of Windows, MS released WinJS- a development framework that is meant to draw web developers back into the “native app” fold.  It allows programmers to write desktop or tablet apps in plain-old HTML and JavaScript.  This seems like a win-win for everyone.  See, in order for the whole Windows App Store model to work, MS needs a lot of programmers churning out apps for its ecosystem.  A lot of those programmers are out on the web, where the technology is new and exciting, the visibility great, and the community mature.  So WinJS is an attempt to get some of that energy back into the MS desktop development arena, with the flip side that it lets web developers target the desktop/tablet with their core skills. In Theory. Jquery doesn’t work.  Let that sink in a bit. Jquery is one of the most popular and widely-used javascript frameworks on the web.  Most any web developer worth his or her salt will know Jquery like a trusted friend.  It’s like a carpenter’s hammer: not right for every problem, but oh-so-right when the problem is a nail.  Let’s face it, in web development there are a lot of nails to pound.  So not supporting jquery out of the box presents a road block,...