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Right now, there are folks in the basement replacing the furnace for the first floor, the one that died and the fire department came and tagged out.

And I've also been taking breaks recently by going through my LJ and tagging old entries. Speaking of tagging, and all.


Beginning of March, 2006. That's when the now-dead furnace caught on fire. I "fixed" it, at least enough to get it running, and I kept it running for two weeks shy of two years. We've had two extra years to budget for replacing this thing.

We're not using the old, salvage boiler that Dad found. As long as we were putting the thing in, and as long as MORE than half the cost is installation, we figured we deserved a NEW boiler.
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[livejournal.com profile] vonbeck mentioned a couple days ago that the furnace in the basement which heats his floor was having some steam leaks. It's an OLD furnace and caught on fire once, but I managed to bodge it back together well enough to get another season out of it.

Just a little technology note: we have steam heat, with radiators.
How radiators work )

So that's how a steam radiator heating system works. It's simple, it's middlin' efficient, it's pretty reliable.

But, over time, things can go wrong. Natural gas burns perfectly clean, however, dust bunnies don't. Over time, you get dust bunnies in your furnace, which burn, and cause soot, which can cause problems. And joints can loosen up, and leak steam.

The first-floor furnace was getting real close to the end of its lifespan, and when [livejournal.com profile] marquisedea went into the basement the other day, she saw steam venting into the basement, and it smelled damp. She called the fire department to come deal with it, which was a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

Speaking as a landlord: I really like it when my tenants do things which make it less likely for bad things to happen.

The fire department came, turned off that furnace, and tagged it with a "DO NOT TURN ON THIS FURNACE UNTIL IT'S SERVICED BY A LICENSED HVAC PERSON".

So, now we have to find a good HVAC person, or, far better, we need to get that sucker out, throw it away, and put a new system in. The one that they just tagged is REALLY not worth fixing.

New furnaces cost about a thousand dollars. I think we can probably deal with that, but it's not fun.

Then I started doing laundry.

And I heard spurting water after a time.

I think I figured out where THAT'S coming from, too. See, most of the time, when you hook up plumbing, you hook up your drains so that he waste water flows down. "Down" is a good way to get things to flow, because it's hard to get things to flow "up".

However, sometimes, it's unavoidable. Sometimes, the only way to fit something where you want it is to have the waste water flow "up". So they have "drain pumps". These are pumps which suck the water you need to get rid of into a bucket, and then pump the water out of the bucket UP, until you can get it to a place where the water can go DOWN.

I think the water is backing up in the drain pump. Oy.
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Father and I put up a tub surround for the walls around our bathtub enclosure. The tiles have been falling out of the wall for, um, YEARS now, and we finally did something about it. Seems to have worked well enough.

Then I installed a shower door, to replace our shower curtain. And it looks fine.

'Cept. . . the installation rather assumes that the tub enclosure has angles in it that are somewhat close to right angles. And this is . . . less true than it might be. If I got the doors such that they'd close completely -- that is, such that the top corner of the sliding door and the bottom corner of the sliding door could touch the wall jamb simultaneously, then the door was tilted with respect to the upper and lower sliding tracks such that it could not slide.

I've gotten it to a . . . compromise position . . . which makes it usable, but it's not right, and, I don't think it CAN be.

So, that's a partial success. Or a partial failure, depending on how you view your glasses of water.

The other thing is much more on the "success" side. I've been working on the Blue Blazer, a drink which Jerry Thomas invented in the 1850s or so. It involves setting whiskey on fire and pouring it back and forth between two silver mugs, so that the bartender throws a stream of blue fire between his hands.

I've been working on this for a while, and I think I MAY have finally figured out the trick. Here's what I just did:

1. I boiled water in the kettle, and poured boiling water into one cup. I poured the boiling water back and forth a few times to get the cups good and hot.

2. I put a tablespoon of sugar in one cup, and poured boiling water over it.

3. I poured the boiling water back and forth a couple times until the sugar dissolved, and then put all the boiling sugar-water in one cup, leaving the other one empty.

4. I put a shot of 100 proof rye whiskey in the other cup, and lit it. Because the cup was hot, the alcohol vapors were coming off and were easy to light.

5. I poured the fire into the sugar water, leaving just a little flaming liquor in the first cup, then poured the mixture back, leaving just a little flaming rye-sugar-water in the second cup, and did that a few times.

6. I extinguished the cups by placing the bottom of one cup on the other, then reversing them, so that I smothered the flame in each one.

7. I poured the Blue Blazer into an espresso cup.

It worked.

Now I just have to deal with the fact that it's actually not that interesting-tasting a drink. I'm thinking that adding bitters might help.
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I have a blender which could blend a rake handle, if I had to. Yep, I got a Blendtec Blender -- the one demonstrated here.

According to Lis, I'm not allowed to do any of the "Don't Try This At Home" ones.
Read more... )
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I can lead off by mentioning Lis. Every day I see her and wonder how I managed to be lucky enough to end up with her.

And I am also thankful for all the rest of my friends -- all of you reading this (those of you I know in person, and those of you I know only through LiveJournal, too) -- those of you I've known for years, either online or meatspace, and those of you I've only met, meatspace or online, recently.

I'm thankful for my family. I'm one of a relatively few people I know without any family-conflict issues. Again, I don't know how I lucked out to be born into my family, but I'm thankful for it. That is why our family tends to adopt people into it -- a few of you are my siblings simply because my mother and father adopted you. My parents are like that -- if you have a rocky relationship with your own parents, or if you have a GOOD relationship with your parents, but they're too far away for you to see very often, or if you have a good relationship with your parents and you see them a lot but you want MORE parents, too, my parents will take you in and give you love.

And the rest of my family is similar. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins: everyone in my family is honorable, caring, clever, and decent. I don't know how I lucked out to be born into this family.

And then, Lis's family, too -- I managed to marry one of the only OTHER people I know whose whole family is honorable, caring, clever, and decent. I am as thankful for my in-laws as for the part of the family into which I was born.

I am thankful that we appear to have found a medication which controls my Depression, and is allowing me to restructure my life to be effective and productive. I am thankful that I am now in the process of making that restructuring, and that I feel like I am making some progress toward it.

I am thankful that we have a house, for which we paid a reasonable price, and which allows us to have rental income. I am thankful that we rent to good people who I like having as neighbors -- [livejournal.com profile] marquisedea and her boyfriend Josh upstairs, and [livejournal.com profile] vonbeck downstairs. I am thankful that our house is warm and dry, and comfortable. I am thankful that I have a kitchen in which I can cook, and that we have bookshelves full of books. I am thankful that we have plenty of warm, comfortable, and reasonably-good looking clothing to wear, warm jackets, shoes that keep our feet dry.

I am thankful that we have a washing machine and dryer so we don't have to go to the laundromat -- it makes life a lot easier. I'm thankful that we have a dishwasher. I'm thankful for our standing mixer, our electric kettle, our rice cooker, our Henkel's and Wusthoff knives. I'm thankful for our refrigerator, and our pantry, full of food.
Read more... )
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LIS and IAN have just come in from outside, where they have spend the past hour up on ladders, cutting tree branches that could threaten phone wires.

Both LIS and IAN are afraid of heights, but have done good work, and are proud of themselves. IAN has just downed two shots of shlivovitz to steady his acrophobia nerves; LIS is drinking an (alcoholic) cider, 'cause she deserves one.

LIS: Are you coming in the bedroom to lie down? 'Cause I just spread out my stuff all over the bed.
IAN: Naw; I just came in to say hi to you. I'm going to go to my computer and see if I can type, two shots of shlivovitz drunk.
LIS: That's a good idea. You should blunk drog. Um. I mean drunk blog.
IAN: Did you do that on purpose?
LIS: . . . no.
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So, I was washing and disinfecting the humidifier, after not using it all summer (I disinfect it, because I figure there's probably mildew in there, given how good my housekeeping usually isn't). In the process, I accidentally knock over a bottle of bleach and spill maybe a cup of bleach on the floor of the kitchen.

Now, one thing I have to say is that ceiling fans are good things, but opening up the windows in November in Boston sucks.

On the other hand, one full roll of paper towels later, I can say that the part of the kitchen floor where the bleach spilled? Has never been cleaner.
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So, yesterday, I was telling Lis that I had to try to get the bathroom cleaned up, and said that I’d have to do some tub scrubbing.\

Lis said, “Tub scrubbing?” And then she started singing:

“I wash it down / But it gets dunked up again / I’m never gonna / Get it clean. . . “
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So, much got accomplished today. Unfortunately, one of the things was of the "Oh. So, um, maybe not," kind of accomplishment.

We finally got our taxes taken care of (six month extension, don'cha know), and owe money, for the first time in quite some time, but we expected that, and set that money aside ahead of time. Dad came over to help us install our new tub.

'Cept, see, um, no.

See, what we were thinking about and got the parts for, and what he was thinking would be a two-day job or so -- not the same thing, not in the least. To install the things that we have downstairs in boxes would involve, oh, ripping out most of the bathroom, redoing parts of the ceiling . . . generally remodeling. A week at least. As well as some more expense in materials and all. Dad and I probably COULD do it ourselves -- but, no. So, Monday, we get to talk about returning these things and buying the things that we ACTUALLY need. Oops. I rather hope that we CAN return these things . . . we'll see.

Dad and I did get the brush and weeds and leaves and stuff from the yard to the public works yard where you can drop that stuff off, so that's good.

Then Lis and I went into Harvard Square to pick up a book that we had special-ordered. And went to Grendel's Den for dinner.

At Grendel's (which is an incredible bar and decent restaurant), Lis had a shot of a pumpkin liqueur, which she really loved (I found it too cloyingly sweet for my taste, drunk straight, but Lis likes that). So we took Rte 1 home instead of Rte 93, and stopped at the big Kappy's Liquors.

As it turned out, there was a tequila brand (Cazadores Tequila) doing a promo there, with dancing girls and t-shirts and hats and stuff. The women in question are all from the province in Mexico where this particular tequila is made, and if you buy the tequila, you get a photo with them, and a copy of the calendar with their pictures. . .

Am I weird that, when encountering a tequila being demonstrated by a half-dozen sexy women, I'm more interested in the tequila? I did a couple tastings, and as it turns out, the tequila was really good, so I bought a bottle, and therefore ALSO got the photo and the calendar.

We also got the liqueur and a couple other things. Including a bottle of a sparkling wine that we had first had at the snack bar of the Yale Rep Theater.

You know how I've pointed out that, since Australia and New Zealand are now making world-class wines, screw-top bottles have lost their association with bad wine? This one doesn't have a screw-top. It's got a pry-off, like a beer bottle.

And, as I pointed out to Lis, it is, in fact, a sparkling muscatel.

That's actually why we bought it at the snack bar, that first time. "Actually, it's a sparkling muscatel -- one of the finest wines of Idaho. Would you like to sniff the bottle cap?"

Lis really liked it. So, when we saw it in the liquor store, we bought it.

And now we're debating going to a housewarming party for some friends who just discovered that the person who is renting the house to them does not in fact OWN said house and that the people who DO own the house want them to move out.

But they're still holding the party. On the pro side, we like the people and it will be fun. On the con side, Lis is too tired to move. I think that the "not moving" side is going to win, unfortunately.
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So, there's a fund raiser dinner tonight at the VFW hall down the street, and I'd have wanted to go if it wasn't Kol Nidre tonight. Not really something you can blow off.

But I wanted to go, and more, I wanted to support the cause, so I just donated the money that two tickets would have cost.

See, Fonzi is the guy who owns the convenience store across the street, and he's a terrific guy. And he has cancer, including a brain tumor (which they think they got out, but he's now doing radiation therapy for that), and stuff in his chest.

He owns the convenience store, which suggests to me that he probably doesn't have great health care. People who own their own small businesses rarely have enough money to pay for things like really GOOD health insurance. And so folks in the neighborhood are throwing a dinner for him.

It sucks. Fonzi is such a wonderful man. When Anna, our upstairs neighbor and [livejournal.com profile] marquisedea's mother was sick, he would extend her credit. She had no money because she couldn't work, and the little she had went to doctor's bills. And Fonzi would just let her get milk and bread and so forth without charging her. So he was responsible for keeping Anna and Sammi fed, some of the time.

And now it sounds like he has something similar to what killed Anna.

It's just not fair.

(No, I'm not worried that there's something environmental causing this. Two similar cancers in the same area in several years does not a pattern make. If a third appears, I'll start thinking about it.)
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So, we've set up a Chore Wars account for us.

LIS: Well, I WOULD help you with the laundry, but I don't want to poach your XP.
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I live on Main Street in Melrose, and put on my glasses, and vaguely saw two police cars parked on the street opposite my house. Being the nosy soul that I am, I walked to the front room to get a better view. Two cruisers had pulled over a beater of a car, and two young men who looked like college students were standing on the sidewalk. One officer was searching the car.

I was watching, trying to figure out exactly what was going on -- drugs, probably, I figured. But the two folks pulled over seemed calm, and unworried, so I was wondering if they'd just been pulled over for speeding, and the officers were giving them a hard time, or checking for open booze bottles (in Massachusetts, driving with an open bottle of alcohol in the car is illegal in its own right -- it's not even that it's considered presumptive cause for operating under the influence -- if there's an open bottle of booze or beer in a moving vehicle, that's illegal per se. They recently passed an amendment to the bill, a year or two ago, in order to allow people to bring half-drunk bottles of wine home from restaurants).

But the kids didn't seem too worried.

The officer opened the trunk, and looked through it.

And pulled out a 136 bus T stop sign.

The kids' heads sort of dropped, and they began kind of shuffling their feet. . . .

They just drove off, and the police put the T sign in their cruiser, presumably to put it back where it belongs. Don't know just how much trouble the kids are going to be in, but, I dunno, it looked, to me, like the police weren't that upset -- a couple college students stealing bus stop signs on the weekend that kids get back to college doesn't seem like the sort of thing that would surprise them that much . . . .
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1. Our car is still burning a quart of oil every week or so.
2. The bathroom sink -- the gasket that held the metal pipe that goes down from the drain to the S-trap rotted off completely. It does solve the "the gasket is dripping when you use the sink" problem, but introduces the "water gushes out of where the gasket had been if you use the sink" problem.
3. Lis's computer wouldn't boot. So she got some boot/rescue CDs. And one of them overwrote the FAT, as well as some other files. We don't know which files it overwrote, of course, because, as far as her computer knows, it doesn't have ANY files on it.
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Anna's funeral was today. She pretty much planned the whole thing before she died -- she wanted it to be a party, rather than a particularly sad time. And I think she more-or-less succeeded.

I stuck around after the graveside service to see the casket lowered and covered.
Sami, much of the rest of this deals with the ex you hate. So you may not want to read. )
So, I went back to the church, where they'd set up a bit of a shindig. They had deli platters and dozens of pizzas and shrimp cocktail and those roll-up sandwiches that they slice up and you buy by the platter, as well as a pretty impressive dessert table. And they had a laptop computer playing some songs Anna liked and showing a slideshow of family pictures that included her.
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+ I made sufganyot today. I've never had them before, so I don't know what they're supposed to be like, but the things I made were pretty good. See, Internet + Cooking + Me is kind of bad -- I look up a recipe, find six or twelve, look at them, notice the commonalities, and then make up my own version. I know that you're supposed to follow a recipe the first time you make something, especially if you've never even seen the item you're making, but I had descriptions of them, and they sounded good, and the things I made kind of fit the description, and were good.

- I failed to make some sort of baked good or something for Lis's work potluck tomorrow. Because I was making sufganyot instead.

+ The oil lamp we made works. And it's stable enough that Lis said I could leave it unattended for fifteen minutes at a time. And it was fine.

+ I relatively competently dealt with a financial issue (paperwork stuff, phoning someone, getting copies of forms kind of thing)

- I forgot to make an appointment to get the car's oil changed.

+ I bought some of the stuff that Lis needed at the store.

- I forgot some of the stuff that Lis wanted at the store.

{} Anna's funeral is tomorrow.

Sufganyot are a jelly-filled fried thingy. They're a traditional Hannukah dish, where "traditional" is defined as "made up and popularized within the last century or so by people who wanted to make a statement that they were TOTALLY DIFFERENT from their parents and grandparents."

And they're yummy. See, "things fried in oil" are a traditional thing to eat on Hannukah, because a) miracle of the oil thingy b) baby, it's cold outside, and so we should eat lots of calories c) our arteries are failing to clog fast enough. And the main "thing fried in oil" tradition of the Ashkenazic Jews was, and is, latkes. And so, when the Zionists were settling Israel, one of the messages they wanted to send is that "we're totally different from the kinds of Jews from whom we're descended, so we won't speak Yiddish, we'll pronounce Hebrew differently, and we'll have different holiday traditions." But you can't dump latkes without replacing them with something else, and preferably something better.

I'm not going to say that sufganyot are better than latkes, but they're certainly good. Or at least, the things I made that are sufganyot-like are good.
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IAN: "Hey, Lis?"
LIS: "Yes?"
IAN: "Will you be the voice of adult reason?"
LIS: "Um, sure. . . what's going on?"
IAN: "No, you don't understand -- I'm not going to tell you unless you promise NOT to be the voice of adult reason."
LIS: "Is this something dangerous?"
IAN: "Um. . . not really. . . "
Read more... )
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My upstairs neighbor died.

My thoughts and prayers are with her daughter [livejournal.com profile] marquisedea, who doesn't deserve this.

Anna has had cancer for years now, and her death wasn't unexpected. But [livejournal.com profile] marquisedea is only nineteen, maybe twenty if I've missed her birthday. And she's had quite a bit more than her share of shit in the last couple years.

I have faith that Anna's okay. She has nothing further to worry about. But Sami's the one I worry about, because she has to live with it.

For Christians on my friends list: what do Christians do instead of sitting shiva? What is there I can do for Sami?

And, Sami, what is there Lis and I can do for you?
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Right down the hill, the parking lot of the supermarket has eight inches of water in it. In the parking lot of the condominiums next to it, there are cars in water over their tires. Apartment buildings nearby are being evacuated, and there have been sporadic reports of plumbing backing up in disgusting ways.

None of this has, however, directly affected our home, baruch Hashem, and knock on wood. We're at the top of the hill where all this is happening at the bottom. We may be the only people in Massachusetts on my friends list who don't need a sump pump. If anyone is flooded out, bring over a sleeping bag -- we can probably give you a dry spot to sleep in.
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So, we had a seder at our house.

I've got to say, we had a WONDERFUL group of people. I had such a great time, because we had such wonderful guests.

The seder was very simple -- we led out of the Maxwell House haggadah, with occasional snippets from other haggadot. The plan was to start at 7 and finish at 10; we actually started closer to 7:30 and went until 11:30. Which, for Jews, is pretty good.

We would have gone later if people didn't have to do things like sleep and go to work in the morning and stuff like that. I would have loved to keep that whole group of people at our house until 4 in the morning hanging out and singing songs and stuff. But I think several of them would have had their eyeballs explode from lack of sleep if we'd done that. And that would have been bad.

We rushed the post-eating part of the seder, as is all-but traditional, but we actually managed to DO it. Okay, so we did Birkat through Nirtzah in about five minutes flat -- but we DID it.

The food was pretty good. I SUCK at timing things, ("Well, Lis said that the roast would take about three hours, so I should put it in at about five. I put it in at three, to cook for five hours.") but the roast turned out fine, anyway -- I cooked it by thermometer, and turned the oven down to keep-warm once it was to temp. And I guess I didn't dry it out too much, since juices were SQUIRTING out of it when it was cut.

Here's what went wrong with the cooking:
1. With the chicken soup, I used white pepper instead of black pepper. I discovered that I don't like white pepper.
2. I forgot to make soup carrots.
3. The matzah balls were tough enough to require knife and fork to cut -- I don't actually know HOW I made them that dense, but they had a measurable gravitational field.
4. I screwed up the timing on the veal roast. However, I don't know if I can really count this one as a problem, since the roast came out fine, anyway.
5. Again, because of timing, the spinach pie was VERY dried-out.
6. The torte I made for dessert was kind of lopsided and looked weird.

Here's what went right with the cooking:
1. Everything else.

There were a few dishes I'd intended to make but didn't get around to -- sauteed green peppers and garlic, a stuffing for the turkey. But given that we (as anticipated) have more than 50% leftovers (this is deliberate: the plan was to cook for the seder and not have to cook again for the rest of the week), I don't suppose that anyone went TOO hungry.

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