Cider Press Hill

Stair project underway

Tuesday, 5:23 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

Today J came over and we began the stairway project. The carpeting is now all ripped out and all the nail strips are pried off. That’s only the first stage because when we rip into a project there is never only one stage.

The stairs are not in the greatest shape. I didn’t really expect them to be. They were never built to be un-carpeted—which is to say, the builders slapped them together without much care for detail work and dripped paint all over them. There is a gap of at least a quarter inch along the sides of some of the stair treads and none of the risers actually meet the wall. A little trim and some wood putty should take care of the aesthetics, but it’s going to be a fussy and time consuming project. I’m painting the stairs anyway, so that should be okay.

I’ll probably take some before and after photos, to see how close I come to my perfectionist standard. I think I’ll do some stenciling, too.

The very bottom step has to be removed and repaired or replaced. It has a lovely crack in it. I think it can be glued and clamped with good results. If not, well, nuts.

In any case, I have my different grades of sand paper, tack cloth, trim, and primer paint all ready to go. This is going to be finished as soon as humanly possible. 


History is funny

Monday, 10:22 pm

By Kate




partly cloudy

I’ve been meaning to mention this for a while, simply because it amused me. A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Card (GW’s first chief of staff) made the headlines for criticizing President Obama for not wearing a jacket in the Oval Office. Quoting from a New York Times piece, Andrew said:

“The Oval Office symbolizes…the Constitution, the hopes and dreams, and I’m going to say democracy. And when you have a dress code in the Supreme Court and a dress code on the floor of the Senate, floor of the House, I think it’s appropriate to have an expectation that there will be a dress code that respects the office of the President.”

Mr. Card went on to add that, while he would not criticize Mr. Obama for his appearance, “I do expect him to send the message that people who are going to be in the Oval Office should treat the office with the respect that it has earned over history.”

I chuckled over the last statement. I’ve recently read about some of that history and learned something I never knew before: Thomas Jefferson, as President, was an utter slob. And he enjoyed it very much. Of course, the Oval Office wasn’t completed yet, but his chambers for receiving visitors and statesmen were most definitely in the White House. He created quite a bit of consternation with his manner of dress and refusal to acknowledge protocol (George Washington, setting precedent, had been a real stickler for both).

An excerpt from a terrific (and recommended) book entitled Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W. Toll:

The president was willing to receive unscheduled visitors during the morning and midday hours, just as he would receive a neighbor at Monticello, but he assumed no obligation to dress for the occasion. Senator Plumer, when accompanied by Congressman Joseph Varnum to meet Jefferson for the first time in 1802, recalled that “a few moments after our arrival, a tall, high-boned man came into the room. He was dressed, or rather undressed, in an old brown coat, red waistcoat, old corduroy small-clothes much soiled, woolen hose, and slippers without heels. I thought him a servant, when General Varnum surprised me by announcing that it was the President.” The English chargé d’affaires (later ambassador) John Foster gave a similar description: “He wore a blue coat, a thick grey-coloured hairy waistcoat with a red under-waistcoat lapped over it, green velveteen breeches with pearl buttons, yarn stocking and slippers down at the heel, his appearance being very much like that of a tall, large-boned farmer.” The editor of the Evening Post, in 1802, found him “dressed in long boots with tops turned down about the ankles like a Virginia Buck; overalls of corduroy faded, by frequent immersions in soap suds, from yellow to a dull white; a red single-breasted waistcoat; a light brown coat with brass buttons, both coat and waistcoat quite threadbare; linen very considerably soiled; hair uncombed and beard unshaven."
Some interpreted Jefferson’s “negligent simplicity” as a calculated provocation. Foster said that the president, in ignoring the standards of dress and grooming expected of a head of state, “flattered the low passions of a mere newspaper-taught rabble, and seemed pleased to mortify men of rank and station."

Jefferson went on to offend in a number of other matters, as well, nearly sending the British ambassador and his wife over the edge. In fact, the man simply refused to accept any further invitations to the White House after being so affronted. Jefferson thought he and his wife were pains in the you know what.

Somehow, despite Jefferson’s dreadful lack of respect for the Office of the President, he and we muddled on. I have no doubt that Jefferson would have called Andrew Card a pompous ass if Andrew had been alive and complaining back in the day.


Two things that made me laugh

Sunday, 2:12 pm

By Kate





1. The Pomegranate Phone - the next, next, next, next generation of cell phone. An extremely well done ad campaign from the fine (tourism) folks in Nova Scotia. It’s going viral, it’s working pretty well. Their intention was a non-traditional ad campaign. It definitely is that—and hilarious.

2. A Slobbering Love Affair: The True (And Pathetic) Story of the Torrid Romance Between Barack Obama and the Mainstream Media by Bernard Goldberg.  I was browsing for books for my Kindle and discovered this abomination. This book, by Regnery Press, also includes an *exclusive* interview with Rush. The ‘product description’ made me snort coffee all over my screen. Get it while it’s hot. until it’s in the remainders pile. Shouldn’t take long. Better bang for yer buck that way.


My very own smoke bomb

Friday, 4:57 pm

By Kate




clear night

During the winter months, the last thing I do before I go to bed is load the stove, let it reach a high burn until the stove is about 800° on the surface, then close the damper and shut her down for the night. That way I get a slow, but healthy (clean) burn through the night with enough live coals in the morning to start a new fire without kindling. It also keeps the house warm enough so that icicles aren’t hanging off everyone’s nose in the morning. Last night was no different, except for one small thing.

Before I tend to the fire, I’ve already turned most of the lights out, so I’m doing this stove operation in semi-dark. I’ve been doing this for 8 or so years, so it’s automatic. Usually.

So, there I was all curled up in my bed, reading, when I started to smell smoke. Now, it wasn’t an alarming thing because the wind was blowing an absolute gale. Every now and again, the wind will catch the chimney just right and go straight down. That makes the stove belch a puff of smoke into the house. As I say, it happens rarely, but it’s annoying when it does happen. So, I didn’t think that much about it. Until, the smell of smoke started growing stronger.

I leaped myself right out of bed and when I hit the hallway, the smell of smoke was intense. Oh boy, this can’t be good, I muttered.

By the time I’d reached the bottom of the stairs and pulled back the quilt, I knew it wasn’t good. The downstairs was choked with thick smoke. And I saw a glowing red thing on the top of the stove. I grabbed my stove gloves and carried that red glowing thing, that was smoking like mad, and drowned it in the kitchen sink. Turned out to be a small wood chip not any larger than half the length and width of a dainty pinky finger. But man did it pour off smoke.

I opened the back door, the front door, the front windows, the kitchen window and turned the over head fan on high speed. And sat in the living room shivering until the smoke had cleared out. It took about 20 minutes although I kept the windows and doors open for a couple of hours. And I was sitting there feeling furious with myself. For one thing I just had the ceilings painted. A house full of smoke is not a good thing, although I did manage to get rid of it fairly quickly.

I realized that the one thing I didn’t do before I went to bed was put my work gloves on and sweep my hands across the top of the stove to make sure there were no wood bits sitting there. Since most of the lights are off, I just do this by feel and by rote. I ALWAYS do it. I have no idea why I didn’t last night, but I guarantee that I won’t forget again.

I was pretty sure that I’d scared the living daylights out of my neighbor, too. I’m sure some of that smoke must have filtered next door. She retires very early and I heard her thumping around as I was clearing smoke out of the house. I am surprised she didn’t come over to bang on the door. This morning when I went outside, she popped her head out of her door and wondered if everything was okay. I told her what happened and she was relieved. She said she’d thought about coming over, but when she went out on her porch, she saw my windows and door open and heard me stomping around. I was stomping, too. I hope she didn’t hear me say anything too scandalous.

I was surprised this morning that the house didn’t smell horrible. I went out and ran a number of errands and when I walked back into the house, it smelled fine. But I’m sure the ceilings took a hit. Not much I can do about it now, though. That’s what bothered me the most, I guess.


I finally did it

Thursday, 12:04 pm

By Kate





This afternoon, I donned my armor and called Comcast. With the new year came a new and improved bill—at least from their perspective, I’m sure. I didn’t care for it very much. It was just enough incentive to finally cancel my phone service. I cannot justify paying nearly $50 a month for a service I rarely use. If they had tiered phone service there might have been some room for negotiation, but they’ve gone to one tier digital phone service, which throws in everything but the kitchen sink. Whether I need it or not. About the only thing my Comcast phone service has been good for is filling my voice mail with supplications for donations to this or that organization. And the fact is that if they have to call me to beg, they are obviously not on my list of charitable concerns and there’s a reason for that.

After being transferred a dozen times and listening to their Kenny G style elevator music while on hold and explaining repeatedly that no, I really do love my Comcast service, but I don’t need the phone (especially not at that ridiculous price), it’s nothing personal, they finally agreed to disconnect my phone service without further adieu.

So, now I have joined the burgeoning legions who are without a land line and who depend on mobile phone service to meet daily needs. It feels a little strange to not have a land line for the first time in my life, but I’m sure I’ll adjust without much notice. I rarely used it anyway and at least it’ll be nice not to have the phone ringing from someone I don’t want to talk to. Everyone else already calls my cell phone.

Oddly, however, I still have basic cable television. Because of Comcast’s demented bundle policy, I need the basic television connection to maintain a bundle discount price for my internet. Without the basic cable television connection, my internet bill would actually increase to about $12 more than the internet/television bundle price. I have a hard time understanding exactly how that makes sense, but that’s Comcast.


Kindle 2

Wednesday, 8:57 am

By Kate





It was halfway through the day on Monday before I learned that Amazon had announced their second generation Kindle in the AM. I missed all the fun of watching the webcasts live. Stephen King was even there with Jeff Bezos, holding a pepto-bismol pink Kindle. I’d have paid to see that. I believe the pink was to celebrate/promote his new story about a Kindle, which will be released on February 24th when the Kindle 2 begins shipping. Anyway....

When I first looked at the photos/videos of the new Kindle, I thought “how sleek” and I really wanted it. Naturally. And to make matters worse, Amazon said that 1st generation Kindle owners had until Tuesday night at midnight to place an order to be assured of getting one immediately—as opposed to waiting for weeks or, possibly, months. We know how that goes. My one-click finger was awfully itchy.

I’m glad to say that rationality prevailed and I’ve decided that I’ll wait until the 3rd or 4th or 5th generation. Mine works just fine and I’m happy with it. There are improvements yet to be made, but I can’t imagine being without it now. I love my Kindle.

The more I’ve looked at the Kindle 2, though, the more I’m unsure if I actually like it better. Compare the two photos below. First photo is the 1st generation Kindle. Second photo is the new one. I appreciate that the new Kindle is all sleek and slim and cool looking, but the 1st generation one grew on me. It has more personality. The new one, however, does address the side button issues. It took a while to learn how to hold mine without inadvertently pressing one of page turning bars. Even now, I still hit one accidentally on occasion. It’s not a big issue for me, though. The new design seems to eliminate that problem.

I might have been a great deal more tempted if Amazon had attended to one of the largest and most widely expressed wishes for the next generation Kindle. Folders. For those of us who have had our Kindles for several months, it became abundantly clear, after acquiring more than 100 books, that its organizational features fell far short. There is no way to divide books into categories. One can either choose to list them all by author, title, or in order of date acquired/most recently read. That’s it. Fortunately, the Kindle 1 has a slot for a card onto which we can place our books in some kind of order that suits us. Different cards for different categories and such. Also a good way to back-up copies of books and files downloaded from places other than Amazon, without needing to plug into a computer for back-up.

The new Kindle does not have a card slot. But it does have 1.4 Gigs of storage. They say it’ll hold in excess of 1500 books. I’m trying to imagine storing that many books on a Kindle with no folders. That would be somewhere in the vicinity of 125 pages of menu to wade through to find what you’re looking for...ordered by date, author or book title. I almost always sort my books by most recent first. That way the books I’m reading appear at the top of the menu’s first page. Otherwise, they’re scattered all over the place and it gets to be a nuisance hunting for them. Can’t sort them by genre or whatever else floats my little boat. You can search for what you’re looking for, but after a certain number books, you kind of forget what books you have unless you can organize them in some meaningful way.

And I know that the Kindle does have some folder capability. I subscribe to Newsweek and it is listed on my menu as a folder and inside the folder are all the issues I’ve received. Amazon just doesn’t allow us to create our own folders.

Maybe they will through a software update in the near future. Or not. I’ll wait until Amazon provides that option before I’ll even think about upgrading to a new model.

Now, if they ever decide to come out with colors...well, that’s a whole other irresistable universe. But for now, I’m a little disappointed in what the new Kindle offers or doesn’t offer. They also make you pay $30 extra to get a cover for it, while one was provided with the 1st generation Kindle. The new Kindle really is pretty and sleek, but Amazon left off a couple of important features. It’s odd that they removed the card slot and provided nothing else for organizing large numbers of books. I don’t get it.

The good news is that there are suddenly a raft of 1st generation Kindles up for re-sale for anyone not wanting to pay top dollar. Looks as if a number of Kindle 1 owners are trading up. 


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