Archive for May, 2010

This weekend started with a 9 hour power outage.  A truck hit the telephone pole at the curve before the stop sign at Charles.  The impact woke me up at about 1:30AM, as did the two explosions of the electrical transformers.  That, and the lights and my bedroom fan quit abruptly. 

Here is a picture of the smashed up truck.  The log in the foreground is the utility pole.  Thanks to Greg Skolnik for this photo.  I don’t know anything about the driver except that he was not sober.  The curve on Ferrara is one that tricks a lot of drivers who are going too fast, are too tired, are distracted, or are impaired.  It is one of those simple curves that continues on a tiny bit longer than normal, and if the driver quits curving before the curve does, they meet up with a utility pole.

Pepco worked for quite a few hours on this repair project.  Parts of the neighborhood got power back in a few hours, but we were among the last. 

Saturday afternoon, the Holiday Park Neighborhood Association sponsored an ice cream social.  This was our first experiment at having an ice cream social, and it we decided it was a success.  We got 2 3-gallon containers of ice cream (vanilla and chocolate) and dished cups and cones and provided sprinkles and chocolate sauces. 

We brought chairs and tables and umbrellas to provide a gathering space.  We had two activities for kids – sidewalk chalk and the beanbag toss game.  Both of these are very popular.  There were lines of kids 4 and 5 deep waiting their turn to toss beanbags at the board.

The kids had a great time and did not notice that the games don’t require batteries!  The beanbag game appeals to young and old, boys and girls, even to pretty young kids.  We chalk out different start lines and let the kids pick their own level of difficulty.  We kept score on the street, writing the kids names and scores with the sidewalk chalk.

These girls are expert at a clapping game.

More adorable kids:


It has become warm (95 today) and humid and very like Summer in Maryland.  Finally, the snap peas have started blooming.  They’ve become so tall they’ve fallen over, and now with the arrival of the heat, perhaps they will not have enough time to pod up.  However, tiny tomatoes and tiny peapods are cause for hope.


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My Sawzall Rocks

Today I cut off all the big branches of the pine tree in front of my house.  I found John’s Sawsall in the shed and figured out how to put the blade in.  I started with some small branch stubs and worked my way to the larger branches.  Some of the larger branches were about 6 inches in diameter and these branches were all tangled together and grown on top of each other, so knowing which branch to cut first was an interesting puzzle.  It was scary but I was slow and careful and only got hit on the head once. 

I packed the branches in the yard trim barrels for pick-up on Monday.  The large heavy ends of the branches may need to be driven up to the waste transfer station, because they are too heavy to be called yard trim.  This is the trunk of the tree, which I will try to cut down tomorrow.

The stump is about 7 feet tall.

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Singing at the Shrine

Today our church choir taped 2 Masses for Shut-Ins at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (http://www.nationalshrine.com/site/c.osJRKVPBJnH/b.4719297/k.BF65/Home.htm) which is a remarkable work of art, filled with remarkable works of art.  We taped the Masses for June 20 (Father’s Day) and July 4th.  You won’t be able to watch them because they are only broadcast in Washington, DC; St Louis, MO; and Indianapolis, IN.  But we did alright.  It was a lot of standing and hard work. 

The Shrine has an amazing blue dome, but I was not at an angle to get a good picture of it.  (You can follow the web link above to see official photos.)  We did not sing in the great big church upstairs.  The Masses are taped in the more intimate setting of the Crypt Church.

Everywhere you turn in the Shrine there is another work of art.  Even the grillwork for the ventilation system is beautifully crafted.  In alcoves surrounding the Crypt Church altar, there are smaller altars dedicated to various saints, women who are famous in Church history and mythology.  They are depicted in rich mosaics.

For example, this is a mosaic of St Catherine, of Alexandria, I think, because of the flaming wheel in the mosaic.  Because my middle name is Catherine, I think of her as “mine”.  Most of the St Catherines of my tradition butted heads with higher-ups.  Catherine of Alexandria did, first with her pagan parents, then with the Roman Emperor Maximinius (she converted the Empress), and then with his pagan theologians (she converted them, also.)  She must have been charismatic as well as a head-butter.  She was a 4th century virgin martyr.  Virginity was a hip kind of movement in the 4th century, especially for women, whose alternate career choice was marrying someone picked out by their parents for the money.  This Catherine is called St Catherine of the Wheel because she was sentenced to be killed on the spiked wheel, but it broke.  So she was beheaded.  (I don’t yet have an explanation for why the wheel is on fire.)

This mosaic detail is from St Lucy’s altar.

And, yes, I did get the microwave moved out of the kitchen window.  See?

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It is moved!

The microwave is moved around the corner and the view out the kitchen window is unobstructed.  So. Now. The view must be fixed!  I see patio furniture and plants in my future.  This remodeling stuff is sort of viral, isn’t it?  And so is the de-hoarding.  Today my bottle and jar recycle bin is full, and one Jar Hoard is gone.

I think maybe there is a rule against having a blog post without a photo.  Right?  Well, maybe not.  Anyway, here is a gratuitous photo of Odin, taken in early April and Before the Windows.

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The poppies are blooming in the front yard by the driveway.  There is no color like them – dayglowy red with burgundy wine centers.  It rained Monday and will rain Tuesday, so this photo from Sunday is the best there will be.

Monday I went to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to get a copy of the title to the utility trailer, so that I can get rid of it.  The utility trailer is licensed under John’s name only.  It took almost 3 hours (and $20) to get a copy of the title.  There was a full hour’s wait at the front kiosk to get a number to wait for a clerk at a window.  There were 2 clerks in the kiosk, and there were approximately 50 people waiting to get their tickets.  Tickets have a letter and a number.  Once you have one, you must sit on a steel bench and wait for a computer to call your number and direct you to a window.

Ticket letters seem have something to do with degree of difficulty of the task you want to accomplish.  The computer does not have a way of telling you where you stand on the wait list for a clerk, because your ticket can’t get called unless the right kind of clerk is available.  For very long stretches of time, especially during the first 45 minutes, only two letters were being called out.  People who were behind me in line were being served before I was.  Certain letters have priority over others, too.  If you watch a system like this in operation for a couple of hours, you can’t help but learn some of these things.

There were about a hundred people waiting to be served by the clerks at the windows at all times, and for the first half hour, there were only 3 clerks at the windows.  Then there were 4.  Eventually there were 6 to 7 clerks, but at most, 4 to 5 of them were serving customers at any one time.  There is a way to pace this work.  (If you watch a system like this for a couple of hours, you can’t help but notice some things.)  There were two windows (and 2 or 3 clerks) devoted to serving one elderly fellow, who, I suspect, was a car dealer’s representative.  He didn’t stand in line at the kiosk or have to wait his turn for a window clerk like the rest of us.  There was also one window that specialized in only serving the letter E.  It didn’t matter when the letter E people arrived.  My letter was rarely called. There is a police officer standing with the clerks behind the windows. Apparently, people get angry when they are treated with disrespect, unpredictability, unfairness and stupidity.

I am deeply embarrassed to be a resident of a state with such poor customer service.  Every politician and civil servant who has anything to do with this agency should be embarrassed. 

It is rumored that there are good days of the week, or good days of the month, or good times of the day to go to the Maryland MVA.  You can tell these rumors are untrue because they are aways a different time than you are there.  You always just missed it.  Or will it will be just after you leave.    

Here are some additional photos of the bay windows. 

The living room back bay.

The living room front bay, with Odin.

The kitchen bay.  Obviously, the microwave needs to move.  To move it where I think it should go will require disposal of a jar hoard and a rag hoard.  I think I can do it.

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Last week, May 12 and 13, I had all the windows replaced in my house.  I hired a company called Champion Windows and Siding.  This is a small company (not the one with advertizing in the Sunday ad package.)  The price was reasonable and the workmanship was very good.  The windows look wonderful.  The brand on window is Simenton.  I got mostly slider windows, and had the original metal pans replaced with wooden frames.  This is one of the new windows in my bedroom. 

I got bay windows in the front and back of the living room and also in the kitchen.  This is the back bay of the living room.  It is really special because it is up off the ground, and looks into the canopy of the fig tree and out over the back patio.

John’s den has two new windows, too.  The remodeling of his den into a guestroom/office is under way.  Obviously it needs paint.  It was this outrageous shade of blue when we moved into this house in 1979.  We were renters, and we didn’t have any money.  So John’s bookshelves went up and the books went up on the walls.  When we painted the house in 1982 with my parents’ help, it was too daunting to disassemble the den to paint.  John was sick then, waiting for heart bypass surgery, and it was very difficult for him during that period.  Now I need a guest room in addition to an office.  Couple that with the eventual necessity to get rid most of his books and paper (so I don’t have to move them to Colorado) and the need to clear the area in front of the windows so the new window could be installed, and you have the equivalent of the perfect storm. 

It was a lot of work to prepare for the windows, and at one point last week, I had to try to recall why I was getting new windows in the first place.  What triggered the replacement windows project was the window in the bathroom shower.  I want to replace the tub surround with new tile, but needed to replace the old metal casement window first.  And as a part of the deal, I decided also to replace the old metal window in my bedroom.  And one window led to another.  To 16 window, 3 of them bays.  A good investment for the future, however, I hope.  Here is the old bathroom shower window – where it all started, followed by the new one.

So far, everyone loves the windows.  Odin especially likes the front bay window and the dining room window.  The neighbors like them.  I like them – alot.  This is a project it may not have been possible for John and I to do together.  It is alright.  It is alright that we couldn’t have done it.  It is alright that I did it alone.

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Trees are down

This is the big reveal – of the front yard with the shrubs, the arbor vitae and the dogwood taken down.

The shrubs and the pine tree in our front yard were damaged in the three snowstorms we had in December and February.  What started as clean-up of the storm damage has evolved.

Here is a photo showing the shrubs gone, except for the one remaining azalea.  I have done a lot of work on limbing the pine tree, and am taking it down gradually.

The reason for removing the trees is to make it easier to install the new windows.  This photo shows the dogwood and arbor vitae blocking access to the two windows of John’s den.  The dogwood is also resting on some wires – the telephone wires, I think.

The tree service is Ed’s Tree Service, and the lead of the three person team was Ed himself.  Here is a photo of the work being done.  Ed and his team were very careful and very quick, and did not cuss.

The team ground the cut trees and branches and were finished in about 45 minutes.  The windows are easily accessible and the phone wires are clear.

Here’s a view of the front of the house.  The red maple is now a stand-out specimen.   And this shows the big open area in front of the house. 

There’s now a lot of space for gardening, although right now, I am enjoying the negative space.  Here’s a photo of one of the hostas in one of the front beds.


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