Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wonder of Wonders

I had been dreading the annual auto safety inspection that was due by the end of August on the old ’85 Volvo. I was fairly sure it would fail, my husband would convince me not to spend the money to make the necessary repairs, and I would finally have to say goodbye to the old car.

I knew there was a gas leak near the top of the tank. So I never fill it up all the way any longer. I also knew that if they smelled gas when I brought it in for inspection, they would fail it and that would be it. It was a crapshoot, but it seemed inevitable that it wouldn’t pass if not for this reason then for another.

When I dropped the car off last night, I wished I hadn’t recently bought gas but I knew there were only two days left in the month of August. (And the fine for driving a car with an expired inspection sticker is steep, as my husband recently found out with the Prius.)

I added a little note at the bottom of the drop-off envelope: “Please pass it!” And then I went home to hope for the best.

By 10 am this morning, I could wait no longer. I called the neighborhood place where we take it to find out if I needed to start looking into donating the old car to charity. But instead the technician who answered said, “You got your wish!” They were probably all laughing at my pitiful request.

Yesterday we saw someone with a similar car in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. His was a ’91 with 275,000 miles. He said it has been nothing but trouble, proving once again how very different the same model can be from one year to the next. I have never owned a car requiring less maintenance than the old Volvo.

So I guess we are legal for another year. I’m just hoping to be in this same dilemma next year as I take it for inspection. As with my aging dog, I will take just one day at a time and hope they both keep going strong.

Monday, August 29, 2011


We made it through the storm with very little damage. A piece of siding ended up in our front yard and there is a lot of debris, but little else to complain about. Even the basement stayed dry with the new sump pump which worked like a champ.

However, just across the street from us our neighbors weren’t so lucky. A huge tree in their front yard fell on their roof. It must have been a tremendous shock to them, while we slept peacefully through the night. A crane is coming this afternoon to lift the tree off their house. And then they can begin to really assess the damage and figure out how to make their house whole again.

There are stories like this in any natural disaster, where there is no real explanation for why some are spared and others are victims. Our yard is loaded with big trees just like the one that came down. I suppose it just wasn’t their time.

Today is the most perfect day, a precursor to fall with clear, crisp air and very blue skies. We know it can’t stay this way forever, but it is certainly a welcome reprieve from the anxiety of last week.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Getting Ready

By 8:30 am today our house was filled with the sounds of a jackhammer and Jake’s barking. There were multiple workers trudging in and out because we had stupidly scheduled the basement lighting installation and the installation of a sump pump at exactly the same time.

I thought the electrical guys might pack up and leave, but instead they put in their earplugs and continued to do what they came to do. Everyone was very cordial, but there was a hint of friction in the air.

We desperately wanted the sump pump to be installed since the basement has recently become a sieve in one corner and we are going to have hurricane rains dumped on us over the weekend. We may still be in trouble if the power fails because the sump pump is electrically operated and a backup battery would have cost us an additional $500.

We had purchased lawn tickets to see Mary Chapin Carpenter at Wolftrap with friends tomorrow night. We have wisely decided to bag that and just have a hurricane potluck instead. It’s fortunate we hadn’t paid big money for the inside seats because there are still going to be gale force winds to contend with. The Wolftrap people say the show will go on whatever the weather, but that remains to be seen.

My husband commented tonight how wonderful it would be to know if and when we will lose electricity and for how long. But what would we really do differently if we had that information? I will be doing my cooking for the potluck early just in case the power leaves us.

We are very much looking forward to our daughter coming home hopefully before Irene arrives.

But tonight we can say, “Goodnight, Irene. Please let us off easy this time. After all, we’ve already been through an earthquake this week.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011


As I am doing just a little paint job in the basement renovation project, I am remembering the summer I learned to paint. In addition to learning how little I really knew about painting, I quickly learned that music with a beat is essential to what is an incredibly boring and messy job.

I was 16 and I was going off to “Math Camp” at FSU for 6 weeks mid-summer. I desperately wanted to earn what I thought was some quick money before leaving home. My parents offered me $20 a room to paint the three bedrooms of our house. It sounded so simple.

I hadn’t considered the cleaning and prep work. I hadn’t considered cleaning brushes loaded with oil-based enamel. I really hadn’t considered how long it would take.

Having always been a child of little patience, I am sure I vented my frustration. But I turned up the volume on the transistor radio and stuck it out until the job was done.

Meanwhile I learned the lyrics of every popular song of that summer. Songs like Sweet Talkin’ Guy, Cool Jerk, Double Shot, When a Man Loves a Woman. At that point I couldn’t identify with the emotions they sang about, but I knew all the words.

It would be a few weeks later that I would first fall in love. Math Camp was the first time I felt cool in the least. When you are with 25 other geeky teenagers, it isn’t so difficult.

But I digress. The painting lessons of that summer have stayed with me. I seldom take on a painting job in the house because I tend to be too much of a perfectionist. I can tolerate someone else’s imperfection, but my own drives me crazy.

However, I am trying to save money on the basement project and I figured I can probably do a primer and 2 coats on the wood framing the shelving in 6 hours. The job has to be done by next Tuesday when the roller shades are being installed on the shelves.

Yesterday I thoroughly cleaned the area to be painted. Tonight I did the primer, counting down the 8 sections of shelving. Not so bad. No big spills. No falls off the ladder. Brush is clean and ready for the next coat tomorrow.

I’m glad I didn’t have to paint as a profession, but I’m also glad I learned how in the summer of ’66.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

All Shook Up

Believe it or not, we just had an earthquake -- not a big one, but enough of a shake to be convincing. I understand it was felt all up and down the east coast.

I had just driven into the driveway and turned the car off. It felt like the car continued to run -- well sort of. More like the car continued to shake violently. I was convinced the old ’85 Volvo was in its death throes.

But then my meteorologist neighbor who was outside picking figs just at the end of my driveway said with certainty, “We just had an earthquake.”

His dog was barking frantically, but then she often is. Jake was visibly upset but bewildered in his blind-deaf state.

I can’t seem to get any phone service, but other than that there is no sign that anything peculiar happened.

I flashed back to standing in the doorway of my pension in Lima, Peru, with the ground shaking and the building swaying. Any loss of equilibrium is unsettling.

This was nothing of great significance, but it was a reminder that no ground is sacred. Let’s just hope it’s not a foreshadowing of something more significant to come.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Blue Skies Downstairs

Although the basement facelift is well under way, I am still trying to figure out the ceiling -- that is, what I’m going to do to hide the beams and ducting. I am still leaning toward some sort of draped fabric. It would really be great if it looked something like the sky. But how to achieve that look?

I spoke to a neighbor who is a well-known fiber artist. She agreed with my idea of using flat bedsheets and suggested hanging them with a staple gun. We talked a little about tie-dying, but not enough that I had a real plan for doing it.

After my seeming unsuccessful search for white sheets, I had another idea today after locating very inexpensive light blue sheets at Target.com (thanks, Steve!) I thought about using a weak Clorox solution and bleaching clouds onto the blue background. My fiber artist friend said eventually they might fall into holes where I had applied the Clorox. She also suggested that I do this outside and use a mask and eye goggles because of the fumes.

Then tonight I came up with the idea of making stencils and spray-painting white clouds, stars, and moons in a random pattern. I would still do it outside, but it might be a little easier and more permanent than the bleaching approach.

I could probably achieve the same effect with white fabric ironed on with Stitch-Witchery or a similar product.

I’m not sure exactly what sort of expert to contact to help me make decisions. I suppose I could purchase a sheet and try all these things to see what works best.

Fortunately I am under no time constraint and this project is keeping me busy as I think about how to do each piece.

Let me know if you have any ideas on giving my basement a blue sky!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Walmart Woes

As I sit here on hold waiting patiently for a Walmart associate on their customer service number to pick up, I am quickly coming to the conclusion my initial thoughts about Walmart were correct.

I never shop at Walmart, partially because the closest store is more than 10 miles away. Also because of all the negative things about Walmart’s treatment of its employees I read in Tom Friedman’s book “The World is Flat.”

Unfortunately my recent search for inexpensive white sheets for the tie-dyed basement ceiling project led me to Walmart, where it appeared I could buy a king size white (flat) sheet for $15.97, a really great price. My initial attempt to order these sheets online proved futile because they are only sold in Walmart stores.

The Walmart website gave me a listing of the dozen or so local stores with indications of “In stock”, “Limited stock”, and “Out of stock” associated with each one for the item I needed. I attempted to call a couple of them and experienced being put on hold indefinitely, foreign sales people who didn’t even understand what I was looking for, and no result that at all matched the “In stock” label.

In frustration I fired off a message to Walmart.com asking for help in the form of where exactly I might find 9 such sheets without having to drive hundreds of miles. Instead of an answer to what should have been a simple question, I continued to get formulaic responses, culminating in a customer satisfaction survey in which I gave them the lowest possible rating on every category. That obviously didn’t wake anyone up at the corporate office.

Not having found the sheets anywhere else and not quite willing to give up on the cheap sheets at Walmart, today I Googled to find a customer service number so I might attempt to talk to a human being. After being put on hold for about 25 minutes, I finally reached Renee who fortunately spoke English well and who works for Walmart customer service, but unfortunately couldn’t tell me anything more than I already could see online about Walmart.com. She took down my information and assured me someone would get back to me within 2 business days.

I’m not holding my breath in expectation.

Do you have any Walmart stories to tell?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Stein and Sushi

By today I had acclimated to the cold SF summer and was ready to embrace what the city had to offer. Most of the day focused on the art of Gertrude Stein and her family, but tonight was all about sushi.

One of my main reasons for coming was to visit the SFMOMA to see the extensive exhibit of the Stein family art. The numerous Picasos and Matisses were carefully curated to reveal the family's early passion for these artists and their contemporaries.

After lunch at the museum with my son and my long-time friend, we moved on to the Jewish Museum for another dose of Stein. She comes off as a Renaissance woman who was never afraid to question the system. Another excellent exhibit with a guided tour.

Tonight my son and I headed back to Tataki for another meal of extraordinary sushi, which began with the raw oyster in ponzu sauce, followed by an "extinguisher" roll (literally on fire) and a Tataki roll featuring 5 varieties of grilled fish.

Green tea ice cream mochi finished out the meal.

Now it's early to bed since the Super Shuttle will arrive between 3:45 and 4:00 am to take me to the airport. It was another good visit with someone I care deeply about.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Sacramento St,San Francisco,United States

A Little Help for the SF Homeless

I was out bright and early today to buy all sorts of cleaning supplies at the local Ace Hardware. I had decided to help my son do some long overdue apartment cleaning.

Even though the store is only 6 blocks away, the hills are steep and I ended up with 7 bags of things ranging from a broom to a step-stool to a bucket and sponges and so many other things.

I stood on the corner and cab after cab passed me by. Then a homeless man came by and offered to help me hail a cab. After he didn't have any better luck with the cabs, I suggested that we both take the bus up the long hill.

That's Calvin sitting on the bus with my purchases at his feet. We loaded everything off the bus and up to my son's building door across from Lafayette Park.

I paid Calvin something for his assistance and he headed back down the hill using his transfer on a bus going in the opposite direction.

A full day of family cleaning reminded me that I still know how and that I am glad I don't have to do that on a regular basis. Everything looks and smells clean tonight.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Sacramento St,San Francisco,United States

Monday, August 15, 2011

Basement Facelift, Part II

Anyone who knows me well knows I get a little carried away with an idea from time to time. My current focus is the basement. It has blossomed into something much more interesting than just installing track lighting, which will be installed in a couple of weeks.

I realized one of the things that made it look most like a basement was the floor-to-ceiling shelving on two walls. I came up with the idea of hiding those shelves with roller shades like you might install on a window. We went over to Next-Day Blinds to check out the possibilities and the cost. Although they had never done exactly what we were asking for, the woman we spoke to thought it was a great idea (so great she was contemplating doing the same thing to her basement) and came up with an inexpensive shade that seems just perfect. That’s it -- Marguerite -- above. Fortunately we don’t need any blackout capability since there is no external light in the basement.

From there I moved on to Cyndy’s suggestion of painting the cinder block walls an off-white to match the shades. I contacted Luis, the guy who painted our entire house last year, and sent him pictures so he can give me an estimate.

Another distinguishing feature of the basement is the unpainted wood beams and heating/cooling ducts in the ceiling. My idea to camouflage these was to hang beautifully tie-dyed sheets from the ceiling in a draped way that they cover up the unwanted and provide something interesting to look at. I contacted a neighbor who is world-renowned in the field of fabric arts. She gave me a quick lesson in tie-dying and told me how to fasten the sheets to the wooden beams. She is way too sophisticated for a job like this, so I sent an email to her artistic daughter to see if she would like to collaborate in creating a faux-ceiling in the basement.

And just to entice my husband down to the basement to exercise with me, I suggested we get a TV, which will allow us to watch and listen to just about anything. I have become a fan of entertainment to pass the minutes of sweating.

It’s probably a good thing that I’m taking a break from thinking about the basement to go see my son in San Francisco tomorrow. While there I will go to the Gertrude Stein exhibit and see a friend who goes back many years in my life.

I’m sure the basement will be just the way I left it when I come home on Friday afternoon. It’s fun to carry an idea to an extreme sometimes.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chanting Torah under Duress

Summer services at Temple Micah are lay-led, giving ordinary people like me a chance to lead or chant the Torah or Haftarah. Today I chanted from Deuteronomy, but not under quite the scenario I was expecting.

Instead of the congregation being a handful of the faithful and predictable, it was dominated by the friends and relatives of a very young baby Isabella, who was there to be named. There were scads of very young children.

The baby’s immediate family of mom, dad, brother, and sister (with all children under the age of 3) were on the bimah with me to do the first aliyah. As I started to chant, some sort of tantrum ensued behind me which got louder and more distracting with my every word. It took all my efforts of concentration to make it to the end of that 7 verses, with a few mistakes being corrected by my “safety net” Teddy, our music director.

I realized that all the weeks I had been practicing my portion, I had been at home in the company of a sleeping dog, nothing to compete with the bedlam that I experienced this morning.

The baby naming occurred after the first aliyah. It was a lovely affair and the baby was much better behaved than either of her siblings. I must say I was relieved to see that entourage leave the bimah.

The second half was relatively uneventful and then it was over. I had made a deal with myself to dwell on the parts that had beautiful melodies and quickly forget the parts that I stumbled over. I was true to my resolve and people were commendable of my chanting after the fact.

Chanting from the Torah is a privilege I always look forward to. I miss the regimen of practice when it is over. That’s the time when I begin to look for another opportunity.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Every time I clean my glasses I think of Julie, one of the numerous young women who lived in my group house in NW DC during the 5 years I spent there. She had risen from nothing to something and seemed unphased by anything thrown her way.

Julie had grown up with a single mother, gone to a prestigious girls’ school probably on scholarship, and had landed a boyfriend who was brilliant and rather nerdy and guaranteed to do big things in life.

Julie was practical about some things I would never have thought about. Instead of using special sprays to clean her glasses, she washed them with dishwashing detergent each morning when she came down before breezing off to work at the Pentagon and then on to graduate school at night at AU.

She also clued me into the fact that pouring hot water out of a tea kettle on my frozen windshield was likely to shatter it. Coming from the south, I had little experience with things like this.

Her association with the wealthy boy who was a Princeton graduate and who played the bagpipes gave her important names to throw around. She had magnificent jewelry from Pampillonia, bought her wedding dress at Claire Dratch in Bethesda, and got married at The Cosmos Club, where the boy’s father was a member.

I have often wondered what happened to Julie. Whether she converted to Judaism so as to share the religion of her husband. Whether she had children. Whether she had a meaningful career of her own or whether she was content to support her husband as he became a distinguished computer science professor and went on to start multiple successful businesses during the peak of the .com explosion.

Of one thing I can be sure: Julie is still washing her glasses with dishwashing detergent every day, that is unless she has had laser surgery and no longer wears glasses.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Finding Albeniz

For several months my piano teacher has been suggesting that I play some music from a Spanish composer named Albeniz. The problem has been that she seems to have lost her copy of his music and the local store where I buy piano music has been unable to get it.

Today she was pleased to present me with a copy of one of his tangos, made by her 90-year-old husband from another student’s book. But unfortunately her husband had cut off some essential notes.

I came home and much to my surprise learned through Google that I could download the piece from “EveryNote” for the whopping price of $1.86. I am legally allowed to then make as many copies as I want. What a great find for music that is otherwise hard to come by.

Isaac Albeniz lived from 1860 to 1909 in Spain. His Tango in D was published in 1936. So it’s no small wonder that it’s out of print. This little 2-page gem will make a wonderful piece to play for my “Works in Progress” piano group.

I am sure this won’t be the last piece I download from EveryNote. Most everything they offer is $2 or less, a real bargain in today’s music market!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

To Dispose or Not to Dispose

I always thought one of the main purposes of a food disposal was to cut down on one’s garbage. But even as we manage to leave more and more things out of ours, one of the two sink drains in our kitchen got hopelessly stopped up a couple of days ago.

Fortunately it was the smaller “bar” sink drain. The disposal seemed to run just fine, but after about 10 seconds it would regurgitate all the water back up into a sort of waterspout out of the disposal. There were bits of stinky food and lots of water that eventually disappeared leaving a residue of the stinky food. Lovely, yes?

Truthfully we seldom need to use that sink, which is even more perplexing as to why that drain would stop up.

Since we don’t own a snake and wouldn’t know what to do with one if we did, we called a plumber. It was one we had used before who continues to get good ratings on Angie’s List. I recalled that they had been expensive the last time. But Angie’s List seems to rule here, so they came out this morning to unstop our drain. Forty minutes and $200 later it was clear and they were done. That seems like a lot of money for something that didn’t even require any parts.

The real kicker is three more items added to our “do not dispose” list: pasta, egg shells, and coffee grounds. Except for an occasional egg shell, these have never gone down that drain.

So I ask myself just what is left since we no longer dispose of onion peels, potato skins, fruit rinds, and many other things that have been the culprits on other occasions. Why in the world do we even bother with garbage disposals at all?

Maybe I should take a course in plumbing. I could probably go on a nice trip or at least have a few nice dinners out for the money we spend on plumbing in a year...

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

SRO at the KC

I’ve been wanting to see Wicked for several years. For some reason I couldn’t talk anyone into seeing it with me while it was here in DC.

By the time I got serious about buying a ticket, the only ones left were hundreds of dollars being sold through Stub Hub. I love the theater, but not at that kind of price.

The only time standing room tickets are sold for Opera House performances are when a show is sold out. That was exactly the case for tonight’s performance, so I was able to buy a $35 ticket.

My previous experience with a SRO ticket was at The Shakespeare Theatre, where I ended up slipping into an empty seat in the fifth row on a $10 standing room ticket. I figured the same would be true tonight even though the performance was sold out.

However, as I scanned the audience before the show I couldn’t see even one empty seat. There were 8-year-olds occupying some of those $250 orchestra seats. But they were all filled nonetheless.

Fortunately I had my husband’s cane that turns into a seat with me. No usher would have dared to take that away from me. As I proceeded to sit down, the rest of the SRO crowd looked on in awe.

I had a perfectly good view of the stage from the back of the theater. And although the seat wasn’t perhaps as comfortable as a cushy seat, at least I could sit down for the entire performance.

The sets and costumes were utterly amazing. There was nothing much memorable about the music or the fractured Oz story. I was really happy to have gotten my Wicked fix at a discount price.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Banana Tales

When my children were young, I was amazed to read that bananas are good for both diarrhea and constipation. My son’s first word was one he invented for “banana” and to this day he has been able to consume however many bananas we have in our house.

When I was working, anyone who ever attended a mid-morning meeting with me knew that I would bring a banana along for a snack. But since I retired, I got out of that mid-morning banana habit.

Lately I have been feeling unusually tired. It has required a lot of effort to do ordinary things and I have felt like taking a nap most any time of the day.

As I headed out to a noontime meeting today and it seemed too early to eat lunch, I grabbed a banana. I had finished it by the time I was getting onto I-395 to head north into the city. I suddenly noticed my dull headache was gone and I felt much more energetic.

Could it really have been that I was suffering from a lack of potassium, something bananas are rich in? I determined to try this little experiment again tomorrow and the next day to see if a banana a day can really make such a difference.

If so, that’s an easy and nutritious fix to fatigue. Much healthier and longer-lasting than a cup of coffee!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Young and Old and Blind at Wolftrap

I went to Wolftrap last night to hear Arlo Guthrie, having lost track of how many times I had seen him before. I had forgotten the concert also included the NSO. And I never knew about the jazzy string trio Tf3 (Time for Three) that stole the show in my opinion.

After the 6 of us sat down, we had filled the row except for a seat on each end. It was unlikely there would be singles, so maybe we could stretch out a bit or so we thought. But then a hulking big guy showed up at the seat next to me, the kind that barely fits in a regular seat. I noticed he was escorted to his seat and he was blind.

As I sat there reading the program in preparation for the concert, I realized the blind guy was just sitting there without the ability to learn about the evening up front. So I offered to read any part of it he wanted to hear. He opted for the section on Tf3 and we both learned a lot.

He gradually was drawn into the conversation of our group. He seemed to know a lot about everything, including movies. I talked to him about how he “watches” movies or musicals like “Wicked”, which he had just “seen” and loved. In addition to the dialog, he can sometimes get a companion description of what is going on on the screen or stage played through a headset. The Kennedy Center provides this with a 2-week notification. It turns out Tim plays the French horn and is a singer. I knew quite a bit about him by the time the performance got started.

After the NSO played “Hoedown” from Copeland’s Rodeo, Tf3 came out and began to mesmerize us with their virtuosity. They were able to make ordinary violins and a string bass do things I had never before heard. I found myself commenting to Tim from time to time with tidbits like “That’s actually the bass you hear right now.” They were young and energetic and brimming with talent.

For the second half Arlo came out and played mostly songs I had heard before. He plays with the same abandon and enthusiasm, but at 64 his voice is not quite the same. As much as I love Arlo, I was longing for “the boys”, as he referred to Tf3, to come back on stage.

They played together along with the NSO on time-worn favorites like “This Land is Your Land” and “Goodnight Irene.” It was a hot, muggy, music-filled evening that left me humming. I was lucky to sit next to Tim, from whom I got a quick education on how blind people experience things we can see as well as hear.

Check out Tf3 as they play Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Going without

The Bible relates that after Eve ate the forbidden apple, she became selfconscious of her nudity and covered herself with a fig leaf. And to this day most of us would feel uncomfortable outside the privacy of our homes without clothing on.

I had an interesting conversation with my massage therapist yesterday about this very subject. For the past 25 years he has gone to a camp in Pennsylvania for gay men where they wear no clothes. For a week several hundred men have no reason to compare their summer wardrobe because there is none.

I asked him how he felt the first time he attended the camp. He said after about 10 minutes, it seemed perfectly natural. He did note that it is somewhat humorous to observe the aging phenomenon.

I surmised that one would go through a lot more sunscreen this way, covering areas that never otherwise see the light of day. He said he doesn’t use any, but his cabin mates use a lot of it.

I tried to picture what it might be like to go through a day’s activities without clothes. There would be no pockets in which to put things. Would you wear an apron to cook? What about hiking -- backpack or just carry what you might need? I’m assuming that shoes don’t count as clothes. There would definitely be some adjustments.

I can imagine that swimming without the hindrance of a bathing suit would be lovely. As would lying in a hammock enjoying a light breeze.

I can imagine that many of those guys are sad when the week is over and they have to embrace cotton and spandex and elastic once again.

Could you be an occasional nudist?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Rapture from a Rhapsody

Rhapsody in Blue was written by George Gershwin in 1924, drawing together classical piano and jazz in response to a request by Paul Whiteman for a jazz concerto. At its premier Gershwin himself played the piano solo with Whiteman’s jazz band playing the orchestration written by Ferde Grofe.

For years I have owned the piano music, always concluding it was too difficult for me despite the fact that I am so totally drawn into every subtlety of the piece. I have yet to get beyond page 8 of 31, but I’m biting off a little more each day and playing it way under tempo.

Why does this piece speak to me so clearly? It’s the jazz chords and the blues scales that stir something deep in my soul. I love the fact that the mood is constantly shifting, much as mine is. I love the near misses that come around. I love the catchy rhythms. And I love the broad chords of the theme that comes back in various forms.

By my playing the piece as a piano solo, the listener is robbed of the famous opening trill and glissando otherwise played by a solo clarinet. But not having an orchestra or even a band at my disposal, this is a necessary tradeoff I must accept.

I may actually do it this time. I will at least have a lot of pleasurable practice hours as I try.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

How low could you go?

We have the luxury of space in our house. In fact, far too much space for 2 adults and an old dog. After reading an article in the July 25th New Yorker about “tiny houses”, I gave some serious thought to what it might be like to live in far less space.

These houses, pioneered by Jay Shafer of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, are typically between 100 and 130 square feet. Most efficiency apartments are around 400 square feet. So that’s really small.

Within that small footprint are all the necessary amenities, packaged very carefully to maximize the use of every cubic inch of space.

Who buys a tiny house? Young people who can’t afford to buy or rent something bigger and might even find a place to park their house for free (they come on a trailer platform). A second group are older people who might have lost a house because they could no longer make the payments or perhaps they are retired and just want to down-size. A third group are ecologically-oriented individuals.

Shafer sells plans for his tiny houses or he will for a considerably higher price build the tiny house of your choice.

I began to wonder what I would keep if I were to downsize from several thousand square feet down to 100. Anyone moving into a smaller space has had to make those painful decisions, but this would be much harder.

I would have to give up most of the things stored in the basement of little light, including my first grade school work that I have been keeping for what reason? Any even one of those pieces of exercise equipment might mean I wouldn’t have space for a bed. Tough choices.

I know people like my faithful reader Pauline who live in a small space and manage just fine. It would obviously take a change of mindset and priorities. It would also take a resolution never again to be a packrat. I don’t have that tendency, but I live with someone who often deserves that label.

How would you fare in a tiny house?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Let there be Light

I spend time most every day hanging out in the basement using our exercise equipment. The basement is far from beautiful as you can see. I really don’t care much about the decor, but the lighting (or lack thereof) is starting to wear on my nerves.

If I am lying on my back on the GTS (gravity) machine at the far side, I look up into those two bare light bulbs and my eyes say “ouch”. Something must be done about that.

I considered some sort of giant shade for the existing light, but that is not really what is needed.

Last night as I went through various asanas in my yoga class, I looked up and saw what I think is the perfect solution. The yoga studio is a fairly large space -- at least 40’ by 20’. Four sets of 3-bulb tracks light the entire space quite adequately and in a way that doesn’t shine light directly into anyone’s eyes.

The basement space is somewhat smaller, so maybe fewer lights are needed. I don’t know how it will work dropping them down from the existing ceiling beams.

An electrician is coming over tomorrow to assess the project and make recommendations. Hopefully he will agree with my idea and be able to make it happen.

I found this track light on Amazon at a reasonable price.

Any thoughts or recommendations?