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Whine, whine, whine (2008)...

So it's been a crazy month.

Yes, this is a tale of woe, so feel free to skip.

Let's set the stage. When we bought our house in 2004 one of the features that appealed to us was the furnished basement. Our basement is comprised of three rooms, two of which had either carpet or tile on the floor, the third hard concrete. The two furnished areas were also about six inches higher than the concrete area, which should have given us a clue as to how the basement was constructed, but we'll discuss that more in a moment. In the corner of the concrete area was a sump pump. We asked the then owner of the house if flooding was an issue. "Not at all," she said and we believed her.

Three years ago Tanya came to me and said we had water in the basement. This happened to be a day when I was home with a 100+ fever so it was the last thing I needed, but I wandered down and checked it out. The Sump-pump was busted, and the concrete area was flooded with an inch or two of water: not enough to reach the carpeted or tiled area, but enough to reveal that the previous owner of the house had been lying. Fine. I ran down to the hardware store, bought some pumps to get the water out along with a replacement sump-pump. A few hours work in a fever induced fog and the problem was resolved. For now (cue ominous music).

So it's the 12th of December, 2008, which is the day Tanya marks a difficult anniversary in her past by baking cookies. I'm home to help out with Coraline while Tanya does her annual ritual, or so I thought. The night before a HUGE storm rolls in and dumps an enormous amount of rain onto the ground. Like much of the state of Massachusetts and New Hampshire we wake up that morning to no power. Our neighbors had power, of course, but not us. No heat either, which meant no cookies. Coraline's cranky, so we fire up the wood-stove and play music on the portable music player and try to keep her entertained while we wait for the power to come back on. We weren't thinking about the basement, because the sump-pump was down there, right?

The power comes on late in the day, maybe five o'clock or so. We do a quick check of everything, including a quick peek down into the basement. It looked fine, so we weren't too worried, at least until we noticed that the heat and hot water had not come back with the power. When we walked down to check it out and stepped on the carpet, the first thing we hear is a "squish!"

In hindsight it's simple logic. No power, no sump-pump.

When the power came back on the sump-pump sucked up all the water, but the damage had been done. We'd gotten a good foot and a half of water in the basement, enough to flood both the carpeted and tiled areas.

First thing to check were the possessions in the basement. Many of our papers and such were down there. We lost some XMas ornaments, some XMas gifts that had been hidden downstairs, etc. The most precious for me was a box of my high school drawings that are now ruined. If that had been all, we would have counted our blessings, but it wasn't over yet.

Right around this time came the phone call from some dear friends of ours up north in New Hampshire. They also had no power or heat, and needed a place to crash. No problem, we said. C'mon down. They (and their two dogs) stayed with us for a week before their power was returned, so count us lucky on that front.

The plumber came and repaired the hot water heater. He came three times over the next few days, actually, just to cut that portion of the story short. The furnace came back after it dried out, thank goodness.

Two days after the rug started to smell, really badly. I ripped it up, hoping that would be the end of it. Then contractors came through and told us the entire flooring would have to go. So goodbye to our carpeted and tiled areas. In the process of ripping up the floor they took out our water main, but they repaired that eventually.

That night we discovered that the freezer downstairs wasn't actually cooling anything, despite it drawing power. So all the food contained therein was a loss as well.

Then we discovered ground water coming in. It's possible that this had been coming in all along with the water being hidden by the tiled floor, but we have no way of knowing. The contractors told me I'd have to seal up the hole where the water main comes into the house with hydrolic concrete before they'd proceed with drying, so I've been working on that. I think I finally have it as of this morning, but it's been a learning process.

Oh, and while all this was going on I hit a pothole with my car and lost a wheel, along with my catalytic converter tanking in the engine. When it rains it pours.

So where are we now, New Years eve and almost three weeks after the flood? We've thrown out an enormous amount of stuff that was down there, but more can be gotten rid of.

All the possessions are currently stacked up in one of the rooms, and need to be sorted. We've no idea what we're going to do with the space long term.

Half the trash the contractors ripped up is still in our yard. He has yet to come through and pick it up. He also has yet to come through and dry the basement, although that's partly my fault for not being skilled enough with concrete to fix the ground water problem on my first try (it took several tries, and I'm still not convinced it's over.)

The freezer is still broken, and the insurance isn't going to cover it. Actually the insurance is treating this as a "sump-pump malfunction" and thus will only cover maybe half of what we've spent or lost down in the basement and that's a conservative estimate. I was quoted 700 dollars to fix it by a somewhat shady source, so I'm going to look elsewhere once I've caught up on other areas (like the trash, the ground water, etc.)

The car's fixed. We have hot water. We have heat. We can be thankful for that.

Bring on 2009 and the second mortgage of day-care.

Happy New Year, everyone. Let us hope the coming year brings us happier times.

First a black President...

...and now a black Doctor Who?

The times they are a changin'.

This isn't official yet, but the hot rumor is that actor Paterson Joseph has been offered the role of Doctor Who, replacing David Tennant. I've only seen Joseph in the BBC series "Neverwhere," so I'm really not familiar with his work, but I trust new show-runner Stephen Moffat's instincts. If Joseph really is Moffat's choice for Doctor Who then I'm on board.

Oh, and I promised new Coraline photos last time, but I really don't have many to share (they're all on Tanya's lap-top). Here's one I snapped recently at a friend's house.

Although the more entertaining photo is this one of our pal Tammy laying down the law with her daughter Camden, while Finnegan the dog sits hopefully, waiting for crackers to drop to the floor.

I was wrong

Almost a year ago I sat down for a dinner with two of our politically active friends, and they asked me about the democratic presidential field.

"I don't know," I said. "I just don't see how a black man or a woman can be elected president. I just don't think the country is ready for that."

I was wrong.

And I couldn't be happier about it.
I have a good friend who I exchange audio-books with, and she's a bit of a vampire fan. Just yesterday I finished a book she lent me; "Danse Macabre" by Laura K. Hamilton.

My goodness, is it a trashy book.

For those not in the know, this is a book about a female Vampire Hunter who happens to be in love with a powerful vampire herself. The books are full of monsters, conspiracies, power-plays, and, you guessed it, sex. Lots of sex. The sort of graphic sex usually reserved for Penthouse Forum sex.

Honestly, hearing this material as an audio-book makes me blush. The narrator (http://cynthiaholloway.com/) gives the sex scenes her all in terms of performance, and if these were motion-pictures I think the tales would be hard pressed to qualify for an "R" rating as opposed to an "X".

But it also puts something in perspective.

Back in High School the Anne Rice Vampire books were all the rage, especially amidst the girls. Let's face it, besides the characters one of the reasons we teenagers were so into Anne Rice was the element of titilation, the current of sexuality that ran an as undercurrent throughout all of Rice's tales.

Putting Rice's work next to Hamilton's makes the exploits of Lasher or Lestat look like Disneyworld. I wonder if I went back and re-read the Witching Hour I'd find it as sexy now as I did then? Times have changed.

So imagine my surprise, with Hamilton's work still fresh in mind, here comes an interview with Rice talking about how she's now converted to Christianity. She also denies that her Vampire books were about sex, but were instead about the quest for faith.


Rice is welcome to put a revisionist spin to her tales, but I think she's deluding herself. Vampire books ARE about sex. It's just part and parcel of the genre. The degree of sex may vary (see Hamilton vs. Rice above) but it still comes down to penetration at the end of the day.

I'd heard that Rice was going to write one more Vampire novel now that she's turned to Jesus, but it appears as if that's now off the table. It's a pity. I'd long since given up on Rice's Vampire books, but her born-again Vampire tale would have been one I'd have liked to read.



Various and Sundry Topics

Yes, I've been bad about updating. Who knew having an infant was so much work? :)

Coraline turned one month old last week, btw. 8.5 pounds now, up almost three pounds from her birth weight. I don't have any new close-ups, but here's a photo of three generations of women on Tanya's branch of the family.

- I continue to be absolutely fascinated by the election. The fact that a black man might win the presidency in two weeks seems astonishing to me. I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime. The McCain/Palin ticket continues to flail, trying something different every other day in an attempt to gain footing with the undecided voters (Joe the Plumber on day, Acorn and Ayers the next, Socialism the following). It's amazing to see the once straight talk express become the smear machine. If the economy wasn't in the dumps I suspect Obama would be having a tougher time of it, but right now people are scared and Obama projects such an air of confidence and calm....

I still believe that it's the youth vote that will carry the day on November 4th. The way I see it, as long as the youth vote turns out, Obama wins. If they stay home, then it's a toss-up.

- The comic strip Opus is ending. Again. This is the Sunday only comic strip that features Opus the penguin, who was the star of the beloved 80's strip Bloom County and the not-so-beloved 90's strip Outland. I was overjoyed when Breathed returned to the comics pages in 2004, but sadly the Opus that returned was not the Opus I remembered. I was upset the first two times Breathed retired his strip, but this time I'm only mildly curious what final image he will provide. (http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20081018/NEWS/810180291?Title=Cartoonist_bids_farewell_to_Opus)

- Robert Downey Jr. is Sherlock Holmes! Er, maybe. Is it just me, or does he look like Charlie Chaplin? Again? (http://justjared.buzznet.com/2008/10/10/robert-downey-jr-as-sherlock-holmes-first-pictures/)

- Meanwhile, one of my favorite Holmes/Watson teams is back in the studio recording new adventures. Clive Merrison and Andrew Sachs. Yes, THAT Andrew Sachs. Manuel from Fawlty Towers. He looks a little different these days, but he makes a great Watson.

- After the announcement of a 6th Hitchhiker's Book I took the time to listen to the first Artemis Fowl novel, and it was surprisingly good. Colfer's not Douglas Adams, certainly not as science based as Adams was, but I'm now more willing to give his new Hitchhiker's book a listen.

- Our friends Anne and Chris' baby had open heart surgery last weekend. I just as I've been typing this received an e-mail that Milo is home again, less than a week after the operation. Absolutely amazing, and a huge relief for those of us watching from the sidelines. (Not to mention a huge relief for the parents in question!)

I have more topics to ramble about, including a horrible cafe experience, the effect the economy is having on friends and vampire puppets, but I think I've rambled enough for this morning.

Hope everyone is hanging in out there...



See what happens when I drop off the grid for a week to have a kid? Someone announces a 6th Hitchhiker's book.

I've not read Eoin Colfer's work, but this just sounds like a bad idea to me. It was one thing when Dirk Maggs wrote a new ending to Hitchhiker, as he was at least working with Douglas Adams at the time of his death on that very project (a radio re-telling of the last three books), and his coda was a ten minute audio epilogue to the whole she-bang. It's a beautiful ending, btw. Really, I could not, as a fan, have asked for better.

Now the series will continue under hands disconnected from Douglas Adams. For all I know it'll be brilliant, but right now it just has me very, very worried.

And Another Thing (MP3 File)

Yes, that's Simon Jones, the original Arthur Dent. I echo his sentiments.

Two quick pix

These are my favorite pictures so far.


She's two weeks early (a good sign for my plan to potty train her by two months,) but here's our little girl.

That durn Palin speech


The speech.

I'm assuming you at least saw clips?

Right at the outset let me concede that it was a good speech. She hit the notes she wanted to hit, didn't look all that nervous (well, maybe at first) and got the crowd energized. She did what she set out to do.


It wasn't the be-all end-all of speeches either. The way that right wing pundits are falling all over themselves today to praise her you'd think she was Moses delivering the ten commandments.

Really, the bottom line is that expectations were low going in and Palin exceeded them. End of story. As one commentator put it this morning, "as long as she didn't belch in the middle of the speech she would have received a passing grade."

Oh, and just a note that all quotes in this post are paraphrases. I have not looked up the text of the original speeches as I've just eaten lunch and really don't feel like tossing my cookies.

By the time Palin hit the stage I was already angry about the way that Giuliani was portraying Obama. "Maybe she [Palin] isn't cosmopolitan enough for them," says Rudy. "How dare they attack her for being a working mother!" Etc. etc. etc. None of which the Obama camp has raised as an issue. But the crowd ate it up like it was gospel and it made me sick to my stomach.

Then Palin began her speech.

Did she discuss policy at all? I think I heard something about oil drilling, but the words were really a run down of her life's story and some praise for John McCain. That was the speech. Oh, and half-truth smears on Obama. "This is a man who's authored two memoirs, but never a major bill or legislation." Not true. "He opposes drilling without offering an alternative." Also not true. I thought it ironic that she then goes on to list the energy initiatives that Obama DOES support, claiming them as her own. The number of half truths and smears became pretty disgusting, frankly. I'm sure we're in for more tonight with McCain's speech.

Really, she can say almost anything she wants right now, she doesn't have much of a record to back it up. I'm sure it's pretty freeing for her speech writers.

After the speech I watched the Daily Show, and they'd done something extraordinary. They'd grabbed three major Republican spokesman (Bill O'Reiley, Karl Rove and... um, I can't remember the third woman) and played their defenses of Palin. "Sexism by the media." "Her child's choice doesn't reflect on her." "Just because she's the Governor of a small state doesn't disqualify her." They then went back six months ago and played clips by the SAME COMMENTATORS using the same arguments to smear other people. "Hillary can claim sexism all she wants, but if she gets into this game she has to suck it up." "The man is only the mayor of a two of 150,000. That's clearly not experienced enough." "Jamie Spears is pregnant and unmarried. Blame the parents."

Oy, enough.

I will say that Stewart's point about Palin claiming her daughter keeping the baby was a "personal choice" all the while opposing abortion rights is a contradiction. A very good point, Mr. Stewart. Let's hope that gets raised on the campaign trail.

The Morning After

Oh, boy. Sleepy this morning after staying up watching the final night of the Democratic convention.

Thought Obama's speech very good, very powerful. I wasn't quite as enthralled as some of the pundits seem to have been, but he hit the right notes and I loved watching the crowd's reactions. It's clear that if you were there, in that stadium, that there was an energy flowing through the crowd, which is a good sign.

Meanwhile, here's McCain's response:

"Presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain issued a statement minutes after Obama wrapped his speech: "Tonight, Americans witnessed a misleading speech that was so fundamentally at odds with the meager record of Barack Obama.

"When the temple comes down, the fireworks end and the words are over, the facts remain: Sen. Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year and still voted against funds for American troops in harm's way.

"The fact remains: Barack Obama is still not ready to be president."

There was just too much glitz and glamour emanating from the floor of the Invesco Field, transformed by a crew of seasoned Hollywood veterans, conservatives said."

Too much glitz? What, your convention's going to be a bare-bones affair, Mr. McCain?

Meanwhile McCain's VP choice was just announced and it seems, well, bizarre. I was expecting Mit Romney, so his choice of Sarah Palin seemed to come out of left-field. You're complaining that Barrack is inexperienced, and you're choosing Sarah Palin? Really? She's beautiful, I'll grant that, but jeez, she's only a first term Governor. Oh, and she's under investigation by her own legislature for abuse of power! Hm. I get that it's an attempt to appear youthful and reach out to women voters, but haven't you just shot your own argument against Barack in the foot? Hm. I'm sure all the reporters out there are combing through her background right now, so we'll see how the public respond to the choice.