Tuesday, November 29, 2011


So I've just about unscrambled my semi-sleep-deprived brain and begun the morning chores.

We -- Kay and I -- are showing the house today at 11:45 to someone who rescheduled after not showing yesterday at 9:30.   Showing the house means that we vacate the house and drive around for awhile.  I'm still relaxed.  We have plenty of time.

I'm not quite sure whether Karen fed Kay before leaving or that I had fed her enough after Karen left.  So I'm fixing another bottle to make sure I can top her off  so she might possibily sleep so I can straighten the house before taking her cruising in the car.

Kay is in the swing which is suppose to have 6 speeds and although I've set it at the slowest speed it looks like a carnival fun ride, swinging her wildly from left to right.  And, of course, back again.  Kay seems to like the swing.  She always makes little slurping cooing sounds which I interpret to mean that she likes it but might, of course, mean that she is terrified out of her wits.  Although she may be too young to actually have wits.

This is the vibrating chair, Not the swing.
The cover to the swing is in the laundry.
Kay likes the vibrating chair too but it always
vibrates her to the bottom.

Fixing the bottle, I suddenly hear a sound that I have heard before.  I heard it a few weeks ago when I accidentally spilled half of a gallon of white paint onto the garage floor -- right after Karen had warned me to watch out for any drips from the brush and to clean them up right away.

Was Kay painting? 

I looked over and for a moment I was convinced that she had been.  White liquid covered her, her clothes, the chair and a part of the Persian rug.

I guess Karen had fed her before leaving after all. 

I'm no longer relaxed.  We no longer have plenty of time.  Oddly, Kay is smiling.

I switch into hyper-mode:  pick her up, rub whatever baby spit was left all over my clean shirt, undress both of us, throw on clean clothes, throw everything else in laundry...hyperventilate...put her in the car seat, throw in the carrying bag of diapers and the bottle which I don't know if she will need -- is she now empty? 

And just before the realtor pulls up to show our house, I run back in and grab a roll of paper towels.

You never know.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Friday Shoot-out: Lawn and Garden Tools

So we're having a quiet Thanksgiving.  The kids and grandkids were doing it this year with Melody's family.  In the spirit of the Holidays, Karen surprisingly decided to invite Bagman and Butler to join us.  I think she felt the need to try and close the distance that has been growing between myself and my odd siblings.
Things were going quite well although Karen was sitting as far away from Bagman as possible and watching like a hawk to make sure he didn't scratch his initials on the polished wood of the formal table we only use a couple of times a year.  I didn't really know what to say and was sitting quietly staring at my plate and listening to Karen and Butler discuss the correct positioning of the silverware.  Bagman was drumming a beat on his plate with his knife and fork, punctuating his tintinnabulation with an occasional belch.
Then he brought up the subject of whether we were going to do a Friday Shootout and what the theme was going to be.

"Lawn and garden tools," I said, not looking up.
BAGMAN: "Lawn and garden tools!!!  Gaaaa!  I hate lawn and garden tools!"

BUTLER:  "I was kind of hoping for an exhibition of cutlery.  But did you know that there are some beautiful formal gardens in Great Britain?"
"That's fascinating," said Karen, leaning closer to Butler (and further away from Bagman who was dipping seconds of mashed potatoes with his bare hand).

I looked up and smiled at Bagman because I hate lawn and garden tools also.  They make me sweat and give me sore muscles.  I said, "I had planned to skip the shootout completely."

But Karen looked at me, smiled, and said, "I think that is a very nice theme.  Why don't you go out and take pictures of them while I get dessert ready."

"As long as I don't have to use any of them," I whined.  "Maybe I'll shoot the rake."

BAGMAN (Jumping up and spilling his ice tea over his mashed potatoes): "Rake!  You're a rake!  Hide the maidens, Mark's a rake!"

"Does everything have to have a double meaning?" I asked helplessly.
BUTLER: "Many garden implements have sexual connotations from the middle ages because of the natural association between planting and procreation.  For instance, "furrow" and, excuse my use of the word, "fuck" come from the same Latin root.  Ploughing, pitchfork, rake...you  know, Bagman, you might find a reading of Shakespeare very interesting."

BAGMAN: "Humpf.  I'll stick with the Internet, although Nabokov wasn't too bad.  Hey!  Do you know that sweet tea is pretty good on mashed potatoes!" 

Karen actually reached over and patted Butler's hand, saying, "I never realized how much you knew about things."

This was getting to be way too much for me, so I  grabbed the camera and went to the shed.  I only took two quick snapshots in the shed because I really do have a distaste for garden tools.  Plus I didn't want to miss dessert.

String trimmer, electric saw, clippers, blah blah blah...

You can tell my attitude toward yard work by the orderly way I return tools to the shed.  The rakes are obvious and the green things are stakes for tomato plants, but I would have had to actually touch these implements to show what some of the handles are connected to - so you will just have to imagine the unseen shovels, hoes, and picks.

BAGMAN (Shouting from inside the house):  "Mark just said 'hoes'!!"

I shake my head, nervously, wondering what Karen must be thinking.  But then I hear her voice cheerfully calling out, "Don't forget to shoot the lawn mower!"

The riding lawn mower we bought a few years ago is the first piece of equipment that doesn't make me sweat and I have to admit that I am grateful not to have to push the old mower all around our lawn.  Then again, I never get to ride on it anyway.

Okay, just give me the shovel so I can dig a big hole and get in it.  On second thought, I don't want to miss Thanksgiving dessert. 

I walk back into the diningroom, dessert is being elegantly served by Butler who has given the biggest piece of pumpkin pie to Karen, asking if she would like a little ice cream with it. 

Our dog, Daisy is feasting on the copious crumbs that Bagman has dropped on the floor beside his chair.  I figure I'll get the broom as soon as we are done. 

Then with a grand flourish, Bagman knocks over another glass.  Trying to catch it, he tips his plate up and showers Daisy with beans, cranberry sauce, turkey, creamed corn, yams.  But he saves his pie. 

BAGMAN:  "Hey!  Sweet tea goes good on pumpkin pie too!"

Looking at the mess under his chair, I give up on the broom.  I'll probably have to get the rake out of the shed. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

On the market! Good news, Bad news, and Pictures

Our house is now listed with the MLS although I'm not sure why anyone in Major League Soccer will be interested. 

The good news is that all the hard work is done.  I might even get back to blogging or writing or photography more!  Yea!  Good news!

The bad news is that our house is no longer a home and has become, instead, a showplace.  We need to vacuum more often, shampoo carpets more often, and  put things away more often.  And when anyone wants to come look at it, we need to run around like maniacs to make sure everything looks good -- optimizing it's marketability.  Then, if possible, vacate the premises and go find some way of wasting one to two hours. 

And poor Daisy has to go into a large dog carrying kennel because it is poor marketing to have her barking, "Go away!  Go away!"   But when I do have to put her in the kennel, I give her an obnoxious number of Doggie Treats.

The other good news is that if we can sell it, we can move closer to Karen's work and closer to the grandchildren -- although they spend lots of time here already.  But it will cut down their commute as well.

The other bad news is that as long as it does not sell (estimated time-to-sale time in the current market is 8-12 months, although we've priced it to move quicker.  Since, to make it look more open and appealing, we have removed tons of furniture into storage.  So, for instance, I no longer have a bedtable so when I go to sleep, I put my glasses on the floor where I can step on them in the morning.

Anyhow, the realtor needed pictures for the listing and his pictures, well, were awful.  So I took a batch of shots -- several of them panoramas that I stitched together with Photoshop because even my wide angle lens is not wide enough to show the whole bathroom in one picture.

Furthermore, it doesn't show the time I spent scraping out old caulking and putting in new caulking. 

BAGMAN (Suddenly appearing in my blog for a moment, jumping up and down and yelling): "Mark was using his caulk!  Mark was using his caulk!"

I hit him over the head with my caulk gun and shove him back out the door.

Where was I?  Oh yes.  I was also going to mention that we always shower and have seldom taken advantage of the whirlpool tub so we gave it to our cats and put the litter box in it.  But that didn't seem appealing from a marketing point of view so we moved it to an upstairs bathroom floor hidden under the sink.  The cats have not seemed to mind and adjusted well.

Okay, I'll continue posting pictures of the house because...well, I don't really know why.  I guess I post them because they exist.  One of those existential questions.  Why do we post anything?   It's not as if everyone in the World of Blog wants to see pictures of my bathroom.  I just hope some prospective buyers see pictures of our rooms on the MLS and want to live in them. 

So -  Here is the house itself.

Looks like a postcard

And here is the...

...well, it is kind of the foyer to the left and the formal dining room in the middle (the dining room that we use on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  (This photo straightened up pretty well with Photoshops Lens Correction tool -- unlike the bathroom).

Then turning around, we have part of the formal livingroom on the right (another unused room except for Christmas). 

...plus a view into the kitchen which we use all the time and the stairs that go up to my office. (I did not shoot the office because even though I straightened it up and moved the computer against the wall (where I hate it), it still just looks like a little square room.  And the MLS doesn't let you display everything!

Here is another view of the livingroom:

I took this shortly after the kids and grandkids moved in a few years ago.  After consideration, we decided it was a little too cluttered to show prospective buyers.  The difference between a home and a showplace.
And moving along, we have...

...a view of the den (or family room) as seen through the kitchen.   This is actually one of the few areas in the house we actually use on a regular basis.   I'm not quite sure why the lighting seems weird.  I must have tinkered with the temperature.   The refrigerator on the left really illustrates the difference between a house that is being "shown" and a regular home.  It's all gleamy and white.  When this was a home, it looked like this:

Now we come to the master bedroom, which I think is a a thoroughly prehistoric and sexist term for a bedroom.  Although the alternative of "mistress bedroom" has it's own negative connotations. 

Photographer's Confession:  Trying to combine four photographs into one panorama in Photoshop really frustrated me on this one.  They just didn't want to blend correctly.  I think the Photoshop term is "stitch."  (i.e., it dropped some stitches).   I tried to correct places where it didn't match over and over again, mostly using the clone tool.   Finally, I just uttered some choice words and decided that the realtor wouldn't notice at this size.   But when I blow a section of it up...

It's easy to see that this photo has been doctored to death.  But, believe it or not, it is a lot better than when it came out of the Photoshop Panorama Automated Gadget.   None of the lines connected at all. 

And finlly we have the guest room.

By this time I wasn't even worrying that horizon line wasn't horizontal.  And, no, we don't really have curved ceilings.

So if you know anyone who is moving to Charleston...

Meanwhile, I'll go and vacuum the floors again and try to get up tomorrow without stepping on my glasses. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Confused chameleon contemplates change

Aside from the ten thousand five hundred eighty six "small detail items" on my Follow-Up To-Do List, all of the big stuff on the Priority To Do List has been completed and we put the house on the market last Thursday.  (More on that later in the week if I find time to post).

One of the last of the big stuff items on the now extinct Priority To Do List, which I burned in an almost religious ceremony of gratitude, was pressure washing and re-staining the porch.  Just before spreading down the plastic to protect painted areas from stain, I  spotted the fellow below. To try and prove to myself that the photojournalist in me had not been totally beaten down into oblivion and to document his confusion, I snapped a picture of him, peeking from the plastic which had become his last hiding place.

He (or she) is clearly contemplating life's great questions:
  • Where have all the plants gone that used to be here on the porch?
  • How can I escape off the porch since the hole in the screen has been patched?
  • Where is food?
  • Am I about to die?
  • It's already November -- have I missed mating season entirely?
  • Why is God pointing that damned Nikon at me again?
  • Is it safe to quench my thirst by drinking Valspar Dark Redwood Weatherproofing Stain?
  • Why is God now moaning and grabbing the small of his back everytime he stands up?
  • If God sells the house, will the new owners of the house also have cats?
  • If I do manage to get off the porch, is the dreaded black snake still living in the crawl space?
  • How are the other chameleons coping, or am I the last of my species left on Earth?
  • If I'm a chameleon, why can't I turn white?
I wish I had time to discuss these great questions with the chameleon but my biggest concern this morning is to ransack the medicine drawer in the bathroom to see if there is any more Tylenol left.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Hometown Shootout - Symmetry

So the house is now as good as it is going to get.  It is listed and we are just waiting for people to come in and look at it...and, of course, buy it.  Then there will be the work of buying somewhere else to live and moving...

But for the moment, I have time to post for the Friday shootout.  Although I had no time to go out and find symmetry.  But that can't stop me.  And there is some good symmetry kicking around in the archives. 

Looking at the archives, I discovered that when people do symmetry there is nothing subtle about it.

Dogs are not very subtle either.

On the other hand, God is much more subtle about symmetry.

You have to look a little more carefully at the above two pictures to find elements of symmetry.

But the most difficult exercise in symmetry is what we go through every Christmas.  Some people just throw decorations at random on the tree.  But we take the time to make sure that the tree is perfectly symmetrical so the right side and the left side match.   This is not easy and you have to make sure that you have two of every decoration. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Friday Shootout - Letter "A" - plus something for last week

I hate to miss two shootouts in a row so I am determined to throw something together before continuing with my "Make House Saleable To Do List" which today includes:
  • Touching up mistakes from yesterday
  • Removing and cleaning floor vents
  • Moving excess furniture to storage
  • Replacing weatherstripping
  • Pressure washing driveway and bricks on house
  • Replacing caulk in bathrooms
I'm already exhausted.  But this will be fairly quick.  You may have noticed that Bagman and Butler haven't been around much.  I think they got tired of my griping and are on vacation in Jamaica. 

The Letter "A" is for:

Aircraft Carrier
USS Yorktown - popular tourist attraction in Mt. Pleasant

I need to visit this again sometime and shoot some detail stuff and I should do it soon because, while nicely painted where the tourists are, the bottom of this old ship is rusting out.  The city can't figure out where to get the millions of dollars required to refurbish it -- NO NEW TAXES! -- so will be in danger of sinking in a few years.  Although it is in such shallow water and pluff mud that it may have sunk already.


(This one was walking across our back yard a couple of summers ago)

I could let this pass without an acknowledgement of my grandfather

Absurd Architecture

And that does it for this week.   Although I do want to get partial credit for at least trying to post on last Friday's scary signs shoot.  I had found a couple to put on my post but I ran out of time and couldn't get it up.

BEEP!   Being fluent in Beep-ese, as I reported earlier, I realize I had a text message on my phone.  I was, surprisingly from Bagman!

BAGMAN (texting):  "LOL!  Couldn't get it up!!  LOL!"

Ignoring him, I continued hastily posting a couple of late pictures for last week.

A scary sign from Oaxaca, Mexico
I think it tells me what to do in case of fire or earthquake.
I decided that I would just run.

As if I really needed a sign...

Mandatory Cruise Ship Lifeboat Drill
As I get older, I probably need signs like this
on all my clothes.

No time to put something cute on my header this week.  I need to go and to pull out the pressure washer...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I've learned a new language !!!

...and didn't even realize it!

"I woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off, I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain't it funny how the night moves..."
                                      Bob Seger

"I woke last night to the sound of beeping
Wondered what had stopped my sleeping..."
                                     Mark Cowell

So there it was, titillating my eardrum, that high-pitched beep that has insinuated itself into so many parts of our lives.   I knew right away that it was the coffee-maker announcing that it had successfully brewed the morning stimulant.  I knew this because it was three short beeps.

I thought about going back to sleep but realized that if I slept for 90 more minutes, the coffee maker would express it's displeasure at being ignored by making two slightly longer beeps to announce that it was no longer going to keep the coffee hot and was turning itself off.

But, of course, that would never happen because in 30 minutes my alarm clock would demand wakefulness by starting a series of very loud, fast beeps that would not stop until I reached over and hit the snooze button.  And it would repeat its disturbing behavior until I finally got up.

Lying there, I realized that I have become completely fluent in beep-ese, without realizing it.

One long beep followed by two short beeps means that the washing maching wants me to put my newly washed clothes in the dryer.

One short beep followed by on longer beep means that the dryer wants me to fold my warm, snuggly clothes.

One very short but very loud beep tells me that one of the smoke detectors wants me to change its battery.  The smoke detectors irritate me because the battery changing beep is so short and surprising that I can never figure out immediately which of the three smoke detectors needs changing.   Futhermore, the time between one beep and the next is random and it may be five minutes before it beeps again.  This means I have to go around the house and stand next to each smoke detector until it beeps or unless I hear the beep somewhere else. 

In the case of an actual fire, however, the smoke detectors are capable of making a infinitely long, infinitely loud beep-on-steroids forcing me to flee the house -- not just because of the fire but to save my eardrums.   I know this because one of the smoke detectors loves to go off whenever I fry anything on the stove. 

I once had a digital wristwatch with a tiny but incessant beep built in for an alarm clock.  It also had a function whereby it would make one tiny beep every hour.  I had thrown the instruction booklet away because who needs an instruction booklet for a watch and because the instruction booklet was written in 4 point type and was unreadable anyway.  And was in French, Spanish, and Chinese. 

Digital watches are designed by engineers to have the fewest number of buttons with each button or combination of buttons designed to do multiple things.  Beep.  One o'clock.  Beep.  Two o'clock.  I threw it away.

When I try to escape my beep-filled home, I walk to the garage and unlock my car by pushing a button on the automatic device that is an addition to the actual car key and adds more bulk to my key chain.  My key chain -- so full of keys and remote gizmos that it makes permanent bulges in my pants pockets.  Not to mention that I don't remember what half the keys go to.  I probably have keys to places I unlocked twenty years ago.   But that is another story.

But when I do unlock my car, it makes two short friendly beeps to invite me inside.

My car likes me.  When I start the engine, it gives me five nagging beeps to remind me to fasten my seatbelt.   It gives me two longer beeps to let me know it is getting low on gas.  This is actually the same sound that the coffee maker makes when it turns off but I know the difference because the coffee maker is never going 65 miles per hour.    

And it I try to leave the car without taking my keys out of the ignition, it tries to immitate the smoke detector.   It's attempt is a bit feeble but I haven't left my keys in the car yet.

I am bilingual!!

Samual Morse would be proud.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Blah...Gone for awhile...but, of course, will be back sometime

I hate moving.  Even before it starts since we haven't looked at new houses nor put ours on the market yet.  But putting it on the market is a pain.  Because it has to be "shown."   It ceases to be a place where we live and becomes a showplace.  I thought I was seeing light at the end of the painting/fixing tunnel until we had the realtor over  -- he went around making suggestions for how it would "show" better.

He was right, of course.  I've got enough marketing background in my past employments to know he was right.   We need to declutter it and to open up the rooms.   Which means we need a storage facility to put furniture and boxes of knickknacks, books, and crap. 

And the new deadline is next week. 

So I doubt you will be hearing from me much before Mid-November.   Be thankful.  Most of the time these days, all I do is swear. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Yesterday -- the whole story summed up in Newspaper Headlines

We recently renewed our subscription to the Post and Courier.   I don't know why.

Well, actually, I do know why.  Because we are addicted to the ritual of drinking morning coffee and trying to unfold and fold huge, clumsy pieces of rustling paper that contain things we will be expected to discuss with others during the day.

My Tae Kwon Do teacher told me once that he never read the newspaper.  I thought he was weird.  But I didn't tell him that because he could have broken every bone in my body with his little pinky.  MAN BREAKS BONES WITH PINKY - Arrested for refusal to read newspaper.

I confess that the only part of the newspaper I read is the comics.   Doonesbury, Zits, Bizarro...

The rest of the paper is predictable.  Horrible car accident, people arrested for terrible crimes, some politician makes a fool of him(her)self, war somewhere, economy sucks, celebrities die or go to rehab, some catastrophe somewhere kills thousands, and somewhere in the piles of unfolded newsprint will always be something really weird -- Parrot calls 911 and saves man who swallowed cement.

So mostly I just scan the headlines to find the weird story and then read the comics.  Today, I realized that you don't even have to read the stories.  Everything you need to know is in the headlines. 

"I'll bet I could blog my entire day just in newspaper headlines," I said.

"That's nice," my wife responded.  "Did you read about the mudslide in Kenya?"

"Terrible.  Two thousand people missing," I said, sounding knowledgeable.  The number was in the sub-headline and I realized I'd have to add subheads to the headlines.  I finished my coffee and started my newsworthy day:

·         DOG POOPS IN DARK -- Predawn walk prevents stains on new carpet

·         MAN INJURED BY DINOSAUR -- Authorities order clean-up of toys from livingroom floor.

·         GARGANTUAN GARAGE REHAB COMPLETED -- Woman ecstatic despite deadline failure

·         COMPUTER PREVENTS DISASTER -- Reminder of wife's birthday culminates in shopping trip

·         OVERWEIGHT MAN FORGETS TO EAT LUNCH -- Discovery of apple turnovers at convenience store prevents weight loss

·         U.S. POSTAL SERVICE STILL OPERATING -- Delivery limited to bills and ads

·         CAMERA ATTEMPTS TO ESCAPE -- Claims that rust from underuse is emotional abuse

·         WIFE CATCHES MAN ON COUCH -- Busted, man claims he was only playing Nintendo

·         PRODUCTION COMMITTEE APPROVES REPAIR OF PORCH -- Labor leaders call for strike

But seriously, if it weren't for the newspaper, what would we put under the electric griddle when we cook bacon?