Sunday, May 31, 2009

another good one

Lifted right out of the blog of this new guy I'm reading, Eddie. He's over there on the right in a thing called (un)Common Sense. Check him out. He's worth reading.

But here's the video. Very cool stuff.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Fiddler on the Roof this ain't.

But worth watching.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

an update and minutia

The clients absolutely LOVED the new room I built for them. Enough in fact that they gave me a very nice tip. I was quite touched by their generosity. That extra scratch will really help in our search for a reliable vehicle for Laura.

It is Memorial Day weekend in a state with "Vacationland" on our license plates, and we live five miles from downtown Bar Harbor. Suffice it to say it's been kinda busy here. Cars and campers and tour buses began streaming onto the island early Friday morning and seemed intent upon driving fast in the slow zones, slow in the fast zones, and taking up every available parking spot at the grocery store. Sigh. If it is tourist season, why can't we shoot them?

So we've been hunkered down here for a little while, a friend came to visit on Saturday and took us out for lunch, and that was a real treat. We gave her the cook's tour of the island's more photogenic spots and then hunkered down at home again. I think tomorrow we'll have burgers on the grill. We're focusing on low-key right now. I slept for 12 hours last night. I guess I really didn't know how stressed that job had me until I was able to relax. Phew.

So, today is an easy day. Burn up some scrap lumber, clean up the yard, organize tools, putter without too much urgency. Make potato salad for tomorrow. Breathe. Be grateful. Look for cars on the Internet. Maybe have a beer (O'Doul's). Maybe have coffee. It's that kind of weekend. And I needed it more than I ever knew.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The job that never ends... just did!

The sun room is done! I am so tired, all I am going to do is post the pictures. You can admire and tell me about it if you'd like. Please pay special attention to the Jenga-staging. I think it shows a creative use of boards and scrap lumber.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

more progress, and some engineering prowess

Today was just beautiful, so I worked outside all day. The next two days are going to be iffy. I figured I ought to take advantage of the sun while it's here.

So the first thing I had to do was trim those damnable clapboards so that my second piece of trim would fit. I got a piece of scrap and just started at the top, marking the clapboards and slicing or sawing them as needed, all the way down. I picked up the pre-cut piece of trim, wedged it in right, smacked it gently into place and nailed that sucker in place. I was so thrilled, I cannot tell you.

I put two more pieces of trim up at the outside corner, then went home for a lunch break. I bought some solid stain, too, so I am painting the trim before I put up the clapboards and drip paint/stain all over them. Some days I am really clever.

But the marvel of today was the staging I rigged. Now, I have staging on site. It's just at the other end of the sun porch, and it is set up exactly where the metal guy needs it to be. Besides, I'll need it there in a day or two when I get down to that end.

So I needed to get up high today, but not high enough to require my extension ladder. Higher than either stepladder would get me, though. Hmmm. Well, I have some saw horses and some planks... but the ground is uneven, so I'll wedge some boards underneath for stability, then lay the planks across the saw horses, but then I need to reach over there. Hmm. Well, I have a 16-foot staging plank around the corner of the house that I can use. But what do I put it on so I will be able to reach? I know, scramble, scavenge, scramble, assemble, cross my fingers and tada! Staging! Sort of. Hey, it got me where I needed to be. And I could put the short stepladder on the planks on the saw horses and reach the top if the trim to stain it. So there. Nyah. Take a look at this marvel of Yankee Ingenuity:

So I got the trim up and hit it with a first coat of stain, and then I got the clapboards up. Take a look at how my first effort in that regard came out:

Not too shabby, eh? Here's another look:

I am exceedingly proud of my engineering abilities and the fact that I did not break my neck. Depending on what the wind is doing tomorrow (they're predicting 45 mph gusts!) I'll either try to finish siding this side of the sun porch or I will sand the trim inside. The owners are due back next week. I am trying very hard not to panic, and only having moderate success.

Interior trim is done!

I forced myself yesterday to get over my fear of the table saw and do what needed doing and I got the last pieces of interior trim cut, ripped, sanded, planed and installed in this sun porch.

You may (or may not) remember that the rafters are exposed. They were rough and quite ugly where I nailed them to the house, so I boxed that in yesterday. Here's a shot of what they looked like before. You can kind of see where they were toe nailed in over there on the left. Trust me when I say it was not the prettiest job I have ever done. There were exposed nail heads and hammer marks on the rafters. Ugh.

So here are three shots of what it looked like by the time I knocked off at 7:45 p.m. last night, from left to right, looking at the place where the rafters join the house:

I am not a fan of finish work. But I feel pretty darned good about this job. I used the table saw, the chop saw, and the hand plane to make this little beauties fit. I even shaved a quarter-inch of thickness off the underneath piece of trim so it would fit above the metal trim on the sliding doors.

Today I go tackle some of the exterior trim. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Perhaps I'm losing my touch

We took Laura's car to the garage to get it inspected on Friday. We can't go to our regular garage for this because our regular garage does not do inspections. We bought it from him back in November. Nice car, Ford Crown Victoria, drives like a hearse. Big, bad, smooth ride, nice crushed velvet seats, power windows, looks like a cruiser. Guy said it was a solid car. His daughter used it that summer, but he wanted something with all-wheel drive for her in the coming winter. Whatever. It seemed like a nice car. Famous last words.

We paid a couple grand for the car, and then a week later had to dump another three hundred into it for a new alternator. Well, those things happen, we figured. It was still a pretty good car. Then Laura hit a christly frost heave and separated the exhaust, and then something happened to the ignition and it wouldn't start. Back it went to the mechanic, and six hundred later it worked. Only it needed a new power steering line right after that. Well, we bought a used car, you have to expect stuff like that, I guess.

So we brought the Crown Vic to the other side of the island to the other garage. This is the place we had my truck towed to when the wheel bearings went on my way back from Massachusetts back in January. The guys looked under it and saw some stuff that didn't look quite right, so they put it up on the lift.

Holy shit.

First, the original fuel lines had rusted out, so it looks like the first mechanic, we'll call him BH for now, replaced the metal line with a rubber one. Now there is some discussion about whether there is an appropriate high-pressure rubber fuel line for this application (BH says there is such a thing, the other guy says there is not) but what is NOT in question is the fact that the line was run along the frame on the underside of the car not SIX INCHES FROM THE EXHAUST. Yeah. High pressure or not, no rubber hose should be that close to the very hot exhaust. In fact, the hose was LAYING AGAINST THE CATALYTIC CONVERTER. It was actually burned. Not to the point of leaking, but that was only a matter of time. So: hot exhaust, rubber hose filled with pressurised extremely flammable fuel, all adds up to a rolling Molotov Cocktail.

They took some zip ties and secured the thing away from the hottest part of the exhaust.

Well, we decided then that we needed to change mechanics. But the new guy, we'll call him G for now, kept poking around. Uh-oh. Game over, he said. Huh? We looked up as he took the shop light, one of those things with a light bulb in a cage with a hook at one end and the cord at the other, and hung it in A HUGE HOLE IN THE FRAME. Rusted straight through. In two places.

No way did that hole develop in the six months that we have owned this vehicle. We bought a piece of junk that was not safe back then.

And now there is no way that car is ever going to pass an inspection. The fuel lines could be replaced with metal, but there is no way to repair that frame. It's shot. Instead of a car, we now have a boat mooring.

So we're out something like three thousand dollars over six months and a car. If we had an extra five hundred dollars a month, trust me, we'd have a much nicer car than that used one. But we don't. This is what life is like when you live close to the poverty line. We have no cushion. We operate very close to broke most of the time.

Saving money is an interesting theory. It would be nice, but every bit of income seems to go toward getting us something close to caught up. Getting ahead? That's pie in the sky stuff.

So Monday morning we arranged for Laura to borrow a vehicle for the day and I brought the Crown Vic back to BH. I explained my dissatisfaction to him in calm tones and without shouting or threatening. I said I wanted him to buy it back. He refused. He offered to leave it on the lot and try to sell it for me. I said OK. I said I wouldn't be back. He said to have the car out of there within a week.

Friday, I was ready to go in there loaded for bear. I wanted to jump up and down and scream. I had fantastic visions of repeatedly driving my truck through Bar Harbor Auto Repair's office window for putting my sweetie in that kind of danger. I was wild.

But I have been trying to work on my anger. Yes, I know it may come as a surprise to some, but I have anger issues (who knew?). So I did not have a fit. I did not shout or scream or threaten. I did not pound the counter, nor did I drive my truck through the window. Such tactics do not work on mechanics as far as I can tell. They remind me a lot of George W. Bush - incapable of admitting error - and this guy is no different. I went in, said my piece, got NOTHING in the way of satisfaction, and left. Truly, it was all I could do and what I expected to happen.

I have no idea what we might do with that rolling death trap. We cannot afford to go to a dealer and get a car, so we cannot trade it in. I suppose we'll just have it hauled off for a proper burial. That's too bad. It has a nice 5.0 litre engine in it that could make something else run really nice, but the rest of the thing is a safety hazard.

So now we are pinching our pennies and trying to find something within our budget that will not explode or fall apart as we drive it down the road. We're looking at a couple of things, but we're trying really hard not to buy out of a panic mode. It will be tough operating with one vehicle for a few days, but we need to look around and figure out what's best, not just what is the first thing we find that runs.

Am I losing my touch with my negotiating/fit-throwing skills? I don't know. I think I have probably mellowed over the years. I don't think any sized fit would have got what I wanted in the way of satisfaction out of Bar Harbor Auto. We won't be back there. And that's too bad. I liked the young guy who works there. He explained a lot of things to me about my truck. Like how to do a brake job. How to replace the cap and rotor. Cool stuff.

Oh well. If he goes to another shop, maybe I'll go there. But for now I am going to drive to the other side of MDI (30 minutes, easy) to the place that starts with a G to have my work done.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I am amazed.

I am amazed.

The bill went through the Senate today and directly to the Governor's desk where he signed it into law.

Laura and I can get married.


Of course there had to be an "unless," didn't there?

We can get married, unless opponents of marriage equality gather the 55,000 signatures necessary to put this thing on a referendum ballot. If they do that, the courts will put a hold on the law so that nobody can get married before it goes to a vote.

Because we wouldn't want people to actually have equality, even for a little while, before we deny it to them again, now would we? That could get messy, like our friends in California. You don't want people being married and then have to tell them that maybe they aren't, really.

I am at once inspired and discouraged. I am thrilled that the right people understand this thing and did the right thing. I am discouraged that there will be enough people willing to sign to take my rights away.

We've got September 19 penciled in on the calendar as our wedding date. I wonder how many other couples have to consider whether a court might prevent their nuptials?

Tomorrow we get to work defending what is right. Tonight we dance. Today is a very good day to be in Maine.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My heart is full of hope and promise today

So, um, the Maine House of Representatives, after three hours of sometimes VERY emotional debate today passed L.D. 1020 by a vote of 89 to 58. It's marginally stronger than the 3-2 margin of support the bill received in the Senate last week. This is amazing.

It goes to the Governor after a brief stop in the Senate for a confirmation vote, and unless he vetoes it, it will become law. In Maine, a governor can set aside a piece of legislation and allow it to become law without his signature, but in order to stop it, he would have to use his veto power. I don't see that happening here. I could be wrong, but I hope not. This thing had solid support in both houses of the legislature. There was no squeaker vote. It's his job to sign it and send it on through.

Now according to my understanding of things, bills passed by the Legislature become law 90 days after the Legislature adjourns, which in this case is scheduled for June 17. 90 days after June 17 is September 16, which is a Tuesday.

Our wedding is planned for September 19. At one p.m., here in paradise.

It's going to be an informal, casual event. Potluck, outdoors if the weather is nice, Hawaiian shirts all around. Bring a lawn chair.

Of course, this is all hopeful. Tentative.

There is a very real possibility that the implementation of this law will be postponed by the courts pending the outcome of a "people's veto" referendum. Signatures are being gathered already to repeal this law. Maine has a very liberal referendum process. They only need to get 55,000 signatures to put it on the ballot.If they get the signatures before the end of the summer, it could be on the November ballot. Otherwise, it would have to wait until next June.

Honestly, I really don't want this to go to referendum. It's stupid and wasteful and moronic to put the rights of a minority to a vote of the majority. I just want to marry my sweetheart and bore you all with stories of the preparations. I just want us to gather among friends and family, exchange vows and rings, and then cook burgers and maybe have some native corn on the cob. That would be nice. That really doesn't need a referendum, I think.

Keep your fingers crossed. And it goes without saying that if you're asked to sign, please decline. Thanks.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

a little distracted

Forgive me, but I am still a little distracted by this whole marriage equality thing. The bill passed the Maine State Senate by a 21-14 vote on Thursday. That's a 3-2 margin. Not a squeaker. Supporters numbered half again as many as opponents. That's pretty impressive.

The bill goes to House of Representatives on Tuesday, where it is said to have solid support.

This is amazing.

In 1988, when I came out and began to get active in queer stuff in Maine, it was still legal to fire, evict, deny credit and deny accommodations to gay men and lesbians in Maine. Hate crimes were largely unreported because to do so would mean to admit that you were gay, putting job and livelihood in peril. We were fighting then for an anti-discrimination law, and it was a nasty, uphill fight. Marriage was so far away as to not even be on the map. Not in my lifetime, perhaps in the next generation we might see such a thing, I thought. Back then, we just wanted to not get killed in the street. We just wanted someone to help our brothers who were dying by the thousands. Marriage? That was a decadent dessert to people who were starving for rice.

Ten years ago, we still did not have legal protections. Every other state in New England offered protection from discrimination for sexual minorities, but not Maine. Vermont was even working on domestic partnership. But they were a bunch of freaky hippies, we said. There's no accounting for Vermont. They do what they want there.

But now here we are in Maine in 2009. We have legal protection from discrimination, finally. We have a domestic partnership law, yes, but it is offensive to me and many others. In order to register to receive half-ration benefits, we have to file paperwork with the Department of Health. The Department of Health??? Why not Vital Statistics, where straight marriages are registered? Ooooh, that's right. We're different. Separate. Equal? My ass! We have to register with the Department of Health. People with communicable diseases have to register with the Department of Health. That is patently offensive, thank you very much.

So now we are less than 100 hours away from a historic vote of the Maine Legislature. Marriage equality might be a reality not just within my lifetime, but within this year. Wow.

If the House passes this bill on Tuesday, it goes on to the Governor for his signature. With a 3-2 margin in the Senate, and something similar (hopefully) in the House, it would make good sense for him to support a bill that comes through with solid support in both houses. The legislature is scheduled to end its session on June 17. New laws take effect 90 days after the end of the session. That means by mid-September, we could be married.

Don't think I'm gonna wear no dress. Just get that thought out of your head right now.

Wow. This is a real possibility. Something has shifted in America. We have our first African American president. Being smart is cool again. Being a stupid redneck is un-cool again. People want to feel proud about ethics again. People want to be the good guys, not the bully. We are beginning to search for and find the greater part of ourselves, that part of us that takes the high road.

History is coming. This chapter WILL be written. Dear god, let us all live long enough to see it be a reality.