Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Air of Authority

It’s a sub-audible buzzing, like the electromagnetic field given off by a malfunctioning motor that isn’t turning. It’s a warning that lives in the air.

Don’t talk about politics.

But Dad and stepmom had Fox News on. They were making supper and I was sitting at the table. I said, “Shhh, listen to what Fred Barnes is saying.”

In unison, they said they don’t like Fred Barnes.

“You don’t like Fred Barnes? He’s William Kristol’s sidekick at The Weekly Standard.” What Bushie doesn’t like The Weekly Standard?

Dad said “Fred Barnes is a traitor,” and I remembered how Barnes and Kristol and just about all the analysts at Fox News had been pretty soft on Obama, from what I could tell watching the debates. In my circle of friends, I had insisted that we watch the debates on Fox News, because all TV news is lame, and you might as well watch the lamest and know what the enemy knows. I call it “having access to his intelligence.”

After each debate, I thought that either side could make the case that they had won. But the Fox analysts never gave it to McCain. I remember them saying once, “McCain had to make a knockout punch tonight, and he just didn’t.” I was like, “Huh? Who cares if he did or didn’t. Just declare it. He did it! Yes you can, too!”

I mean, Fox News had no trouble declaring Florida a victory for Bush in 2000, right? And Republicans’ beacon for the future seems to have declared a victory in Iraq. Why not just say, “McCain has the experience and clearly looks like he’s in control. He doesn’t deliver a knockout punch because he doesn’t have to. Everyone knows, it’s the quiet guys who are the strongest.”

I mean, if I can write that, so can they. It was like they weren’t even trying any more.

“We like Charles Krauthammer,” my dad and stepmom said, enthusiastically. “You know he’s paralyzed,” they said, with the same reverence they have for McCain’s handicap.

Krauthammer talked about how the surge was heroic and successful for reducing violence. I kept my mouth shut on this one. I have read much (this entry cites useful references) about the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad being the deeper cause for relative peace in that city; and the paying of our former insurgent enemies, who used to be in the Iraqi army that we disbanded, to stop being insurgents and start cooperating with the Iraqi army, as mostly causing the relative peace in Anbar and other Sunni provinces.

I didn’t launch this Iraq 101 lecture, because I’m still a little rattled from my dad yelling at me on the beach this summer, “Do you think Osama bin Laden wanted to spend his life in a cave? We have to teach him a lesson. We have to make it really expensive for him to attack us.” (As if Bin Laden had not chosen in the 80's his life as a rebel; as if he didn't intend to lure us into undecisive wars in the Middle East; as if it's more expensive for him to attack us than for us to retaliate against someone besides him.) Dad had not really yelled at me much all my life because I was a very tame (depressed) kid. So it’s maybe harder for me to take in adulthood than for other adult children who are accustomed to being yelled at by their dads.

As for my stepmom, while she does read fairly deeply about lots of things, there are certain modes of thought she won’t give up. Apparently, the basic unsubstantiated pro-Iraq war stance still appeals to her.

Many topics are fair game. One afternoon Dad and I talked about the origins of life. He painted for me a picture of a gradual continuum in which, at first, there were only elements and compounds scattered around our planet; then, because of erosion of rocks and churning of seas and formation of tide pools and lightning striking, some chemicals would come together in certain ways and eventually form viruses; and lipids (which he said would exist without life, and would be floating around) would bond and actually make a “container” sort of like a cell membrane. Eventually proteins would come together as DNA, find their way into one of these lipid cases, and start replicating. And then you’re off and running. He says, “You’re damn right there’s life on other planets.” And he reminded me of a problem in detecting it -- we can only view the electromagnetic radiation from a planet (its light and TV or radio signals, or whatever they emit) from many years in the past -- the number of light years that planet is away from us. So, life could be there now but not be evident in the information coming from that planet. Or, we could detect life in what we see, but that life might not be there any more. Life has only been on earth for a tiny fraction of the time of existence of the earth, and it’s likely anyone looking for its signs here would miss them. It could be the speed of light that indeed isolates us.

(A quick look on the Planet Quest Atlas shows three terrestrial exoplanets under 100 light years away; one 1000 light years away; two others at least 9000 light years away.)

I can’t sit around keeping all my political thoughts to myself. I have to put a little of my camp into things. Since Stephen Colbert attended our small college for two years, he is not a totally off-limits topic. In the course of talking about energy and algae farming, I told them about Colbert’s Formidable Opponent sketch about offshore drilling vs. alternative fuels. When I was done, Dad said that that was pretty funny. But an awkward silence fell. How can such an awkward silence come to 3 people who really all know each other pretty well -- who are basically pretty sensitive and smart?

Or consider the conversation where they told me about the show Ice Road Truckers. I said The Daily Show had made a joke about it. My stepmom said, “They would. It’s sort of a redneck show, the kind of thing the elite like to joke about.” So there you have it -- she has absorbed and replicated the Republican line that moderate or liberal entertainment is elite.

They also didn’t seem to want to talk about oil speculators. I think oil speculators are fascinating. It’s a whole market in which oil contracts are traded, not actual oil. And some say this is causing large fluctuations in oil prices, while others say the speculators are not that big a deal. Dad insisted that mostly, it’s just supply and demand affecting oil prices. I suppose this issue could be the subject of legitimate debate, but Dad and stepmom seemed to want to avoid the subject altogether.

So what’s this palpable aversion to certain subjects? I think I’ve arrived at the answer, though it does not seem like much of a revelation. It’s that they believe in authority, a basic moral decency, a just cause for our nations actions. They are not comfortable with anything that subverts this notion. So if I talk about the Iraq war, that subverts their idea of the just cause for it; if The Daily Show makes fun of Ice Truckers, that detracts from the classic struggle of Man against Nature; if I talk about oil speculators, this implies that there are participants in our free market that are making money at the expense of the rest of us in the free market -- a “no honor among merchants” analog to the mantra about thieves (though again, reasonable people are saying speculators are not the biggest influence on oil prices).

On the other hand, I love subversion, as long as it is exposing that someone in authority does not know what they are talking about. And maybe in general we can say that conservatives like the authoritative establishment and liberals like a more rebellious stance.

Our best illustration of this divide between myself and my family came when Dad, my stepmom, and me were sitting in the Belgian bakery in town. My stepmom was telling me about Elsa’s business. Elsa is her daughter-in-law who is the iciest neocon of them all. “She has a room full of failed marketing projects,” my stepmom said. “[Elsa’s daughter] had to learn her catechisms, and Elsa made these cards with catechisms printed over images from the Book of Kells. She had 3000 of these made in India, got them shipped to her, and now they’re sitting in the guest room. She sold a few on Amazon, but only a handful.”

I had learned about the Book of Kells somewhere, but had to be reminded. My stepmom explained it’s an Irish book of scripture.

Apparently it’s in the public domain now.

I said, “She should market to Evangelicals -- make some cards that would sell in megachurches. I bet there’s money there, if she’s willing to step it down from Catholicism. Evangelicals don’t care about no Kells though. That's too heavy, like ancient grains. They like their religion simpler, like white rice.”

My stepmom said that Catholics are not a shrinking population, with the influx of Hispanics.

“Okay,” I said. “But they don’t care about Kells either. So tell your Irish-Catholic daughter-in-law to get those Hindu and Muslim Indians to print up some cards in Spanish, with the Virgin of Guacamole on them, or whatever it’s called. That’ll sell like hotcakes.”

More awkward silence.

Continue . . .

Monday, December 29, 2008

Unto Us a Child is Born

'Tis the season for miracles, and as Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston enters the world, just as his grandmother faces drug charges, the secret of naming kids in his family is revealed. Actually, it was friend SH-L who hit on this, but she doesn't have a blog so I can't link to her and give her proper credit.

The key is to go straight for the nickname. Don't give your son a formal name like "Murray" and sit around hoping his friends will happen to give him the nickname you want for him. The friends don't know. The boy could grow up to be really big and his friends might innocently call him The Refrigerator. Or he might fart a lot and be called Turd Blossom. All this time you might have wanted him to be known for his ability to follow the footprints of a moose and sneak up on it. You may harbor all your life the unfulfilled dream of his being called "Tracker" and then Track.

Well, fulfillment is now yours. Tripp's other grandmother, the one not facing drug charges, taught us that anyone could be president; now, we learn that anyone can give their kids the nickname they want for them. Just do it. Get it in writing, on the birth certificate, so there's no question. Though, I guess in the case of Trig, there still is question about that birth certificate. But never mind that.

This time, maybe there were not two Easton Mitchell Johnston's already in the family to provide proper prerequisite for this newborn being a "III," which would readily grant him the pass to being nicknamed "Trip(p)." But they really wanted to have a "Tripp" around. So they went for it.

Also note, Easton is a manufacturer of hockey equipment. This we learn from a commenter on The Mudflats, your source for all breaking news of this family.

Continue . . .

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shouldn't Someone ask These Questions?

1. When automobile factories mechanized, they laid off a lot of workers. Did they perhaps lay off more then than they have yet to lay off if they shut down completely? In other words, have we already seen the worst of auto industry layoffs?

2. If we do bail out car manufacturers, what will keep them from just opening plants in China and not hiring American workers anyway?

3. How much expense and trouble is retooling to make fuel efficient cars compared to the retooling they've already undergone to mechanize?

4. I hear that banks are not really using their bailout money for lending. So, why not force car makers to get their loans from banks, instead of handing them government money directly? Or would that interfere with our "freedoms"?

5. I understand that we are talking about more than just auto workers' jobs here. We are concerned about jobs in related industries too. But Americans will always need cars, right? So if we just buy Hondas and Toyotas and not American cars (like all my friends are doing anyway) won't we still need all those related industries to support them?

Michael Moore, we need you back to help with all this. A new guy is playing James Bond, so people won't get your name mixed up if you make another "Roger and Me."

Continue . . .

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mine's a Size 12 -- with Stiffening Orthotics

It was like when Dick Cheney shot that guy in the face. I thought it was fake news. Then, to be honest, I thought it was funny. Then I had to remember how I'd feel if the shoes were thrown at Obama. And something like that is likely to happen. Eggs might be thrown at his limousine during the inaugural parade. It happened to Bush in 2000, after all.

Here's the first BBC video of the shoes being thrown at Bush.
What this video has that no others I've seen have is Bush's reaction -- his quipping that it was a size 10, that the thrower was trying to get attention, that it's like being heckled at a campaign rally; and his recapitulation of Rumsfeld's excuse that this is the sort of thing that happens in a free society.

Some folks are indignant about the shoe throwing, but I say, look on the bright side. Five and a half years after Rumsfeld's comment, Iraq is still free!

At this historic juncture of the shoe hitting the wall (and remember, Clara throws her shoe at Mouse King . . . so, 'tis the season), I'd like to cite some recent articles that may help illustrate the situation in Iraq. On the other hand, maybe it's ridiculous to even pretend to size things up. I do this, I think, mostly to organize my own thinking. The benefit to readers would largely be following the links to more substantial writings.

I was really worried back in August about al-Maliki taking an antagonistic stance toward the tribal militias that the U.S. army had been paying to become our allies in a move hailed by the pro-war camp as a sign of progress. These three posts talk about that and cite news articles.

Since then, the Iraqi government has said that it will continue to support the 99,000 militia members and integrate them in to mainstream society, incorporating 20,000 into the Iraqi military and giving other types of jobs to the others. There are doubts that the militia members will accept either giving up their identity as members of independent militias or ceasing to be fighters at all. Tribal leaders in the Anbar province did not want to have their support transferred from the U.S. to the Iraqi government this soon because of friction between them (with their Sunni identity) and the mostly Shiite government. Further dissatisfaction may arise because the government will cut militia members' salaries. But the U.S. military seemed confident that this transfer of authority over the militias would go well, and has reported that the handover is indeed progressing.

But get this. Al-Maliki is forming his own tribal militias called "Support Councils" in territory where Arabs and Kurds are vying for control. He cites U.S. support for such militias as precedent. Juan Cole provided a translation of a Kurdish newspaper report which expresses great concern about this new independent militia.

I ask, doesn't the reliance on local militias rather than the national one, by the U.S. army and now Maliki, indicate that these local allegiances are more significant to Iraqis than their national identity?

Meanwhile, it seems the Kurds are operating fairly autonomously. The New York Times a year ago reported on their moving ahead with their own deals with foreign oil companies while the Iraqi government was busy not passing its oil bill. To my knowledge, as of now, the central government still does not have an oil bill. The oil bill would officially determine how oil profits would be distributed to Iraq's different regions. In my understanding, in a unified Iraq, Kurds should play nice and allow profits from any oil pumped out of their ground to be apportioned like all other Iraqi oil profits. Making separate deals undermines the central government authority -- except that, without a national oil law, there is not a central authority with respect to oil sales. Meanwhile, among the oil companies skirting Iraqi authority and dealing directly with the Kurds is Hunt Oil out of Texas, whose CEO is a friend of George W. Bush and served on Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. And the former first administrator of post-Saddam Iraq, the predecessor to Paul Bremer III, Jay Garner, is helping Canadian oil companies make their own deals with the Kurds. Mother Jones reports on Hunt Oil and Jay Garner.

In my recollection from reading George Packer's The Assassin's Gate over a year ago, Garner was a feisty guy whose bluntness about the lack of planning for post-war Iraq caused the Bush administration some discomfort. Personally, I wonder if his aiding Canadian oil companies now is a way of giving the finger to the Bush administration.

Kurdistan also recently received three planeloads of arms as part of another deal it made independently of the central government.

The first major foreign oil deal that the Iraqi government has made is with China. Another is with Shell oil. This past summer, there was talk of other major oil companies making no-bid contracts to explore Iraq's oil fields, but these contracts were apparently scuttled because of criticism from U.S. senators. Instead, the companies were offered a chance to bid on contracts, and Shell is the only one, as far as I know, to make a deal.

I've mentioned the Sunnis in the middle of Iraq with their tribal militias, the Kurds in the north moving forward with their oil deals; what about the southern Basra region, also very oil rich?

As far as I can tell, there are two movements associated with southern Iraq, and both want to garner some autonomy for that region. One movement, associated with the Fadila party, wants to transform Basra into a federal region with legal status similar to that of Kurdistan. Progress on this movement can be found at that link's parent blog Histories of Political Imagining which in general addresses world political events, and currently is looking at southern Iraq.

Another movement is being lead by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq. He wants to create a large "federal" southern area encompassing the nine provinces from Basra to Baghdad, though he also claims that he supports the sovereignty of Iraq and that such an area would not be completely independent. This is explained in this article from 2006 by Juan Cole. Though it's an old article in terms of Iraq's quickly moving history, the goals of the SICI remain the same today. And note how the plans of the Kurds and the SICI to create their own autonomy in the north and south have echoed by American politicians, namely Joe Biden, who spoke of partitioning Iraq into 3 large areas. The Bush administration initially dismissed this proposal, and now whether Iraq is partitioned or not is out of our hands. But the country does seem to be partitioning itself. In my perception, among America's prominent politicians, it happens to be Obama and Biden who do seem to understand Iraq the best.

And while Baghdad was about 50/50 Sunni/Shiite before the invasion, it is now about 75% Shiite. Juan Cole talks about the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad in his Social History of the Surge, and Derek Gregory goes into greater detail, saying that much of this cleansing continued during the American troop surge and lead, eventually, to decreased violence in Baghdad once the cleansing had run its course.

Corruption, and loss of American money, plays a large role in Iraq. It is hard to figure out if each new report of a sum of money lost in Iraq should be added to the running total, or is itself a new cumulative total. The first such report I know of was of the over $12 billion lost by the CPA under Paul Bremer. Note that the guy in charge of handing out money in Iraq's "Free Fraud Zone" was Reuben Jeffrey III, the same guy now handing out funds to banks in the current financial bailout.

This past September, there was this article telling of $13 billion lost or stolen in Iraq. The whistle-blower on that is an Iraqi investigator who has fled the country because of a death threat. Thirty-two of his colleagues, also investigators, have been killed. And this article says that al-Maliki has started firing auditors placed in his government at the request of the United States to help stop corruption. And then there's this recent nightmarish report of over $100 billion lost and unaccounted for in Iraq, $50 billion of which was taxpayer money.

Pro-war advocates say that Saddam's siphoning of money of the Oil for Food program had to be stopped. But what Saddam siphoned was only about $10 billion. Neocons can always paint a noble picture of reasons for getting into this war. But like all idealogues, they overlook evidence that their efforts have made things worse, or at least not better -- and at great expense to their country.

And what about oil revenues? Oil smuggling is a problem -- in some cases, smuggling occurs along routes established by Saddam. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty says that $40 million per month is lost because of smuggling from the southern reaches of Iraq. And while there has been talk of that expected $79 billion dollar budget by year's end, the new low in oil prices is causing the Iraqi government to reduce reconstruction efforts and may cause it to reduce food rationing and to lay off civil servants.

So what does all this mean with respect to victory or defeat? I love what Chuck Hagel said to Joe Lieberman on Meet the Press: The future of Iraq lies in the hands of the Iraqi people. The main problem there is tribal/sectarian friction.

John McCain said he would bring our troops home with victory. Sarah Palin said that the troop surge brought us victory in Iraq. I say that there is nothing for us to have victory over or suffer defeat from. With respect to a major military presence, the question is simply whether we stay or leave.

Continue . . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Sniper Waits

I’ve seen too many plum deals get sniped out from under me. I’d be the winning bidder for days, and then someone else would outbid me within minutes of the auction’s closing. So tonight, I’ve run home from a friend’s house. This time, I’m the one glued to my computer screen. I’m refreshing the page. I’m watching for the slightest sign of being outbid -- that being a red “X” and a note, “You’ve been outbid.”

There are 6 minutes and 35 seconds remaining until this auction closes. I’ve got this little Sound Devices preamp, built like a tank, right in my crosshairs. It sells new for over $650, and right now someone else has the winning bid at $355.

I would not use it as my main preamp-mixer, but it would help in specialty situations, like maybe if I have to use a stereo mic and record that separately from other mics; or if I have to run mic cables next to power cables for a hundred feet, and I’d like to boost the mic signal to line level at the start of this run to reduce chances of picking up induced interference. It would have helped on this job.

To get in the game here in the final minutes, I enter a bid of $375. Now I’ve got the green checkmark and the note, “You’re the winning bidder.”

ebay is a little different from a live auction. Live, you raise your hand to accept the current price announced, which is raised gradually by the auctioneer. But on ebay, you’re not going to sit there for the entire auction (lasting several days) bidding and re-bidding on items as prices rise. Instead, every bid is understood to be a maximum price that you are willing to pay for an item. This way, you can enter your max price, walk away, and at the auction’s end, if your bid is the highest, you win.

But people are logging in right before the auction’s end and entering their bid then to catch the rest of us off-guard. We don’t have a chance to change our minds and raise our bids. I’ve lost several Sennheiser 416 microphones that way.

This past Sunday, one such auction on a Sennheiser 416 was ending, and I was determined not to let it be sniped away from me, as long as it remained in my price range. That microphone goes for maybe $1100 or so new. I had been winning the bidding at $600, and it was described as being in good condition by a seller with a good reputation. He said he had hardly used it. So, this was a great deal. I was willing to go up to $700 just to be sure I got it, but much higher than that I might as well buy the item new.

I thought the auction was ending at 2pm, and at about 1:55 Svetx said, “You’d better get that microphone.” I checked, and the auction had ended about 5 minutes prior. And the winner had gotten the mic for $615, just over my bid of $600. He had entered his bid a few hours before, so I could have easily sniped him, if his bid was not higher than the $700 I was willing to go.

See, you never know what someone else’s bid actually is. And they don’t know yours. Even sellers don’t know what buyers’ bid are. Everyone only knows what the current price of the item is, and that price behaves as follows:

If you enter a bid that is higher than anyone else’s, then the current price of the item rises until it is a little higher than whatever the previous highest bid was, and you become the winning bidder. If you remain the winning bidder until the auction’s end, then you get the item for that price of just above the next-lowest bid -- not for your bid.

If someone else enters a bid higher than yours, then the price rises to just above your bid and you are no longer the winning bidder.

If you enter a bid that is still lower than the existing highest bid (which, remember, is only known by its bidder), then the price of the item rises until it’s just above your bid, and you are informed that you have been out-bid. When I was new to ebay (a few weeks ago), I thought being outbid in this manner meant that someone was sitting at their computer waiting for a bid to be entered, and then actively outbidding it. But no, it’s just ebay automatically raising the price to just above my bid because someone else has already entered a higher bid.

Only two people have ever bid on this preamp -- myself, and someone else. I had been the first bidder, but for the past few days, I was letting the other person have the lead -- letting her think no one else was interested, that there was no competition. I became the winning bidder again only a few minutes ago with my $375 bid. The current price on the item is $360.

Now there is 1 minute and 40 seconds left. At this point, what are the chances of a new person entering the auction? If the other bidder doesn’t check in, I’ll probably get it.

Maybe the other bidder is an audio recordist for film/video production like me. Maybe she’s out on a job and can’t check in. She’s tramping through the cold with a camera crew while I’m sitting here indoors, in slightly less cold, my scope trained on the preamp that she wants.

But in the time remaining, someone could easily place a bid over mine and get it for $380 or so.

45 seconds are left. I think, really, I’d be willing to pay $400 for this thing which is over $650 new. And remember, if no one else bids on it in this last minute, I’ll still get it for its current price of $360.

But I shouldn’t bid an even $400. I figure, I should bid some odd value above that, in case some other last-second sniper is counting on the highest bid being $400 and enters $405. In that case, he would be told he was outbid, but at the last second he would not have time to enter a new bid.

7 seconds are left. I enter a new bid of $413. I confirm the bid. It tells me I've been outbid.

Shit! A sniper! I quickly enter $425, press “Enter,” see the screen asking for confirmation, click “Confirm" . . . and time has run out.

That other sniper got it for $418. It was a third bidder, someone who had not bid until then on the item.

Continue . . .

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Water Damage, "Said Cellophane Crap," and the Thermodynamics of our Situation

Dear Housemates,

I’ve been putting off writing an email about some house matters that have come up since our last house meeting just because I’m a bad procrastinator, which is part of one of our problems, which is that, as I write this, water is dripping down from the ceiling of the first floor bathroom.

First, an update: A month or two ago, I was freaking out over the new stain that had appeared on that ceiling. I opened up the panels in "C's" closet, but you can’t see where that dripping would be occurring from where the panels provide access. So, that yielded nothing. However, since the stains sort of have a bluish color, without doing any further scientific investigation, I decided that maybe it was caused by overzealous mopping in the upstairs bathroom. So I modified my cleaning habits. Now I merely spray a mixture of bleach and water lightly on the floor, and mop that up. Before, I was dipping a sponge in a bucket, wringing it out, and mopping, and this was putting more water on the floor.

With my new method, water damage did not increase until now.

Earlier this week, I saw that the white towel on the upstairs bathroom floor had been moved to the area between the floor and the tub. I figured, “Cool, someone mopped up some water there.” Then tonight I saw the drips coming down from the first floor bathroom ceiling. I went upstairs and checked the floor at the white towel, and found it still very wet. Very Very wet there. So, someone got it wet, dropped the towel there, and went on without really mopping it up.

This would be the fourth time I’ve seen that downstairs bath ceiling fall apart because of water damage since I’ve lived here.

Attached are pictures of the damage taken just now. You can see a closeup of a mound of plaster growing down from the ceiling, and a drop of water on the tip of the mound. That mound might be full of water. I’m afraid to touch it. In another picture, you can see the new “mound” damage next to the older “stain” damage.

Help me out here. Is it the toile leaking? We should be vigilant. Or are we dripping water when we get out of the shower? We should not do that. Keep your towel nearby. I hang mine on the cabinet right outside the shower. Dry off while you’re standing in the shower.

Is water spraying out of the side of the shower head because it’s not tightened well on the pipe? Sometimes this is happening. I have hand tightened it, but it may need more tightening than that. I have not thought it was that much water doing this, but maybe it is.

Is water leaking out from the sides of the tub where the shower curtain is not flush with the tiles? Maybe. Try to press it against the walls when you shower. But here’s where my procrastination really kicks in. Months ago I bought those plastic flanges that you put on the corners of the top edge of the tub to prevent some of this water sloshing out from the shower. I need to put those in. I think I mentioned them in another email.

I welcome anyone’s insight on the water damage situation. If we can stop it now, we can probably live with the current level of damage. But if we keep getting water on the upstairs bathroom floor in large quantities, then we’ll eventually have a hole in the downstairs bathroom ceiling, and there will be plumbers and plasterers tracking through the house; and I always fear that “this time” we’ll be charged by the landlord.

Also, tell the girlfriends and anyone else who may be showering. I have not told my girlfriend. They make water too, and I don’t just mean pee pee. Tell them to keep their dang washing water off the bathroom floor just like we have to. It doesn’t matter if it’s been sweetened by contact with there femininely pheromonal corpi. It does the same damage to plaster once it drips through the floor.

Sometimes I see the shower curtain pulled toward the cabinets, as if someone got out on the tub side. No doubt this is because some folks used to live in houses where you got out on that side. But in our house, try to get out onto the bathmat which is shoved up against the outside edge of the tub, instead of onto the tile beside the toilet. There’s not much space by the toilet anyway.

In other bathroom news, I bought a replacement toilet seat for 19.00. It’s leaning on the table outside the bathroom. How do we want to handle that?

On to another matter: “Said Cellophane Crap,” as it was called by "C" in his email response to my first email mention of it.

A few emails ago I mentioned the Cellophane stuff we put on the windows and shrink with the hairdryer. Actually, last year I blew off (pun intended) the hair dryer and just attached the Cellophane, left it slack, and called it art.

This week I’ve made two trips to Home Despot and they have been out of the stuff. But they keep saying it will be there. It will be on aisle 11, way down, on the left, at floor level. I’ll keep checking.

When I get it, we’ll be applying it to most downstairs windows except the kitchen one because we need that to be openable in case of emergencies like the other night when the burner was left on under the frying pan filled with oil, and the kitchen was filled with smoke.

And, use it in your rooms. Some housemates think it does not help. What it does is prevents convection from facilitating the loss of heat through he windows. We still lose it by radiation, but since the air does not contact the window directly, it does not feed heat to the window by contact, and therefore is not so readily cooled, and therefore does not sink downward and draw new warmer air into contact with the window to be further cooled in its turn. At least, that’s what I think.

News of the presence of this stuff in the house will be forthcoming.

Also, some of you may need to burp your radiators. See me about that. I know who you are. It’s always the same radiators that need burping. Don’t be like past housemates who go all winter saying, “Dag, my radiator always feel cold!”

But these recent days, all our radiators are fairly cold. As is the house. I can explain why the house is so cold. Really. It’s because, when it’s not exceedingly cold outside — like, when it’s maybe 30 at night, but not 10 — the house does not cool down as fast from the daytime. This means that the thermostat is not triggered to run the hot water in the radiators as much. So, the whole house suffers. When it gets exceedingly cold outside, heat runs out faster, the thermostat is triggered more, and the radiators are filled with hot water more frequently.

Just think, one day we’ll all look back on this and laugh. We may own our own houses. And at that time, when we’re putting the Gol-dang Cellophane on the windows and standing around with the hair dryer feeling stupid because our half-assed single panes with leaky seams are basically entropy-vents to the black sky of the universe, at least we’ll be putting the Gol-dang Cellophane on our OWN windows and standing around with the hair dryer feeling stupid because our OWN half-assed single panes with leaky seams are basically entropy-vents to the black sky of the universe.

Always understand the thermodynamics of your situation. That’s what I say.

Here’s a bonus question. When you wake up on a winter morning and the windows have condensation on them, and the condensation is on the outside, should you A) open all the windows in the house or B) keep the house closed?

Continue . . .