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January 1, 2008

Update on the Monster Icicle

In my last post, I mentioned the huge block of ice precariously hanging from the power lines going into the house. Well, I had an interesting conversation with my sister this afternoon. It went kind of like this:

sis: "the weather's really bad here (north of Boston) -- lots more snow and ice, blah blah blah"
me: "yeah, it's terrible here too. Probably won't get above zero today, blah blah blah"
me: "you wouldn't believe this huge chunk of ice hanging on my power lines."
sis: "Can you call the power company?"
me: "I'm sure they'd just tell me to hire someone to get it down with a blowtorch."
sis: "Have you tried a hair drier? That's how I defrosted my refrig when I was in college."


So I headed out to Target to get a hair drier. (I certainly don't have enough hair to warrant having one for the usual purposes!) Fortunately, the ice block was just outside the second story window in my bedroom, and I could open the window and hold the hair drier up to it, which I did. (The cats, comfortably stretched out on their heating pad, thought I was nuts.) As I was not-too-patiently holding the drier up, I thought maybe I could bang on the ice and some would fall. So I got a metal hammer and banged away, just like I saw folks hammering away at their ice dams on the news last night. Sure enough, a huge chunk of it fell down. There's still a solid chunk hanging on the power line, but it must weigh 25 pounds less than before. So three cheers for sibling collaboration!

PS: I have never forgotten how to spell "icicle," because that's the word I missed in the school-level spelling bee competition in the 6th grade --- As soon as I - C - E... came out of my mouth, I knew it was wrong, but it was too late.

Posted by hgroteva at 4:23 PM

January 5, 2008

Stories That Didn't Quite Make It

The first week of January is always a good time for some house-cleaning. I'm on a tear now, especially realizing that I'll be moving in May -- I'm in a tossing mood!

Which brought me to a foot-high stack just left of my desk - various articles I'd set aside during the year to blog about, but they never quite made the cut. Since they were runners-up to the topics that made it, I thought at least their headlines deserved 5 seconds in the sun. Most are from the Star Tribune or New York Times. So here goes....

Gutter Talk: "You can spend less than $100 or more than $3000 to keep your gutters free of leaves. Here are the pros and cons of several systems." [Deliver me from ice dams.]

A Taste of Family Life in U.S., but Adoption is in Limbo -- one of a growing number of heartbreaking stories abput difficulties in international adoption.

Bloggone! - Ennui and exhaustion are idling some online opiners. Next year may see a decline - or at least a leveling off - in the blogging boom.

The church or the trees? Redwoods, the official tree of California, threaten a historic church in Monterey. The church wants the trees gone; the city prefers a compromise.

Modern technology can really divide us (Thomas Friedman) - thoughtful piece

Southern warmth covers a lot more than the weather, darling (Garrison Keillor) - The codger didn't like it when the airline clerk said "Have a good flight, darling." sour, sour, sour

Unleash your inner nerd (or geek or dork) - I already have. Mentioned the many online tests to see if you are a geek or a dork.

Friends for Life: An emerging biology of emotional healing (Daniel Goleman, NYT) -- Cites John Cacioppo, who states that "the emotional status of our main relationships has a significant impact on our overall pattern of cardiovascular and neuroendocrine activity."

When Seeing is Not Believing -- Andrew Sullivan (Time mag) on the rise of fundamentalism and why embracing spiritual doubt is the key to defusing the tension between East and West. (a keeper)

What to Keep or Toss when purging papers (a keeper -- woops)

Refugee issue comes into play as town bans soccer in park (Why can't we get along?)

Medical due diligence: A living will should spell out the specifics (Too close to home, with my father's illness)

The Racial Politics of Speaking Well ("For whites, the word "articulate" is a compliment to anyone. For blacks, it can be a toxic adjective.") - NYT

Dealing with Box elder Bug Problems without Pesticides --- (we have them, and this article helped)

The simple justice of mental health care -- Why punish Minnesotans just because they're sick?

Broken Promises: The collapse of a New Hope adoption agency has put in limbo some Minnesota families waiting for children around the world --- more heartbreak.

Pacemaker for the brain found to aid memory. (Ever since I saw Johnny Mnemonic I wondered about adding to my hard drive topside!)

Alzheimer's figures expected to soar once boomers turn 65.

And to conclude, for now --
a cartoon with a quote from Sinclair Lewis:
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

Posted by hgroteva at 8:01 PM

January 8, 2008

Stories That Didn't Quite Make It - Part Deux

Some more runners-up:

I-35 is road to salvation, say some Christians. (where do I start?)

Website can see if a vacation fits your 'travel personality' --actually it's pretty good. Go to

Upgrading to office 2007 - Request an upgrade today! (Whoever came up with this sadistic "re-design" should be __________ (fill in the blank). I hate it. I especially hate programs that try to anticipate what I will be typing or wanting to do. The first thing I do when Word is re-installed is turn off all the spell checkers, grammar checkers, shortcuts, etc. Don't get me started.

The Boys in the Band are in AARP. It's a life of married sex, cholesterol drugs and rock 'n' roll. (smiling)

Rare employee behefit: Gift of life. (an amazing story about School of Social Work colleagues Peter Dimock and Peggy Pond. Peggy donated half her liver for Peter; the story is wonderful.)

Who are You? (websites that help you figure out which Greek god or goddess you are, which movie villain you are, or which medieval vocation you are.) -- I am Hermes.

Finding Some Calm After Living with the Shakes. -- Jane Brody about "essential tremors," which several of my family members have.

Study Suggests Meditation Can Help Train Attention.

This is Your Life (and How You Tell It). (great to see an article about narrative psychology in Science Times -- I love Tuesdays.)

Last but not least: "Find Your Star Wars Twin"
Uses the Big 5 personality model to link you to Star Wars folks. I'm a cross between Chewbacca (neither nervous nor calm), a Jedi master (loyal, sensitive, and sympathetic), and the rebel admiral (known for his great powers of organization, responsibility, and administrative abilities. He is an individual who can be relied upon.)

Posted by hgroteva at 5:41 AM

January 13, 2008

Adventures in Moving Part I: Countertop Hell

The beginning of the new year means that I have to get serious about selling my house. it's not that I've been not-serious about it. I just haven't done much (but worry). Now, I'll convert the worry to action. Of course, action brings other worries. So writing about my adventures will allow a bit of catharsis for that. I'd be very interested to hear of readers' perspectives or experiences that might help in my decision-making.

The first step in selling the house is deciding what to repair, re-do, remodel, fix, upgrade, etc. The first realtor who saw the house last fall said I definitely had to replace the kitchen countertops. OK - snap the fingers and voila, end up with something like this picture? Not quite.


Where does one even start? I started with Home Depot last Sunday. I made it clear that I was moving and wanted to put as little as possible into this, because I was sure I would not get the money back in the sale -- but I did want it to look good and improve the sale-ability. One thing that countertop salespersons are really good at is making you feel cheap about such perspectives and that you really NEED granite, corion, and the fanciest possible surfaces.

From my drawing of the kitchen, we estimated that I'd need 54 square feet of countertop. Seems like a lot for such a small kitchen, but.... Home Depot didn't even want to talk about the possiblity of laminate. (yucky plastic) Granite would run about $4000, but that would involve removing and replacing the sink. Quite honestly, I hadn't realized that they have to completely tear out the old countertops before installing the new ones.

I did find a company that installs over existing countertops (Granite Transformations). Their bid was $3300, which still sounded like a lot, but which is sounding better and better! What I realized, of course, is that the existing sink would not work with the new countertops --- which means a new sink and possibly modifications to plumbing. We have a great backsplash, but maybe the countertop wouldn't go with the backsplash, so we'd have to replace it too. And of course there are the edges to think about (per linear foot). So we are talking a major kitchen remodel. I've lived through that before and have no desire to do it again.

countertop colors.jpg

Another factor is time. The Home Depot solution involved a series of subcontractors (tear out and remove countertops, remove sink, put in new countertops, replace sink, etc.) and could extend over the period of a month. The Granite Transformation solution would only have the kitchen out of commission for 2 days max. (sounding better and better as I write...)

The realtor I interviewed last week said I should go for Cambria -- reasonably priced and better than granite. Well, yesterday, I went to another place that had Cambria and was immediately steered to Meganite (what focus group came up with these names???) Cambria would be $77 per square foot, and Meganite would be $64. I am now waiting for a formal bid, but by the time you add all the labor, sink, and add-ons, this will probably be a $5000 job. Ouch! (Susan has wanted new countertops for years; the thought that we'd have to install them as we move is one of life's unhappy ironies.)

Along the way, I learned about another factor that hadn't occurred to me: weight. Granite is heavy -- very heavy. One person said I might have to reinforce the floor. Yesterday's salesperson said that the countertop overhang on the peninsula (where we have slide-under chairs) would require struts for support. Of course, that's not included in the per-square-foot cost.

Boy, I've learned a lot in the past week! Not what I had planned on learning, however. Anyway, I'm sure there will be a growing number of adventures to report on. Alternative solutions welcome! I meet with another realtor this week and get the bid from the other countertop store this week -- then I'll have to decide and move on to the next job.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:37 AM

January 17, 2008

From Countertop Woes to Countertop Solutions

After a week of misery, fretting about the ridiculous cost of replacing my countertops, I had a visit today from the handyman recommended by the staging consultant. He took a look at our nice-looking decorative tile backsplashes and tile floor, and suggested a tile countertop. Tile could be laid over the existing surface, would cost a fraction of the other solutions, and could be started on Monday. CHEERS!!

Here's an example of a tile countertop from google. Susan's house in NM has tile countertops, and they are quite nice. Why didn't I think of this earlier??

tile countertop.jpg

Next challenge: getting rid of all that 80s wallpaper and making a decision about the hot tub. I hope the next owner of this house will appreciate the good deal they will be getting, and I hope that I'll be able to land a similarly plum deal on the other end of my move.

Posted by hgroteva at 2:27 PM

January 24, 2008

Angels Exist

During a stressful time when life feels pretty over the top, it's so reassuring to feel the presence of angels. Kind of the same feeling when I posted "The Kindness of Strangers" on Oct 5, 2006. This week's angels....

**volunteered to take care of my cats for 3 months while the house is on the market

**faxed proof of S's driver's license from the MN DMV to a rental car agency in Seattle --- a truly dedicated, caring public servant

**offered to provide some career counseling to M

**turned in the lost drivers license at the ABQ airport rather than started a new bank account and stole an identity

Thanks to angels, seen and unseen.
I will pass it on.

Posted by hgroteva at 9:12 PM

January 29, 2008

Waiting for the Wallop

for posterity, I must quote from Paul Douglas' weather column in this morning's Strib. I can't wait...

"Minnesota is not for the timid. Most years we earn our reputation as the Super Bowl of Weather. ... Today ... an arctic front will squeeze out a few inches of snow, winds will gust over 30 mph, and visibilities will drop to near zero at times as powder blows and drifts. A slow commute this morning may degenerate into an icy, frustrating, slow-motion crawl this afternoon as snow is compacted, flattened by continuous traffic into an icy glaze, even on the freeways. I fear the PM commute may mutate into ... possibly one of the worst travel days of winter. Enough snow may fall to plow and shovel, followed by a dangerous low of -10 to -20 by daybreak Wednesday ... Can spring be far behind? You betcha!"

Posted by hgroteva at 8:57 AM