(Hopefully) the Conclusion of the Water Filter Saga

We have been trying to get a whole house water filter installed in our house since last summer.  Last week we finally achieved installation.  You can read about the saga from Summer to January here.

We finally got the plumbers to come out again after the shed misadventure.  This time the owner said he’d come out himself.  So he did.  And he said that there was no reason that the side filter stuff had to be spread out horizontally, with some high tech plumbing it could be stacked up vertically.  He’d get back to us to schedule in the next week.

He didn’t get back the next week, but a week or two after that either he got back or DH called again.  The new estimate was $1700, which is about $700 more than the original estimate, with a promise that it would cost less if it ended up taking less time.

The plumbers came.  It took a day and a half.  We also had them replace the guest bathroom faucet while they were here since we noticed the old one flaking when my in-laws were visiting and DH had tried and failed to install a new one himself.  There were many surprises, like the water line doing another split where it was not expected to, and so on.  In the end they had to cut holes in a couple of walls which they did as unobtrusively as possible and then taped back up.  And we got the final bill of $1570, including the $30 to replace the guest bathroom sink faucet (it would have been $80 for that if they’d done it in a separate visit).  So they must have been expecting even more surprises than the ones they got!

Of course, there was no difference from the filtered kitchen sink tap or my filtered shower tap.  But the flavor of the water from the main kitchen tap is now unnoticeable which is a pretty big deal given how awful the water tastes around here.  And my hands didn’t tingle after washing them in the sink faucets.  DC2 has taken a few baths and hasn’t broken out in rashes after.  So zie doesn’t need to use our shower anymore unless zie wants to.

So… do I still wish I hadn’t bothered buying this?  I don’t know.  I’m glad we have it now (and given our current financial health, I don’t mind the ~2.5K it cost), but I’m not sure I’m so glad that it was worth 9+ months of hassle (unlike the amount of glad I have for other 9 month projects, say, my children, though I guess this was really just intermittent hassle and we could have pushed harder to get this done quicker, unlike babies where pushing only works right near the end).  If we didn’t have the under the sink filter and the shower stall filter, then I might be feeling differently about this, but it would have been so much easier just to get $80 shower filters for the other two showers.  At least this one isn’t supposed to need to be replaced for another 10 years…

Next up:  Kitchen renovations.  We plan to dip our toes in that water this summer.  We’ll see what happens.

(Mis-)Adventures in trying to get a whole house water filter.

I’m allergic to the water in our area.  If I take a bath or the shower filter wears out, I end up with super-flakey skin and sometimes it itches.  Generally we handle this with a shower filter in the master shower and a sink filter for drinking water in the kitchen.  But then I started getting an itchy spot on my back where one of my bra straps hits (sort of on the right side), and we thought maybe instead of a blemish (there’s no bumps) or some kind of neurological problem it might be me becoming allergic to cloth, specifically the water it’s washed in (we’ve already narrowed down laundry soaps I can use).  I’m not convinced that the itchy spot is from the water, but we figured this was something to try.  Add to that that DC2 seems to have inherited a lot of my skin allergies, and the praise one of my colleagues who is allergic to chlorine gives his whole house water filter, we decided this was worth trying.

In fact, we decided it was worth trying back this summer when DH started getting paid again.  (This was our celebratory purchase.)  We decided it so much that I ended up buying a whole house water filter on “60%” sale from aquasana off amazon (quotes because it’s always on at least a “40%” sale).  From online searching, we determined it would probably cost another $700 -$1K to get the thing installed, and we were fine with that.

We still don’t have whole house filtered water.

My colleague had told us it was so easy.  They just hook up to the waterline and put it in your garage, he said.

My colleague does not have a corner lot where the garage is on the other side of the house (with the pipes imbedded in the concrete slab under the house).  There is no real feasible way to put the filter in the garage.  It has to be attached where the waterline comes into the house.

So we had the plumbers out and they said first we’d have to find the water line, which they could do but they didn’t have the specialized equipment so that would mean digging up a good portion of the lawn searching for it.  So they recommended a service who doesn’t do plumbing but just finds leaks.  That guy found our water line… and a leak (a real leak– that part of the lawn was definitely much greener than the rest of the lawn, we just hadn’t noticed).

So we had the plumbers out again to fix the leak.  Our home water pressure improved noticeably.  They still needed to get back to us on the cost of installation of the water filter.

Then weather happened and the plumbers couldn’t do non-emergency stuff for a while.

Then school happened and we didn’t have time to contact the plumber.

Then our sprinkler system started leaking, so we had to have a new sprinkler repair person out.

Then some hose connections started leaking (at which point we began to suspect that the increased pressure was busting out wherever it could bust) and we had the plumbers out again and they were able to get us an estimate on the whole house filter while they were out.

Then we accepted the estimate and made an appointment.

Then the two plumbers who were supposed to come out couldn’t because one had a wife in the hospital and one had a baby in the hospital (both emergencies, though with the baby it was a preemie so not entirely unexpected and the prognosis and eventual outcome was good).

Then they rescheduled for the next week when I was out of town for a conference.  They came out and fixed another hose connection thingy.

Upon further inspection, they realized that the hot water closet didn’t have enough room for both the water heater already housed there and the whole house water filter and told DH to get a shed.  DH took the day off work and went out and purchased a $300 ugly grey plastic shed and spent $30 on truck rental to get it home.  Then he put it together.  Then he realized he’d need a concrete floor or something to use it for the filter.  Then he realized the plumbers wouldn’t be coming back that day.  Then he realized the shed violated our HOA agreement.  [Update:  he has since resold the shed on Cragislist and so is only out $130, not $330, and we no longer have the ugly thing in our backyard waiting for the HOA to notice it.]

After much discussion, we decided to contact the HOA architectural committee for advice.  They didn’t give advice (the helpful lady had stepped down and was replaced by a guy who spent a long time explaining to DH why rules are important) but they gave us a horrifically lengthy and detailed document we would have to fill out if we wanted to get a shed (only wood are allowed, and boy are they pricey and difficult to find as small as we would want).

Then Thanksgiving happened.  Then Christmas happened.  And today is New Year’s.

So now we have three options which may or may not work.

  1.  (The one we’re leaning towards):  Install the filter without the pro kit (looks something like this but is 10-year, not 6-year).  This cuts the width from ~44 in to ~22 in and might allow it to share the outdoor closet with our water heater.  We don’t know yet and would have to have the plumbers out again.
  2. Remove our tanked water heater (which is going to have to be replaced in a year or two anyway) and replace it with a tankless water heater.  Then install the entire filter.  This should be possible, but it may cost another $2K, one K for the tankless water heater, another $1K for installation.  We have to do more research on this.  If money were no option, we’d be in the ideal situation for tankless as this water heater services two bathrooms and nothing else (meaning if we all took showers and baths at the same time we’d only be using 8 gallons max) and we’re in a warm climate.   Apparently the installation of tankless water heaters could be difficult or could be easy depending on where the hookups are and how big the tubes are.  Some newer tankless heaters have more standard hookups than did older models.  But we have to figure out which is which.  (Our garage water heater replacement will be another tank because we like running the dishwasher and clothes washer at the same time.)
  3. We could keep trying to get a shed just for the water filter.

Am I wishing that I’d held off buying this filter?  YES.  Especially since my back hasn’t had that itchy spot for a while (it went away whenever I traveled, so right now my primary suspect is a different environmental allergen).  And the plumbers aren’t returning our calls.

We could cut our losses at this point and either try to return the filter at a loss or sell it on Craigslist at a loss.  But it would also be nice to take a bath from time to time without having to shower afterward (or regretting it later).

So I had hoped to have a happy post about how great whole house water filters are and how it’s changed my life etc…. but… instead I have this warning post about how corner lots and HOA suck and man, home improvement sure can suck away a lot of time and energy.

Have you ever gotten a whole house water filter?  How about a tankless water heater?  Any advice on getting a small (under 6 feet) wooden shed (and does it need a concrete bottom)?

RBOC

  • Seems like the busier I get the more RBOC and snippets of my life you get and the fewer thoughtful substantive posts.  Ah well!
  • Vaccine update:  Second shot of Moderna, arm was sore almost right away.  Next day I woke with a massive headache.  Then I had chills alternating with overheating most of the day.  I had a hard time getting to sleep, but also wasn’t any good for work, though I participated in several faculty meetings!  It was pretty miserable and I thought to myself that if this is covid lite, then I don’t want the real thing.  Then the next day I woke up and felt great although my arm was still a little sore.
  • In case you were not eating Annie’s products because they have yeast extract, they stopped using yeast extract like 5+ years ago.  I immediately went out and bought a bunch of their cheddar snack mix.
  • We keep dried fruit and trail mix near the cat treats, and nice kitty has been trained that when we make crinkly sounds by the trail mix, she gets treats too.  I keep chocolate things in the pantry and my kids have been trained that if they catch me, they get chocolate too.  Basically, if I go to the kitchen and make crinkle sounds I suddenly have extra shadows now.  I’ve turned into Pavlov.
  • One of our tenured faculty has started talking about the same hobby horse at every single meeting at great length.  Many of us have discovered that it is a great idea to schedule another meeting right when the faculty meeting is supposed to end rather than leaving extra time.
  • It’s sad that Beverly Cleary died.  If you haven’t reread her core books as an adult, you really should, especially the Ramona ones.  They’re delightfully layered with things for kids and things for their parents that go straight over the kids heads.  Also, I always identified with Beezus because my sister is SUCH a Ramona.  Which Cleary character are you?  (I can definitely see DH as Henry!)
  • My parents always made sure we had a mix of meat, veggies, and starches at every meal.  On Wednesday we had carrots (roasted with olive oil, pomegranate and cilantro) for dinner.  On Thursday we had sweet potato fries (with a little oil, salt, paprika, and chipotle powder).  On Friday we had Korean beef slices (with a marinade and green onions).  So… we get variety over the course of a week.  (They also tend to have healthy lunches, but those are not necessarily balanced either.  Breakfast is usually cereal but not always.)
  • Our uni is having a spike in Covid cases.  But we’re opening up completely for fall with no social distancing and vaccines can’t be required of students unless the vaccine gets full approval by the FDA instead of just emergency approval.  We got those three emails one right after the other, which was really bad timing.
  • The Great British Bakeoff is hilarious whenever someone introduces an American food.  Like they were wowed by Chicken a la King and super impressed by what I consider to be a pretty sloppy pineapple upside down cake (the ones I make for DH are always quite beautiful– you’ll probably see a picture in the next batch of baking photos and I’m sure there are pictures of earlier ones).  But the most hilarious thing was when a woman was saying she was going to use peanut butter and grape jelly together in a dessert and they were like, grape with peanut butter?  There’s no way that’s going to work.  And then they were SHOCKED, shocked! when it turned out to be great.  I had to pause it to yell at the screen a little bit before I could continue.  Peanut butter and grape jelly, who would have thunk it.  What an innovative crazy idea.
  • The other thing that got me was that none of them had any idea what pita bread was supposed to look like.  They all made them oblong.  The only person who had actually eaten them before thought they were triangles because they’d been served as wedges!  PITA BREAD!!!  Do they not have Greek food in the UK?  What is UP with that?  It made me love living in the US because we may not have madiera cake or chelsea buns (which look like slightly fancier cinnamon buns), but *we have Greek food*.
  • If you do watch the Great British Bakeoff, the diversity of contestants in Season 6 is pretty awesome.  We skipped Season 4 because the young woman student character was really irritating (so far in the three seasons we’ve tried, we’ve liked Martha and Flora, who were the young woman student characters in their respective cohorts– wikipedia notes that we were not the only people turned off by season 4’s student) and the cast was so very white.  Also it turns out that Tamal (my favorite in season 6) is gay, though it isn’t mentioned in the show itself.  According to Wikipedia he was interviewed after being put on some hunks list and he was like, sorry ladies, I’m flattered and single but also looking for my own Prince Charming.  (If you’re watching on Netflix, series 1 is season 5, series 2 is season 4, and series 3 is season 6.)
  • DC1 had to read an Ayn Rand novella for English.  I’m starting to believe that QAnon poetry site wasn’t an accident.  Did you know that there are objectivist societies that provide free Ayn Rand books along with propaganda-laden lesson plans to teachers?

What are we doing to deal with the huge post-holiday Covid surge

The students are still gone, but our daily rates are higher than they have ever been, with new deaths every day and not just people ages 70+.  One of our admin just lost her father to Covid in town. Rates will only spike in mid-January when the students return.

I am teaching one section in person next semester.  This is going to be dangerous.  The course is limited to 15 students and there’s a wait list.  My two covid deniers from last semester are not in it, thankfully. (My other section is online.  I do not have a choice about either.)

Other than that, we are blessed that we do not have to do anything that puts us or our children at additional risk.  Most people are in situations where their jobs require them to be out with the public more than once a week and they don’t have full power to tell people to pull up their masks like I will.  Most people don’t have the ability to get all groceries delivered or done by curbside pickup.  These folks are at risk of getting covid themselves and spreading covid to others.  Those of us who can reduce the spread should because not everybody can.

SO, what are we doing?  (Bolding the things that are fun substitutes rather than sacrifices)

  1. DH and I are working from home when possible.  (Technically DH isn’t working anymore, but hey.)  This means that I go to work and then come home.  I also requested an 8am course so that there’s nobody before me and there’s a big gap after me (since usually classes start at 9:15).  Even so, I wipe everything I touch down with clorox wipes that I had to buy myself (and it is not easy buying clorox wipes!)  Students sit only in chairs that are 6 feet apart, which are actually 6 feet apart after I complained last summer to the department that the original dots on the chairs where only 1 foot apart on one dimension (they now skip rows, including the first row).  I do not let them touch each other.  When they share items I make them wipe them down with a wipe before if I catch them and squirt them hand sanitizer after.  Doing in-class activities has been a pain in the rear and I collected a lot of suggestions from students last semester about what to do and what not– it seems like pairs are doable 6 feet apart but triplets are not unless one person is zooming from home.  Some students liked sharing screens through zoom while still in the same room and some didn’t– one suggestion was for them to share a google doc which I think will work well.  I tell students that if they are the least bit sick they have to zoom in.  I enforce masking.  I don’t let them eat.  If I drink, I do it from behind the plexiglass (which doesn’t cover the entire board area, which is annoying).  If they drink, I tell them to use a straw if they can and keep the mask on as best they can.
  2. We’re only shopping curbside.  In the few rare cases in which we’ve had to go inside the store in the past (ex. the noodle place and the bibimbap place), we’ve made sure to order ahead so that we can just do a pickup rather than having to wait.  Basically I go to work and do curbside library stuff and DH does grocery, target, and home depot curbside (and takeout about once every two months which is not enough, but we do give big tips when we go).  DH and I do doctors visits.  I did a dentist thing this summer because I needed a crown and a root canal.
  3. We’re keeping our kids home (our school district allows us to choose).  This is definitely the safe decision for DC1 whose high school has at least one new case a day and was getting more like 4 new cases per day just before winter break.  Adding to that that mask enforcement and social distancing wasn’t happening in at least one of DC1’s classes (and the teacher caught covid right after we complained to the principal) and the principal sent out pictures of sports team pictures with only maybe 3 people masked… Now that they’re no longer sending out daily emails there’s a dashboard where we can see all the positive cases at each school (only a point in time info, but it does have the cumulative number), and our high school has about 4x as many cases as the other same-size high school.  For DC2 it would probably be fine to go to school– there have only been 8 cases so far and they’ve been drawn out across the semester.  But the virtual 4th grade teacher is amazeballs so we’re hoping to keep her as long as possible.  (It is really interesting looking at the elementary school data– one would think the numbers would map with SES and ability to not work or to work from home, but while the lowest number of covid cases is the richest college professor zone and the highest number of covid cases is the lowest income most working class zone, the rest of the numbers don’t map at *all* which makes me suspect that school leadership is important when it comes to covid spread.)
  4. We are not having in-person playdates.  I am not at all opposed to outdoor masked playdates, but DC2’s friends only want to do unmasked, so we said no and they stopped asking.  Two of them do have such playdates with each other.  Naturally these are the least safe members of the group– the third friend’s mom is more risk averse and would be safer, but of course, not doing in-person playdates correlates with all those other safe behaviors.  Update:  Just said no to a zoo birthday party after looking at the yelp page for the zoo and seeing lots of maskless selfies (or chin-mask selfies) and people complaining that masking isn’t being enforced.
  5. We have two regular weekly minecraft after-school playdates set up for DC2 and lots of other popup minecraft playdates.
  6. We didn’t visit extended family at Christmas.  Once the second wave hit and especially after the vaccine started coming out, MIL stopped suggesting it.  We now have hopes for summer.
  7. For Thanksgiving we had a socially distanced backyard meal with my sister and her boyfriend.  I was super careful and made sure we had separate tables that were 6 feet apart.  We kept masks on all times we weren’t eating.  I had separate paths set for bathroom use– they went through the garage to the guest bathroom and I had hand sanitizers taped to the door to the house on both sides.  We went through the patio and used the master bathroom or the kids’ bathroom.  For many of the food items (including all the appetizers and desserts), I made sure their table had its own bowls to serve themselves from.  For bigger things like the turkey, they went through first and hand sanitized before and after.  Then I had us use different serving spoons.  I also gave them a separate serving spoon for second helpings but they didn’t end up using it (I’m a bit less concerned about this because it seems like the virus is fragile on surfaces, but still…).  It was a bit tiring having to police the distance between my kids and my sister and I can see how easily if you’re not vigilant “safe” meetings can become unsafe.  Especially if not everybody attending is as careful as you are.  It’s easier to just not, which is why although we talked about doing Christmas at my sister’s patio in the end we just let that conversation not happen in time.  (The next day my kids went in the car for the first time since … last March?-we had to adjust the booster seat-for DC2- and August schedule pickup for DC1… to get flu shots.)
  8. We’ve done a couple of sessions of Crafting with Grandma on zoom, where DC2 and MIL just quietly work on crafts together punctuated by random conversations with DH and DC1 and FIL.  DC1 also did a Crafting with younger cousins on zoom.  (As the oldest by 6 years and very good with kids, DC1 is extremely popular with the younger cousins.)
  9. I’ve started buying a lot more fancy stuff online since we can’t go to the City.  I’ve already gotten a number of you hooked on nuts.com and we’ve spent some time talking about places other than amazon where we’re buying things.  Something remarkable has as well.
  10. Ringfit, exercycle, console dancing games, bicycling, unicyling (DC1 and DH), scootering (DC2), roller skating (DC2), all around the neighborhood, both masked (when outside and there are a lot of people out) and unmasked (indoors or outdoors when there’s few enough people that the road can be crossed if we see someone; this generally correlates with the weather).  I’ve also done a lot of walking around the house watching youtube videos while the kids are out exercising because I don’t want to have to put on pants (if I’m wearing pajama shorts and it’s cold out) or socks.

Something I want to highlight is that after 3/4 of a year of trial and error:  Zoom calls that are just straight-up conversations aren’t as good for the kids as are zoom activities. Having something that allows comfortable silences is way better than something that forces kids to keep talking.  And with kids, zoom is better than FaceTime, at least for the adult in question, because FaceTime involves lots of running around the house and flipping the screen and playing with filters and basically things that are too frenetic for anyone but the cool auntie (aka, my sister, who is just as bad as my kids with FaceTime).  There are a lot of crazy things they can play with on zoom, but there isn’t as much movement of the camera itself.

Playing minecraft with friends with zoom on in the background is better than just zooming (which was what we did last Spring and Summer until DC2’s birthday got us to research safe ways zie could have a party).  Playing Among Us with DH’s brother’s kids didn’t work out so well, though part of that was they couldn’t get audio to work so everything was chat-based which isn’t as fun.

Doing crafts at the same time with Grandma works better than just talking with Grandma.  It’s almost like actually being at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  We’ve done this twice so far and it’s just really nice.  DH and DC1 stop by and chat while DC2 and Grandma work on their own things.

We also set up an origami teaching demonstration with DC1 and the two older kids of DH’s sister because Nana had all four kids and suggested we try that while she looked after the babies.  So DC1 taught the 7 year old and the 5 year old to make fortune tellers and then did a few coin tricks.

Here’s an ask the grumpies from this summer about things to look forward to in the summer (also has a list of stuff we’ve been buying online).  Here’s a “what are you doing for fun?

What safe(r) things have you been doing?  (Note:  any bragging about doing unsafe things will be deleted.  Keep your secret shame secret and try not to hurt people.)

A snapshot of DH’s unemployment chores list

  1. Get and install curtains for the office.  [Ed:  this is my requested Christmas present this year so my face isn’t half blindingly white while zooming]
      1. Rod hanging style
        1. We do not want a curtain rod that attaches inside the door frame, because that will interfere with the screen door.
        2. We could use inside mount brackets and mount the curtain to both side walls, but then there would be a long rod sticking out over the filing cabinets for no reason.
        3. We could use an inside mount bracket on the side wall by the desk, and a normal bracket (to the window’s wall) on the other side, but that’s going to look asymmetrical.
        4. I think we use a normal rod attached to the same wall as the window, and it equally extends on either side of the door frame, which will put the end next to the desk almost up against the side wall, and put about 12” of space between the edge of the window and the end of the rod on each side.  To get the bracket close to the side wall next to the desk, let’s use the blackout rods that curve back into the wall.
          1. It would also be nice to minimize the depth, so the curtain is close to the wall.
      2. “Door” width 70.5” including the molding.
        1. Add 24” -> 94.5” wide curtain.
          1. Divide by 2 panels -> 48” panel width.
        2. Add ~10” -> 80.5” rod.
      3. 4.5” from the outside edge of the molding to the nearest wall.
      4. Do we need two panels or just one?
        1. I think 2 panels would look better.  We could get a single panel 100” wide, but I think when the curtains are open they will look better framing the door.
      5. Door height: 83.25” from floor to molding.
        1. So an 84” long panel? Then we set it above the top of the door and it won’t puddle on the ground.
      6. For curtain color, I think anything light or black is too extreme. Probably best to just go with brown.
  2. Fix the broken fence board.
  3. Clean the guest bedroom. [Ed:  this used to be DH’s office]
  4. Use the copper test kit.  [Ed:  Our water was strikingly blue for a little while.  We turned the whole house filter back on.]
  5. Clean the junk on the floor in front of the printer. [I suspect he means his 3d printer which is on the floor of the guest bedroom]
  6. Get the car inspected and registered.
  7. Clean out my work desk drawer.
  8. Keep the wooden boxes currently in the garage, break them down, or get rid of them. [Ed: More work stuff]
  9. Cash bonds.  [Ed: Both of our families bought us small savings bonds that have stopped accruing interest back in the early 1980s when there was a sale]
  10. Glue “Baking with Julia”.  [Ed: Wonderful cookbook, terrible binding]
  11. Ant hill by corner.  [Ed: Red ants are evil]
  12. Fix gate.  [Ed: I’m not sure what gate he means since the one to our dogrun just sort of fell over and we removed it and it’s no longer a dog run… we now have a more open concept backyard.  Come to think of it, there’s a gate on the other side that we never use that is under a bunch of wisteria, so maybe that’s what he means.]
  13. Replace the lightbulb in the refrigerator.  [Ed: One of MANY lightbulbs that heard DH was going to have a bunch of free time and decided to die]
    1. Ordered replacement.

 

I have no questions.  But it is nice having a highly qualified personal assistant!

RBOC

  • I am so irritated with DC1’s poetry unit.  The teacher seems to have bought wholesale someone’s lesson plan from middle school or possibly elementary school.  They have a 16 box grid and have to pick a type of poem to write from each row.  And there are examples of each type of poem.  But instead of using actual GOOD examples, they’re all juvenile examples written, presumably, by the guy who is selling the unit (I googled his name with poetry and didn’t find anything, though a guy with the same name was a high school track star at some point in the past).  So instead of Ode to a Grecian Urn, there’s Ode to School Steps.  Instead of Gwendolyn Brooks for slam poetry, there’s … actually they didn’t provide a slam poetry example.  This is high school.  Shouldn’t they be learning and analyzing some of our foundational poems?  I mean, in my high school we only studied the symbolism of such poems, which is ridiculous because the craft of poetry is also important (I somehow got a 4 on the AP English exam mostly by guessing– it was really eye-opening what we hadn’t learned), but at least we read through more of the major works than just Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.  (We also got some dirty poetry in History class to illustrate that puritans weren’t entirely pure.)
  • I am grateful that our commetariat is really smart.  And I mean that in a growth mindset kind of way.
  • I have just purchased a $100 chair pillow from Purple because sitting and I are not getting along right now.  My middle-aged body is not handling sitting at my desk chair for long hours as well as it ought to (or perhaps I should not be working long hours and my body is rebelling).  I’d finally gotten any and all back problems figured out, but now my nether regions are rebelling in multiple unpleasant ways.  Hot baths can only do so much!
  • Speaking of health problems– my allergies continue to be terrible.  Part of it, we think, is the extra dust mites from having 4 people and a cat at home.  But I suspect a lot of it was just me thinking I had DC2’s current cold but actually had allergies instead.  It’s miserable!  Zyrtec is a very good friend.  But… I’m thinking one of these years I should either move or get allergy shots.  (My biggest allergies are outdoor things like grasses, trees, and other pollens.)
  • DH finally saw a doctor for his watery eye.  The GP was like, here are some eyedrops if they don’t work in 3 days, go see an ophthalmologist.  The ophthalmologist said either you have dry eye or you have an infection.  Try these different eye-drops and if it doesn’t clear up in a month I will *irrigate your tear duct* which sounds really unpleasant.  DH’s mom was like, oh, yes, I have dry eye and have to use a humidifier at night and wear goggles.
  • It has been so long since I cleaned off my work desk at home that there was an *airline* ticket receipt in one of the piles.
  • Payroll forgot to double my health insurance costs in the December paycheck.  *sigh*  Do I wait for them to realize or do I try to figure out who to notify?  What a pain!  It does say that DH has coverage though… so maybe they’re taking it out of the Jan paycheck instead and I should just wait a month?  That’s probably what happened since I work for a month before getting paid.  OK.  I need to be less on top of things.  Especially since even if DH did lose coverage because of 30 day snafus he could still get COBRA.
  • The Monday after Thanksgiving we got an email from the high school informing us that 9 students and staff had tested positive for Covid over break.  Then on Tuesday, a kid in DC1’s history class spent much of the class without a mask including a lot of walking around and a spirited debate.  Near the end of class the guy sitting next to him also pulled his mask down to his chin.  (DC1 watches the in-person class via streaming.)  I emailed the school principal to ask her to remind the teachers to enforce the mask mandate without naming any names.  But OMG, why????  I don’t think we can send DC1 back to in person this year.  [UPDATE]:  The teacher for that class got diagnosed with Covid a few days later and is now teaching asynchronously from home.
  • DC2 ventured out of our neighborhood for the first time since March two times this past week… first to get a flu shot, then to do progress testing because the powers that be decided it was better to do it in person than online because of technical problems at the beginning of the year.  (We did have technical problems, but DC2’s teacher figured them out straight away.)  They did do a good job of social distancing though and there were only 3 other kids in the room where DC2 took the test, according to DC2.
  • A bunch of my students this year are functionally illiterate.  They cannot read paragraphs and have difficulty with sentences.  This makes instructions difficult in a heavily virtual environment.  I think it might be because of this method of teaching reading.  I had been hoping that since we’d gotten out of the whole language fad (or relegated it to the idea of reading real books and not textbook anthologies, which, whatever) that this problem would go away, but no, phonics had a brief hey-day and now I’m getting these people who are doing cuing.  C’mon, we *know* that phonics works for mainstream learners.  I hate that this problem filters all the way through to college.  That means there are tons of adults out there who have been failed by the system.  It is so much easier to fill in gaps in math than it is to fill in gaps in reading(!)  (I wonder if the ones who take a foreign language are better at reading say, Spanish, since it’s still taught phonetically… just like my kids have a better grasp of Spanish grammar than they do of English…)
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Ask the grumpies: McConnell and Russian campaign funds

Rose asks:

What is true about the rumors I have seen that Mitch the Senator has been given billions/millions in campaign funds filtered from Russian plutocrats?

Here’s what politifact says about this story.  To quote the bottom line:

A post says McConnell’s “biggest donor” is a Russian oligarch who was released from U.S. sanctions.

Blavatnik is involved in Deripaska’s businesses, on which sanctions were lifted recently, but it is inaccurate to call him the Russian oligarch “that the GOP just lifted sanctions on.”

Blavatnik also donated money to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund, but he wasn’t the highest donor, records show. He also contributed to other Republican leaders and GOP-affiliated PACs.

So yes, it looks like he has been given quite a bit of money from Russian plutocrats.  Some portion of the $7.35 million given to the GOP in 2017 by a Russian oligarch, according to this Dallas News story.

RBOC

  • DH opines on Apple Watch faces: Discoveries about what I want in a watch after a few days of an apple watch:
    • 1) Digital time, not analog. I want to know the exact minute of the current time without any mental gymnastics.
    • 2) The date, because multiple times each day I seem to need to know the date and if I’m not at a computer I would otherwise have to pull my phone out of my pocket.
    • 3) Some apps are very handy to have on my wrist (timer, stopwatch, calculator, weather, voice memos) and could be done with a non-smartwatch or a phone, but this is easier.
    • 4) “complications” that change visually (like the activity tracker’s rings filling up or the current temperature) are informative, while ones that are only a shortcut are a waste of space (the ten most-used apps are just a button press and a tap to reach anyway).
    • 5) Moving backgrounds are attractive, but the available options are really limited (e.g., why no pachinko balls just bouncing around, or the game of life?) 6) Similarly, more customization would make several of these faces more attracive. Why are the customization options so limited. I think many of the round dials look out of place on a rectangular face, then the all-one-color options look boring (but the all-one-color “low-power” mode is just a line around the border which I like a lot), and then there are the two-tone rectangular options which look good except I hate the handful of color choices.
  • The biofilm that I’m allergic to has returned and taken over the post-filter on our whole house water filter.  DH has temporarily bypassed the filter system to get disgusting but lovely-because-it’s-chlorinated water back into our house to hopefully kill all the biofilm.  And it seems to be working– not a sign of pink slime anywhere, even places I hadn’t bleached recently.  And showers aren’t itchy for me.  The problem is that DC2 is still allergic to our city’s water.  Fortunately even after we got the whole house filter, I made DH replace our shower filter and had the contractors put in an under sink filter with our new kitchen sink.  So DC2 is using our shower and only drinking from the kitchen sink filtered tap.  Man I’d forgotten how awful our local water tastes.  And after seeing the pre-filter after a month, I’m not sure I actually should be drinking it.  But I appreciate the way chlorine kills.  DH thinks we’ll get aquasauna’s UV filter next (~$600), though the big problem is that the bacteria is coming from inside the house, not outside.  My thought is that once a month we should flush out our system with unfiltered water.
  • We have had three separate incidences of (different) students advocating extremism in our (different) classes during presentations or class discussion in the past week, and those are only the ones brought to the attention of our department chair.  Have any of you been having to deal with an increase in extremism, and what do you do?  (This hasn’t happened in my stats classes, thankfully, but next semester I have an elective.)
  • I’m getting kind of tired of reading about damaged heroes who need the understanding heroine to fix them.  I think that means I need to find some more books that have plots other than just the romance.  I’m also really tired of the indication that the hero and the heroine are going to get together is that their meet cute is them insulting each other.  Moonlighting is not real.  That is not how people get together.  It’s a trope that deserves to die.  I could use some Gary Stu heroes, please!  Just like my DH.  ;)  Let me see other heroines have their Prince Charming sweep them off their feet (and then I dunno, solve a murder or something).  (Solution:  Read a bunch of m/m romances…)
  • Our junk hotmail address has gotten on some spam email list with .de addresses (I’ve tried getting hotmail to send these directly to trash, but it is sending them to junk instead).  The composition of these emails is very different than our usual porn etc. spam– it seems to be targeted at not very bright trump supporters.  We’re winning gift cards from the dollar store.  We’re learning secrets of combat training, especially shooting, and we’re being offered Trump vs. Biden t-shirts.  We’re learning how to appeal our disability claims and get speedy loans.  Tricks for diabetes destruction and compression gloves.  Savings exclusive to veterans.  For some reason, they also want us to buy Wild Alaskan seafood and CBD.  The scariest, along with the combat training, are the dire warnings that someone is going to take our guns away.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 8 Comments »

RBOC

  • DH and I have decided that if we ever have someone ask for permission to marry a daughter, the answer will be no.  (Because nobody should be asking a parent permission for an adult to get married.)
  • One of my colleagues said she just wouldn’t vote if Bernie was the nominee.  I told her that not voting is half a vote for Trump.  She said she couldn’t bring herself to.  I said I would vote for road-kill over Trump.  Because there are children in concentration camps in our country and children’s lives are at stake.
  • One of my RAs got hir entire school account suspended because one of the datasets zie was working with was called sex_and_gender
  • One of our relatives just named her new son Pnykolass.  The P is silent.  [Actual name may have been changed to protect the innocent and to prevent googling!]
  • Remember how we got a whole house water filter?  It turns out that unfiltered water has chlorine in it and filtered water doesn’t.  Which means that that pink/orange bacterial slime that loves to eat soap has infiltrated the master bathroom.  We are debating the pros and cons of getting a bleach tablet for the toilet (which will corrode the toilet innards) or hiring a cleaning service just to do the kitchen and bathrooms (since I hate putting stuff away before a full clean).  Spending every weekend cleaning the bathroom sounds not fun to me, but I also am squicked out by pink slime.
  • update: a single intensive cleaning session with bleach is buying us time.
  • DC1 went to two different programming camps and got two Raspberry Pi.  I said zie didn’t have an r so zie didn’t have a circle, just two pi.  DC1 pointed out that Raspberry starts with an R.  DC2 chimed in that no, DC1 has two pi Remainder asberry.  I’m so proud!
  • Every time I see a headline or tweet for 90 day fiancé I get really excited until I realize (again) it doesn’t say finances.
  • The new countertop in the kitchen settled, taking the shiny new caulk down with it, so we had to recaulk.
  • When I was starting college halfway across the country, I was the only kid I met there whose parents didn’t go with them on move-in day.  I thought that was weird.  Plane fare was so expensive.  And why pay for crowded hotels?  (My parents did move-in my sister but she went to school in-state so it was just a lengthy drive.)  And yet… when it is our kids’ turn we will probably go because it won’t be a big chunk out of our budget and it is one of those milestones.  And I guess DC1 will be younger than I was, depending on what zie decides to do 4 years from now.
  • OMG, can you believe [bachelorette spoilers].  I sure hope she doesn’t [more spoilers] because I want him to be the next bachelor.  But they never pick the guy I want, so…
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Making a hole in the wall look pretty while still being accessible

Long-time readers may recall that a while back we got a whole-house water filter.  It was a saga.  One of the things they had to do was cut holes in the drywall, which they then taped back up.   Since one of the holes was in DH’s closet, he decided to make it prettier.  Then he wrote up this post and sent it to me.

Picture of a square hole in the wall and ugly tape marks

The hole

The plumbers had to cut into the closet to access the pipes when they installed the whole house water filter. When they were done, they just used duct tape to stick the drywall plug back in the hole. The duct tape looked pretty hacky, though luckily it is in a really out-of-the-way spot (the corner of a closet, right beside a built-in, right above the baseboard).

I like having access to pipes/manifolds, so I didn’t want to just seal/patch over the hole. I wanted a framed door, and could not figure out how to make one easily. So instead, I glued the frame (really baseboard I hand-cut to fit) to the drywall plug, added a knob (with a large washer in back to spread out the force on the drywall), and touched up the paint.

The resulting “door” looks much better, and it just pulls out. It could almost just stand up by itself, but was slightly tilting forward and would fall out, so I added a small square of velcro to the top of the frame to hold it to the wall.

I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. If I were to do it again: 1) I found it hard to cut the 45 degree angles on the baseboard by hand since we don’t have a table saw, so I would see if I could get Home Depot to cut at least a couple of them nicely, and 2) I don’t like the way the velcro is visible from the top and it results in a gap between the frame and the wall, so I would probably try removing the velcro and instead placing some kind of foam around the drywall plug so that it would be held in the hole by the force of the foam around it. I should probably still go around that corner of the closet with putty to fill in the various little gaps.

So I (#1) think that’s pretty cool.  I don’t normally pay much attention to aesthetics, but this is a really nice example of form follows function.  We had long discussions about how to make this area look nicer while still allowing access, and, importantly, letting future home-owners/renters know that there’s something important back there should they need access (say there’s a leak or a plug).  Making an actual door would be too much effort and would probably allow drafts in (given hinges etc.), but this looks like a door so it signals that there’s something behind there, while still looking pretty.  We also discussed the merits of velcro vs. magnets, but magnets are potentially more dangerous (given kids and animals), and it’s not like this is going to be opened and closed frequently enough to make the velcro wear out.