Home Maintenance

I have a couple of weeks off, and have dedicated the time to fixing, repairing, and replacing the dinged, cracked, split, worn-out, eaten through, busted, broken, burst, fractured, and rusted parts that are the joy of home ownership.

Neil Young had it right; Rust Never Sleeps.  Neither does mold, ice, water damage, insects, small burrowing animals, sun, wind, leaves, roots, and probably a dozen other things that will come to mind as I look around my castle.

And I am amazed at the precision required, and the variety of things that are necessary.  There are several kinds of primer paint, depending on what you are priming.  Several kinds of paint, also depending on what, and where, you are painting.  A half-inch screw will not do if a three-quarter inch screw is necessary.  Wood screw, metal screw, slotted head, Phillips head, flat head, pan head, and lag bolt.  The wrong thread will either split the wood, or not get a good grip. Nails are a little easier, but not much… brads, finishing nails, masonary nails, dry wall nails… There are probably a half dozen types of hammer, again depending on what you purpose is, and there is also the convenience of nail guns (electric, cordless and pneumatic).

All kinds of wood, of course; pine, maple, oak… and different sizes…. moulding, 2×4 which is actually 1½ by 3½ to befuddle the newbie, 2×3, 2×6, 2×8 (actually 1½ by 7¼)… etc., etc., etc.

Wrenches?  Would you like SAE or metric? Because one won’t fit the other, and I have the skinned knuckles to prove it.

I live about a 20-minute drive from a Lowes, and have spent a frightening amount of time there lately.  I’m usually stumped by something small like a bolt that is missing a nut, or a replacement piece of wood that has to be just the right size.  I can stare, mesmerized by the plethora (I always wanted to use that word) of possibilities, none of which are exactly the right size.  Probably, the bolt in question was made in the 1890’s by a near-sighted machinist with a sense of humor, and a desire to be unique.  There is no other like it in the world.

The piece of wood I need also doesn’t exist in the natural world, and will have to be cut to exact specifications.  That would require a handsaw.  Or a band saw.  Or a saber saw, miter saw, circular saw, table saw, radial arm saw, or perhaps, all of the above. Now, lets talk about saw blades….

No, let’s not.

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Procrasti

  I’ll finish the title later, first I want to get started on the, you know, main event.  Just as soon as I get a drink of water and trim my armpits.  Should only take a minute.

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There, I’m back.  Ready to get to work.  This is going to be a story, or maybe an essay, or perhaps a full novel about wasting time.  Maybe a screenplay, or perhaps just a blog entry. I’ll think about that later.  But anyway, this is about wasting time, a skill of mine since I was young and forced to do homework.  My mom, who resented me because I was born about two weeks late, used to tell me I would be late for my own funeral.  I always wondered why that would be a bad thing.

So, procrastination.  Dawdling.  Vegging.  What James Thurber called ‘wool gathering’.  It’s a terrible thing and robs the world of the fruit of human labor.  And speaking of fruit, just hang on one minute while I get acquire a quince, or maybe commandeer a cumquat.  Won’t be a minute.

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 Sorry for the delay.  While I was quartering my quince and corralling my kumquat, my neighbor came by to yell at me for not returning his snow blower and we got into a long conversation about what he can do with a snow blower in September anyway, and while we were leaning on my car talking I noticed the inspection was about four months over due so I went to take care of that and by the time I got back home the Mets were on, and they went into extra innings, but now I’m all ready to go.

Procrastination.  The History of Procrastination.  If you think about it, history IS procrastination.  Consider this; the universe arrived after the big bang, about 14 billion years ago.  Earth is about 4 billion years old.  What do you think was happening during those missing 10 billion years?  Procrastination on a massive scale, that’s what.  Those tiny building blocks of atoms, now known to be leptons, quarks and buicks, just kind of leaned on astrophysical lampposts for a couple of billion years waiting for the right girl lepton, quark or buick to float by so they could exchange atomic numbers, or whatever.

And later, when the first organisms had congealed and were about to climb out of the primordial ooze, or whatever, guess how long that took!  No one really knows.  But, they do know that it rained a lot in those days, so the theory is that we could have oozed onto the primordial eons earlier, if the squishy beasts hadn’t been afraid of the rain.  Precambrian procrastination at its worst.  You can almost hear the conversation:

Squishy Organism #1:  Well, Beatrice it looks perfectly lovely up there on land, but I just had my tentacles done, and you know how kinky and knotted up they get in the rain.

Squishy Organism #2: Oh, mine too, Sylvie.  Maybe we should wait a few millennia until it stops.  By then we may have grown penumbrellas, or whatever.

 Eventually, they made it to land, and then from the land up into the trees.  Then it took almost forever to come back down out of the trees to start civilization.  Imagine your ancestors, probably on your father’s side from the looks of his eyebrows, gibbering and picking nits off each other’s backs.  Not a care on Gaia about the future of civilization.  Irresponsible.  Irresponsible and procrastinatious.  And a waste of the fruits of the labor of billions of quarks, buicks and squishy organisms.  Hang on a minute, I have an itch.

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Here I am, and sorry about that.  I took off my shirt to scratch my shoulder and noticed I’ve put on a few pounds, so I went to the gym and on the way back stopped and met the Mrs. for a quick bite then hit a bucket of balls at the driving range, but I’m back now.  I’m back and we were talking about…

The History of Procrastination.

When man evolved, finally, and started rocking out from the cradle of civilization it was the ancient Egyptians who first grabbed the Sphinx by the horns, or whatever.  By doing some complicated math, stolen from the Mesopotamians (Mesopotamia; a Hindu word meaning, literally, ‘middle size vitamin pill’) the Egyptians figured out that the Nile River overflowed its banks every 132 days, or whatever.  They also figured out, procrastinatiously, that there was no sense doing any kind of farming work until it did, so they just kind of hung around waiting.  In time, the Pharaoh got wind of what was going on and made them build the pyramids, but that came later.  Meanwhile, at the risk of being repetitious, or even redundant by saying the same thing twice, they were wasting the fruits of labor on a semi-annual basis.

(I just realized that my semi-annual checkup is a year and a half late.  Note to self; make appointment for check up.  Second note to self; buy appointment book so you can write down your notes to self).

After that, things started to move along at a pace, although procrastination was, and still is, our planetary pastime. The Greeks took over from the Egyptians and invented sundials so they could figure out exactly how much time they were wasting.  The Romans took over from the Greeks, and every school child knows that Nero fiddled around while Rome was adjourned, or whatever.  The Catholics took over from the Romans, and refused to believe that the sun was the center of the universe.  That’s because a heliocentric universe (heliocentric; a Latin word meaning, literally ‘one hundred helicopters’) would have completely screwed up their Julian calendar.  The Julian calendar, much beloved by popes, cardinals and stockbrokers, had a four hour work day, and a couple of three day weekends every month, or whatever.

Once Henry VIII took over the Reformation the calendar did change, although people were not happy about it.  They had much less time for woolgathering, and so they begged the king to please lighten up.  This was, of course, not only the fundamental principal behind the Enlightenment, but also the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.

Wow, look at the time.  Yawn.

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Well, good morning and welcome back.  I’ve been waiting for you.  Let’s wrap this up before my second cup of coffee wears off.

Let’s see.  Henry VIII, Enlightenment, Daylight Savings… okay, we’re on the home stretch.

Here at home, the Western hemisphere, we had that Yankee Doodle, can-do attitude about procrastination.  Basically, we were out to prove we could do nothing better than anyone else.  The American Revolution took seven years to win.  Our Constitution has a “preamble”, literally, a short stroll before getting down to business.  The Battle of New Orleans was fought two weeks after the end of the War of 1812.  Why?  Because no one bothered to read their email.

Old Fashioned Wooden Computer in Andrew Jackson’s command tent:  “You’ve got Mail!!”

Andrew Jackson:  “Oh, shut up.” 

And of course there is controversy about what the ‘D’ stands for in ‘D-Day’.  It’s either ‘Delay-Day’ or ‘Dawdle-Day’.  Personally, I am certain it stands for Dawdle because Dawdle Day sounds so much more like Doris Day when spoken by Elmer Fudd with a mouth full of caramel.  But I digress.  And procrastinate, or whatever.

Be right back.  There’s a rerun of Cheers on where Coach says something really funny, but I can’t remember what it was.

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Sorry, turns out Coach wasn’t in that one, but there was a Star Trek marathon on, so I boldly went where no man has gone before.  But it took me all day.

Procrastination is as American as apple pie.  As human as flatulence.  As natural as tooth decay.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but rather something to be accepted, embraced and perhaps even celebrated.  There should be a National Procrastination Day, where everyone makes a list of things to do and then totally ignores it.  Hallmark could sell cards that people would address and never send.  It could be on February 29th… that way anyone who actually wanted to celebrate a holiday this stupid would have to procrastinate for four years.  Or whatever.