Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.



I know I promised my stalker--er, loyal reader, Janice, a good rant, but it’s going to have to wait. It’s late* and I’m tired… but I know tomorrow is going to be as frantic a day as today was (and Monday was) and there will be no posting from work.

* And by late, I mean it’s 11 o’clock. Just a few years ago I could stay up until 2am and not blink and eye. What happened to me?

Anyway, I did want to share a bit of news: I’ve been published.

If you pick up the February issue of USDF Connection and turn to the last page, you’ll find my article. Well, actually, since this magazine is a members-only publication (USDF is the “United State Dressage Federation,” one of the several horse associations The Scientist holds membership in) you’re not likely to see it. Available at no newsstands anywhere!

But, no great loss, since the article is just a cleaned up version of this post (needless to say, I took out all the references to horse women being insane, and the stress having a horse puts on our relatonship before I sent it in).

After I wrote it The Scientist and her trainer both encouraged me to submit it to Connection. I’ve never read that magazine, but I figured I had nothing to lose. I sent it in blind and promptly forgot about it.

Couple of months later, I got an email from the editor expressing her wish to publish it. To which my reaction was, Cool. The Scientist, on the other hand, had a reaction more like this: Holy shit! My horse is going to be in USDF Connection!

I’ve never had my fiction published before (well, other than here) so I found the process interesting, especially the editing. I sent the magazine my article electronically, and they sent it back to me, “lighted edited.” I feared the worst, but it wasn’t bad at all. But some of the changes were interesting.

Apparently, “what the hell” is far too strong for the delicate sensibilities of Connection readers. The editor had replaced it with “What the #@^%*?” which is, of course, ridiculous. More to the point, I thought it read as “what the fuck?” which is much stronger than I intended. Apparently the editor agreed, because when I pointed it out to her she told me she’d already changed it. I didn’t like the change, and just ended up just writing around it (in case you’re interested, “what the hell?” became “Come on!”).

There were some other tweaks, mostly to make it sound like I knew something about horses which, honestly, I don’t.

The magazine asked us to provide a photo of the “entire family” -- meaning me, my wife and her horse. We spent an hour out at the barn snapping photos. This is the one they used:

Nice enough, but given the nature of the article, I really wish they would have used this one:

But you take what you can get, I guess. Anyway, it was a nice experience, and I’ve received nothing but praise from people who have read it. I even took a copy to work and told people that magazine writing was “my ticket out of this dump.”

Considering that I was paid zero dollars for this piece, the above statement may be a tad premature.




Hi! Boy, I’ve been busy at work. No time to slack. And who ultimately suffers because of that? You do, my dear sweet Internet… you do.

I’m no less busy today, but I have to vent for a moment. Some background:

If you don’t live in northeast Ohio, you may not be aware that Tops Markets (a regional grocery store chain) pulled out of Ohio last year. That left upwards of 4,000 full- and part-time employees out of work. Rival grocery store Giant Eagle bought a bunch of the stores, and a lot of the Tops employees who had worked in those stores were re-hired. But anyway.

When those Tops employees were given their pink slips, they were given severance pay, and were also paid out for unused vacation time. Then, just this week, it was reported that due to a calculation error, some of these employees were given more than they were owned, and Tops was now asking for that money back. A firestorm of controversy erupted, and today Tops announced that they would no longer seek repayment of that money.

Which I completely understand. This company laid off a whole lot of people. They made the mistake of over-paying them (to the tune of a couple hundred dollars each... no-one got a magic ticket of a million dollars or anything). Clearly, the smart PR thing to do is just eat that money--a total of nearly $400,000. That’s a big chunk of cash, even for a big company; but it’s probably smarter to pay that then deal with negative news reports for the next year.

But here’s where I get pissed.

One of the recipients of a larger-than-deserved check was Crystal Weatherspoon, a 12-year employee of Tops. She is quoted in the Plain Dealer today saying, "I’m happy about the situation because there are people who owe more than I owe… It wasn’t right, and I guess they came to the conclusion that it wasn’t right."

Tom Robertson, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 880, had this to say: "…Tops’ motivation in the beginning was to help the employees, and that Tops has always been motivated to do the ‘right thing’ by its employees. In the end, Tops in fact did the right thing."

No, no, no, NO!

Tops didn’t do “the right thing,” Tops did the politically expedient thing. They over-paid some people (actually, a lot of people, like 650) and then asked for their money back. If you went to the bank and the teller accidentally gave you one too many $50 bills, would you consider that money yours to keep? If the guard stopped you at the door, would you pled your case that the bank made the mistake, not you, so that money should be yours to keep?

Look, I’m not going to argue if Tops did “the right thing” or not when they sent 4,000 people to the unemployment line. I’m sure they did what they needed to do to remain viable as a business. I mean, if they continued to operate unprofitable stores in Ohio, resulting in ALL Tops stores to go under, then it would be a whole lot more people out of work. And surely that wouldn’t be “the right thing,” right?

What really cheeses me is the sense of entitlement these former Tops workers seem to have. YOU DIDN’T EARN THAT MONEY! Just because you’re laid off you think you can swindle more money out of your former employer than you deserve?

And even worse: Tops bought into it! Or rather, they had to buy into it, in order to keep the positive PR machine going. Tops Executive VP and General Manager Max Henderson wrote in a memo: “We sincerely apologize to our former associates for any hardship this may have caused. It has always been our goal to make sure that all of our former employees are treated fairly, and we will continue to work diligently to resolve any outstanding payment issues.”

If I was Mr. Max Henderson, Executive VP and General Manager, I would have issued this statement:

“Congratulations! You just won the lottery. Even though you have no legal right whatsoever to the extra money that we accidentally mailed you, we’re going to let you keep it. Because otherwise we’re going to have to eat a big shit sandwich and, frankly, we’re already full. Buy yourselves something nice. Oh, and don’t bother to say ‘thank you,’ you ungrateful jackasses.”

End of rant. Now I’ve got to get back to work before I end up unemployed (again).




#197 In which our hero receives a most unexpected gift in the mail.

Something rather cool, and a little spooky, happened to me last week.

But first, a little background. My father had two brothers and two sisters. Everyone is gone now except my Uncle Max (the youngest) and my Aunt Irene (the oldest). I’ve only met Irene a couple of times, she lives out on the west coast and has never been anything but nasty to me anyway. But we used to visit Max all the time.

When my grandfather (that is, my father’s father) was still alive, we’d go to visit fairly often. He lived in a dirty little coal-mining down outside of Pittsburgh, and it took about two hours to drive there. Mostly it was just Dad and me. We’d visit with Pop-pop, who was (by the time I knew him) a shuffling old blind man. But he always had pound cake in the cupboards and orange soda in the fridge, so it was cool. Dad and Pop-pop would sit at the table, Dad telling his father about the latest happenings with his kids, Pop-pop smoking his pipe. I’d often go and play along the nearby canal or watch Pop-pop's gigantic console TV.

My Uncle Max lived in the house directly next door. His son was a couple years older than me, but we’d hang out sometimes. Sometimes Max would come over, but usually we’d visit Pop-pop, then go next door and visit Max and his wife, my Aunt Dee.

When Dad died, Max really made the effort to keep in touch with me. But, I was 24, living on my own, and was busy with lots of other things, like my crappy job and my not-yet-out-of-the-closet live-in girlfriend. So I didn’t do much to reciprocate. I suspect that Max promised Dad that he’d take care of me.

It’s been 14 years since my father died and, sadly, I haven’t done much to keep in touch with Max. And Max is really my only connection with Dad’s side of the family… I don’t talk to any of my cousins on that side. Not out of maliciousness, I just… don’t, y’know?

Anyway, I do send Christmas cards, and that usually ignites some new back and forth communication. Max sent me a letter, with his email address. He complimented me on my family, and told me that my father would be proud of me. He always says that, and at this point I don’t really know if it’s just a platitude, or he really means it. I choose to believe the latter.

I emailed him a month or so ago, and never heard back. So, I did my yearly family duty, I guess.

But last week I got a small package in the mail from Max. In the past he’s sent me articles clipped from the newspaper that he thought I’d find interesting (often about comic books--Max is a big flea-market guy, and he wants me to give him all my comics so he can sell them at a profit; to which I say, um, no thanks). But this was a padded envelope and was surprisingly heavy. I had no idea what it could be. I opened it up, and there was a short letter inside. And something else.

My father’s stop watch.
CRAIG: Enclosed you will find a stopwatch your father gave to me several years ago. I was cleaning some drawers and found it--forgot all about the stopwatch. Took it to a jeweler--it is no good. On the back of the stopwatch you will see your father's name. Thought you would like to have it. Tell you wife we said hello and give Lilly [sic] a hug from her uncle Max.
To see the significance of this stopwatch, you have to understand how important sports were to my father. He managed to go to college on a football scholarship and he was deeply involved with all sorts of sports from that time forward. He refereed middle school football and high school basketball. He ran the clock for high school volleyball games. He umpired baseball of all levels. He announced the high school football games. I spent many cold fall evenings up in the tiny announcer’s booth precariously perched above the bleachers. Long after my dad died they torn down that crappy booth and replaced it with a roomier, better insulated one. And they dedicated it to the memory of my father.

And, he helped time countless track meets with the stopwatch I was now holding in my hand. His name was crudely scratched into the back… probably to assure that it came back right before he lent it out to someone he didn’t know very well.

Strangely enough, I had been considering buying a stopwatch to time the radio spots I’ve been writing recently. I don’t know why I hadn’t just bought one, it’s not like they’re expensive. But I put it off. Now I didn’t have to.

Funny thing, though… even though my Uncle Max said the watch was “no good,” it works perfectly for me.

Thanks Dad.




#196 In which our hero greatly over-analyzes a TV commercial, driven to do so by the obliviousness of his co-workers.

Ugh, I can’t work. That’s the bad thing about my job (and actually, about me in general) is if I become distracted it’s really hard for me to regain focus and do my job. This has happened in the past when The Scientist and I have a fight… I’m usually worthless until everything has been reconciled.

Right now I’m distracted by a creative brief that just came across my desk. In it, the account executive has written that the client has instructed us to take all the work we’ve done in the past 10 months, wrap it in a burlap sack, shit in the sack, then douse it with gasoline and light it on fire. When the ashes cool, I need to mold them into something beautiful that will drive additional traffic to their stores.

I may be paraphrasing a bit.

But it still sucks. And it’s a person I’ve had issues with in the past, so I can guarantee that my opinion will be ignored and I’ll be forced to produce some crap that will make me wince. Ugh.

So, I’ve decided to think about other things. Like why I’m embarrassed by my agency. Allow me to explain.

Recently, the staff was asked to select our top 10 favorite Super Bowl commercials. This was for a piece that was going into the local newspaper… my agency, along with three others, would list our favorites, and why we choose them. Here’s how our list turned out:
  1. “Monkey Party” (
  2. “Mean Joe Greene” (Coca-Cola)
  3. “Whassup” (Budweiser)
  4. “Frogs” (Budweiser)
  5. “Caveman Stick” (FedEx)
  6. “1984” (Apple Computer)
  7. “Terry Tate, Office Linebacker” (Reebok)
  8. “Showdown” (McDonalds)
  9. “Monkey Dance” (E*Trade)
  10. “Instant Reply” (Budweiser)
You can find all of these on YouTube, I believe.

Now, if you’re not in advertising, you may not get the horrific mistake that’s been made in the list above. But, to my great embarrassment, none of the other agencies in the article did. The famous Apple Computer spot, “1984” is listed as #6. It didn’t even make the top five! All of the other agencies listed it as #1, as they should. What follows might be boring to anyone not working in the advertising industry, so feel free to move on to donkey porn or whatever.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to why “1984” is such a great spot. The greatest spot, actually. I’ve come to the conclusion that it was an amazing synchronicity of public consciousness, fortunate timing and, if I may, high art.

First, if you haven’t seen the commercial in a while, take a look again:

Let’s start with why I think this spot elevates the common commercial into “high art.”

Like it or don’t, you have to agree that “1984” is extremely well put-together. The production values are high, the acting well done, the sound design top-notch… it’s just a beautiful commercial to watch (in a horrific, Orwellian-future kind of way, of course). And that’s not a big surprise, really, because the spot was directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, et. al.). Now, you probably don’t usually think about who directed a commercial--I don’t, and I work in the business--and generally there’s no reason to. But in this case, having an amazing director really helped transform this commercial from a neat concept into a living, breathing world that felt real. It’s like watching a 60-second movie, not another commercial trying to sell you something.

“1984” is what we in the industry would call “high concept.” Meaning that it breaks a lot of the rules of advertising. It doesn’t show the product for one; or anyone interacting with the product. It doesn’t present a real reason to rush out and buy the product; matter of fact, it doesn’t list any reason to buy the product--just a vague, “throw-off-the-chains-of-oppression” sort of message. It’s got to be a pretty good commercial to get you excited about the product while not even mentioning any reason why you should.

But, as well-produced as this spot is, it would fall to pieces without the second element of it’s success: “fortunate timing.”

If Apple introduces its new line of computers in 1982, this spot doesn’t work. If they roll them out in 1986, it doesn’t work. It only works in 1984, when George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is constantly in the media and is being talked about by everyone, everywhere. This creates a spike in what I think is the #1 element that made this spot so amazing and resonate: “public consciousness.”

Starting around 1982 people started to remember the novel. Maybe they read it in high school or college. But as the fateful year got closer, the media glommed on to it and would not let it go. It seemed like every day there was something in the newspaper or on TV saying, “Will 1984 be like Nineteen Eighty-Four?” or “Are we coming closer to Orwell’s vision of 1984?” People who had never heard of George Orwell or his work were talking about the novel like they were literary scholars. Everyone knew the plot, and could talk about “Big Brother,” “Winston Smith,” the “Thought Police” and “doublethink” at length. The emphasis on Nineteen Eighty-Four only intensified as the year actually arrived: there was a movie starring John Hurt, an album by the Eurythmics--1984 (for the love of Big Brother)--countless magazine articles, etcetera, etcetera. My point is that Nineteen Eighty-Four was everywhere.

So when this TV commercial finally aired, people had been so inundated with Nineteen Eighty-Four that they instantly got it. There was no reason to waste a single second on explaining the concept. No-one said, “who’s that big guy on the screen?” or “why are all those people acting like zombies?” Instead, they said “hey! That’s Big Brother” and “that chick better toe the line or the Thought Police will come take her away.”

(Of course, part of the mystique of this spot is that it only ran once. Here's a little bit of trivia that I never knew before: "1984" was scheduled to run three times during that Super Bowl. But, when the board of directors saw it, they hated it and demanded that the spot be pulled altogether. However, Apple could only re-sell two of the three time-slots they bought, so they were forced to air the commercial. Now, that sounds a little bit like BS myth-making to me, but if it is true, then the world's greatest TV commercial damn near never made it to air.)

The real beauty of the spot is that everyone got it. It allowed the dumbest of the dumb to momentarily feel smart because they understood what in any other year would have been a rather esoteric commercial… for 60 glorious seconds, they were as smart as their high school English teachers.

But more than that, the spot had something to appeal to everyone who saw it. Clever marketing guys appreciated the “high concept” approach; academics enjoyed the renewed interest it created in a great work of literature; movie fans got off on the cinematography; hell, even the most brain-dead guy could appreciate the slo-mo boob-bounce of the woman in the orange shorts.

And, of course, Apple computer fans loved it because it was Apple giving the finger to IBM. Because that’s clearly who “Big Brother” is in the spot, the oppressive computer overlord who little upstart Apple was going to take down (don’t believe me? Take a look at this video of Steve Jobs introducing the spot for the first time at a Fall, 1983 sales meeting).

So, given the preponderous amount of evidence, why would my agency not vote for "1984"? I was stumped (as well as shocked and disgusted) until I really started to look around… the actual creative staff here (that is, the actual writers, designers and creative directors) is a pretty small percentage of the entire staff. We’re greatly overshadowed by the number of account executives, account assistants, media planners, media buyers, etc. And, by and large, we’re a really young (in age of staff) agency. So, I guess if you weren’t even BORN in 1984, the relevance of the "1984" spot might be a little lost on you. And when you grew up watching TV shows and movies with fantastic special effects, maybe the cinematography isn't so exciting. And when you’ve never known a world where Macs aren’t the hot and snazzy machines they are today, maybe the introduction of “Macintosh” isn’t so earth-shaking any more.

Or maybe you just think monkeys are funny.


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Actually, looking around the basement, there’s not much more to add, photo-wise. The battery back-up--and let me tell you, that is one big-honkin’ battery--has been installed, so that’s ready to go. The cement is drying. All our crap is still stacked up, waiting to be, well, not exactly organized, but rather dispersed around the basement.

It’s going to take about a week for the cement to cure completely, so I think I’m just not going to go down there until then. And I encouraged my wife to (not) do the same. Because, well, honestly, because The Scientist has lost her mind regarding the basement. But wait, one more thing about the work in the basement before I cover my wife’s madness.

As part of the process, an inspector from the city had to check up on the job mid-way through. Now, I pretty much hate every single person who is in the employ of my city. Except the firefighters, because they were very nice to us when we showed up at the firehouse one day for an impromptu field trip with the girls.

And when I say “my city,” I don’t mean Cleveland; at least, not Cleveland proper. We live in a suburb on the east side (the, ahem, better side, if I may). The government of this particular suburb apparently believes in iron first rule, judging from various ridiculous city laws. Like, for example, if you leave your trash can out on the tree lawn after trash pickup, you’re subject to a $150 fine. For leaving your cans out! Or how about this one… my driveway was in violation because a couple of the slabs sunk, leaving an unacceptable gap of one-half of one inch. The city informed me that I have to fit it, toot-sweet, or they’d fine me bigtime. Never mind that the STREET is full of potholes that far exceed a ½-inch in depth. That’s right, a few feet from where my ½-inch deathtrap lie, there’s holes of six inches. So I need to fix my driveway RIGHT NOW, which the city can occasionally drive around and slap some asphalt in the holes, which inevitably cracks and works itself out a month later.

But I digress.

So the city guy shows up--hmm. One more thing about this particular inspector. We’ve been talking with him since we had the sewer line replaced.

He looked at our basement, and saw the water problems we were having. He’s the guy who told The Scientist “Y’know, this is an engineering problem with your back yard. You shouldn’t be responsible for other people’s water,” setting up the false hope that the city would actually do something about this “engineering problem.” Which, of course, they did not.

And this fucker backpedaled like crazy on that issue when I talked to him. Just as I expected, he gave me the “there’s ten thousand houses in the city, and if we did something for your property we’d have to do something for everyone’s property” and “a lot of people have it much worse than you” and blah, blah, blah.

He poked around in the basement, and asked me what I thought. “Me?” I said. “I don’t know anything about this stuff. I’d rather hear what you think.” And then he went into a lecture about how “if inspectors like me had our way, home owners would never put in basement systems like this” and “well, the system works, but it’s far from the best solution” and so on. His bottom line was that the right way to fix the problem is to dig up the yard all the way around the house and install new footers.

To which my thought was, “Well, no shit, buster.” The Scientist and I investigated that option, and the sad truth is that while it’s the better solution, it’s also tens of thousands of dollars, opposed to the low thousands that we’re paying for the in-basement thing. When I told him as much, he was quick to add that oh yes, he knew, he used to be a general contractor and realizes that it’s much more expensive that way and people do what we’re doing because of financial reasons and again, the system does work and y’know what? If you understand why we’re doing this maybe save the fifteen minute lecture about how we’re doing it all wrong, huh?

Add to it this gem: The Scientist was adamant about having a clear-out on the far end of the pipe. The guy selling us the system said we really didn’t need it, but if we wanted one, then no problem. I tended to believe the waterproofing guy, but I asked the inspector about it anyway.
ME: So, do we need a clear-out valve on the far end of the system?
HOME INSPECTOR: If you want one, just tell them.
ME: Well, I’m asking, in your experience, do we need one?
HI: Tell them to put one in, it’s no big deal.
Christ! Just answer my question! I ended up having them put in two clear-outs, one on each end, just to be safe. Do we really need them? I have no clue. The home inspector did nothing to alleviate my animosity toward city workers.

Okay, now. My wife’s craziness.

The basement is covered in tile. It’s not especially nice tile, it’s an ugly gray and many of the tiles are worn and cracked. When we were talking about the job with the waterproofing guy, The Scientist asked him if the crew would remove one tile away from the wall, or two tiles? Or maybe three? So it would be a consistent number around the entire basement wall? Would they save the tiles and put them back after they were done?

Her concern being that the floor would look bad with missing tiles. My thinking, of course, is “Look bad? To whom? The nobody we ever invite down there?” No-one goes into the basement except The Scientist and myself, we don’t even allow the kids down there. So what does it matter?

Apparently, a lot. Now she wants to re-tile the entire thing once the cement is dry. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about having a nice looking house, but I’d rather put my energy into improving the parts of our home that people actually see. And there’s no shortage of jobs upstairs, starting with the UGLY wallpaper in every room.

So, honey? I think it's dumb. Let’s focus on the rest of the house instead. Besides, even if the basement isn’t the most attractive part of the house, at least now it’s dry.




CELLAR HELLER DAY 3 1:50pm update

Aaaaand done! Last few photos later, right now I'm going to jump into bed and get as much nappin' in as I can before the girls wake up.



CELLAR HELLER DAY 3 1:20 update

As the rest of the family naps, I'm still up waiting for these guys to be done so I can pay them and, hopefully, get a bit of a nap in myself.

The lion's share is cemented, with only a bit around the sump itself to go.

Then it's just a matter of plugging the damn thing in, and waiting for the next hard rain. Which, being that winter has finally decided to come to Cleveland, probably won't be until Spring. It kinda sucks to have to wait months and months to see if this investment is going to work like it's supposed to... but then again, maybe I should be so anxious for water in the basement again.



CELLAR HELLER DAY 3 12:15pm update

The third and final day! It's been a little challenging to write updates with the entire family home... but The Scientist is wrangling the girls right now, giving me a second to update.

The usual crew (plus one extra guy) got here around 10am. They promptly started dragging in buckets of gravel and conveniently staging them right where I wanted to walk.

Before laying the gravel bed, they drilled "weep holes" in the blocks at ground level to release any standing water. Surprisingly, there wasn't much. Then, after the final connections were made in the pipe (including the clear-out fittings) everything was buried in gravel.

That's double-washed #57 river rock, in case you're wondering.

Next comes the hook-up of the battery back-up for the pump, and a final layer of cement on everything. Couple more hours, and we should be high and dry for good.




CELLAR HELLER PART 2 3:01pm update

Once agian, work is done for the day. Apparently the gravel lot is closed on Saturdays, so they need to get out there today and pick up what they'll need for tomorrow to finish up. Or so they tell me, I dunno. Maybe they're going to Wendys to hang out and eat fries until 5.

I guess I don't really care, because a lot of work was done today. All the pipe is in, and the sump pump is ready to go as well.

They did a test run on the pump, and it made short work of the foot of water that was in there.

Tomorrow it's laying down gravel and cementing over... about an hour's worth of work, Eddie tells me. Cool. I'll be glad to be done with this damn thing.



CELLAR HELLER DAY 2 12:25pm update

Went out to run some errands and came back to find that the crew has been busting ass! I'm really impressed by what's been done.

The trench is all dug and just needs to be cleared. And look at this!

We have sump pump! Or, some of it.

Oh the humanity! Full of water from the start. But soon enough that water will go...

Out this hole in the wall. It's already tied into the downspout system outside. And look at this:

They finally dug around the hot water tank. "I wondered how you were going to get around the hot water tank," I said to the guy. His reply: "Very carefully." Skilled with a jackhammer and funny, too!

It looks like they're going to get the pipe layed, or at least most of it, today. And I think the pump will be all set up, too; but maybe not wired to the electric yet. And Eddie tells me that he won't install the battery back-up until tomorrow.

Probably the worst part of all of this is second-guessing yourself. I mean, this is a pretty big operation going on in my basement... but is all the fuss and bother really necessary? I ran into my neighbor as I was coming back, and he asked me what was going on. I told him, and he kinda gave me the fish-eye, and told me how he had put a ditch in his backyard to deal with runoff. It felt like he was saying, "Dude, really? You need all that bullshit? I dug a ditch, solved my problem. Aren't you going a little overboard?"

And, y'know, maybe we are. We're going to have additional drainage put into the backyard, and grade the yard away from the house. Would that have solved the problem by itself? Maybe. We've never know. But, all you can do is tell yourself that you're solving the problem... maybe we're over-solving the problem, but better that then have to come back in a year and dig up the lawn again.



CELLAR HELLER DAY 2 10:50am update

Y'know my plan of hanging out in the office, with heater and computer on hand? That sounded really good, until this started:

Jackhammer (.wav)

They're doing something around the chimney stack, and the sound is coming right up and assulting my eardrums. Fuck this, I gotta get out of here for awhile.



CELLAR HELLAR DAY 2 9:59am update

The basement guys just got here. An hour later than yesterday. This after Eddie told me he was behind schedule yesterday. Hmm... maybe not the best sign.




Aaaand we're back! Well, the basement guys aren't back yet, but should be here shortly. All in all, from the homeowners viewpoint, yesterday wasn't so bad. The noise wasn't horrible, and the mess was pretty much contained in the basement and on the mats those guys put down. The worst part was the cold... we have the thermostat programmed to go down to 60 degrees during the day, but with the door wide open and the bucket-boys coming in and out, I'm sure it got much colder than that.

Today's plan is to hole-up in the office with a portable heater. More later.




CELLAR HELLER 3:20pm update

I haven't exactly been keeping up with the hourly updates, have I? Well, see, I had a big breakfast, then I had to, um, take a nap. But it wasn't even a really satisfying nap, y'know? What with the front door wide open and three strangers in my house, I couldn't fall asleep properly. And then there was the jackhammering. But that ended soon enough, and the steady rhythm of one bucket-boy carrying two loads up the stair--tromp, tromp, tromp-- and handing them off to the second bucket-boy who shuffled over the plastic to the front door--scree, scree, scree--then dumped them into the back of the truck--ka-BASH!--was a rather soothing sign of progress. I dozed off a little.

I finally came back downstairs (after making sure there wasn't pillow lines on my face) to find them packing up! At 3pm! Doesn't anyone work a full day anymore?! But I jest. These poor bastards did some hard labor in my basement nearly all day, and it's freezing, t'boot. They were off to dump all the crap from my basement into some unsuspecting landfill.

Now, why are we doing this again?

Oh, right... you dig a big hole in the basement floor, and a short time later it's got half a foot of standing water in it. That's why.

According to the foreman (Eddie, remember) it's been tough going, too. He had hoped to have the entire trench dug today, and finish up tomorrow. That isn't happening. He says that the earth is full of broken cinder block, most likely cast-offs from when the house was being built. Meaning that instead of picks and shovels to clear the dirt (mud), it's back to the jackhammer. So more digging tomorrow, and finishing it up on Saturday.

More joy:

Hey, look! They did tunnel under with nary a crack in the drywall! Kudos! But what about the hot water tank? How did they deal with how close it is to the wall?

Apparently by saying, "Fuck it. We'll worry about that shit later."

So, that's it for today. More fun tomorrow.



CELLAR HELLER 12:16pm update

I just went downstairs to poke around some more, since the crew left to get some lunch. Imagine my surprise when I found this:

Yeah, that's a pair of pants. I noticed that the bucket boys had taken off their sweatshirts, presumabably because carrying cement chunks is sweaty work... but who the hell took off their pants?!



CELLAR HELLER 11:45am update

Went out to brunch with the paster of my church (that's a whole other blog entry) and came back to find this:

"Brute" indeed.

I'm really surprised to find how little there is between the bottom of the house and the earth. I always figured that there was a big, thick layer of cement down there... but it would seem that there's a couple of inches of concrete, then dirt.

The future home of our sump pump. That's the radon mitigation system pipe you see hanging above it. I really thought that the pipe went down a couple of feet, but apparently it ends only inches below the surface. This is what's keeping deadly gas out of the house?

There's three guys on the work crew... Eddie, the boss, plus two young guys. Eddie weilds the jackhammer, and those two other guys are stuck with humping big buckets of debris up the stairs.

I know nothing about running a jackhammer, but I kinda expected to see more progress. They've been all around the perimeter, but in places they've only cracked the floor, and haven't removed any of the concrete. Then again, I guess they've only been at it for two hours.

The crew just left for lunch, undoubtedly to talk about the douchebag homeowner who keeps getting in the way to take photos.

More in an hour!


#196 In which our hero prepares for what is most likely going to be a long, loud afternoon.

Today's the day! Basement waterproofing day! While I am looking forward to the permanent absence of water in my basement, I don't expect the process to be much fun. But, to feed my never-ending love of Schadenfreude, I thought I'd post an hour-by-hour update of the project. Weee!

Currently, it's 9:12am, and I'm waiting for the construction guys to arrive. Here's what the basement looks like right now:

After much moving around of shit, the basement floors are clear, and ready to be destroyed.

The hot water tank is awfully close to the wall... I wonder how they're going to dig around that?

Here you can see the smallest glimpse of all the crap I've stacked up.

And finally, the finished part of the basement. The corner you see above isn't the outside corner of the basement, there's actually more basement on the other side of the drywall. The waterproofing guy assured me that it wouldn't be a problem to tunnel under the wall without disturbing it. Can't wait to see that.

UPDATE: At 9:15am, shortly after I finished uploading the above photos, I hear a knock at my door. It's "Eddie," the crew foreman. He has bad teeth and reeks of cigarette smoke... not a good sign.

And hey, what do you know? By 9:16am there's already a problem. We have a radon mitigation system installed in the house, and one of the pipes that keeps the deadly radioactive gas from killing my family is right where we wanted to install the sump pump (as seen in photo #3 above). Eddie mulls this over for awhile, surveys the outside of the house, then announces that he has to call his boss to figure out what the hell to do about it.

Apparently the answer is "don't worry about it." The radon system is essentially a pipe stuck in the ground with a fan on the other side, and having the pump right next to it doesn't cause any problems. These guys are the experts, I guess. But I'm less concerned about it since the pipe in question is only one of two in the basement.

It's now 9:43am and I just saw the jackhammer go down into the basement. It is a no-bullshit LARGE tool, clearly designed to inflict maximum damange to concrete.

Ah, it's 9:49am and the jackhammering has begun. Not as loud as I had feared, actually.

Stay tuned for the next update.