2011: A Trash Odyssey

Trash day at our new house is Wednesday. Actually it was Wednesday at our old home, too, but that was a townhouse, so we had a large common dumpster (paid for by the HOA) and I’d just take the trash out when it was ready and didn’t care about when trash day was except for the recycling. At the new place we have a couple of trash bins and we’d have to remember to take them out to the curb every Wednesday.

Well, we had a couple of trash bins, anyway.

We unloaded our storage unit a couple weekends ago, and one of my projects was to break down all the boxes for our electronic stuff. (We had boxes in there for items we no longer own!) The boxes themselves go out with the recycling, but the styrofoam packing goes into the trash. We’ve been putting our regular trash into the smaller of our two bins, while we spread the styrofoam out across 2 weeks, putting it in the larger bin. They took the first half last week, and I put out the bin with the second half Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning I looked out to see if the trash had arrived – not yet. So I went off to shower and have breakfast. I looked out again, and…

…the trash still hadn’t come, but the larger bin was gone. Just gone, styrofoam and all.

Who would steal a large trash bin filled with styrofoam?

I walked around the neighborhood a little to see if I could spot it, but no luck. I thought maybe some wacky neighbor had “borrowed” it and it would magically reappear at the end of the day. Nope. I noticed a neighbor across the street had a bin sitting out at the end of the day after everyone else had taken theirs in. Had our bin somehow ended up over there? But this morning they’d taken it back in, and I saw where they kept their bins, and there was only the one garbage bin. So much for that theory.

It was a bummer since getting a new bin costs money. (Hey, an incentive for someone to steal trash bins! But full bins?) But we figured we’d call and get a new one.

And that’s when Debbi solved the mystery: It turns out we weren’t paying for service for that bin, so the trash company took it away. Apparently the picking-up-extra-bins truck comes around separately from the regular trash truck. It’s a little weird (though nice) that they took the trash, too, but it explains the mystery.

Now we’ll have to decide whether we want to get a larger bin (and pay for it), or stick with the smaller bin. I think the smaller bin will do the job for the most part, but we’ll see after a few months whether we want to go to a larger one.

Open House

Saturday we throw what is easily the largest party we’ve ever thrown: A big open house for our new house. We each invited many of our cow-orkers, as well as friends and our new neighbors. I think we invited about 130 people, and including kids and significant others I bet we had about 80 show up (probably around a 40% return rate, since many who showed up were not direct invitees). Fortunately they didn’t show up all at once, since I don’t think we could have handled that! Rather they were spread out between 1 and 7 pm, with the last few taking off around 7:45.

We were pleased to get nice weather, especially after the heat wave we had early last week, as we planned to shunt many of the kids out to the back yard to play, which worked out well. (The only casualty was my hummingbird feeder which broke when a large ball got kicked into it at high speed. I had actually been thinking of replacing it anyway, so not a big deal.)

Before people showed up we locked the cats in the guest room (Roulette yowled vigorously when we caught her to throw her in.) I put up a “Do Not Enter – Cats Inside!” sign, along with a full-size photo of what the room looked like that morning before we threw them in, so people could get an idea of what the room looked like. Locking the cats away meant we could open the front and back doors without worrying about them escaping outside (which in turn meant no doorbells going off every few minutes to upset the cats).

Then we gave many, many tours of the house, which got the hoped-for sounds of appreciation. The seller/builder showed up with his brothers and their wives and he showed them around, and our agent showed up too to see what we’d done with the place. We had three neighbors stop in, including the fellow across the street whom we’ve gotten to know and his wife whom Debbi described as “a hoot”. We’d hoped & expected to get a few more neighbors, but perhaps many were busy on a Saturday afternoon at the end of June. (We did partly invite them just so they’d know we were having the party and wouldn’t be surprised that our guests used so much local parking, but we wanted to meet some, too!)

We used Evite for the invitations, as we usually do, but we had the odd experience this time of not only having some folks show up who hadn’t RSVPed (which always happens), but having some folks who up whom Evite claimed hadn’t even viewed the invitation, which must be some sort of an Evite glitch. The last time I used Evite I got some feedback that it was quaint that someone was still using that site, but it’s always worked for me. If it’s starting to head south, it may be time to find another invitation site for future parties.

For food we served snacks, but Debbi also made three wine bottles’ worth of sangria, which was almost completely gone by the end of the day. The hummus went over really well, too.

I was happy that my friend Rob showed up, as I hadn’t seen him since his housewarming party last year. He brought his three kids, the youngest of whom loved our stuffed animals (Sam, my giant stuffed sea turtle, went over really well with the 3-and-under kids). I think I’ve known Rob longer than anyone else other than my family, and it’s always good to see him. Even though we don’t have hordes of interests in common as we did in junior high, it always seems like we get along just as good as ever.

We let the cats out when there are only a few people left, but only Newton had the remotest interest in coming down to check things out. (Newton had spent much of the afternoon sitting in the window watching people run around in the yard.) The other two came down once everyone was gone and we were cleaning up.

It was a lot of fun, but also a long time to be standing on my feet. I switched from sandals to slippers part-way through, and then to bare feet not long after that. By 9:30 at night I was falling asleep on the couch, so we called it an early night, and a successful party. (But going to bed early meant we got up early enough to beat the Sunday brunch rush at Country Gourmet!)

Debbi’s now talking about doing this every year! Well, maybe by next June we’ll be completely unpacked.

Adjusting to Home

We’ve been in our new home for almost a month now. I’ve chronicled a few of the major changes involved (mowing, for instance, which I did again on Sunday), but there have been lots of smaller adjustments to make, beyond those and beyond buying furniture and unpacking:

  • Now that we have a two-car garage, in theory we can both park inside. In fact we’re still staging our stuff in one side of the garage while we figure out where to put it all. So since Debbi’s been parking on the street for five years I told her she could have the garage and I’d park in the driveway. This past weekend we emptied the storage unit into the other side of the garage, so now we’re both parking in the driveway, but that shouldn’t last too long, as we’ll get rid of the lot of the stuff from storage one way or the other.
  • We’re still trying to remember which light switches control which lights. We have a lot of light circuits, so there’s a lot to remember.
  • We have air conditioning now! And we’re having a heat wave this week! But we haven’t really figured out the thermostat yet, and haven’t gotten into the habit of turning it on. In Wisconsin I’d turn my A/C on for much of the summer, but that’s because it was humid in Wisconsin for much of the summer, and I had a much smaller place to cool, so it wasn’t a big deal. We only really need A/C here for a couple of weeks out of the year, so we’re not used to turning it on.

    I need to figure out how to program the A/C, and then I could leave it at (say) 80 during the day and have it kick in an hour before we get home. (The cats, weirdly, actually seek out the hot parts of the house when we have heat waves.)

  • I’m still figuring out my routine when showering and dressing in the morning. Somehow everything (the bed, my dresser, the closet where our robes hang, the bathroom) is just far enough away from each other that I end up walking back and forth a lot. In the old place pretty much everything was right next to each other.
  • For the first time in my life, my comic books are not in my bedroom. That’s still kind of weird to me.
  • I’m still training myself to remember where things are in the kitchen. I do a bunch of unnecessary walking back and forth to get plates, glasses, silverware, etc. for various meals because I haven’t got the location of everything down intuitively.
  • We now have litter boxes both upstairs and downstairs. So I’ve adjusted my habit to scoop the litter in the mornings rather than the evenings, so go up and down the stairs slightly less. But sometimes I forget to scoop, which means an extra trip upstairs when I do remember.

None of this stuff is major, it’s mostly just changing my habits or committing details to memory. It’s just taking some getting used to.

I do sometimes think of the old house a bit wistfully. It was a good house and I lived there for almost 10 years. It’s hard to let it go, even if the new one is much bigger and nicer.

Under The Weather

I’ve been laid low for several days now by the worst illness I can recall having in many years.

Wednesday night I thought I was coming down with a cold – sore throat, stuffy nose – and I was thinking of staying home the next day if I didn’t feel any better. Perhaps a little gratuitous, but as I get older I’ve been getting more cautious about not letting illnesses gestate into something worse.

Waffling about it didn’t matter, because around 11:30 I woke up with an upset stomach, which led to the better (or worse) part of two hours in the bathroom writhing on the floor in pain until the previous night’s dinner came up. Which it finally did, which of course was a mixed blessing since I hatehatehate throwing up. Bleah. But I knew I’d feel better afterwards. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long to get on with it.

All of that left me completely exhausted on Thursday. I’ve never been so tired: Although I was trying to stay hydrated, it was a huge effort just to sit up to drink. Debbi took the day off to take care of me, and also to take Blackjack to and from his chemo appointment for the week, and I sure did appreciate it, because I wasn’t really able to even make soup for myself. I managed to send e-mail to work that I’d be out, and I took a shower at one point, but I really spent most of the day sleeping.

I got a good night’s sleep Thursday, but was still pretty low on energy, so I stayed home again. And I slept well again last night, but today I’m still tired and congested. I suspect I really was coming down with a cold, and my sickness kept me from fighting it off, and now it’s settled in for the weekend. In any event, I’m laying low again today.

So what did I have? I suspect food poisoning, probably from the burrito I got from a Major Chain Restaurant on Wednesday night.

I’m really tired of being sick, though. I want to be able to do things again. Maybe by tomorrow I’ll have kicked the cold.


Today I mowed a lawn for the first time in, oh, 20 years or so. I’m pretty sure I stopped mowing my Mom’s lawn when I went off to graduate school, since I had less and less time to go back and visit from that point forward.

I borrowed an electric corded mower from my friend Chad, who has a gardener who does his and Camille’s yard. Since it had been sitting around for a while unused, I cleaned it up this afternoon, bought a 100-foot cord, and tonight took it out for a spin (it having been maybe 2-1/2 weeks since the lawn was last mowed, around the time we closed escrow).

The two big drawbacks:

  1. The cord is by far the biggest pain in the ass in the process, having to swoop it around to make sure I didn’t mow over it. Fortunately, I didn’t, and I didn’t get tangled up in it either.
  2. The bag is small, maybe 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the bags on the mowers my Dad owned growing up. So I had to stop to empty it often.

So I bet I’ll end up buying a new mower with a larger bag. While I grew up using gas-powered mowers, I’m not too enthused about having to buy and store gas for it. So more likely I’ll get an electric battery-powered mower.

I might also need a weed whacker or other edging tool, as part of the yard is edged with large rocks. Fun fun.

All-in-all it took about an hour, but I think with no cord and a larger bag it would be faster and even pretty easy.

Still, how long do you think it’ll be before we break down and just hire a gardener?

Thoughts on the DC Comics Reboot

The big news in the comic book industry this week was DC Comics’ announcement that it will be rebooting its universe and relaunching most of its titles with new #1 issues (52 new first issues, making me wonder – snarkily – if there will be one for each universe in its current multiverse). Presumably this relaunch is being explained in story terms due to the current event series Flashpoint, in which the DC Universe as we know it has been altered into a twisted version of itself, and that the untwisting will cause everything to be different.

As a longtime reader of DC Comics, I don’t have a strong reaction to this. My first thought is, “This is what they should have done in 1986 after Crisis on Infinite Earths!” In 1986 I was reading almost every title that DC printed (I was also 17 years old), and would have been very excited if they’d done something like this. (I’ve heard that they considered it but that editorial got cold feet and couldn’t pull the trigger.) 25 years later, this feels like little more than a gimmick, one tacked on to what was originally pushed as a Flash-centric event series. Now it feels like Flashpoint was just a means to reboot the continuity, which feels like it cheapens the story.

(I wonder if DC was emboldened to make this move by the success of 2009’s Star Trek film, which did the same thing for that franchise.)

It also makes the next few months worth of DC Universe titles feel irrelevant, too. J. Michael Straczynski – who has recently been pilloried for leaving the Superman and Wonder Woman titles in mid-story – had words in a similar vein on his Facebook fan page:

So I felt confident that it was coming soon (which is one reason why I felt there wouldn’t be a problem in the long run leaving the monthly books, since most of the things done in Superman and Wonder Woman would be erased by the reboot anyway, so ultimately it didn’t matter whether I stayed or left). I just couldn’t say anything at the time because I wanted to respect Dan’s privacy and his desire to do what he thought was right when he thought it was right to do it.

Superman and Wonder Woman are wrapping up major story arcs, the three Green Lantern titles are in the middle of a major crossover story, “War of the Green Lanterns”, the Batman status quo has been upset by Grant Morrison’s Batman Inc. set-up, and various developments have occurred due to Brightest Day. Now, all of these stories may have been good reads in their own right, but for people who care about the ongoing story developments, that means that everything that happened in them will now be swept away?

That’s another way in which events like this support my maxim that “a good jumping-on point for new readers is a good jumping-off point for old readers.” I’ve been losing interest in the Green Lantern titles since the plot has been getting ever-more grandiose and the character elements are vanishing, so this makes the reboot an excellent time for me to drop those books.

As far as whether I’ll buy any of the new first issues, what I usually do is follow the creators: I’ll buy the books by writers I like (and artists I really like, although even the presence of George Pérez wasn’t enough to persuade me to buy the Flashpoint tie-in mini-series Secret Seven this week), and probably pass on the rest unless the premise of one sounds unusually interesting. But I’m not going to pick up, say, a new Hawkman or Aquaman series just because. Of the first ten series announced, I might pick up Firestorm (Gail Simone, Yildiray Cinar), but that’s about it (I’ll stay far away from Flash, as I cannot stand Francis Manapul’s art these days).

I’ll also likely pass on the previously-announced Justice League title by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, as I’m not really a fan of Lee’s art, and I find Johns’ writing to be increasingly pedestrian these days. (Johns and Lee on Justice League is about twenty steps down from Kurt Busiek and George Pérez on Avengers a decade ago.) Honestly the only books Johns has written that really stand out in my mind are his first Flash run (with Scott Kolins and Howard Porter), and his Booster Gold run.

So my reaction to all of this on the creative side is basically one of “whatever”. When they announce that Ed Brubaker or Kurt Busiek or Mark Waid or a writer I similarly admire is writing one of the new titles, then I’ll be excited. Otherwise it’s just more superhero comics, reboot or no reboot.

If they’re really going to relaunch the industry’s long-standing titles – Action Comics and Detective Comics – with new first issues, that’s a little sad (Action just hit #900, and it’d be neat to see it hit #1000 in about 8 years without ever going through a numbering change), but I have no doubt that many books will revert to their historical numbering for their next major milestone issues (et tu FF, née Fantastic Four?).

Buried in the announcements – but called out by a few bloggers – was the parallel announcement that DC would be releasing new comics digitally on the same day of the print release. (For some reason they’re calling this “digital day-and-date”, which must be some term I’ve just not heard before, but it sure sounds stupid. “Day and date”? What would “day or date” be? What about just “day”? They couldn’t call it “same day” or “simultaneous digital release” or something clearer?) This makes various people happy or mad depending (as far as I can tell) on their take on whether digital comics indicate the impending doom of print comics or not, and whether they think that’s a good thing.

I have little interest in digital comics myself, though I expect that over the next 20 years or so we’ll see the monthly comic industry (mostly) die in favor of digital comics. Whether I’ll go along to the new medium I don’t know – I probably will, although I’ll likely still prefer print comics (after all, I know I’ll be able to read print comics in 40 years; whether any particular digital format will still be supported then, who can say?). It is interesting to see DC so fully embracing digital comics; whether their major competitors other than Marvel can keep up will be a good question, since if this move spells death for any of Dark Horse, Image, IDW, and the like, that’s a good thing for DC. It’s a bad thing for readers, of course. Though there’s plenty of innovation going on in the really small presses, not to mention in the webcomics community, arguably more than we see from any of the major comics companies, so for people like me motivated to seek out good reading material, I’m sure it will always be out there. Just in a different form – and maybe not from your local comics shop.

Ultimately, I think that where printed reading material is concerned, we really are entering a singularity: I don’t think anyone can truly say what the book and comic industries will look like in 20 years. Maybe it’ll be all digital, maybe it’ll be mostly digital with a smattering of print companies and stores mostly for collectors (this is my guess), maybe the digital and print industries will coexist in similar sizes and compete with each other. 20 years is a long way out, and we’re at the very beginning of the transition. But I would not be at all surprised to see 50% or more comic book stores go out of business within 10 years. (Sad, but not surprised.)

Lots of people are predictably cynical about this. I’m trying to be realistic rather than cynical (although I am cynical where DC’s editorial direction is concerned; annual crossover events tend to do that to me). Ryan, the owner of the comic shop I go to, Comics Conspiracy, is pretty excited, though, and is a bit disappointed in some of his fellow retailers:

It's so, so sad to see so many retailers freaking out about the DC news. This is a golden opportunity for us, I'm really disappointed.

People fear change. People especially fear change that threatens to disrupt their livelihood. I bet a few retailers would say that Ryan is a brave man to embrace it.

I agree with Ryan that the reboot is a big opportunity for retailers – but in the short term. I can also understand Brian Hibbs’ reaction, which seems centered around “Holy crap! 52 first issues in one month?” But this is an opportunity to try to bring in some new readers in the back third of 2011. After that, though, I don’t have a lot of confidence in DC to be able to actually take their line anywhere, or let their better creators follow through on their own visions. DC’s been flitting from crossover event to crossover event for a decade now, and the company has seemed to just be meandering around like some kid with ADD in a store full of shiny objects. Will anyone care about the reboot a year from now? Will it have made any difference? How about 2 years from now?

The long-term aspect of this announcement is how digital downloads will change the industry – and the publishers’ dispositions to the direct market – over the next decade. That’s where the big changes are going to come. And whether that will be a golden opportunity for retailers remains to be seen.