March 2013
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Goodbye to the Old House

I spent the last third of March back east getting my Mom’s house ready to sell. While not really a more difficult trip than any of my visits last month, it still kept me plenty busy.

I flew in the morning of Wednesday March 20, right after Boston had gotten about 9 inches of snow. I guess the snow must have been very light and fluffy, because there were only about 2-3 inches when I arrived. But it was also 28°F, which was more than a tad colder than I’m used to. I didn’t bring a heavy winter coat, optimistically hoping it would be closer to spring weather than winter, but at the beginning it didn’t work out that way.

I was staying with my Dad again, so I went to his place and we got breakfast. I took a nap (my red-eye plane was packed and I didn’t sleep much), and drove out to Mom’s house. I shoveled the walk from the driveway and the end of the driveway so my sister Katy and her boyfriend Andrew would be able to park when they arrived later that day (as they were going to stay at the house). I managed to break not one buy two shovels in the process! (To be fair to myself, all three shovels I had access to were pretty old.) I also turned on the heat in the house and turned up the hot water, and both had been turned down low for the winter. Katy and Andrew arrived and we had dinner with Dad.

Thursday we picked up Mom and met with the agents we’re using to sell the house, who we really like, and signed documents to put the house on the market once we’d finished taking things out of it. Then we spent the next couple of days mostly going through the house to figure out what was left that Mom wanted to take to her apartment, and what Katy and I each wanted to take with us.

Katy ended up taking a couple of oriental rugs, an end table, and some other stuff. She considered taking the dining room table but decided against it (it’s an okay table, but I don’t think either of us are sad that we didn’t take it; honestly the one I have at my house is nicer even though it’s nearly as old!). I took a rocking chair and a chest with a marble top, both of which I shipped through the Boston Packaging Store, who came and picked them up. Both items were very securely packed and arrived a week and a half later in the same condition they’d left, so I can certainly recommend them as packers for anyone in the area who needs a service like that.

I spent quite a bit of time over the next week helping Mom get everything she wanted, which mainly meant books. Andrew installed another bookcase in her apartment, but we brought over plenty of books to fill it. She also took some clothes and a few other items (and Katy made her take a few pieces of cookware). But since this was her last chance to get anything she wanted from the house, I was willing to do it all.

Katy and Andrew left on Saturday, and Sunday I took a break and went down to visit Debbi’s sisters and their family.

Andrew took a few pictures of the house, and of the three of us, before they left:

Family

It warmed up during the second week, going from highs in the mid-30s to highs in the high 40s, which is still cold by California standards, but got into the range where I was pretty comfortable wearing my jacket. The snow mostly melted during the week, and I spent some time raking leaves in the driveway and the yard, so the house would look a little better when it was being shown. (Debbi poked fun at me since I kept mentioning trying to make time to rake leaves.)

Also this week, I was having most lunches with Mom as we continued to get stuff from the house, and then most dinners with Dad as I went back to his place for the evening. Tuesday was the exception to both of these, as in the morning I was at the house waiting for the packing company to come pick things up, and then I went and had lunch by myself. In the evening I went into downtown Boston to have dinner with my friend Bruce, whom I hadn’t seen since my first trip last year in July, and we caught up on stuff over dinner and then coffee afterwards.

On Wednesday we took Mom’s cat Maggie in to the vet for her annual checkup, which I’d wanted to make time for while visiting. Catching Maggie was quite a trick, as she ran around the apartment for over 5 minutes before I finally managed to grab her. I think this soured her on me for the rest of my visit. Alas. Anyway, the vet is a nice place in Waltham who have a resident cat who is nearly as old as Newton! They checked Maggie out and the only issue was a bunch of wax build-up in her ears. She’s about 10 – which is how old Roulette is – and is in good shape for that age. Since she lives without other cats in Mom’s small apartment she’s not as active as Rou, but then she wasn’t as active as Rou back when I stayed at the house last July. Maybe it’s having other cats around that stimulates cats.

Mom and I also went to the Book Fair for her to buy some more books, and I took her to the pet store to pick up some stuff for Maggie.

By this point I was entering the endgame of my trip. I met with the agents again on Thursday to wrap things up with them, including plans to hire someone to empty the house after I left. And Mom and I took a whole bunch of pictures of the house with our cameras. I wished I’d had the presence of mind to take them when Katy and Andrew were there, so the house looked a little more lived in, but we were just too busy. Seeing the house closer to what it must have looked like when my parents moved in was interesting. It was emotional to know that this was the last time I’d visit the house.

Thursday and Friday I was also packing up the stuff I’d saved from the house that I wanted to keep – a few trinkets, and a lamp that Katy had found that I decided looked pretty neat and would work well in our guest room. Also some of Mom’s papers that I wanted to have with her financial records with me in California. I’d been very happy with FedEx’s packing job last October, so I used them again, and happily everything arrived in California intact a week later. I spent at least one evening going through some boxes of photos, and picking out some ones I wanted. There were fewer old photos than I’d expected, but then there are also at least four photo albums with pictures from the 1970s which I didn’t get to. Next time, assuming Katy hasn’t taken them by then.

Friday was my last day at the house, and the last visit with Mom, as I didn’t feel like driving all over on Saturday morning knowing I had to pack and catch the train to the airport in the early afternoon. So I had brunch with Dad, and then headed off. My flight home was delayed an hour because the refueling truck for our plane spilled some fuel on the tarmac, but we eventually made it into the air. Fortunately, the flight was not very crowded so I had a row to myself. Unfortunately, I’d started getting sick the night before and was a borderline zombie for the flight. Debbi picked me up and took me home and I collapsed into bed after we ate.

It was a successful trip. It was a sad trip. I was a lot busier on this trip than I’d expected (originally I’d thought I might end up working 2 or 3 days while there, but it didn’t come close to happening). I’m relieved that it’s over, and I’ll be relieved when Mom’s house is sold. But it was exhausting.

All told, Mom lived in that house for just short of 40 years, and owned it for a bit longer, I lived most of my childhood there, and Katy lived all of hers there. The house itself had its drawbacks, but it was a good house overall. And the location couldn’t be beat, as kids, as teenagers, and as adults going back to visit. It was a comfortable place.

Goodbye, house.

Goodbye house

On Daylight Savings Time

I’m a fan of Daylight Savings Time. Basically because I don’t like to get up in the dark, and I like it to stay light as late as possible. My ideal would be for the sun to come up about 15 minutes before my alarm went off every day, but that’s not very realistic.

Lots of people hate Daylight Savings Time. I recently tweeted that Daylight Savings Time is like the Designated Hitter for non-sports fans. (Non-sports fans didn’t seem to get the joke; the existence of the Designated Hitter has been a major controversy in professional baseball since it was introduced in the early 1970s, with both sides being so entrenched that it’s unlikely anything will ever change. Long, long ago I wrote a short essay in defense of it. But I digress.) I have some appreciation for why they hate it, but I don’t agree with them. And rants I read about it often make me feel like they have no appreciation at all for why I like it.

This article, Why I Like DST, has been making the rounds this week, but I think it obfuscates its point (in particular, I think all his talk about computers is just a sideshow; automation has nothing to do with whether someone likes DST or not). Being one of those “arrogant programmers” he talks about, I thought I’d try fixing his article. 🙂

I think Daylight Savings Time basically comes down to this: Here’s when the sun will will rise and set in San Francisco on the shortest and longest days of the year of 2013, on each Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time:

  Longest Day
(June 21)
Shortest Day
(Dec 21)
Pacific Standard Time
(Winter time)
Rise: 4:48 am
Set: 7:35 pm
Rise: 7:22 am
Set: 4:55 pm
Pacific Daylight Time
(Summer time)
Rise:5:48 am
Set: 8:35 pm
Rise: 8:22 am
Set: 5:55 pm

(Table from the United States Naval Observatory, from which the article above also got its table.)

I don’t want the sun coming up at 8:22 am in the winter – winter can be depressing enough (expecially for people with seasonal affective disorder, which I think I have a mild form of) without waking up in the dark every day. I’d rather the sun came up closer to 7 (around the time I get up). On the other hand, I don’t really want it coming up at 4:48 am, several hours before I get up, in the summer; I’d rather have it come up later and stay light until nearly 9 pm.

And I’m happy to change my clocks twice a year to get closer to those ideals.

Now, your mileage may vary: You might get up or go to bed at a very different time from me, you might always get up in the dark year-round (Debbi gets up at 4 am most weekday mornings, well before sunrise in any of the squares on the chart), you might just hate changing your clocks twice a year. It’s really a matter of opinion. But it seems like people who hate the switch just don’t understand why people might like it. For me, it serves a purpose: I’m a light fiend, and I want to have as much of it during my waking hours as I can.

If we do someday end it, I’d rather we land on Daylight time year-round, since it’s closer to what I’d want (more daylight later in the day). I guess it would be some consolation that in the dead of winter I could watch the sun come up when I’m sitting down to breakfast.

But switching between the two times, as we do, is even better.

Oh, and I’m also pretty happy with the change made a few years ago to start DST earlier in the year and end it later, since it means I can bike to work for a few more weeks without having to bike home in the dark.

Exiting Submarine Mode

I haven’t written here in over a month – just haven’t been in the mood, I guess. Also, not a huge amount going on in the month of February.

March has been a bit different: Debbi’s been back east for the last week and a half visiting her parents (with a side-trip to Disney World yesterday and today), so I’ve been on my own at home for the first time since her sabbatical in 2011. It was pretty lonely for the first couple of days, trying to figure out what to do with myself (not that I didn’t have plenty to do).

After the first weekend it got a bit easier. I hosted Magic last Monday, went to Dana Street for comic book night on Wednesday, and hosted a poker night on Friday.

The poker night had a notable hand: In the big blind I got dealt… well, it came around to me with a single raise and I said, “I don’t have any cards.” I’d been distracted and hadn’t grabbed them from the middle, and they were sitting mixed up in the muck. Without my saying anything, people agreed I could just take the top two cards off the deck (no, I wasn’t the dealer) and play them. So I got two cards, and they were… the Ace-King of diamonds. I called the raise and saw a flop of… three diamonds, for the nut flush. The small blind bet into me, and I called, and everyone else folded. The turn and river bricked, and I got it all in on the river. My opponent thought a while and called, then mucked to my flush. He said he had a set, which was the only hand that made sense to me, other than a lower flush. He said my call on the flop confused him into thinking I didn’t have the flush, which was more-or-less what I’d intended. It was a little funny since he slowplayed several big hands that evening.

I wonder what the two cards I didn’t get to play were?

I signed up to watch some friends’ cats this past weekend, and kept plenty busy besides, reading for our book discussion on Sunday, cooking meals, and running errands. As usual I didn’t get half as much done as I’d intended. I also took Newton and Roulette in for their annual check-ups on Saturday. Newton’s down to just 4-1/2 pounds or so, but the vet says he seems happy and fairly healthy otherwise. We’re giving him more subcutaneous fluids but otherwise keeping things about the same unless things change. I’m glad he’s happy. He’ll turn 19 next month, which is just mind-blowing.

The kittens are doing well. They sleep with me every night and usually snuggle with me in the morning. I think Roulette is very gradually coming to accept them, but it’ll probably be months yet before they snooze together. All the cats were happy that it was so warm this weekend that I opened up the windows until sundown.

Today, alas, I’ve come down with something, so I had to bail on hosting Magic tonight and I’m sitting quietly on the couch (having eaten too much hamburger and tater tots for dinner). Debbi’s back tomorrow, and then things will be back to normal for a while. It’ll be nice.