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Remodeling and addition (day 5)

~Wednesday~   Uht oh! Remember how the house looked when last we saw it? Here's a reminder:

0628-2PorchFoundationGoneZoomOut.jpg

Well tonight it poured, and while I slept on the couch in the other room, Bob calmly attended to all this:

Remodeling and addition (day 4)

~Tuesday~   It was a little rainy today, so not too much happened, but the removal of the deck was completed with the exception of one little section.

Porch, deck, and foundation gone
Porch, deck, and foundation gone

Porch, deck, and foundation gone (zoomed out)
Porch, deck, and foundation gone zoomed out

Remodeling and addition (day 3)

~Monday~   The dumpster was emptied today and demolition work continued on removing the rest of the porch out back.

Our first dumpster emptying
First dumpster emptying

Porch walls and roof gone head-on view
Porch walls and roof gone head-on view

Porch walls and roof gone view from left
Left-side view of porch walls and roof gone

Porch walls and roof gone view from right
Right-side view of porch walls and roof gone

Porch completely gone
Porch totally gone

Remodeling and addition (day 2)

~Thursday~  Welcome to the latest update and thanks for your interest in following along with our remodeling and addition adventure.

Several people have commented about how frustrating such a project can be, warned us to have patience as we proceed, and said that it'll undoubtedly be fraught with setbacks and delays.

Fortunately for us (and for the builder, because I do have high expectations and almost nonexistence patience), Bob has already been through a number of remodeling and addition projects on this house over the years. And we're working with the same builder that did the 2012 project, so that takes away a lot of the unknown right there.

The previous projects included:

  1. Added a linen closet in a hall area in 1989

  2. Replaced a roof around 1992

  3. Added central heat and air in 1996

  4. Remodeled the kitchen and converted a screened-in porch area, enclosing it to make it a dining area, around 1996

  5. Added on a deck in 1998

  6. Paved the driveway in 2001

  7. Added on a second bathroom in 2003—complete with sink, toilet, shower, and non other than a:

    wall urinal

  8. Converted the existing deck into a screened-in porch in 2007

  9. Added a lower deck in 2008

  10. Converted the carport into a garage and added on a front porch in 2012

  11. Remodeled the original bathroom (new sink and tiled floor and walls) in 2014

  12. Added and updated privacy fences over the years

Back to our current project...

Diana and Sean were back today. In Bob's affable and personable way, he has gotten to know each of them in the short amount of time they've been coming to the house.

  • Diana is a firefighter, she's from the Seattle area, and she came here 2 years ago for her job. She loves dogs (always a plus with Bob), and she has a lab.

  • Sean is also a firefighter. He has 4 little rat terriers, so he's also in like flint.

Our builder, Brett, who uses Diana and Sean as contractors, is also a firefighter. Things that make you go, "Hmmmm."


Here are a couple of pictures of today's progress, with the first one being a reminder of the starting point.

The back of the house before any work began at all
Back of the house

The lower-level deck is gone
Lower-level deck gone

The gutters have been removed
Gutters gone

Our first dumpster load is ready to be emptied
First full dumpster ready to be emptied
~Tuesday~  Bob and I are about to start an adventure. We're remodeling some of our existing house and putting on an addition.

The remodeling involves the current dining area, which will become an office; our current kitchen, which will become a dining area and galley kitchen; and our porch, which will be moved and changed a little. The addition involves a new master bedroom and bathroom, and a wet bar.

Here are the plans: (The areas that look like lattice work are the existing areas of the house that aren't being touched.)

House plans.png


We've been waiting a long time to get started, so I don't think it's that unreasonable how excited I was to see a dumpster in our driveway when I headed out to work this morning. (Hover over pics for captions.)

Empty dumpster head-onEmpty dumpster side view

I didn't really expect much more to happen today, as Bob is really the one who's up on the day-to-day scheduling with the contractor and workers. I just assumed we'd get the dumpsters today and that the work would start tomorrow.

So, imagine my surprise (and pleasure!) to find all this as part of the first day's progress, starting with these three "before" pictures: (Click on pics to enlarge.)

Back of house center viewBack of house left-side view

Back of house right-side view


And these three "after" pics for the day:
Left side of porch lattice and screening coming downBack side and right side porch screening down

Start of deck demolition

And so begins our long journey, which is estimated to take six months.

The Lady in the Van (2015)

~Sunday~ Bob and I are both huge fans of Maggie Smith and have been waiting for The Lady in the Van to become available to us on Netflix.

We recently finished the final season of Downton Abbey, during whose run we enjoyed many, many witty, snarky, and meme-worthy quips of The Dowager Countess, for which we gratefully thank Dame Smith.

Stop whining and find something to do

Enough about Downton, back to The Lady in the Van...

The synopsis

The (mostly) true story of the relationship between Alan Bennett and the singular Miss Shepherd, a woman of uncertain origins who "temporarily" parked her van in Bennett's London driveway and proceeded to live there for 15 years.

The trailer




My thoughts and observations

  • I really enjoyed this movie on a few levels: its characters, its storylines, and its story-telling technique.

  • Maggie Smith pulled off making it possible to both love and hate her character.

  • And Alex Jennings had me, at once, infuriated with and empathetic of his character, Alan Bennett.

  • The story-telling technique was engaging to me, once I was sure that the second person in the house was the Bennett self who "does the living," playing against the Bennett self who "does the writing."

  • Although this film was categorized as a comedy (along with a biography and a drama), and it certainly contained a lot of humorous situations, I'd argue that its underlying story was a tragedy.

  • Themes touched on in this movie included:
    • How people feel about and interact (or not) with people experiencing homelessness
    • Who's story is it to tell when it comes to a life story other than your own?
    • Hopes and dreams
    • Friendship vs. care-giving
    • Mental illness and dementia
    • Eldercare—the level of participation and associated guilt
    • Isolation and loneliness
    • Friendship
    • Healthcare systems and bureaucracy
    • Social strata
    • Family dysfunction

  • I gave this movie 5 out of 5 stars.

Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think of it? Wondering what other movies I've seen since 2003?
 

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North Carolina's Funniest contest...

~Tuesday~ Tonight I attended one of the 10 preliminary rounds of the North Carolina's Funniest amateur stand-up comedy contest at Goodnight's Comedy Club in Raleigh.

This was an out-of-my-comfort-zone outing, but I wanted to support my colleague and friend, Matt Morain, whom I happen to think is a very, very intelligent-funny person.

Aversion to stand-up comedy

It was out of my comfort zone, because I have a serious aversion to stand-up comedy, and especially stand-up comedy contests, for a few reasons:

  1. I get irrationally uncomfortable when someone is up on stage and not doing well. (I know it has nothing to do with me, but I get uncomfortable anyway. That would be the irrational part. FWIW, I am an ESFJ.)

  2. There has almost always been some kind of humor at the expense of gay people in the stand-up shows I've attended, and I just don't like having to decide if it's offensive or not. (FWIW, I know that gay people aren't the only people who are the brunt of jokes, as I would posit that most humor is at the expense of some characteristic or group of people.)

  3. I hate when comics directly address people in the audience—sort of bringing them into the joke.

  4. I hate, hate, hate having to pick the winner (of any contest, really) by audience applause. If that's going to be the way it's done, you need to have some kind of app that measures decibels as opposed to human beings making the call by ear.
Clap-o-meter


Tonight's cast of characters (Hover over pics to see names.)

Black RoseStephen HamlettMatt MorainMark McPartlandHunter EdwardsDavid Crimminger (No pic provided)

Brian BurnsMikey SchroederBrice LottBrian Deans (No pic provided)Jennie Stencel


Logistical things that worked for me

  • Voting. I couldn't have been more pleased that the voting procedure was with ballots as opposed to applause. And I loved that the ballots allowed room to make notes about each performer as you heard them.

    Two other things I liked about this voting method: 1) It appealed to my sensibility as a "black and white" thinker (see ESFJ reference above), because they articulated the voting rules, which were clear and concise: "Rank the performers 1 (the best) to 11. No partial points. No ties. Anything marked other than from 1 to 11 will cause your ballot to be thrown out." and 2) It allayed my stand-up comedy aversion #4 (as stated above).

  • Reasonably priced bourbon and sodas. The house bourbon wasn't swill, and at $5.50 a piece, I wasn't gouged. Of course, if you spread the $4 service charge [see first item below under: Logistical things that didn't work for me] I paid on my ticket over the price of the drinks, they were really $7.50 each, which would be gouging.

  • Good pace. In this preliminary round, each comic had a 4.5- to 6-minute time limit. This not only kept the evening moving, it was a godsend when the person was sinking into an abyss up there.


Logistical things that didn't work for me

  • Service charge for buying my ticket at the door. Those of you who know me well know that I consider myself "financially savvy." (Those of you who don't know me well probably just consider me cheap.) Anyway, I specifically canceled my online order when I went from "the cart" to "checkout," when I found out there was a $4.00 service charge for my ticket. Instead, I took a chance that they wouldn't be sold out when I got there to save 4 bucks, and I even called at 6:00 (it started at 7) to make sure there were still tickets available at the door. So, imagine my irritation then when I got to the door and there was a sign hanging up to this effect:

    As of April 16, 2016 (or some such date in the recent past) all tickets are processed through the VT (or some such acronym that apparently means something to the comedy club insiders) ticketing system, so a service charge is added to all tickets whether purchased online or in person. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Sorry for the inconvenience? Really? Don't you mean, "Sorry for ripping you off?" Do you see anything about a service charge on this stub?

    Ticket stub


    If I were as litigious an individual as we are a country, I'd fight this in court. Okay, </rant>.

  • A required two-item minimum. Over the course of the evening, you had to purchase at least two items—presumably food or drink. I'm unhappy about this only on principle, because in practice, telling me I have to drink at least 2 drinks in a two-hour period is like telling an undisciplined child sitting behind me on a plane that he has to kick the back of my seat at least twice during the 2-hour flight.

    Anyway, two issues with this one: 1) I didn't find this out until after I bought my ticket and saw it on the door entering into the seating area (see item above about being "financially savvy"), and 2) How is this enforceable? At what point will they throw you out if you haven't ordered two items? And will they make you un-see what you've already seen up to that point?

  • The microphone wire was problematic. Almost every performer up there struggled with the wire when taking the microphone out of the stand to hold it. It kept getting stuck up at the very top where it connects into the microphone.

  • Unprepared for accessibility. While the 7th or 8th comic was performing, a person who worked at the club leaned over me and whispered, "As soon as this guy's done, we're going to ask you to move up there (pointing to a chair one seat up and to the left of where I was currently sitting). Not now, but right after this guy." So that happened. And when the next guy starts on his routine, the worker leans over me again, and whispers, We're going to need you to move a little more up and to the left, because we need to move this table behind you a little, too. Our next contestant is in a wheelchair, and we're going to push him by here to get to the stage."

    A couple of questions, 1) "You didn't know that your ninth contestant of the evening needed accessibility accommodations in order to consider them before you arranged the tables for the evening? 2) There's really no permanent accessibility accommodations for the stage?


Observations about the performances

  • Topics that didn't do well:

    • Any kind of jokes or humor alluding to rape. With the national conversation that's currently going on about rape culture in this country, is this really a surprise to any up-and-coming comic? Pay attention people.

    • Using the r-word. At least two performers used this word, and it didn't seem to faze a good portion of the audience. If you don't know why this is offensive, please educate yourself.

    • Race and ethnicity. Even if you're dating someone of a different race or ethnicity, you have to be very, very good to pull off this topic without people spending a lot of time during your routine wondering, "Was that racist?"

    • Sexual orientation, and now gender identity. This again, in my opinion, is a topic that potentially elicits a lot of "noise" in the listeners' heads, for some of the same reasons as the race and ethnicity topic. It can also be more complicated when it's not obvious whether the comic is a constituent in the group about which s/he jokes, which probably shouldn't but definitely can, make a difference as to whether something is funny to one person or another.

    • Testosterone-infused sexual conquest and super-sized manbits. Two performers in general, and one in particular, suffered at the hand of this topic. The one made me realize how risky it is to have your entire routine based on one topic, as you can get surprisingly deep into a hole in 4.5 - 6 minutes. #TWSS

  • Techniques:

    • Self-deprecation. This is almost always a winning approach. It's also, I believe, why Matt's routine was so good.

    • Referring to, or pointing out, audience members. Only a couple of performers did this, and in their defense, it wasn't unequivocally clear as to whom they were abusing.

    • Taking advantage of your gender. There was only one female comic tonight, and apparently talking about vaginas in general, and noises that vaginas make in particular, works if you're a woman.


Conclusions

  • By now, it must be more than obvious why I have an aversion to stand-up comedy. With that said, however, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.

  • Matt came in first place and, to me, these are the qualities that catapulted him to the top: intelligent, respectful humor; flawless delivery; and a likable, confident, and commanding stage presence.

I look forward to seeing how Matt does in the semi-finals round, which begins on Tuesday, June 21, 2016. Learn more about it.

The Martian (2015)...

~Sunday~ In March of this year, I went to the Intelligent Content Conference in Las Vegas, where the closing keynote speaker was none other than Andy Weir, the author of the book, The Martian.

When describing the publication history of the book, he mentioned that at one time it was available for download for $.99 on Amazon.com, and during the Q&A time, I was chosen to ask him a question. I phrased my question this way, "I'm sorry I've neither read your book nor seen the movie, but I was wondering if the book is still available for download for $.99." Once the laughter subsided, he explained that once he sold the rights to the book to Random House, he was prohibited to continue selling the book himself—at any price.

Fast-forward to the book signing line, where when he recognized me from the Q&As, he autographed:


I finally got around to doing that in April, and after describing a little of the plot to Bob, he asked if I'd be interested in watching the movie when I was done with the book, to which I said yes.

The synopsis

An astronaut becomes stranded on Mars after his team assume him dead, and must rely on his ingenuity to find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

The trailer




My thoughts and observations

  • I really enjoyed this movie. To say I loved it would be hyperbole, though.

  • This is one of those very rare instances in which I prefer a movie over a book. My problem with the book—in which I admit I did a lot of skimming over pages, which I very rarely give myself permission to do—was that there were way too many details I didn't care about, most of which were the minutiae of biological planting and pooping principles, chemical and element interactions and reactions, and parts and pieces of spaceships that deform and reform in the night. Just get to the next point in the people plot, please.

  • As one does when one both reads a book and then sees its film adaption, I was struck by several things that were different. I think 5 Big Differences Between The Martian Book and the Movie does a good job capturing them. Here is the tl;dr version:

  • Matt Damon looked in incredibly good shape when he shows skin in the opening scenes, so much so that I wondered aloud on Facebook if they'd used a body double, to which my sister commented, "Hater!"

  • Themes touched on in this movie included:
    • The space program as both a bringing together and bringing out competitiveness
    • The value of a person's life
    • Man conquering space
    • Man vs. his natural habitat
    • Ingenuity
    • Resourcefulness
    • Isolation
    • Mortality
    • Friendship

  • I gave this movie one-and-a-half thumbs up.


Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think of it?
 

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Testament Of Youth (2014)...

~Sunday~ I found the title of this movie saved in my iPhone "Notes" file, which means someone I was talking to—at some time, somewhere—recommended it. I thought it was my friend Todd, but he said it wasn't him.

At any rate, watching the trailer, I quickly decided it was "my kind of movie," and naturally after mentioning it to Bob, it came in the mail from Netflix shortly thereafter.

The synopsis

During World War I, Oxford University student Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander) postpones her studies to serve as a nurse while her suitor, her brother, and a secret admirer face death in the trenches.

The trailer




My thoughts and observations

  • I loved this movie.

  • I would have described this film as a "period piece," until I read Godfrey Cheshire's June 5, 2015 review of the film in which he referred to it as a "customer drama." Which, of course, made me wonder what the difference is between those. Here's what I found:
    Period piece: an object or work that is set in or strongly reminiscent of an earlier historical period
    Costume drama: a television or film production set in a particular historical period, in which the actors wear costumes typical of that period
    That seems like a very nuanced difference to me. I guess a period piece wouldn't be a costume piece if the actors didn't wear costumes reminiscent of the time being depicted.That sounds like it would also be a not very good piece.

  • The publication history of the book, Testament of Youth (written from Vera's memoirs) was interesting (also explained in the 2015 Cheshire review): "She first tried writing a novel, which she shelved as a failure, a judgment she also made against a subsequent attempt to make a book by fictionalizing journals and letters." Also, I didn't realize there were two follow-up publications, Testament of Friendship and Testament of Experience, both of which pique my interest.

  • Of course conflict is critical to a good story, and there is no shortage of conflict in this film.

  • Themes touched on in this movie included:
    • A woman's "place" in society
    • Love
    • War
    • Nationalism
    • Unrequited love
    • Family
    • Fathers and daughters
    • Fathers and sons
    • Determination
    • Reliance
    • Tragedy

  • I gave this movie two thumbs up.


Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think of it?
 

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The Atomic Man (1955)...

~Wednesday~ I'm not a fan of sci-fi, so it's an anomaly that I watched this film. Bob had paid—which is also an anomaly—to stream it from Netflix, and since we had access to it for several days, I went ahead and watched it, too.

Bob had already watched it, himself, but he watched again with me—sitting in front of my computer in the dining room, since it was relatively short at just over an hour, and I like the big screen I have with my desktop computer.

The synopsis

An atomic scientist is found floating in a river with a bullet in his back and a radioactive halo around his body. The radioactivity has put him seven-and-a-half seconds ahead of us in time. He teams up with a reporter to stop his evil double from destroying his experiments in artificial tungsten. - Written by Marty McKee

The trailer




My thoughts and observations

  • Surprisingly, I enjoyed this movie.

  • What piqued my interest about this film was that notion of the character being 7.5 seconds ahead of us in time. It was, in fact, the deciding factor in watching it. I wouldn't have watched this if it was about, say, aliens or other "classic" sci-fi elements, which I don't care for.

  • I would say, in general, the story was fairly plausible, the acting was better than I'd expected, and the dialogue was not stilted, even approaching clever, at times.

  • Themes touched on in this movie included:
    • Good conquers evil
    • Man vs. science
    • Work vs. relationships
    • "Crime noir" (This is also a detective story.)
    • Nuns as nurses
    • Getting the dame in the end

  • I gave this movie one thumb up.


It appears this film is available to watch for free on Vimeo.


If that doesn't work, try it on archive.org.

Have you seen this movie? If so, what did you think of it?
 

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