Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

All for one and one for . . . wiring?

So this weekend was more fun and excitement—if by “fun and excitement” you mean “discovering yet another odd, confusing, and generally bass-ackwards feature of your home, as left by the previous owners.”

Last weekend, while my dad was visiting, we went to Home Depot. And bought, among other things, a ceiling fan for the dining room. Finally.

I should explain, for those of you who have never seen our home (and what are you waiting for?). The dining room has a hideously ugly chandelier, all elaborate brass-colored curves and sharp edges, with a ton of droplet-shaped crystals dangling from it. It’s ugly, it puts off a ton of heat, and I’m always bashing my head on it because it hangs so low over the table. We’ve been meaning to replace it, well, since we moved in. But first we needed a replacement. We agreed that a ceiling fan would be best but then we had to be able to get to Home Depot together so we could find one we both liked.
Okay, did that part. Found a really nice Hunter five-blade, brushed metal housing with cherrywood blades. Classy, cool, perfect. Done.

Monday I got around to putting it up. I couldn’t do it earlier in the weekend because I was chained to my desk finishing projects. We also had friends coming over to hang out on Monday, and I warned them they might be drafted into helping with this. They said fine.


Qadgop arrived shortly before three, poor fool, and was put to work right away. We moved the dining room table out of the way, opened the box, inventoried the parts, and got to work.

First step was removing the hideous old light. Done. No problems.

Okay, I lie, that was the second step. First was flipping the breaker downstairs so I didn’t electrocute myself. Also done without a hitch.

Next I examined the spot where the light had been. And here was our stumbling block.

I’d fully expected the problem might be with the box. I had to attach a ceiling plate for the fan and I was afraid there might not be a box, or it might be unstable, or it might not have anything around it where I could screw in the plate. Turns out that wasn’t an issue: the box was rock-solid, the screw mounts clearly visible, and they matched the plate perfectly. Done and done.

No, the problem lay in the wiring.

According to the fan diagram I should have had four wires there: a black, a white, a green (or “bare,” which I’m guessing meant tan) and one more for the wall switch.

Well, I did have four wires, in fact.

Only, three of them were soldered together.


And that’s not even counting the packet of other wires up there, which were all wrapped up together and not connected to anything else. Those I just shoved back out of the way—I don’t even want to know.

So I had four wires but three of them were linked together. Great. I broke off the soldering and now I had four again. Which is what I should have had. Right?

Except, which one was which? Because these were original 1940s wires, which means the cloth casing had lost any hint of color by now. Black, white, green, tan—your guess is as good as mine. All four were the same color now. Grimy.

All we could do was try different combinations. And, after each one, run down, flip the breaker, and test the fan to see if it worked.

Nope, nope, nope, and more nope.

One time, however, the fan did move. But the light didn’t work. So then I swapped the wall switch wire and the green wire, leaving black and white alone—and now the fan didn’t work either. I switched them back—and it still didn’t work. Despite being exactly the same configuration we’d had a few moments before, when it had worked.


Fortunately at this point Ann, Joe, and Ray showed up. And Joe suggested that the three formerly-soldered wires should actually be connected together again. Which meant I was short two wires now. But I tried that, meaning no ground and no light switch.

And that worked.


The rest of the assembly was easy and went smoothly, and the fan looks great, lights beautifully, opens the room nicely, and provides a welcome breeze.

But it took three hours to put together. All because the previous owners are, as is increasingly evident, whackadoodles.

Yes, that’s a technical term.

The rest of the afternoon and evening went fine—we grilled (with a pause for thunderstorms), ate (without pause), and hung out. Much fun. And the weekend in general was good—I got a LOT of work done, took care of a few things around the house (including installing air conditioners in all the bedrooms, and just in time), and got to spent time with my lovely wife and adorable children, plus hung out with friends Friday and Monday.

But that wiring!

I’m afraid to find out what the previous owners did to this place next.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

And back again

Yes, I made it back in one piece.
The trip went about as well as could be expected. In other words, most of it was good. One part was rotten.
I got into N.O. a little before 1pm on Saturday. My dad and my youngest sister picked me up. We went back to the Quarter, where my middle sister, my uncle, and his lady friend were waiting. Took a walk, picked up muffalettas and po-boys for lunch, ate on the patio. Then we took another walk and got snowcones. After that we went to a patio party, then out for Thai food. Yes, my family is all about the eating. What can I say? We’re Jewish.
After dinner my uncle and his friend wanted to walk Bourbon Street (she’d never been to N.O. before) so my sisters and I went with them. It was amusing, far less crowded than I remember but still a lot of people having a good time.
Sunday morning we got up, got ready, and went to the cemetery. My oldest sister had flown in the night before and was there when we arrived. And that was when the trouble started. Without going into details, she and our dad have had problems for years, and after my mother’s death it got significantly worse. Nor was this one of her better moments. Her attacking him upset my younger sisters but fortunately the rabbi pointed out that this wasn’t a day about relationships between those still living but between each of us and my mother.
The unveiling itself was fine. It was a short service, only the family and a few close friends present. My youngest sister had wanted each of us to say something but none of my sisters was up to it so it wound up just being me. I talked about how my mother had hated events—she always got flustered—but she loved gatherings, and so she would have been happy to have us gathered there that morning. It wasn’t what I’d planned to say but it seemed appropriate—it was certainly true.
After that we went back to the apartment for brunch, and for the difficult task of going through some of my mother’s things. It’s been two years and it’s time we did that, but it wasn’t easy. Most of it was clothing and the girls each selected a few things they wanted to keep. There was some tension there too, and eventually my older sister stormed out. We took my middle sister to the airport shortly after that. Then my youngest sister and I packed up what each of them had decided to keep—we’d decided it would be easier to ship boxes than to struggle to get things into carry-ons.
That afternoon we took a walk again and got beignets, then took my sister and my uncle and his friend to the airport. That just left my dad and I. We nibbled some dinner, took a walk on the river, and relaxed and watched a movie and read.
Monday we took the boxes to the post office and took a walk. Then I went to the airport. Where I waited two hours before finally getting on my plane, which then sat on the runway for another ninety minutes (they had needed the gate). We had been scheduled to depart at 1:45 and land in New York at 5:46. We didn’t leave N.O. until 4:45, which means we left when we should have been landing.
Somehow the pilot managed to do the trip in two hours, however, so we got in at a little before 8 and I was home by 8:30. That was a nice surprise, and my wife and children were gratifyingly thrilled to see me.
We did tour the city while we were down there, including some of the damaged areas. It’s so strange—in some ways it’s like there are two cities at the moment. The Quarter has some hurricane damage, broken windows and battered roofs and downed trees, but is otherwise fine. But large portions of the city are still utterly wrecked. We did see signs of people moving back in and repairing homes, however. I heard that, other than fast food, seventy-five percent of the restaurants are already back and open again, which is great. And most of the streetlights are working again. So it is getting there, slowly. The mayoral race is this weekend and that could have a major effect on the city’s recovery.
It was certainly an odd trip. I knew there would be some headbutting and there was, but the important thing was that we were all there. And, except for that short span Sunday morning, we had a good time together. Which is what my mother would have wanted.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I doubt it will be either Big or Easy

I’m heading to New Orleans tomorrow morning (since I consider it to still be Friday, even though it’s almost a quarter to two in the morning). I will be there until Monday afternoon.

Under other circumstances this would be a fun little trip. My dad and all three sisters will be there, as will my uncle and his significant other. The weather may be nice, the French Quarter has had very little damage, and the city still has good food readily available. But I expect the weekend to be a bit difficult because of the purpose for the trip.

We’re unveiling my mother’s tombstone.

I’ll post more when I get back.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wall-to-wall . . . something

So in the latest installment of our never-ending “the previous owners were idiots” saga:
The stairs to the basement are carpeted. It’s hideous carpet, and wearing through in several places. I’ve been wanting to do something about it—replacing that carpet has been on my To-Do list since we moved in—but other things keep coming first.

Well, the other day my lovely wife had a small incident with a bag of dirt and rocks (see her LJ for more details). As a result, several steps are now saturated with dirt. Since it was trash night anyway, I figured “let’s tear this old carpet up and toss it out as well. Then I can see what’s under there and, if necessary, find something else to cover the steps with later.”

Ah, this sounds like a good plan. Except I had once again failed to consider the previous owners’ idiocy. Because instead of using carpet tacks and tacking strips to hold down that ugly carpeting, they decided to use nails. Big ones. All along the edges, all across the front, all along the back. Lots and lots of big, rusty nails.

And because it’s a narrow little staircase, there’s no room to get in there with the hammer. And that ratty old carpet is surprisingly hard to cut, though part of that may have been the lack of leverage.

It took me something like twenty minutes to get the carpeting off the first step. And as much or more time to get the next step clear. By which time I was exhausted and filthy. And this was a weeknight, which means I had to go to work the next morning. I had to stop there.

Oh, and the dirt-covered steps? You guessed it—they’re halfway up the staircase.

I managed to cut through the old carpet near the back of the second step and toss out what I’d removed so far. The rest will have to wait until next weekend, probably. I suspect it will take a full day to remove all of it.

Oh yes, and beneath the ratty old carpet? Nicer carpet. And in better shape, at least on those bottom two steps.

Why yes, we love the previous owners. Really we do.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Interview Triple-Play!

Okay, so a week or two ago everyone was doing the interview meme. It looked like fun but I didn’t have time to answer questions. Then my schedule cleared a bit. So I asked three friends to interview me. And, would you believe it? They all did! So, for those interested:

From xochitl42:
1. What is the one behavior or habit that people have that you simply cannot stand?
I only get to pick one? :)
Okay, going for broad strokes—unreliability. That drives me nuts. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you tell someone you’re going to be somewhere, be there. If you don’t think you can, say so—don’t say you can and then not. That’s rude, and selfish, and can seriously screw up other people’s lives.

2. If you could have any one superpower, what would it be?
Teleportation disks, like Ilyana from the New Mutants. That would rock. My best friend could join our game group, I could see my dad and my sisters whenever, we could travel to anywhere.

3. Coming to New York was such a huge step to take--what led you here, and why did you choose to come?
Well, I’ve always loved NYC. My parents were both born and raised here, my grandparents lived here most of their lives, my aunt still lives here. We used to come up to visit regularly when I was a kid, so I already knew the city a little. Plus it’s one of the two places to go for publishing jobs (the other being Chicago, though that’s more magazine than book).
So when we got utterly fed up with Kansas, I decided to come here and try my luck. I came up during the summer and visited with my aunt and interviewed with a few places, just to see what the job market might be like for me. Everyone I talked to said I shouldn’t have a problem finding a job here (hah!). And my aunt offered us a place to stay while we were getting settled.
And we made the move. It was a big step, but I’ve always considered myself a transplanted New Yorker so in some ways it was like coming home.

4. Your sense of humor can, at times, be aggressive and/or relentless. Do you ever worry that you hurt people with it?
Yes. No. Maybe. :)
I worry all the time. About everything. I’m always studying what I’ve done, what I’ve said, what others are doing.
But I don’t unleash my humor at people I don’t know. I reserve it for friends. Usually, when I meet someone, I chat with them for a while before I start making quips. I see what they’re like and get a sense of how they’ll react. Then I loosen up a little and see how that goes.
My real friends are the ones I can be myself with, which means I can be sarcastic and biting and even talkative. I do sometimes worry that a friend will take something I said the wrong way, but most of the time I trust them to know I’m kidding—and to tell me if something I said did offend them, so we can straighten it out.

5. I know that family is very important to you. How has becoming a father changed the way you see the world? And 'm not looking for the cheesy easy answers, here.
Heh, most of the things I would say here are cheesy, though.
Family is important to me. It always has been. I grew up in a tight-knit family of six (total, not kids) and most of us are still close. Getting married meant adding one more to that unit.
But being a dad is different. Suddenly I’m the patriarch. I know that sounds pompous, but it’s true. Suddenly I’ve got people who depend upon me, who look to me for answers and solutions and support and care. It’s amazing.
It’s also an incredible responsibility. It’s a huge burden, but one I’m happy to shoulder.
How has it changed how I see the world, though? I see danger everywhere. All the time. It’s awful, really. I see everything that could harm my children and do my best to prevent as much of it as possible. And some of it is ridiculous, or at least unlikely, like someone shoving us off the subway platform or a drive-by shooting. But I think of it anyway. I can’t help it. I live to protect and raise my kids. That has become my primary objective. Everything else is secondary.

From the_themiscyran:
1) What work are you currently happiest about having written? Why?
The latest one. :)
Actually that is my answer. Right now I’m happiest with the Warhammer RPG supplement I just did and with the first half of my second Warhammer novel.
Because I’m getting better.
I honestly believe that. I go back and reread some of the things I wrote a few years ago and I still think they’re good but I know my current stuff is better. I get stronger as I go, which means the most current piece is always the one I consider my best so far.

2) Why New York? I mean for you personally, not the obvious answers. :)
Heh, I answered that in the previous interview. :)

3) Which of your own personality traits do you hope your children also have? Which one/s do you really hope they can avoid? Any particular reason?
I want my kids to get my reliability, my common sense, and my level-headedness. I expect they’ll have a sense of humor—my daughter already does—but it’s okay if it’s not the same as mine.
I don’t want them to get my shyness—yes, that’s right, those of you who didn’t know it, I’m often very shy around strangers. I don’t want them to get my frustration with people, or my inability to suffer fools. I don’t want them to get my inability (or refusal) to play the little games that are often so necessary in social settings. I’m not sure if I want them to have my tendency toward self-effacement—while it’s a big part of who I am (not tooting my own horn and such) I know it’s cost me some opportunities over the years.

4) For the most part, your public face seems to be that of a fairly reserved, quiet kind of guy. Is there any sort of loud performance-type thing that you have ever tried or wanted to? Why or why not?
Not really, no. I’m just not that loud. I’d be willing to try karaoke, I think, if it was in one of those places where it was only friends together (and I’d had a few drinks). And I did theater long ago, but I don’t consider that the same thing because you’re putting on a persona rather than being yourself.

5) Best Kung Fu movie EVAR! What is it, and what scene sold it for you?
The Master Killer (aka 36th Chamber of Shaolin aka Disciples of Master Killer aka Shaolin Master Killer aka The Thirty-sixth Chamber), 1978. This movie rocks! I saw it when I was a kid, during the whole Sunday-afternoon Martial Arts theater thing (the same one that inspired us to do HKAT!) and loved it. It’s not only got amazing martial arts but I love the fact that there’s a real story, and real character growth, and you get to follow the character’s progress through the temple and through martial arts mastery.

From serpentstar:
1) Why "gryphon rose"? Your LJ hints that it's a ship, but it also sounds like it could be an heraldic design of some sort.
A ship? That’d be cool.
No, sadly, it’s not that exciting a story. When I was in school and got my first email account I chose “arose” because I liked it more than just putting my first name and as much of my last as I could fit. A little while later a friend showed me how to change the account name to anything I wanted. I was playing a World of Darkness game with some friends at the time and I had a really cool urban werewolf character named Griffen. I also remembered Andre Norton’s books The Crystal Gryphon and Gryphon in Glory. So I changed my user name to The Gryphon Rose. It sounded cool, archaic, very heraldic. I’ve been using it ever since.

2) How has being a Dad changed your life? What are the drawbacks, if any?
Answered above, amigo. :)

3) How do you view your writing work? Is it "just a job," with deadlines to meet and bills to pay, or is it an artistic calling? Does the answer vary depending on the project? If so, how and why?
Closer to calling than job, but really I consider it a vocation. Writing isn’t what I do—a writer is who I am.
That probably sounds pretentious, but it’s not. Because it’s not about selling. It’s just about the writing. I get withdrawal symptoms when I go too long between writing fiction—just ask the wife. Writing for me is an actual need, something I have to do. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t write because I enjoy it—I write because I must.
Having said that, I do consider writing a job. There are deadlines, it does pay the bills, etc. It has to be treated that way if you’re going to write professionally. You can be a writer and never publish anything, hell, never submit anything. But if you’re going to be a professional writer it is a job and it has to be approached as one.

4) When will we see you guys at DragonMeet or otherwise in the UK again? Did I already mention that both [info]bridiep and I can cook quite well, and that you'd be welcome to stay?
Heh, you have mentioned that, and we’d love to take you up on it. We’d also love to go to Dragonmeet again—it’s one of our absolute favorite cons. Right now the infant is too small to handle a trip like that, and the toddler would handle it but would be running around nonstop. I do have sisters who have offered to watch the kids, though, as soon as they’re both out of diapers (the kids, not my sisters). So we’re thinking in a year or two we’ll be able to sneak away sometimes, which means going back to Vegas and going back to Dragonmeet.

5) Why NYC? Are you guys planning to stay there indefinitely, or like many city-dwellers, do you aim to move to the country someday? Do you miss being able to see the stars?
I’ve answered the “why” question above. But yes, we’re planning to stay here indefinitely. I love New York. I’ve always been a city boy, so country life doesn’t appeal much—there’s so much to do here, so many places to eat, so many things to see, and you can always find something at any hour. That’s great. And, living in Queens, we have a nice quiet neighborhood when we don’t want to wander Manhattan. I think the wife is more interested in the idea of country life than I am, though now that she’s got space to garden I suspect she’s reasonably satisfied. But living some place where I had to drive to get anywhere would drive me nuts. I like being able to walk around, and being able to take public transit.

Not much else to report. The kids are doing well, though the infant is still working on his teeth. The lovely wife and I are good and looking back fondly on those days when we and sleep were regular acquaintances. Work is fine though busy. Writing is good and I’m talking to people about new projects. Have a great weekend!