The Latest from Hail House

My hail damaged house


I should be writing to update you all about the status of my world famous, hail brutalized house. If you’re keeping track of things, the storm blew through on May 8, which means it’s been nearly three full months, and I should be filled with the giddy joy of new siding and windows and a whole house face lift.

And yet.

So, there’s good news and bad news. I’ll start with the good news, which is short and has the advantage of stretching out the suspense of the impending bad news. Plus, you can decide if you want to stay happy and just stop reading here.

The good news is that they will be giving me a new roof this week. It should be all done on Thursday. That is definitely progress and it’s good and awesome, and I’m very excited to have new gutters and new downspouts and yes I am trying to stretch this out so that I can postpone addressing the bad news as long as is possible.

Right. That’s the good news. I told you it was short.

The bad news is less short.

To start with, the damage to the house has focused on the front side of the house, as you can see by the ever famous photo. The insurance is only paying for siding on two sides. Which, of course, most likely means that there I should likely expect to either a) find some funds to do the whole house or b) make good on my threats to make the house look less than its best, and only do half the siding.

That isn’t the bad news.

The bad news comes when the siding guy, realizing the age of your house, looks past the once crunchy coating on the outside, and goes to the even crunchier inside layer and it tests positive for lead.

That’s right gentle readers, the original paint on the original outside of my house was lead-based paint. Which now has to be abated. And that raises the price considerably. And this mostly means a bunch more wrangling with the insurance company who, as you might guess, is not excited to be shelling out more money for my shelled-out cottage. I don’t blame them. I am not excited to be shelling out even more money to not make the house look less unfortunate.

You might recall that I seem to have somewhat challenging experiences with insurance personnel and so I should not expect that I would have a stress-free adventure with getting the House of the Holey turned back into the House of the Whole.  Call me the irrational optimist, and add another check mark in the category of “evidence to the contrary.”

Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that after a few outright denials of assistance with this issue, the insurance has agreed to send another adjuster out to survey the carnage with an eye, or a testing kit, toward the lead. I suspect there will be many more discussions and battles on this before I have an actual idea on the impact to my pocketbook, however I have had a number of generous contributions towards getting this all back together, and while it may take way longer than I ever dreamed, my optimism, whether rational or not, is telling me it will be ok. One day. Not today. Not tomorrow. But one day.

Ottoman Empire Era Nazar

A blue glass disc, with concentric rings of white, then light blue, than black, which look like an eye

This eye-shaped amulet, which gained popularity during the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923), is believed to be protection against the Evil Eye. This particular example is thought to have been owned by Bosnian conspirator Muhamed Mehmedbašić, one of the men involved with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. The assassination led to the start of World War I, and ultimately, the end of the Ottoman Empire.

This particular glass form has been a traditional art in the Mediterranean for thousands of years, and today, it is a popular souvenir for tourists in throughout the region, especially in places like Turkey, Macedonia, Greece, Bosnia, Syria and Lebanon.

Troll’s Tooth

A curiously shaped hard object resembling a large misshapened tooth.


The tooth belonged to the first troll on the Internet. In late 1989, this anonymous troll began wreaking havoc on conversations and psyches around the world. This tooth was lost in the flame wars of the early 90s, and came into the custody of the SHUSH museum through a series of anonymous exchanges. It is seen as a symbol that trolls can be defeated, and all those who viciously and relentlessly threaten, intimidate, and cause emotional harm on the internet will ultimately lose.

The First Pachinko Ball

This item was entered into the SHUSH collection in 1919, shortly after it was used in the first game of pachinko in Japan. Before it was placed into the game machine, it was blessed by Shinto priests and rituals of fairness where performed. After the ball dropped through the matrix of pins, without registering a win, it was placed in the custody the Tokyo chapter of the SHUSH.

Rare US half-cent coin, 1809

This coin was part of the collection of prominent Charleston Revolutionary War hero and later, politician, Charles Cotesworth “C.C.” Pinckney. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and ran against Thomas Jefferson in both the 1804 and the 1808 elections. He spent time as an ambassador in both the Washington and the Jefferson administrations, and rose to the rank of Major General in the Continental army. During his service, he spent some time as a prisoner of war after the siege of Charleston.

Pinckney died in August, 1825 and was buried in St. Michael’s Churchyard in Charleston, South Carolina. His tombstone reads, “One of the founders of the American Republic. In war he was a companion in arms and friend of Washington. In peace he enjoyed his unchanging confidence.”

This coin was entrusted to the SHUSH Museum by Pinckney, who put it in the possession of the Charleston chapter, and while it survived the terrible Charleston fire of 1838, it does bear its scars.

Dead Sea Seashells, Segment E, part 6 of 6

A small group of spiral seashells


The final portion of our collection of seashells found on the shores of the Dead Sea, is the collection of nautilus shells. These shells are made by mollusks in the cephalopod class.. Cephalopods include squids and octopuses, and nautilus are the only cephalods whose external shell is the only manifestation of bony structure. They can retreat entirely into their shell.

Dead Sea Seashells, Segment D, part 5 of 6


These shells are those of “keyhole” limpets. Like true limpets, the “keyhole” limpet has a conical shell. However, the creatures that produce these shells are a type of sea snails, and not closely related to limpets.The hole at the top allows the creature to expel water and waste. Typically, such snails are bottom feeders, feeding on vegetable or other organic waster material.

Bargaining with Calligraphy

A page from Queen Victoria's journalsI have been attempting to learn calligraphy.

You might be wondering why I decided I needed another hobby. Or possibly that was me.

Of course, I would simply tell myself that “this isn’t really a hobby, it’s just for this one thing.” And then, I would tell myself that for some reason, I’ve decided to share my internal dialog with you.

Probably, since you are not me, I need to add a few brushstrokes.

You might recall that new project I started in January? The peculiar museum known as “The SHUSH?”  Well, it’s still going on. I know, I’m as surprised as you are.

Anyway, as part of that project of dubious exhibits, I have been working on calligraphy. No, I’m not going to be specific, you’ll just have to wait and see like everyone else. Suffice it to say that, I have a tendency to go to weirdly absurd lengths to produce results that a) no one other than me will notice, and b) will only hold the viewer’s attention for about 90 seconds.

To illustrate what I mean by “absurd,” here’s a run-down of tasks I have undertaken to produce a document that will likely be fewer than five hand-written pages:

  1. Bought four basic calligraphy pens, the kind with small ink capsules, with assorted nibs, in multiple colors (I will need two colors of ink for this project).
  2. Bought a pad of calligraphy guide paper.
  3. Bought parchment paper to use for the eventual end product.
  4. Bought a book on basics of calligraphy.
  5. Learned that for some reason I’ve not yet fathomed, I am only capable of getting an ink cartridge to work for about two lines of practice text, and then all I’m doing is scratching the practice paper up and bending several nibs out of wack.
  6. Spent hours trying to make the out of wack nibs work.
  7. Decided that I was NOT going to buy any more nibs if they weren’t going to last longer than this, and decided to go find some of the marker sort of calligraphy pens.  Buy a set of four.
  8. Get home and realize the tips on the set of four are *way* wider than I want, and that to write one sentence with these honking big tipped pens, I’d need 10 pages of parchment.
  9. Went to a different store to find smaller tipped marker style pens, and bought four more pens plus a fountain pen that had a reservoir built into it that was not refillable, in case none of the marker-types were going to work.
  10. Could not find parchment paper I bought months ago, and bought more.
  11. Started working with the new collection of tools, to disappointing results that look no different than if I had used a normal ball point pen, no matter how much I tried.
  12. Looked at actual examples of letters between persons of the Victorian era (including Victoria’s own handwriting) (that’s the only hint you’ll get from me) and realized that, for the most part, the handwriting is pretty much like my normal cursive hand, and even if written with a quill, could pretty much be produced with any pen and no one would be the wiser. Except me. And, let’s face it, I’ve already thought about this far too much.
  13. Covered my fingers in ink blotches, and tried to figure out how the accursed pens can get ink all over my fingers, the pen grip and the barrel, but leave no trail of ink from the tip of the pen nor on the piece of paper.

I can only say that when I finally do get this thing completed, I hope you have forgotten all of this, and you look at the finished result and think, “That is surely a handwritten letter from the late 19th century! How remarkable it is to have survived until today!” If you don’t think that, could you at least have the decency not to mention it to me? Thanks.

Dead Sea Seashells, Part 4 of 6, Segment C

Scallop-type shells
Segment C is a group of small bi-valve shells. One of the shells also exhibits the characteristic circular hole in the apex of the shell. Like the other holed specimens, the hole looks like it was made with a drill, and, in this case, makes a convenient aperture for affixing a cord or chain for use in jewelry or other decorative ornaments.

Will I Be Forced to Surrender My Geek Card?

Official Geek Card
I am taking this week off from my normal day job, and in my mind, I had imagined that I would spend the week writing, and emerge with many pages of finished work, and feel like I’d accomplished something with that time. I’m even house sitting, and I imagined that getting myself away from my house would actually force myself to work.

That was before I learned that my hosts had Netflix.

I am doomed.

You might recall I am quite fond of television, and I have not seen a single one of the shows produced exclusively for the streaming content provider. Sure, I’m connected to their DVD service, but, they don’t put their exclusive content onto DVDs. That means I’ve had to live without seeing the Gilmore Girls’ revival, and all that Marvel content that those in geekly circles have been raving about. I’ve been hearing talk that I might be required to return my geek card to whatever authority issues these things. I don’t acknowledge anyone as the Arbiter of All Things Geek, so, mostly it’s a way to disguise my own insecurities. Who am I kidding? I’m not anxious about my geek cred. I’m just jealous.

And here I am, presented with free time and access.

If I were disciplined enough to get things done *WITHOUT* the distraction of Netflix, I don’t really have much of a chance against this temptation.

And yet, as I type that out, I cringe at surrendering.

I can fight against my weakness. I can make it a story about how, against all temptations, I succeeded in conquering the insidious power of Netflix and their sneaky play the next episode in 5…4…3…2…1. Dangit.

It’s not easy. And they know that. It’s so easy to just let the episodes roll on and on in a continuous river of plots and characters and shiny things. Maybe I can use it as a carrot, to reward success and encourage me to turn it off after a single episode.

Anything is possible.

In my youth, I was much better at impulse control, and certainly, those that know me will say that I’m still pretty good about it in many respects. At least, I think they will. So long as my checks clear. But, they also know my Kryptonite, and might not be willing to take a bet on this either way, no matter how many zeros I add to the checks. Which is probably for the best, as it will only take one more zero before they all bounce.

I guess the one bright spot is that I’m more addicted to sleep than I am to binge watching, so, I know I will turn it off so I can get a good night’s rest, maybe, I can just tell myself that I really need a nap, and then trick myself into staying awake. I’ll let you know if it works, but, in the meantime, I need a nap.