daytime home improvement
Sunday, February 23 2003
There's a little roof extension just beneath my laboratory's one window, the only north window of the entire house. This roof is over a shop extension of the garage, though for me it's mostly just a handy place to put my beer to keep it cold. More recently Edna has taken an interest in going out on this surface. Today for the first time the snow had melted enough to provide her a little mini-kingdom to explore. The best thing about this kingdom was that it provided a land bridge (or, if you prefer, a roof bridge) to the roof above the laboratory and, by extension, the rest of the house. Edna wandered far out beyond the oil furnace chimney, more than two thirds of the way to the southmost end of the house. I went outside to see how little she looked way up there by herself on the roof ridge, and when she saw me she let out a few nervous meows. But she surprised me by having no trouble finding her way back into my laboratory window.
I've been kind of bored for the past few days. It's been difficult to find a project worthy of my time. I come up with an idea about something fun but ridiculous, like building an old-school 6502-based computer just for the hell of it, and then I realize that there's no point, and so I turn my attention to researching hacking techniques for my Z-80 based TI-85 Calculator, a similarly pointless diversion. I want to build something specific - an art project with a computer in its soul, but at the same time something in me wants this computer to be general-purpose and adaptable to all applications. This idealization of the general over the specific is one of several fundamental handicaps in my specific form of creativity. On some level I don't really want to be creative - I want to build a robot who will be creative for me.
So I've turned instead to the most annoying details of house construction, things I'd hoped not to be doing quite yet. Today, for example, I painted the master bathroom's twin collar white. I had the Home and Gardens network on as I worked, and I tried to time my breaks so they coincided with programming and my painting to coincide with ad breaks, but it's never easy to do that, particularly when you're painting. When there's still wet paint on a brush, it's hard to break off, but when there's an annoying tract of unpainted wood, it's impossible not to redip the brush and attack. The Home and Gardens Network isn't the most interesting network in the world, and I wouldn't linger over it three seconds if it weren't for this house remodeling I've been working on. But now I'm so familiar with the shows that I prefer to have them on when I'm working on house-related projects. I know the basic story arc of all the shows. In Designing for the Sexes, for example, our couple always starts out in disagreement between his desire for goofy boyishness and hers for frilly girlie-girl decor. But in the end, after our British host has awkwardly hugged her and heartily shaken his hand, everybody is happy and we're told anything can be accomplished through compromise.
Back before I began watching the Home and Garden Network, I had no idea how strongly parents work to imprint gender roles on their children. Girl's rooms always have to be done in frilly pastels, and boys rooms have to carry a theme either about baseball or cowboys. Interestingly, I don't remember heavy-handed gender molding during my childhood. My parents never decorated my room one way or the other - that was left up to me. Perhaps their lapse in this matter is why I used to dress up in girls' clothes and play dollhouse with my little girlfriends, but they also used to help me catch frogs and caterpillars. In any case, I ended up being so straight that I'm not upset when people mistake me for gay.
Gretchen has been raving about Nora Jones for weeks if not months. I've heard her songs a few times and they seemed bland and uninteresting. And now, as if to prove the infallibility of my gut reaction, Ms. Jones has gone on to win a gob of Grammy awards.
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