grid is a stern taskmaster
Monday, September 14 2015
Compared to yesterday, I didn't make much visible progress on the basement reflooring project. I finally got around to peeling up and removing the last of the carpet from the hallway, and then I removed all of the remaining carpet tack strips along its walls. Some of these were blackened with mold or partially rotten from repeated exposure to moisture, particularly back near the boiler room (the place where floods can happen, either from spilled hydronic fluid or flood water carried through the wall via the well's electrical conduit). After filling all the resulting divots with portland cement, I added flooring in the main guestroom, running right up to its bathroom (they once constituted the house's only master bedroom suite). Gretchen had suggested running the fake wood tile into that bathroom and redoing its floor as well, but I decided not to. That would require removing the toilet and the result (a "wooden" floor in the bathroom) would work against the illusion that the material might actually be wood. Some day I'd like to do a gut remodel of that bathroom and replace all of its surfaces with waterproof materials so it can never again harbor mold.
This evening, Gretchen and I drove down to Ray & Nancy's place for dinner with them, Nancy's sister Linda (who had flown in from California), Linda's toddler son Jonah, and Linda & Nancy's two elderly parents. When we arrived, we noted the cars in the driveway, including Nancy & Ray's newest, a 2005 Subaru. It replaces the "Saabaru" Ray totalled recently on a drive home from work on Dug Hill Road (about four miles from our house), the second car in a year's time Ray has totalled on Dug Hill Road. (Ray's story is that the accident happened after he swerved to avoid a deer.) The mangled Saabaru was also in the driveway. It had apparent slid sideways into a tree, colliding near the front passenger-side wheel. This had triggered the passenger-side airbag and destroyed that quarter of the car. The parts value of the Saabaru helped defray some of the costs of the replacement Subaru, though its new owner still needs to pick it up.
Since the last time I'd been to Ray & Nancy's place, they'd gotten around to doing a maintenance job they'd been procrastinating for a couple years: the replacement of the back porch, whose foundation had evidently rotted away. In its place was a sort of three-sided pyramid of steps. It looked good, but it seemed a little impractical given how little space there was at its top (the place where a virgin might be sacrificed to an Aztec god).
As always, Ray cooked dinner, which consisted of a single dish: a huge bowl of oily spaghetti with broccoli, cilantro, and heavily overcooked onions. (Ray's cooking has been a bit disappointing of late.)
After dinner, I figured out how to get batteries into a cheap $5 toy train set Ray had bought for Jonah at the Dollar General. After that, we ran the engine around the tracks and attempted to get it to pull other cars. It was a rather fragile system and unless the train and cars were put on the tracks perfectly, it tended to either do nothing or quickly derail. Still, Jonah seemed delighted, more so than he had been by the several screens that had been passively entertaining him earlier.
Back at the house, I fixed myself a tall gin & tonic and proceeded to cut a single 59 inch vinyl floor tile so that it would fit around the base of the southmost closet door of the main basement guestroom. The resulting piece was shaped like a very flattened, lopsided hourglass, and it fit perfectly. There's a deeply satisfying feeling to a tile job that runs up close to a complex mix of acute and obtuse angles. All those shapes seem overwhelming before the task gets under way, but the grid dictated by the tiles forces the mind to break the shapes down into their components and attack them systematically such that the job becomes a steady accumulation of small-but-doable triumphs. That grid is a stern taskmaster, particularly when tiles are as big as these. They snap together precisely, with no tolerance for divergence. Since they snap together on all four edges and they're all exactly the same size, the only places where decisions can be made about where the tile-ends will fall are at the walls (the place where each parallel run of tiles begins). Making proper decisions about the placement of tile-ends is important in places such as at the closet doors, where a small bit of wall comes down from the ceiling to separate the two doors. If I made a bad decision with the tile ends, I might've ended up with a tile pierced by this wall, a topological impossibility unless I wanted to add an illusion-shattering slice through the middle of that tile.
One further observation: though the tiles look exactly like rough-hewn boards, they ultimately come from molds in a factory somewhere, and some of the tiles are identical. I don't know how many different tiles there are, but when I went looking, it didn't take me long to find two identical "boards" within a foot of each other in the hallway outside the main guestroom.
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