Tuesday, March 03, 2015

This Is Not The Reality You've Been Searching For

So, I watched ep. 1 of House of Cards' newest season last night, and again I was astounded by the alternate reality of politics and news media the show displays. We have Republicrats and Demoplicans in charge of the government and a truth-seeking news media hounding them for honest governing. I get that it's fiction and the writers are striving for drama and intrigue, but it's enough to make you gag at the willful misrepresentation of what is actually going on in reality. Through the looking glass madness, it is.
But I guess a television show about leftwing totalitarians hollowing out a political party and lying about its agenda while a complacent "opposition party" sits idly by while the news media hails the former and shames the latter while the citizens live through an economic depression is too much to ask.
This explains why there are so many television shows depicting dystopian futures...(and, perhaps, why marijuana legalization is so popular these days)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Reason It's Called "Home Moanership"

Dr. Helen writes a bit about the downsides of "owning" a home:

One of the things no one talks about much when pushing home ownership is how much time and money goes into fixing these broken things just to keep your house functional. I am starting to really understand why older people just let their houses go; it’s a full-time job making sure your house doesn’t fall in around you with the broken pipes, busted lights, and appliances that need to be maintained.
My house was built in 1911. When my wife and I decided to buy it, I turned to her and said, "Every room in this place needs to be rebuilt, and I don't have the tools or the experience to do it."

She smiled and said, "You will."

We've now been in it eight years and I've completely rebuilt the first floor, turning the living room and dining room into one giant room by tearing down the partitioning wall and anchoring the plaster ceiling, and laying down a new hardwood floor. I took out the "television" room built in the 1960s (drop ceiling, paneled walls) and put in a modern kitchen (that room was the house's original kitchen) and turned the unheated galley kitchen at the back of the house into a mud room.

I turned the "home office" into my study and refinished my daughter's room (grunt work, each, involving many hours on the floor with a belt sander). I've got more rooms to go, but along the way I've accumulated tools and experience. I can now do basic electrical and plumbing work, which saves money otherwise spent on professional help (for instance, yesterday I replaced the TPR valve on my water heater, which, eight years ago, I would never have considered doing, even though it only takes $20 in parts and 15 minutes of labor to do, saving me a plumber visit).

Granted, as a SAHD/fiction writer, I have more time to learn and do these DIY remodeling/fix-it tasks, but doing them yourself rather than paying a pro is substantially rewarding. Not calling a plumber to fix your water heater gives you "man cred" you didn't realize would make you feel good about. (And I say that after having called a plumber to "maintain" my kitchen sink pipes after I couldn't turn the off valve for fear of breaking it, and the plumber showed up and turned it in five seconds {it was under warranty, so no charge, and the plumber - Jason - was the guy who installed it and graciously allowed that I shouldn't have tried to force it, not knowing why it didn't turn with normal force})

Doing DIY is also made infinitely easier by the amount of video on YouTube showing both pros and amateurs doing exactly what you need to do, with step-by-step instructions. Watch a couple of videos before you go to work, and you know what you need to do.

Home remodeling/improvement/upkeep is a hassle, but it goes with the territory. I've never lived in a rental that didn't require upkeep of the same kind, and it was always a hassle to get the landlord to address an issue, which is how I long-ago learned how to change sink faucet cartridges. Which the landlord would have paid a plumber to do, but costs $10 and takes five minutes to do. The pros oversell their experience; there is much you can learn to do that is far easier to do than you would have thought before you set out to do it. If you think your "modern" home is built like crap, well, pros built it. And now you're going to hire more pros to come in a remodel it?

Now, yes, screwing something up and worrying about having to call in a pro to undo your DIY failure is a feature of the DIY mindset. It took me more than a year to convince myself that I could frame and install sheetrock in my current kitchen because I had never done such a thing before. But with the aid of a friend and father-in-law, I had the experience I needed to try, and to look at the room, you'd never know it was done by me and not a professional.

And, the savings are substantial: a typical kitchen installation of the sort I did would cost $30,000-$50,000 but me doing it cost $10,000 (I paid for the plumbing to be professionally done, as noted above, and the granite counters, which were the two big ticket items making up more than 50% of the construction costs). I salvaged the cabinetry from a home remodel and refurbished them at the cost of renting a truck to haul them from the construction site, saving me thousands of dollars on custom-built/Ikea-purchased cabinets.

You can't do everything, but you can do a lot more than you think you can.