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Nothing New Under The Sun

Holy cow this film is something like 100 years old. Was Edison cranking the handle? I kept expecting Charlie Chaplin to appear.

It starts out with the usual lament. We’re running out of coal, of all things. The only endangered species on display isn’t coal, it’s a man willing to do more than watch football on TV in his basement, and a two-parent family next door. But let’s not quibble. The denizens of ye olde draftopolis are interrogating the cloud people on how they were able to keep ice from forming on the goldfish bowl. The answer, which is not directly mentioned in the video, was asbestos. They covered everything in asbestos.

I’m not an environmentalist, I guess. The word itself contains the word “mentalist.” Now, I can predict the future (it will be worse), but I’m not really a mentalist, or an environmentalist. Environmentalists commute to work on recumbent bicycles and paddle plastic kayaks on the weekends. I commute to work in my socks and have a boat I built entirely from wood in my basement. It’s never been launched.

I simply don’t like wasting things. They don’t have a name for that anymore. I’ve saved more stuff than any ten environmentalists. I’m wary of wonder cures for everyday problems. It’s how you end up with everything in your house, including most of the house itself, made from plastic. It’s how paint and gasoline ended up with copious doses of lead in them. Hell, they used to put mercury into paint to kill spiders who might walk over it.

The video is labeled “Energy conservation in the Home in the 1920s,” but in today’s parlance, conservation just means rationing. This is different. These people are trying to get more bang for the same buck. They didn’t like wasting things, either, or wearing their winter coats to bed in January.

So they insulated the jacket of the furnace, and all the pipes, with asbestos. They got more heat in the right parts of their house for the same amount of money, and the installers all got mesothelioma at no extra charge.

One wonders if in 100 years, an ill-informed internet so-and-so will post a video of the benighted 2020s, and wonder why everyone thought coal was evil, but lithium, cadmium, and a healthy dose of cobalt was peachy.

Building a Wattle and Daub Shelter for Dummies

Of course “For Dummies” is my idea of a joke. Despite what you’ve heard, no one was allowed to be a dummy when shelter like this was in vogue. If you can afford to have a smartphone in your pocket, you’re allowed to be as dumb as you please. You can believe almost anything about the natural or intellectual world and get away with it. You can think panthers are cute and cuddly if you want,  or that living in a state of nature is a lark, or commendable in some way.

I’m more from the Rose Sayer school of philosophy: Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above. 

The only mistake this fellow made that I noticed was using wattle to reinforce the smoke shelf in his little chimney. The people he’s copying would have gotten a flat stone from the river for that, and then continued on up the chimney with daub. The temperature right at the smoke shelf in a chimney goes way above 1000 degrees. The wood inside the daub will first become pyrolized, and then ignite at very low temperatures if the daub fails. He could have made a  bow drill to chafe his sticks to make a fire faster, but I subtract only style points for that. 

I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret: Your wood-framed home isn’t really much more complicated than this hut. If your house is 100 years old or so, the interior walls are wooden lath with plaster applied to it. The plaster is a form of daub, and it’s keyed into the wattle — the lath — by smooshing it through the cracks, same as this. Gypsum drywall has replaced wattle and daub for interior surfaces, but it’s still basically the same crap. Gypsum is just a fancy kind of dried mud, and the paper faces of the drywall sheets are the wattle, even made out of the same stuff — they’re just ground up and reconstituted into paper.

Only pole barns are made by putting vertical members into holes in the ground to frame walls now, but the fellow’s little platform bed is basically the first floor framing in a regular house, designed to get you up off the dirt in the “cellar.” Almost all roofing shingles work in the same way as his leaves and bark, simply overlapping the row below it to shed water. I’ve nailed shingles over skip sheathing in the same way. If you split boards out of logs you could put clapboards on that shed and it would be at home in any number of cul-de-sacs I could mention, waiting for the vinyl siding salesman to come along. If the fellow with the uneven tan and all the bug bites had made bricks instead of pottery with that mud, even the wolf couldn’t blow his little shelter down.

I’m often amazed at how little the average person knows about they house they live in. It’s a very simple machine, really. All the complexity that’s been added to it has generally made it worse. Although I like window screens a great deal, I must admit.

(Thanks to reader, commenter, and stalwart supporter of Unorganized Hancock Chasmatic for sending that one along)

Cooking With Gas In The Kitchen

[Editor’s note: first offered in 2007. Look at anyone else’s blog from 2007. It all sounds like insane drivel five years on. We’re proud to only offer sane drivel here, year in, year out]
[Author’s note: There is no editor]

Could you take this picture in your kitchen?

I don’t mean are you baking your own bread, that’s unlikely now. But is there any place with a hint of the picturesque in your kitchen?

You cannot worship the god of hard surfaces and become the priest and priestess of the picturesque. The kitchen has become the altar of sacrificed comfort. Reject it. It needs to return to being a pleasant room with a kitchen in it, not a hole in your house into which to ram appliances and particleboard boxes. Formaldehyde! It’s what’s for dinner!

I will say before we begin that even poor people are generally well housed in the United States, and the reliability of utilities into every home like water, sewer, electricity, and so forth would be a source of envy for great portions of the world. We are not complaining here. We have been given the luxury of worrying about small things instead of where our next meal is coming from, so we can turn our attention to… well, where our next meal is coming from.

Let’s make a list of generalities.

  1. The room has to be pretty big. We’re going to eat in there.
  2. No low ceilings. No vaulted ceilings.
  3. If you yanked out all appliances, fixtures, and cabinetry, would the kitchen be a pleasant room? If not, start over.
  4. Forget row after row of cabinets. Add a walk-in pantry next to the kitchen and get rid of the majority of your wall cabinets. Add windows. The pantry can have all open shelves. Put a door on the room to hide clutter. Putting casework into niches in the walls, so the face of it is flush with those walls is dynamite. Look at the china closet in the second picture.
  5. You need light coming in from at least two adjacent sides.
  6. Make the sink and drainboards huge. Doesn’t matter what they’re made from Just plain huge.
  7. Gang at least two windows over this huge sink, with a broad sill. Three’s better.
  8. Never cook with electricity. Fire, baby.
  9. Maximize the horizontal space at waist level with nothing on it.
  10. Put dishes and glasses on open shelves, or shelves with glass doors. They naturally stack and display well. Keep things you use all the time close at hand. Don’t hide them in the endless cabinets.
  11. Never ever show the side of a refrigerator. Any cabinet over a frig should be flush with the face of frig, and extend right down to the floor. Refrigerators used to be sleek and rounded and looked good standing alone in the landscape. They’re not any more.
  12. Almost all kitchen cabinets are bland and ugly. Frameless cabinets particularly so.
  13. Lower cabinets with doors are almost all useless. Use drawers below waist level wherever possible. Drawers behind doors are four car collision designs. Just have drawers.
  14. All corner cabinets are useless. For all the money and trouble you go through to get your stuff diving off a lazy susan in there, or worse still, the floppy door with all the hinges that bangs around and pinches your fingers, they’re not worth doing. Have the corners boxed in and forget them. Use the money you saved to help build the pantry.
  15. Never put the microwave above the stove or in the upper cabinets. Pulling occasionally superheated stuff out at eye level is madness. And you always want to defrost things while you are cooking something else. Don’t work over a hot stove. Put it in a lower cabinet and then your kids can make their own popcorn.
  16. A cooktop with a separate wall oven is great. It was standard issue in tract houses in the fifties. Now it’s seeing a resurgence. Great. Gets the oven up where you can see it, too. But never NEVER put a cooktop in an island counter that humans have anything to do with the other side of, especially if people sit and eat there. Are you insane?
  17. A real table that can be moved around and has fold up leaves that people can eat at in a kitchen is five hundred times more convivial than a counter. Make sure there’s room for the chairs to be pulled away from the table on all sides.
  18. A door to the outside if there’s any way it can be done. A real door. No sliders.
  19. Frameless cabinets look industrial. If you must go industrial, do it with some exuberance and get yourself a quilted chrome/formica/enameled steel/neon/Cadillac finned 1950s thing going on. Or an elegant 1930s Bauhaus modern if you can’t stand hominess. But eschew the brutalist concrete/honed stone/nuclear power plant plumbing/ expiatory chair look please.
  20. Overlay cabinet doors are…are… Never mind. Face frames with inset doors, period. Nothing that looks like it was yanked out of a box and screwed to the wall. Make sure all upper cabinetry has some sort of cap or head on it. The particleboard stuff wrapped in woodgrain wall paper with bland overlay hardwood doors always looks bad. Your cabinetry should look like casework or furniture. And it should look good, or ideally better, after you use it and wear it out a little. You’re going to live in there, you know. If it relies on the look of pristine sterility, that makes you a bacillus in the body kitchen.

The day couples put a television in the bedroom, it signifies a fundamental change in outlook. Placing one in the kitchen is the same. I’m not saying it’s bad. It just represents the failure of the cook, the food, or the company to hold your interest. Just sayin’. But you need music. Plan for it early.

Well there you go. Go to the kitchen designer with this list. Bring defibrillator paddles. You’re going to need them.

I Don’t Think Anyone Really Thought I Was Serious Because I Was Eleven Years Old At The Time

As is occasionally the case, I don’t know whether to write about Ben’s Tiny House here, or on The Borderline Sociopathic Blog For Boys. Ben belongs both places, I imagine.

Ben Norton was an ambitious eleven-year-old when he became captivated with the idea of building his own tiny house.

Now, adults have lost their minds, and have started talking about how they’re going to live in a shed, or a phone booth, or an apartment it would be illegal to keep a death-row inmate in, because they’re going to save the environment — whatever that is — but Ben is talking sense. He’s got the urge. He wants to build shelter. That’s what a normal boy does. He makes things, and maybe dreams about making bigger things.

Take a big bite, and keep chewing, as the old saying goes. Building shelter is interesting, and important, but at its most basic level, it’s not rocket surgery. It’s amenable to plain effort coupled to curiosity. Ben obviously had help, but the Leaning Tower of Footings he’s got going on underneath his mahal hints that he really did do the work by himself, along with his mates, and wasn’t just posing for the pictures.

iPhone people constantly blog about their desire to mechanize the construction of home building. They figure everything they care about is made in a factory, preferably overseas where people they don’t care about as much as they protest they do risk getting Bhopaled instead of them. Why not houses? What they are really daydreaming about is not having anything to do with other people, especially people whose fingernails have something besides Cheeto dust under them . They’d prefer to order an Ikea house and have it dropped off by FedEx, like everything else in their life. That’s fine, I guess, but there’s an enormous flaw in their thinking: Building housing for humans is already one of the most efficient, mechanized, and orderly processes there is in the American landscape. It takes so long, costs so much, and seems so mysterious and infuriating to people with skinny glasses because the process is filled with people like them — clerks, nabobs, government officials, endless ranks of rulemakers telling the people that build shelter, and the people that occupy said shelter, exactly what they’re allowed to build and live in. All that foolishness, and more, will still happen when housing becomes all pre-fab; it will just be hidden from sight at a factory instead of on display where the house goes. Then a truck will come with your Ikea double-wide and plop it down and you can live in the shabby thing without talking to anyone with muscles on their bodies that aren’t the residue of mouse clicks.

That’s why Ben’s barn, or shed, or whatever you want to call it, is so wonderful. It is the essence of a house. It is shelter, in its simplest form — stripped-down, straightforward, homemade. It is not trying to do much besides keep the rain off your head, and the bears out of your food. It is as iconic as a crayon drawing of a house by a child. It’s an example of why the tiny house people are right, for the wrong reasons. Shelter for humans should be straightforward.

Ben has shown you something, if you’ll just see it. You’ve forgotten what you’re trying to do. Ben wasn’t old enough to forget anything, so he got it right the first time.


Ben’s Tiny House on The Tiny House Blog

[Thanks to the lovely and talented Joan of Arrggh for sending that one along]

Don’t Hire A 48-1/2 Year Old Burn Victim With A Fat Lip As Your Architect

People have the wrong ideas about what a house is.

I’ve spent a goodly portion of my life observing people and their houses. I think that dwellings show more about people than any other publicly available information about them. Hell, no psychiatrist knows more about a person than their housepainter.

People have got it into their head that a house is an elaborate and fussy thing, antiseptic; it’s like a gigantic automobile, and that it should look brand new at all times, forevermore. I do not share this view. I think that your house should get better –be better, more comfortable, more visually appealing –the longer you live in it. It should suit you, not the other way around. This is not achieved with plastic slipcovers and powerwashers.

I am living in what was, until recently, an abandoned home. It had big holes in the roof through which animals that could cast shadows passed in and out. All the plumbing and heating pipes had frozen and burst. It had suffered at least two fires before, the evidence of which was still visible. It was a wreck, and so, cheap. But it had not been neglected. I pray to someday own an old house that has been neglected. Neglect does not indicate a profound contempt for the value of the original house the way the mindless remodeling that went on here does. Wave after wave of owners had mostly wrecked everything in the house worth saving, and had added all the cancers that Home Depot has to offer in their place. They figured the stuff wasn’t brand new and shiny any more, so why keep after it? I have muttered under my breath: I can fix the hole in the roof; what did you people do with all the goddamn doors? I don’t need a ceiling fan in every room in a house within driving distance of the arctic circle, you lunatics; I need doors in the doorjambs.

Everyone searches for a free lunch. But there is no free lunch in a house. Only a direction. Or, more to the point, there are only two directions, better or worse. You are never at rest. Most everything I see touted for installation in a house touts as its prime characteristic that it never need maintenance. That’s the “tell.” If you ever see the term “never needs maintenance” again, substitute the word “disposable,” because that’s what it is. It never needs maintenance right up until you throw it away in an angry fit, 100 years before things that need maintenance are getting warmed up.

I work, really hard, making cottage furniture here in Maine, on one floor of my house. It’s fairly large. It’s partially below ground, and two storeys up at the same time. It was a really dreary hole when I first set up shop. I’ve noticed that the longer I work in there, the pleasanter the place becomes. I tinker with it some, but mostly it organically becomes more useful and pleasant because I begin to place things where they are handiest, so clutter is slowly cleared away, and with less clutter, the place is easier to clean up. I put back five windows that former owners had removed, so it’s brighter  and warmer than it used to be, too. It’s an example of the phenomenon: the longer you bustle about a place, the more suited to you it should become. Many kitchens achieve this in American houses, but few other rooms really do. I’ve found many dozens of people, living in houses with 5,6,7000 square feet — even more than that — and still huddling in some little corner of it with the only possessions they truly like, trying to be comfortable, while the rest of the house is a furniture museum.  They used to ask me what color they could paint the abandoned rooms that would tempt them to enter them.

The siding on my house is 111 years old. It requires painting. There will never be a house with 111-year-old vinyl siding on it. And the siding on mine will be structurally sound for another hundred years — or two. There are dozens of windows in my house that are 111 years old. They are made of wood, many still with the original wavy glass in the sashes. There will never be a house with 111-year-old double-glazed vacuum-sealed windows in them. My house has 111 year old birch strip flooring in it. There will never be a house with 111 year-old Pergo flooring in it.

I could belabor this point. But the only truly permanent installation in a house is ceramic tile in a color you can’t stand. If you like the color, it falls off the wall. Everything else is ephemeral, and will require maintenance once in a while, or replacement if it can’t be maintained. You might as well get used to the idea up front.

Women now visit the vivisectionist — er, I mean the doctor — and say they’ll pay big money to look like a 48-1/2 year old burn victim with a fat lip instead of the fifty year old woman they are. Others buy vinyl siding. But the impetus is the same. You recognize the direction you’re heading, and instead of cultivating the passage of time, you want to fight it. Deny its very existence. Good luck with that.

**Ring** Hobbit House Roofers. Peregrine Took Speaking

American house architecture was much more exuberant in the 1920s than since. I’ve worked on houses from the 17th century through the 21st, and the 1920s can lay a claim to being the most useful and practical without giving up anything in the style department. They’re generally smaller than a contemporary house, but that’s a feature, not a bug, if you ask me. Most contemporary houses are huge because they waste a lot of space, and waste it in multiples while the occupants try to find a corner of their caverns to actually live in. If the houses were designed better, they could be smaller. They aren’t, so they can’t.

They were, in the twenties. It’s important to remember that compared to the walk-up rented apartments and ramshackle shacks the twenties homebuyer was moving from, they weren’t all that small. But a 2012 female person takes one look at the modest closet, and the 2012 male person vainly searches for seven feet of blank wall for their TV, and are disconsolate.

One of the most exuberant style items afoot back then architecturally was the faux thatched roof. That’s what you’re looking at there. The Arts and Crafts retreat to rusticity was in full play. But hobbit house roofers are hard to find in the 21st century, and so the homeowners had to find someone willing and a little unusual to plan the necessary assault on their roof and their checkbook.

The roof is a very large visual element on a house. 90 percent of them are blah expanses of asphalt tab shingles. Back a hundred years ago, you might find asphalt shingles, of course –the house in the picture might have had them as original equipment — but you’d be just as likely find slate, or sawn cedar, or heavier split shakes, or metal. They’d be laid in interesting patterns and a wider palette of colors than now, too. “What color gray do you want” is all they ask you at the lumberyard now.

I’ve repaired curved roofs like this. I cheated. If you lay cedar shingles on the lawn in the early morning, the sunny side shrinks and the damp, grass side expands, and they “cup” a good deal. You can bend them the rest of the way by hand and nail them down if you’re in a hurry. The steam box in the video is a much better method, of course. Well, “better” until you get the bill, anyway.

You can see some more faux-thatched roof designs, among other wonders, inside Classic Houses of the Twenties (Dover Architecture)

Elderly Pixels Being Viewed By Agoraphobic Misanthropes For Some Reason, Example 23

(From 2008: Please  note that only four years later blue and brown is in complete remission)

Ten Dreadful Things That Have Become Housing Standards

I’ve been watching all the “Let’s have a housing makeover” shows. It’s interesting how many of them there are. Everyone seems to be interested in the design process now. There’s very little of what used to be the norm in home-improvement shows — pointing the camera at the people doing the hammer and nail work. Now it’s point a camera at the realtor, or the curtain guy, or the designer for the most part. They have elves do the work while the camera crew is at lunch, I guess.

Most people get their ideas about what to do in fashion by looking at what other people are wearing. Essentially, all the home rehab programs are fashion shows at this point; centered around the soft goods. I’m in the furniture business now, so it’s sort of my game, but I used to be more heavily into the building of the actual house, so there’s some things about the whole megillah that bug me.

They bug me because everyone is doing them because everyone is doing them. They are ugly; or nonsensical; or counterproductive; or wasteful; or mostly an ephemeral fad being written into concrete — always a bad idea. The decorative stuff is going to be painted over shortly or thrown in the dumpster too quickly, and the permanent installations are going to make the owners miserable for generations because they’re too expensive to get rid of.

So here’s my counsel. STOP DOING THIS:

1. Snout houses.
Stop nailing your house onto the ass end of your garage. I’m not going to explain myself. I shouldn’t have to. You are building a house for your car and living in a shack out back. Never ever ever do it.

2. Putting a flatscreen TV over your fireplace mantel.
Profoundly dumb. It’s tiring to look at screens above eye level when you are seated. Designers have given up doing their job integrating two things to look at in the same room, and so have stacked them. They’re not washer/dryers in a condo, people. You’re slouching in your chair and getting headaches and backaches trying to look at the thing. There’s a reason no one sits in the first row at the theater. Look down slightly at entertainers, and the entertainment, too.

3. Putting the microwave over the stove.
Reaching over a hot stove to remove dishes sometimes filled with superheated items, above eye level for most women and all children is profoundly dumb. It’s the greasiest place in the world, too. Put it in the island and your five year old can make their own popcorn.

4. Cooktops in islands with seating.
I love to have hot grease spatters launched at me while I’m seated across an island from the cook. The boiling cauldrons of water give a nice netherworldly effect as well.

5. Open plan in a big house.
Open plan is for little houses, so rooms can share some space with one another and counterfeit roominess. A big house with undifferentiated space is a airport lobby. Last time I checked, having doors doesn’t preclude a plan from being “open.” You just leave them open. Not having them does preclude you from closing off the rooms when you want to, though. Even small houses are better with rooms that can be closed,if you ask me.

6. Very high ceilings in a family room.
You’re trying to watch TV in there, or talk to one another, and the sound bangs around like an airport hangar. You’ve got an open plan so you get to listen to the dishwasher and refrigerator run, too. A two story bedroom is pretty dumb, too, but I don’t want to make a Top Eleven list.

7. Plastic everything.
Vinyl sided, rubber windows, plastic decking… Man, everybody’s living in a big rubber box nailed on the back of a garage. Wood, stone, masonry, glass, paint, people.

8. Ceiling fans everywhere.
Do you all really think you live in Casablanca? If I go into another ranch house with a ceiling fan hanging down from a 7 foot 6 inch ceiling, I’m going to go postal. If I can’t stand up in the middle of the room without getting a bruise or a haircut, you’re doing it wrong. There is no stratification of air in a house. Doesn’t happen. You’re screwing a window boxfan sideways to your ceiling. Stop it. Your house has AC anyway. And you live in Wisconsin. Cut it out.

9. Enormous jacuzzi tubs.
You can ooh and aah all you want when you go in the bathroom and see a big jetted tub with a window over it, and a skylight above, but I’ve got news for you: You will patronize your undertaker more often than you use that tub; 99% of humans will not bathe in front of a window; and the skylight will rain condensation every time you take a shower, forevermore. Strike three.

10. Blue and Brown.
I’ve lived through this three times now. I’ve ripped all this stuff out twice with customers muttering “What were they thinking?” Powder Blue and Cocoa Brown DO NOT go together under any circumstances, anywhere. Except of course in every room on every show on television.

Captain Tammany H. Plutocrat Real Estate And Bill Collection, Inc.

(Author’s Note: There is no editor. Maybe I’ll hire one if you buy a goddamn book

That rapscallion Bird Dog over to Maggie’s Farm linked to one of those titanic bits of news that apparently only warrants a mention on the last page of the Internet, while a few dozen well-to-do hipster doofuses have a hissy fit on the first fifty pages of all the newspapers.

— The largest transfer of wealth from the public to private sector is
about to begin. The federal government will be bulk-selling the massive
portfolio of foreclosed homes now owned by HUD, Fannie Mae and Freddie
Mac to private investors — vulture funds.

These homes, which are now the property of the U.S. government,
the U.S. taxpayer, U.S. citizens collectively, are going to be sold to
private investor conglomerates at extraordinarily large discounts to
real value.

You and I will not be allowed to participate. These investors will come from the private-equity and hedge-fund community, Goldman Sachs and its derivatives, as well as foreign sovereign wealth funds that can bring a billion dollars or more to each transaction.

In the process, these investors will instantaneously become the
largest improved real estate owners and landlords in the world. The U.S. taxpayer will get pennies on the dollar for these homes and then be allowed to rent them back at market rates.

Hmmm. The government is giving away all those practically free foreclosed houses you’ve been waiting and saving to purchase, to rapacious investors. Who’da thunkit? I mean, besides me, a year ago:

A “foreclosed house” is not a house. The jots and tittles have to be
filled in by the lawyers and clerks –who owes and owns what, what’s
required to call the house complete and safe for habitation — just like
you do before you dig the cellar hole. It is only a potential house.
Think of them as housing starts for future years, because the vast
majority of them won’t be ready to be sold for years. And since
practically no one is building any new houses, and household creation
plugs along, unspectacular but inexorable, those foreclosed houses are
not going to be sold for peanuts in the future, because they’re going to
represent the only game in town. Buy them or rent them, they’re going
to cost you real money.

Banks, especially big, national banks, are not realtors. They’re not
property managers. They have nothing in place to handle owning and
selling the property they have on their hands. They will never use a
retail approach to unloading them. They will sell them in huge blocks to
investors, unload them on the government –who will unload them on
favored investors —
or demolish them. These investors will be risking a
great deal by buying real estate, and they’re going to demand an
enormous return on that investment. They are going to make the most
rapacious developers that built the houses in the first place look like
The people who are currently living in the foreclosed houses
“rent-free” while the bank’s lawyer scratches his head in front of a
judge saying: “I know that deed is around here somewhere” are actually
doing the bank a favor. They are of no use to the bank as paying
customers anymore, and the bank has already written them off, but they
will serve as a kind of disreputable housesitter for a year, maybe two,
saving the bank from paying someone to mow the lawn or otherwise look
after the place. By then the banks will have their foreclosure ducks in a row, and out in the street they’ll go, and into the now nascent, but soon to be gigantic foreclosure machine the house will go.

I’ll tell you something else. All those people who thought they were going to walk away from those houses and give them back to the banks? The banks are going to figure out the difference between the mortgage and what the house is sold for, which will be huge, sell those debts to lawyers –who’ll make the mafia or a first wife look reasonable — and they’ll use the court system as their own private strong-arm collectors, and hound those people to kingdom come. 

Barring a sea change in governance, five years from now there will be nothing left to do but piss in the hole where the American housing industry once stood. It’ll still be smouldering from a subsidized public/private arson fire initiative, so even that might seem like a blessing when they’re done with it.

Housing Delenda Est

A day after we looked into the hole where hundreds of houses were being tenderly razed by the loving dozerblade of the caring banks under the benevolent gaze of the compassionate government, the tallest midgets in the intellectual circus are peeing into the smoking cellar holes to double down on proving me prescient again.

The Obama administration may turn thousands of government-owned
foreclosures into rental properties to help boost falling home prices.The
Federal Housing Finance Agency said Wednesday it is seeking input from
investors on how to rent homes owned by government-controlled mortgage
companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing

In some insane alternate universe, persons believe this is a good idea.

MarketWatch: Renting, Blowing Up Foreclosures Not A Bad Idea

In this bizarro world, people unable to afford a free house because they have no job will purchase an expensive house right next door if you’ll  simply destroy the empty free house. Further, in this outre galaxy, the government-supervised rental of housing will brighten up neighborhoods, and renters will take better care of properties than owners. Okey dokey, then. See you down at Spacely’s when you need some sprockets, space real estate cadets.

You’ll have to bear with me, as I’m a little behind the times on these matters. We used to build good, solid, liveable houses, employed lots of people to do so at good wages, and then we’d sell them to customers who would live in them, usually by qualifying for a mortgage by having a job themselves. I fear you’re going to have to bail Tony Rezko, Charles Keating, Neil Bush, Susan McDougal, or someone similar out of jail, or look under whatever rock they might be under just now, and ask them how it’s going to work from here on in. Any five Senators will do in a pinch.

A little later on in the AP article, there is a bit of a clue of what we might expect:

A federal “request for information” released
Wednesday included an option for previous homeowners to rent out the
homes or for current renters to lease to own. Private investors could
also be allowed to manage the rental properties.

I see. The housing industry will now be run from Washington using the ColorTyme business plan.Sounds like paradise.

There’s no word on whether Bank of America and Wells Fargo will eventually be nationalized and run on a payday loan/ pawnshop hybrid model.

This Is How I Go When I Go Like This: Painting The House

So it’s 10:00 AM, Saturday morning. About 65 degrees; sunny; not much wind. I was up at 5, but didn’t have the heart to roust the teen early. We have plenty of time. We’re going to paint one side of our 1901 Victorian. 
We have a three-year plan to fix up the house. We’re one year in and holding our own. The order of things is skewed. We have next-to-no money, so we have to concentrate on labor-intensive things, not material-intensive things first. We don’t have a lot of time, either, but that’s an excuse to go fast, not to avoid things. 
One of our lovely neighbors recently vinyl-sided their house, and told us about it. Vinyl siding is common here. Vinyl siding is sold as a curative, but it’s a palliative. It’s the medical marijuana of home improvement. You still have cancer but you don’t care as much. The neighbor told us the first estimate to side their house, which is smaller than our house, was $19,000. Since I purchased my house for $24,000, this seemed less than a value. They ended up hiring a local man who charged them $11,000. If I had $11k and few months, I could renovate the entire inside and outside of my home and quadruple its value. Back when I still painted stranger’s houses, I could have painted their house eight times with $19k. That’s thirty-five to forty years of fresh paint on your house for the same money. A plastic winding sheet for your house seems more appetizing to the average American now, for reasons that escape me. 
It’s been a while since I bought housepaint. I was astonished to find the price had roughly doubled. It was almost fifty bucks a gallon for Ben Moore Moorgard latex flat; so painting one side of my house would cost about a hunnerd, and take a day. We painted the front last year. The back needs more repairs first, the other side needs… I dunno, prayers or a missile strike or something first. I’ll get to it.

There’s the side we’re doing. It’s two-and-a-half stories on a wild slope inside some trees, guarded by legions of mosquitoes. I execrate everything the former owners did to the place, and the nasty blue color the place was schmeared with is right at the top of the list; right up there with the cedar shingles they wallpapered our bedroom with.

I used to build gas stations, and we’d occasionally be hired to decommission a gas station. We removed the storage tanks and dispensers and so forth, then all the signage. Then we were instructed to paint the entire place, every last surface, with a non-descript, blah, nasty blue color that would throw off any person trying to divine what kind of gasoline used to be served there by any color scheme left showing. The color was deliberately chosen to be ugly.  Our house was painted that blue color, and it drove me around the bend, every square inch of it, every time I looked at it. It’s like therapy, not work, to cover it up

I’m in a hurry and must be efficient. I start at the hardest, highest spot, and do everything while I’m there. I palm sand the entire thing, caulk the seams, putty any holes, and paint the siding and the trim at the same time. You’ve been told by a middle-aged woman wearing too much makeup wearing an orange vest in a big warehouse that sells powerwashers that you want to powerwash your house first. No you don’t.

The paint might cost fitty a gallon, but it covers in one shot, so it’s worth the dough. Between all the gathering of stuff and so forth, this is all we had done by noon. LUNCH!

Momo le chat offered to fix lunch for us, but we don’t have a working grill yet, so we had to settle for food my wife made instead. We spent a quiet moment in the back yard, enjoying the sunshine. Winter beats on you like a LaMotta every year, so every nice day is like a sunny Christmas:

I read the Intertunnel, and am instructed constantly that children are nothing but rude, useless drains on one’s pocketbook, and pointless leeches on society and Mother Nature. I bet yours are, if you write things like that — or would be, if you’d managed to have any children instead of playing World of Warcraft in your mom’s basement until you’re old enough to retire on Social Security. Mine are endlessly useful and productive and amusing.

After finishing the moles and sandwiches, we’ve got to get on our horse and ride. Here is a rare sighting of the author in his native habitat. Don’t approach him too closely; he spooks easily and lashes out when startled:

The siding is “Providence Olive.” The trim is “Montgomery White,” which my son the wag calls monkey white. The accent color seen later is “Mayflower Red.”

Here you can look in our bedroom windows, you pervert:

That’s my office on the right. It has huge windows on the four faceted sides of it, the largest of which is five feet square. It’s a fantastic place to write. I wish I knew how to write; then life would be perfect:

Here I am again. I’m desperately handsome, and poorly dressed, which is my signature look:

We decided to press on through before eating dinner, and worked until we finished at 6:30. My heir painted the masonry “Tudor Brown,” and a lot of the lowest boards on the siding, which are called a water table. I’m the only person you know that knows what the lowest boards on your siding are called; so I have that going for me.

Some deranged persons have removed 9 or 10 windows from my house, and put plywood over the openings. I am not a violent man, but I’m willing to learn if I meet these people. I imagine they thought they were saving money on heat, but since the majority of the windows they removed faced south, southeast, or southwest, they ended up losing all the solar gain of the windows instead. Then they put tacky ceiling fans in every room with the money they “saved.”  I’ll put the windows back some day when we’re rich.

The ceiling fans went to the dump on day one.

Tag: housing

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