Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Looking Up, A Bit

It's been nearly a week since I blogged, and a busy week it has been. The mold remediators are on their last day here, the room is tested tomorrow (although to be honest there's nothing there but studs), and they remove the two jet engine air scrubbers that have created a permanent notch in my hearing, at least the ones outside of the Room of Death. Mold testing happens tomorrow.

On the Bad Inspector Front, I last heard from them about a week ago when I was told that the owner was still not cogent enough from his double knee surgery to make decisions. I had given them until this coming Friday, but I have this bad feeling that they are using the time to get their legal ducks in order. If I find that is the case I will start telling the full story everywhere I possibly can, and then will consider legal action. I am still hopeful that they will do the right thing, but am preparing for the worst.

As far as unpacking goes, we are proceeding. Yesterday I finally took on the new game room, despite a very stiff neck after a weekend of choir concerts (it was a very busy week). All of the wargames are in the closet, as are the comic books and my vinyl records. I have four bookcases to hold my Euros, and I think I can fit them all. The problem will be all of the things that were in the bookcases before, mostly knick-knacky stuff. That and the books that were in our dining room. Once the Euros are unpacked it will be a while until I can get the extra boxes out, but at least I'll have a table and the games available. I'm just not sure when I would find *time* to actually play...

Speaking of which, I'm still on hiatus from Rip City Gamers. I'm hoping that next week I can start attending again, but much depends upon when my wife will be working, and her shift in schedule happens once their new receptionist is up to speed, which is taking a long time. My mother had a rough weekend, which we're convinced is because her GP is overwhelmed and not giving a good look at reducing her meds load, so we're looking into a new GP with more focus on older patients. Still, I'm very concerned about her falling (she did at least three times over the past week, once right in front of me), and the meds she's on make her confused. As such, I am much more comfortable being in the immediate vicinity, or at least having my wife here. Tuesdays are just too busy for now, though. It will be nice to get back into the groove.

My health is doing better. I saw a doctor last Wednesday, and my BP was 168/92. I see my regular GP tomorrow, conveniently at the same place we're going to try to get my Mom into (Fanno Creek Clinic), and I'm sure my BP will still be over 150 for the systolic number. I'm back on my diuretic BP medication, so hopefully it will be closer to an acceptable level. I also am fairly sure that I have a hiatic hernia (a hole in the diaphragm that allows part of your stomach to bunch up and cause discomfort). I had a bad moment during the Saturday night concert when I was fairly sure this was angina or an impending heart attack, but the symptoms really point to the hernia. I have a funny feeling I will have an extremely good sense of the current state of the health industry in America within two months, both for myself and for my mother.

Some other good news on the house... we have finished the kitchen, at least the unpacking part, and the living room is about 80% of the way there. I put up a towel bar in our bathroom last night, those are kinda tricky to get just right but I did it on the first try. I also replaced the old shower head, a 20 lb Speakman fixed head that was pretty much rusted out with our newer and much lighter Speakman removable head. I'll be trying it out shortly before I take my mother shopping for a coat and pants. My sister came out and picked up all of the packing paper (we estimate about $100 worth) that we'd saved, she's going to take our boxes, worth another $500 or so, in the next month. We have a lot of boxes, but they don't seem quite so numerous when they're collapsed. So far very little damage to our goods - of the games only the Days of Decision III box took a ding, although I've got a lot of boxes to open still. Amazing considering how fast the movers worked.

I'm not sure if I'll ever play Warcraft again at this point. I haven't touched it in weeks, and may not for a couple more. If I was ever complaining about being bored, that is no longer the case.

I am so looking forward to having the jet engines removed...

I'll post more in a couple of days once the Bad Inspectors have decided if they're going to go on the side of the angels or not.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Moving In

I feel like I've been through one of the most stressful times of my life over the past month, on a par with losing my singing voice for six months in 2003 (and the psychic costs associated with it) and the implosion of my career change to academia in 1996. Who would have thought that a simple move 15 minutes down the road could cause so much grief?

The main problem, at least in terms of me handling stress, has been the lack of sleep. Where I can survive on six to eight hours so long as it's mostly uninterrupted and I can get into delta sleep for a bit, I do OK. However, lately I've been lucky to get six hours, and rarely do I sleep for more than an hour or two before waking up. In the new house, it's really been a problem, mostly because I've lost confidence in *anything* in the house to work correctly, and so every noise, every smell, every everything wakes me and I go looking to see what the problem is.

An excellent example is the HVAC system, outlined in the last post. Even once the new system was in, I found myself freezing at night as if there was no heat at all. After one night spent mostly trying to figure out why I was so cold, I came to the conclusion that it was a combination of several elements: poor circulation, even with the furnace fan running all the time, my own sudden sensitivity to cold, and a weird phenomenon in my sinuses where I'm both extremely sensitive to smells as well as feel like my chest and sinuses have menthol on them and so things *smell* cold.

Unfortunately, even with an extra comforter on the bed, suddenly I wake up drenched in sweat to have to adjust the covers, only to wake up again in 30 minutes freezing. No wonder I'm not sleeping. I've gotten a prescription for a mild sedative, we'll see if that helps.

It appears that the smell issue, which started in earnest when the ductwork was replaced, has gotten better, although I now believe that much of the problem is with musty wood in the cabinets and the 30 year old parquet entry. The entry we can replace fairly soon, but the cabinets will have to wait for their respective remodel efforts. We've just spent too much too soon to start thinking about these elements for at least a year, and the moldy Room Of Death dictates that we make some basic architectural changes in order to prevent future water leaks and possible mold. In other words, the deck above the room of death is going to be replaced by a regular roof in pretty short order, like next summer. Once I pass the HOA inspection process, of course.

Speaking of the Room of Death (RoD), the remediators are now at work on it. On Tuesday, they brought over the zipper door to install inside so that they could get into the room to open the sliding door, and also installed a HEPA filter of the Gods to achieve negative pressure in the room. Imagine my surprise when, "awakening" from an attempted nap, that the new door, the only thing between me and a mold that I was told would produce organ failure if I was exposed to it for 20 minutes in the concentrations found in that very room, was coming loose at the top.

I calmed down about an hour later. They came back and stapled the damned thing to the wall, something I could have done (and they should have done) were I able to find my staple gun. Today, they removed pretty much every piece of drywall, ceiling, floor, and mold in the place. We're down to the studs now, which is good because today it rained and tomorrow we should be able to see where the leak is coming from. At least we'll have one year of worrying if there's another leak, but after replacing that roof we should (should, I say) be relatively safe.

I really can't do this again. Last night, I was ready to get in the car with Mel and the dogs and drive into the ocean. Today, I got a sedative from my doctor, as well as chest x-rays and a blood test to see if I've absorbed anything that will kill me quicker than usual. One fun fact- my BP is 168/92. Pop goes the weasel.

We've gotten a lot of unpacking downstairs done, with Mel doing the lion's share of the work - I've been off helping my mother and getting drugs and prepping for a choir concert I really should have dropped out of three weeks ago and now feel obligated to finish. I figure we've gotten through about a third of the process, which will next move on to the garage and, eventually, the new game room. At this rate, I expect to have it set up around Thanksgiving.

Of the 20 other things going wrong, we have plumbing that used lots of compression nuts and bendable metal tubes, a "time bomb" in the words of one mold inspector, an electrical system that I don't trust for a minute, a leak in the roof that I sure hope they fixed today, a shower upstairs whose faucet leaks when you use it, venting from three different rooms in the main floor that were sent to the soffet instead of an actual vent, a toilet in the master bath that hiccups ever fifteen minutes, two giant air scrubbers trying desperately to find the last of the stachy botrys mold in the air that *isn't* in the RoD), replacing pretty much every light fixture, electrical outlet, and switch in the house, and bills that are rapidly reaching $15,000 more than I expected. And that's just to take care of the things that need work *now*.

At least it looks like the inspectors will pay for the new ductwork, or so it seems when the owner comes out of his morphine fog after double knee replacements. I hope, because as much fun as it will be to destroy this company in a civil lawsuit and the associated storm of consumer complaints I'll file, I really need the rest.

Last night I got to the point where I wished fervently that I could turn back time two months and just laugh at my sister when she suggested that Mel and I move to Charbonneau. Maybe I'll feel better after one decent night's sleep on the sedative (which really haven't worked well for me in the past, at least for sleep), and maybe once every box on the main floor has been emptied, the packing paper collected, the boxes sorted and saved for my sister's move (the other one, not the bad suggestion one), and I can't smell that funk anymore, then I'll feel better. God, I hope so.

I am sorry that this blog has been such a downer as of late, but to be very honest I kind of feel like it's therapy for me. Hopefully I'll be able to start giving good news at some point, but right now I just want to sleep.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Original Sin

I threatened to sue a man today.

I think many of us will mention their lawyers in the heat of an argument, usually out of frustration. Clearly we are a litigious society, where civil action is considered by some to be a vocation rather than a last resort. My philosophy has always been that when you bring a lawyer into a dispute, both parties lose and the lawyer wins.

Sometimes, though, you don't really care if you lose, just that the other guy does. Today was one of those days.

I'll preface the story by relating a lesson I learned in my Theology 205 class about original sin. Many of you know that I am not a deist, but neither am I atheist. I simply figure that if there is a higher being who wants to send me an unambiguous message that they will do so. Some of you will say that I am sent a message every day I'm alive, but hear me out. The lesson, which has stuck with me for a quarter century and is a guiding principle of my life is simple.

Take responsibility for your actions. All sin comes from avoiding said responsibility.

In Genesis, it is not that Eve takes the apple and eats from it, nor is it that she gives it to Adam and he eats from it as well, despite a rather stern admonition from God. The sin is that when asked who ate the apple, Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames the Serpent. It is the avoidance of responsibility that is the sin, not the act per se.

This is not to say that acts are not harmful, cruel, stupid, or any other adjective you want to choose. It is that the *sin* is in not being willing to say, "I did it, and I'm willing to suffer the consequences." If you are willing to take responsibility, you are less likely to commit an act that carries a harsh penalty, whether monetary, social, or even just knowing you've done wrong.

Your mileage may vary, but this is the terminology I use to describe this basic building block of my ethical standards. Not everyone lives this way, and it drives me mad. What makes me madder is that much of the time people will try to lie their way out of responsibility over something as minor as money, and not much at that. It is almost as if the act of getting away with something is more valuable than their own soul. I really don't know how people who do this can look themselves in the mirror. I certainly couldn't.

So it was that when we discovered that our ductwork in our new house was made of a particularly braindead material, in this case wire mesh tubing surrounded by insulation and a thin metal film, and that said material cannot be cleaned, and that I on occasion suffer from asthsma and insist on having clean ducts, it was with hope that the people who inspected our home would step up and admit that they had missed an element that is costing us not only $3500 to replace, but we are left with no heat until that work is done. We have been fortunate to find a company that is replacing the ductwork as I type, and by tomorrow night we should be able to use something other than space heaters to stay warm.

I will not give out the name of the inspectors, but will say that their first reaction to every problem I've found in the house and notified them of has been to cover their asses. With the mold we found, they had a point that it was very unlikely they would have detected anything without pulling back vinyl wallpaper, and I freely admitted this and let them off of the hook. In the case of the ductwork, however, I stood there and watched the assistant point a flashlight into a register and tell me that it was a very good idea to have my ducts cleaned, and that these looked a little dirty but otherwise fine.

We discovered the problem after taking possession of the house. Because the mold had been spread through the ducts by the drywall crew that had had the heat on while they tore down the drywall with the mold on it, cleaning our ducts became essential not only to take care of the mold, but because it's simply good practice when buying a home. The Power Vac guy, Matt, came out, told me we couldn't do anything about it, and suggested that I should look into replacement. He spent 10 seconds looking at the register before he noticed it was mesh. Keep in mind that this also means that there is insulation wrapped around this mesh with nothing keeping it from circulating around the house. Would you want to live in this house?

A call to the inspector had me listening to him telling me, over and over, that he'd never heard of such a thing, and that he doubted it existed. He arranged to have his assistant come by today with an HVAC guy to take a look, as he was going in for knee surgery the following morning. This is important, because during the inspection I listened to him discuss an awful lot of issues related to his knee during a 2 hour phone call, and not so much inspecting, which his assistant was doing.

The next day, our mold tester was out (who happened to be the guy they'd brought out about the mold). He had been very analytical and matter-of-fact, which impresses me in an inspector, so he took one look at the ducting and declared it to be something that our original inspector should have caught and mentioned. He also found another problem the inspectors had missed, a leak in the roof into an eave area that was plainly obvious.

At this point, I was pretty certain that I was going to insist that the inspector pay for the duct replacement. Had we been aware of the problem I would have asked the sellers to reduce the price of the house by the cost of duct replacement, and could have done so at a time that would have been convenient for us and for the folks doing the painting and drywall work in the house. I was not given that chance.

Today, the assistant showed up with his pet HVAC guy, and told me that the product was code during construction (although he'd never seen it before and didn't know it existed), that there had never been a recall effort, that his job as inspector was to tell me what things were or weren't code, not what might cause a health problem. My wife lit into him at that point, telling him that he was a professional and as such his job was to represent us as his clients, not hide behind semantics. An ex-inspector had already told me he should have seen it, regardless of whether he was aware of the product, and that it was more than reasonable for us to want to replace it.

With a room full of people suggesting to this guy that he tell his boss (under morphine for his knee pain) that he should do the right thing, including my realtor, a contractor, and the guy replacing the ductwork, but still not the slightest sense of willingness to take responsibility nor even say that he felt for our plight, I pulled out the big guns.

I don't if you've ever been on a jury in a civil action, but I have. You should be aware that juries have a strong propensity in such matters to want the wronged party to be compensated for what has happened to them, and a willingness to have whoever is in the defendent's chair pay for it with even the slightest chance of responsibility. Frankly, I hate this, and in the jury I was empaneled on I fought tooth and nail to force a party that had in all likelihood saved lived by their actions pay damages. I lost that fight.

The assistant had also been on civil actions as a juror, and when I pulled that particular card out, the look on his face told me that I would get what I was asking for: the cost of replacing my ductwork minus the cost of the cleaning (as I'd saved that money - I am nothing if not honest), plus a refund of their fee as I could no longer trust their inspection work. That comes to just about the cost of the ductwork replacement, as the fee and the cleaning were the same cost. At $3500, that's about the same as an expert witness or two, and nothing for the lawyers. And that's if they won the suit, which is unlikely. Keep in mind that the main inspector spent little time actually inspecting, that they already missed a leak, and that by claiming they'd never seen the product they looked stupid.

One other thing: Inspectors live by their reputations (as do we all, although theirs is critical). Here stands my realtor, who pretty much runs this community's real estate market, and that horse has clearly left the barn - she's already taken his name off of the very list that we used to choose him. Throw in a complaint to the Portland Contractor's Board, a grade of F on Angie's List, a wife who worked for six different branches of one of the most successful real estate companies in town (and was loved by all of them), of whom many are now working for different companies, and whatever other way I can tell people to avoid these guys, and the math becomes very clear.

Take responsibility for your failings.

The owner is still under morphine, so I gave them two weeks to do the right thing. After that, you'll know his name, as will quite a few realtors in town. I would estimate the potential loss to his business to be in the tens of thousands per year, perhaps more. My guess is he'll never inspect a home in this community again if my realtor has a thing to say about it. I have three or four people willing to testify on my behalf who either inspected the ducting or were present during my conversation. I have nothing better to do with my time than demonstrate to this individual that he should take responsibility for his actions. I will also state publically that were we to actually go to court (unlikely) and I were to win a large settlement, say more than $20,000, all money not going to the prosecution of the case after paying for the ductwork would be donated to a worthy cause, probably a non-lethal animal shelter or to Iraq War vets. Because this is not about me trying to make litigation a vocation, it is about teaching a lesson that this man should have learned before he turned 25.

Will he learn it? I doubt it - if you haven't figured this sort of thing out by his age (I'm guessing mid-50's), you aren't ever going to get it. But I'll leave a scar, and he won't forget that. I am a fair man. I am an honest man. I am giving this person a chance to do the right thing, to have a backbone, to look at himself in the mirror and not cringe. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Confidential to Chris: Sorry that you can't read this on your iPhone yet. Someday soon. ;-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


If I have learned anything in the last two weeks, it is this...

Don't buy a house.

We have, in the last two weeks, discovered mold in one wall of a room we won't be able to go into for at least two more weeks. While trying to get mold out of the ductwork, we have discovered that it is made of a mesh material wrapped in insulation that was sold for about a year in the late 70's, and all of it must be completely replaced, and the removed material has to be bagged in place in the attic or crawlspace. As such, we can't run the HVAC system until the ducting has been replaced, or face the possibility of remediating the entire house. Right now that looks like five days, and we may have to stay at a motel with the dogs during that time.

The painting crew not only failed to tape adequately, but left a horrendous mess that our drywaller (who contracted the painting out) has spent all day fixing with the help of five other guys. Our inspectors were idiots, and missed not only the duct issue but also a leak in the eaves, insufficient ventilation from the master bathroom, and rotting deck railing. We may sue, and I have never sued anyone in my life. Because they missed the ducting, we are likely to be out an extra $3000 that we could have gotten from the sellers, but without a civil suit we'll be stuck with getting our $435 inspection fee back. We are likely to report them to the contractor's board in Portland, not to mention Angie's List and the Better Business Bureau.

And, it took the cable installer four hours (no lie) to figure out that the wall plug was hooked up to a TV antenna in the attic, then repair water damage in the access box and replace the cable that ran up there. And the Dish Network guy is currently running cable under the house, but we just learned that they no longer have a single dish solution for HD programming so we have two sitting on our courtyard deck.

Oh, and I have no functioning toilets right now because the painters put them back so poorly that they are all leaking.

As a final insult, the stacking trays I ordered that are to hold wargames in progress were misordered and I only got half of them.

On the plus side, we seem to have finally gotten ahold of all of the existing and known problems, and I'm seriously considering hiring electrical and plumbing professionals to inspect those systems as I have zero confidence that any of them are in good shape, and my previous inspectors almost certainly missed a few things we *haven't* noticed. And all my stuff shows up today, so that's good.

Gotta go, my handyman just told me one toilet works. What a month. It has to get better. Right? Right?


At least we'll have TV to freeze by...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Last Hurrah, Multnomah Village Edition

Robert Klein used to do a bit about opening for a Richie Havens' concert in the 70's that was very funny. I heard it on Doctor Demento several times during my formative years, and several parts of the routine have stuck with me. None so much, though, as when he is about to go onstage to a crowd of screaming fans who are, sadly, screaming, "Ri-chie, Ri-chie!" At that point, he sees the stage manager sitting under a sign that reads, "Last Human Being Before The Stage". I use that term all of the time, even though no one gets it.

Last night, the final gaming session at my home in Multnomah Village was the Last Human Being Before The Stage. We have no more visitors, no more guests, no more anything but packing, getting our new place ready (including demolding one room, always nice to have a little surprise when you move into a place), and sleeping for about 10 minutes per night.

I was quite touched that so many people, both new and old, made the trip out for the last session at the place where Rip City Gamers was born. Eleven people in all, and a couple who couldn't make it at the last minute. Not a lot of games on the table, but given that I am in the early stages of a bronchial infection brought on by remodelling dust and almost certainly mold and have gotten about six hours of sleep the entire week, I was OK with that. Great fun was had by all, including what at least sounded like the most entertaining game of El Grande ever (and Matt and Ben correctly predicted that they would come in 1 and 2, aided by Chuck). The rest of us played Elfenlands, just to give a nod to 1998 and the year we started gaming as a group.

Thanks to all who have attended even a single session (OK, I may have one or two exceptions), but especially to those who were able to come last night. This was the event that demarcates this home going from ours to a place we need to vacate in a bit more than a week, and I couldn't think of a nicer group of people to celebrate it with.

Now we have the hard work, at least in terms of dealing with what we keep and what we try to avoid paying people to move for us. Amazing how much junk you build up in 10 years, especially considering that when we moved here we'd moved three times in 14 months and thus had very little in the way of furniture. In fact, almost everything we have in this house we bought while we were living here, or else inherited it from my mother when she moved to Spring Chicken Ridge (her retirement community). We've done a good job of getting rid of books, and I've even pared the games down a bit at the Rainy Day Games auctions (and a damned shame I missed the last one, as I could have tossed a few more their way). Even so, I'm figuring something like 40 boxes of books and written materials (including old RPG stuff), and a similar number of boxes for my games. Anything to try to cut into the packing costs - I just don't have the stamina to be carrying a lot of boxes around, but I'm happy to build them and fill them.

We waited until after the RCG session because I wanted games to be accessible, but also because we have about half of our books in the dining room where we play. Sorry, used to play. Sigh. Now we'll be spending a few days getting all of those books in boxes that will sit in that room, as well as filling a lot of boxes in the Doug Room. I'm very interested to see if I can fit all of my games in the new room - at the very least it will be an impressive sight.

In the new house, we have a little mold issue to get resolved, but otherwise we're on track for moving in a week from today. Thank God I'm married to a woman who has a pathological need for order, otherwise I'd never remember if we'd contacted the right people at the right time. Here's an example:

1) Tuesday morning - piano movers arrive to pick up the grand
2) Tuesday lunch - Piano movers arrive at new house to drop off the grand
2.5) Tuesday lunch - Mel signs closing papers on old house (she works that day)
3) Tuesday afternoon - Comcast shows up to install broadband
4) Tuesday afternoon - I sign closing papers on old house
4.5) Work is ongoing in the house, lots of little problems we're fixing.
5) Wednesday morning - Movers arrive to load truck
6) Wednesday morning - Carpet people show up to clean and appraise Very Expensive Persian Rug With Paint From Rampaging Dog On It (it goes on Wednesday because the piano is on top of it - very heavy - and they only pick up on Wednesdays)
7) Wednesday afternoon - Movers unload our entire world in the new house
8) Wednesday afternoon - Dish Network folks and the HOA rep show up to install the new dish, hook up to the receiver. We'll have a small TV set up to test this. Potential Problem: we aren't really sure where the A/V stack will go.

So as you can see, it's going to be a rather busy week. As a former project manager, this is the kind of crazy critical path that leaves you up at 3am wondering if there wasn't someone else that was supposed to show up on Tuesday but it didn't get onto the schedule. AIIIIIEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Fortunately, the rest of the week isn't so bad, although AS I TYPE THIS I'm learning that the room with the mold is NOT going to be ready for us to move in as we're not likely to get the test back in time for it to matter. AIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!!

If anyone has good sedatives I can borrow, this would be the time to call me. ;-)

Like I said, the bloom is off the rose, and we're in the ugly part of moving. That's saying something.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Move Update

Just a quick update on how our move is going. We're still a bit less than two weeks out from the actual move itself, but things have been proceeding apace. We had the inspection and appraisal of our current home, both went well (although I've never heard what the appraisal value was, mostly out of curiosity - it should be pretty close to our selling price as we did base it on comps in our area).

Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy, and we've had a few things go a bit off the rails:

o Dog Exploding. Not only did one of our dogs, Hallie, make a jail break when the inspector didn't close the basement door completely (she was found by someone in the neighborhood and got home safe and sound), but apparently something she ate on her adventure didn't agree with her. About two hours after I got her home I was standing at the top of our stairs, on my way down, and farted.

OMG, I just insulted someone. ;-)

Anyway, I thought to myself, "Whew! That was pretty bad!". Then I went a couple of steps down the stairs, and it got *worse*. Which, of course, tends to ignore the laws of fart physics. I thought maybe Hallie had farted, and as I went down the stairs and the smell got stronger I was to be proved partially correct. Right in the middle of my study was a pile of the wettest and stinkiest poo I've ever seen come out of my dog. And I hope to God it came out of Hallie because otherwise someone else was crapping in my basement.

On the plus side, the new owners got a freshly steamed carpet in that room.

o Garage Door of Death. Our inspection of the new house showed that our garage door seemed to be set to crush anything beneath it rather than reverse if it hit, oh, a dog. Or me. Turns out that the company that installed the door (or Handy Jack, as I'm calling the former owner, as he never saw drywall he didn't want to stick some sort of wall socket into) did a really bad job, and the drive was set high so that the door would close despite the side rubbing up against the rail. I'm hoping that we can have the people who did this fix it, otherwise we're looking at between $750 and $1250 to get the door either reinstalled or replaced entirely. I'm very glad I asked for the $2000 credit on closing, although now I'm thinking $5000 would have been more appropriate.

o Homework. We have two weeks of workmen now scraping our ceiling (no asbestos, thankfully), replacing the television sized alarm system panel (vaccuum tubes! I'm sure of it!), taking down the giant wall mirrors in the dining room, removing wallpaper, and painting the place. Cost: $11,000. I am not looking forward to redoing the bathroom and kitchen. They are supposed to be done a couple of days before we actually move in.

o Purging. Gotta get rid of the stuff that won't fit, to make room for the stuff that will. One of those is my Jerker (really) computer desk from IKEA. These are hugely popular with computer musicians, as they have places to put near-field monitors and you can stick a keyboard or mix desk under a monitor shelf. I will miss this system, but the truth is I rarely do any computer music projects these days, and with a laptop based system I'll probably just mount the speakers on the wall in my game room and pull out the necessary components when I do decide to jam. Time to check out prices and put stuff like this on Craigslist, no way am I going to ship this behemoth to Poughskeepie.

o How Dry I Am. After 19 years of flawless service, our Maytag dryer (which we sold with the house) decided to have it's first problem, two weeks before we moved out. I was torn on whether or not to fix this, as technically it's no longer ours, but we did have a couple of weeks of laundry we still need to do here as the new place has work being done on it, and I did not feel good about sticking the new owners with a surprise of this nature. So, I thought I'd open it up and take a look, but opened the wrong end (no service panel in the back). When I couldn't get the screws back in, we called the repairman.

However, in an astonishing case of No Good Deed Goes Unrewarded (as opposed to the usual state, Unpunished), it turned out that it was a $25 part causing the problem, and the bill was less than $90. For those of you keeping score, the new remote cost more than that. I was happy to give the new owners a fully functioning dryer, and do it for what is currently seeming like a very cheap amount of money (see above issues).

We're still on track to move on the 17th, and we are just starting to box some of our stuff, mostly books for now. Once we've had the final gaming session at the place where it all began, I will do the games and whats left of the books in the dining room/library. That should save us at least a couple of hours of labor on the move, which will be *more* than the cost of the remote.

Right now we're looking at a new computer desk, lighting fixtures, a 1.9GHz phone system that won't interfere with the new wireless router's .11n frequency, vaccuum cleaner (we currently have a built-in system), and toaster oven. I think we're going to live with this fridge for a couple of months, ugly as it is, as it seems kinda dumb to buy a new one if we decide to get yet another one when we redo the kitchen. Which will make the current spate of projects look very cheap indeed!

Oh, and I decided on your standard Office Depot folding tables, 5'x2.5', for the game room. I can fit three of these bad boys against the wall and have a very modular gaming surface system. With our current smallish dining table with butterfly extenders as the main table, I'll be able to do pretty much anything I want in this room. I did order four of the shelving units for storing games in progress and my laminated maps, so I'm pretty much set for what will end up in that space. Very exciting, and perhaps the thing I'm looking forward to the most. That will be one stuffed walk-in closet by the time I'm done, but it's also going to be a very clean look in the room. Makes up for having to leave the house I've loved living in the most in my lifetime. Now if only there were decent dining options down in Wilsonville...

I'll probably do another update after the move is done. I'm sure glad Mel is as organized as she is, I'd have forgotten half of what I arranged within 20 minutes.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Wee Bit O' Gaming

Had a nice time gaming at Mike's place last night. Got to play Caylus Magna Carta (where do they get these names?) and Foppen.

C:MC is a nice reduction of the original game, in the same general vein as San Juan is to Puerto Rico. PR got a handful of plays in our group, then fell off when the corn strategy broke the base game. I picked up an expansion that gives you more choices of buildings (so you can dump the warehouses if you want a tight game), but we've never pulled it out in a few years. SJ, on the other hand, was our "summoning game" of choice, and with brisk play it's one of my favorite 3-4 player games.

C:MC does a similar number on Caylus, getting rid of the board, putting the buildings on cards, and in general streamlining the rules (and, in theory, play time). There were three of us playing, but we took a good two hours to get through it, including 'splainin'. We made several mistakes (thanks to what must be some of the dumbest rulesets I've ever seen) - For example, we thought you could build residences without having to resort to a lawyer, because residences are never discussed much more than in passing. There are a few references to residences having been transformed from other buildings by the lawyer, but the rules simply don't cover a handful of critical issues. Ystari does decent games, but they need better rules in general.

We also didn't remove three castle tiles, and didn't remove two if no one built onto the castle, although I think this would have shorted our game by a couple of turns at best. Having the "flip side" rules with "beginner" rules on one side and "advanced" on the other makes for a lot of confusion, let me tell you. If you're getting the sense that I think this is a pretty good game that's nearly ruined by the publisher, you're right - I've had similar experiences with Phalanx, a major reason I won't buy their games. One game, Revolution, *has* no official rules interpretation for one rule - players pick an interpretation and go. For someone who likes wargames and wants to play the game correctly, this is anathema. Ystari is moving into the same camp as Phalanx for me at this point.

But the game! We started out with Ben and I competing for castle points, although Ben got the advantage in the early going when points are bigger. I was building very few structures, although I was doing OK for money most of the time. I was on the verge of building one of the 10 point special buildings when Carey swooped in and built it one turn before I was going to. I settled for the Hotel. Did I mention that the special buildings are not listed anywhere in the rules other than one section on the Hotel? One building has a picture of a residence card on it and not one word of explanation in the rules. Argh.

In the end, I managed to pull out a win by building lots of extra structures and getting two 6 point special buildings on the map. However, we did play for a turn or two too long, and we did allow players to build residences at will (one food and you put the card on the table). Assuming that you must use lawyers, I can see players replacing the cards in their hands frequently in order to get the "right" ones in hand in the early game, something I don't know that we ever did. Ben came in second by a point, although at one point Carey was putting the game away a bit before Ben was ready for him to put it away, so I'll call it a bogie and try it again.

If this is truly playable in an hour, it's a major improvement over the box game, and one I'll pick up. Especially if you can play with two, as much of my gaming will be of this variety in the future. Although I hope they learn something about development of rules.

The crowd thinned out a bit (we had seven, a major improvement over the past three weeks when that was the combined total of attendees), so we played a five-player game of Foppen. Too bad this one is out of print, it's a marvelous trick-taking game that you can teach in minutes and has a great screwage factor without requiring players to think too hard. I beat George, but no one else. Chris nosed Carey out for the win when Carey was forced to take several points in the last couple of hands.

An entertaining evening, and it was great to see folks again after a month hiatus. Next week, we are back at my place again for the final session at the place where RCG started. I may cry.