Thursday, October 25, 2012

Filling My Cracks

At fifty-something, manless, and poorer than a millionaire next door pretends to be, I tighten my muscles and tackle most big jobs myself. In the two years past, I’ve had to buy new batteries for my drill, a pump for my hot tub, a new bathtub and surround, roof, windows, manpower, and crack fillers of many kinds—evidence of a writer with too much time on her hands.

My neighbor loaned me Home Improvement 1-2-3: Expert Advice from the Home Depot (1995) that teaches in blonde terms and illustrations how to build and repair things around the house. They usually feature male illustrations, further convincing me I’m attempting gender-inappropriate work and should really return to carrying a briefcase filled with sales material and gender-inappropriate items.

Due to my 1954-vintage house founded on shrinking-when-dry then swelling-when-wet bentonite clay soil coupled with a 10-year dry spell, Mississippi River–size cracks creep up walls and across ceilings making thick moaning and breaking sounds like a lake freezing in wintertime. It’s ominous, though my nightmarish thoughts are prime fodder for a horror flick. Imagine drowning in a king-size waterbed after it fell through the floor. It’s happened to me twice.

In DIY mode, I researched and learned that each of my cracks might need a different filler, sort of like being on the air again (DJs and radio/TV types unite!). Depending on size and location, each substance has its own problem if not inserted into the appropriate crack. Believe me, I’ve had my share of experimentation, not always choosing correctly, and it has led to time-consuming extraction complications. There’s joint compound, Spackle, expandable foam, vinyl concrete patch, concrete latex crack filler, epoxy, and a dizzying variety of caulks. Some materials, once inserted and allowed to age, tend to be rather difficult to remove. I chipped away two-year-old silicone caulking from the upper periphery of my lower brick fireplace with putty knife and hammer. It was no easy job to pull off. Now I understand how hard it must be to remove those big, expensive boobs girls have installed after their spines atrophy.

Last Saturday I used expandable foam to fill a two-inch crack between drywall and the entire chimney masonry unit, an 8’ x 4.5’ x 30’ structure containing two fireplaces and four chimney pots that is literally heading south. It is separating from the rest of the house, headed for warmer climes. By next year, I’ll be able to add a large gun closet where the fireplace used to be, and I’ll build a house around the chimney’s new location. That two-inch crack allowed me to see the garage from inside my home. It also created quite the draft, so I foamed it.

Since the entire can of expandable foam had to be used or it would self-seal, I decided to use the remainder and fill the open-air space between my large, wood garage door and its frame. I don’t waste stuff, including Great Stuff, but I’m blonde and tend to use materials in unconventional ways. A 70-year-old cashmere sweater has been transformed into door insulation, for example.

The day after I foamed the garage door, I got a call from an old friend, “Hey, you want to be spontaneous and enjoy fermented grapes with me?” I said sure, I’d be over in a bit.

But my garage door wouldn’t open. It was expandable-foam shut. Being a bit later than expected, I called my friend and asked, “Have you ever done anything stupid?” then realized he’s a politician and didn’t force a response. So I powered off the phone and chipped the hard, foam-looking material from my garage door, then drove up the cañon for a grape tasting.

That said, a result to seriously consider is that crack fillers are not eternally pliable as girls are with wine. Spackling dries and separates. Some caulk has elasticity, though it’s unsuitable to span large crevices between parting walls. And not all foamy liquids make you burp and pass wind.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When in Doubt, Vote It Out

The following arrived Sunday, October 14, from a friend whose dedication to changing the world continues for the better, at least most of the time:

[edited version] "I just read [El Paso County, Colorado, Sheriff] Terry Maketa’s essay on “Why I need a tax hike for the Sheriff’s Department” and looked at his current budget: $47.8 million. Taking the land area of El Paso County, I subtracted the City of Colorado Springs, which has its own police department, subtracted Fort Carson (military police), the Air Force Academy (more military police), took out Peterson Field [Peterson Air Force Base] (ditto), took out Space Command/NORAD, and did not include Woodland Park, which is in Teller County.
 "So on Maketa's current budget, it is costing us brave souls a million dollars per square mile per year for law enforcement. Just for law enforcement, not roads, bridges, whatever. And he can’t make ends meet at that level. Something is seriously wrong in this country.…
"It just struck me that the government is sucking up all of the money 'per square foot,' or 'per capita,' or whatever—one of the reasons the private sector is dead.

"We have to do 'Stormwater' at half a billion dollars, because of lawsuits from Pueblo about the water coming down Fountain Creek. Well, for that money, actually about half that, we could buy the whole town of Pueblo and move it somewhere south of Albuquerque. Things are just getting all out of proportion."

The above-mentioned friend is a successful entrepreneur who established a few national corporations and continues to travel internationally, helping less fortunate countries become self-sustaining. So, with permission, I forwarded my friend's email to other friends, saying, "I'd welcome your comments and received the following."

A. "I think you should become a columnist, in the great style of Andy Rooney. You hit the nail on the head…government is sucking all of our money; either directly, or indirectly."

This friend obviously credited me for the entrepreneur's research, but I need to give him a break—he also resigned from his job the same day he wrote and plans to leave this cowtown. Next…

B. This from an unlikely Harvard Business School grad and current adjunct professor: "I'm against the logic being used and prefer the concept of 'zero-based budgeting' where we don't assume that the infrastructure needed to support the troops on the ground has been well-invested and justified ... the other aspect to consider is that population density varies (open land versus single-family homes versus mega-apartment complexes) ... the purported arguments and logic appear flimsy and we need to review how much of the budget is currently for hands-on protection versus equipment and paper pushers amd middle management ... at least that's my quick overview."

C. "Good to hear from you. Give me a call," from a politician friend.

D. From a former DoD-contractor employee and educator: "If he would deport every illegal alien and make Colorado Springs a very distasteful place for illegals, it would save the county one whale of a lot of money. If the jail were a little more unpleasant, maybe the illegals would leave. They could hassle all of the medical marijuana places. His law enforcement budget covers jails, etc.

"Maybe he needs to copy Joe Arpaio in Arizona. Check this out:

The next astute response comes from the most credible friend I know, whose intelligence, drive, talent, and sense of humor still blow me away after 27 years. Cream of the crop, this guy. He actually gave me a tour of NORAD in 1985 when he was first manufacturing satellite equipment.

E. "You activist, you! I am in agreement with the writer. I present a few reasons I believe the Sheriff's budget is sufficiently funded at this point. Is there really a need for an El Paso County Explosives Response vehicle complete with robot, or is this an asset that could be shared between city and county? The El Paso County Tactical Rescue Unit? Really? Two HazMat vehicles?

"If the Sheriff's requested sales tax passed, then we, as citizens of Colorado Springs, who comprise over two-thirds of the county population AND provide our own police protection, would be responsible for the majority of the revenue generated. Citizens of Colorado Springs currently pay 0.4 percent Public Safety Sales Tax, a tax approved by the voters in 2001 to assist our city's police and fire departments.

"I am chairman of the PSSTOC, the citizens' committee that oversees spending of these funds. So, if we not only fund our own protection through the general fund but also pay an extra 0.4 percent specifically for our own protection, why in the world should we, as residents of COS, be expected to pay an additional 0.23 percent for protection outside our city limits?

"It should be remembered that the Sheriff's Department does maintain much of the jail facilities. However, we currently pay a 1 percent county sales tax that should generate about $62 million a year from city residents. We also pay miscellaneous fees for roads and bridges through our property taxes and register our vehicles through the county DMV. How much do we need to carry those who live outside our city limits? How much do we and should we rely on county services?

"The statement has been made about the explosive population growth in El Paso County. The majority of this population growth is in the many housing developments in the Falcon, Widefield, Security, and Cimarron Hills areas. Otherwise, I believe it is safe to say that El Paso County has a fairly low population density, consisting of ranches and horse property. Looking at crime statistics for the county, the vast majority of incident reports come from these four areas. Why don't these population centers, especially Falcon, either pay more for their services or create their own police forces?

"I believe Falcon should incorporate, pass their own city sales tax, and create their own police force. Obviously, the residents do not agree. However, we are once again being asked to take responsibility for them. Let them take responsibility for themselves. This, to me, is the crux of the argument. Why are we, as city residents, being asked to fund our public safety and their public safety?

"Luv Ya…"

You heard him: Vote No. Vote No on all judge-retention petitions too—they are not God.