The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

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Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I stumbled across this today at HGTV. It's been a while since the interview, and I'd forgotten about it until now.

Taking the 5th

As I may have mentioned before, I've been holding some stuff back. I feel kind of bad about it because I'm sure some of this stuff would make great posts. And, at the appropriate time, I'm sure some of it ("A Tale of Two Zombies" for one) will make its way here.

If you want all the gory details, you'll just have to ply me with a good dinner and a lot of liquor and see what I tell you.

Now, there are a few things that I can tell you. First, I didn't do any proper work on the Queen last night. I did tend to a few chores which could be considered "prep work" in the broadest sense but nothing to brag about. I spent most of the time on the phone plotting, scheming, and straightening out some the residual mess from the previous weekend.

Once I was finished with all that, I decided to take the rest of the night off which basically means I had a Crown & 7 while watching the end of the Godfather.

What is mostly on my mind today is the weather. Arkansas typically doesn't get any weather that could be construed as "winter weather." Sure it gets cold and wet, but that is about it. This week they are predicting snow, freezing rain, sleet, and temperatures hovering at or below freezing. This doesn't bode well for me or anyone in the state.

Since Arkansas borrows its snowplow from Missouri, just about anything that sticks to the pavement stays there. As soon as the TV weather people say the word "snow" hordes of panicked people descend upon the grocery stores and gas stations. It's not pretty: people drop-kicking each other for the last gallon of milk, stabbing each other in the face over a loaf of white bread, or just laying on the floor and sobbing out of principle.

Once they've decimated the local food supplies, they take to the roads en masse. Since they've worked themselves into an adrenaline driven mania at this point, they're driving at about 90 miles an hour. Soon mountains of dented, mired, flaming cars are strewn all over the state. And, after their cars are totaled and traffic has gridlocked, they bail out of their cars, run up and down the freeways sobbing, roll around in ditches, and act like asses in general. You may forgiven if you think this last part is hyperbole, but it is not.

While I have no desire to do so, I can drive on ice (without 1st & 2nd gears at that). I can not, however, account for how the rest of you drive. So, if it snows, I encourage the 99.5% of the population who can't drive in general or on ice in particular, to stay home because you’re a fucking menace to yourself and everyone else.

I hate winter.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mythic, Paint Eating Beast

Yeah, I know. I'm a slacker. But, if I ever actually have enough time to tell you all what I've been subjected to the last few days, all will be forgiven. Right?

Since I've been called out by Chris (understandable since I left him hanging over the weekend), here is my mythical painting eating beast.

[One of these photos was supposed to be a full frontal, but instead you get two side views. And, you know what? It looks the same from either side! Shocking.]
It still doesn't have a proper name. To us, it is just a paint scraper. However, the work this little bastard does is magnificent. Now, to be fair, there is one disclaimer; I use this almost entirely on old, flaking, cracked (alligatored) paint. I've never tried it on anything that had a good paint finish on it. If the paint is distressed, this bugger will take care of it. I suspect that it would kick latex paint's ass, but I'm not sure about the rest. Maybe I've have to pick a fight and find out.

This scraper works best if held like a hammer. Hold it parallel to the surface to be scraped with the sharp edge of the blade perpendicular and touching the surface. Press down hard and pull toward yourself. And, make sure the blade is sharp, very sharp. I carry a metal file in my pocket while using this. Depending on how much resistance there is, I will sharpen the blade every 10 to 15 minutes.

The scraper came with two interchangeable blades. I favor the one shown (sorry, not a good shot of the blade), with its narrow width. The pseudo-science of why I like this small blade (even for big projects), is that you can exert more pressure with a small surface and it is easier to control.

Chris seemed concerned that this scraper used sans chemicals or other goop would be prone to gouging. Like any scraper, the occasional gouge does occur, but I've never found this technique to be any worse than the others I've tried. I've used this one so much that the corners of the blade are beginning to round off, which has helped to diminish the risk of gouging. The reverse edge is a smaller, rounded blade that is great for small trim, molding, etc.

The second blade is wider, but I don't use it much since I find it harder to control.

Apparently, this little monsters are getting hard to find. We bought two a couple years ago at Lowe's. I was there last night, and I went through the painting section looking for them to see what the hell they are called. There wasn't one in sight. I guess they are now on the verge of extinction; ours may be the only breeding pair left in captivity (I suspect one or both may be sterile though).

I was going to photograph a step-by-step demonstration so Chris could admire this beast's prowess, but my interest in staying up past midnight is greatly diminished with a 5 a.m. wake-up call looming. So, maybe tonight.

Friday, January 26, 2007 Thought of the Day

While waiting for my wife & her VW to be towed the rest of the way home from Coal Hill at around 8 PM.

Me: "You know it's funny. Out of the three cars we have the only one that works is the Saturn, and it has 270,000 miles on it."

Mother-in-law: "The Saturn!?"

Me: "Yeah. And, it doesn't even have second gear."

Mother-in-law: "Well, it could always be worse."

Me: "Don't worry, I'm sure it will be shortly."


You need to go and vote for Maryam of My Marrakesh because not only is she a brazen hussy, she is a brazen hussy up for a 2007 Bloggie.

While I support hussies in principle (I have a special fondness for shameless hussies), I think you need to vote for this one in particular. First, when one houseblogger wins, we all win. World domination can not be achieved if we don't stick together and support our own in this cruel, heartless world.

Two, while I know that a lot of the Devil Queen's "hard core" (by that I mean, someone who has visited the blog more than once and on purpose) readers tend to be fans of older homes as opposed to new construction, it's not every day that someone builds their very own Moroccan palace. It's certainly a lot cooler than moving a house. Sure, it's exotic and decedent in the best way, but it also allows us to be cosmopolitan by proxy. That may not be as much of a concern for a lot of folks, but there isn't a whole lot of that in my neck of the woods; it's hard on an aspiring world traveler like myself.

And, to avoid any appearance of impropriety, I will have disclose that I did not vote for nor support Maryam simply because she sent my wife fabulous Moroccan footwear [Thanks Maryam! Ms. Scarlet and Gideon both enjoyed it. Gideon followed her around the house saying, "Pretty! Sparkly!"]

Vote people!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Juggling Act

First, let me say that if this in any way sounds like a complaint it is not meant to be taken as such. And, please excuse the non-house post.

For the first time in my life, the demand for my art has exceeded my output. I think that I'm still in shock, but I'm struggling to catch-up. At the moment, I have four people waiting on paintings. This doesn't count the gallery that will be expecting 4-5 new pieces for the 2007 Spring Art Walk. Between the cars, chores, and finishing the Devil Queen, it has been hard to fit in everything, but I'm working hard to do so.

I've posted a new piece, a work-in-progress, and a how-to post (this is your canvas & stretcher Nightmare of Elm Street if you're interested) at The Failed Artist this week.

Most of my patrons find their way to my art through the Devil Queen, so I felt pretty sure that everyone would see this here. Please be patient with me, I should be caught-up by the end of the month.

Wish me luck.

I Am Bad Karma's Chamber Pot, Use Me

Last night sucked. All things considered, I guess I handled it pretty well. I only threw a few things, nothing too big.

I think I now hate cars nearly as much as plumbing. I'd even go so far as to say cars are basically plumbing on wheels; they are over-engineered water heaters. I ran the battery down so badly on the "new" used car that it won't take a charge (that happens when the door doesn't latch all the way and the dome light stays on all night - yes this was my fault). So, I get to buy a new battery. That wouldn't be too bad since I still have my old crappy Saturn to drive in until then, but last night I get a call from my wife. After $2500 worth of work last month (Merry Damn Christmas), her VW has the audacity to flick its check engine light on last night. Splendid.

So, she wants to trade cars with me so I can take it back to the shop and she can take the "new" used car to work. That would be fine except that this car also needs two (if not four) new tires. And, it is kind of hard getting new tires when it's sitting in the driveway with a dead battery.

So, tonight I'm going to have to take time out of my painting schedule to buy a battery and install the goddamn thing. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing outside on a winter's night.

Why is it that every time I save up enough money to pay something off I get bombarded with a fist full of unforeseen expenses. I can't help but feel like I'm the victim of some sort of cosmic dicking.

I'll spare you the half-dozen other minor annoyances that contributed to the evening's total suckage. Even as a spectator, there is only so much you need or want to see.

Slow progress is being made on the laundry room in spite of everything, but nothing too exciting to show you yet. The only thing more boring than watching paint dry is looking at a picture of primer drying.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Is My Caulk Big Enough?

I am a captive of my own mind. Lately, I can not escape from this self-made, bastardized parody of a Dead Kennedy song, Pull My Strings.

Is my caulk big enough,
Is my brain small enough
For you to make me a star?

Give me a toot
I'll sell you my soul
Pull my strings and I'll go far

The worst part is that isn't even particularly fun nor does it make much sense, even to me.

Like every other frustrated home improvement monkey, I've been playing with my caulk for two or three hours every day. Don't worry, in the interest of health and safety, I always try to keep latex between me and my caulk though the occasional breakage is evitable. It’s a good thing rubber gloves come 10 to a pack.

Actually, I only squeezed in 45 minutes of caulking last night. Why? Because I finished caulking all the cracks in the laundry room ceiling.

Of course you may wonder why there are cracks in the ceiling since the laundry room is in one of the two new additions to the Devil Queen. The short answer is we used salvaged (or is it cooler to say "reclaimed"?) beadboard. Beadboard, like a good kiss, ought to have a little tongue. Unfortunately, salvaged beadboard has an propensity for loosing its tongue during removal. We got pretty good at saving it, but a large majority of it has damaged or entirely missing tongue. And, the laundry room ceiling got the dregs of our beadboard selection.

The cracks weren't too noticeable until we had insulation blown into the attic. While it did a great job of keeping the Queen warm, it also gave us row upon row of hairy crack. That was unacceptable.

[This wasn't the worst crack, but I'd already filled the rest in at this point]

I started the priming/caulking job several months ago before I was put on a strict one-room-at-a-time diet. As it was, it was good to be moved to the hall bathroom because I was stuck trying to figure out a way to prime/caulk/paint the ceiling and walls above the hot tub. I didn't want to stand a ladder in the tub and stacking a platform on the rim of the tub wasn't an option either. The tub is fiberglass and most of the weight is supported by the tub's bottom which rests on the sub-floor. The rim which rests upon the tile surround isn't meant to hold any great amount of weight (me plus platform and step ladder). All I needed to do was break our $1400 tub before I ever used it, right?

Well, my wife had a solution to the problem for me.

She saw the dry wall guy do this. Basically, butt the feet of the extension ladder up against the wall, extend it up to the ceiling at nearly a 45 degree angle, and rest it upon the opposite wall. I was reluctant to try it at first (heavy guy + ladder leaning at weird angle against dry wall = hole in wall?), but what the hell. And, it worked.

So, tonight I will give the ceiling it's second and final primer coat. If I have time, I'll finish priming the walls too. Or, I will work on them at any rate. Who knows, maybe we'll have some actual paint up by the end of the week?


The only city I've lived in and still miss is Savannah, Georgia.

For all of the poverty, crime, and falling down houses, it is still a beautiful city. The core of the town dates to colonial times. The streets are pedestrian friendly and run between twenty-some-odd town squares. Further south, the houses change from Colonial, to Greek Revival and Victorian. South of the railroad tracks ("true" Savannahians do not claim anything south of the Victorian district as part of the city), there are several upscale 1920's subdivisions (Colonial revival, bungalows, and more).

And, the city has a very pronounce weird-streak. It is the only place I've ever seen a car covered inside and out in faux fur. Aside from New Orleans, it is the only Southern city I've seen that is unabashedly decedent. They love their liquor if nothing else; all the trees around Forcythe Park have diamond sparkling trunks since they are peppered with broken headlights from slow motion auto accidents. The city squares are hard to navigate without drinking, nearly impossible with it. Fortunately most wrecks occur somewhere below 30 mph. They also have the largest St. Patricks day parade outside of New York (or is it Boston?).

If you haven't read The Book (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), pick up a copy. It doesn't really give you a complete picture of the city, it is more like a primer. In the flesh, Savannah is more charming and bizarre than you might imagine.

So, in a few years once everyone has finished off whatever house they are working on now, perhaps we need to move to Savannah en masse and buy up the historic district. There are no shortage of fixer-uppers. There are hundreds just like these.

And, to give you an idea what the finished product can look like.

This one was a few blocks down the street from where we lived. I think it is on Victory Ave.

So, is anyone else interested?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Loosing It

My mind has begun to unravel.

First of all, I've begun dreaming about housebloggers. This is a new experience for me. The other night Gary, Greg, and I were stripping tack & canvas wallpaper out of the three story, brick, Victorian row house. And, two nights ago, my wife and I visited Maryam in Marrakesh. I'm sure Maryam would be interested to know that she had three children ages 10-12, two are girls, and all have dark hair. Also, her home was lovely; it was like the Forbidden City in rich green, amber, and nutty brown.

Second, there is the emotionally charged relationship the living room & dining room ceilings and I have been developing. The main point of contention is their dilapidation and peeling paint is an affront to my existence. The way they sulk around is just depressing. They make me want to murder them.

Third, I've been suffering from insatiable cravings for fresh greens, ripe tomatoes (impossible to find at this time of year), fruit juice, hot tea, and raw fish. Anything else just sets too heavy on the stomach.

Fourth, living in a squalid, den of iniquity has really lost of its charm. You know, at first its is kind of exciting living like a coked-up squatter or five dollar hooker in a flop house, but the novelty of the experience wears off fast. In fact, it is becoming down right depressing.

And fifth, one on my favorite "keyword searches" that has found the Devil Queen is, "hierarchy of evil." This is not to say, "my wife is a dumbass" or "big hairy butt dumps" are not amusing, but I just like the idea that this Godforsaken house is so innately infernal that it rates among the big boys. "Better to rule in Hell . . ."

Maybe I just spent too much of my weekend watching Dumbo with my son (the pink elephants - that is some seriously weird shit for 1947) and eating my own weight in seaweed, but think I'm really picking up some momentum on my downward slide into rocking, gibbering, pissing my pants madness. Who knows, maybe it won't be so bad?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Five Things

After some of the other lists I've read, these seem rather banal. Sorry if these are too long, but here they are.

1. I have pronounced neurotic tendencies. They've gotten worse with age and I make a serious effort to break myself of them once I notice them. Otherwise, they become an ingrained habit like checking the alarm clock three times before going to bed. I know that I've alluded to these before, but I don't think I've really gone into them too much. The most annoying compulsion I have is my need to repeatedly check things (typically three times, or an odd number of times according to my wife). This would include checking to see if my alarm clock has been set before I go to bed, whether I've left the faucet dripping, whether to doors and windows are locked, whether the stove is on, and so on. It takes the use of a great deal of will power to not do this. My wife thinks it's funny to wait until I get into bed at night and ask, "Is the front door locked?" Now, she knows it is because she's watched me check a few times over the last 15 minutes. She just asks this because she thinks it's funny to watch me crawl out of bed to check again.

2. When I have something on my mind, I'm anxious, or unfocused, I clean the kitchen. As far as I can figure, this serves as a kind of Zen meditation for me. When I'm finished, I'm feel much more focused and relaxed. This is useful for working on the Devil Queen too. If there is some project I don't want to do but really need to, I can usually begin it after I've cleaned the kitchen. Maybe this belongs with item #1 above?

3. I have had a life long fascination with all things military. When I was twelve, I thought that commanding an armored division was an awesome career goal. I'm probably one of very few teenagers who spent their free time reading books by Liddell Hart, Erwin Rommel, and the like. In addition to all the World War II stuff I've inherited from my grandfathers and great-uncles, I've had pretty extensive collection of military collectables (many of which I've had to sell to keep from starving while working on a certain house). By the time I was in college, I'd pretty well moved on to other interest (or so I thought). However, once I was out of college and desperate for a job that wasn't minimum wage, I went took the exam for Navel Officer candidates. I forget how many sections are on the test (six?), but, if you want to be an intelligence office as I did, you have to pass them all. According the Navy Seal administering the test, I had the highest score they'd ever seen for a first time test-taker. However, there is an "extra" section to the test which I failed, the personality test. Apparently, introverted, book-worm, loners don't make the best team players. Based on the rest of the test, they were willing to overlook my misanthropy, but I came away with the distinct impression it wouldn't be a good fit for me. So, I enrolled in law school and dropped out the first week of classes (a long story in itself).

4. After college, I taught myself to read Old English for fun. I wasn't fluent, but I could do pretty well with a dictionary at hand. Really, I feel like I cheated though. Knowing English as a first language and taking 4 or 5 years of German gives you a real advantage. The last few years have been pretty busy, so I've probably forgotten most of what I knew, but I hope to take it up again in the future.

5. I have fear of large bodies of water (drowned in a past life?) and I'm a poor swimmer, so it makes perfect sense that I'd like to learn to sail. I have had this itch for the last three or four years. In particular, I'd like to learn blue-water sailing. Sounds like all the ingredients for a perfect disaster, no? Then again, that has never stopped me before. I mean, have you seen where I live?!

Aw, Hell

A couple days ago (or was that yesterday?) I mentioned that I was going to be buying a new light for our hall bath. Well, I was wrong.

I was talking to my wife on the phone, and she asked how the bathroom ceiling was coming along. I was quite proud to tell her it was finished. She then asked how the ceiling light looked and I was caught.

I make it a point to be as honest as possible with my wife, but I have some deep-seated perfidious tendencies that are hard to shake. I wasn't going to mention the light to her, buy one similar to the one she wanted me to use, and hope that she didn't notice. Ever.

I decided it was better to just tell her. At this point, it was like being caught by the Inquisition. One way or another, I was going to talk. The real question was whether I wanted my finger nails pulled off first or not.

And, so it begins.

So, I explained to her that the light had no guts et cetera. Then I explained that I was just going to get a new one and it was no big deal. She didn't go for it.

"Well, I'll call and see if they have the rest of the parts," she said.

"I'd rather not bother with it at this point. I just want something new, with all of its parts so I can finish."

"If we're getting a new one, I want to be there to pick it out with you."

"That's fine, I'll wait till the weekend and we can go together."

Actually, this is the short version of the dialogue, but it has all the important parts. While I'm a little disappointed that I'll have to wait until the weekend to finish, I really don't mind too much. I am relieved that she dropped the "I'll call and see if they have the rest of the parts" plan of action. If we travel down this road, countless hours we be sucked into a vortex of calls, searches, frustrated out bursts, fist fights, and maybe a stabbing. And, if a miracle occurs and we find all the missing pieces, I'll be stuck cobbling together some second-hand, shit-monkey, eBay reject light. This could take 15 minutes or it could take three days with second degree burns and a hernia.

This light is nothing special and is contemporary. It's not like I'm whining about it taking some time to rewire an antique Tiffany lamp. So, given a choice between the shit-monkey light and a new $40 one from Lowe's, guess which one I'm picking.

Anyhow, enough complaining.

Started work on the laundry room last night. I'm already behind schedule, but that is to be expected.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Exploratory Surgery or Rubbing My Nasty Door

Since the hall bath is ostensibly finished, I've begun flirting with the idea of refinishing the bathroom door. Genius, I know.

Unless I'm mistake as idiots often are, there are 4 layers of gunk to be removed on the bathroom side of the door and 2 layers on the hall side. The 4 layers are: mold, and three layers of shellac. The 2 layers are white paint over shellac.

Here is the bath side after I wiped and sand all the way down to the bare wood.

And here it is with some alcohol rubbed on it. It didn't really bring out the grain like I hoped it would.

My wife is thinking about painting this side of the door two shades of brown and an orange from the bathroom. If you want color samples or the actual scheme she has in mind, I'm at a loss because I just don't know.

However, looking at this bare wood and some of Gary's recent posts made me wonder about staining/shellacking or just shellacking the door. Hmmm. Sounds like we'll have to have an executive committee meeting about this.


I got a late start on my house projects last night. I was side tracked by my idiot quest to find a new power supply for my wife's printer. I lost the original one during our move. I'm sure it is in the storage room, but finding it is an entirely different matter. My quest has taken me to two Radio Shacks and a Walmart. No luck so far. In desperation I turned to eBay. Good news is I found a gob of them for sale for $10 or less. Bad news is that they all want to be paid immediately and I have $2.00 in my Paypal account. So, now I get to play the transfer money game which adds 4 days or so to the whole process.

Then, I went to wire up the friggin ceiling light in the hall bath. I apparently had unreasonably high expectations for a quick, hassle free installation. I was thinking that I would open the box, take out the light fixture, disconnect the bare bulb and socket, connect the light fixture, screw it in place. Nope. Not me.

Instead, I open the box and pull out exactly two pieces. The shade and the metal "trim" which secures the shade to the base. There was no base, no light, no bulb, no wires, nothing else. The three screw on nuts that were supposed to lock the two pieces I did have together we likewise absent.

The root of the problem is that this particular light given to us by someone who'd bought it off of eBay. The weren't happy with it and somehow we ended up with it. Anyhow, now I know why it was of utterly no use. Maybe I knew at one time and thought that I could work some MacGyver magic on it, but, if I did, I've since forgotten. If I did, what was I thinking?!

So, there I am with a piece in each hand talking to myself. "You've got to be fucking kidding me, where is the rest of this?! This is bull-shit. What the fuck do I do with this?" I took a moment to collect myself and gave up. I returned the two utterly useless pieces into their box, and made an executive decision; "Fuck this, I'm going to Lowe's tomorrow and buying a light with all its pieces. And then, I going to come home and install the bastard. The end."

And, I feel better for it.

The rest of the short time left to me was devoted to setting everything up in the laundry room so I can paint tonight. I'm sure my ambitions will be thwarted and misery will ensue, but what else is there for me to do? Enjoying life is for the weak.

Catching Up

[this post was meant for yesterday, January 17, 2007]

Sorry the posts have been non-existent for the last few days. I just couldn't bear to post until I could finally say that the hall bathroom is finished. Tonight I plan to begin work on the laundry room/ bathroom in the rear of the Devil Queen. I start working on this room 30 or 40 years ago and got side-tracked somewhere along the way. Since then, I've sworn to my wife that I will work at one room at a time until the Queen is finished.

As it stands, this room is already 60% primed. Now I just need to finish the job so we can begin painting the bugger. Once I finish priming, I'll paint the ceiling and the corner directly behind the tub and turn the rest of the painting over to my wife and mother-in-law. While they are working on that, I'll begin work on the foyer/front hall until they've finished. I know that I just said that I'm sworn to finish one room before moving to the next, but Scarlet has approved this scheme so everything is good.

When they are finished, I'll return to the laundry/bath to install the cast iron 1920's sink, refinish the floor, install the toilet, plumb the tub, and install the lighting. Then, Kenny will be receiving a call to come and install the washer and drier and the drier vent.

Also, over the weekend I've been tagged by Kristin at 1902 Victorian to tell you all five things/secrets about me. I'll have to think about it some since it wasn't too long ago that I tagged by Maryam to post 10 weird things about me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Six Inches

From last Friday to this Monday, we received roughly six inches of rain. Our creek, normally happy and gurgling rose around two feet and thundered like a stampede. Note how the water is rushing around the tree trunks. It normally doesn't.

The grey skies and pounding rain made for perfect sleeping weather. That is my way of saying I didn't work too much on the Devil Queen over the three day weekend.

"When they came for me . . . "

I try to limit my posts to house related topics, but this makes me mad and scares me more than a little. And, since this is a houseblog, there is a tenuous link. I'd like to thank the folks over at Renovation Rants for their post on this:

"A last-minute addition to a federal spending bill at the end of the last U.S. Congress now makes civilians eligible for military courts-martial."

I just don't see why this is necessary or how they can think this is a good idea. I'll spare you my bile, but here is a quote from Thomas Jefferson and a poem by Martin Niemoeller. They should make my views on the matter reasonably clear.

"A government afraid of its citizens is a Democracy. Citizens afraid of government is tyranny!"

- Thomas Jefferson

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren


When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

A Qualified Finish

I don't want to have one of those "peace for our time" moments, but I'll put it out there anyhow. The hall bath is finished. And, I'm only 4 to 6 weeks behind schedule depending how you calculate it. Nice.

Now, sure you all know that a house is never truly finished. There is always something you can find to do. The wipe-on poly I used to seal the ceiling still wasn't dry, so I didn't wire up the ceiling fixture. That will go up tonight provided I can find it in our four foot deep stack of light fixtures.

Even though the bath is finished, there are three outstanding issues that will be dealt with in do course.

1. We still need to replace the sink's hot water shut-off valve. What can I say, living in denial is so much more fun than plumbing.

2. We need to install a ceiling vent. I plan to have Kenny do this because I hate cutting holes in my roof out of principle. Paying him to do it right is also a lot cheaper than me doing it wrong and paying him to fix it.

3. If we ever save up $450, we're going to replace our hand me down shower curtain with sliding glass doors. This would be a nice addition, but not essential for the time being.

Here are some pictures of the bath. Really, I don't think it looks much different that the last set, but the act of taking and posting "finished" pictures gives me a psychological sense of well-being.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Testicles: They're Worth $10, Right?

I'd recommend that all of you aspiring, DIY electricians save up $10-$15 and buy one of these.

I bought a GE one similar to the second one pictured this last week, and I love the little bastard. The buzzing noise/red-light startles/scares/annoys my wife, so I've had a lot of fun getting in touch with my inner 12 year old. Fortunately, I'm mature enough to know when to stop before she decides to punch me in the face. This whole "older, wiser" thing is really working out for me. Anyhow, these little "pens" (i.e. voltage detectors) test whether a wire, switch, or outlet has juice running to it. It's much safer than licking your fingers and grabbing the black wire (which you absolutely should not do).

In an attempt to cultivate a proper set of social skills and decorum, I decided not to post a "warning" picture of some dumbass who should be candidate for a Darwin Award. Why? He deserves this award for trying to steal copper wiring from a relay station with not so heavy duty wire cutters. When the electricity arced it blew his nuts off (instantly charbroiled really) among other things. Not pretty.

If you're asking why I have a picture of this, Jack (who works for Entergy Arkansas) sent it to me. I guess where some people forward blonde jokes or prayer circles, power company employees have different tastes.

And, for those of you who might be thinking, "Screw this, I'd rather plumb than wire!" you're wrong. Trust me. Sure, if you've very stupid or very unlucky, electricity can kill you. However, you shouldn't suffer long. Plumbing is like hemorrhoids; it's a pain in your ass until something else finished you off. Your suffering is boundless.

Anyhow, whether you're just feeling a little unsure of yourself or you're following behind a real creative POS, it’s nice gizmo to have. Besides, keeping your gonads is worth it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Importance of Being Properly Lit

It is amazing how something as simple as changing your light shades will improve the look of a room. This light fixture is from my mother-in-law's house. She updated her bathroom a couple of years ago and gave it to us. Even though it dates to the late 1980's, it isn't too bad of a light fixture as far as looks go. The original shades were clear glass in the general shape of a five petal flower. It looked okay, but it didn't really do much for me. Since it was free, I wasn't about to complain about it though. It takes two 60 watt bulbs, so it's pretty bright. The first time I turned it on I found a lot of spots I need to touch up with another coat of paint. I was very excited.

A couple weeks ago Scarlet and I were at Lowe's buying plumbing supplies. Scarlet has a psychological compulsion which forces her to look at light fixtures every time we're out shopping. This would also explain why acquired a complete set of lights for the Devil Queen long before the it was sealed in from the elements. What can I say, we have our priorites straight.

On a whim, we bought these.

Same fixture, new shades. The picture doesn't do them justice. They are speckled in amber, orange, and brown "drips" over an opaque white base. What surprised me most is how much better the bathroom looked with these shades. The brightness of the orange walls was turned down a few notches. Prior to these shades, the bathroom glowed like a pre-heating oven. Now it is just a happy orange.

It seems good lighting is just as important as picking the right color for a room. So, if your new paint doesn't look quite right, maybe you just need to adjust the lighting. It's a hell of a lot easier than repainting or tweaking the existing color.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

So Close, Yet So Far Away

Sure, it looks like a proper, functional bathroom, but it isn't. Or, it is if you don't mind only having cold water at the sink. Personally, I like the option of hot water.

So, what is wrong? Christmas Eve day found me installing this stupid sink. Everything went fine until we turned on the water. Our hot water shut off valve (not the connections) leaks. Scarlet and I tinkered with it, we tightened nuts, and we (actually that would just be me) used our best four letter words and blasphemous epitaphs, but the leak merely slowed. It only stops once the valve is shut completely off.

Since we were expecting company for the holidays, we did the only thing we could. We blew the bathroom up with a few well placed sticks of dynamite and called it quits. Screw that.

Okay, we tired a rag around it and just ran with it for a couple of days. I'm really glad we have a tile floor.

In theory, we'll be replacing the valve and messing with some other crap this weekend. Then, maybe then, we'll have this . . . bathroom working.

Simple Pleasures, The Joy of Light

Cost? $1.98 for four "candle" light bulbs.

Actually being able to see in the foyer? Priceless.

This is one of those projects that I tinkered with over the holiday. Julian Electric wired these babies up for us back in 2006. They need some work. The "candle" shaft, the piece of brittle plastic that approximates a wax candle, is missing on two of the lights as is one glass shade. We were given these by a friend on the family. They have an old bungalow somewhere around Fayetteville, Arkansas. I'm not sure if these are original to the bungalow (the solid brass chandelier was, but these don't seem as old), but they'll do for now.

The Lurker at the Threshold

I made out like a bandit for Christmas. If my gifts are any indication, at least a few of you actually like me.

I'm guessing that these same people think that I need to paint more. In addition to the easel, I also received a gob of Sennelier oil paints, and Mayer's The Artist's Handbook (5th Edition). Wonderful stuff, thanks to all.

We Are Not Amused

Or, are we?

It occurred to me this morning that there is not one other Victorian house on Houseblogs that has a bathroom that looks anything like this (that I've seen, correct me if I'm wrong).

Take a look around if you haven't already. Here we have some period Victorian bathrooms complements of Greg at Petch House; here are some Greg's musings on bathroom tiles and old toilets; here we have Mindy picking a color scheme for their bathroom at Fixer-Upper; here is Steve and Jocelyn's Chicago 2-Flat rental (I guess technically a 2-Flat isn't a Victorian, but it's not that far off time wise). What do you see? I see lots of classic, classy traditional bathrooms. Subway tiles, immaculate wood work, wainscoting, and more. There is no shortage of beauty here.

So, looking at my bathroom with its two oranges, the ultramarine floor tiles, and sandy colored tiled shower I try to image what this room might look like to a someone with more period appropriate sensibilities might make of it. I'm guessing a clown car maybe? And, I'm not sure why, but I find that possibility quite funny.

So, what gives? Why did I spend over $5000 for custom milled exterior siding to preserve the Devil Queen's historic appearance and then turn around a make a bathroom that looks so modern?

1) This bathroom was not original to the house. Somewhere around 1950 they partitioned off a portion of the front parlor to make room for this bathroom. In case you're wondering, it was hideous.
2) Once we stripped out all of the fake wood paneling, the drop ceiling, the floating chimney, and all the other crap, all we had left was sub-par framing and butchered wall boards & ceiling. There wasn't anything to restore (unless we demolished the whole thing and returned it to the parlor).
3) We were completely broke, so we had to use what we could afford or what was available.

That said, it still doesn't account for our color selection. I say "our," but I really mean Scarlet. For all the weird shit that I do and display here, I'm a fairly reserved person most of the time. Dull. Stuffy. Boring. While I haven't quite joined the "I see window treatments" club (yet), I do have actual opinions on color schemes, decorating, et cetera. They tend to be safe, understated choices. However, over time I've succumbed to Scarlet's way of seeing things, and Scarlet is nothing if not flamboyant. I know, "succumbed" makes it sound like I died of a disease, but don't be fooled. I actually like living outside of my chromatic comfort zone. And, I've come a long way over the years. I nearly died when she told me she wanted to paint two kitchen walls purple.

At this point, I will pretty well use any color scheme she selects (thought I did rebel when she suggested that I paint the laundry room's window trim four different colors). She picked orange, so I painted it orange. And, I liked it. In this windowless room, the bright colors make me happy. And hungry (the trim looks but does not taste like orange sherbet).

I was pretty pleased with it and was excited to show off my handy work to Scarlet. She took one look at it and her eyes popped out of her head.

"OH MY GOD. I knew it was orange, but that is really ORANGE."

My son rounds the corner, stops, and points at the wall. "Wow. Orange." Pointing at the trim, "Momma, Orange!"

"Yes Giddy, that is definitely orange." Scarlet turns to me, "Do you like it?"

I heard the panic creeping into her voice.


I'll admit it. I suffered a moment of doubt, but I still like it. And, as it turns out, Scarlet (after living with it a little) and Gideon do too. However, the real test was Christmas, but that will have to be another post.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Persistence of Time

Another year over. And so, I return.

The holidays were survived and enjoyed. No major house projects were conquered though the Queen was subjected to sporadic tinkering. Leaking plumbing was bemoaned and cursed though no major disasters occurred.

The last year's end and this year's beginning were marked with a brief week and a half of quiet and rest. I expect that it will be the last such moment of repose for at least 6 months, perhaps longer. Posts may be more sporadic that usual, but I'll try to be timely.

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