houseone

Houseone history: the Schellinger family, 1940

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Records from the 1940 Census were released earlier this month, 72 years after the Census was taken, and you can find full, house-by-house data online via the National Archives, in the form of scanned record sheets filled out by the census takers. Simply fill in your state/county/city/street, et voila! ...you have 50 pages of scanned, 70-year-old, handwritten pages to read through to find your house. (That last step is the time-consuming part.)

Our house was inhabited by one Theodor Schellinger and his family, who apparently relocated from Flint to Ypsilanti sometime between 1935 and 1940, and paid $35/month in rent for our house.

"So, a Republican probably?"

Yesterday, I went to the shiny new Obama campaign office on Michigan Avenue and got a yard sign.

This morning, we found our sign ripped in half, and, for good measure, a broken window. Not all the way through - just the outer pane - and on the second story, so clearly vandalism rather than attempted entry. Somebody just lobbed a rock at it - presumably, college students stumbling home from the parties at the end of the block.

The police officer taking our report over the phone said, "So, a Republican, then?" Cara said, "Oh, I'm definitely volunteering at the campaign office now!" Me, I'm just cleaning up broken glass and taping the sign back together in quiet defiance.

Channeling my childhood engineer

When I was in elementary school, I was en route to a civil engineering career. I was the kid who spent rainy days digging little canal systems through the playground with sticks to drain the puddles underneath the swingsets and at the bottoms of the slides. (You'd think the other kids would thank me for this valuable service, but, alas, elementary school doesn't work that way.)

I'm always reminded of that on days like today, when we're getting hurricane-boosted steady rains after 2 months of dryness. I get to go around and check the perimeter - make sure all the downspouts are functioning and the rainbarrel overflows are connected, dig out the spots where the driveway swale has silted up, and watch as puddles drain away into the wildflower garden. (Someday I'll get to digging real french drains around the house and a rain garden in the low spot out back, but it always seems low priority in dry weather - and I'd have to find a new excuse for playing in the rain!)

Ceiling fan re-installation: 4 hours [beyond expected].

Two summers ago, Cara's dad replaced the ceiling fan in our living room with a shinier, beefier one. The original ceiling fan hadn't been particularly well hung - it was installed with a plastic circuit box that was wired (meaning, as a support mechanism) with copper wire to a pipe running above the ceiling. Lovely. So he got a ceiling fan support kit, with an expandable support bar that jams in between joists so that you can stably hang a fan from it.

As our tv room rock band room's ceiling fan was looking similarly questionable in its structural integrity, I decided it needed to be rehung. Went out and got a support bar and everything.

Mystery solved - and totally gross.

Some of you may recall our complaining about "mouse smell" a few months back, originating from the basement. Mmm, sweet smell of death.

In fact, I disassembled nearly our entire heating system and rearranged the entire basement in the process of trying to figure out where the smell was coming from. No luck. (I was positive it was in a heat duct, since the smell was not there when I woke up that day, but the heat turned on while I was taking a shower, and something started to bake.) It subsided after a week, during much of which we were not-here, but there's been a bit of a lingering aroma.

Fast forward to now. I've got contractors installing a flue liner for our chimney, so that we stop getting condensation through the brick into our walls. Taking apart the furnace and water heater flue leads, the contractor called, "Hey, come here - you're lucky you didn't croak, man."

I should know better.

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For those who have a touch of both hypochondria and arachnophobia, the internet is DEFINITELY NOT a good tool for answering the question, "What kind of spider did I just find (and adrenally smoosh) in my basement?"

Fortunately, I have enough self-control to venture only as far as Extension articles, and avoid both google images and wikipedia.

That is all.

Chest freezers are magical.

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Over at Eat Close To Home, Emily is both wondering whether to buy a chest freezer and also commenting on the one-wayness of the blogger-commenter relationship. So I'm going to go old-school - I was blogging before comments existed, yo - and post here, rather than there.

My family bought a chest freezer sometime in my childhood. Every year, we got a lamb and a quarter(?) of beef from my godmother, down the street. When we moved out of the North Campus Co-ops to Jorvik, my parents gave us that freezer - and bought themselves a smaller one. When we moved out of Jorvik and bought a house, my parents gave us a small chest freezer as a housewarming present. (...with a lamb inside it. Yummy.) (We donated the parents' -> Jorvik chest freezer to Growing Hope.)

Covering the mortgage, part 2

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To get a little less abstract than the previous post on the application of housing law during financial meltdown, I think I've satisfactorily chewed over a connection I've been working on.

A week ago, I attended the Global Suburbs conference at UMich (in no small part masterminded by Dale), and caught part of a talk on land ownership and housing costs in Lahore, Pakistan. If I followed correctly, one comment that was made was that Pakistanis had fairly recently received access to financing tools such as the 30-year mortgage, allowing many people the potential to purchase homes who never would have been able to previously. This increased buying power led to increased demand, contributing to rising prices.

There's a parallel here. Over the past decade, Americans have received access to financing tools such as the ARM, the zero-down mortgage, the interest-only mortgage, the no-documentation mortgage, and all sorts of bizarre hybrids. All of these were essentially justified by lenders on the grounds that mortgages were a can't-lose proposition, as well as the adoption of collateralized debt instruments, and allowed many people the potential to purchase homes who never would have been able to previously.

Shopping your way green?

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Yesterday, my sister sent me a link to The Daily Green's $250,000 home/car/life "eco-makeover" drawing. "Grand Prize Winner will win $250,000 which can be used to purchase products and services to help make your life and home more eco-friendly."

So, let me get this straight. You want me to consume more - a lot more - in order to be "green", which typically requires pursuing happiness more efficiently, or, in other words, consuming less. Gotta love America!

Staff of life Sunday

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I've been feeling a little bummed lately when thinking of skills / hobbies I haven't practiced in a while. I think I've now caught up on homebrewing. Yesterday, I bottled a brown ale; today, brewed the third variation on the honey wheat that I served at our wedding. Meanwhile, Cara decided that today was a good time to exercise her grain-and-yeast skills as well, and has whole wheat bread and rolls on the rise.

Relatedly, I'm mid-read of Standage's A History of the World in Six Glasses (beer, wine, spirits, tea, coffee, cola), which I recommend to anyone who enjoys other fine works of single-food anthropology. (e.g. Kurlansky's Cod and Salt.) The first section discusses beer as the first significant non-water drink in civilization, invent/discovered concurrently with bread and equally important in encouraging/supporting agricultural society. (Today's lesson: beer is both safer and more nutritious than water, so drink up!)

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