Hot Showers And Home Ownership

A shower is an essential part of the morning routine.  You get squeaky clean and move back into conformance with prevailing social hygienic norms.  You ruthlessly eliminate that lingering case of bed head.  And you finally complete the drowsy transition from blissful sleep to outright, whistling-as-you-get-dressed-for-work wakefulness.

IMG_4820I like my showers hot.  In fact, scalding is closer to accurate.  I like clouds of steam to rise from the shower floor and fog up the shower door, so that I could write “Kilroy was here” with my index finger if I desired.  I want to emerge from the blistering deluge wide-eyed, scourged clean, and as red as a Maine lobster fished out of the bubbling cookpot.

Unfortunately, for the last few months this hasn’t been possible.  At our rental unit, the hot water temperature never got above tepid, probably for cost saving and liability avoidance purposes.  Even at the maximum heat setting, a shower had no sizzle.  As a result, the morning shower there was not a particularly satisfying experience — functional but ho-hum, and sort of like getting woolen socks from your grandmother as a birthday present.

But now we are in our own place and in complete control of the hot water heater, which has been cranked up to high-end, fast-food-carry-out-coffee-before-they-got-sued-into-moderation temperatures.  Yes, I think: this is one of the essences of home ownership and the American Dream.  Now I get to decide water heat, and “room temperature,” and what to put on the walls, and how much light there will be in each room.

So turn that shower handle to maximum at your own risk, baby!  Let the scorching begin!

The New Toilet

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Yesterday was a red-letter day in the Webner household: our new toilet for the downstairs bathroom was installed.

There had been a working toilet in the downstairs bathroom when we bought this place, but flush with the thrill of our new purchase we deemed it aesthetically unacceptable. I’m now not quite sure why — ’70s design? Low-slung seat? Appalling color selection? — but we had to wipe the slate clean and the ex-commode had to go. So we were toilet-free on the first floor during our first week in this place, which isn’t an ideal arrangement for a guy with a 57-year-old bladder who might have to sprint up the stairs to answer nature’s call on a moment’s notice.

Now that issue has been rectified. We have this bright, shiny toilet, conveniently located and blessedly functional, with the graceful lines and design flourishes that you would expect from a modern bathroom fixture. It makes you want to have a seat and take it for a spin.

Five Pfennig Found

Some people who buy old houses find treasure — caches of money, bearer bonds, or jewelry squirreled away beneath floorboards, behind a loose block in the basement, or in a secret compartment in the attic.  Unfortunately, we haven’t found anything remotely like that in our new house — which actually is an old house, built in the early 1900s.

IMG_4802We have, however, found a 5 pfennig coin.  It was issued in 1950 by the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, or the Federal Republic of Germany — that is, the Cold War era, pre-unification West Germany.  We do live in German Village now, after all, so finding an old German coin is apt.  It makes me wonder if perhaps one of the former owners of this house took a trip back to the Fatherland in the years after World War II, got this coin on his trip, and simply paid no attention to it when he found it in his pocket upon his return.

The pfennig was the equivalent of the penny in the years before Germany switched to Euro, and the pfennig and the penny are linguistically related.  It’s also interesting, and a bit galling, that the value of German coins plummeted as of 1950, the year of our coin.  During the years immediately after the end of World War II, before the Federal Republic became the national government in 1949, some German states got together and minted Deutches Lander coins that are of interest to collectors.  Once the Federal Republic took over, however, its coins became commonplace, so our 5 pfennig coin has no real value — except as blog fodder and a good luck charm.

If only our prior owner had returned to the homeland a few years earlier!

Fam Scam

Yesterday I got an email from Russell during the middle of the day at my work email address.  Except it wasn’t really from Russell.  It was a fake, undoubtedly sent by a crook somewhere out there in the digital world hoping to perpetrate a fraudulent scheme.

The scam is called “spear phishing.”  The fraudster identifies actual email addresses that have legitimately communicated with you, then sends you an email that appears to come from someone you know.  Because the email address looks genuine, it makes it past the spam filter to your inbox.  You’re supposed to treat it with the speed and cavalier attention that most email receives and reflexively open it and click on the link that has been sent.  If you do that you’re sunk, because the unthinking click installs malware on your computer that allows the scammer to capture personal information that permits him to make false charges on your credit cards, empty your bank account, and commit identity theft.

The key building block of spear phishing is the recipient’s reflexive, unthinking treatment of every piece of email that comes to the inbox.  When I got the email that appeared to come from Russell, I immediately worried that there was some problem — but after that first instant of concern I noticed that the email address was an old one, and saw that the email itself had no message but just a link to some apparent healthcare entity, and my guard went up.  Something about the email didn’t seem right.  Of course, it was possible that it might be a real message — but just to be sure I sent Russell a text to ask if he had sent an email, and he responded that he hadn’t.

I try to be mindful of the ever-present risk of fraud on the internet.  When it comes to email, I look for language issues in messages and weird combinations of addressees, and I never click on links sent in unanticipated emails.  I also hope, though, that a special level of hell is reserved for spear phishers who misuse existing relationships to cheat the unwary out of their money and their private identities.  In  his Divine Comedy Dante consigned them to Malebolge, the Eighth Circle of Hell, where the souls of deceivers and fraudsters are constantly tormented by intensely painful, ever-burning flame.  That seems about right.

Tissue Dog

Kasey is a unique dog.  Many dogs like trash, of course.  Kasey does, too.  But Kasey especially craves a certain kind of trash — used Kleenex from the bathroom wastebasket.

IMG_4798_2If you leave the bathroom door open and the wastebasket on the floor within Kasey’s reach, it’s just a matter of time before you hear a bang and clatter and then see old Kasey shuffling by, munching on a mouthful of tissue and guarding it zealously when you try to get it away from her.

Disgusting, you say?  Sure!  But dogs do a lot of disgusting things, from appalling tongue swabs of their nether regions to up-close-and-personal sniffs of assorted animal droppings to hearty bites of flyblown roadkill.  By comparison, chowing down on used Kleenex is a minor transgression in the canine health and sanitation area.

The mysterious question, however, is:  why used Kleenex?  As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a lot that we don’t know about Kasey’s history, given her Erie County Humane Society past.  Did she once have to survive on Kleenex to fill her belly?  Is eating used Kleenex the canine equivalent of nose-picking?  Does the Kleenex remind her of something pleasant from her past?  Are her senses of smell and taste so acute that she can identify the human who used the tissue?

Kasey will never tell.  I’d ask her, but she’s working on a mouthful of Kleenex right now.

Moving With The Herlihy Boys

One last observation about moving:  it sucks almost by definition.  You’re putting all of your stuff — that overwhelming, ridiculous, crippling mass of used material goods that we inevitably accumulate and that follows us around during our lives — into boxes and bags and trucks, taking it to a pristine location, and then taking it out of the trucks and boxes and bags all over again.  It’s a lot of work, and it also makes you ask a central, challenging question:  what is all this stuff, and why in the world do I have it in the first place?

IMG_4787When you find a moving company that actually seems to care about your stuff — treating it with care, rather than the brisk, get-it-over-with-as-quickly-as-possible contempt for your possessions, walls, and door frames that seems to be the order of business for many moving companies — it’s a pleasant surprise that deserves a pat on the back.

Let me therefore commend the Herlihy Moving & Storage Company of Columbus, Ohio.  They packed us up, stored our earthly goods while we were in the rental, and then came to move us into the new place on a cold day with checklist efficiency and professionalism.  One of the movers, Michael, was personally involved in both packing us up and moving us back in, and he showed an amazing aptitude for recalling where things were in our old house that made our placement decisions in our new house in much easier,  It was the kind of human touch that often is missing in the cold world of modern business.  (Plus, I appreciated that he complimented me on my old-school choice of Adidas sneakers.)

Kudos to the Herlihy Moving and Storage Company and their friendly staffers, and thanks.