Monthly Archives: June 2012

House Centipedes and Earwigs: Snack Time!

House CentipedeLots of people freak at the sight of a house centipede, an understandable reaction when they scurry about the home at night, quick and leggy, so perfectly embodying the creepy-crawliness of, say, an entryway to The Temple of Doom.

I’ve learned to love them. They’re harmless, they run in fear the moment you tickle their legs, and they eat pesty insects. Colloquially called “ghetto bugs”, they’re really quite adorable on close inspection. We had lots of baby centipedes running around a few weeks ago and truly, it was charming to see the little buggers scampering up and down the doorframes.

We’ve had some earwigs around this season, too, and while earwigs aren’t harmful to people, either (those pincers aren’t actually pincers, and they don’t go in your ears), I have a bias against earwigs because they devoured a bunch of my marigolds a year ago.

House Centipede Eating Earwig

House Centipede Eating Earwig

Last night I spotted a large house centipede on the baseboard near the downstairs bathroom. She* had a tasty dead earwig in her mouth. In my efforts to photograph her with her prize, she fled into the bathroom and I had to guide her back to the hall where I didn’t have to contend with the scale, the toilet, and the hard-to-reach corners.

I’m afraid I distressed her along the way, but once I left her alone and she realized that I wasn’t trying to steal her precious earwig, she joined me in the TV room, ran behind the couch, and–I can only assume–enjoyed her snack while watching a really terrific episode of Breaking Bad.

* I can’t say for certain it was female but am exercising gender fairness, as female centipedes have suffered far too long beneath the oppressive male-centipede hegemony.

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Wood Pellet Day

A grueling but enjoyable annual tradition: I carried two tons of wood pellets this morning. We bought a pellet stove for the library several years ago and run it all winter (plus part of fall and spring). The stove burns pellets that look like rabbit feed. We go through a couple of tons during the heating season, and you get a better deal if you order in early summer.

The pellet delivery satisfies me in a forward-thinking, squirrel-burying-nuts kind of way. Since we pay for the pellets now, that’s hundreds of dollars of heating bills that won’t be hitting us around Christmas. Receiving a full supply in warm weather also prevents my having to stock back up in frigid weather, a mistake I made in the first year when I under-ordered and had to carry the extra ton on a slushy cold January day.

Path of Pellets

Path of Pellets

Most people ordering pellets have a driveway. The deliveryman drives up and leaves the order wherever you like, maybe right in the back of your garage where the pellets can stay all winter as you burn them one bag at a time. We have neither a driveway nor a garage, so our delivery is left on the street in front of our house. Where I need them is the back corner of the basement. This takes some work.

The pellets arrive on two separate pallets. Each pallet holds fifty bags weighing 40 lbs each for a rand total of 4,000 lbs.

Our house is higher than the road, with two small hills that don’t look like much until you’re walking up and down them, fully loaded, 100 times.

It’d be easy for someone to steal a bunch of bags in the middle of the night, so I have to get them off the road pronto. And so I do, carrying one bag at time up the double-hill and down the length of the house, where I pile everything up near the rear basement window.

My regular exercise must be paying off because I was able to carry 2,000 lbs. without resting; I wasn’t able to do that two years ago. After the first ton was moved, I came inside, ate a piece of chicken, drank water and juice, watched an episode of Breaking Bad, and went back out to haul the second ton.

Bones, Side Window

Bones was fascinated. He watched me from the front window and ran to meet me at the back window forty times before he finally got tired. (When I carried the second batch, he wised up and watched from the front window only.)

Now that everything’s off the road, Phase 2 will be getting the pellets into the basement. What we do is place a plastic slide from my son’s old swingset so it runs from the ground-level window down to the basement floor. My wife and son slide the bags in–this way they don’t break or grown misshapen–while I receive them inside and pile them up into nice neat stacks. The finished piles are immensely pleasing.

It’s also a hell of a workout. My heart rate was over 150 throughout the two solid hours it took me to move it all. I determined my heart rate using an iPhone app, aptly named Instant Heart Rate, that really works even though it seems like it shouldn’t.

Behold!

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The Eggplant of Salvation

Hey remember when I couldn’t fix the shower and wrote about it here and here? Summary of my frustration:

  1. The tub spout leaked
  2. I replaced the knobs and guts; the spout leak stopped
  3. But then the middle knob that sends the water to either the bathtub spout or the showerhead leaked
  4. I needed to replace the inner diverter, but no one sells the right-sized part anymore
  5. I cleaned the current part and did everything right and the knob itself stopped leaking but then…
  6. Whenever we ran water to the tub spout, water backed up in the pipes and also came out the shower head
  7. Gravity is supposed to prevent this; my enemy was physics
  8. I couldn’t understand why it was happening and gave up
  9. Lost hope, rending of garments

Regular readers will now remember the recent Eggplant Incident in which my darling wife put the troublesome vegetable into the garbage disposal, from whence it traveled and clogged in a pipe just below the earlier-described bathtub and filled said tub with hideous gray dishwasher/eggplant water. As I could not easily access the clog with traditional tools, I used Power Plumber, a can of compressed gas that you blast into the drain to jolt the clog. It worked beautifully.

Now yesterday: I had a handyman coming to do some electric work and was prepared to mention the shower-diverter conundrum. Before he arrived, I tested the shower again and lo and behold, the problem had completely remedied itself. How was this possible??

We owe it to the eggplant, it seems. My wife encouraged me to blog about this (while I was giving her a neck rub) in the hope of repairing her eggplanty reputation. I happily comply.

My theory. There must have been a partial blockage in the pipe below the tub/shower. This blockage prevented the drain water from flowing as intended, which resulted in a very slight backup, which resulted in the water rising up the pipe and leaking out the showerhead. Along came the eggplant to jam at the partial blockage. When I cleared the pipe entirely with Power Plumber, the drain water flowed at full capacity, the pipe stopped backing up, and the shower leak abated. So it seems I fixed the diverter correctly all those weeks ago and didn’t know it.

If not for the eggplant, we might have lost hundreds of dollars as the handyman attempted to solve the mystery and found himself similarly baffled. So hat’s off to the exquisite Mrs. Mahoney putting forbidden “fibrous material” down the garbage disposal. We have our second shower back.

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Life Beyond Writing Q&A: Zoe Fishman

Twenty questions for authors, none about writing. Some questions are not in the form of a question. (Previous Q&As may be found HERE.)

This week we have ZOE FISHMAN, author of Saving Ruth and Balancing Acts. (See below for purchase links.)

Zoe Fishman

Photo Credit: Lauren Steel

1. Rename yourself.

ZF: Alexis Arbon

2. Satan hoofs up and says two words to you. What are they?

ZF: Nice jeans

3. Give us an A+ summer song.

ZF: “Cruel Summer” by Bananarama [Youtube]

4. What is the worst injury you’ve ever sustained?

ZF: Broke the pinky and ring finger of my right hand on a margarita-fueled walk home in Brooklyn

5. Form a supergroup using any four musicians, living or dead, that would be thoroughly awesome to experience, for better or worse.

ZF: Stevie Knicks, Lauryn Hill, Robyn and Sia

6. What was your best Halloween costume?

ZF: Raggedy Ann, age 6ish. There was a yarn wig involved.

7. Tell us something you built.

ZF: The Ikea desk upon which I am currently typing. A huge coup for me, as I have the mechanical skills of…well, someone who has no mechanical skills.

Zoe Fishman Saving Ruth8. If you could safely have one non-domesticated animal as a lifelong companion, what would it be? (Fantasy creatures are allowed.)

ZF: An Ewok, obviously.

9. What do you like to grow?

ZF: Hair

10. Name a thing you love that nobody else you personally know also loves.

ZF: Banana peppers

11. How would you like those eggs?

ZF: Poached

12. What’s the worst thing about your favorite holiday?

ZF: A food coma

13. You’ve just been turned into a lousy superhero. Who are you, and who is your nemesis?

ZF: Super Writer and my nemesis is Super Internet

14. Name a thought that has profoundly scared you in the night.

ZF: Oh shit, where is my passport?

Zoe Fishman Balancing Acts15. You’re stinking rich. What’s the first thing you add to your home?

ZF: A palatial bathroom with a state of the art shower just for me

16. What are you up to this weekend?

ZF: Hanging out with my husband and five month old son

17. Which color makes you feel the most comfortable? The most anxious?

ZF: Navy for comfort and white for anxiety. It’s a stain canvas.

18. What is the strangest job you ever had?

ZF: Exercising an overweight child

19. I mean honestly: aren’t you better off living without ___?

ZF: Gossip sites

20. James Cameron discovers something new at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. What do you hope it is?

ZF: My passport

Zoe Fishman: Saving Ruth is Zoe Fishman’s second novel and was published in May 2012. Her first, Balancing Acts, was published by Harper Collins in March 2010. Zoe grew up in Alabama and went onto Boston for college before moving to New York, where she worked in book publishing in foreign rights and as an agent for thirteen years. In August 2011, she moved to Atlanta, where she is currently working on her third novel and enjoying getting to know her infant son.

Web site: Official Author Site

Buy her books:

Saving Ruth

IndieBound
Barnes & Noble
Amazon

Balancing Acts

IndieBound
Barnes & Noble
Amazon

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Seasoning the Skillet

Today I’m re-seasoning our cast-iron skillet. It’s a Wagner Ware #8 and we use it all the time for vegetables, eggs, and burgers. The surface has lost a lot of its non-stickableness* and I mean to re-nonstickabilify* it in the oven.

Seasoning SkilletPeople used to do this with lard. I’m going with Crisco. The first step is to scour the skillet with hot soapy water, which you only ever do to a skillet if you’re planning to re-season. (If you scour it all the time, you’ll de-nonstickify* the surface.) Once the skillet is clean and dry, you rub it down with plenty of Crisco, place it on a cookie sheet, and put it into a 250-degree oven for a couple of hours.

If the skillet is really worn out, you may need to repeat the process. I’m going to do it three times in a row to ensure absolute un-stickabilitableness*.

Seasoned Skillet

Newly Seasoned

As I understand it, the heat opens the metal’s pores, allowing the oil to seep in, where it’ll be trapped once the skillet cools and the pores close back up. That creates a long-term seasoned surface.

For regular upkeep, the skillet should be gently cleaned after every use. Then you rub it down with olive or canola oil, place the skillet back onto the hot stove for a minute or two, and let it cool with that extra layer of protective oil so it’s good as new the next time you use it.

* Actual words, as of now.

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Pumpkin Plant Kickstand

The giant-pumpkin plants are growing well in the warmer weather. I have three of them under the temporary greenhouse and will eventually cull the weaker two. Right now there’s a clear leader, predictably the one that’s been receiving the most direct sunlight throughout the day. Yesterday that plant tipped forward because of its own increasing weight, a looked-for advance that’s often called “kickstanding” because of how the vine naturally stabilizes itself when this occurs.

Pumpkin KickstandWhat it means is that the vine is beginning to run. As each new leaf develops, the plant will harness more of the sun’s energy, establish new roots at every leaf node, grow secondary vines to the right and left, and grow faster and faster as it lengthens.

I won’t cull the weaker plants until the patch becomes crowded and I have to. It’s good to have an emergency backup as long as possible in case some catastrophe befalls the favored vine.

So far I’ve been mixing a little liquid seaweed and Grow Big fertilizer into the water. The Grow Big is expensive but a gallon goes a long way and it seems to be strengthening the plant very well.

Note: the decay at the tips of the little base leaves is normal. Those leaves are the first to emerge from the seed. Their only function is to get the plant growing before the true leaves take over. They’ll probably fall off entirely in the next few weeks.

Life Beyond Writing Q&A: Amelia Gray

Twenty questions for authors, none about writing. Some questions are not in the form of a question. (Previous Q&As may be found HERE.)

This week we have AMELIA GRAY, author of THREATS, Museum of the Weird, and AM/PM. (See below for purchase links.)

Amelia Gray1. Rename yourself.

AG: “FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY”

2. Satan hoofs up and says two words to you. What are they?

AG: WHERE-WE’RE-GOING WE-DON’T-NEED-ROADS

3. Give us an A+ summer song.

AG: “CRAZY IN LOVE”, BEYONCE FEAT. JAY Z [Youtube]

4. What is the worst injury you’ve ever sustained?

AG: AH YES IT WAS THE MIDDLE SCHOOL DANCE AND I HAD JUST BEGUN MY MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENT REGIMEN.

5. Form a supergroup using any four musicians, living or dead, that would be thoroughly awesome to experience, for better or worse.

Amelia Gray THREATSAG: BILLIE HOLLIDAY, AMY TAN, SHAKIRA, TOM WAITS

6. What was your best Halloween costume?

AG: BUNNY

7. Tell us something you built.

AG: A SHORT STORY EMPIRE

8. If you could safely have one non-domesticated animal as a lifelong companion, what would it be? (Fantasy creatures are allowed.)

AG: BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT

9. What do you like to grow?

AG: MOLD

10. Name a thing you love that nobody else you personally know also loves.

AG: ‘THE AWAKENING’ BY KATE CHOPIN

Amelia Gray Museum of the Weird11. How would you like those eggs?

AG: POACHED BITCH

12. What’s the worst thing about your favorite holiday?

AG: ORAL THRUSH

13. You’ve just been turned into a lousy superhero. Who are you, and who is your nemesis?

AG: I AM ORAL THRUSH AND MY NEMESIS IS ANTIBIOTICS

14. Name a thought that has profoundly scared you in the night.

AG: “WHEN YOU DIE YOU’LL BREATHE OUT JUST LIKE THIS”

15. You’re stinking rich. What’s the first thing you add to your home?

AG: A FUCKING SECOND BEDROOM

16. What are you up to this weekend?

AG: WEST HOLLYWOOD PRIDE WEEKEND + THE BIRTHDAY PARTY OF A THREE YEAR OLD CHILD

17. Which color makes you feel the most comfortable? The most anxious?

AG: SEA GREEN FREAKS MY SHIT OUT; IVORY, ON THE OTHER HAND,

Amelia Gray AM/PM18. What is the strangest job you ever had?

AG: GYNECOLOGICAL MODEL

19. I mean honestly: aren’t you better off living without ___?

AG: MEXICAN WEED

20. James Cameron discovers something new at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. What do you hope it is?

AG: HIS DEATH

Amelia Gray is the author of AM/PM (Featherproof Books) and Museum of the Weird (FC2), for which she won the 2008 Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize. Her first novel, THREATS, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her writing has appeared in Tin House, American Short Fiction, McSweeney’s, and DIAGRAM, among others. Find more at ameliagray.com or on Twitter @grayamelia.

Web site: Official Author Site

Buy her books:

THREATS

IndieBound
Barnes & Noble
Amazon

Museum of the Weird

IndieBound
Barnes & Noble
Amazon

AM/PM

IndieBound
Barnes & Noble
Amazon

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