Monday, September 7, 2009

White Hole

I've discovered a new spatial phenomenon. It's similar to a black hole -- you know... collapsed star, all this matter compressed into this little teeny space, super gravity, light can't escape, etc. Well, a white hole is the same thing, except it's time that can't escape. Oh, and it's my house, not a collapsed star.

(Actually, there really is a white hole in astrophysics -- at least hypothetically. And the definition is a lot different than mine above. But I've already made up a new word in French on this blog, so let's just ignore that for now.)

I've noted before that my house consumes an astonishing amount of time, and that's never been more true than in the past month. Literally every weekend since my last post (four weeks ago) has been consumed with mostly housework. Plus many nights in between. I've been going like hell getting the place ready for listing.

The outside is now (professionally) painted, and much of the inside too. One room downstairs has been completely recolored. Most of the trim downstairs has been repainted, the upstairs and downstairs hall walls have been repainted in a lighter shade than they were, and in general, the place just looks fantastic. All I have left to do is to paint some grit-laden paint on the stairs to the basement, paint the front stair balusters (that'll be fun) and finish spackling and painting the ceiling in the downstairs front hall. A few more hours worth of work is all that's left and it's done.

By the way, there are 5 posts on the front porch, as you can see. Four of them were made by me (the one just to the left of the front door was made by the previous owner -- the rest are mine), along with a similar but shorter pair on the Kitchen porch. I wrote about starting one post here. As you can see (far left in the picture) it's done, and with the help of a friend, I put it in place earlier this summer. The old one broke into three pieces as we took it out, even though it looked mostly fine on the surface until last fall. Houses are exciting that way. Especially old ones.

The real question is what's next. I have a good feel for what the place is worth, and I could start over somewhere else with the cash I'd take out of the place. But I'm struggling with letting go of it. It's not just a nice and unique old house, it's been my home for the better part of the last a decade (notwithstanding the 9 months I was in Framingham). And it's essentially been a the source of a lifestyle -- making it mine and keeping it in shape has been a labor of love, a source of pride and a constant challenge to the skills I brought to the table when I moved in. It's a white hole, yes, devouring time like nobody's business. But's it's mine, and I'd like to hang onto it if I can. Not at the expense of everything else, mind you -- only if I can make it work.

Anyway, as I've been doing all of this work, I've stil managed to get some biking in. Last week I had my kids for a few days before the first day of school, and we got out for 14 miles or so. Juli strapped her stakeboard to her Pletscher rack, and we went over to her school's playground, stopping first for lunch at the local pizza place. Then this weekend I've logged two 24-mile days on my two older road bikes followed by a shorter ride today with the girls.

Riding them back to back I was struck by how different they are. The Schwinn is better sorted than the Motobecane, and it feels like a more modern bike, even though it's older. The brakes feel better, the shifters pull more cable and are more responsive, and the bike is more stable. It's also much stiffer in the frame than the Motobecane, which feels willowy by comparison. If I watch the big ring for deflection as I crank up hills, there's little to no flex in the Schwinn, where the Motobecane's big ring flexes a couple of millimeters left to right as I pedal. So the lower part of the main triangle is much stiffer on the Schwinn than the Motobecane. The trade-off, though, is that even with a Brooks Professional (vs. the wider B-17 on the Schwinn) and narrower tires, the ride quality of the Motobecane is sooooooo much more supple -- it's really a lovely bike. Anyway, it's fun having a bunch of bikes and experiencing their differences back and forth, back-to-back.

In terms of projects, I've been playing mostly with accessories the past few weeks, having bought a handful of Wald baskets (one for my use, and two for Juli's Fuji for schlepping her board and pads around). I'm still working out the installation of those, but I'm looking forward to having some carrying capacity. I also picked up a couple of new bags from Rivendell, and have been gathering parts to fix the front end of the Columbia. I have a fork, a headset, and a set of hubs. I still need a front brake cable hanger and a new stem and bars for it. Optionally, I need a new seatpost.

The short-term plan is to install the fork with the appropriate spacing on the steerer tube to handle a set of front brakes. Then replace the bars with adult-sized bars, and the stem with 22.2 stem to match the new fork. I'll have to cobble the headset together a bit, using a top nut that I have leftover from my wife's Bianchi project (the original steel top nut), but that's not hard.

And then when I'm ready to put a cantilever brake on the front (and I have a cool one to put on -- an old Dia-Compe) I'll need to figure out what to do about wheels. My thinking is to have a coaster brake setup with its fat tires, and a second set of wheels with a front canti brake only. I could mix it up I suppose, too. Easy enough to figure out. When the time comes, I'll get the hubs I picked up (SR suntour threaded hubs and a single speed freewheel) built up with some silver 26" rims and that'll be that.

That project may drag into the winter though. Fall is fast approaching (it was 50 degrees this morning), and that means that I've got only 4-5 more weeks before I have to start dealing with leaves and it's already time to think about taking the gardens down and putting all the vines into the compost pile. Whatever happens with staying or selling, I've got at least one more autumn here, and it's generally a lot of work.

All for now,


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