Friday, May 26, 2023

Step right up

 Our house was built in the mid-80s. Consequently, there is always some sort of repair or update that needs to be made. 

One of those updates/repairs we have deferred for many years would be the front porch steps. They have been gradually, but steadily, sinking for the 22 years we have lived here. A dozen or so years ago, when we had some foundation repair done, the company that did the work theoretically raised the steps about an inch. 

That made little to no difference, and I'm not sure they raised them at all. A few months ago, I measured length from the top step onto the porch landing -- one foot. It had gotten to the point we had guests come in our back door. It was no longer acceptable. 

Because I have challenges with anything concerning construction, I asked around of some friends who know about these things. The consensus was I need a "concrete guy." 

Wife graciously agreed to take on the job of finding someone. What she quickly learned was it's difficult to find someone in the concrete business to do a small job like this. They are more interested in the big jobs like pouring driveways and such. 

That makes sense, but that's not what we needed. With some research and persistence, she found three different folks who would come and take a look and give us a bid. 

One never showed up, although he called a couple of times and said he would. (He called again after the work was done. Too late.) 

Two guys came, both of whom I liked, but the second one seemed much more professional. While the first one wrote his bid on the back of his business card and sent an email because I asked him to (which had little additional detail other than his bid), the second one emailed a bid with much detail, with a description of what his crew would do. He was also easier to communicate with. 

Unfortunately, his bid was a good bit higher than the first guy. But with her sharp negotiating skills, Wife was able to talk him down some. We accepted his bid. 

His folks did a great job. They jackhammered the steps, as well as the pad of aggregate at the bottom of the steps, and replaced both. It took a couple days and it was loud and messy, but the finished product is more than satisfactory. Where there once were two steps, there now are three, and ascending them is now easy. 

A few weeks prior to that, we had our back deck stained. This is where Wife and I spend a good bit of time these spring evenings before it gets intolerably hot, so in addition to the stain, we have spruced things up a bit and we're enjoying our time out there. 

So, front and back have gotten a bit of a makeover. Results below. 

Front steps

Back deck

Deck, different view

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

It's over?

As I understand it, both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have declared we are no longer in a state of emergency due to COVID-19. 

I am not fact-checking this, and I know I am paraphrasing, so anyone is free to correct me. But that's my understanding. 

I am not totally sure what this means, but I think it has something to do with free vaccines, free testing kits, etc. 

I went to get the most recent and updated booster about a month ago. I am pro-vaccine and figure, at my age, I'll follow my doc's recommendation and get what I can. 

I realize there are those who disagree with me. Reasonable minds differ, as I learned in law school. 

COVID has not gone away, but we know much more about it now, and I suppose the two aforementioned organizations believe we have enough resources to deal with it now, not as a pandemic, but as another virus that's out there like so many others. 

I read an interesting piece in The New York Times on Dr. Anthony Fauci recently. He became the face and voice of the pandemic. Early on, then-President Trump seemed to rely on his expertise.

He is finally retiring after serving under seven presidents as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  Although many of us came to know of him because of COVID, he was obviously around a long time before that. I am, unapologetically, a big fan. 

He said in the Times article that he acknowledges some mistakes and missteps in the height of the COVID pandemic, but pointed out how, in the beginning, how very little we knew about it. He is human like anyone else. Medicine is not an exact science, even as much as we would like it to be. 

COVID became a political issue, fueled by Donald Trump. He was all in until he wasn't and, typically, he turned on Dr. Fauci. 

The lockdowns, closings and masks are history now. Even with the politics, I hope we learned something from it. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Actor and author

 I was lucky enough last night to attend an event in which Tom Hanks spoke about his new book, The Making of Another Motion Picture Masterpiece. 

Although it has been a while, I have written here in the past about the Nashville bookstore Parnassus, whose part owner, Ann Patchett, is a Nashville resident. It is a splendid independent bookstore that has defied the trend of such establishments essentially surrendering to online retailers such as Amazon.

And while the bookselling business thrives, the Parnassus folks also sponsor events such as the one I attended last night, in which well-known authors speak. Over the years I have heard and seen John Grisham, Jon Meacham, David Baldacci, Mitch Albom, Philip Gulley, Louise Penny and others. 

Sometimes the setting is small, inside the store or at the Nashville library, with a capacity of maybe 100. (Some are free and for some there is a cost, which usually includes a copy of the book and often benefits a charitable organization.)

Others, like last night's event with Hanks, take place at larger venues around town. This one was in the gymnasium on the campus of a Nashville private school. There were probably over 1,0000 people there. 

Patchett appeared with Hanks. The two of them sat in chairs and she interviewed him. While the main topic was the book (which is a fictitious account of making a movie, with Hanks drawing on his years of movie-making experience), they also talked about the differences in being an actor and an author. 

While Patchett is only one of those things, Hanks is both. This is his second book. His first, Uncommon Type, is a book of short stories, with the title deriving from his fascination with and love of typewriters. 

Patchett contended that an author's life is largely one of solitude while the book is being written, while the acting gig involves scores of folks involved in the process. 

While Hanks agreed, he contended that it still comes down to a creative person telling a story. 

There was much more, and it was an outstanding evening. Hanks displayed his trademark wit, and except for sitting among all those other people, it was not unlike listening to an old friend. For her part, Ann Patchett was equally enjoyable and did an excellent job interviewing, interjecting just enough of herself into the discussion.  

My ticket included a copy of the book, which will go near the top of my TBR. I have never gotten around to reading Uncommon Type, so that one will go on it too.