Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Library Part III

Nate came by yesterday afternoon and helped me put the first layer of gray paint on. Check it out:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shelton, WA

Here is a place I barely survived. I'm sure that in reality it's a fine little city, full of happy and content people living their lives. In fact It was probably mostly timing that made me hate it so much; it had the misfortune of being my home directly after leaving Indianapolis, a place I truly loathed leaving.

I won't dwell too much on poor me and how hard that move was, but instead I want to talk about someone who briefly entered and left my life there in Shelton. I only mention the hardness here because I think this person had a similar experience, although the details were probably different.

Thomas had the ill-begotten luck of making friend with someone who had no intention of making any friends during their brief stay in his town. In fact one day in class a girl started talking to me and noted how unfriendly I was, to which I replied, "well I won't be here very long so what's the point of making friends?"

And yet Thomas and I managed to bond, mostly over black pants, long hair, rolling dice (to play D&D, not craps) and not quite fitting in (maybe because of those three previous things listed). Strangely, I can't even tell you how I met him, or where. I don't recall having any classes with him, I don't think he lived within walking distance of my house, he just sort of appeared one day--like a real life wizard straight out of a Dungeons and Dragons book. I remember staying the night at his house a couple times, I remember going to the fair with him and his family, I may have even flirted with his younger sister. But I can't remember meeting him or ever saying goodbye to him. Like another wizard I up a disappeared one day.

A conversation that never happened:

Thomas: "Want to come over and play some Mortal Kombat?"
Shawn: "Nah, hey, look, I'm moving." Kicks rock.
Thomas: "Really? That's a bummer." Cries, but only on the inside, where you can't see it so it's easy to convince yourself it doesn't hurt.
Shawn: "Actually I hate this place, I can't wait to leave."
Thomas: "It was good knowing you anyway."
Shawn: "Yeah, sorry you have to stay, and sorry I have to go."
Thomas: "It's cool, I'm use to it." Kicks same rock.

Instead he probably went to school, looked around for me the first couple of days and assumed I was sick. Then a week went by and nothing. Called my disconnected phone number. Nothing. Vanished like a ninja. Shit, I thought we were friends. I hate this place too.

Maybe I was nothing more than a blip on his radar. Maybe he forgot as quickly as I did. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Either way, sorry about that Thomas.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Library Part II

This morning was spectacular. What does that have to do with the library project? I love it. Normally I'm pretty adverse to manual labor (hi, I'm a computer scientist) but rearranging the garage to make room for some of Robyn's stuff she isn't using, and moving said stuff into the garage, and spackling, and sanding the walls, and even doing the dishes as a "get this out of the way so I can get back to the library" was all quite enjoyable. Although some parts were naturally more enjoyable than others.

I had a little transcendent moment listening to My Morning Jacket and running my hands across the wall feeling for little bumps that I could sand away. I think for a second or two I saw the hand of God, Heaven touched Earth. It was a good way to skip church.

This is no criticism of Robyn, but more of a Shawn characteristic: I feel like most projects that require any amount of effort are usually things that Robyn is more excited about or initiated. This isn't a criticism because I just don't get excited about a lot of things, it has nothing to do with Robyn always insisting we do what she wants to do (because she doesn't). But this project is different. It's mine, I want it, I need it almost. So I've been incredibly happy this morning staring at white walls and feeling their textures under my hands, wiping dusted hands on my jeans, bumping my knee on the coffee-table and fighting with my power drill whose batteries are quickly fading.

As for progress, I've removed all of pictures that were on the wall, I've removed the door, I've spackled all of the holes and done a great amount of sanding. There are a couple holes that were quite large and so they're on their second coating of spackle and will need to be sanded when they dry. The bookshelves have arrived; they're a little redder than I had expected. Paint has been purchased. With Nate's help I narrowed the wall color down to about four options and once the shelves arrived the options were more like three (because of how red they were) and so yesterday Robyn and I went to the paint store and picked out a nice gray color for the walls (I know gray sounds crazy, but I think, and hope, it shall work) and the "base-boards" (which aren't base-boards at all) shall be a brownish-red that should match the shelves reasonably well. While at the paint store we also picked up some wood stain for the coffee-table that will hopefully end up matching the shelves as well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I finished this book. It was really good.

My reading as of late has been pretty slow, I was maybe fitting in one or two books a month. So the fact that I finished this one in a week is a good sign of its quality (IMO). The language was very simple but he dealt with a lot of big ideas and struggles and the plot moved along nicely (I've never been so drawn into a game of squash).

But what I really want to talk about isn't his writing or the story at all. Instead I want to talk about this sensation I get when reading about the events surrounding nine-eleven and the Iraq war that followed. For some reason I'm adverse, or hesitant to read novels based around these events or the politics of these events. I'm not sure why exactly but it sort of feels like I'm being told, "this is how you should feel about nine-eleven." Or maybe it's all too fresh, it hasn't sat in our collective consciousnesses long enough for anything worth while and good to be written about the events. Which is really just perhaps an indication that I haven't fully digested the events and so there is some internal unspoken assumption that no one else could have made sense of it already either. Maybe a bit of "if I haven't figured it out then surely you haven't either." I don't feel this way about other major events in history (WWI, Vietnam, Hiroshima, Pearl Harbor) but that might be because I wasn't around then, so the events don't feel personal, they weren't mine. I wonder if other people feel this way about nine-eleven and if prior generations still feel this way about other historical events.

A New Project

Rarely do I get excited about decorating/designing parts of the house. Normally I go along with whatever Robyn wants to do (which luckily turns out great because she has good vision). But the other day she sent me a link from the Ready Made website (I don't have the link anymore sorry) of an outdoor library. It was more of a "look how great this would be some day" sort of thing. But then I started thinking, "hey, we've got room in the garage for a library!" But that's kind of ghetto and that's when I came up with a brilliant plan (yes, brilliant). On multiple occasions people have asked what we're going to do with Robyn's studio space in the house now that she's moved into a real studio. Some have suggested a weight room or a tool/work room. But clearly library is the correct answer. Oh man, so excited.

I'll be documenting the process here. So for starters here's what the room looks like now, with a few random pieces of furniture from Robyn's stuff and a lot of photo junk hanging around doing nothing.

The space isn't huge but then I don't have a huge quantity of books so it should due. It's 10 feet by 11 feet. First thing that shall be done is the door will be taken off. Then all of the photography stuff will be removed. Holes in the walls (from nails and screws) will be patched up and then the walls and ceiling will be painted a light redish/brown. The base of the wall (you can see in picture one how the base of the wall comes out about a foot) will be painted a darker brown/red to match the shelves that will be installed. Then we shall install two rows of shelves (starting near the ceiling) that are similar to the ones in the first image. The fourth wall will have a couple of pictures and an actual short, wide book-case along it. We'll keep the coffee-table in the position it is in picture one but stain it a darker color to more closely match the paint and shelves. Then a chair will be placed on either side and another more comfortable chair will be placed next to the book-case. I'm thinking I'll put my chess board from Turkey on the coffee-table for permanent display and use as well. If we run out of book space we'll add another row of shelves on the three walls. There will probably be a standing lamp in one of the corners as well. Then we'll remove the spot lights from the ceiling and replace them with a single softer light. At that point books will be moved in and old bookshelves placed in the garage (or gotten rid of, or whatever). Oh yeah, we'll also put a darker rug down to hide most of the light carpet that is there now. I don't have the energy to recarpet and don't want to spend too much on the project. The shelves for the walls have been purchased and maybe sometime this weekend we can pick out some paint (if the shelves arrive by then).

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I was deeply moved by this passage from Saturday by Ian McEwan. The protaginist, Henry, is recalling what his mother was like before her mind slipped away.

She was a woman who gave her life to housework, to the kind of daily routines of polishing, dusting, vacuuming and tidying that were once common, and these days are only undertaken by patients with obsessive-compulsive disorders. Every day, while Henry was at school, she spring-cleaned her house. She drew her deepest satisfactions from a tray of well-roasted beef, the sheen on a nest of tables, a pile of ironed candy -striped sheets folded in smooth slabs, a larder of neat provisions; or from one more knitted matinee jacket for one more baby in the remoter reaches of the family. The invisible sides, the obverse, the underneath and the insides of everything were clean. The oven and its racks were scrubbed after every use. Order and cleanliness were the outward expression of an unspoken ideal of love. A book he was reading would be back on the hallway shelf upstairs as soon as he put it aside. The morning paper could be in the dustbin by lunchtime. The empty milk bottles she put out for collection were as clean as her cutlery. To every item its drawer or shelf or hook, including her various aprons, and her yellow rubber gloves held by a clothes peg, hanging near the egg-shaped egg-timer.

Surely it was because of her that Henry feels at home in an operating theatre. She too would have liked the waxed black floor, the instruments of surgical steel arrayed in parallel rows on a sterile tray, and the scrub room with its devotional routines--she would have admired the niceties, the clean headwear, the short fingernails. He should have had her in while she was still capable. It never crossed his mind. It never occurred to him that his work, his fifteen years' training, had anything to do with what she did.

Nor did it occur to her. He barely knew it at the time, but he grew up thinking her intelligence was limited. He used to think she was without curiosity. But that wasn't right. She liked a good exploratory heart-to-heart with her neighbours. The eight-year-old Henry liked to flop on the floor behind the furniture and listen in . Illness and operations were important subjects, especially those associated with childbirth. That was when he first heard the phrase "under the knife" as well as "under the doctor." "What the doctor said" was a powerful invocation. This eavesdropping may have set Henry on his career. Then there were running accounts of infidelities, or rumours of them, and ungrateful children, and the unreasonableness of the old, and what someone's parent left in a will, and how a certain nice girl couldn't find a decent husband. Good people had to be sifted from the bad, and it wasn't always easy to tell at first which was which. Indifferently, illness struck the good as well as the bad. Later, when he made his dutiful attempts on Daisy's (his daughter's) undergraduate course in the nineteenth-century novel, he recognized all his mother's themes. There was nothing small-minded about her interests. Jane Austen and George Eliot shared them too. Lilian Perowne (his mother) wasn't stupid or trivial, her life wasn't unfortunate, and he had no business as a young man being condescending towards her. But it's too late for apologies now. Unlike Daisy's novels, moments of precise reckoning are rare in real life; questions of misinterpretation are not often resolved. Nor do they remain pressingly unresolved. They simply fade. People don't remember clearly, or they die, or the questions die and new ones take their places.