John commenting on UHF

Congratulations! I wish I had luck finding something like that in my attic. Nope just mold and mice, of course. I think half of those problems are fixed (I hope). For future reference, you get get bundled basic cable with high speed internet at the same price (they discount internet 10 bucks, but tack on 10 dollars for basic cable). You get the main network channels, no HD but most TVs do a good job making it look nice with the analog convertor boxes (that should not cost any extra money for equipment, per room, or lease fees). Just my experience. I miss regular cable HD but that’s what Blu-Rays and on-demand services are for!


Today marks two months since moving day to our new place here in Woodbury; looking back, we have been working non-stop. We painted some 15 foot ceilings and installed a room and a half of engineered hardwood floor before move-in, but it turns out the home improvement sprint evolved into a marathon. You can imagine what it’s like to run the first 800 meters of a race flat-out before realizing that you’ve signed up for 26.2 miles.

Here’s a list of what we’ve done:

Stripping wallpaper is a royal pain in the ass.


tweet - 18 April, 2014

I’ve largely discontinued my previous practice of linking to every little thing that I see on the internet that is interesting. I’ve done this because I find the most satisfying posts that I go back and read are the ones where I talk about how I feel and what’s going on, not the posts where I link to the latest article I’ve read. After all, one would rather know the person that all that reading and thinking produced, and not necessarily all the reading and thinking that person did.

I’ll make an exception for this piece, called Die on Purpose, because it gets at important truths:

I think it’s really helpful to forget you exist, and often.

Wherever I am, whatever location I am in, I picture the situation exactly as it would be if I wasn’t there. I just watch it like it’s a movie, and the people still in the scene are the actors.

There is no sufferer, so there is no suffering. Curiously, beauty survives.

Curiously, beauty survives.






Your dad thinks technology is amazing, baby. You keep on growing in there, and we’ll see you in a bit.

Leaving Our First Home

The lid of the seventy year old stove creaked reluctantly as I pushed it up and ducked my head under. Dust and the smell of distant eggshells wafted up as I relit the stove with the long reach matches from our landlord Mary Alice. A few years ago, when we woke up to the unpleasant smell for almost a week straight, we had learned the pilots tended to get blown out by gentle breezes. Now, this little piece of knowledge was to get filed in the “no longer useful” category in my brain, along with bits like how to keep the sink and tub drains draining (never use without at least one trap), when to change the screens out for the storm windows (earlier than you think; the days quickly get cold), how to avoid the water hammer (turn the water on more than you think you need), how much to turn down the heat (a Pendleton and a down comforter were musts), how to stay cool when the power went out in the summertime (good luck… meditation?), the trick to shutting the front door (humidity dependent), which outlets dropped cord prongs from them like leaves in fall, and which appliances tripped the breaker if used in concert.

We moved here, to Warwick Street SE in Prospect Park Minneapolis, Mykala and I (and George the cat) in the summer of 2009. We had just been married in a marvelous wedding, with a celebration and a wife of the sort I know come once in a lifetime, and only if you are very, very lucky. I was very, very lucky.


Mykala found us the place and I vividly remember touring it, guided by Mary Alice, 76 years young at the time.



She was a real-estate agent in the area, but that fact does little to convey her place in the community. Mary Alice had been there about 40 years and knew every person in every house, some of which she had sold multiple times, and attended every meeting and participated in every commission in the exceptionally tightly-knit Prospect Park community. She explained with pride how the local school, Pratt Elementary, was run-down and saved from being torn down, revitalized, and now was a fully functioning elementary school once again, steps away from the houses in the neighborhood. She gave us a book about it and about the neighborhood—people­ I had just met never gave me books! I had a feeling people I had just met were not Mary Alice. She could be seen, on long summer evenings, walking barefoot along the streets, coming and going from a visit with a neighbor or staging a house. Her backyard had a fish pond that she stocked around Memorial Day each year and she lived above us: her part of the house was embellished with so many interesting items I couldn’t even take them all in; artifacts from India, antiques, fancy tables, a grand piano, countless interesting thingamajigs; other than her iMac, nothing newer than 1960 it seemed.

Shortly after we moved in, Mary Alice’s quite old cat, Ezra, passed away. He had had been just like his owner: he regularly visited the outdoor tables at the café across the street, stopped in at neighbor’s houses in the wintertime to warm up, and intimately knew what was going on in his part of the world. We were informed that there was to be a funeral for Ezra, and let me tell you that is not our scene. People we hardly knew, at an event we didn’t understand, for a cat we had barely met? Yet, we were invited. And we went. And you know what? It was beautiful: poems, live music performances, remembrances from a college-age neighbor who was a little boy when Ezra was a kitten. He, Ezra, was laid to rest in the backyard, and I wished I had the confidence to make such tender, beautiful things happen in the world, without fearing judgment or ridicule. We joked that Mary Alice’s social calendar was more full than ours. But we never made it to that café across the street.


I remember in the golden glow of the summer of 2009, our things from the move-in lined up along the upstairs hall. I remember that so well, I don’t know why. We returned from Hawaii and here was this space, waiting for us—our first home. We were to grow and love and share in that space, and we knew it, and it all felt auspicious and right.


We endured the vicissitudes of dental and graduate schools, family crises, existential crises, and through that Warwick didn’t change much. In that space, as it met the simple necessities of living without ornament or luxury, those idiosyncrasies and their solutions I mentioned before quickly became just a simple, safe backdrop to our lives. I biked to and fro during most of our time there, and I remember many snowy nights, head and taillights blinking up the incredibly steep Franklin Avenue, making my way to my wife, home safe and sound and warm. I also recall the joy of the cold weather finally breaking in the spring, and how, if I went home via University, I could sit back in the saddle and coast gently home, touching neither pedals nor handlebars and breathing in the blooming air.

One of my worst bike rides I’ve ever had was on an unseasonably cold early spring day when the precipitation was a perfect sleet: falling and running down you like rain but accumulating like snow. I was in the awful waiting period where I had taken boards, but I didn’t know if I had passed (I had). The weather matched my mood as I made the miserable ride from my outreach location far west down Franklin, to the gym (soaked to the bone), worked out, and the finally, FINALLY, home to Warwick. On days like that, stepping out of the shower (the bathroom was always the warmest room in the house) to a warm towel, the whole place just wrapped you up.


Christmas morning in the old house felt like putting on your most worn-in sweater—we don’t need nothing new-fangled around here—and a real tree felt true in a place made from real things: plaster, solid wood, brick, glass. Nothing fake, or hollow, or faux, or plastic. Mary Alice usually went away to visit family on the west coast, and a deep snowy peace settled on the house over the Christmas and New Year holidays.


So when I lit those pilot lights, looked at that burner, I saw that all it was was simply a manifold connected to a gas line. And yet, right here, Mykala had made all of our meals at the house. And she made some amazing meals. I knew it was just a stove, but it had all happened right here. Surprise tropical themed nights, Halloween treats,


birthday cakes, Thanksgiving dinners,


Fourth of July feasts,


fall patio dinners,


all of it flooded over me when I lit that stove again. It could have happened anywhere, but it had happened here at Warwick. And the time had come to leave.

Already the soft focus of memory had removed the sharp edges I could see now before me, the pieces that didn’t fit and the paint that was peeling, and my feelings had softened the physical space to a kind of shabby chic farmhouse ideal that it only was when the lights were dim and we found ourselves ignoring the leaks and creaks and layered mix of repairs and fixes. It was perfect, our first place together, but the time had come to leave.

We’ll miss you, Warwick. We’ll miss you, Mary Alice. We know we can visit, but the time when it was our home is now a memory.




Last night, Mykala and I watched the Academy Awards in glorious high definition. During her eloquent acceptance speech, I did notice that Lupita Nyong’o’s elocution is so refined that if she were a violinist, my own speech would be that of a rubber band stretched around a kleenex box

“The gowns are really elaborate and beautiful this year,” said Mykala, “though I suppose we just couldn’t see them since the picture was so blurry before?”

This requires some explanation.

You see, our main tv was an old cathode ray RCA television wihch lasted from when Mykala got it from her parents in 2000, through her high school years, through dorms then apartments in college, through marriage, dental school for me, graduate school for Mykala, and then finally to this past July 8, when it began to exhibit what my expert diagnosis can only call “extreme dimness.” It was like you were looking at photographic slides with no backlight. We had to recycle it after a nearly 13-year run. Here’s how it looked at the end:


That 27 inch diagonal screen required a depth of over two feet, which made for this giant uneven-weighted lunk of a thing that was quite hard to move. Though, who moves their TV much? We loved it: it was sturdy, reliable, and free. Resistant as I am to change, and sentimental as I tend to wax, it was therefore kind of sad to haul the old TV tube out the car, though we didn’t miss the input situation on the back:


That is a single composite video input and a MONO audio input. Yep, 13 years, one speaker. Then there’s the coaxial input, too. That’s it. This thing also had a VHS player on the front which worked quite well; we watched Curly Sue on VHS as recently as 2012, I think. When you don’t know any higher quality, it’s all quite watchable. It just happened to be from late last century.

The tiny 19” LCD television we had upstairs came down to replace this huge thing, and though it was newer, it was worse in every way: terrible sound (I’d never heard stereo speakers sound worse than mono), dim weird colors, and 30% smaller picture. We used that for nine months until we moved last month.

The issue was that our new living room had a spot for a television, and when we put our TV there, it looked like this:


I entertained the idea of continuing to use this teeny tiny television until I tried sitting at the couch 10 feet from the screen. Have you ever tried to watch a 19” screen from 10 feet away? I already was missing details in some movies when we were sitting 5 feet away, so I was sure I’d be missing entire plot points at 10 feet.

Sitting on that same couch a not long ago, Mykala pulled up the top rated inexpensive TV on The Wirecutter, and we bought the first television of our marriage. Folks, the future looks amazing! I’ve run out of superlatives to articulate how shocking it is to watch a modern flat screen television. It is huge and bright and accurate and contrasty and it makes me want to pull our every DVD from our tiny collection and re-watch it to see what exactly the filmakers intended when they shot it.

Of course, with a high definition television, you need high definition content. As I signed up for Comcast internet, I found that they were standing by, ready to charge us extra per room for each box that gave us their coveted high definition television signals.

However, two things kept us from shelling out the money to Comcast and accepting astonishingly awful equipment boogering up our new home in exchange for the privilege of paying exorbitant rates for packages of content of which we wanted only 5%. One, I had spent the past seven years storing a medium gain directional UHF antenna for terrestrial broadcast television for just this very situation. And two, I had also spent the past seven years nurturing a deep resentment at the requirement that I pay for a television signal that I knew was available for FREE and in high definition, simply requiring the right equipment to pluck out of the air and display on a television. Now was my chance!

I ruined a day and a half of Mykala’s life running up to the attic, puzzling things out, complaining about fiberglass insulation, and generally being horrible to be around while I tried to figure out how to get my antenna wired into the existing household RG-6 coaxial network. Eventually, I backed into a solution that involved sacrificing an upstairs coaxial outlet so I could tie the antenna into part of the coaxial wiring. I aimed the antenna to 317°N using Mykala’s iPhone, terminated the coaxial cables (after practicing not in the cold, dark, fiberglassy attic), removed the rat’s nest of splitters that previous installers had left, hooked it all up, and held my breath. Seven years of waiting, and I was running out of chances to show Mykala that free over the airwaves high definition tv actually had some advantages over Comcast “just pay us money for your problems to go away.”

It. Worked.

Around 28-33 channels of free high definition television, coming out of a cable in the wall, due to an antenna in the attic! Wahoo! $100s of dollars in savings per year, and we get better picture and more channels than when we were paying for it. Also, putting your antenna in your attic prevents the rather interesting problem of your-antenna-gets-struck-­by-lightning and fries everything connected to it. Now, onwards to bigger things as we keep improving our house and moving in.

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Wood Floors

Mykala and I have little to nothing left in our tanks — it’s been one week since we closed on our first place, and we have been working almost literally every free moment to freshen it up in preparation for this Saturday’s move. We’re talking 14, 16, 18 hour days here.


That’s us last night, 45 minutes away from finishing putting in the wood floor with Mykala’s dad. It was a very satisfying project, because we had worked and worked and worked on the prep to get to this point. One of the major prep projects was getting the painting done before the floor and the room you see is actually vaulted up about 16 feet, which makes for an atrociously difficult room to paint. So the space has been transformed, we have removed and patched 40 (FORTY) anchor bolts from the walls, and painted most of the first floor. There’s a big snowstorm tonight, then bitterly cold weather on the way, so we get to try out that fireplace soon.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the enormous efforts of our parents to get us going on this house. We would not have been able to do any of this without their assistance: planning, ladders, painting, cutting, cleaning, tearing up tile, cleaning, pulling carpet, drilling, cleaning, rolling out second and third coats, feeding us, locking in floors, and onwards and upwards.

Home owners

We closed on our townhouse this past Thursday the 13th. Since then, we’ve been doing 14 hour days getting the place ready to move in. We’re in the middle of painting rooms right now, and we’ll be laying floor hopefully later this week, too. I almost don’t have the energy to keep my head up, so I’ll stop typing before it crashes into the keyboard. Looking forward to posting pictures of the new place after we move on the 22nd!

Quesadilla Steve’s

Mykala thought this was inappropriate for Facebook, so it will be put on my personal website of silliness, which I have to admit makes far more sense.

Quesadilla Steve’s
Your Neighborhood Pizza Joint

Right? Pretty confusing.