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September 7, 1998

Screw It

John and I have spent the last three or four days doing the last of the screws on the new deck. It's a lot of screws. Each board needs to have two screws set fairly close to each edge each time it goes over a joist, and another two on each end. Altogether, it turned out to be nearly 3800 screws.

The screws on each end of each board had to be pre-drilled, and the boards had to be lined up while the screws were set into place. John and his dad managed to cover the back porch with decking material, and did about a third of the screws, just to hold things in-place. The exterminators came Thursday and sprayed all the wood with a chemical concoction that would kill any carpenter ants that tried to eat the wood. So, we let it soak in a day, as John had soccer practice to teach. And, on Friday night, I started to finish the screws.

Now, we had originally planned to go to Portland for the weekend, to do Land Rover stuff. But, with all the things that still had to be done on the deck before Fezzik's birthday party, we had to stay home and do all the screwing before we could finish it. Yes, there were dozens and dozens of jokes about 'screwing' made by both John and I and nearly everyone we told about what we had to do over the weekend. This included a note to my mailing list offering the tickets that John and I had bought for a concert down in Portland to anyone who would be able to make it to Portland for the weekend. No one, sadly, claimed the tickets. Dar Williams was also performing up in Seattle on Friday night, but we were worried enough about getting things done in time that we decided to forego the performance and just worked on the deck.

So, Friday night, John would pound shims into the cracks on either side of the places where the boards met, to line the ends up with each other. Then, I would follow with the electric screwdriver and a yogurt container filled with screws. At first, I would pick up one screw, set it,and then drive it all the way in; but the repetition of motions necessary to setup each screw was awkward between the power necessary to hold the screwdriver still while driving screw in. So, instead, I set all four screws up first, and then followed with the driver.

While, I was using a power screwdriver, the name is somewhat misleading. While it does provide the power to drive the screws into the wood, I, basically, provide the resistance that power pushes against. So, all the torque was being applied as much to my arms as it was being applied to the screw. I was very careful to figure out a way to hold the screwdriver so that my muscles were taking the brunt of the forces being applied. Very careful to keep my fingertips completely out of the equation.

Each screw took some precision. First, the placement, which with the pre-drilled holes was fairly simple, as you just had to stand the screw in the hole. With the screws along the edges of the boards, there was a sleeve on the screwdriver that could slide down and hold the screw in place, vertically, in order to drive the tip in without the shaft of the screw wobbling around. Most of the shaft of the screwed had to be driven in at high-speed, if it were done slowly the point would occasionally slip from the grooves at the top or the clutch would slip in the screwdriver itself. The head, however, had to be set just below the surface of the wood. That took some precision, power, and a light control of the trigger. Precision to make sure of the placement, power to make sure it actually drove into what sometimes was denser wood at a slower speed, and the light control was necessary to make sure that the screw wasn't set too far below the surface and possibly splitting the wood more than it had to be.

The other annoyance was the battery packs. They were good for a certain amount of work, and then had to be recharged. The recharger wasn't quite as quick as the work was, so we had to stop to wait for the charging sequence to finish on a battery before being able to get back to work.

Looking back at it, the annoyance was probably a Godsend, for my hands, at least. As it enforced a rest period every hour and a half or so. This enabled me to stretch, rest, and get up from my working position. My knee was fairly unhappy with the situation, as I worked in a half couch most of the time, so it was bent for long periods. The best periods helped with that as well, giving me some incentive to get up and walk around to loosen up tight tendons.

It didn't help that all the small things happened as well. Fingers getting banged, skin getting bit by drill or screws or wood splinters. I finally dragged out the thick-carpetted welcome mat from just inside the doorway and used that as a butt pad that I could sit on so that the hard wood didn't make me all the more uncomfortable. I also found that when my knee got stiff, I couldn't quite make it all the way down to a sitting position and my habit was to drop myself the last few inches. When I did it enough times, my butt got awfully sore from getting whacked that often. So I had to learn how to sit down a little more slowly.

So, we worked most of Friday night, all of Saturday morning, took one break for lunch when the battery recharger refused to do anymore. It had overheated, so we put it and the two battery packs into the refrigerator while we ate. We then kept working until Tibo called from Conifur to tell me that I was missing a con.

I have to admit that I was thinking of bagging the con, much as I had bagged the concert. In part, because I knew I wouldn't know very many of the people that would be there, and of those people I had no idea who wanted to see me. Knowing that Tibo cared enough to actually call me negated that excuse completely. So, I decided to dress up and go.

I wore the brushed blue velvet leggings and tank top with the black lace panel. Basically, it made for a brushed, cobalt velvet body suit. On top of that I would wear the black silk coat with the long tails, but the weather was so hot that I left it off for the drive down to the con. Once there, I put on the coat and walked in. The lady at the registration desk called Tibo, telling him that he had a friend at the desk. He showed up almost immediately, saying that my timing was perfect as he was coming down to close registration. I got my badge, all my convention materials, and then started to wander around with a few friends that I found.

The art show was much fun. I really enjoyed just wandering through, looking at things and talking with the guys that were there with me. I also found a lady who used to sell me comics at a store that has now gone out of business, and I was surprised to see her. I'm still rather bemused. I have to admit, after years on the net, that when I think 'furry' I usually get a sexual connotation, mostly because nearly all the furry MUSHs I've ever been on or heard of, have had sexual content or themes. Though, obviously, comic books have had anthropomorphic characters which have no sexual themes like Yusaji Yojimbo. I felt a little foolish for assuming and somewhat more foolish for dressing up.

Then someone asked me to put a button on and commented, when I put it on my lapel button hole, that more people would now look at it because it was on me.

It really reminded me of why I play a male character, usually, on furry MUSHs, and why I make a habit of dressing in nothing more fancy than t-shirts and jeans or baggy shorts. How many people, on first seeing Emma Peel, actually ask her how many degrees she has or how much she likes certain mental puzzles rather than falling all over her for her looks? Oddly enough, I MUSH mostly because then people can interact with my mind without the social baggage of my physical appearance. There are so many assumptions made by others as well as by myself in face-to-face interactions that it becomes difficult. With my normal group of friends it is a nonissue, as they know me through my writings or through interaction that has nothing to do with my surface appearances. So, I'm comfortable around them in ways that I'm rarely comfortable amid strangers, especially strangers that find me physically attractive.

It was a huge difference from the sweaty, common work of building a deck with someone that knew me, and whom I didn't have to play any appearance games with to this.

I escaped for some time by following WhiteFire to his room where Kveldulf, his mate, was lounging about on the bed watching what he admitted was a really, really bad movie. I love WhiteFire, but I have a special place in my heart for Kveldulf because he's fun, makes cool conversations and is a complete technophile who really loves Neat Toys. He and I spent a good hour trying to get a magnetic top to levitate there in the room, and we gang-tickled WhiteFire and basically had a really good, giggly time. Not to say that all het guys are gawkers, or that all gay guys keep their brains when presented with a beautiful woman, but I often find that it is more likely to get a coherent conversation without odd social biases from homosexual guys than heterosexual guys.

I'll also admit that I felt odd dressed the way I was. What didn't help was having some guy approach me later to say that he was a Goth and wanted to know how the local Rocky Horror performances were. I should just have said that I wasn't a Goth, but ended up saying that I had never gone to the local performances so couldn't say how they were. He gave up talking to me after I got very quiet.

Several weeks ago I had walked into a video store, to rent Fallen. The two guys behind the counter were arguing about whether or not a girl they knew in high school was a Goth or not. One of the guys said that she was about as Goth as he was, and the other guys said that he was pretty Goth. So, the first guy said that sometimes people called someone Goth just because they didn't like them, not because they were. I think that shaped some of my feelings about what the word 'Goth' actually means. What was even funnier was that the guy who was claiming not to be Goth was laughing and looking at me when he made the statement about it being a label for the unknown. Yes, I was laughing back. Someone from Michigan, on learning that I had blue hair, had said I was Goth, simply on that evidence. I had denied the claim, said that it simply added some color to my life, but now I can see that other people might think the same. Especially when a girl shows up all in black and blue.

Anyway, after a while WhiteFire and Kveldulf had to go to a party for the con that they were starting in the Bay Area. It turned out to be at about the same time as the pizza feed being given by Conifur. It also turned out that Conifur had forgotten to get drinks along with the pizza. So, the three of us and another person working for their con went to the grocery store to get drinks, both for the pizza and for their party.

I'll admit I went in order to be with friends rather than lost amid the pizza feed. And it was fun to go with them and get stuff and get looked at by the regular folks in the grocery store. It's different to be startling, and some guy at the grocery store asked if there was a con in the area. We told him yes and exactly where it was. That was pretty cool.

When we got back to the hotel a number of people helped us to unload. We brought some of the drinks to the pizza party, and just managed to grab a few slices of the last of the pizza. It was really good pizza, even the cheese pizza was really tasty, as the crust and the sauce were both of good quality. There were Bugs Bunny cartoons being shown, and they were going to show a version of The Last Unicorn for everyone. I wandered over to WhiteFire's party and got introduced to few other folks I knew from Tapestries. Some were somewhat surprised by my physical appearance, but it was cool to have real contact and conversations. But I got tired pretty quickly. Turns out that Kveldulf has some of the same introvert characteristics that I do, and when I was really tired he told WhiteFire that he was going back to the room. I went with him to get my stuff out of the room, and we had an interesting conversation about what it was like to be a female hardware engineer.

One thing I realized was just what a comfort it was to be able to be male on the MUSH. To just be one of the guys, taken for what ever conversation or actions I did rather than my appearance or my sex. That actually showing up might have been a mistake, because on the furry MUSH's those kinds of things matter to some. Another reason why I frequent tooMUSH more than anything else.

Sunday was back to the deck again, and the familiarity and comfort of being home again was offset by the complete pain in my shoulders and upper arms. The muscles were already sore from the previous day, and doing more of the same thing aggravated the muscles even more. Luckily, I was doing what amounted to the home stretch for all the screwing. There was just the last 16 boards closest to the house, about two hundred fifty screws to put in. It took three and a half battery packs to finish in off. By the time I was done John had finished all the edges, sanded all the screw holes, and after I finished the last one, he washed the deck off with the hose.

The deck had to dry, so the two of us went off on a shopping trip. We wandered way east to get John some new, colorful Big Dogs shorts for the party and afterwards. I wanted a pair of dress boots, to wear with a corduroy, full-skirted blue dress and with my last purchase with my bonus. With the last fall catalog from J. Petermen's, there had been a gorgeous gray banker's suit, cut and built for a woman. I had lusted after it, greatly, but the price was pretty nasty, and while I had dreamed, for a bit, about Emma's cat suit, it really couldn't be thought of as practical. So, I bought the grey banker's suit Friday evening, but I have no shoes that really go well with that styles suit. I have various black leather pumps that go with anything, so may just make do with that. As we were shopping, however, we looked for interesting shoes to go with the outfits. While we did find a really astonishing pair of Doc Martin boots that went to mid-shin, no one really had what I was looking for, so I didn't get anything.

John had fun pulling a surprise on me, taking me to the XXX root beer barrel take-out and buying me a lovely root beer float. The coldness and the liquid were perfect after a hot ride in the Stoat. And the XXX brews its own root beer, so it was savory and melded well with the ice cream.

We stopped by a spa place, a clothes store, Eagle hardware, Trader Joe's, and as we were driving through Issaquah we saw a store open that we had never seen open on a weekend before. The local butcher had always kept normal business hours during the weekdays, so we were never able to get to them when they were open, as they closed before we could get out or they simply weren't open on weekends. For some reason they were now open on Sundays from about 11 to 5. So we walked in, looked around, got three pork chops and a pound of bacon, and then asked about 10 pounds of ground beef for Fezzik's party.

The pork chops were wonderful. I did a little experimentation, and made up a crust from day old Kalamata olive bread crumbs mixed with chopped macademia nuts and a generous amount of curry. I coated the pork chops with flour, then an egg wash, and then coated them with the crust. I fried them in olive oil and canola oil until they were crisp and brown. The chops turned out to be succulent, tender, and sweet. The crust was marvelously crunchy, and the perfect complement to both the meat and the sweet canned corn from Trader Joe's. The curry really did well with the macademia nut's sweetness.

I also made ice cream. I've been thinking about the custard base with Mexican chocolate melted into it, and chunks of bittersweet chocolate and toasted, slivered almonds stirred in just as the base was starting to freeze. It turned out really well, but the freezer froze everything just a bit more solid than I liked. The flavors went really well together though John says that we need to have at least one recipe of ice cream that dogs can eat for Fezzik's birthday party. I think we'll probably do two recipes of ice cream at the party, because we have our own electric mixer and John's parents have another.

One thing I haven't bagged out on this weekend has been the deck. After our shopping trip John used the paint rollers to apply the finish to the deck. By Monday morning it was dry and completely waterproof. So, it looks like that's done except for the hand rails.

The bacon was just about as good as the pork chops. We had it with eggs and potatoes for breakfast.

Another thing that worked out well was the herbal iced tea from The Republic of Tea. The tangy stuff really helped in the sunny and hot weather for keeping us hydrated without any sugar.

Yes, my hands have been hurting, which is part of why I haven't been updating more frequently. I've also, in part, been thinking of joining the Often journal ring, but it's more satisfying to write when I actually have something to say, I think, rather than simply making it something that I have to do every day. Besides, I'm finding that I'm enjoying living this life enough that chronicalling it gets to be a chore, especially when the days really are pretty close to the same for a small stretch of time.

I may get to meet the author of Heinovision tonight. We'll see. It's something I've been looking forward to for a while

Brought to you by Dragon System's Point & Speak.

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