What Willis was talking ’bout…

I’m going to take an entire day’s post today to celebrate the often unsung genius of Willis Carrier, the man responsible for bringing us modern electrical air conditioning. Sure, those first air conditioners contained all manner to toxic gasses that destroyed the ozone layer and would occasionally burst into flame, but right up until they suffocated or burned to death, people were comfortable. And in the end, being a relatively short lived animal, personal comfort is going to trump the risk of environmental destruction or immolation just about every time.

So, as I nudge the thermostat down a notch or two to compensate for the late afternoon sun streaming through the windows I tip my hat to Mr. Carrier… and wonder how, after our sainted ancestors spent their first summer in the mid-Atlantic, they didn’t immediately board the Nina, the Pinta, and the Get-Me-the-Hell-Outta-Here and set sail for Canada.

Central….

Before ensconcing myself here at Fortress Jeff, I rented a house that “included” air conditioning in the form of two geriatric window units. One was so filled with mold when I moved in that I relegated it to the shed for the duration of my stay and replaced it with my own unit. The other was probably filled with mold too, but it was too heavy to move and was somehow “permanently” mounted into one of the living room windows. That one got blitzed with as much lysol as I could spray into the vents at least twice a week in the hopes that would be enough to hold any organisms growing in there at bay.

Given the apparent belief of early 1980s home builders that insulation was more of an optional thing, living with these two window units mostly translated into having two rooms that were slightly cooler than the outside air temperature and the rest of the house that was just short of reaching blast furnace range. It wasn’t ideal.

With temperatures reaching towards 90 over the last couple of days, I just wanted to give a small nod of acknowledgment to the glory that is central air conditioning. I try to be responsible in its use, but I can chill this place right down to icebox levels with the flick of a switch. It’s the kind of thing you don’t really appreciate until you no longer have it.

So there you have it – one more thing to add to the short list of things that don’t suck. See? Not everything around here is a bad news story, something that annoys me, or just a general bitch session. There are, from time to time, things that make me smile.

Catching up…

In addition to the 185 work-related emails yesterday, one of the hardest parts of being away is that I fell way, way behind on my blog reading last week. As much as I like to think of blogging as a solitary activity, the reality is that that the community of bloggers is surprisingly interactive. Instead of just a spectator sport, you end up in a round robin of reading, commenting, responding, and repeating. If you follow a dozen blogs and even half of them post every day, after a week you end up with a backlog of something close to literary tonnage. Now that the daily routine is getting back to a semblance of normalcy, I’m wading into the backlog. Let’s just say it’s a good thing that I like to read, because this is going to take a while.

I find summer in general to be the hardest time for a person who wants to spend time reading and writing. Writing in winter is easy – it’s dark by 5PM, it’s cold, and you just don’t feel like you’re missing much while you’re up to your earlobes in words. Summer is a different story, for me at least. It always feels like there is more to do – and those competing interests seem to win out at least as often as they lose. Maybe that’ll change now that we’re reaching the time of the season when hiding out in the cool embrace of the air conditioner is the order of the day.

I’ll catch up on my backlog soon enough… now if I can just shoehorn some quality time for writing back into the schedule, all will be right with the world.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Pandemonium. Despite the common perception, I’m a quiet guy. I enjoy reading. I enjoy writing. I generally enjoy activities that limit the amount of social interaction that are really required of me, though with some effort, I can make a good showing when I do need to make nice with a crowd. If you ever want to really throw me off my game, all you really need to do is drive up the noise level in the room and my nerves will start fraying on command. My blood pressure will spike and I’ll end up using most of my available focus to simply avoid biting someone’s head off. It’s not a recipe for great productivity. Maybe I really should have looked into career opportunities as a research librarian or lighthouse keeper if the whole writing thing doesn’t take off. That or possibly move my desk into an anechoic chamber.

2. Air conditioning. I’ve been known to keep it cold in the house. I’ve been known to keep it cold in the truck. What I don’t do is keep it so cold in either of those places that I need to wear gloves and a coat while I’m inside either of them. I mean it’s fun to have to stop every few minutes to keep your fingers from stiffening up and making typing damned near impossible, but it seems to me that maybe the best course of action would be to moderate the indoor air temperature a bit rather than setting it to arctic and throwing the blowers on full blast. I’m not a fancy big city engineer or HVAC specialist, but it seems to me that there are some settings on the dial between Ice Age and Sahara that someone might want to test out.

3. False advertising. Walking into a supermarket and you can usually expect to come out with groceries. Walk into Best Buy and you can usually expect to walk out with electronics. Walk into a bar and you can usually buy beer. If you think you can walk into a shop advertising out front that ‘We Sell Silver” and walk out with silver however, you would be wrong. Apparently what they meant by that sign was “We Buy Silver.” Clearly the meaning of “buy” and “sell” have been lost somewhere in translation.

What Annoys Jeff this Week: Household Addition

1. Wood floors. I use to think wood floors were the bee’s knees. If I did’t have dogs, I probably still would. No matter how many times, I sweep, vacuum, and mop there’s always enough hair coming up to build my own pug. God help me, when the sun slants through the windows just right it looks like the floor has never even seen a broom. Until I lived with wood floors, I had no idea how much filth wall-to-wall carpet hid. Ignorance is bliss. I miss that.

2. Window air conditioners. Window air conditioners are loud, dirty, and don’t work particularly well. I have two of them, which means I have two rooms that are sort of cool-ish and the rest of the house which is basically uninhabitable most of the time. Don’t get me started on the bigs, dist, and occasional black mold the damned things seem to breed. Central air is officially a must have in my next place. Failing that, I’m moving to Northern Maine where the subject of air conditioning is purely academic.

3. Green algae. Two sides of the fabulous Rental Casa de Jeff never get direct sunlight and as a result the siding on those sides seems to have sprung fourth with a remarkably aggressive colony of green algae. It looks God awful, but since you can’t see it from the road, it’s mostly my own private shame. It feels like something I should attack with gallons of bleach and a pressure washer. At present, though, it’s not quite annoying enough to make dragging a pressure washer up a ladder seem like a good idea.

Proportional motivation…

If the last two days are any indication of how the rest of the warm months are going to go, it’s seems like it could be a very long summer. I have a working hypothesis that my level of motivation is directly proportional to the temperature. The further the temperature climbs past 70, the further my motivation to do anything indoors seems to suffer. Of course it doesn’t help that the thermostat in the office seems to be stuck on 80 degrees. Productivity after lunch? Forget it. Between the heat in the building and a full stomach, just managing to stay awake feels a bit like a full time job.

Eventually, I’m sure they’ll get around to switching over to air conditioning in this wonderful new billion dollar building. In the meantime it’s not fit for men nor beasts. If I seem more surly that usual, at least you’ll know why.

The rites of spring…

It’s the time of year again. The neighborhood is full of whirring lawnmowers (except the house behind mine of course), the plants are blooming, and everyone seems more or less ready to get on with the warm weather. Being completely anal retentive, I’ve been planning for this moment for the last two months. The lawn equipment has had its oil changed, blades sharpened, and a supply of premium fuel laid on. Spring isn’t so much about enjoying nature as bringing it to heel after it’s months long free for all during the cold season.

Since it’s been nice enough to live with the windows open in the evening, I haven’t started fiddling with bringing the air conditioners back to life… that was until I started to “un-winterize” the a/c unit the cools the entire downstairs. When I wrapped things up for the winter, I was pretty confident that I had killed off the mold that had been growing inside the unit. Sadly, I was wrong. This wasn’t a new fight, of course. I had waged holy war on this mold almost since the day I moved in, kicked on the air, and wondered “what’s that God-awful smell?” But I thought I had finally struck on the right combination of vinegar, bleach, and random HVAC cleaning supplies from Home Depot to set things right. As I mentioned before, yeah, I was most definitely wrong.

To help set the stage, you need to know that this is the single biggest window-mounted air conditioner that I have every personally seen. It’s so large that it’s actually permanently bolted and caulked into the window. Sure, technically it’s a window unit, but it’s basically like having a central air condenser bolted directly to the window. Seriously. It’s big. If I had to bet, I’d guess it’s 300 pounds easy. And that’s really where the problem starts.

You see, every website on earth tells you that to properly clean mold out of a window air conditioner, the first thing to do is take the unit out of the window and remove the metal housing so you can access the interior spaces where the nastiness is building up. Since this beast is bolted to the house, something tells me these particular directions are not going to apply. Even if I could do any of that without demolishing the window itself, there’s not a chance that I could pull it off as a one man job, which brings us to my point… It’s time for yet another awkward conversation with the landlord about appliances and the need for regular preventative maintenance.

I foresee our talk going something like this:

Me: The air conditioner in the living room is full of mold.

Landlord: Did you clean it?

Me: *rolls eyes* Of course. The mold is inside the housing. It needs to be disassembled and cleaned properly.

Landlord: You can’t do that?

Me: No.

Landlord: That’s going to be expensive.

Me: Probably, but less expensive than me buying a new air conditioner for the living room and deducting it from next month’s rent.

Landlord: %$#*

Me: *smirk*

That conversation should be taking place any time now. It happens less and less often these days, but it’s one of those friendly reminders that living in someone else’s house still sucks.