Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On Presidents and Plumbing

With Barack Obama’s inauguration today comes the intersection of 1928 and 2008 at Foxcroft. I have mentioned Obama here several times as he came into the sphere of our daily living, notably the first time I heard him speak. That was before he officially announced his candidacy, here:
Take A Look at This!

A slightly tongue in cheek rant about the pre-caucus attention Iowans were getting here:
I like Hillary Well Enough...

Our precinct caucus here:
Caucus Report

Perhaps the only political group I’ve been really excited about for quite some time (Banjos for Barack?) here:
And Now a Word From Ralph Stanley

Now for the 1928 part. That was the year Foxcroft was built. Undoubtedly Bess voted in that election, presumably for Herbert Hoover, a native Iowan and generally recognized hero at the time. If you’re not familiar with his legacy prior to the White House, he was regarded as the man who nearly single handedly saved our allies Belgium, France, and Russia, and later our enemy, Germany, from starving to death during and after World War I. Hoover’s life is really interesting.

The girls and I visited the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, ten miles away, last Friday. We went to see the “Rooster Flour Sack” an amazingly embroidered 100 lb. food relief sack that was part of the thank you gifts sent to Hoover from grateful, but still extremely poor, Belgians.

This sack has not been on exhibit for over 15 years. The photo does not even begin to do it justice.

The visit to the museum was my first in quite a while. I was NOT familiar with his time as secretary of commerce in the Harding/Coolidge administration. Hoover was the person who created the system of radio band frequency rights, was the subject of the first television broadcast in the U.S. and was tireless in his drive to improve the lives of common Americans, including the standardization of all industrial machinery parts.

Here’s where the plumbing comes in. On Saturday morning our kitchen hot water faucet gave out. This is in our original wall mount sink. I took out the stem and figured it was probably a washer. I completely stripped the set screw trying to remove it from the bottom of the stem to take the washer out. I bundled up and went to 3 hardware stores and our local plumbing supply store only to find that not only did none of them have a stem that would be a suitable replacement, no one even carried washers any more. I drove home dreaming of Hoover’s goal of standardized, interchangeable parts.

To add insult to injury when I looked up the online plumbing place I’d gotten the faucet from, they didn’t even carry that model any more.

Here's to greater regulation in the future! Mr. President, once the banking thing is straightened out, let's go for plumbing!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Central Calling

A small thing accomplished over break was to hang a new phone in the upstairs sitting room. We've had an old princess style phone up there. Does anyone under 45 even know what a princess phone is? Boy that makes me feel old. This one had been Lisa's that she brought when we were married. I'd never seen a BROWN princess phone, but I digress.

While cleaning in the basement I found an old phone that had been in my childhood home. My parents had bought it in the early '70's or so and had a digital keypad added to it.

The phone's original bells still ring when the crank (not visible on the right side of the picture) is turned, but for incoming calls a second set of bells installed inside the box are what you actually hear.

When my folks moved in 1988 they took the phone with them, but never found a good place to install it. When they moved into their apartment in 2005 the phone came to Foxcroft, and since that was right when we were moving in, it went into a pile in the basement.

Wiring it back up wasn't too hard, but a little more complex than I had originally thought it would be, since apparently my father CUT the line out of the phone, so I had to splice it together. Perhaps I need to do a little more work on it, as it won't dial out, but will take incoming calls.

Here is a shot of it in the sitting room, next to my great-great grandfather's cupboard:

I really like sitting in the chair below the phone and talking. The heft of the receiver surprises the girls, but feels very comfortable to me.

My next great plan is to put a candlestick back into the phone niche in the dining room, then we'd really be set!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A Few Other Local Bloggers

There are LOTS of blogs in Iowa City, most are started by students, and fizzle out pretty quickly. I don't search a great deal for other local bloggers, but here are three local blogs that I really do like. One has barely started, one is VERY prolific, and one falls in between.

Barely started is "The Old Mellicker Place", I happen to know the author, as is evidenced by the link to me, but I hadn't known he'd started bloggging. I really hope Mike continues with the project, His writing and insights will be excellent, and he's a nice guy to boot.

Prolific is "The Prairie Urbanist". Donald is a fellow University Heights resident, and writes his blog through our local Iowa City paper, The Iowa City Press Citizen Donald writes on politics, biking, and numerous local and national issues. His recent post, Does University Heights Have a Future echoes what I've been thinking about ever since the University of Iowa announced they would acquire our largest commerical property in town, thereby taking off our tax roles. If his predicition of our eventual annexation by Iowa City comes true, perhaps he can be an ally in the creation of local historic districts within town. If you run across this, Donald, you'd probably like to read my post on University Height history, and our original town slogan: The Coral Gables Subdivision of Iowa City.

In between is the blog I've been aware of the longest. Flossie was the first local person to contact me via Foxcroft. Here is her blog: "Flossie At Home" She and her husband also live in a wonderful older home, not far from the Mellecker place. A self described "graduate student, editor, and homebody" Her blog is a great reason why Iowa City was declared a City of Literature by UNESCO.

So here's a little waves a greeting to some special neighbors.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Weather Geek

As an avid weather geek I was not surprised to read that the state climatologist reported 2008 was the fourth wettest year on record in Iowa.

I read the almanac section of the daily paper religiously. That section gives highs and lows for the previous day, notes record highs and lows for the current date, and gives total precipitation for the current month and current year compared to averages totals. There is also a listing of the inflow of the Iowa River to Coralville Resevoir, outflow from the dam spillway and river gauges at the stages of Iowa City, Lone Tree, Marengo, and Wapello. I love all that stuff.

For the Iowa City region we were just short of 20 inches over normal precipitation in 2008. Average mean is 37.90" we totaled 56.49".

With the recent warm weather melting all the snow river flow has been way up too. Inflow is 4,050 cubic feet per second, outflow is 4,375 cfs. Normally this time of year that runs somewhere around 1200 cfs. During the flood last summer flow in Iowa City reached 42,000 cfs. At that point we had a record flood gage height in Iowa City of 31.5 feet (flood stage is 22 ft)

Here's to a normal 2009