OS upgrade
Just completed upgrade to OS X on the home machine. Rather than pluke around with partitions and so forth on the original drive, we just installed a second drive and installed everything there. The drive cost less than the new OS.
Yes, we're bloody Mac bigots here.
Next, Jaguar?


Getting reacquainted
Returning to my family after six months is like an amnesiac being told that he has a family, a history, whom he must approach almost as if it were an introduction. I didn't appreciate how rich and fortunate a man I was until I met these people again and was charmed by them, learning little things about them that I thought I knew.

Boy is now 2 years old. When my wife handed him to me at the airport, he immediately squirmed to escape me. He didn't recognize me.
He ran back to his mother, who told him that I am his father. He ran back to me. He would not stop talking during the drive back to Castle Rock. His mother says he is one hundred percent boy. After spending some Dad-and-son time with him, I conclude he is also about 30 percent orc.

Middlechild is a Daddy's girl who wears glasses at age 4 due to astigmatism inherited from me. And who was picked up from the school office today because she bit someone who was fiddling with her Spongebob keyring. I need to borrow a polygraph from someone and be shown how to use it, because this girl can lie like a rug.

Firstchild, six years old, started first grade this year. I gave her a small wad of Omani currency to take to school for show-and-tell. I showed her how to look at the watermark, how Arabic reads right-to-left, how currency comes in units and subunits, and how to pronounce rial and baisa. She can make change in US currency, and reads at a better level than I did at her age. She benefits from the marriage of two powerful concepts in education: charter and Montessori.

The town has changed in these six months as well. Mama-san needed to inflate a vinyl wading pool, and I couldn't find my airchucks, so I had to make a tool run. At the point where I normally would turn left to head for the WalMart, hoping they had air-powered parts, the entrance to the new Home Depot came into view off starboard. To hell with anybody's viewshed, and screw your objections about big box stores. I now live within five minutes of a Home Depot and I didn't have to move, thank you.
jardin défendu
The Front Range has been rainy and overcast every day since my return. Still, people worry about the drought, and several municipalities here have restricted water use or are going to court to restrict someone else's water use, which reminds me of Ed Quillen's column about architecture's adaptation to climate, and the water-conserving walled garden homes of the Mediterranean.

Housing developments here, at least in my price range, all have card-table-sized lawns in front and in back. The front lawns are all sodded and have irrigation gear installed, whether you like it or not, and privacy fences running from house to house. Not enough room here to throw a Frisbee, not enough room for a decent porch either.

The rear lawns are left in mud, brown-eyed susans and purslane, and you will install your own privacy fence to separate your mud from your adjacent neighbors' mud. You will also be blessed with some massive green box or doghouse of some kind, to provide the electrical power, telephone, or cable TV service for the block.

Your covenant gives you an arbitrary 60 days to get the rear sodded, or your homeowners association will hound you, financed to do so by your dues. Any landscaping more complex than sodding from fence to fence requires a permit that must be signed by your adjacent neighbors.

I'm the kind of guy who likes to solve more than one problem with one solution, and yes, I classify busybody neighbors with veto power over my front and back yards as a problem. The windswept front lawn whose irrigation system blows acre-feet of water down the street is also a problem.

So somebody please design a development where each block looks in upon itself, like an atrium. Move the houses out to the sidewalk, turn them so they face each other inwardly, and merge each useless little front lawn and its nearly-useless rear lawn into one workable lawn for each property, protected from the wind. Run a sidewalk down the middle, flanked by waist-high fences, where neighborhood kids can bike, skate, toss balls and whatnot, free from the dangers of automobiles and perverts. The paved bike paths that lace these communities together today can be passed through the block.

Anybody who Joneses for a dramatic porch and window treatments can still do so and compete with his neighbors (double entendre intended). Anybody who wants to be able to sunbathe buck naked in his lawn can erect privacy fences, set back from the sidewalk an appropriate distance, thereby closing off the view to his porch.

From the outside, where the automobiles move about, one sees only walls---whether wooden, concrete, or discarded car tires rammed with earth, it doesn't matter---say 8 feet high, and the rears of the houses, punctuated at regular intervals by garage doors. By covenant, these outward facing walls have no windows, or have windows such that no one can look from his window into anyone else's. Balconies here, overlooking the street, would be permissible only if the view is similarly restricted. And by covenant, anything that neighbors see on your house from out there is legit, whether it's a solar collector, a satellite dish, a HAM antenna, or aluminum foil to block the CIA's brain scans: the HOA must keep its hands the hell off.

All of the utilities are accessed from the street, so no hardhats will ever be poking around in your yard. The mailbox pod is placed at one end, and everybody gets to greet each other as they waddle down the central sidewalk to pick up their mail. Heavy deliveries are made through the garage. Firefighting is conducted through the sidewalk entrances, because that's where the hydrants are located.

The security-obsessed developments can put coded gates on the sidewalk entrances, directing transient footpath traffic around the blocks rather than inviting them through.

With this neighborhood design in place, we can then talk about the little stuff, such as recycling the laundry and shower water for irrigation, and putting twenty-buck sensors on the irrigation systems so they don't irrigate when it rains.