Every night it’s the same: CAN YOU TURN THE HEAT DOWN? Wife says as she’s going to bed.

Heat is down, I say. The boiler is quiet.


I think: it’s nice, is what it is. I like warm close rooms in the winter, especially when it’s 25 below.

The house is old, and has three zones - one is controlled by a thermostat downstairs that runs two floors, which makes no sense. The upstairs thermostat doesn't seem to listen to anyone and goes off on its own, like a doddering old lady in a British murder mystery who may or may not have put the poison in the Major’s hot chocolate. The third zone is controlled by two thermostats on two floors, and control the baseboard radiators in the addition. Nothing is ever consistent. I had the pipes balanced a few years ago, but it's a mess again.

"It can't be off," she says. "It's stifling."

“Heat rises," I say. "The room is hot because everything has gone . . . upstairs for the evening.”

“The radiator is still hot!”

“It’s radiating, yes. But the boiler is off and has been off for hours.”

“Ugh it’s stifling.”

Yes, and in the morning the floors will be cold sheet of glass, and it all begins again. At least the doors don’t stick! In the summer they stick. In the winter the wood is shriveled like a squirrel's scrotum, and locks click with ease. Isn’t that good? It’s all a trade-off!

Yeah, no, that doesn’t work.

Thing is, she goes to sleep before I do, and I’m working down in zone 3, which is dead cold, so I turn on the gas fireplace, which produces heat that rises and turns off the thermostat upstairs for zone 2 so Daughter’s room is cold. In order to heat it up I have to boost zone 2 so high the candles downstairs slump, but if I don't, everyone wakes up at 3 AM becuse it's so cold six piano string snapped.

While the family was away I listened to an audiobook. Ten hours. Kept me sane when the house was quiet, and provided a story to accompany rote boring chores. It was about an outbreak of a superflu that was 99.85 lethal. If you read “The Stand,” you know it’s a potent premise. But what else can you do with it?

Five hours into the book I realized that some authors would have gotten through this material in about fifty pages. Granted, he was setting up Something Big. It was obvious to the reader that the outbreak had been orchestrated by a Shadowy Group, since the doctors in the hospital were unemotional, and studied the victims with, er, clinical detachment. If they were good noble doctors they would be frustrated and emotional and pound the table and say things like "damn it, why won't anyone listen?" when a bureaucrat (hisssss!) from the CDC paid a visit and said there wasn't any money in the budget for vaccine trials. No, these doctors were interested in why one person survived the outbreak. No one ever said "it's possible he was just innoculated against the flu by the author, in which case I doubt we'll get anything out of his blood."

Now then. What kind of organization is interested in orchestrating a deadly flu outbreak?

1. Your basic ISIS-type group

2. Domestic white-power terrorists who want to depopulate the world and rebuild it

It's #2, of course, if you want to sell the thing to TV for a miniseries.

Was there a hardy band of well-resourced people dedicated to stopping them, and did they speak in friendly regionally-accented voices instead of gruff military tones? Why yes. But it all seemed . . . insufficient. I mean, there’s nothing new here. There’s certainly not enough mass death, dang it.

Then I remembered: it was part of a series. How many more? SIX. There are seven books in the series. There’s absolutely no way I want to spend that much time with these people, or this author.

Then again, I could just listen to them. Problem is, there are female characters in the novel, and the narrator - while good - has to do a falsetto whenever switching to these characters, which means that audio books are like plays in Shakespeare’s time.

If you listen to a lot of old-time radio, which I do, audiobooks with a single voice seem like a regression. I didn’t realize that until now.

Anyway, no. I don't want to read them, because I have tedious Scandinavian police novels to finish. I’s time to admit that the Van Veetering series is just second rate. It’s Martin Beck except the hero is Vaguely Dutch and chews toothpicks and is brilliant but also a jerk, and has brilliant insights because of course he does, and is occasionally impatient with the rest of the detectives because they’re clods in a way that seems unique to northern European police mysteries.


Pictures left behind in empty houses, found by my realtor uncle-in-law.

No name on the back, as usual. No date. No photographer's trademark that might tell you where it was. Why would anyone need that? It was Aunt Minnie and everyone knew who she was and where she lived.

There was no general revolt against unflattering hair, it seems.




This week it's 1905. There are a few more things to sell, especially if you're in the home-improvement trade. These are all from House and Garden Magazine, which concerned itself with upper middle-class needs. What are the chances these companies are still around? We'll see.

First up:

W. H. Glenny made silverware in Buffalo in 1876; apparently they branched out. If you own one of these, the laundrress will ave no excuse for not ironing your clothes exactly as you wish them. Beat them! She's probably Irish!

At least we've learned that children wore halos when Mom was feeling special.

Muckenhirn's Naturo, the Earth Shoe of crappers:

For an era obessed with digestion and elimination, this must have been all the rage for a while - but who could talk about it? If you complimented someone on their complexion or high spirits, they wouldn't say "thank you! I'm voiding my bowels by sitting at an angle now."

There were plural Bergers:

John and Wilson. The company was absorbed, but its descendent is proud of its Berger lineage. An old New York ghost sign can be seen here; can't find its location today.

There were a lot of companies that made sectional cabinets, and it makes you wonder what enormous complexes of drawers were constructed over the years.

I will not accept a substitute, sirrah! What sort of knave do you take me forth? Bring forward the Pantasote post-haste and I'll have no more of your insolence:

You can't tell the difference between Pantasote and real leather, says the smallest possible print. Meaning, it's fake.

But what was it? This:

Pantasote is a coined word from Greek derivation, meaning "to serve all purposes". Pantasote leather was originally manufactured for upholstery purposes and was historically used for wall decoration, shades and curtains. Pantasote materials were placed on the market in 1891 and could often be found in residences, hospitals, yachts, railway cars, electric cars, and on automobile canopy tops, seat upholstery and lap-robes. Pantasote was also frequently mackintoshed (waterproofed with a rubberized cotton coating) for use in making tents, awnings and sporting/camping equipment.

Pantasote consisted of two fabrics united firmly together with an intermediate coating of Pantasote gum.

Ah. It lasted long enough to be sued in 2002 for toxic-chemical exposure. Well, you can't make Pantasote without breaking some eggs. And altering the DNA of several generations of chickens.

This isn't the actual tag! It's a facsimile! Do not believe that this is the sole tag. It is but a copy.


Yes, they were famed for wicker, which was comfy in the summer. (The lady on the right is wearing her July beachwear.) It let the air go through and cool those parts of you not covered with wool. Note: you were completely covered with wool.

Heywood-Wakefield is still around, as a nameplate.

The invention of the tiling was one thing, but when they got it to interlock, fortunes were made.

Nice floors didn't help the National Bank of North America, whcih went belly up in 1908. A reminder of the good old days:

The persistent run upon this institution which necessitated its suspension was due wholly to a lack of confidence in the management, of which Charles W. Morse was the controlling factor. Morse was known to be intimately associated with F. Augustus Heinze, who at that time was very much in the public eye, having acquired an unenviable reputation in connection with his prolonged contest with the Standard Oil Company in Montana over a deal in Amalgamated Copper.

He had been accused of having manipulated the courts and the Legislature of that State in his own interests, and of other dishonorable transactions in mining and banking

Belting and Packing is gone, but the factory remains - and has historic status.

The height of luxury and technological advances, even though it's the size of an entire room:


As the copy warns you: Clothes will turn the color of urine and they will smell if you use other products.

Finally, a note for a fellow who could design a nice house for oyu.


Of course he's remembered:

Today, the reputation of Herbert Caleb Chivers is derived almost entirely from one commission: his 1903 Women's Magazine Building extravaganza built for the first Mayor of University City, Edward Gardner Lewis. In continuing service as that city's City Hall since 1930, the building is still remarkably intact.

His designs? Available on Amazon. Or here - for free.

That'll do for today. Don't miss my MONDAY newspaper column! Just click on the big green Startribune Star.

There are two more Capps, and I'd forgotten how incredibly depressing the first dozen or so are. Checking the dates: I wrote them a year ago, in the depths of January. I think that explains it. I hope that explains it.

I mean, I really don't think I meant to put up some 60s house plans in order to medidate on loss and the inevitable passage of the wonderful years of one's life, but dang. What if I did?

We'll see.



blog comments powered by Disqus