I was in the midst of a toilet-flusher replacement project when I realized something horrible: not only was I not installing with confidence, I had installed without confidence before.

The package assured me I could install with confidence, and encouraged me to share my success stories with the Toilet Flusher Community on Instagram, and perhaps be an Influencer. This I remembered from before. I’d bought this before. And I’d failed.

We have a side-mount tank, and because the previous owners of Jasperwood had some . . . ideas, the tank is non-standard, with a slight curve on the front. This might be the problem. The flusher I bought assured me it fit front, side, AND angled placement, but this just - did - not - work. The wand to which the chain attaches was too short, so the chain was perpetually on tiptoe. The flapper would close, but there was so little slack you couldn’t count on it.

Ah, but the wand was extendable! Yes. If I extended it at all, it pulled apart.

Wife complained, as well she should; this has been a constant problem. It broke a year ago, I installed a new one - the one that assured victory - only to realize that it didn’t work, after which I bought a much simpler one. Which also had problems. It slackens; it loosens; it requires that the lid of the tank be removed every few days to tighten the nut. Yes, I could get a wrench and really tighten it, but you know what happens then: it breaks, and the newly-tightened part cannot be dislodged by any means, and the toilet is worthless, and you have to move to another house.

So I took everything apart and put it back in the original packaging. Can’t even tell it’s been used. Something in the back of my mind must have said “don’t throw anything away, because this will just be chapter three in an ongoing war to do something that is literally the simplest home maintenance problem ever, and thus speaks volumes about your skills. Well, maybe not volumes, plural. Hard to imagine ‘Toilet Failure, Vol.3’ unless each discrete episodes is compiled in its own book. They’d be rather thin. Almost a pamphlet, really.

"Now, a pamphlet can be a volume, yes, but one tends to use the term for something that has a spine. You imagine ‘Vol. 3’ in gold leaf, embossed, and put on a shelf with similar volumes that are never read, since they’re intended to show the erudition and social status of the owner. You remember that room in the British Museum? You’ve been there a few times, with Natalie - and isn’t it just one of those wonderful things to say that, plural visits, with your daughter - and it has all those books, shelves and shelves of old tomes. You wonder how many of these books were read cover to cover. How many were read at all. There’s that huge account of some sea captain’s voyage to the other side of the world in the 18th century, and you think: was this something a guy bought in 1801 because everyone was talking about it at the salon? One guy had read some of it, the ladies pretended to be fascinated because accounts of long sea voyages were all the rage that season, replaced the next year by stirring accounts of mountaineering, or going down the Nile, and some fellow bought it and leafed through and set it down with a yawn, intending to get to it tomorrow before bed. But he never did. In fact no one ever read the entire thing.

"It’s slated to be digitized in 2027, there’s quite a backlog, and then it will go online. Some day a bot will scrape the whole text and dump it into AI generated websites designed to harvest search requests and return links to online casinos or Mexican boner-pill-mills. But some day someone might pose a query of an AI search engine, and it will be smart enough to search for the pith, the gist, instead of a literal string, and it will return this book - and the person who made the request might be the first person in 200 years to set eyes on a tale of getting the Tongan Blurts, a horrible condition that decimated the crew of the HMS Fundamental when they ate fish from an island where the men walked upside down on their hands and the women suckled their young with their toes.

“But at least the book survives. And as long as it survives, the author survives. There is only earthly immortality in art. Your memory fades in the minds of those who survive you, until you are recalled only as a smile or a word or a quirk. Think of your grandfather, who can spring to life in your mind in a trice - but it’s a series of poses and motions, a few tableaus, with no soundtrack. Do you remember his voice? Grandma’s voice? No. And even if you did, it would be their aged voices with a quaver or a timbre that never characterized most of their days. Now, you will leave behind hours of your voice, but the last 10 minutes of podcast #673 may well be a page in the back of Vol. 3 of the account of the HMS Fundamental - something that exists, but is not accessed, and just waits inert like a childhood memory locked in a cell of your brain, waiting to be activated by a song, a smell, the slant of the light on an early summer evening.

"No, the word, the picture, the poem, the art - that’s what survives. So you make that your best self. Problem is, you’ve read too many biographies of too many writers, and they seem, on the whole, like petty and arrogant tyrants who seem to feel as if art ought to give them a pass, that the act of creation is also an act of absolution - when it’s actually an act of damnation if you reveal your knowledge of what ought to be, and your life demonstrates that you did not follow your own advice, and in fact looked away from your sinful face in the mirror and decided that it was enough to present a fictive example for others. It’s not.

"You know that, and it can’t be ignored, anymore than the slight gap between the toilet flapper and the drain pile can be ignored: you will hear the tank sigh, gurgle, then slowly refile until the mechanism rebalances, and you can forget it needs repair. Until the next time you hear it. Or until you learn to ignore it.

“But you cannot, can you? You’re not wired that way. You’re not wired to fix it now, but you’re not wired to ignore the fact that it must be fixed. You’re not like those people on TikTok who seem oblivious to their chirping smoke alarms. What is it with that? To you, a chirping alarm must be identified and silenced. It cannot be endured. Perhaps people move into houses without knowing about the alarms at all, just as we enter life without knowing about the perils and pitfalls of our nature, and they do not even know that silencing the nagging chirp is possible. It’s just always there, and they grow injured to it, as we grow inured to the prick of conscience.

“Anyway, ‘Speaks volumes’ is a cliche. But ‘utters tomes’ would have been pretentious and an obvious attempt to avoid the cliche. And the toilet is running.”



It’s 1960.

With a name like "the San Mateo Post and Shopping Guide," you know it’s going to be full of hard-hitting news:

Socialite, annoyed:

She pops up in a New York Times wedding announcement, then the two of them recede from the records. She shows up in a 1952 story about a big fun party at her parents’ house, complete with a picture of her doctor dad smoking a cigarette.

  Wait a minute - the story has an interesting detail. Little doctor’s daughter was acting out, it seems.

  There was no detail of life, no conference, no action too small to escape the notice of the local paper.

I’m not sure the loss of such quotidian details is tragic, but you do get the full flavor of the times from papers like this.


He has a Wikipedia entry:

Julio Bortolazzo (1915-2006) was an American higher education administrator, and a pioneer in the development of community colleges in California.

Seems everyone asked him to join these orgs: While President of the College of San Mateo, the US State Department's International Cooperation Administration invited Bortolazzo to Liberia as a consultant for industrial education in 1958. In 1960, Bortolazzo accompanied Harvard President James B. Conant as a consultant to support educational reforms in Italy in 1960.

Don’t think Liberian industrial education was fixed, but I wouldn’t blame him.



Charles A. Huston, our subject, was born in Washington County, Ind., Feb. 3, 1845, and moved with his parents to Iowa in 1853; worked on a farm until 1861, and though only a lad of sixteen years, was among the first volunteer soldiers from Maine Township.

He enlisted in Co. A, 6th Iowa Vol. Inf., and with his command participated in all the hardships and privations which were encountered, facing as bravely as any the vicissitudes and privations; of war, as realized by the 15th Army Corps, under Sherman.

With his regiment he was engaged in the battles of Shiloh, Vicksburg, second battle of Jackson, Miss., and Missionary Ridge, where he was wounded in the right shoulder by a minie ball.

He was thus disabled until May 10, 1864, when he rejoined his comrades, and ten days later, at the battle of Resaca, Ga., he was again wounded, also with a minie ball, but in the left thigh.

This wound incapacitated him for further service, and he was mustered out, July 17. 1864, at Atlanta, after a military service of three years.

His wife . . . was forty years his junior.


That’s about it. There’s a page of service news and recipes and grocery store ads.

Lots of ads, but it is, well, a Shopper.

Now two ways to chip in!

That'll do - see you around! Some Fifties interiors await.



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