Equations, confusion, asbestos
November 14, 2002
Dear [lots of names]
So lots of stuff happened. First and foremost: I moved.
It's an amazing place. It's an apartment on the second floor (eerste verdieping). It's very spacious and fantastically located; a 3-minute walk from hip Davis Square with lots of nice stores, a cinema, an ice-cream store, and, most importantly, lots of pretty girls. Too bad Davis Square is Lesbian Capital of Massachusetts.
The house is right on the edge of Somerville and Cambridge. Not somewhere near the edge. ON the edge. Our electricity meter (on one side of the house) is in Somerville, the gas meter (on the other side of the house) is in Cambridge. When I called NSTAR, the gas and electricity company, they got so confused that, in the end, they sent the workmen twice. Once for the Somerville situation, once for the Cambridge situation. They'll probably attack Iraq twice without even knowing what happened.
In another example of this house-related schizophrenia is UPS. One morning I found a little note from UPS on the door saying that they tried to drop off a package, but nobody was home. Fortunately, the UPS truck was right on the other side of the street. I ran across the road and was run over by a car. Not true. I ran to the other side and asked the UPS guy for the package. The guy looked at me and asked: ``you come from the Cambridge side, right?'' After I confessed to this crime, the guy explained that he's not responsible for that part of the Universe. Disappointed and disillusioned, Thomer leaves the scene.
So there's this funny traffic rule: when two cars approach a crossing at the same time, the one who came first has the right of way. This leads to fabulously confusing situations, because, of course, nobody was really sure who came first. Usually the bigger, more scary looking car care came first. However, it's not uncommon for two (or more!) cars to get stuck in a seemingly infinite deadlock---each one signaling to the others to go first. I can only hope that the tanks that will soon be speeding through Iraq's desert obey more disciplined traffic rules.
A while ago I got up in the morning and started working on the computer. It was just like any other day. It was nice outside so the windows were open so as to enjoy the fresh breeze. I wasn't paying a lot of attention to the Boom BOOM BENG sounds. Boom BOOM. Boom BOOM BENG ... CRACK ... BOOM! HAMMER! HAMMER! CRACK!
There I was, enjoying the beautiful light in the house and the very white walls that I had painted.
If only I had been aware of the asbestos (asbest) floating around in my house and my respiratory tract. Boom BOOM BENG!
When I came out of the house a few hours later I noticed the two shabby looking fellows. One of them was standing on a high ladder. He was using a big hammer to break the shingles (similar to dakpannen, but on the side rather than the top of the house) off the side of the house. He threw the pieces down to the other guy who was putting the garbage in big plastic bags. Mind you---asbestos.
My friendly landlady happened to be there, too, and told me I should go back into the house and close all the windows of my house because those shingles had asbestos in them. Mind you---those were the exact same windows that were open the whole morning while I was happily working away. I'm the anxious type, so her message received a deeply disturbed response. Asbestos, asbestos... I couldn't exactly remember what the problem with that stuff was, but I knew enough to realize that it was bad news. My lack of knowledge didn't last too long: later that day someone explained to me in great detail how your lungs slowly turn into scar tissue over the course of, say, 20 years until you slowly suffocate. Great. 20 years. I'd better start hurrying up with that damn Ph.D.
I called my landlady only to discover that she, too, thought those guys were a little shabby. However, she told me that her contractor had guaranteed to her that he was licensed to work with asbestos, and that he and they were following all regulations. However, after reading up on Massachusetts Law on the Internet I quickly discovered that almost everything those guys were doing was against regulations. When I came home that evening asbestos was lying on my porch---apparently they ran out of bags and, ah well, they decided to just leave it there. Asbestos on my porch.
After some phonecalls, my landlady stopped all work on the house and told the contractor to get lost find some other people to kill.
Not long ago I left the house and saw the same shabby guys in the street, walking toward my house. As I biked past them, one of them pointed his nasty little finger at me and yelled: ``there's the guy that goes to Harvard that threatened to sue us! You'd better watch out for him!'' Needless to say, I was happy that, apparently, I had made my point.
Enough about that. *cough* *cough*
My piano moved today! It was unbelievable. No windows were big enough, and the staircase was too narrow for the 90-year old piano. In the end it was lifted onto the balcony with a huge crane. My piano was flying! It's great to have her with me again. She's resting now. I hope she can stay put for a few years. I'm certainly not planning to move out of this place before the end of my Ph.D.
I still go on fast/long bike rides almost every weekend. Muscles keep growing and, consequently, speeds are going up. It's not uncommon to ride 40-50 km/h for long stretches. I always average around 30 km/h or so. I miss speeding down the mountains at 70 km/h in Switzerland, though.
Well... These were some highlights and reflections. I hope to hear from you, also.