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Archive for May, 2008

I’m Not Old, Not Young

Friday, May 23, 2008


I was at the coffee shop this morning buying a cup o’ joe, when it occurred to me that not everyone was the same age as me. And suddenly, those kids working there at Axis seemed so young. That got me to thinking about how old I was in comparison to everybody else. The US Census Bureau will let you download data of their estimated demographics on pretty much anything you can think of. So I got a copy of the age distribution numbers and guess what! I’m not old! But then again, I’m not young either. It just so happens that the median age in the US is 36.6 years old. That’s almost exactly how old I am. The difference between median and mean (or average) is negligible for such a large sample. If you’re like me and you’re curious about the difference, then read the footnote below.

Being in the middle gives me mixed feelings. At first I thought, oh crap, does that mean I’m halfway dead? I guess statistically it does. But if you look at this chart I haven’t made it to the half-line of possible age. So there’s a chance that I’m only about 40% dead. And I haven’t quite started down that ominously descending line at the right side of the chart yet, so I guess I’m actually not part of the group that is in the immediate process of dying. Not that I’m worried about death (yet), but this sort of analysis does make me feel rather mortal. I also noted that because of the baby boomers, the median age of people is increasing. Therefore, as I get older, at least temporarily, I’ll continue to remain in the middle, between the olders and the youngers. In a sense, that means that I’m not aging relative to everyone else. Yay! The statistical fountain of youth! 


Say you have a population of seven people whose ages look like this:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 99

So we have six little children and one old geezer. The median is the person who has just as many people who are older than them than people who are younger. The four-year old is the median. She has a 1-, 2-, and 3-year old who are younger than her and a 5-, 6-, and 99-year old who are older.

But the mean age is the average – that’s the individual’s ages added together divided by the size of the population – which is 17.1 years old for our example.

For a large population the mean and the median probably aren’t much different, but I think that considering my thoughts above, median is the more appropriate measure.


Investigative Demolition

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Did I mention that I purchased an investigative demolition permit from the city of Capitola? It cost 45 bucks and it allows me to take a sledgehammer to my walls. I’m not sure why a permit is necessary for this sort of thing or what sort of penalty one would incur if they didn’t obtain one, but the question is now moot. I investigatively demolitioned good portions of the entry, living room and kitchen and found much to admire and fear. The wiring in the house is old. As in knob and tube. As in, outdated in the 1930s. Not to get all nerdy or anything, but wikipedia has an interesting entry on this rather handsome approach to electrification. Also of note is how solidly build the house is. Old fashion 2×4s (the ones that are actually two inches by four inches instead of their reedier modern descendants) covered on both sides with 1×8 tongue and groove siding and then nice wood paneling from before I was born. I’m afraid that when I get all that sheathing off the termite devoured frame will simply disintegrate. Actually the termite damage seems pretty localized to a couple of bad areas around the doors and in the slats in the roof. There are actually live termites walking around in there that you can watch eating wood. They seem to eat wood and then poop wood. Which makes me wonder: where is the nutrition? Or are they just whiling away the time, sort of like how we whittle bigger sticks into smaller sticks. 

In the attic above the living room, above the ceiling and below the insulation were egg-crates (see the photos below). This has the telltale signature of my dad’s handiwork. I can attest that our house was freezing cold when I was a child and thus empirically prove that egg crates do not make good insulation.

The Argument for Chemicals

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I’m supposed to be talking about the house, but I saw Bill Henson’s photography and was blown away. He’s all analog and does all the developing and printing himself, manipulating the process to produce these striking images.  Check all his stuff out here.


The Man Approves

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just got word from our mortgage broker that our appraisal has been okay’d. That was the last hurdle between us and our loan. Apparently our appraisal was a little too optimistic considering the photos of the place. The underwriter took a deeper look and apparently judged that the value was indeed there. I guess that means that a total dump in Capitola is worth more than a five-bedroom ranch palace in Topeka. 

There have been a few times in my life where I’ve felt relief like this. Like passing the writing test to get in to grad school. It’s one of those things where a lot rides on one technicality, and even though I know that we’re gonna do good if we just get the chance, we can still get the thumbs down with little recourse. Kari has already given notice at her job; we told our landlord that we’d be out of our apartment by June 1; I’ve been slowly weening my clients off Western Freight. These are big moves for people that would be left in a major lurch without that loan money to build a house with. So, in a word, WHEW!