Monday, January 23, 2017

How does a tree slice through a house?

I was feeling privileged this weekend because of my high homebuilding standards. The bad weather that killed 20 people in the southeast this weekend went right over my place. But my built-with-screws tiny house was just fine. Even the jokes about tornadoes being attracted to mobile homes should apply to me since I have a restored bona-fide mobile home a few hundred yards from my house. But it was built in 1951 by an aircraft manufacturer to the same standards as a plane. It laughs at wind. And it isn't going anywhere because of steel straps and 4 augers securing it to a slab.
Frame of my lab with straps installed
New subfloor going in
1/4-20 stainless steel bolts and nuts secure the riveted aluminum body to the frame and subfloor between members. In the foreground note the metal building type screw holding
 the subfloor to the frame
(Yes, I painted the bottom of the plywood before I installed it. Then I painted the top as soon as it was in. I don't like the smell of outgassing plywood and I was trying to seal it. For more on my Spartan project see earlier blog posts, like this one about the finished floor.)

So mobile homes as they were originally conceived back in the 1940s were not doomed to be ripped apart by wind. I'm not sure when it all went wrong for them. But boy, did it go wrong.

Today I got in the car and went looking for signs of damage nearby. A map on weather.com shows 4 tornadoes touched down to the northeast of me less than 20 miles away on Saturday.  I headed that direction. I found the river greatly flooded and a few large trees twisted off but I couldn't find any obliterated mobile homes.

River in flood

Good luck with that
This is the only really twisted tree I saw. Saw several regular broken off ones.
I did see a lot of undamaged mobile homes. They all had skirting around them, which is a county rule that I don't understand. What is it even for? I have researched it and am unable to find any reason for it except varmints. They think it's going to keep them out? I say it's more likely to make it an attractive place for a varmint to explore. Next thing you know you're listening to the incessant chittering of a stressed out raccoon under the house because it went in and then couldn't find a way back out.

What is the purpose of this white mess around the bottom of the mobile home?

It always looks trashy.
I came home and tried to find stories online detailing the damage to homes where people were hurt. I found weather.com had a slide show of images. The mobile homes seem to mostly fail by being physically moved because they are inadequately anchored. Most of the pictures I saw they seemed to be merely resting on dry stacked concrete blocks on a slab. That's basically what I've got for my lab, but I cut holes in my slab and installed 4 augers into the subsoil and then patched the concrete. I ran steel straps over the steel I-beams of the floor and tightened them down to the augur anchors. I got the anchors at Home Depot. I don't see why anybody with a mobile home wouldn't install them.

I also see from the underside of the mobile home below that it is not built like mine at all. The aluminum channel at the bottom of my riveted aluminum strut walls has 1/4-20 bolts through the plywood subfloor every 16". The subfloor is screwed to the steel frame. I don't have any wood floor joists. All welded steel. And I still wouldn't sleep in here. I go in the house if it just rains hard. It's too loud in the all-aluminum lab even with the spray foam insulation.

Photo from weather.com showing underside of a modern mobile home
I feel the science on keeping houses together in the wind was well addressed after Hurricane Andrew. I don't know how many houses that failed in these tornadoes were built according to standards developed after Andrew. I'm guessing none of them.

For a compilation of suggestions and more pictures of failed houses check out Fine Homebuilding's Wind-Resistant Framing Techniques: Cost effective details to help houses weather the storm wind by Bryan Readling. There's an illustration showing something I did wrong on my house. I heard this on the Fine Homebuilding podcast and slapped my head. Hurricane ties go on the outside. Crap.

At least three people this weekend were killed by trees falling on their houses, basically splitting them in two. I'm not sure any building codes have been altered to make houses safe from this particular hazard. But I'm curious about it. At least three of my close relatives have had trees fall on their houses due to hurricanes or tornadoes, and two of them have had it happen twice. The trees didn't slice their house in two though. And they were big trees. What is required for a tree to slice a house in two? Here's some pictures of what I mean from Tallahassee that I saw on Twitter. I don't think anybody was hurt in these incidents.


Are roof trusses made of 2x4s more likely to fail than a house with large dimension rafters? Does a structural ridge matter? Does the tree have to fall in a direction that allows it to go between the rafters or trusses so it only has to slice through sheathing? Did these houses have OSB sheathing or plywood? Which is better? How come the trees were able to plow through the top plate so easily? Makes me feel pretty good about building a rigid frame house. Here's some photos of my roof framing.


I'd forgotten I had to add those blocks on top of the rafters under the purlins to make the metal roofing come out right. They are maple flooring cut offs. Another detail I can see if I zoom in on this photo is the sill seal I stapled to the purlins before I screwed on the metal. It was meant to reduce vibrations conducted through the structure into the house from rain on the roof. It helps.

Here are some photos I took right after the spray foam was installed. Reflects so much light it's easier to see what is going on.

Photo from the front door.
I have 2x6s atop 4x4 corner posts instead of a pair of 2x4s held up by studs like those sliced up houses above. I used Simpson Strong Tie framing brackets to mount the beams on top of the 4x4s.  The rafters are 2x8s screwed in place with the largest Deckmate screws. The 2x6s holding up the rafters are PT and I didn't want to take chances with inferior nail coatings that might corrode. The double 2x6s over the windows are not pressure treated. The outside one is lag bolted to the 4x4 and then another 2x6 is wedged between the posts and nailed to the bolted one. All the beams are spiked together with Simpson Strong Tie hot dipped galvanized nails driven with a palm nailer at the interval specified in my architectural graphic standards book.

Note my hurricane ties are on the wrong side of the beam. I was ignorant and I feel much shame. But I even used hurricane ties on that interior wall. What can I say, I like the palm nailer. I'm not going to sweat it this one mistake. I've got greater than average tie down per roof area.
View of roof framing from bathroom side. Easier to make out that it's a pair of PT 2x6s under the rafters. 
My ridge is a 12' 2x10. It is held up by complicated headers built to accommodate windows I got from Tallahassee Surplus and Salvage. All those big plate glass windows are sliding glass doors I got from my grandparents after a tree fell on their sunroom.

My tiny house plan allowed me to use 8' 2x8s for rafters, a much easier piece of lumber for me to work with alone. I put some 16' 2x6s across the roof on the pressure treated beams to stand on, but no amount of struggling with angles and arranging my center of mass could get the rafters to come out on my penciled line when I shot the nails in with the framing nailer. If the top moved off the line then the birdsmouth on the other end was all out of whack. So I gave up after the first one and started using a 9v battery powered impact driver and Deckmate screws. I could only do about 2 rafters before I had to recharge the battery. But I got the whole roof framed in a weekend. Then I covered it with a tarp and Hurricane Dennis hit Florida as a Category 3 Hurricane July 10, 2004. First chance for a tree to hit my house. Came through it wet but tree-free.

Now back to the present. This house near Albany that was torn all to hell this weekend clearly reveals it was made with trusses and OSB. I don't know if the brick veneer helped or hurt. I don't understand why there is OSB, house wrap, and then bricks, but the bricks don't seem to have been attached to the wall at all. That can't be right. It looks like the whole thing started when a gable end blew out. This seems to be a common failure as described in that Bryan Readling article about. Leaving out the sheetrock on the inside makes the ends blow out if it's sheathed with foam and then the whole thing pressurizes and blows apart.



One of my aunts had a large pine tree fall on her house right across the middle of the longest section of roof of her house, in line with the rafters. It came to a rest on the ridge. One limb punched through the metal roofing. And then later in a tornado an enormous limb from a giant live oak tree fell on another part of the roof. She has a hip roof framed with 2x8 rafters, if memory serves. It has industrial corrugated steel screwed to 2x4 purlins just like my house. No sheathing at all. She and my uncle built that house themselves with boat building precision. Neither tree-on-the-house incidents caused any structural damage. They just got out the chainsaw and removed the trees, unscrewed the sheets of metal with the holes punched in, and screwed on new sheets of metal.

This fall, September 2016, my mother had a huge poplar tree fall on her house in Tallahassee during Hurricane Hermine. She has a plywood roof deck under thinner gauge metal roofing than what my aunt and I have. The tree did not go through the top plate. It did fall over a French door though, so there would have been a big header there.
The photo my mother texted me in the middle of the night when this tree fell

Here's a photo of the poplar tree on the house in the daylight

The tree service came the very next day and cut the tree off the house
Here's the damage to the roofing where the tree fell
A close up of the little overhang where the tree fell shows the plywood sheathing on the roof
This is the second time my mother's house has been damaged by trees in a hurricane. Right after she had it built Hurricane Kate dropped a tree on the main roof. It was right over her bedroom too. But it didn't slice through the house and kill her. It did cost more to repair it than it cost to build the roof in the first place. That was when she had regular composite shingles. She got that metal roof when she built the addition where the poplar tree fell.

I'm curious now about what it takes for a tree to slice a house in two. I found an article about a study Clemson was going to do in 1999 simulating dropping a tree on mockups of walls.
"But if the tree were to fall between the roof structural members and impact the plywood roof sheathing, the roof wouldn't make much of a difference anyway," warned Ed Sutt, a Ph.D student who is helping with the research. "And keep in mind, we're only seeing the effects of a six-inch pine at this point. Larger trees could have far more devastating consequences."
The Clemson research will concentrate on identifying inexpensive techniques that could be used by a construction-savvy homeowner. Research findings will be used to develop technical guidance for contractors and practical application material for homeowners.
Low-tech fixes under study include installation of wood-reinforced wall panels, addition of a layer of metal decking under the wall panel, different combinations of plywood or common insulation foams.
I don't actually agree his assumption. That poplar tree in that photo above is way bigger than 6" and it didn't go through the sheathing. My aunt's house doesn't even have sheathing but the ridge of her hip roof was strong enough to stop a pine tree bigger than 6". The oak tree limb that fell on one of the hip ends was absolutely huge, easily 18" diameter. It didn't break the structure.

A shortleaf pine at least 20" in diameter fell on the gable roof of my grandparent's sunroom and it just spread the walls apart. Didn't even break the plate glass windows. I don't remember it slicing through the roof sheathing at all.

Is the difference in the prediction of that PhD student and my own experience that all the roof/tree incidents I know about involved traditional framed roofs and not trusses?

I feel like the distance of the tree from the house is going to have a lot to do with the damage inflicted too. That poplar tree was so close to my mother's house it hadn't really gotten up much momentum when it rested on the roof. It the house intersected the path when it was most of the way down it would have been much worse, like this giant oak tree that hit that poor air conditioner when it was going full speed.
Another tree that fell during Hurricane Hermine at my mother's house
I may have found the paper with the results of the study teased in the above article in the Journal of Architectural Engineering, but it's $30 to get a PDF. If it doesn't actually answer my questions I'd be annoyed. From the abstract:
The study also considered, on a limited basis, the threat of falling objects such as trees or large branches. Results suggest that a wall designed to resist debris impact will also exhibit satisfactory performance against tree-fall.
Green Building Advisor's article Pros and Cons of Advanced Framing by Martin Holladay is a checklist of ways you can make your house that much easier to slice in two with a tree. But they thought about that and Michael Chandler added a comment with these tree-strike-relevant points.
1- push the headers up to the (double) top plates and cripple down to the window head so the trees hit the header at the ceiling level hopefully stopping at the top plate and keeping most of the water out of the house.
3- solid block w/ 2X stock on the exterior of the upper top plate between the rafters stacked on the sheathing to help distribute the impact of trees to the sheathing and encouraging the rafter tails to break at the plate to help keep water out of the house after a tree strike.
4- block the ridge solid between the trusses, If vented just hold the blocking down on either side as shown in the attached drawing for the ridge vent, if spray foam, block solid and tie both planes of roof sheathing together at the peak.
Click the link above and scroll down to the comments for a drawing.

I would love to make a mockup of my roof and drop trees on it until I get some interesting results. It seems to be an underserved area of study. My online research just now reveals a lot of dubious advice like "cut down all the trees that could fall on your house." I also found a lot of studies advocating the energy savings you get from shade trees. You can't have both. I prefer trees.

Meanwhile whenever there is a tornado warning I will continue to climb down from my loft and get in my cast iron bathtub with my pillows and blankets. I don't have an interior room away from windows, but I feel like the sides of a cast iron tub offer pretty good secondary protection if one of my pine trees decides to fall on my house. It better have precision aim though, because my house presents a pretty small target.

*update*

I asked my father if he wanted to use his backhoe to help me drop trees on a model of a house. He said I should go back to knitting. He thinks the variables involved in trees falling on houses is too vast to be relevant. He thinks the roots of the tree slow the tree down a lot if it is near enough to the house, as in the case of the poplar tree above and the shortleaf pine on my grandparent's house. He doesn't think dropping a cut-off tree on a model would prove anything. I thought it might just be fun to watch it smash. He said if it's so much fun I should get Hollywood to pay me to do it. Anybody want to remake Twister in the Southeast? I'm available for consultation.

My father also told me that the wood is stronger at the bottom of a tree where it has to counteract the bending stress from normal wind loading. Small sawmill owners find this to be the case from vast personal experience with a chainsaw. This explains why I see trees either snapped off about 20 feet up or pushed down from the roots or twisted at the base and not even broken when I survey the woods after a wind event. I rarely see them snap off down by the ground. Only if they are seriously compromised by fire damage. I also rarely see dead trees that have fallen in the woods due to a storm. The insurance company policy of not covering damage from dead trees sounds like a scam to me. I perceive no inherent greater risk to property from a dead tree than a live one. I would like to see their actuarial data that says dead trees do more damage. It's prejudice against snags, which is bad environmental policy. Birds like snags.

So unless I come into a motorized winch for free I guess I won't be making a video of dropping logs on model houses. Sorry.

*** Update Feb 14, 2017 ****

I came across this video describing the Fine Homebuilding 2012 Editors Choice house that is specifically designed to withstand a big tree falling on it. This is pretty much exactly what my father said. If you want to build a house that can't be crushed by a tree you hire a structural engineer and build that house. But most people don't want to pay for that. Well, here's what happens when somebody does pay for it. Big honkin' I beams. Wonder what they do about condensation?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Reuse Project: Domestic Archeology

The week before Christmas I bought a fabric remnant because I liked the colors. I tried to sew a case for an iPhone 7+ out of it for my mother based on dimensions online, but when snuck over to her house and tried to fit her phone in it on Christmas Eve it didn't fit because of her bulky case. So instead of sewing the strap on the case I just wrapped it up and gave it to my aunt as a glasses case. She loved the fabric so much she made me go back to the store to buy a whole yard of it so she could put it on this chair. She got it at an antique store because she thought it was a lovely chair, but she hated the needlepoint seat. She thought it was too bulky for such a delicate chair. After I left the fabric at her house she emailed me photos of the chair and admitted she didn't know how to redo the covering.
Chair photo my aunt sent me
How did they wrap that around those legs so neatly?


Looks like ordinary brass tacks in the bottom. I have some of those
She brought the chair to my house and I set up to work on it on my bench outside. It would be useful to be able to get to both sides of the chair. We pulled all the tacks out of the black gimp covering the bottom first. The best tool for this was a 5-in-1 tool and some wire cutters. Then we decided to pull all the tacks out of the needlepoint cover too. What we got down to was two more layers of fabric.
This is more like it

My aunt was excited at this point to see that the original fabric was so much like the stuff she picked out. She knew a shiny stripe was what this chair needed. We decided to keep removing stuff because the stitching on that original stuff was rotten and fell apart when we tugged on it. When we got down to the original fabric it was so delicate and destroyed we were amazed. We imagined Victorian thighs wearing away at the fabric.
I wonder if this is silk? It looks like silk
We did a burn test on the fabric to see if it was silk. It was
From an online burn test chart:
Silk is a protein fiber which burns slowly and curls away from the flame. It leaves a dark bead which can be easily crushed. It is self-extinguishing and leaves ash that is a dark, gritty, fine powder. It smells like burned hair or charred meat. It gives out little or no smoke and the fume has no hazard.
Original chair cover, intermediate, most recent
We also got a bit of yarn from the needlepoint and did a burn test on that. It was wool.
Wool is a protein fiber which burns slowly. It sizzles and curls away from flame and may curl back onto fingernail. It leaves beads that are brittle, dark, and easily crushed. It is self-extinguishing and leaves harsh ash from crushed bead. It gives out a strong odor of burning hair or feathers. It gives out dark smoke and moderate fume.
Underneath the silk and some cotton batting was more black gimp. This was not totally rotten, but the thread sewing it to the strapping was pretty bad off.

We cleaned all the cotton remnants off and cut a new piece of black cotton duck using the non-disintegrated middle piece of fabric as a pattern. We put a piece of craft foam underneath the new fabric to try to muffle the loud rustling of the horsehair stuffing. Then my aunt settled down with a curved needle and some waxed thread from my Speedy Stitcher and she sewed the fabric to the webbing. While she did that I searched my lab for cotton batting. I found it before she finished sewing. We wrapped the black fabric with the batting and then started tacking on the final fabric. We used the hemostat to hold the tacks and hammered them in with a small hammer. I failed to take photos of this step. 

But I did take a photo of the tools I found useful for tucking the fabric around the legs of the chair. I got these dental spatulas at the same place online where I got the hemostats. Very handy and only $5 for a set of 4. 


Here's how the chair turned out.


Reuse Project: Antique Folding Rulers

I've been buying old folding rulers on ebay. They can be valuable collectibles worth hundreds of dollars. Cleaning one of these aggressively would ruin their value if they were in good collectible condition. I look for the ones that are really darkened with filth and cost less than $10, then I go to work on them.

Stanley Quad Fold 24 inch ruler, before photo
The inside is a bit cleaner and lighter, You can actually read the numbers
Is there even a 1 there? What is that grossness on the brass tip?
The hinge looks pretty good, just dirty


The brass wraps all the sides and is one piece in the hinges. Nice piece of hardware, really
Here is my secret ingredient. Bar Keepers Friend contains feldspar, surfactants, and oxalic acid.

Oxalic acid, C2H204, is a simple organic acid. In the realm of everyday household cleaners it is a stronger acid than vinegar. It's not toxic in low quantities. Oxalic acid is even in lots of foods, notably spinach and Brussels sprouts. Bar Keepers Friend has a faint funky metallic bouquet which I don't find objectionable. Prolonged skin contact is bad for you, so wear gloves. I find it discolors the gloves immediately so I'm always glad I have them on.
One swipe on the outside of the ruler gets off this much filth and it already looks a lot better
Right before I put on my gloves I hit play on my audiobook and started a stopwatch. I scrubbed this ruler for 24 minutes. Then I rinsed it, dried it with a towel and left it overnight to get completely dry.
Clean and dry
Much lighter than before. I can see the numbers
The next step is to oil the hinges and the wood.
I used what I have on hand.
After applying mineral oil to the wood
I have a Lufkin 386 12 inch ruler with caliper that I cleaned last week.
I use hard paraffin wax from the canning section
at the grocery store to lubricate the wooden grooves

I love these old rulers. I want more of the ones that fold down to 3", preferably without the caliper. Decreases the weight. They would be neat accessories for a knitting kit.

In addition to mineral oil I have also polished these with paraffin wax. I rub some on in solid form and buff it off the brass and wood. I imagine it might slow corrosion. I think if you rubbed a lot of solid wax on one then carried it in your pocket for a day it would work even better.

For a quick touch up for the caliper you can buff the metal bit with waxed paper. I keep some around my lab to polish my wooden knitting needles.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Was the Smallest Year

Last January I wrote a blog post wrapping up 2015.
I didn't go anywhere in 2015. My car stayed in my home county and two adjacent ones in Georgia and Florida. Nothing awesome happened to me in 2015. My house sank, but I fixed it. A duck dented my car, but I fixed it. I felt like crap all year, and I couldn't fix that. 
When I take my car to the mechanic they keep replacing parts until it works better. If doctors did anything like that I might go to them for help. I did not see a doctor in 2015. I had no drama in my life in 2015. Nobody told me what to do, I never raised my voice in anger at anyone. I woke up every day and did exactly what I felt like doing. 
I think I was the best hermit I could be in 2015.
I decided to try to make 2016 even smaller. I drove my car to the coast in July, so I added two counties to my range. But this year I decided to go the whole year without seeing the mechanic. I bought my car new in 1996. Seemed like 2016 was a good year to test what I get for doing consistent maintenance throughout its life. My speedometer stopped working about halfway through the year, and the odometer too. So I don't know exactly how far I went. But I do know I only bought one tank of gas a month so I probably went around 3600 miles.

My house was fine this year. No sinking. I had a double Decora light switch break. I bought a new one. It cost $11. My refrigerator won't go below 44°F anymore. I got a quote for $125 to get it recharged with refrigerant. I didn't do it. It still keeps Romaine lettuce fresh for weeks. I had milk go bad way before the expiration date. But only $3 worth of milk which is a long way from $125, so....

I did not see a doctor in 2016. I felt like crap most of the time. I still can't be on my feet very long. Lots of migraines and abdominal pain. Hands hurt a lot. But I managed my tasks so I was able to be productive 12 or more hours a day.

I went to the coast for a week in July with my mother, brother, my three nieces, an aunt and some of her grandkids. If it weren't for my brother disputing the statement "People have been living in space for 15 years" I might have made it the whole year without raising my voice in an argument with a live person. Alas, this was not to be.

In 2016 I discovered that
inflatable full body suits
make great haircut capes
I also did not get a professional haircut in 2016. I figured out how to cut my hair myself from YouTube videos. I now shave the back and sides with clippers and then hold up the top part and cut it with scissors. Then the top part falls down over the shaved part and it looks kinda like a normal haircut. I let my 13 year old niece establish the setup while we were at the coast. Then I let her paint the hair on top with food coloring for cake icing. I wear a hat most of the time anyway.

I was a pretty good hermit in 2016. Not as good as 2015 because I spent that week around relatives, but pretty good. I didn't leave the country for Thanksgiving or Christmas so that's pretty solid hermit behavior.

I think 2016 is my new baseline minimum cost year. I also think I have hit minimum bookkeeping. Earlier today I used my online banking access to categorize every expenditure I made in the whole year and it took less than an hour. I am not going to bother doing real bookkeeping because I can tell just by looking at my checking account that I definitely had gross earnings less than $10,350. That's the 2016 threshold for single individuals to file a tax return. Which, I have to tell you, is an egregiously low number.


The majority of my cash flow was business expenses. People ask me to make things for them and I have to buy materials. Then they pay me back afterwards. I have an aunt that emails me lists of used books she wants and I find them and order them. I find it amusing that I'm the poorest person I know and people treat me like a bank. I'm pretty sure this is a vestige of privilege. In 2016 Cost of Goods Sold and other business expenses were 31% of my cashflow.

If I eliminate the business expenses and just look at what I lived on in 2016 it comes to less than $6500. That'd be my gross earnings. I spent 47% at the grocery store, 36% for utilities, 6% for gas in my car, 7% for Car Insurance, and 2% for ad valorem taxes on my car and my lab.

It's kind of funny that I paid more to insure my 20 year old car in 2016 than I paid for gas to go places in it.

Life is expensive. If any little thing had gone wrong it would have been unmanageable for me. If I had needed new clothes or shoes it would have been out of reach. The only piece of tech I had to buy this year was a $42 Thunderbolt cable because my monitor was acting up. The new cable fixed my problem. Fortunately my 2014 Mac mini is still the newest thing. My iPhone 5S has a crack in the corner of the screen but it's not over the display. My iPad Air is sluggish, but also functional. If I didn't already have that stuff, which I need to do my work, I wouldn't be able to support myself.

The other tools I relied on this year: my chop saw, air compressor, jig saw, power planer, sheet metal cutter, circular saw, finish nailer, angle grinder, two drills and an impact driver. Also a big pile of scrap lumber was critical to being able to complete jobs. Similarly a large stash of yarn and complete set of knitting needles is crucial. I bought two old sewing machines on Craigslist in 2016 and did a lot of sewing work to cover the expense. I also have a shed for the lumber and carpentry tools and a lab for the sewing and knitting. It is blatant privilege to have tools and materials readily available. I do not know how other people without my advantages can live below the poverty line. Only because I started out above it can I now live below it.

My experiment with indigence is never going to allow me to truly understand what it's like to be poor. Sure, I went all year without having my car worked on and it was nerve wracking to look at that check engine light for the last 6 months. But it never let me down! I'm graced with the good fortune of making a good decision 20 years ago to buy a $30,000 reliable car and having the means to keep it maintained for 20 years. What if I hadn't been able to buy that car back then? What if I had to drive to town more than once a week? It would be unmanageable. What if I was a lead foot and went over the speed limit in my car with a broken speedometer and got a speeding ticket? It would ruin me. What if I wasn't grandfathered into free checking for life with a handy online tool to analyze my spending to verify I made less than the threshold for filing a tax return? Privilege! Being able to deposit a check with my phone is crucial to my existence. I've heard there are people who pay their utility bill in person with cash. I can't wrap my head around that.

I've spent a lot of time in 2016 trying to examine my privilege and try to imagine what it must be like for the people who had such a terrible time in 2016 — black people, immigrants, people who identify as LGBT, women. I don't even have any first hand experience with the women's issues since birth control and abortions fall outside the hermit experience. I can attempt a mental exercise to imagine what those barriers must be like. I would not like to be those people. It would be bad. My conclusion? White men need to check themselves. They do not deserve their advantages and all those other people do not deserve the hardships. I want it to stop. Stop it right now. Be nice to each other already. Damn.

My instinct with the current political situation is to keep my head down and get even smaller. I could let my car insurance lapse, cancel my tag, and try to beat last year's record. But I'm not going to. I'm going the other way. I'm going to put myself out there a little more, put more project photos on Ravelry, sell stuff on Etsy, be an entrepreneur. I should see if there is a community that will accept me so I can participate in the concept of strength in numbers. Even if it's just online. The world is going to hell and I'm not ok with that. I don't want to make the world a better place. I despise that meaningless line. But I do feel obligated to participate in damage control when the feedback loop on the world has blown out and the amplifiers are clipping. I would not hesitate to jump up on stage and grab a microphone away from somebody standing in front of a speaker puzzled by the loud squealing noise, and I will do whatever my limited resources allow to help regain a nominal governmental situation.

Next week I'm going to take my car to the shop. I'm going to let them work on it until the Check Engine light goes out. I probably still won't go anywhere. But I can if I need to.