Tuesday, June 05, 2012

More of an Explanation Than an Excuse

I want to apologize to the anonymous poster whose comment rubbed me the wrong way last night, sparking a little more snark that I usually use in my comments here. It turns out he/she did not mean the comment the way I took it, and therefore didn't deserve my snark. It was your standard case of someone misunderstanding something on the internet. I should have applied my general rule about assuming the best, not the worst, and I did not.

So, Anonymous: I'm sorry. And anonymous commenters, in general- you are welcome to comment here. Unless you're the spambot that is currently hitting a lot of my old posts (and getting caught by the spam filters). In that case, please move on. I get all the spam comments in my email inbox, and I'm tiring of them.

Also, to all my lovely academic readers: I am glad you're here, and your perspectives are always welcome. I am gratified that you find my musings interesting/helpful/diverting/whatever makes you read them. It has been roughly 13 years since I was in academia, and I do not necessarily expect my thoughts on work, life, the universe, and everything to seem relevant to people who are working in such a different environment. Please don't take my snark last night as an indication that I do not welcome you on this blog. If anything, just take it as a reminder that I am not writing primarily about academia.

And now, for the reason I was so short-tempered last night: I had to throw away a bunch of books. Not give away. Throw away. Why? Because they were so covered in mold that I did not think they were salvageable. I have another bag of slightly molded books to give away and another two bags that I desperately want to save. So if you have tips for de-molding books (mostly paperbacks- the hardcovers seemed to have been more resistant), leave them in the comments. Right now, my plan is to put them out in the sun for a while, and then try to vacuum and brush the mold off.

The mold came about because my house lacks insulation. It was built in the 50s, and apparently the consensus back then was that San Diego houses didn't need to be insulated. But, we have a heater which we use in the winter to keep the house at a pleasant 68 or 70 degrees, depending on whether I'm in one of my periodic delusions about how a warmer house will help my children sleep better. I confess: I would heat my house to 90 degrees if I thought it would make my children sleep better. Sorry, planet. I'm tired. 
 
Anyway, when the warm inside air hits the cold wall* moisture forms on the wall and mold grows. We've known about the mold for a few years, and I've known the solution for well over a year. We needed to add insulation to our walls. But we are only now doing that, which is pretty pathetic when you consider the fact that I have mild asthma and am allergic to many molds. In our defense, the mold only grows for a few months of the year, and it is easy to clean off the walls. Also, a borax wash seemed to be doing a hafway decent job of keeping it from coming back. (Feel free to laugh at my stupidity now as you see the weakness in this approach.) 
 
Still, I was tired of cleaning mold off walls once a year, and wanted it fixed for good, so I finally got around to finding someone to add insulation to our house. The insulation guys have been at our house for the past two days drilling little holes in our walls, blowing insulation into the holes, then patching the holes and painting them to match the walls. Last night, we prepped our office/guest room for the work, and my husband decided to get ambitious and go ahead and pull the CD and bookshelves away from the wall. The amount of mold on the back of the shelves was horrifying. So horrifying that we decided it would be easier to just buy a new Billy shelf from IKEA rather than clean the one we have. I decided to pull my books off the shelves and store them until we could get to IKEA. And then I discovered that there was also mold on the front of the backing to the bottom two shelves of books, and many of my books were moldy.

As I said, I'm hoping to save some of them. I hope I can, because while I enjoy owning de Tocqueville's Democracy in America and Darwin's On the Origin of Species (artifacts from my college days), I can't really justify going out and buying new copies, particularly when I can get them on the Kindle for free. Sniff.

Add to that the fact that I have a bunch of interesting (at least to me) posts that I want to write and another writing project I want to work on, but was instead spending the evening shoving my increasingly stuffy nose into books to try to determine how moldy they were... and you can probably appreciate why I was grumpy. In general, the "chores" part of my life is crowding the "fun" part a little too much these days, and the "kids" part is squeezing out the "me" part more than I'd like. Neer mind work-life balance, maybe I need to write a post on life-life balance, because honestly, that is where my issues seem to lie right now.

*Overnight temperatures go down into the low 50s in the winter- I know. Frigid. San Diegans are completely climate spoiled. We think it is our right to have the temperature be between 68 and 78 degrees Farenheit (roughly 20-26 degrees Celsius) AT ALL TIMES. And when it is not, we complain bitterly of the hot/cold.When you first move to San Diego, you laugh at this, and swear you will not do that. Until you do. It takes about five years, I think.

31 comments:

  1. Joanna8:37 PM

    Sorry to hear about you books - how horrible! Anyway, just wanted to throw out there that most kids (and adults for that matter) sleep better in cooler temps with more blankets. At My daughters daycare, they blast the a/c during nap time and those kids sleep HARD. But I have also read this randomly because I have trouble sleeping, too.

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  2. I've heard that, too. But Petunia won't tolerate a blanket yet- she kicks it off. So every once and awhile I convince myself that she's waking up because she is cold. This is silly. But I am not always rational about sleep.

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    1. Re blanket, something that may or may not be useful: on my littlest guy, I wrap up a light blanket around him and simply hold it together with a couple of safety pins. He can crawl out of it when he wakes up and stands up, but during the night he's covered as he rolls all around his crib. This worked with the older boy till about the age 3 or so, but then he became better about keeping a blanket on anyway...

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    2. Perpetua6:02 AM

      I used to feel the same way, about my #1 and his blankets! I worried constantly - he will get cold without his blankets how do they ever learn to sleep with blankets on????? We like the house cool at night, so eventually we just started moving a space heater into his room.Then he went through this phase where he would shout at us like 3x per night to "fix" his blankets because they had to be just. so. Now he's over it thankgod and sleeping well again.

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    3. mom2boy6:06 AM

      Tate never took a blanket...until he did some time last year. Now he wants to be tucked in tight on all sides before he goes to sleep. BUT he goes to sleep on his own every night. At almost 5. Sleep issues suck. As much as moldy books. I'd be grumpy, too. Or cranky as we call it in our house and Tate so sweetly told our friends last get together.

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    4. The milliner8:04 PM

      I've often thought (still think) that L wakes up because he's cold. Sometimes (like when you're exhausted), you just want to know WHY?!?

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  3. As someone who just donated ~80% of our books to the local library, I suggest you toss the books. Your time is too valuable to spend it demolding books. You will replace the ones you truly love over time. You probably won't miss most of them. I once dreamed of a house filled with all the books I had ever read, but after lugging them all on two cross-country moves I began to change my tune. Especially now, with a tiny house & 3 kids, I value an uncluttered home more than a wall of books I rarely touch. I kept my favorites, of course, but getting rid of the rest removed a huge weight from our lives. I'll max out my Kindle instead.

    Now I just need to get @codinghorror to whittle down his collection of programming books. ;)

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    1. I am rather enjoying the space in the office that the missing bookshelf freed up... but I don't know if I'm quite ready to get rid of my books! I've already winnowed down substantially. This is a bit silly because for the most part I prefer reading on my Kindle these days. (I know. Heresy. But truth.)

      My husband's pitfall is CDs. He won't go over to fully digital media because of the DRM and some nonsense about CD covers. The other set of shelves with a horrifying amount of mold on the back were his CD shelves, which were one of the few things he carted over from New Zealand when he moved here, because he made them himself out of a NZ wood called Rimu. They were better made than the Billy shelves, though, and the mold stayed on the back- and has cleaned up fairly well.

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    2. It Amuses me that as much of a techie as your husband is, he still prefers CDs. I guess I'm the same about books - I have an e-reader but still prefer hard copies.

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  4. Kirsten5:55 AM

    The sun-and vacuum method you mention should work, but can be time consuming and won't work if it's humid out. If you want to stop further mold growth in the books you want to save (while waiting for the opportunity to work on them) you could put them in your freezer. Some tips here: http://libraries.ucsd.edu/preservation/howdry.html

    Also, you'll want to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to be sure the mold spores are trapped. If you use a brush, it's best to work outside.

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    1. Sadly, our freezer is too small (and stuffed with food) to fit any books. I'm just going to have to try to get to the clean up soon!

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  5. I discovered the joys *hah* of mould when I moved to Auckland. Ugh. The good thing is though, that I am now super-concious of the warning signs of damp houses...

    Re: Mold, I found a good way of removing it was to use white vinegar - spray on and leave to dry, then wipe off later. I managed to recover a pair of shoes that had gone grey and fuzzy that way.

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    1. You'd think my Aucklander husband would have taken the mold more seriously!

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  6. Zenmoo6:06 AM

    Oh, and I don't think it's delusional to think your child might sleep better when warmer. I'd been holding off on buying a new sleep sack in the the larger size for Moo, because I thought she should be *fine* in fleece PJs and a blanket. Best damn $100 I spent on the next size up sleep sack and super-padded snuggly sleep suit - she really did stop waking up at 4am. At least sometimes. *wry smile*

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  7. Alexicographer9:04 AM

    Oh dear. I missed the excitement. But this: "I confess: I would heat my house to 90 degrees if I thought it would make my children sleep better. Sorry, planet. I'm tired." made me laugh, in an empathetic way. For us it's not heat/cold but food: basically in my experience, the fuller my son's belly when he goes to sleep, the longer he will sleep in the morning (cautionary note: I have not systematically tracked this). He's generally a good eater and will (on average, not at any given moment) eat most anything, but he is at his worst at suppertime (perhaps exacerbated by my insistence that, no really, he must use a fork or spoon). So it ends up being true that he snacks extensively before bedtime and while I do mandate a rule that the food must be simple and healthy (example options: bowl of cereal, banana, bagel with butter or cream cheese) I do not in any way limit it and indeed if anything encourage it. I may be prolonging the problem (of not learning to eat a "good" supper), but if it means I get more sleep ...

    (Cautionary disclaimer -- my son is active and wiry, and probably really does need the extra food; that is, he is not, at present, a data point in the childhood obesity trend we hear about. And observation: US patterns of eating and the value of routines and convenience notwithstanding, I am myself rather a grazer and not convinced that we must "learn" to eat "regular meals")

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    1. We noticed this as well and instituted 7:30 (formerly 8:30) snack time as our kick-off to our extended bedtime routine back when DC was 3ish (still happening at 5.5).

      We're big proponents of eating when hungry and not eating when you're not, so we offer food at mealtimes but don't really do much else (sometimes he has to "try" something because otherwise he won't know if he likes it or not).

      DC is also allowed to eat at will and is super skinny.

      I started losing weight and stopped being hungry when I switched from 3 meals with no snacking to 5 smaller meals. It also increased my fruit consumption, since my 10:30 and my 3:30 are generally a piece of fruit. (Whether or not I intended to have set times for snack, that's when I get hungry.)

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    2. My kickboxing program comes with a food plan where they want you to eat 6 small meals throughout the day, every 3 hours, and never get too hungry. When you eat infrequently, apparently your body is in starvation mode and holds on to the fat. Small frequent meals switch you to "burn mode": your body knows food is coming, no longer holds on to the fat and becomes more efficient at burning it.

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    3. We do rather hefty after bath/before bed snacks, too!

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    4. Having a snack built into the routine really takes the edge off worrying about how much they're eating for dinner. I found I relaxed more (because the whole point was not to police their meals as mine had been policed as a child), and I give Christopher Robin a big bowl of yogurt and half a peanut butter & jam sandwich every night before bed. For me, I graze a lot (I'm mildly hypoglycemic and need to eat every 2-3 hours), but I do like a couple of more substantial meals.

      There was a really interesting program on NPR (maybe This American Life?) I heard a while ago about natural foie gras - you know the main argument against foie gras is how inhumanely the geese are treated as they are force fed before slaughter? Well, a guy in Spain figured out a way to create free-range foie gras. It turns out it is actually natural to the geese to fatten up seasonally because of fears of food loss - but you have to let them run wild-ish, because if they have a steady source of food, they stop storing the fat. Anyway, I thought it was fascinating. (Unfortunately, it's very difficult to replicate this guys' system.)

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  8. I think it takes exactly 5 years. We moved here from NY 5 years ago April and laughed our heads off at the San Diego complaints about cold weather (and hot--prior to NY we lived in Tucson, AZ.). But, uh, yeah, now I want my temperate weather please and thank you. Give me a good 72 at all times and I'd be a happy girl.

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    1. I moved away for a couple of years after grad school. It was pretty hilarious to suddenly have to deal with rain, and snow, and heat, and OMG mosquitoes again. Still, once I got back to San Diego, it didn't take long before I was moaning like everyone else.

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  9. Anonymous11:28 AM

    wait everything isn't about academics? We people with PhDs who selflessly devote ourselves to the pursuit of knowledge are not purer and therefore better than the rest of you? I'm wrecked, truly crushed. Why on earth would I read blogs with different perspectives? I've expected one and all to write as though I, and my ilk, are the sole audience.

    tee hee although you weren't your normal equanimous self yesterday I have to say research as a "hobby" is not how I'd describe my attitude despite 4/4 SLAC service-laden life.

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    1. Anonymous11:28 AM

      <3 guess who?

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  10. mom2boy3:45 PM

    Completely off topic - is it me or this program that takes me to the bottom of the comments section instead of the top?

    On topic - We have mostly crappy weather unless you care for hot and humid and I still complain when it's not 70-ish with no humidity - because on days like that it is *perfect* weather!

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    1. You'd love San Diego weather! We're so spoiled that we complain when it is 68, but not sunny. (Basically, during the morning hours and late afternoon in the months of May and June.)

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  11. Arg. Comment was just eaten. Had festive story of own wall-filling event. Since Computer Gods have judged me with the Comment-Eating, I'll just say: Our wall-drilling-insulation-craziness worked great--I hope yours does too. Also: Book loss is hard, but mold is skeevy. My media-hording & germ-loathing would be at extreme odds in your shoes--I don't envy you. Best of luck, & may all the molds stay away from you all from here on out!

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    1. Luckily, mold doesn't gross me out or anything. Just make me sneeze, and maybe wheeze.

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  12. So sorry about your mold problem.

    I've definitely acclimated to LA. When I go outside and I realize it is chilly enough to need a light jacket, I feel positively resentful that I need one.

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  13. Oh, that suuuucks. Sorry.

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  14. Anonymous5:34 AM

    Ew, that sounds like a nightmare! I live in Florida and am no stranger to the mold and mildew battles, but our central AC system plus a dehumidifier in the bedroom help to keep the moisture at bay. (I used to assume that everyone had such a system, but am finding out otherwise. I tend to chuckle at northerners who have to drag out the AC every summer.)
    Still, my shower is never free of the little black spots that get into the corners. I have tried every mold/mildew spray out there, and none of them work. My brother recently moved from San Francisco, where he and his wife had horrible mold problems. Now that he is in Oregon, he can smell it in everything. Tackling the books and such with Clorox or Lysol wipes while airing and sunning them out seems to help.

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