nearly there

we hope. the house goes on the market tomorrow. photos of the finished product forthcoming. bathroom renovators are finishing today and tomorrow, the boys are still up there but i am home.

the realtor seemed upbeat about the possibility of the house selling quickly. maybe she says that to everyone, i don’t know.

wish us luck. i’ll post the listing here when it’s available – if you know anyone looking to live in newport news, va, please pass it along. it’s a fantastic house.

Women’s Work

The women of Bletchley Park

During World War II, the British required large numbers of operators for their encryption-cracking machines. They recruited women to do this work:

“What is particularly significant about the women at Bletchley Park and its outstations was that they were recruited as the first machine operators and did not replace men, as was the usual procedure in other types of war work.

The first batch of WRNS were despatched as an experiment, although it was doubted at the time if they would be able to do the work. However, the women demonstrated clearly that they could operate the machines efficiently and they proved their worth in the war effort.”

— British Computer Society, “Women of Bletchley Park”


The ENIAC Programmers

The U.S. also relied on women during World War II to program the ENIAC to calculate trajectories. Female mathematicians were recruited for this work. They were not permitted to see the machine during their training, and there was no documentation, so they had to learn from engineering schematics. They were classified by the Army as “sub-professional”, and largely disregarded by both their male colleagues and history until recently. A few photos of the women working on the ENIAC do exist, however.


U.S. Army Photo – Standing: Ester Gerston, Crouching: Gloria Ruth Gorden

A fascinating interview with ENIAC programmer Jean Jennings Bartik aired on WUNC several months ago – unfortunately, the podcast seems to be gone.

The Voder Operators

Long fascinated by electronic music, I was intrigued by the Voder, a machine demonstrated at the 1939 World’s Fair by Bell Labs that could speak in something recognizable as a human voice.

“For all its gimmickry, the Voder was difficult to manage, a male persona literally played by women. Only trained telephone operators, the disembodied voices of the switchboard, had the hand-ear coordination to give the machine the social skills to work the room, a sort of remedial Speak & Spell exercise. A simple phrase (

we’re home with a lot of stuff. IN THE RAIN.

okay, there was one part of the day when it didn’t rain: the first half of today’s drive.

the second half of the drive saw a pretty good rain. while we were unloading the u-haul it was kind of drizzling, which wasn’t so bad, but after we were good and tired from going up and down the basement stairs many times, and it was cold and dark, that’s when the rain started back up in earnest. we unloaded the rest of the truck in earnest rain.

i am pleased to report no injuries. no slipping on the ramp, no sliding on mud while holding a heavy box.

so there’s that.

it sucked. it really did. i proclaimed to hate everything; jason said the theme of our wedding will be overcoming adversity (i’m editing slightly; there was a curse word or two in it when he said it).

for me the worst is probably over. jason still has many things to finish at the house this week. i will get to sit around the house (the NC house) eating bonbons and doing my nails or something. (or, more likely, unpacking some of the boxes that arrived today.)

this house is brimming. it’s packed. i want to get rid of more stuff. the attic, the living area and the basement are all at capacity. it makes me feel… a little panicky. removing ourselves from this house will be no simple task. we’ve promised each other we’ll hire movers when we do that. but we’ll still have to pack it all up.

anyway. that’s another day.

not to complain, but

boy has it rained a lot. and the timing… holding a yard sale in the rain. packing a u-haul in the rain. walking the dog in the rain, many days in a row. tomorrow we’ll be driving a u-haul in the rain.

next week is the big exciting final week before we’re done with the house. J will leave NC mid-week and work for several days. the bathroom will be renovated (we hope) at the same time. loads of stuff will go to charities. i’ll come back on saturday to help with the final cleaning. J meets with the realtor sunday. she hasn’t seen it painted or anything. i want her to be _impressed._ we both look forward to seeing the house empty, all fixed and all clean.

at the yard sale (which did not occur on the soggy yard) we brought people inside to see a few larger items – one lady commented on how nice the house was, all the character. it was so heartening.

well, here we are in virginia…

…again. this weekend we attack the dreaded kitchen. which still has stuff in it, and other interesting challenges. the goal is to paint the exteriors of the cabinets white, change out the hardware (some of which will need new holes drilled), put paintable wallpaper over the existing wallpaper (it was all we could find) and, hopefully, paint the wallpaper. and paint all the trim white including yet another window.

it’s a short weekend, we mainly have tomorrow to work. jason is downstairs right now doing… something. i refuse to work after a full day at work then a four hour drive. but – it’s his house. i’m just the helper.

this evening we planned that i would email him just before i left work, and he’d go to the q shack to pick up dinner. it worked out perfectly and he arrived just minutes after i did. i was plowing into my cobb salad many hours earlier than we normally eat at what is, i think, my ideal time to eat dinner. i told him that any time he wants to do that, it’s just fine with me.

just two more weekends before the house is deemed complete, or as complete as it is going to be. next weekend is the yard sale and moving the tools in a u-haul, which i’m dreading. but then just one weekend of cleanup after that, and we’re done.

i’m still blown away by how fantastic the fireplace looks now that it’s been painted. we’ll have pictures of it later this weekend.

the white ride

despite dire warnings from teh internets, our ride home was quite safe and quite beautiful. no traffic, no ice, no downed trees, no snow on the road… but snow, snow, snow everywhere around us, on every branch of every tree, on every rolling hill…

me: now see, i actually know the lyrics to the songs on this channel.

jason: really? what is he saying?

me: “i am the son, and the heir, of a shyness that is criminally vulgar. i am the son, and the heir, of nothing in particular.”

jason: really? i can’t hear anything he’s saying.

me: really. oh, and, “i am human and i need to be loved – just like everybody else does.”

we painted more today, and j installed shoe moulding in the living room – which has had baseboards but no shoe or cap. i also painted the brick around the fireplace. it had been badly dry brushed or sponge painted the same dingy mauve-brown as the rest of the room. the difference is stunning. we used a sandy tan color on the brick and bright white on the wood mantle. i couldn’t stop looking at it when it was done.

the sunday of painting

headed out for Va yesterday late morning. funny how the day gets eaten up with a four hour drive in the middle of it. the only real work we did yesterday was to scrape paint off the windows we painted last weekend. jason met with a plumber who advised him on the sorrowful downstairs bathroom. it will need more work than anticipated – but will probably get a new tile floor in the process.

this morning we did a massive shopping trip. jason said, “i’ve come to a very weird place in my life when the total comes to just under $500 and I say, ‘that’s all?'”

today i dove into the one window in the living room. these windows have been neglected for a long time. they are dirty, paint is peeling. i am proud to say that we have all the sashes moving up and down, at least with some effort. i cleaned the living room window as best I could given the rain and the time limitations – no time to scrape all the paint, to really clean out the tracks.

finally around 3:30pm or so I started painting. jason spent the afternoon priming all the new trim that had been installed by a team of carpenters in our absence. many of the doors in the downstairs of the house have been missing their casings for several years; that has been remedied.

we worked straight through until around eight when jason took reese for a walk in the near-freezing rain. i stayed in and kept painting. after he returned we finally got showers and went out to a favorite near-by place for dinner around nine.

now i am being a lady of leisure and doing internets and whatnot upstairs while jason continues working downstairs. he wants to paint all the small mouldings we bought this morning so they can be installed tomorrow before we drive home. the goal is to complete the living room – all trim installed and painted.

of course, the weather is turning nasty and we may not be able to leave tomorrow – in which case we’ll have an extra day to work. which would be okay, really. there was already ice accumulation on the cars and roads when we came home from dinner. the lights just flickered a few times; i hope the power stays on, though. i saved this entry early when that happened, just in case.

we keep fantasizing about vacations. we have a few more weeks of this – normal work week then drive up to Va to work on the house. lather, rinse, repeat. happily, i am much less ill than i was a week or so ago. most of the time i feel pretty normal, actually.