In a move not unlike gleaming the cube, M and I are unifying our duplex. The process involved a lot of imagination as to what this warren of small rooms that used to be a single-family home could be again.

Our contractor has been extremely patient with us as we have vacillated, stalled and rearranged. He’s also provided some valuable advice on what projects we should focus on to actually add value to our house. We orginally thought we could do much of the work ourselves, and, in fact, started by ripping out the back wall of a closet that had been closing off the hallway between the two units. After that dirty, dusty, sweaty work, we looked at how much we’d be saving by doing the demo ourselves (about $1500, out of a 20K budget) and opted out of doing anymore.

Now, if you have the time and the wherewithal to do the demo on your home remodeling project, I’m not against it. However, as parents with two full-time jobs, it just didn’t make sense for us. The contractor’s crew can do the work better (like in the case of saving trim pieces for reuse) and faster. In fact, they do everything a whole heck of a lot faster than we could.

On the first day, the job site was prepared and protected, and walls were ripped open. Within the first week, whole walls had come down and new ones had gone up. Check out the pictures of the progress:


The kitchen before work started


The kitchen after the first day!



Two views looking through the wall to the living room from the once and future dining room

And things soon got more open and closer to our final plan.


now we can look from the new dining room into the kitchen! They built a temporary support wall before the put the load-bearing header fully in.


Looking from the living room, through the new dining room and into the kitchen. Jackscrews were set up to straighten the ceiling, which was not very well supported structurally.


Now this wall is open, too! This pic was taken from our old, small dining room looking into the kitchen.


Our plan involved opening up some walls, and closing some too. In these next pics, you’ll see the door in the kitchen disappear. This will give us more usable counter space in the finished design. You’ll also see the framing going in for a C-shaped bay for the refrigerator (it goes just to the right of that thick post in the last picture above).


No door anymore.


From the kitchen we can now see the front door and the living room!

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And, that was just the first week! More updates to come.

XKCD pretty much sums up the recent furor over Facebook conducting “psychological experiments” with the content they show users.

TL;DR (wait, seriously, it’s too long? It’s a one-panel comic!)

When was Facebook not conducting unethical psychological experiments with its (user-generated) content?

My grandma was featured in this story from the L.A. Daily News for her service to teaching. I love how it shows a little bit of her incredible career (which spanned several decades and also ended several decades ago) as well as the energy she still has at 96. Not only does she serve as a chairperson with the California Retired Teachers Association, but she still runs around town looking for bargain items that she can resell to fundraise for new teacher scholarships.

I am so blessed to have a woman like her in my life. And, my daughter is incredibly lucky to have her as a great-grandmother.


On June 5th, the internet is fighting back against mass surveillance. This blog and a whole heck of a lot of other sites will be replaced by banner images helping to spread the word about internet privacy.

There are concrete and not-difficult steps that we can all take to make illegal snooping by the NSA and others much more unlikely. Check out the Reset the Net campaign’s Privacy Pack page for ways to protect your phone, your passwords and your home computer from privacy threats.

This is a battle that has just begun. It started when we all heard the Snowden revelations about the vast, illegal intelligence gathering being done by the NSA. It has only continued as Congress has failed to act on protecting our civil liberties – or keeping control of our internet out of the hands of corporations. June 5th marks the opening salvo in the citizens’ fight against these travesties. Go to Reset the Net to find out how you too can participate from the front lines.

I recently watched HBO’s documentary on the Russian agitprop punk band Pussy Riot. (Here’s the link to HBO’s section on them. It includes some clips that are available to non-subscribers.) All I can say is how impressed I am with the courage and audacity of the members of Pussy Riot. They have stood up against a brutal plutocracy and are not backing down in the face of state repression. The people are Punk with a purpose.

Pussy Riot’s performances can either be called dissident art or political action that engages art forms. Either way, our performances are a kind of civic activity amidst the repressions of a corporate political system that directs its power against basic human rights and civil and political liberties.

In Putin’s Russia, such impropriety, could never go unpunished. The leading members of Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were thrown in a gulag style work camp for their political expression.

After being starved, forced to work like slaves, improperly clothed and housed, and consistently mistreated by the guards for almost two years Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were realeased. They actually condemn their release as political whitewashing and have now vowed to take up the cause of prisoners rights in Russia. Watch their amazing – and pretty funny – Stephen Colbert appearance after their release – part 1, part 2.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are no longer technically members of the band, but they are still engaging in the kinds of activism that led to their being prisoners of conscience. At the farce of the 2014 Winter Olympics games they were beaten while trying to film a music video. By Cossacks. With whips. The disturbing video – and it’s especially disturbing for the fact that no one cared a whit that the whole thing was being videotaped by the posse of journalists and human rights campaigners that Pussy Riot brought with them- of the incident is here.

Even more disturbing is the populist uprising against them. There is a shrill conservative, nationalist and Russian Orthodox movement going on in Putin’s Russia that finds the notion of feminism to be anathema. While working on prisoner rights campaigns, but not while actively doing anything, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were attacked by men who squirted disinfectant in their faces. This, too, was caught on video – video that the perpetrators were clearly aware of. The air of impunity is as frightening as it is disgusting.

They have since teamed up with the Vioce Project on an initiative called Zona Prava. The idea behind Zona Prava is to give  a voice to Russian political prisoners, and all prisoners who are suffering human rights abuses, who are not willing to stand up for their rights. You can donate to support Zona Prava here.



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