May 12 – what’s it like in your head?

While I am not the most visual fellow, there are some areas where I exercise a little visualization. The conversation desk, my tiny version of the memory palace is one such area and the control center in my conscious brain is another. The control center is an adaptable sort of place. It is cavernous place with many darkened corners that could contain anything.

In the main area of the control room, there is my conversation desk and the 8 burner range where I get most things done. There are many other stoves and prep areas, but I can handle most things on just the main 8 burners. It is an odd stove. There are three front burners with lots of space around them and 5 rear burners for slow cooking ideas.

There is often an amphitheater atmosphere like in a teaching hospital. Many of you are actually in there too. The weird thing is that I don’t remember putting any of you in there and I can’t tell if you are just observers or if you have jobs.

Jon Sweet is probably the hugest wild card. I don’t know how he got in there and he sits alone in a balcony like the two old grumpy guys on the Muppets. Except, Jon isn’t grumpy. He doesn’t complain. The camera cuts away to Jon and he says, “Juicy” or “Oh-juicy” and chucks a handful of popcorn in his mouth smiling. He is wearing two piece pajamas with flying toasters on them.

Lots of you guys are in there. Slapinski, a newcomer, has another balcony and things cut to her when it is time to be bold, live truly, or, try not to hide. But, like I say, she is new and I don’t know if the B-slap in my head is really on my team or not. She could be a chaos vector.

Neely, Kelly, and Woody all sit together in a kind of conversation pit. I think they are like some kind of oversight committee. It seems that Woody’s main job is to manage my soundtrack. He stops me from playing The Allman Bros, Fleetwood Mac, or the Rolling Stones at terribly wrong times. The Woody in my head also seems to have some uncertain allegiances because he seems to let some things slide just to see what will happen.

The Kelly and Neely are not at all as good as the real thing. The real ones give me great advice. The ones in my head are oddly not any smarter than I am and do not offer tons of great advice. I don’t know what their jobs are but I am glad they are there.

That is your little image for today.

Rock On!

The Conversation Desk

The conversation desk is a tool I use to keep track of things in long and winding conversations. It is an extremely cutdown version of the Memory Palace. I did not learn about the Memory Palace from classical sources, but from Hannibal Lecter via Thomas Harris.

The concept of a memory palace is simple, though execution can be tough. In order to remember things, people, dates, contact information, whatever, you associate the memory with particular colors, sounds, smells, and locate that memory in a mental construct. The more detail you can add in, the better. Dr Lecter has a huge castle (several actually) based on real castles. Happy memories are in lighted rooms, or gardens. Sad or scary memories are in dungeons. Lonely memories are often in towers. Lecter is aided in searching his memory palace by all the objects along the way. The corridor to memory X passes painting D and one pads across carpet Z while smelling the fragrance of flower K in vase Y. Each of these sense triggers relate to their own memories, and at least for Lecter, blend together in such a way that it is natural to pass by these smaller/shorter memories on the way to more intricate/elaborate memories.

I am not a terribly visual guy, so I don’t know that an elaborate memory palace would work for me, but a desk, yeah, I can do that. My friends John and Zander and I collaborated to come up with the conversation desk and a few corollaries to it in 1992. Not surprisingly, one begins with the image of a desk in their mind. You can use any kind of desk. For most applications, I don’t have to get very fancy and use a version of the desk I am always building in the back of my mind: 2x4s and plywood with lag bolts, something like masonite to coat the top surface, and a variety of sizes – 4’x8’, 3’x8’, 4’x6’, and 3’x6’.

If circumstances demand, I use more detail, or imagine an actual desk I have used or owned in the past. But, given that this is a Conversation Desk and not a place for permanent storage and retrieval such as the memory palace, it is very rare that I have needed such added details.

The next tool you need is the Piton. You need not imagine an actual climbing piton. I never do. I used to envision a series of letter spikes. Since 2001, I envision what I do actually use as paper weights – different colored 2” sections of marble thresholds left over from many a tile job. Imagine whatever suits you, so long as it is specific. The object does not matter, but the name “piton” stuck due to how “piton” is implemented when using the conversation desk.

Ok, you have your desk and your pitons ready! You are all set for a long talk with a good  friend or two. Maybe it has been awhile since you have seen one another and there is a lot to catch up on. Maybe you see each other all the time, but you are really creative, or passionate, or just can’t shut up. I fit most of those descriptions plus having the genetically mandated inability to tell short stories.

I have not seen John or Zander for many years, so I use the desk mostly with Jake now, but there are a few others friends that I have turned onto the conversation desk system who have found it useful. To explain how to use the desk, I will use Jake and I as the sample participants.

I have been at home writing and cooking and out shopping and walking and when Jake gets home from school, I have lots to tell him. Jake has taught 4 classes had office hours and 10,000 interruptions from thankless students and hapless faculty. He has a lot to talk about. He can see that I am ready to go and as he walks in the door he says, “Piton Dr W and blue shoes, go ahead.” This simple sentence has accomplished a few things.

  1. I have pitoned Dr W and blue shoes on top of my conversation desk. I have imagined a little piece of paper, part of a slice of paper that I have used one side of and saved for note taking before recycling (detail helps). I have written “Dr W – blue shoes” on that piece of paper in my mind. I have placed that paper in the top left corner of my desk and put a piece of marble threshold paper weight on top of it. At this time, I have no idea what “Dr W and blue shoes” means, but it is on my desk, and if Jake forgets it for any reason, I should see it on my desk and remember to ask about it.
  2. Jake has pitoned Dr W and blue shoes on top of his conversation desk. I don’t know what his desk looks like these days. But as the party initiating the piton, it is Jake’s job to clothe his piton in such a way that the rest of the memory will come fully to mind from the details assigned to the piton – Dr W and blue shoes.
  3. Jake has informed me that he has a story to tell, but he is yielding the floor so that I may tell my story first, and he has thrown out a memory buoy so that each of us has a good chance to remember that Jake had a story to tell and provides a few clues as to what the story might be.

The last element involved is the “Real Quick”. The Real Quick is the most subjective and ethereal element of the conversation desk system. Implementing a Real Quick, and the ensuing battle for speaking primacy is similar to what happens when you are on a road trip with someone, you have both had tons of beverages over the past 300 miles, and you get to a rest area with a one person bathroom, and you have to decide who gets to go first. Sometimes it is simple, sometimes, not so much.

The rules for judging who gets to speak when a Real Quick has been issued are very loose. Evaluating such a thing is based on levels of intensity and less specific factors. Given that, even the Real Quick has some strictures.

A Real Quick should be exactly that – real quick.

In case of dueling Real Quicks, generally the fastest uttered “Real Quick” wins out. Not the one said first mind you, but the one said more quickly.

Real Quicks are not used to launch 5 minute speeches, highjack the conversation, or switch the topic by force. One could use a real quick to sneak in a piton – like so:

Jake: So, then Dr W was like, “Blue Shoes on the window? How did those get there.”

Nick: Real Quick, piton big boobs Safeway.

Jake: Cool. And I was like, “Why do you keep asking me? I don’t have blue shoes. I don’t know anyone with blue shoes. I didn’t take your candy or mess up your desk and I did not leave a pair of blue shoes in your office.

Nick: What a weirdo? Did he really think you took his candy? What the hell is happening over there?!

Jake: Oh, who cares, tell me about big boobs Safeway!

That is the conversation desk system my friends. Enjoy and use responsibly!


Howdy Folks! I have missed writing and am happy to get back to it. Aside from sloth, there are a few reasons for my e l o n g a t e d absence from cyber, and in some cases actual, space.

I ended this summer’s adventures and began the fall at my folks’ place in PA. They were in the process of buying a new house and needed help packing the old house, painting and repairing it, and clearing out all the clutter from our attic and TWO storage sheds. By the time I arrived, my mom and dad had cleared out lots of furniture. I continued packing for a week and had everything but the essentials for living bubble wrapped, boxed, labelled and arranged in the garage for loading.

Then, in the final hours, something went wonky with the underwriters and the whole deal fell through – no new house. “No big deal. Things happen for a reason. We’ll get ‘em next time.” And all that.

On the plus side, the house we live in still needs to be painted and it is about 80% empty. So, I began painting the house. There were several staged deadlines involved. My grandpa would be coming back to stay with us through the new year soon, so I had to finish the basement first. Mom starts teaching school again soon after, and has Fall break coming up, which is a good time for me to kick them out so I can get to the high traffic/dangerous areas in peace. And Mom wants to have a Halloween party for her students.

Guthrey and Lucas - Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.
Guthrey and Lucas – Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.

I painted houses for a living off and on in the early aughts. Not my favorite thing, but before I got into laying tile and when the tile jobs were thin, I still had to feed my dogs…

2. Guthrey and Lucas - Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.
2. Guthrey and Lucas – Chimbo, RVA, early aughts.

Like with many other kinds of jobs, I am slower than many in the field. But I am slower because I am methodical and very thorough. We had the whole house painted just a few years ago, but the guy did such a lousy job that it looked almost worse than it did before he started. I pull down all the light fixtures, unmount all the mirrors, remove all the switch plate covers, remove all the doors, hinges, and associated hardware, pull all the HVAC grates, and tape and tarp everything else. There was quite a bit of drywall repair and what felt like miles of caulking to do as well as some exterior drywall ceiling work!

Scaffold 1
Scaffold 1

I like to be careful as a rule, but to add to the fun, all the carpet in the house had been replaced in past few months and anything that isn’t carpeted is either tile or hardwood that I installed. So I wanted to make sure that no drop of paint or other material went astray. And though this is not the largest town house in the world, it is three stories tall, and occupied with three other folks for most of the work time. When I finally finished for the day I did not have the gumption left in me to get clean enough to touch my computer, find a paint free zone to set up in, and type out some of the things in my head.

Scaffold 3
Scaffold 3

Now the house has a new face, much of the sorting in the TWO storage sheds has been completed, I have gone through half of the attic, and have finally carved out a nice clutter-free place to think, write, and work.

Where the magic happens!
Where the magic happens!

That is all I will hit you with for the moment. I have to wrap this up so I can write some other stuff. Thanks for hanging in there and prepare for another trickle of content here at Bone of Contention!

Where the sleep happens...
Where the sleep happens…

Magic Box

It has been awhile. Things are going ok. A few issues still in the air, but generally things are good. I survived the car trouble. (Probably. Yesterday evening I noticed there is a cable hanging loose from somewhere underneath the car…) I did write a fair amount about the car issues, but it was mostly incredibly boring venting and I kept that stuff in the box.

I have been having a good time hanging with Tim S.

Marathon Man
Marathon Man

It is fun to reconnect as “adults”, compare the similar courses our lives have taken in many areas, and encourage each other to continue making progress and follow our dreams. We are in process designing a man cave/vocal recording booth that we will build in a carriage house for TS to lay down some tracks. I like this project. It is an interesting challenge mating the needs and desires of “the client” with the limitations of the space we have and the needs of others who share the property. I have done two full designs so far.

The first was pretty awesome. Exterior dimensions: 8’ long, 4’ wide and 8’ tall. Interior dimensions after adding all the soundproofing: 7’ long, 3’ wide, 7’6” tall. I had it designed very similar to framing out a “normal” room with a wiring plan with switches and wall outlets and lights.

Once we got the carriage house cleaned out and did real world measurements, we found that it will have to be shorter and smaller. To fit the space, we chopped it down from a rectangle to square with a 54” interior length and width and 7’2” height. This is not so bad. Not as big as we hopped, but big enough. And the specs on the keyboard that needs to go in the room list the unit at max length of 53” so 54” will be perfect. With the box significantly smaller and the need for portability made more of an issue than it had been originally, I have changed elements of the design. The internal wiring plan is scrapped in favor of a discrete hole for an extension cord to power strip set-up. And I have changed the construction method to allow for the 4 walls and roof to act as independent panels that are secured at the corners instead of the original plan of building a frame and then skinning it.

Things are looking good, until the keyboard actually arrives and is longer than advertised. Next phase, adjusting the design to accommodate the keyboard. It is taking a little more time than either of us would like to really get this moving, but progress is being made, planning is important, and we need the permission/input of at least three other people as we move forward with this. Things take time.

But as I said, it is fun. It is nice to spend the time with Tim, and I like that we get to work on something together that will help him continue to move forward towards his dream.

Here is a little bit of random goodness for you.

(I am still kinda new to the whole sharing of videos thing. Let me know if you have any troubles.)

McLaundry gets put to bed

Howdy – i should have some time to write more soon, though life does tend to eat up my “free” time.

But McLaundry is complete and that feels nice. Overall it went well and the end result looks good, and the “client” is happy.

As always, i can see all the little things that i would love to obsess over and fix, and have a mental list of how to try and do pieces of this differently “next time”, but all in all a nice job.

The complete photo album is here.

How’s it Hangin’?

I imagine that most of the readers here are hooked into me on the Facebooks – but you never know.

Here is a link to the ongoing and up-to-date-as-of-now open-to-the-public photo album of the Laundry Room Wall Job.

You know you wanna see that movie now. Maybe get Mark Wahlberg or Robert Mathew Van Winkle to star in it.

Maybe that Gina Gershon lady plays the conflicted romantic lead lady struggling to get her man on the straight.

Probably have Ray Liotta in the mix as either an old detective or small town sherif. You can’t tell if he is crooked or just weird.

Gershon, Liotta, and Vanilla Ice

star in

The Laundry Room Wall

a made for tv movie

this Sunday afternoon

on Lifetime!

Let Them Dry Clothes!

Howdy Folks,

Maybe some other update stuff later, but for now – The Wall!

This is a picture of a laundry room in an attic.


You can see the clothes washer through the doorway, but you can’t see the dryer. You can probably imagine that it is difficult to move your wash from one machine to the other with this set-up.

I have more process photos for the full album later, but here is the After (pt 1-2) !

After pt 1
After pt 1
After pt 2
After pt 2

Demo went ultra-smooth. No bad surprises behind the wall. Easy to move the light switch without  un/re-wiring it.

Got the drywall off the interior side primarily by hand (!).

The door casing came apart beautifully with no breakage (that’s a first for me).

What i thought was a bead board panel on the walls turned out to be bead board tongue and groove planks, which i also easily removed with minimal damage.

Knocked out all the superfluous studs and blocking.

Tomorrow – frame out the new wall and adapt existing casing and build some new casing. Skin the new wall with the bead board and…

Door fabrication! Instead of building a frame and skinning it, I am going to put the bead planks back-to-back, fit a small frame around the edges for a more finished look, and have the door look like the wall.

Sorry if any of that is confusing. It will fall together for you with the pics, and better narration from a less tired fella.

More soon…