Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

"There aren't gonna be any damned permits! How can you get a permit to do a damned illegal thing?" -McCoy, Star Trek III, The Search for Spock



Fairbanksianans looking at tools and things under the ever watchful eye of beer signs.

The melt has begun in earnest up here. With several straight days of +40ºF weather, Alaskans get itchy to get some work done outside. Thus, time for the Home Show. Getting a parking space was hard, but as I went up and down the parking lot aisles, I saw a gentleman backing out. Another car happened upon the space at the same time. For the second time in two days I and another driver both motioned each other toward the space. He drove on and won the argument, leaving me with a choice parking space near the entrance.

That must happen a lot in L.A., I bet.

We got in as The Mrs. had some free tickets. Free appeals to me the same way eighteen-year-old girls appealed to me when I was sixteen, except I could get into the Home Show free, whereas the eighteen-year-old girls regarded me as somewhat less annoying than the icky thing they just stepped in, but only because I was nearly invisible. Anyway, I had free tickets, and the only thing better than “free” is “free” combined with “beer.” We went inside.

The Home Show was packed tighter than a cellphone in a congressperson’s hand.

The first booth we went to was The Home Despot’s booth, and it was by far the highlight of the show. They had The Boy build a bookshelf and gave him a little orange Home Despot apron. Now I know how they get labor costs down – working five-year-olds at home shows for nothing.

It turned out that they gave him the bookcase to keep, and didn’t expect him to work the closing shift at Home Despot until he was eight.

I consider the whole “kids making things” a great public relations move on Home Despot’s part if their target demographic is people making home improvement decisions who are aged eight or less. Since I already give them a whole-number percentage of my income, I considered it a little something back.

We went and saw realtors, people selling showers, shower doors, permafrost testing (really), carpet, and, of course, tools. The Boy and I had our eye on a Bobcat loader with auger attachment, but The Mrs. indicated a new one was out of our price range, since it cost approximately six times what we paid for a car. Maybe a used one. They’re only worth twice what our car is. I think that I could have talked her into a new one, if I had any reason to own one. But, alas, I don’t.

We also saw a lady selling beef jerky for $12 for a 4 once package, which calculates out to $48 a pound, or 43,271 euros per kilogram. I considered that excessive since I paid less for The New Boy’s birth per pound at Baby Hospitals ‘r’ Us. At those prices, I would have thought it was a government booth, but I was not forced to purchase the jerky, so it probably wasn’t government related.

The Home Show greatly appeals to people in Fairbanks. Why?

I know several people in Fairbanks who have built multiple houses. Not that they hired someone to build the house, but that they built them themselves, one at a time. These people have fulltime jobs, but there seems to be some sort of screw loose in Fairbanks that says, “Hey, I can nail, so I could build my own place.” Couple this with the attraction that Alaska holds for people who are independently minded and the fact that labor costs a $421/hour, and you have a combination that’s irresistible: everybody is their own contractor. I think that means that they:
  • Overspend Their Budget by 20%,
  • Never Show Up on Time,
  • Use Inferior Materials,
  • Finish 20% Later than Expected
  • Are Confused and Poorly Supervised, and,
  • Drink Heavily.
Alaska law allows anyone to do this approximately every other year, and permits around Fairbanks are optional. If you want it to be inspected, you have to hire your own independent inspector.

Conversely, I was reading that in some locality in California it was now necessary to obtain a permit to replace a broken light switch. That means a trip to Home Despot for a $1.25 switch and five minutes of work now can cost:
  • Permit Fee (what, $100 minimum?),
  • Licensed Contractor Fee (say $100 just to show up?),
  • Your Time,
  • Having to Lose Sanity Dealing with a Government Office, and
  • $1.25 for the Switch,
if you’re not capable of doing it yourself or not willing to break a law to do minor home repair.

Here in this part of Alaska, there are no state or local laws against setting up a nuclear accelerator in your basement. Really. No permits, nothing. Just fly in the parts, connect, and make isotopes to your heart’s content.

We may have odd houses, some of which are unique radioactive fixer-uppers, but we can also legally change our own light switches. I guess that freedom thing is just way too scary for some places . . . like California.

I mean, you wouldn’t want people doing their own minor home repairs, would you? That’s just crazy talk.

8 Comments:

Blogger brotherbill said...

Now, think about it for one moment. Would you let a Californian change a light switch in your home? I think not (meaning, as Californians, we are incapable of constructive thought--just stating a fact rather than expressing one's opinion). It's also the reason so many of us are known as "Left-Wing Liberals." However, with our one untoasted hand, we do enjoy the sunny, warm oceanside climate all year round. It's a trade-off. Visualize one hand clapping. By the way, I found that duct tape and real butter work wonders on electrical burns. It lessens the pain while promoting healing.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Deirdre Helfferich said...

I grew up here, and everybody I know who has a house did it on the 20-year plan: build the outhouse & sauna, live in it (the sauna!) for a year while you prepare the ground; pour the foundation or (usually) footer the next year; frame up the house and enclose one or two parts, like the kitchen and livingroom, live in that for 5 years while plumbing happens--if you want to get fancy; frame up the rest and slap plywood and insulation on it and live in the unfinished (but vapor-barriered!) place for the next couple of years while you get the sheetrock on; live in that for oh, another 5 to 10 years before biting the bullet and hiring somebody to help paint and finish up the place. Live in it a couple of years and then move to Hawaii or Arizona or someplace warm half the year.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Dame Koldfoot said...

When you say you "know several people in Fairbanks who have built multiple houses," are you talking about the house one lives in and the dog house one builds from scrap lumber scavenged out of the junk pile? Or do you mean multiple homes that actually habitable by average folks? Fairbanksans are inventive--we have a wood shed built out of wooden pallets topped with corrugated tin sheets. It's a bit drafty and cold in the winter, but it keeps the snow off our wood. Koldie plans on making this his summer residence, complete with his unheated waterbed, misting sprinkler and miles of mosquito netting.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Lori said...

Watch out! I was very excited about the idea of melting snow, getting ready to switch over my tires and...whoosh! Two inches of snow on my driveway this morning.

Alaska is great! It keeps you guessing!

12:05 PM  
Blogger Al said...

Beer...tools...big pieces of equipment...unbridled construction...Alaska has it all!

I need to move there...quick!

5:56 PM  
Blogger Woofwoof said...

I'm going to be majorly peeved if Alaska gets warmer than California in the next few days.

If you want that Bobcat loader, just get a more expensive car. It'll make the Bobcat seem like a steal.

9:18 PM  
Blogger DogMa said...

What do you want with an auger?

OK YEAH! OIL! You sly dog. You just wanna make a quick buck.

2:05 AM  
Blogger John said...

brotherbill,
Good point on a Californian doing work around the house . . . but the butter on burn thing, isn't that better known as "cooking?"

deirdre,
I think that's how my house got built, but I think it was on the 2 or 3 year plan (I think there was an inhabited basement before there were walls). I know several people that are in stage 2 or 3.

dame,
No, real houses. Several of them order the stuff prepackaged, and assemble and plumb and wire all summer long.

Our shed is similar, but I have no plans of inhabiting it. That's why I have a basement (it's where the tools are).

lori,
Yeah! I was getting out of my car the other day, and stepped where The Mrs. parks her car. Before long I was looking up at the sky from my back, wondering how in the heck I didn't break the six-pack of bottled beer I had in one hand. Turns out that was the only patch of ice in the place.

al,
The place near mine will be for sale soon . . . (not that I've brought property values down, or anything).

woof,
Almost 40 this morning. Might hit 60 today. Sunny and 60.

10:22 AM  

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