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December 2nd, 2011:

The Great Big Honking Sliding Number Puzzle

I’m doing one of those sliding number puzzles; you know, the ones that have fifteen tiles in a matrix that can hold sixteen, and you have to slide them around until they’re in order. Except that the matrix is the lower level of my house, and the sliding tiles are things like 7′ tall Hundevad bookshelves, credenzas, a 61″ TV set and associated tableage, a treadmill, a queen-sized bed, Carol’s desk and chair, two vertical filing cabinets, a two-drawer lateral file cabinet, eight or nine hundred books in boxes, and enough boxed back issues of QSTs to make me cease wondering where the missing mass in the universe is hiding. And that’s the abbreviated list.

The goal of the puzzle is to get everything now resting on carpet onto areas where there is no carpet. The problem is, three quarters of the lower level is either carpeted or already committed to Big Heavy Things That Don’t Move, like my workbenches and shelves piled nine feet high with stuff that has nowhere else to go. On Tuesday morning bright and early, a crew of much younger guys with strong backs are going to show up here and want to know where to put everything. That means I have to tell them. And that in turn means solving the puzzle.

I leveraged a good deal of work I did nine years ago, when we were gearing up to move everything from Scottsdale to Colorado Springs. I drew nearly all of the big furniture we owned at that time in Visio (or adapted furniture shapes already in the product’s stencil sets) and then drew a floor plan of the house to which we were moving. I dragged the furniture shapes around in Visio until they fit, and when the truck pulled up in front of our rental house, we gave the mover guys a printed copy of the floor plan as I drew it. A year later we did the whole thing again, this time for the new house we had spent a year building. I had to re-draw the floor plan, but the furniture hadn’t changed and the shapes were still useful. Tugging them around the plan allowed us to get the furniture where it had to go the first time, without much need later on to wrestle large massive objects onto dollies and shove them into new arrangements with my fiftysomething back.

That worked well and was actually a lot of fun. It was easy, furthermore, because we had a whole house to play with. This time I have the furnace room (where much of that Big Heavy Stuff That Doesn’t Move actually lives) a single unfinished and uncarpeted bedroom, and portions of my workshop. As it happens, I can get it all in there, but the furniture must be placed in a very specific order and with considerable precision. The treadmill will clear the furnace room door with about 1/2″ on either side. (It won’t clear the other doors at all.) It’s going to be intense, my friends.

The carpeting was damaged by condensate spilling out of our air conditioner this past summer, so we’re ripping it up and replacing it with something a little more robust and a little less pink. Since the carpeting will be gone, we figure it’s as good a time to paint as any, particularly the lower level great room, which looks like it was painted with melted strawberry ice cream. If you wonder we we don’t entertain guests down there, that’s certainly one of the reasons.

So our most intense week in well over ten years continues apace. Carpet samples litter the great room. Vinyl flooring samples for the rear entranceway lie about next to the woodwork while we search for harmony. About six shelf-feet of component data books still need to be boxed, as well as most of the contents of Carol’s office.

I’ll report our progress here as time allows. Christmas cards will be a little late this year, sorry.