Things We Don’t Talk About

Jeff Powell
5 min readJan 29, 2021


Regular readers have probably noticed that quite a bit of my life goes unmentioned here. For various reasons I avoid topics that are too personal.

I mention this because there is a large hole in the past week caused by one of those medical procedures that people of “a certain age” are generally subject to, though the specific medical recommendations on this particular topic appear to vary between the US and Canada, at least.

Anyway, I lost a couple of days to said procedure. I’m fine, but the details are not the stuff of polite discourse, so you will just have to wonder.

What’s left this week is reduced as a result, but I will do what I can.

First, there’s this:

Sorry about the reflections. The photo was taken through a window and is the best I could do without getting out a ladder in January.

What you see is a tarp wrapped around the fireplace chimney. I’ve mentioned before that we’ve had water drip into the fireplace during some (but not all) rain storms. Weeks ago I put that tarp up and it stopped the problem, so I am confident the issue is the chimney vent, and not the roof, flashing, and so on.

Back when we had the chimney repointed (that is, we had the mortar between the bricks replaced so the bricks don’t fall out) the guys doing the work told me that some of these old chimneys don’t keep all the wind driven rain out. A wide metal cap/flashing can be put on top to provide better protection, but apparently they are really ugly. I don’t want to go that route if I can avoid it, and we have no intention of using the fireplace for anything other than candles, so the chimney itself is basically pointless.

Before I put the tarp up, though, I tried covering the chimney vent (under the concrete cap) with a piece of plywood held down with a rock. Sadly that didn’t work. It turns out that there is a large gap around the vent that water can get through. I’d need a good photo to explain it better (which would require removing the tarp) but trust me that a fix for the problem requires closing up the mortar joint around the ceramic chimney vent. It also requires better weather because all the patch compounds I have looked at need higher temperatures to cure properly.

Once spring arrives I will get up there, remove the tarp, seal up the gap, and leave an inverted, aluminum baking sheet covering the vent, held down by a rock. At least, that is the plan, and I will document it when it happens. In the meantime, the tarp remains to keep wind driven rain from getting in again.

I lead an exciting life, eh?

In other news, I did not get any more work done relating to the CNC. I need to knuckle down and make that happen but “things” got in the way this week. Things involving anaesthesia.

Also, the parts that might fix the table saw fence have yet to arrive, so that issue remains unchanged. (Update: they arrived while I was proofreading this post. With luck I will have news next week.)

Good news: we managed to finish hanging art in the guest room and the library. Here’s an interesting piece that we’ve now hung for the first time ever:

Sorry the photo is a bit blurry and distorted. I had to use the panorama mode on my camera to take the picture because the carp is too large to fit in a single frame, at least while trying to photograph it from inside the room. It’s huge — something like 13' long.

What you see is a traditional Japanese windsock flown on Boy’s Day (Tango no Sekku) celebrated to help boys grow up healthy and happy. My parents gave it to me twenty years ago, but this is the first time we’ve had a place large enough to hang it.

Should you stay with us, be prepared for fishy dreams!

Other than that, the rest of the week went into preparing for the annual income tax filing and reviewing my friend’s next book.

The latter is great fun, and reminds me of this possibly apocryphal quote:

No passion in the world, no love or hate, is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.
— H. G. Wells

I don’t know how real editors do it — I am definitely not a real editor — but my technique involves two passes. In the first I read relatively quickly, tracking the story and characters, looking for issues the writer might want to consider changing in regards to plot problems or characterization questions. During the second pass I slow down and look for grammar and other textual issues.

I can fly through the first pass, at least with the book I am reviewing now. By the time Doug (the author) gives me any text he has handled most of the easy stuff. As a result, the first time through I wind up reading more like an actual reader, rather than as an editor.

The second pass, though, goes slowly. Doug is very good and makes few mistakes, but keeping an entire novel straight for over 200 pages (so far) is not simple, and things do come up. I do my best to find the issues and show them to him. I make suggested changes in many cases, but for some I just write up my concern and let him address it — or not — as he sees fit.

As for income tax preparation, a thing you might not be aware of is that taxes are a huge mess for Americans living abroad. US citizens are required to file with the IRS every year, even if they never set foot in the country. This is called Citizenship Based Taxation, for obvious reasons. Back in 1995 there were only three countries that did this: Eritrea, the Philippines, and the USA. And in 1996 the Philippines changed their rules and stopped doing it.

As a result of this awful policy, every year we have to file tax returns (and pay taxes) in two countries, and that is so complicated that you never, ever file them yourself. Instead you find an accountant who understands cross border tax issues. The rules between the US and every other country vary widely and change regularly. It takes a dedicated professional to keep up, and each year we have to assemble a mountain of data so our accountant can do the job.

I started the data gathering process back on January first, since some of what we need is found in simple things like bank account statements. The process continues to this day, and will go on for quite some time.

Fun, eh?

And no, I didn’t do any tax data gathering while still under the influence of anaesthesia. Tempting though it might be, that is a bad idea.

That winds up this week’s post. Keep safe and sane out there, and get your vaccine ASAP!



Jeff Powell

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.