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frostkingwindowinsulationkitI covered my windows in clear plastic against the cold of winter. No matter how tightly you close the windows, cold air still comes through – more than you think!

I went to Home Depot and found a kit that does the trick: it comes with sheets of clear plastic and a roll of tape that sticks on both sides. The plastic is thin  but the tape means it can be airtight.

Putting it up sounds easy, but it is one of those things where practice makes a big difference. My first few windows look terrible, but my last ones look great.

I am writing this down because by the time I need to do it again I will forget what I just learned.

Here is how to cover a window:

  1. Put the tape all the way round the window frame (inside the house).
  2. Pull off the backing of the tape.
  3. Cover the window with the plastic, sticking it onto the tape.
  4. Cut away plastic hanging over the edges of the frame so it looks nice.

The idea is simple but it takes practice.

Here are some tips:

  1. Measure your windows in advance. They may not be the “standard size”. Mine were not and, on top of that, they came in four different sizes.
  2. Make sure the plastic in the kit is wide enough for your windows and can be cut into the right lengths.
  3. You will need:
    • a box cutter,
    • a Phillips screwdriver (to take down curtains),
    • a pair of scissors (to cut the plastic),
    • a staple gun (to take care of mistakes),
    • a step ladder,
    • a hair dryer (to smooth out wrinkles)
    • and, for work like this, I need music and tea.
  4. Cut the plastic into the right lengths before you unfold it.
  5. Make sure the window is closed as tight as possible.
  6. When you put the tape on the frame, you must put tape all the way round – so the cold air has nowhere to get through.
  7. Use a box cutter to help you take off the backing of the tape.
  8. When you put up the plastic, centre it and stick it to the top of the frame, pressing it firmly onto the tape. Then stretch out the plastic, making it almost tight, and smooth it lightly onto the tape on the other sides of the frame. If it looks good, then press it down firmly onto the tape with your finger.
  9. The bottom of the frame is where you run into trouble:
    • If you stretched the plastic too tightly, it may not reach the bottom tape without coming loose somewhere else.
    • If you stretched it too loosely, then you will have more plastic than tape and it will not be airtight. You will need to staple it.
  10. When you are done, you will have plastic hanging over the edges of the frame. Tearing and cutting that away takes practice. You have to be slow and patient otherwise you will tear off the tape.

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Tips on visiting Rome

colosseum

I have been to Rome twice and just got back from my second time, so while it is all still fresh in my mind, here are some tips on visiting the Eternal City:

  1. Make sure to see the Vatican Museum and St Peter’s. Some will try to talk you out of it because of their feelings about the Catholic Church. Do not listen to them. The Vatican Museum is one of the best in Europe – it is where Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is as well as Raphael’s “School of Athens”. St Peter’s is huge, like a big train station, but it does have Michelangelo’s “Pieta”, the one where Mary is holding Jesus after he died on the cross. Knowing and loving Western art matters more than knowing and loving Catholicism. The Renaissance popes were not holy monks, but rich princes with good taste in art.
  2. Know some Italian. It seems most Italians study English in school, but only one in four or five will know enough English to be able to help you.
  3. Buy a Roma Pass and a good bus map. A Roma Pass will give you unlimited public transport in Rome for three days and free or discounted entrance to two museums. Most people seem to jump on and off buses without a ticket, but you will certainly need it for the Metro, the underground train.
  4. Bus stops are at signs that say “Fermata” or which have bus numbers with lists of their stops.
  5. The main sights to see (divided into three separate walking tours):
    • Day One: Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Forum
    • Day Two: Vatican Museum, St Peter’s
    • Day Three: Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona. Leave time to just hang out at the Steps and the Piazza.
  6. Wear good walking shoes. Many of the good sights are within walking distance of each other.
  7. When waiters ask you “Would you like so-and-so?” make sure you know how much so-and-so will cost before you say yes.
  8. Tips: Waiters do not live on their tips, but you can leave two or three euros if you like.
  9. Try the pizza and ice cream.
  10. If you can get up early enough in the day, consider visiting:
    • Florence and Pisa (three hours to the north)
    • Naples, Pompei, the Amalfi Coast (two and a half hours to the south)
    • Take the bus to one of the outlying towns.
  11. The “Rough Guide to Rome” is generally good except that it is hard to find points of interest on the maps. Read as much of it beforehand as you can, following your interests.
  12. It is best to go with just one other person. Having more than two people in your party will tend to limit your experience of Italy and its people.
  13. Racism: black males seem to make at least some shopkeepers uneasy.
  14. Like the attractions at Disney World, the best time to visit museums is in the morning and late afternoon.

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