Mike’s Dream Home

OK, I pledged to be nice to the NASA administrator until after Christmas. Now that it’s two days after, first let us consider his mighty fan club, including (shockingly) his adoring wife. Who would have thought?

When the petition originally went up, I wish that I’d captured a screen shot of the signatures, because some of them were a hoot. I particularly liked the second one from Marsha Ivins, that said something to the effect of “I have to suck up to keep my job.” Unfortunately, the more entertaining ones have disappeared down the memory hole, because Dr. Horowitz decided that they weren’t entirely in keeping with the intent of the exercise, once again demonstrating the fabled openness to criticism always and proudly displayed by this NASA management team.

Imagine, as an anonymous commenter over at R&S (perhaps Rocketman himself) posted in comments, the (hopefully) outgoing administrator as a housing contractor and architect:

First, take all the plans you’ve paid competing architects to devise to meet your stated needs and shred them, and decree that they will build a 6-bedroom Greek-revival mansion on a 1000sqft lot in a marshy brownfield area that you just happen to have gotten a sweetheart deal on.

Then, after decreeing the size and shape of the shell of the house and choosing a builder, mandate on said builder that the home contain all manner of luxuries, amenities, and frivolities, all of which are to come with multiply-redundant safety features and backups. Then comes the punchline: these features can’t take up any of the limited living space, can’t use any power, and can’t add to the home’s purchase or maintenance costs.

Then let your extended family members have their say. Give pushy and dramatic Cousin Marsha a kitchen and bath for every room, lest your guests die for the lack of them. Let scatterbrained Cousin Glenn redesign the basement and utilities services again and again to suit his whims, because it gives him something to do. Put Cousin Ken in charge of redesigning the entire house around the garage door and opener he already has and wants to unload on you. And put Cousin John in charge of building himself the pretty but extravagant Corinthian columns on the front and continually reimagining the interior decor.

Ignore all the while your soil geologist’s anxious whispers that the swampy lot you’ve committed to using can’t support the weight of the house you’ve decreed. There’s no foundation problem a few extra tons of concrete and rerod can’t fix, after all. Tell the county inspector that everything is hunky-dory, and call the home builder and tell him to reduce the weight of the house by deleting the smoke detectors and fire sprinklers.

To silence the critics of your DIY architectural talent, build a “demonstration” house by reusing the foundation of an abandoned tenement that only cosmetically resembles your dream palace. Use it to show off the fire escape design you’ve long since changed, and that the abandoned foundation of a different structure can support the weight of a completely different home than what you’re actually building. Dismiss criticism that the test is being staged for political reasons and to wow the mortgage lenders, and poo-poo as ignorant and uninformed any concerns that it will do nothing to allay fears about the earthquake survivability of the real thing.

Then, after blowing most of your budget on supporting the cousins in their accustomed style and paying the contractors to make unending whim-driven changes, cut the contractors’ budgets. When they complain that there is too much work and too little resources, mandate a bunch of new major changes. That’ll shut ’em up.

Continue to make fundamental changes even as the walls go up. Why not? It’s not like you have to pay for them, since everything you do is “in scope,” by definition.

And then finally, when move-in day comes in spite of your brilliant multi-degreed architectural leadership, you and your cousins can watch from the cookie-cutter ranch houses across the street as the new owners, financed up to their eyeballs and left without alternate accommodations for five years, carry in all their worldly possessions only to have the castle crumble around them and sink into the mire.

Of course by then you’ve moved on to other concerns, like being the HOA president, so you neatly avoid blame for the tragedy and expense.

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