It's more than a house. It's an adventure.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Dessication update

I've been starting to feel better the last couple days, in spite of the even dryer air accompanying the single-digit temperatures we saw this weekend. I picked up some saline nasal spray and that helped quite a bit, as have Visine eye drops and drinking some extra H2O.

Lame job postings

Got this last week:

Requires .Net, C# development experience with some exposure to SMS and AD.The Programmer develops procedures for the solution of a variety of well defined business problems, or for segments of complex solutions. Plan and execute computations or processes necessary for computer solutions. Programmer maybe challenged with analyzing processes and developing procedures to process complex system with a high level of reliability and speed.

Doesn't this describe pretty much every worthwhile software development position on the planet (just swap in different technologies)?

Actually, I got this posting twice. 2 different recruiters, 2 different job websites.

The other switch

When I was in college, I became something of a Linux geek. I tried it out, liked what I saw, and embraced it. I didn't have to "borrow" the software needed for my CompSci assignments, it was all there, and free. I didn't have to reboot constantly, like I did with Windows. It was solid, and it did everything I needed. I even managed to go most of my senior year using only Linux, and rebooting only a handful of times, for kernel upgrades mostly.

When I graduated, I kept running Linux at home, even though my employer was an all-Microsoft shop. It was nice to come home to an OS that just sat there and ran. Unfortunately, over time, I started needing to do more work from home, only possible if I booted Windows. I rediscovered Quicken, which only ran on Windows. After a PC upgrade, I discovered that some tasks that had previously been easy for me in Linux were now very hard (burning CDs comes to mind). Windows 2000 was, in my estimation, finally a usable, stable version of Windows - a Windows I could live with. I found myself phasing out my Linux usage, to the point where it was only my "server OS."

Every so often, I'd try Linux again on my desktop. But I was never satisfied. It seemed like a dark time for Linux on my desktop. Things seemed to be worse than I had remembered it. Or maybe I just didn't want to tinker anymore? Windows was Just Working. From the sounds of it, things may not have changed much since - but that's just one small example. I know Linux is working better on the desktop than ever for the overwhelming majority.

So, I've been on Windows 2000, and now XP Pro, exclusively for a few years now. They've been very stable for me. I've gotten my things done that I've needed to get done. I've kept running my Linux server all along and used it for a variety of things, but my desktop has remained Windows - it's working just fine for me.

That time may come to an end in the next year or two. My XP installation isn't going to fall over and die, but I'm going to, at some point, upgrade/replace my computer, and I intend to make it a laptop when I do it. The trouble is, by that time Microsoft Windows Vista will be out, in all six wonderful flavors. And I'm confused as all get-out. I don't need/want "home" edition - I won't be running a media center, and won't be running many high-powered games on it. The "business" editions will likely be more expensive than I want to pay, or won't come on the hardware I want. What is the home hacker/geek who works on the occasional code project to do?

This confusion I think will be what pushes me over the edge into a Mac. I've been wanting one for a long, long time - ever since I first saw Mac OS X on launch weekend. It's got eye candy without the performance penalty. It's got a cohesive feeling across the system. The performance is solid. It's very stable. Hardware conflicts are almost unheard of. It's UNIX underneath, which keeps the Linux geek in me happy. The majority of the software I use on a daily basis already runs on it, or there are even better versions available. The only thing missing right now is Quicken - last I heard, Quicken on Mac OS X wasn't very good. But I've got a good 18 months before it really becomes an issue. It'll open up other possibilities for me as well - cross-platform development for one. No more shackling to Windows with .NET. Sure, I can run a good number of the cross-platform environments on Windows (Ruby, Java, PHP, Perl, etc.) but I get the feeling that they're more "ready" on Mac OS X due to its UNIX underpinnings and the UNIX roots of those platforms.

I just can't see an advantage to me pouring more money into the Windows coffers when the time comes to replace my current hardware & software. I know I should give Linux a look, but for a laptop, Apple is really attractive to me right now.

That's it. I'm switching

No, not to a Mac (that's another post), but switching languages. Ever since I started in The Real World™, I've been using VBScript for my Windows scripting needs because it was lax enough to let me hack something out quick and that was what my first employer had standardized on for all its non-compiled Windows "stuff" (ASP, WSH, etc.).

Late last week, however, I finally got fed up with the total lack of error handling that VBScript offers as compared to other languages while hacking out a script for work. I bit the bullet and, while I may be a few years late to the party, I've decided to do all my future Windows scripting in JavaScript (ok, since it's Windows, it's JScript) - at least till Monad is ubiquitous. try...catch blocks alone make the switch worthwhile. On Error Resume're outta here.

Now, to find a JS runtime for other OSes...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Movie meme

From Cienna2000: Movie Meme: "Supposedly if you've seen over 70 you have no life. Number the ones you've seen." Score at the bottom.

  • Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Grease
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Boondock Saints
  • The Mexican
  • Fight Club
  • Starsky and Hutch
  • Neverending Story
  • Blazing Saddles
  • Airplane!
  • The Princess Bride
  • Young Frankenstein
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • Saw
  • White Noise
  • White Oleander
  • Anger Management
  • 50 First Dates
  • Jason X
  • Scream
  • Scream 2
  • Scream 3
  • Scary Movie
  • Scary Movie 2
  • Scary Movie 3
  • American Pie
  • American Pie 2
  • American Wedding
  • Harry Potter
  • Harry Potter 2
  • Harry Potter 3
  • Harry Potter 4
  • Resident Evil I
  • Resident Evil 2
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Little Black Book
  • The Village
  • Donnie Darko
  • Lilo & Stitch
  • Finding Nemo
  • Finding Neverland
  • 13 Ghosts
  • Signs
  • The Grinch
  • Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • White Chicks
  • Butterfly Effect
  • 13 Going on 30
  • I, Robot
  • Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
  • Universal Soldier
  • Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
  • Along Came Polly
  • Deep Impact
  • Kingpin
  • Never Been Kissed
  • Meet The Parents
  • Meet the Fockers
  • Eight Crazy Nights
  • Cinderella Story
  • The Terminal
  • The Lizzie McGuire Movie
  • Passport to Paris
  • Dumb & Dumber
  • Dumb & Dumberer
  • Final Destination
  • Final Destination 2
  • Halloween
  • The Ring
  • The Ring 2
  • Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
  • Practical Magic
  • Chicago
  • Ghost Ship
  • From Hell
  • Hellboy
  • Secret Window
  • I Am Sam
  • The Whole Nine Yards
  • The Day After Tomorrow
  • Child's Play
  • Bride of Chucky
  • Ten Things I Hate About You
  • Just Married
  • Gothika
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Sixteen Candles
  • Coach Carter
  • Bad Boys
  • Bad Boys 2
  • Joy Ride
  • Se7en
  • Ocean's Eleven
  • Ocean's Twelve
  • Bourne Identity
  • Lone Star
  • Bedazzled
  • Predator I
  • Predator II
  • Independence Day
  • Cujo
  • A Bronx Tale
  • Darkness Falls
  • Christine
  • ET
  • Children of the Corn
  • My Boss' daughter
  • Frailty
  • Best Men
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
  • She's All That
  • Calendar Girls
  • Sideways
  • Mars Attacks!
  • Event Horizon
  • Ever After
  • Forrest Gump
  • Big Trouble in Little China
  • X-Men
  • X-2
  • Jeepers Creepers
  • Jeepers Creepers 2
  • Catch Me If You Can
  • The Others
  • Freaky Friday (the original Disney version)
  • Reign of Fire
  • Cruel Intentions
  • The Hot Chick
  • Swimfan
  • Miracle
  • Old School
  • The Notebook
  • K-Pax
  • Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  • A Walk to Remember
  • Boogeyman
  • Hitch
  • The Fifth Element
  • Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace
  • Star Wars Episode II Attack of The Clones
  • Star Wars Episode III Revenge of The Sith
  • Star Wars Episode IV A New HopE
  • Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
  • Star Wars Episode VI Return of The Jedi...
  • Troop Beverly Hills
  • Swimming with Sharks
  • Air Force One
  • For Richer or Poorer
  • Trainspotting
  • People Under the Stairs
  • Blue Velvet
  • Sound of Music
  • Parent Trap 1 (old)
  • Parent Trap 2 (new)
  • The Burbs
  • The Terminator
  • Empire Records
  • SLC Punk
  • Meet Joe Black
  • Nightmare Before Christmas
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Red Dragon
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • I Heart Huckabees
  • 24 Hour Party People
  • Blood In Blood Out
  • The Virgin Suicides

Total: 51

A few more bite the dust

Astute readers may notice that I knocked a couple items off the list tonight. The doors I'll call weatherstripped for now; I have a door sweep on the family room door, and the other 2 that needed weatherstripping got it a couple weeks ago. I also extended the gutter downspouts with those little "trays" that you can find that disperse the water some. $3 each at Chase-Pitkin.

Finally, one goes to plan

Well, mostly. When we moved in, there was a brass swingarm lamp hung over the head of the bed in the master bedroom. This lamp was an eyesore, and had very obviously been involved in a fire(!) of some sort in the past. We hated it. Additionally, we were always putting the TV remote, our glasses, books, etc. in a drawer under the bed - far from ideal, but work with what you've got, right?

We had an unused shelf lying around that was just the right size for the space, and decided a light or two hung underneath would do the trick. Last weekend while browsing Home Depot, I found 2 halogen "puck" lights for under $10 each. These are thin, disc-shaped lamps that look like, well, hockey pucks. Some require a transformer to step the 120V from the wall down, but these were direct-wire. Score!

I affixed the puck lights to the underside of the shelf just inside the supports. I then took the brass lamp down and spliced the puck light wires into the remaining wires coming out of the wall. Put a decorative cap (meant for ceiling installations) over the wiring ugliness, and we're set! Under $25 if you don't count the shelf (and I don't, since I already had it) and it looks better than we had expected. The wires still need to be tacked down - minor detail.

Now, you're asking yourself why things aren't centered, right? The cap is placed right on the lamp mounting bracket. Like so many other things in this house, it's not in line with the world. The shelf is centered on the wall. The mounting bracket was far from. But I wasn't about to take portions of the wall out to tidy that up.

Curses! Foiled again!

We picked up a ceiling fan Friday night to put in the family room, replacing the horrid flourescent lamp that was in there originally. Today I removed the old lamp and cut the wires so I could pull it down entirely. The plan was to just splice in the fan, mount it, and away we go. That was the plan, anyway. The reality is harsh.

The lamp housing contained a lot of crud which had flaked off the ceiling. The wiring is old. The insulation is brittle, cracked and was literally falling apart when my fingers touched it. Can you say "severe fire hazard", boys and girls? Enjoy these fine photos.

I've decided we need to bring an electrician in to pull new wire - this isn't something I want to tackle. If the wiring was more accessible, no problem, but it's up inside the ceiling and I've never fished wire before. Leave it to a pro.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Frictionless commerce

I read a blog entry somewhere this week about "frictionless commerce" - basically the idea that a website shouldn't require users to jump through hoops just to purchase a product or perform a transaction. Most online commerce sites require that you create an account on their website before you can make a purchase. This just adds extra garbage in the way of you making the purchase and pushes people away. I really need to find that article.

Anyway, my point. I signed up last night for my employee stock purchase plan's website so that I could check my holdings out online and hopefully pull them right into Quicken. Initial signup wasn't too bad - I just needed my investor ID from my paper statement. Easy. Then I had to establish a password. Except it wasn't a regular password. 6 to 20 digits. Not characters - digits. Who can memorize that, especially if you're avoiding using easily-guessed things like your SSN or phone number?

OK, I got through that. Once logged in, I'm able to change my email address, password, phone number...but I can't view my actual holdings until I get yet another "secret number", which will be mailed to me. This is a major pain. Fortunately my account only changes monthly, and it appears that I in fact cannot download to Quicken, so it's not going to hamper me too much, but still, it's a slowdown.

Keeping the books

After last night's adventures with setting up my employee stock purchase plan website login, plus today's issues with my own 401k website, I've come to the realization that we have a lot of online accounts that play a pretty significant role in our financial lives. And I'm the only one who knows all the websites, logins, magic incantations, etc.

I really need to get this stuff centralized and documented. Which means writing down passwords, which I loathe the idea of. So, I'll have to record them all, then encrypt that file so that really only one password is needed. I'm not even sure how many it'll end up being - probably close to two dozen, I'm guessing.

Fun with 401(k)s

I logged into my company-sponsored 401(k) plan website yesterday to check up on things, as it had been a while. Something looked very wrong with my fund allocations, so I tried doing a transfer to correct it. Except...I couldn't! I had submitted an investment election change on 12/29/2005 and it was still showing as pending! Only, what, 7 weeks? Unacceptable!

I called over to our HR office and she said something was definitely whacked and contacted the plan administrator immediately. As of today at Noon, she still didn't have an answer for me, but she said that this had happened to her with this same plan, and it took a month to get it fixed. She also pre-emptively asked them, on my behalf, to back-date the transactions.

This pending transaction is also blocking me from changing my current fund allocations - basically, my money's tied up in a fund I don't want it in.

I was so spoiled my my previous employer's plan. It's managed through Fidelity and everything is run top-notch, transactions turn around in a day or so, and I can download everything into Quicken seamlessly. I feel so lucky that they don't require me to roll my money over now that I don't work there anymore - I made a 20% return in 2005 with that plan! If these difficulties keep up with my new employer's plan, I'm going to seriously consider rolling everything I have vested in the account over to my Fidelity account on an annual or semi-annual basis. I'm gonna have to live off this money in 40 years, I need it safe, secure, and working for me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Really reaching here

One blog I subscribe to is Tricks of the Trade. Occasionally they'll have a really interesting "tip" that makes sense when you sit down and mull it over. But as a former pickup owner, this one boggles my mind:

It's difficult to drive a pickup truck on slick winter roads because the light back end will fishtail. Shovel the snow from your driveway into the truck bed. You'll weigh down the back end and clear your driveway. When it warms up enough to not need the extra weight, the snow will melt and there's no clean up.

What's wrong with this one? Let me count the ways:

  1. What if you actually need the capabilities of your truck? You know, like to haul stuff in the bed? Useless now.
  2. No cleanup? You'll get all kinds of crud from your driveway, road, yard, airborne pollutants the snow picked up, etc. tossed into your bed, which can ultimately wreck it over time unless you have a high-quality spray-in bedliner.
  3. Most pickup bedrails are higher than people want to toss their snow
  4. That mini-glacier is going to shift around once it settles and then starts melting. You don't want that happening.
  5. What if you have a tonneau cover or camper shell? You're SOL

Wish they'd think these "tips" through more before posting.

Stupid spammers

I know, I know, it's redundant. I got a SPAM today that's either 10 days late or 355 days early. Subject line: "Medicines before Valentine Day !!!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More on the floor

After discussions and such, it's been determined that we won't be able to put any sort of insulation in the family room floor between the subfloor and the finished floor. Anything we put down just won't stand up to the abuse. The only option really would be to put down some sleepers and put insulation in the grid that they form, nailing the finish floor to the sleepers.

But, we don't have the space to do it, despite having over 2 inches of clearance between the door bottom and the subfloor. Just not quite enough room. We'll just put the 15# roofing felt down, then the wood, and go ahead with fiberglass batts in the joists this summer.

Late service call

Sears called last night to move our service call from morning to afternoon. Then showed up 2 hours later than the end of the afternoon window they'd given us. Ugh. And we'd rearranged our schedule to make sure someone would be home. Nothing like a wasted afternoon.

But, the bulb in the TV has been replaced, and the picture is definitely brighter. This better fix it once and for all.


This winter has been worse than most for me this year on the "feeling dried out" front. The cold, dry weather takes its toll on everyone - dry, itchy skin, dry eyes, nosebleeds, etc. Between the dry, hot air blasting from the dash vents in the car and the lack of humidity, it gets rough. Making things even worse for me this year are all the work I'm doing in the house and the constant washing of hands, and the fireplace that heats the bedroom. I've felt like I've been on the verge of a nosebleed for the past week straight. It's a dry heat - a very dry heat. We have a humidifier, but it's really not enough for a room this size with that fireplace going. I'd love to put a humidifier right in the HVAC system but the money's not there right now, and I'm not sure how much it would really do for us.

Maybe just a big bucket of water on the mantle over the fireplace for the hot air to pick moisture out of as it rises would help? Probably not.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Fireplace out again

Got a call today at work, the pilot on the fireplace blinked out yet again. I've currently got 2 theories: a burp in line pressure, or a dying battery for the control unit. The latter is easy to test, and I've already replaced that battery with brand new. Let's hope.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Just a little insulation goes a long, long way

As I noted a while back, when we ripped the drywall down in the family room we took the opportunity to stuff in some rudimentary insulation, just 2" Styrofoam sheeting tossed in there. Today, with the outdoor temperatures being in the teens, I noticed that the surface temperatures of the insulated vs. uninsulated portions of the wall were noticeably different - probably a 10 degree differential.

Now I kind of wish we'd ripped more drywall down so we could insulate more. If we had the time, resources, and weather cooperation, ripping all the drywall down, both walls and ceiling, and putting good insulation in would have been terrific.

(Pilot) Light's Out!

Master bedroom was feeling a little chilly this afternoon, but I thought nothing of it as the weather turned pretty cold in the last 36 hours. Tonight, it was approaching "cold" and I noticed the fireplace still wasn't running. Upon closer inspection, the pilot light was out!

This is the second time this has happened to us. Fortunately we've been home both times. Definitely need to keep an eye on the situation. That fireplace will be going for a few straight hours getting the room warmed back up - it was in the 50s.

Warm feet

Decided today that we're going to put some insulation between the subfloor and the pine floor that we're putting in the family room. Don't need much, just a little to help keep the cold from creeping up from the crawlspace. Just need to find the right product and a decent price on it. Tough to find this stuff online.

More Frost King

We're seriously helping this company's bottom line this year. Picked up one of their window shrink-wrap kits this morning for the pantry and family room windows as they're a little drafty. It's already made a noticable difference in the pantry. It's ugly, and it's only a temporary solution, but it makes things a lot more comfortable.


It's no secret that we had some seriously high winds on Friday here in NY. I got a call from my wife when she got home telling me that we'd lost a tree in the backyard. One of the larger trees about halfway up the hill in the backyard twisted, split and fell due east. Fortunately, it didn't hit any property, but it needs to get taken care of. It could very easily roll down the hill, if not for the several trees holding it up.

I'll have to go over and meet the neighbor on that side of the house tomorrow if/when we get a chainsaw over here so we can clean up. This is the second tree we've lost on the property, the first coming down before we took posession (but that one was dead and rotten; this one, I'm not so sure just yet). Looking at some of our other trees with a more critical eye, I think we've got 2 or 3 more that will need to come down soon as they look pretty sick and the last thing we need is to have trees falling on us.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Next Subversion idea

A little background, first. And this'll assume some familiarity with basic SCM concepts.I am attempting to put into place a system whereby we use AnthillOS to deploy any changes to our application, eliminating the need for anyone to log onto the server directly. To build/deploy in the alpha test environment, we always pull from the trunk revision. Once we're satisified with what we have in alpha, we'll cut a tag, and then deploy that tag to the beta test environment. Once we're happy there, it's another tag flagging the release for production.

The challenge here is, however, I don't want to have a lot of tags flying around. In SVN, tags are really just copies, and copies are cheap, so it's not a waste of space - it's just clutter that I don't want non-developers to have to sift through. So I turned to one of my two SVN books, Subversion Version Control: Using the Subversion Version Control System in Development Projects by William Nagel. In section 12.1, he discusses briefly "sliding tags" - basically, one creates a single tag (for example, /tags/beta) and then points that tag's svn:externals property at the trunk revision that should be tagged for beta. If you need a new trunk revision to be tagged for beta, just update svn:externals. The property changes will be tracked, because SVN tracks all those changes, and you aren't playing the game of deleting the tag, then re-creating it. Think of it as a symlink.

Then I got to thinking some more - can I daisy-chain this concept, and point my production tag at the beta tag at a particular revision? Since that svn:externals property will be tracked and versioned just like anything else in the repository, I should be able to point production's tag at a particular version of the beta tag. It has the potential to get confusing, but it can also be very powerful.

I'm still not 100% certain it will work, but my tentative procedure is this:

  1. We decide that /project/trunk at rev 172 is solid in alpha, and ready for beta
  2. Set svn:externals on /project/tags/beta to point at
    http://server/Repos/project/trunk@172. Assuming no other commits have happened, we're now at rev 173.
  3. Build in beta from http://server/Repos/project/tags/beta
  4. We complete beta testing and we're satisfied with the results. No other commits have happened in the repository, so we're still at rev 173.
  5. Set svn:externals on /project/tags/production pointing at http://server/Repos/project/tags/beta@173 . After this commit, we're now at rev 174.
  6. Build in production from http://server/Repos/project/tags/production
  7. Life goes on, and work in alpha has progressed to revision 200, and we're ready for beta.
  8. Update svn:externals on /project/tags/beta to point at http://server/Repos/project/trunk@200 . We're now at rev 201.
  9. If we now check out the production tag, we should still get the trunk at revision 172, because production still points at beta at 173, which points at trunk revision 172.
Like I said, it's a slightly complex chain to follow, but properly documented, I think it's pretty manageable. Still working on my proof of concept, as it were. I really hope it works out.

Well, so much for that idea

Had to roll back all my glorious code changes I'd been making over the past week, as we (the corporate "we") want to do things differently. Really, the whole issue stems from the completely ad-hoc design of the application/system in the first place; if I could rework more of the system, maybe I could make a better argument for the changes I had been working on.

I also discovered, by accident, that I have update rights on a dev database that I should only have read access to. I think.

Minor update

  • 2 coats of paint on the upstairs bedroom trim. It's really helping the color scheme in there.
  • Installed some outlet & switch sealers on a few exterior-wall outlets & switches to protect against drafts.
  • The dumpster was removed today. We have our driveway back!
  • Removed the masking tape from the crowm moulding in the kitchen. A word of warning: do not let this stuff sit for a few weeks after you've painted. It becomes much harder to remove. I didn't lose any paint, but did need a razor blade to remove it all.
  • Cleaned up the dining room table some, as it'll be used this weekend/next week, and we're going to be putting a rug under it Saturday.
  • I really need to clean up my little desk area here so the cats have somewhere to hang out with me

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

TV (once again)

Well, the TV in the master bedroom had been acting better, but tonight it's once again flaked out and we're picture-less. The new lap is here, and Sears will be here on Tuesday to install, but I want my TV now! It really seems to be sensitive to the room temperature, but that may just be due to the lamp being bad.

Dang cats! (again)

They're getting into and onto everything we don't want them around. I'm going to have to spend some serious time getting my little computer area cleaned up this weekend so that it's not a problem when they do get up on the desk.

Non-house stuff?

Yes, I do plan on discussing non-house stuff here once time allows. I've finally started some development work at the new job, and I'm still working some kinks out. What am I using?

  • Apache Tomcat as an app server/servlet container for a JSP/servlet web app.
  • Subversion for version control.
  • Eclipse for an IDE. Refactoring rocks. Extract Method blew my mind yesterday morning, and all the automatic warnings about unused code are terrific. Gimme 3 days with this thing and I'll have the app screaming fast.
  • Subclipse for Eclipse/Subversion integration

And more. Right now I'm having fits getting Eclipse with the web tools (the name escapes me right now) to edit JavaScript files like real code, complete w/ refactoring support and all that goodness. And I'd kill to be able to actually step through a debugging session and deploy my app to my local server. And a dual-processor (or at least dual-core) box would be great, since compiling, and the initial JIT compile, with Java are total hogs.

And while we're at it, I want a pony.

Hooray for paint!

Primed the trim in the upstairs guest room tonight. What a pain. Hopefully we've got our colors good at this point and won't need to repaint anything.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bats in the belfry? I wish

Jason posted this week that he had a squirrel in his ceiling, but managed to trap the sucker and get it out of the house. I should be so lucky.

That hole in the northeast corner of the roof was partially patched by the previous owner, but not done to my satisfaction. We've spent some time upstairs this weekend due to the painting, and it really sounds like there's critters in the space between the ceiling and the roof. Sounds like cats on a hardwood floor, scrambling around up there. I am not amused.

Now, it's possible that they're just messing around with the vents, as I've seen them around those, but it sounds too close to our ears in many instances. I really need to get someone over to get an estimate on fixing the hole, and then figure out if we need someone to get the monsters out of the space. Not looking forward to that bill & negotiation w/ the seller. I expect that she'd be responsible for it, as it stems from a problem she faile to adequately repair per our request prior to purchase.

NBC Olympic coverage

Mike's a little tired of how Bob Costas and NBC are handling some of the Olympic coverage. Gotta agree. The opening ceremonies were, true to NBC form, full of commercials, interruptions, too much talking and far too many camera angle cuts. Let me watch the whole, big picture, not so many close-ups!

Are we really at the point where the average american can’t deal with a few minutes of artistic expression lacking explanation without losing their minds and flipping the channel?

I really hope this was a rhetorical question, Mike - of course the answer is YES.

But my beef with NBC goes deeper than the opening ceremonies. Both Saturday and Sunday mornings, I flipped NBC on to find...childrens' programming and news shows. Say what? NBC paid, what, billions of dollars for the broadcast rights, and they're squandering them? US East Coast morning is Torino afternoon/early evening. Show me some live coverage! I don't want to see selected pieces of certain events timeshifted 12 hours - show me all the athletes who are strong competitors, live! Stick with the whole event, don't cut away after 30 minutes to come back in an hour. Do something to hold my attention. It was only by sheer luck that I was flipping around and caught the USA women vs. Germany hockey game on USA Network.

First Olympics broadcast in HD, and the one HDTV that I have hooked up doesn't have an HD tuner built in like my other one does, nor does it have an HD-ready cable box hooked up to it.

Oh what a weekend!

Seems like we got a lot done this weekend. She primered and painted the upstairs front bedroom and the family room. I...let her. No, seriously, what I can remember doing:

  • 3 loads of laundry.
  • Got most of the wiring finished up for the "server closet", the space over the bathroom in the front upstairs bedroom. I've been using wire management products (fancy name for conduit and related parts) from Genova, purchased at HEP Sales in Newark. Easy to work with, looks clean, and it's making the wiring a breeze.
  • I've got most of the easy-to-reach hot water piping covered with pipe insulation now. Every little bit helps, and for 97 cents/6 feet, it's a cheap upgrade.
  • I also managed to put a "blanket" on the water heater to help it stay warm. Again, it's a small step, but $15 today will save us far more in the long run. I also turned the water heater down a notch as we've nearly been scalding ourselves in the sink & shower.
  • I finally weatherstripped the front and kitchen doors. Can't see daylight through the sides anymore! With this and the previous two items, I'm calling stage one of my "insulate infrastructure" to-do list item complete.
  • Touched up some of the missing mortar in the family room wall with a very interesting product from a company called Sika. It's basically mortar in a bag - you pour in some water, seal the cap, knead/mix with your hands, then tear off the top of the bag and start troweling. I think I got as much on the floor as I did in the joints, but it's looking better at least.
  • Did a test application of a polyurethane on the bricks to see how it'll work out. See my post from yesterday about my call to the Ask The Builder radio program. Jury's still out on the test results - I may need to do a second coat, and I'll also be looking for a silicone elastomer to test out. We have some time, as the floor is at least 2 weeks out at this point.
  • Hung mini-blinds in the upstairs bathroom.
  • Picked up two big hairballs in the closet. Blech.

Looking around the house, I don't feel like I accomplished that much - many of the things I did this weekend you can't see. I guess, to put it in computer geek terms, it's like refactoring code - the end user may never notice, other developers may not even notice, but it's critical maintenance to your infrastructure that needs to be done and pays big dividends down the line.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

But it's only primer!

Wow. What a transformation. 3 coats of primer have been applied to the walls in the family room (2 coats on the walls that were previously painted) and it's looking like a habitable room finally! We still have a long way to go, but it's major progress. The drywall seams and patches have melted away and really aren't visible unless you know exactly what to look for and where.

We picked up the final color paint tonight, as well as the primary color for the upstairs front bedroom. And we've started decorating the upstairs bathroom as we'll have company next weekend. We have a shower curtain and bathmats, and we're going to do the trim in a cranberry color to match. Just a little splash of color to give the room some pop.

And now, a PSA

Give blood. Please

This week I made my 7th blood donation. I was first "dragged" to a blood drive by my parents several years ago, but have done it myself 6 times since. I've decided to attempt the full number of donations I'm allowed in 2006. And I'd like to see more people do it.

I've never needed blood myself. But I may someday. Hospitals need blood constantly. It's one of the few medical supplies that can't just be maufactured. There is no substitute for it. But only 5% of the population that's eligible to donate actually does. Some out of ignorance; some out of fear; some out of apathy. Some Q&A from my own experiences.

Does it hurt?
A little, but it's quite tolerable. Compared to the pain that the recpient(s) of my donation will be in, it's nothing. You get used to it. Just relax and remember to breathe.
Is is convenient?
Quite. Living near and working in a sizeable city, there are often blood drives right near my office. I spend my lunch hour donating and I don't miss a beat at work. The Red Cross will also do drives at malls, churches, firehouses, plenty of places in your community on a regular basis. You can work with your employer to bring a blood drive to the office. Or you can just go to a donation center any day. Find a blood drive.
I figure "why not?" I'm eligible, it's only 6 times a year, there are convenient blood drives, and it takes less than an hour. Every time you donate, you get points that can be redeemed for blood donation-related merchandise, or you can donate your points to charity. It's a contribution that cannot be equalled in time or money - it really is a priceless gift.
I probably can't donate, they turned me down a few years ago because of <whatever reason>
Find out if you're eligible today. The rules have changed, and many are time-based, so if you weren't eligible a year ago, you may be now.
Ok, I'll do it. How do I prepare?
Find a drive. Make sure you drink plenty of water the day of your donation. Make sure you eat a balanced diet for the week before your donation, including proper amounts of iron, as you can't donate if you're anemic. Relax, enjoy the juice and cookies, and think about all the people you're helping.

If you have a rare blood type, or are a universal donor (type O negative), it's even more important that you donate.

What to do about the brick

I called in to Ask the Builder this morning to ask Tim what we should do to seal up the brick wall in the living room. My primary concerns are about mortar and brick flaking off and dust getting everywhere.

Tim suggested we try a water-based urethane to seal it all up. I got another suggestion (from someone who knows Tim) that we look at a silicone elastomer. We have a little more clean-up to do on the brick, plus some tipping to fill in gaps, and we'll be ready to roll sometime this week.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A quick tour of the to-do list

Just taking a moment to touch on some of the more cryptic items on the to-do list.

  • Fence front porch - The front porch (off the kitchen) has no railing or anything even resembling one. This needs to get remedied, obviously. We're considering hanging a bench seat swing on the end as well.
  • Wire "server closet" - To get things out of the way, I'm going to run some conduit up the wall in the front guest bedroom to the area above the bathroom and stash my linux box, cablemodem and router there. This really will be the completion of my idea of January 25th.
  • Reinforce floors - Say what? Yeah, I wrote "reinforce floors". There's a few areas where the floors aren't exactly weak, but they have some give to them. I'm thinking some 2x6 or 2x8 blocking between the joists in a few key spots will help tighten things up. Nothing major. We do, however, need to look at an extra support post or two for one of the main load-bearing timbers that runs under the dining room and living room.
  • Fill various "little" gaps - Especially at the north end of the house, there are some areas where settling has caused the floor to pull away from the edge of the house, exposing a small gap that leads into the basement or crawlspace as the case may be. Nothing serious, but I do want to get these caps filled/covered.
  • Overhaul master bedroom closet - It's just a mess right now. It needs to be cleaned up, painted, and a proper closet organization system put in. I'd love to turn the door into a pocket door or even a folding door to save some space. Right now the door swings inward, making the space behind it difficult to utilize.

It's chilly in there

Been noticing the family room has been chilly of late (since the temperatures outside started to drop). For a while, I thought it was just the door, window, and lack of insulation on the walls. But last night, as I was sanding and patching some of the drywall, I discovered it's not so much what's coming in, but what's coming up.

Below the family room is only a crawlspace. And the floorboards don't seal up to the walls/sills completely, and we've got those holes from the old plumbing that came up out of the floor when it was a kitchen. And there's plenty of cold coming from there. Fortunately, we'll have the walls finished, new floor in, and some baseboards in place to block the air. And come summer, I'll crawl in there and put some fiberglass batting between the joists to tighten things up some more. In addition to the expanding foam I've been trying to put into that gap on the far edge.

It probably won't make a large difference as far as heating costs, but should hopefully deaden the sound some as we're walking around, and keep the floor feeling slightly warmer.


My brother in law told me before we started on our drywall adventure how much he hates mudding and taping and...I might have to agree. I think we've done OK for our first time out, but it's definitely not something I want to do a lot of.

Patched up a couple holes in the drywall that we aren't replacing last night while my wife applied the second coat to the joints. The patches I got are 7"x7" squares of fiberglass mesh with an adhesive backing. Stick it on, then cover with joint compound, sand, and put on more compound, just like taping seams in regular drywall. Hopefully things will come out looking alright. We'll be using moulding and baseboards to cover up some of the other flaws.

Clean, dry clothes

We got a flexible dryer vent hose yesterday and got it hooked up, so we can finally do laundry! It's not a perfect fit, so I used duct tape (yes, real duct tape!) to actually seal up something that can be legitimately considered ductwork!

Just a note: old washer & dryer, on a wood floor, over a crawlspace, makes for a loud party.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Enough with the commercials already

My first non-house post in...well, a long time.

I've been a Howard Stern fan for several years now - been listening for close to 10 years now I guess. When he was still on FM radio, he tried really hard to promote Sirius Satellite Radio every day on his show after signing his deal with Sirius, to the point where Viacom and Infinity Broadcasting had to give him a talking to.

I ponied up $325 to set my car up with the Sirius gear. I shelled out for a full-year subscription. And what do I hear almost every morning? Howard going on and on about how great Sirius is. Dude, get over it! We're sold already if we're listening to you! You don't have to promote it anymore! Get on with the freakshow already! Get on with the interviews, guests, crank calls and bits that we thought we'd get once the shackles of censorship were released.

On a similar note, I've been listening to Bubba the Love Sponge on Howard 101 in the evenings, and I can't understand how Howard was taking flak from the FCC while Bubba was around. Bubba is what everyone thinks Howard is. It's beyond rude, crude, and twisted. I can only take small doses. How he was ever on terrestrial radio, I have no idea.

Just can't win

Attempted to hook up the dryer tonight, and it turns out that the metal vent pipe they gave us isn't positioned properly, it's off by about 1/2 inch vertically so we can't hook it up to the machine. Gotta get a flexible hose tomorrow night on the way home.

On the plus side, my pipe insulation and gas tube jiggling seems to have done the trick. HVAC has been quiet for 24 hours.


Had Sears out again this morning to check out the TV that they repaired a couple weeks ago. It's been acting (based on what little I can get from the manual) as though the lamp is on its way out. The technicial agreed (luckily it was flaky for us when testing, it's been intermittent) and thought that they may have put the old bulb in when replacing the light engine last time around. New lamp ordered, and service call scheduled for 2 weeks.

I'm seriously considering putting a fan in the cabinet where the TV sits. It's got some ventilation room, but not a lot, and could probably benefit from such an addition. I think I'll go with something that's controlled by a thermostat so I don't have to think about turning it off/on.

New feature: To-Do list

I've created a to-do list on the righthand side to track progress with the house. I'm sure it'll grow before it shrinks. Items that are crossed out indicate that they've been completed, and once I play catch-up I'll try to make those items links to the relevant posts.

Monday, February 06, 2006

My first comment!

Neenie from over at The Chronicles of George was kind enough to post the first comment on my blog. So, without further ado...

I love the blue wall color in the kitchen, That's just gorgeous. I also am envious of your ability to keep magnets on the refrigerator with cats in the house. My 2 used to *live* to knock 'em off and carry 'em around in their mouths. :)

Thanks! The color is based on the tile that we'll be putting behind the stove once we get back to that little project. It'll really tie the room together. As for the fridge magnets, our critters haven't really gone after them, by some stroke of luck. They're on the counters and everywhere else they shouldn't be, but have never bothered fridge magnets.

What's the hole in the bricks at the top of the wall?

If you're referring to the one up near the ceiling with the foam oozing out of it, we think that's the original pipe for a wood stove that was in the room way back when it was a kitchen. Probably 40 or 50 years ago, but we aren't certain. Once things settle down some I'm going to try to get into town records and get into the history of the house.

New gremlins!

Since Friday, we've been having random rattles coming from the ductwork, mostly in the area of the pantry. Wondering if the plumbers bumped something. I found a couple loose areas of gas pipe near ductwork, one by a cold air return and one leading out to the kitchen/pantry. I slipped some pipe insulation over the former and couldn't reach the latter. Hopefully this helps.

Light's out!

Woke up this morning and the bedroom was a bit chilly. When I finally did get up, I noticed that the fireplace wasn't running, as it should have been with the room as cool at it was. Turns out the pilot light went out in the middle of the night. When, exactly? I have no idea. Furnace and water heater were fine.

Will have to keep an eye on it for a few days, as the temperature is starting to head lower again.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Overdue for an update

I've been lax so far in February.

The plumber was out on Friday to relocate the gas, water and drain for the laundry. Actually, it was four of them. And it sounds like the boss didn't tell them that someone had to get into the crawlspace ahead of time. Oh well. Everything's hooked up except for the gas, I need new fittings for the dryer before we can do that. They ended up having to run the washer drain almost all the way across the house, they couldn't regrade the drain for the kitchen sink.

Saturday, we ran some electrical for the washer & dryer. Rather than try to fish the line, I picked up some wall-mount junction boxes and conduit. It looks nice, better than I had anticipated. I'll be using more of this upstairs for my server "closet" above the bathroom.

At some point, we decided to take down the piece of drywall we had mounted on the wall near the window in the family room, as we had put a large hole in it that I didn't want to patch. We hung one full slab next to the south one we had done previously, and then cut a narrow one for the final gap. I attempted to countersink the last of the screws sticking up, and we proceeded to mud & tape. For our first drywall job, I think it looks pretty good. Just need to sand, mud again, sand and then we're ready for paint. We're going with a guacamole color for the walls, it'll go nicely with the red brick.

And speaking of brick, the plaster has been expunged from that wall, about 99% of the way! Just some final cleanup and we're all set. Then some mortar to fill in gaps, a new brick or two to fill in holes, and we're ready for some masonry sealer, just to keep things together and clean.

The photo gallery (link at right) has been updated with the latest progress.