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

Thursday, September 28, 2006

What I've been up to

Not much house stuff. Work got crazy this week. I'm in charge of App1, which we're currently working on version 2 of which will integrate with a very large system we've bought from a vendor. I have a steno notebook which I'm keeping my to-do list in. I have a full page of items (one item per line), and the list never seems to shrink. One item comes off, 2 more go on. We're losing one of the key developers provided by the vendor, and guess who's going to be picking up the stuff he had been doing. So, a quick rundown on what I've got on my plate:

  • Manage App1 version 1
  • New system analysis and investigation for writing specs, queries, etc. to be used by App1 version 2
  • Updates to multiple reports and web screens for VendorPackage, including working out the exact requirements for what has to be done.
  • Set up new repository for managing VendorPackage project documentation.
  • Teach people how to use Subversion for the above
  • Mock up some forms to ask people to use when requesting changes so I don't have to ask a million questions when they send me a one-sentence request for a change.
  • Work with App1 developer to work out how to run multiple instances of App1 version 2 on the same web server, each instance pointing at a different database environment (it was originally designed for a 1:1 relationship).
  • Develop test scripts/scenarios for App1 version 2.
  • Various impromptu meetings and phone calls to discuss all of the above.
  • About to start learning our new check scanning/processing system. Currently covering for someone else while the vendor does some debugging, but I don't know any of the history of what's been going on with the issues thus far.

Time management has been interesting. I disabled my email notification app today so that I wasn't constantly interrupted by messages coming in. That had me feeling out of the loop, but I was able to concentrate. I also started blocking out time in my calendar - from 8 to 9, I'd only work on task 1, 9 to 10 task 2, and so on. If I tried to task-switch on demand, I just wouldn't have gotten anything done. It worked pretty well, until about 10:30 AM, at which point I had to start talking to other people and taking phone calls. I was able to get back to it in the afternoon.

So much to do, so little time.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Donated again

There was a blood drive next door to my office today so I went over and donated blood during lunch. I'd actually made an appointment for it a few days ago, but completely forgot until I saw the signs in the lobby promoting it.

I mentioned a few months ago that I wanted to do the full 6 donations this year, but I fell off the schedule and that won't happen. My last time, I attempted to do the double red cell donation, but the needle was inserted wrong and they were only able to get one unit. Today, I was asked if I wanted to try the double again, and said I'd rather not, explaining why I was hesitant. I was told that I probably had a rookie the last time, and today's double-red technician was a seasoned pro. So, I decided to go for it.

In the screening, my red cell count was 50%. I have no idea what this means beyond it being exceedingly high and seen very rarely. OK, so I'm a good candidate. That plus my good veins, they love me there. I got hooked up, and it went much better than last time.

The double-red donation process is a little more complicated than a regular donation. You're hooked up to an Apheresis machine, which basically separates blood components. One unit of blood is drawn, then the red cells separated from the rest (plasma, etc.). Everything but the red cells is then returned to your body, plus some saline solution. Then, repeat that for a second unit. The whole process, done right, actually hurts less than a regular blood donation. Just a couple extra little "twinges" when things change direction. But there's one thing I didn't count on, one thing they didn't tell me. And I'll tell you now.

Bring a blanket.

All those fluids they put back into your veins? They're at room temperature. That cools you off in a big hurry. I was actually shivering. It would have been great this summer on one of those 95° days.

This donation brings me up and over the 1 gallon milestone. Where's my cookie?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Finally, construction!

Nope, not on the house. The road construction we were told about in May, which was to begin at the end of July, began today. Let's hope it doesn't mess things up too much.

The laundry equipment

By popular demand (one comment counts as "popular" around here), here's what we bought.

The washer is a GE WHRE5260EWW. Energy-Star certified, 3.5 cubic feet, nearly silent.

The dryer is a GE Profile DPGT250GCWW (I think - too lazy to go check). Dries in about half the time the old dryer needed. And again, very quiet.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Close encounter of the rodent kind

Went up on the roof today to measure the old chimney so that I can buy something to put up there to keep rodents out. I caught a squirrel jumping in there a couple months ago - guess that explains the noises and other evidence we found in the family room ceiling.

So, there I was, taking my measurements, and trying to pry the stone cap that was put up there off the bricks giving it some airspace. Suddenly, something catches my eye - it was a squirrel coming up out of the chimney! I almost sealed it up with the critter still in there. Before I close things up for real, I'll have to take a mirror and a big light up there so I can see down the chimney to make sure everything is OK.

Long-term, the chimney has to come down completely, but that won't be until we have that portion of the roof redone.

The joy of new toys

The new washer & dryer are an amazing upgrade from the ones we got with the house. They're nearly silent in comparison, and don't rattle the whole house. My wife called the washer a "bottomless pit" after it took what the old washer would have considered a "large" load and it was barely half-full.

The dryer is absolutely unreal. It's got a light inside. It has a touch-screen LCD for operating it. It dries clothes in half the time the old one did. Had we gotten the matching washer, the washer would actually communicate with the dryer to tell it how best to dry the clothes.

This is what 15 or 20 years of laundry technology progress looks like. It's nice.

And that was just one day!

We haven't had a "productive" day on the scale of today in quite a while.

We got up early today so that we could prepare the pantry for our impending washer & dryer delivery, believing that they'd arrive in the morning. Cleared lots of stuff off shelves so those could be removed. A good chunk of project-related materials were sent down to the basement. Relocated the cat stuff to the hallway. I disconnected everything and moved the dryer into the kitchen. Then the washer was moved away from its position but kept in the pantry.

I need to rewind a bit here. Early last week, we started noticing that the pantry floor felt wet & slippery near the washer & dryer. I thought it was because I'd spilled some fabric softener and didn't clean it up. Then, around Tuesday I guess, my wife noticed a lot of what looked like mold growing on the floor between the wall and the washer. At first we thought the cats had been spraying, but even after I cleaned it up, the mold came back a couple days later. It was starting to look like we might have a leaking washer.

Back to this morning. The washer moved, I picked up the carpet that we had placed underneath. It looked like it might have some mold on it too. Suspicious. Then I noticed the carpet felt damp. Then I felt water run down my fingers, and onto the floor. Jackpot. We had a leaking washer. Talk about dodging a bullet!

We mixed up a Clorox/water solution and cleaned the floor thoroughly. At this point, it's about 10 AM and we have no idea where our delivery is. I called the store and learned that it wouldn't be until mid to late afternoon. So, what else to do?

My wife had planned on painting the nursery ceiling today. Before she started on that, however, she decided that we needed some color in the master bedroom closet. So, the south wall of that is now a greyish sky blue, the same color used in the nursery. She also painted a few sticks of quarter-round for the trim in the nursery. Looking good.

Finally, around 2:30, our delivery arrived. They brought the units in, and started the washer hookup. They don't do gas hookups, but that's no problem as I've done it before. The washer hooked up easily, but they discovered that it lacked a drain hose. Kind of important. They left to make another delivery, and said they'd return with the parts in about an hour.

Since everything was still somewhat pulled apart, I took the opportunity to hook up the gas and vent for the dryer. Gas was cake, no leaks on the first try. The vent hose required extensive modifications before I could get it to fit right. Just a matter of the amount of space vs. the design of the tube. Eventually I got it. Shortly after that, the Lowe's guys returned and hooked up the drain tube for the washer, and we were in business.

A little tidying up, pantry reconstruction, and then we put the clothes back in the closet. Long day.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Building a new wall

I ran outside tonight after dinner to attempt to get a little more done in the yard. Time is starting to run short in the evenings now with the days getting shorter. Instead of working on creating new grassy areas, I went to work on the "island" between the bedroom, shed and fence.

The island is pretty well set, as far as plants go. But, it lacks definition. It's just a mound of dirt with a lilac tree, some hostas, and a bleeding heart planted in it. We decided to put our giant pile of rocks to good use, and build a small stone wall around the island to give it some character and a well-defined border.

I managed to get about one third of the wall built before running out of daylight. I also was having trouble finding suitable rocks. I'm sure there are more in there, I just need to dig through and find them all. The pile is completely surrounded by plants now, so it's a little difficult.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Cleaning out the closet

My wife ripped through all of her stuff in our master bedroom closet today, putting away all her summer clothes and all of her non-maternity clothes. End result: very, very few clothes of hers left in the closet. Once she was done, I decided to attack my own.

First step: remove the door. The door opens into the closet, toward the shelves/hangers. This effectively makes 3 feet of shelving/hanger space inaccessible. Moved some things around, put quite a few shirts and pants on the Salvation Army pile, took the winter clothes out and put some summer clothes away, and my section was looking a little better.

We also attacked the back wall and opposite side. We cleared out the plastic shelves that the previous owner had left, and broke them down for use elsewhere (I have shelves for the basement now!). The weird cabinet that was in there is gone now. Shoes will all go under the hanging stuff on the right side of the closet.

Looking at what's there now, we think we'll have enough space to put the changing table and maybe even a small dresser for the baby clothes in the closet. That solves a lot of problems for us.

Saturday, September 02, 2006


That's supposed to be "compact flourescent" up there.

A while ago, we decided we wanted to try to minimize the electrical load of our lighting. Rather than throw out perfectly good bulbs, however, we're doing it gradually - as bulbs burn out, they'llbe replaced with compact flourescent bulbs.

The house came with CF in a couple kitchen fixtures, but last week the 100W bulb in the master bath finally popped. I replaced it with a 13W CF bulb and it's quite a difference. Not as bright (expected), a bit of a lag after flipping the switch (expected), and a bit of a purple cast (unexpected). The kitchen bulbs are in blue glass "shades", so any purple cast isn't noticable. I find myself using the second light in the bathroom, also a CF, but this one a ring type instead of a more conventional socket a lot more than I used to. But I know that combined, these 2 CF bulbs are drawing less than half the juice the old 100W bulb did.

As winter approaches, we'll start using more lights more often, so we'll have more opportunity to replace them and see how the whole house looks being lit this way.

Major impulse buy

My wife got a call from her father this morning while we were still in "wake up" mode. He said that someone had just returned a gas dryer to his Lowe's store and wanted to know if we were interested in it. We showered, dressed, and rushed there.

Our current dryer works well enough, but the washer is quite old, small, noisy and inefficient. The dryer was marked as originally being $300, and on "clearance" for $99. Bigger than what we have, obviously newer, and most likely more efficient. It had some scratches and dings, but hey, for $99, as long as it works, right?

So, on to washers. We ultimately settled on a 3.5 cubic foot GE top-load model. Maybe a front-load or high-efficiency model would have been better, but at significant extra cost, and we've heard about a number of problems with front-loaders. Besides, this unit is Energy Star certified, which is a good start, and it's still far better than what we already have. $450 for that. $99.99 for the extended warranty with in-home service. $65 for delivery (which we'll get back via mail-in rebate). Toss in an industrial carpet to go under the pair, a new air filter for the furnace, a big carpet gripper for the rug in the living room, a couple new smoke detectors...

Fortunately, Lowe's is running one of their 12 months no interest/no payments deals for any single purchase totalling $279 or more, plus a $50 gift card (mail-in rebate style) with purchase of appliances totalling $497-$749. So we've got some time to pay it all off.

The dryer has a 1-year warranty on it. If it croaks on day 366, it was (basically) only $50, so it's not like we won't get our money's worth out of it.

Delivery next weekend. Finally, we can do large loads of laundry again!

Bienvenido, Ernesto!

The leftovers of Tropical Storm Ernesto are coming through today. Lots of wind, even more rain - they're predicting 2 to 4 inches. It's been raining pretty hard since about 11 AM today.

I really wish I'd cleaned out the gutters before this came along. Next weekend for sure.