September 30, 2006

Very Tired yet oh-so-content

Big day around the ol' homestead.

I woke up from a nightmare at 5am and couldn't get back to sleep. I haven't done that in a long time, but dreaming that you're about to be ripped apart by a pack of wild dogs with no chance of escape kind of shakes one up, ya know? No biggie, because the alarm was set for 6am anyway. I had things to take care of before the cabinet guys showed up at eight.

Guess who *didn't* show up again today? If you said "[expletive deleted] electrician", then give yourself a cookie.

I made sure that the dogs were penned up out of the way and let the cabinet guys into the house. They were in for a long day, because they have to be done before Monday when the floors get done. As soon as they arrived I took off to run a couple errands, one of which was picking up some plumbing parts for a leaky sink drain upstairs.

When I got back, I found out that my neighbor Mike had called. We had sort of made plans to install a laundry tub in my basement today. He was ready to do it, so we headed out again, right back to the big generic hardware store and then to it's equally big generic hardware store competitor across the street. Before long I had purchased a sink, faucet, and more various plumbing bits.

Mike does this stuff for a living, so I was looking forward to learning something new. In just a few hours we had rerouted the washing machine drain, installed and plumbed the sink, tapped into the hot and cold lines and run new to the sink and relocated the washing machine. I also made another run to the hardware store for a length of copper pipe and also found the lint socks I needed.

The aforementioned lint socks were the reason for this whole exercise. Our basements have a floor drain but no sump, and every couple of years the drains clog from the lint that flows out of the washer with the rinse water. By routing the washer drain into the laundry sink, I could fasten a lint sock to the end of the hose and it would catch all that soggy fluff and keep my drain from clogging. The lint sock looks kind of like a chainmail condom (probably $15.95 from Adam & Eve), and attaches to the hose with a zip tie. After two loads of laundry, there is already visible crud that was captured. Every month or so I'll throw it out and put a new one on, they cost about a buck apiece.

I did make one more run to the hardware store for an extension length of washing machine drain hose.

The cabinet guys were here until 7pm, and one of them will be back tomorrow for a while to finish with the last couple base cabinets. I sent a bag of tomatoes and jalepenos home with them tonight. My neighbor Mike got a bag too.

In totally unrelated news, one of the dogs has horrible gas. We're talking EPA-alert caliber dog farts. We think it's the new dry food they're eating. The plan is to switch back to the old stuff and see if that helps, because I keep expecting guys in white hazard suits to burst into the house and start to decontaminate the whole area.

Part of my movie order arrived today! Expect some reviews in the near future. Cringing won't help, stop being such a wuss.

Posted by: Ted at 09:04 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Poe in the modern day

Found in one of the bulletin boards I visit:

Once upon a midnight dreary,
while i pron surfed, weak and weary,
over many a strange and spurious site of ' hot xxx galore'.

While i clicked my fav'rite bookmark,
suddenly there came a warning,
and my heart was filled with mourning,
mourning for my dear amour,

"'Tis not possible!", i muttered,
"give me back my free hardcore!"
..... quoth the server, 404.

404, even more evil than 666 according to some.

Posted by: Ted at 05:56 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Beautiful and Addicting

From annika, the Falling Sand Game.

Posted by: Ted at 05:23 AM | category: Links
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September 29, 2006

Old friends with new information

That's "old friend" as in, I've known Taz for a long time, not that Taz is old.

Looking at a new cell phone? This lady knows her stuff, and gives a thorough review of the LG Chocolate, the hottest thing on the market since the Razor's debut.

She also does a quickie comparison of several recently released cell phone models.

Posted by: Ted at 08:17 PM | category: SciTech
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A Beautiful Day in the Dramahood

When yet another post about our kitchen renovation just doesn't seem worth the effort, I have to do nothing more than step out onto the front porch to be inspired.

The very beginnings of last night's thunderstorms were rolling in (the worst of it brushed by to our west, there were tornados north of us as well). I was taking out the trash and saw a couple neighbors standing outside. They filled me in on the fun-in-progress.

Seems that the guy living across the street was teaching his daughter/wife/girlfriend (unclear) how to drive. As she was coming down the street, she hit two parked cars. Hard. Hard enough to knock the bead of a truck's tire off the rim. As she tried to back out, she almost hit a couple more parked cars. By this time, someone had come running out of their house and was yelling that they'd better not move that car. The police were called.

Two large groups of people stood around under umbrellas in the rain for several hours, first waiting for the police to arrive, and then as each told their story. As the cops finally drove away, the groups glared at each other from opposite sides of the street. This may not be over.

PS. My phrasing "large groups" may sound odd, but is explained by the fact that both groups are hispanic. I've noticed that the homes in our neighborhood that are owned by hispanics tend to have a lot of people living there. That is merely an observation.

Posted by: Ted at 05:32 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 28, 2006

National Statuary Hall Collection

Check this out.

The National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol is comprised of statues donated by individual states to honor persons notable in their history. The entire collection now consists of 100 statues contributed by 50 states. All fifty states have contributed two statues each.

Follow this link for a list of the pieces in the collection. The list has links for each person, giving their place in history and often some interesting details about the statue itself and the artists who did the work. For instance, Kamehameha I of Hawaii:

Gould was commissioned to create a statue of Kamehameha by the legislature of the Kingdom of Hawai'i and modeled the figure at his studio in Rome in 1879. It was cast in bronze at a Paris foundry in 1880 but was lost in a shipwreck on its way to Hawai'i. A second statue was cast from the same model and arrived safely; it was unveiled by Hawai'i's last king, Kalakaua, in 1883 in front of the Judiciary Building in Honolulu, where it still remains. The first statue was subsequently recovered and brought to Hawai'i; in 1912 it was placed at Kohala Court House in Kapa'au on the Island of Hawai'i, in Kamehameha's home district.

The statue in the Capitol was made from molds taken of the Honolulu statue.

If you like history, here's a nice online place to visit.

Posted by: Ted at 06:02 AM | category: Links
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As if his films weren't scary enough

According to his daughter, the late director Alfred Hitchcock's favorite movie was "Smokey and the Bandit".

Posted by: Ted at 05:29 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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Renovation: No Electricians Were Strangled During the Writing of this Post

There are electrical wires dangling from holes in the walls and ceiling of our kitchen! Yay!

If bees leave curses, we are so screwed. More on that farther down, after the boring crap that you couldn't care less about.

Today most of the rough-in electrical work was accomplished. Of course, this means that the drywall crew will be here again tomorrow to patch all the various holes that must be cut when running wire. As a consequence, the cabinet installation will now start Friday and be finished Saturday, no matter how long it takes.

Bright and early tomorrow morning the electrician will arrive to finish up his bit on the main floor, and then descend to the basement level to swap out the main electrical panel. Wire has already been run for that, so it's a straight exchanging of parts that should take about four hours.

One interesting discovery was made by the electrician downstairs. He cut a couple of holes in the ceiling in order to run the wire to the panel, and over by the back wall of the house he discovered honeycomb. Old honeycomb.

Years ago, we had a bee problem where the little bombers were crawling into a crevice around one of the outside window frames, and into the wall itself. We'd have bees in the house all the time and couldn't figure out where they were coming from, until we finally we caught several emerging from behind some interior window moulding. I leaned down to look closer and my hand went through the drywall and into a beehive. They were as surprised as I was. We quickly blocked the hole by covering it with a large trash bag taped to the wall, and then plans were made. I started off by fogging the hell out of the opening of the hole, and then leaving the fogger on inside to get to as much of the space as possible. We closed it up again and repeated several times over the next day. As the bees left in a hurry, we found the spot on the outside frame that they were using to enter and I fogged that entrance too. Next I caulked that entrance up good and tight.

I wound up replacing a good two foot square of drywall where those bees had eaten the back away until it was damn near paper thin. When I cut the wall away, hundreds of dead bees fell out. No more problems after that.

So our walls are full of old honeycomb and thousands of mummified bee corpses. Lets just hope that we don't have the insect equivalent of those WWII Japanese island soldiers still living in there, waiting for their chance to get even.

Posted by: Ted at 05:15 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 27, 2006

Find Peace, Iva Toguri

Iva Toguri, age 90, passed away yesterday. You've heard of "Tokyo Rose", now read the tragic story of the woman falsely convicted of being an American traitor.

Thank you Q&O for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 06:59 PM | category: History
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One hand clapping

Have you ever imagined a world without hypothetical situations?

Posted by: Ted at 05:22 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Renovation: Vocabulary building edition

Let's play a word game! I'll give you four words and four people. You can match them up. What fun!

1. Livid.
2. Enraged.
3. Bewildered.
4. Missing.

A. Wife.
B. Prime Contractor.
C. Electrical Contractor Dispatcher.
D. [Expletive Deleted] Electrician.

Lots of work done yesterday. None of it involved electricity in any fundamental way.

The kitchen, dining room and bathroom drywall is finished. The kitchen and dining room are now painted (except the trim). The floor is fixed where the old walls were and the heat/air vent is relocated.

Everyone is waiting on the electrician now. Nobody knows why they didn't show up yesterday, not even their boss. Cabinet and appliance installation has been delayed by a day, and will now take place Thursday, Friday (and Saturday if needed).

Liz raised hell with the appliance people. Our refrigerator was backordered and so I set up the delivery date for just that on October 10th. When Liz called to confirm that everything else would be delivered yesterday, they told her that the fridge wouldn't be available until later in the month. We just gave away our old fridge to one of the construction crew, so this wasn't acceptable. After dealing with Liz for a while, they magically "found" a refrigerator in their warehouse for us. Same model, same options, same style. They even delivered it yesterday with the rest of our stuff.

I wonder if someone else is wondering where their fridge is. It's probably bad juju on me, but right now I don't care.

All the cabinets were delivered and are now stacked all over the living room. Installation must wait for the [expletive deleted] electrician. The dining room is full of shiny new appliances.

I'm trying to keep a good humor about this, because really, it hasn't been too awful bad. If this goes on another day though...

Posted by: Ted at 05:05 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 26, 2006

Renovation: Much promised, some delivered

On Saturday Liz and I went out to the prime contractor's showroom to pick out a nice piece of granite for the bathroom vanity. While we were there, we discussed the upcoming schedule and changes caused by the [expletive deleted] electrician and our floor fiasco.

On Sunday the new floor guy came out and took measurements and gave us an estimate. The estimate was within our budget, enough so that we were able to replace *all* the carpeting in the house instead of just the main floor and one stairway. They can't do the kitchen/dining room/bathroom/foyer install on Friday like we were hoping for, but the crew will be out Saturday and finish up on Monday. Carpet will be done in a couple few weeks.

The [expletive deleted] electrician didn't show up again today. Turns out he called in sick and nobody bothered to let us or the general contractor know. So tomorrow (hopefully) the electrical work on the main floor will be done and on Wednesday the main panel gets switched out.

Today was more drywall work. The drain pipes in that wall got re-routed. The bathroom floor was taken up and the existing vanity removed. Partly because the schedule is slipping and partly to save a few hundred bucks, we gave the go-ahead to just paint the kitchen and dining room walls white instead of the blues we had picked out.

I patched nail holes in the stairwell heading to the basement, and will probably start in on the ceilings tomorrow in the stairway, hall and living room.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day all around. The cabinets get delivered (but have to be set in the dining room while the [expletive deleted] electrician does his thing. Which is going to cause the drywall guys to have to re-do some of their work, which means the painters will have to re-do some of *their* work. The appliances are due tomorrow too.

There's a reason why you hire a general contractor to deal with the individual tradesmen, and this is it. We're staying on top of things, and every time we talk to the general contractor we have a list of questions and issues. But this guy is paid to deal with the scheduling crap that happens with every project, and as far as I'm concerned he's worth every penny (and he's earning it too!).

I wish it wasn't happening, but it is kind of reassuring to see the pros go through the same kind of unexpected project futz that we do-it-yourself'ers do. There's nothing more annoying than getting into the middle of something, and then having to run back to the hardware store to pick up a part that you didn't know about or expect to need.

I'll keep blogging the renovation progress, as much for us to look back at in the future as for you to be enthralled over. Heh, right.

Posted by: Ted at 05:00 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 25, 2006

A Gift for Gift Giving

Of the members of our family, I am, without a doubt, the worst gift-giver. It's not that I don't try or don't care, I just don't seem to have the knack for picking presents that make the recipient go "wow".

Mookie, on the other hand, approaches genius when it comes to giving gifts, at least when it comes to presents for papa.

For my birthday two years ago she bought me a much coveted hybrid rocket motor.

When Mookie went to London this spring, she brought back little presents for everyone, and mine was The British Museum "Little Book of Erotica". It's a digest sized look at naughtyness through history, from the first acknowleged sculpture of "doing it" (11,000BC!) up to Chinese pottery from the 19th century. An excellent gift, and it had the added bonus of shocking her friends when they found out she bought it for dad.

Also from London, she found a man who researched family crests. With some family history to help the search (a Commodore Phipps in the British Navy from the days of sail), they were able to track down which crest belonged to my particular branch of the Phipps family. Then she had a plaque made with the crest on it for Father's Day. It's still in the box, waiting for renovations to complete before being hung on the wall (click for bigger).


For my birthday this year, a small box arrived. When I opened it, this is what I saw:


I knew this was going to be good! You gotta love a company that can put a little whimsy into a surprise. Here's a close up of that little beastie:


And what kind of coolness did Rachael manage this time? Check it out.


It's a pen. It's a rocket. It's a rocket pen. And it launches from the pad. Too cool!

I'd suggest that y'all be very very nice to Mookie from now on, just in case she has occasion to buy you a present.

Posted by: Ted at 05:53 AM | category: Family matters
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Low Key, but High Hopes

I haven't seen much buzz about this, but did you realize that Bigelow Aerospace is on the way to establishing a privately funded manned space station by 2010?

Two years after that, expansion will allow for nine space tourists at a time.

The idea is to create a destination, and then let the transportation sort itself out once they have some place to go.

So who are these guys with the big plans? I've talked about them before here and linked to another RocketForge story here. Bigelow Aerospace put up the entire $50,000,000 prize for the next commercial space contest, and one of the requirements is to win by January, 2010. A little added incentive (if you can call fifty million dollars little) to spur those private space companies along.

Again, it's not commonly known, but in July Bigelow launched Genesis I aboard a Russian rocket. Genesis I went into orbit, successfully inflated (remember, balloons in space), and is busy relaying data back to earth. These guys don't just talk the talk, they walk the walk.

Commercial space. It's coming. Soon.

Posted by: Ted at 04:44 AM | category: Space Program
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September 24, 2006

Muse Strikes

It seems that once again, I have been inspired by one of the lovely ladies of the blogosphere. Yet truth be told gentlemen, when are we not?

Hmmm... reread that last. Apparently Velociman has his hand in the ol' inspirational link as well.

Back on point:

The friars made extra money for the monestary by growing beautiful flowers to sell.

They also grew man-eating plants to protect their gardens.

One day, some village children strayed too close to the gardens and were eaten by the man-eating plants. The outraged villagers confronted the friars and demanded that the man-eating plants be destroyed. The friars refused.

The villagers went and got Hugh. Now Hugh was the village blacksmith, and the biggest and strongest man in the village.

Hugh went to the monestary, destroyed the man-eating plants and chased the friars out of town.

Moral of the story: Hugh, and only Hugh, can prevent florist friars.

Groan elsewhere.

Posted by: Ted at 08:30 AM | category: Links
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September 23, 2006

Look at all the cute bunny rabbits

If there was any question as to whether Rachael was truly my child, this link should dispell all doubts. Bunnies committing suicide.


What makes it even better is that she sent that link to her mom, who passed it on to me. There are a lot of 'em, go check it out.

Update: Mad William Flint offers up the Amazon link to the first bunny suicide book.

Posted by: Ted at 04:45 PM | category: Links
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What else would you call it?

Liz was telling me about this television commercial selling a swivel seat that fits in your car (something like this). It's a great idea for the elderly or handicapped people who can't easily swing in and out of a car seat. I mentioned "captain's chairs" and she explained that what she saw is a cushion that sits on the regular seat, and only the cushion pivots, not the whole car seat.

There's only one thing you could call it: the "Lazy Ass Susan".

Posted by: Ted at 04:22 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Renovation: Day 2 Progress

I don't have the camera handy, but the pictures aren't all that interesting so I don't want to hear a bunch of clamoring and whining.

Every project has unexpected glitches and gotchas, and day 2 was our day full. For progress, drywall was put up to cover the places where the ceiling and wall used to be, the pantry entrance was opened up, and the dining room carpet was removed. Also, work sorta started in the bathroom in that the medicine cabinet was carefully removed. I'll be recycling that to the other bathroom, because it's in better shape than the one upstairs.

As for the problems, most of them are minor, and all are already dealt with. The electrician goofed up his schedule and couldn't come out on Thursday and Friday as planned. He'll be here Monday to get started by replacing the main panel for the house.

The plan for those two drain pipes in the pantry entrance wall is even better than the one I expected. They're going to lower the joint to almost floor level and reroute both pipes back flush to the main wall. They'll still protrude, but not very much, and the cabinets can be modified to hide them.

The biggest problem was with the guy we were working with to do the floors. He screwed up big time. He lost all of our paperwork, so not only doesn't he know what we picked out, but none of it got ordered. The estimates and orders all happened a few months ago, and what with the packing up the main floor, we can't find our copies either. On top of that, he suddenly can't meet our schedule. Very unprofessional.

Last night Liz and I went to his place of business to straighten things out. He wasn't there and couldn't be located (out on a call - "somewhere"), and his clerk was the singularly most unhelpful person I've ever dealt with. We walked out and went looking for an alternative.

We did find one. We found equivalents to what we wanted from the other place. The guy will be coming out Sunday morning to do the measurements and give us the estimates. He *might* be able to do our schedule (ideally, kitchen floor installation happens next Friday), but because this is so last minute we'll understand if it can't happen right then. Carpets will get done in a few weeks.

Cabinets get installed starting Tuesday, and appliances show up then too (except for the fridge, which will show up two weeks later - backordered). Countertop templates happen on Thursday, floor on Friday (fingers crossed) and that's all written in sand.

We're making progress, and this is the normal kind of scheduling problems that I expected, so we're not stressing too much about it. In fact, every time we run across one of these little speedbumps, we just look at each other, grin from ear to ear and say, "we're getting a new kitchen!"

Posted by: Ted at 04:46 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 22, 2006

Another ebook resource

Elegant Solutions Software and Publishing Company (ESSPC) has a fine collection of free ebooks available for downloading to your PDA.

This week's feature on their main page is Inaugural Addresses Of The Presidents Of The United States From George Washington To George W. Bush.

January 20, 2005. George W. Bush has just delivered his second inaugural address to the nation and the world. As soon as it was made available we captured it and included it in this book. Here in one volume are the inaugural address of the presidents of the United States. Presented in chronological order they are a living reminder of those men who have lead this nation in times of peace and war. In times of prosperity and want. In good times and bad. Their words reflect the spirit of the nation over the past two centuries and the beginnings of the third. This is a reissue on January 20, 2001, Inauguration Day, with the inclusion of the second Inaugural Address of George Walker Bush.

They also offer every ebook in their collection (over 500 titles) on one CD-ROM for $7.95 (that's to cover shipping and handling). That's a heckuva deal.

In the non-fiction section, I found lots of Dickens, Kipling, H.G. Wells, Verne and Edgar Rice Burroughs plus much more. I haven't finished exploring all they have to offer, but so far, so great!

Update: Wow, this keeps getting better and better! In the history section I found The Federalist Papers and the personal memiors of Generals Grant and Sheridan.

Posted by: Ted at 05:44 AM | category: PDA Reviews
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September 21, 2006

Renovation: Day 1 Progress

These guys ain't fooling around. I got home from work to find all the cabinets out and gone, the wallpaper stripped, walls removed and kitchen floor taken up.

Where the peninsula and soffet *used* to be

I told you that the cabinets there were going into the basement. Thanks to our prep work clearing the move path, those cabinets were in the basement less than half an hour after they started.

Looking into the pantry

The dining room carpet is still there, and as you can see that little odd pantry opening is still there. Like all renovations, you always run into something unexpected, and this one is ours (if this is the only one then we're getting off lucky). There are two drain pipes in that odd little wall that nobody knew were there. If building codes allow, I expect that they'll lower the pipe joint about six inches to fit beneath the countertop height and fit the cabinets around it. That's my guess anyway, we'll see what the experts come up with.

For all the progress made, the room (and house) is remarkably clean, almost as if they vacuumed and dusted afterwards.

Posted by: Ted at 07:14 PM | category: Square Pegs
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