Sunday, September 30, 2007

actually, it's the cosmos that's adrift in you

three projectsIt's been a fairly busy and productive week since last we spoke and kitties were (hopefully) saved. Paige took the week off so we could make headway on the home improvement projects du jour...
• Cleaning up the wall in the diningroom (removal of a shelf, patching divots, priming to get rid of the heinous yellow paint) and giving it a couple coats of fascinating purple paint to make it an accent wall;
• Changing out the old chrome tap handles and escutcheons in the tub with brushed nickel models, which is the only thing we didn't do a year ago when we renovated the bathroom;
• Removing the big lighted fan from the diningroom ceiling, then putting in a fixture box a couple feet toward the wall and hanging a new lamp from it.

I could babble about the minutae but you prolly don't care about all of it. So I'll just relate some of the dumber details as a cautionary tale:
• Paint project: Since the rest of the room is still two shades of yellow, this accent wall is really quite a bold statement. [LOL!] It's being handled by my bride and I haven't kibbitzed so I don't have any editorial comments to make. I will say that the purple is one that's not in the chit chart at Lowe's because we'd bought three little sample cans of varying shades to see what we liked most, then wound up mixing them together to come up with something I call "cran-plum". Came out pretty nice!
• Handles project: Previously I was buying brushed nickel items online because they could not be found in the stores (or cheaply, or individually). This time it was more easy than it seemed, because Lowe's had some great handles and the escutcheons in their "zomg brushed nickel!!!1!" display... these parts of which are not found on their website. Seriously, I stayed up until 5 a.m. Googling for the things that go between the handle and the wall, and no one offers them other than as part of a whole-tub renovation set ($65-$110, but you know the unneeded showerhead is $50-$90 of that price). Turns out that Danco, maker of those tub kits (for Ace Hardware), sells the parts separately (at Lowe's), woot!
• Light project: There are only two real beefs, since getting the old fixture out and unwired and the new fixture in and wired wasn't that tough (and I no longer consider itching for two days from the blown fiberglas insulation a beef because it's my choice to not protect my arms). First, there's a big freaking hole in the ceiling from where the fixture was -- partially due to the crackheads that put the fan in, because they did a bang-up job (they used the right fixture box for a fan, but they cut the hole too big and they tried to hide the mess using bathtub caulk!! around the top of the decorative sconce), and partially due to my attempt to remove the fixture using the prying end of a hammer (apparently the drywall was not as sturdy a fulcrum as I had expected, so the hammer sunk through the ceiling). I'm learning to drywall so I'll fix the hole soon. Second, once the new light was in and working, that's when we realized the glass bells around the lights are, shall we say, "nicotine yellow" when lit (which doesn't work well with "cran-plum" but almost fits with the old room colors, eek!), and we're having a hell of a time finding replacements of the right size (the standard is larger) and in clear glass (the ones in the right size either look fragile or are all opaque-deco or milk white), but we haven't been back to IKEA to see if they offer alternatives.

I do have one real stupidity tangental to the lighting item: As you may know, I'm all about energy conservation -- halogens and fluorescents and dimmers are my friends, even though I prefer incandescent for any room I have to sit and read in (I can indeed detect the 60 hertz flicker if I look long enough). The fixture holds three incandescents in candelabra size with a maximum wattage of 40 per bulb. Fluorescents are lower wattage with higher light, so I think I can get more light by going that path. Now, next time you're in the lighting aisle of a store, I want you to look for fluorescent candelabra bulbs. Home Depot has one -- 3 watts for an equivalent of 15 watts' worth of light. Thhhpt. Lowe's has one -- 7 watts for an equivalent of 40 watts' worth of light. Nice but the point is I want more light. But a couple companies do make 14 watt bulbs with an equivalence of 60 watts of light. Where are these? Mail order through,, and so forth online or by walking into Seattle Lighting or Lighting Universe (the suckers are not on their websites) to request them. Why are energy-efficient solutions like these so hard to find? I will say that if you order fluorescent light bulbs, you get more choices as to what color of light they produce -- warm white, cool white, full spectrum -- for the same price, where stores only offer you one.

To conclude the post on a more tolerable note, I received a bunch of pictures from my friend who moved to Alaska the other day, and (with her consent to share on Flickr) there are a couple that bear sharing. The night before she left the state, she was driving around her rural hometown and tried to take a picture of rain coming in front of the sunset. In a word, they took my breath away. She also told me something I didn't know... she Googled her full name, and the first and third of the five things that came up were things I'd written about her. (The other three were from geneology sites where it just happened the first and last names existed on the page.) Since I don't want to take up all my Blogger storage space with the full images, you can see them through these two links: this one and that one. The update to Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul is up, and it's got cute furry things in it. Until next time, hope all is well in your universes.
sunset in Ephrata WA, Aug 21 '07

Sunday, September 23, 2007

the lacrimal extraction post (tearjerker alert!)

Hiya, readership! I finally made good on updating the Daybook and Rant on Say Something Cryptic, even if I didn't have all my thoughts together, so that's one accomplishment since then and now. his servant's eye My bride has taken this coming week off of work and one of the projects she has in mind is to stain that fence we put up, weather willing. Speaking of the in-Spite-of Fence, the woman next door gave me a $200 check to partially cover the cost and intends to hand over some more soon. Now, as you have read before, we don't want her payment or partial ownership. Of course, there's no rule that says we have to cash the checks. The fence may have put a crimp in our finances for the month, with plenty of other expenses we need to save up for to face (dental, auto, kitchen improvement), but we still don't see fit to compromise our beliefs.

On my way to work yesterday there was a bit of traffic on Yakima Avenue and I'm casually scooting along behind some other cars. I see about twenty yards ahead of me this cat go bolting across the road, then get rebounded onto the yellow center strip by the vehicle two cars ahead of me. I emitted "youch!" The car didn't stop or slow down, and off it went. It took a couple blocks before I could turn my car around and go back, then like thirty seconds once I got pulled over near where the cat was laying for the cars coming my way to break. He was still alive. Every ten seconds his legs would flail like he was trying to get out of there but couldn't get off his right side. I got out when I could and walked over to the cat, asking him if he was okay. I worked quickly to scoop him up by the right shoulder with my left hand and right hip with my right hand, and carried him like a cake back across the street. Cars slowed to a crawl, and I presume many of the drivers saw why I had delayed them.

I set him down on the grass of the yard which he'd run out from, which was sloped down to a sidewalk so others could see him. I didn't see any sort of activity at the house so I hoped if this was their cat they'd take notice. I petted his head gently, him still giving that shocked look and breathing in forced bursts every five seconds, and then said goodbye and resumed my travel to work. Certainly I know that there was more I could have done, but I did something other than let him remain in the middle of the road at high risk. his master's eye This was the first time I've prayed in a long time, and it didn't even start with "Father, forgive me my sins"... it wasn't about me. It was about a scared and broken kitty that didn't have a collar but likely had a home and people, that needed to either find mercy quickly or someone who could put the human into humane.

When I got home from work ten hours later, the first thing I did was hug my own cat. I'd be devastated if that were Cheddar which got hurt.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Another brief rant about the American automotive market

First, I want you all to bear in mind that I want to be a "green" auto owner the next time I buy a car, preferably something full electric or a gasoline-last hybrid (as opposed to the current crop of gas-above-40mph [which is okay but not as numerous as it should be] and stupid electric-only-when-stationary models on the road now). But here are two petroleum or diesel vehicles that I'd like to see more of:

Nissan Micra, special Barbie edition<- The Nissan Micra, also known as the March. It's been in production since the 1980s, can be found in Canada and is a staple in the UK, and gets around 35 miles per gallon. [Wikipedia] [] (down right now) [TV ad]

Škoda FabiaThe Škoda Fabia, which is now a part of the Volkswagen Group. It's been in production since the 1990's (and the company itself has been producing cars for over a hundred years), can be found in Central America and all over Europe, and gets between 45 and 65 miles per gallon. [Wikipedia] [] [TV ad] ->

So my question... Why the hell aren't these vehicles offered in the United States?! If there's any place in the world that needs fuel-efficient vehicles, it's here. So why aren't they here? Why does America seem to be the only place where personal cars which get less than 20 miles to the gallon (8.5 km/l, or 11.76 l/100km as is the popular measure in Europe) are hyped?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Another home improvement project in the can

(Er, I mean, the fence project is done... the next project that involves being "in the can", renovating the back bathroom, will happen likely after the kitchen has been reconstructed so stay tuned until 2008 or 2009 on that one.)

A brief entr'act post to show off the completed fence, which I finished an hour or two ago. Now the neighbor's cars can't be seen from the porch! (This photo was taken from the street in front of my house, and that car at right belongs to a visitor of the woman next door. Oddly this car has "School Zone" written on the steering wheel, serious.) Since you love stupidities and I love minutae, here are some details...

I found a solution for the short measurement (which when I re-measured yesterday morning was 70" at the bottom, not 71"!): The panels are made up of vertical slats, four solid horizontal pieces, and some flimsy horizontal lattuce work. On Tuesday I removed the rightmost side which is held in by four screws, removed one 1.75" wide slat, and cut about 1.5" off anything that was horizontal with a hacksaw. I then used a Dremel with a cutting wheel to recreate the 'pegs' that were on the ends of the four horizontal pieces, and a little wood glue when I put the right side back on. With a minimum of hammering and pole-pushing (there was some, since the top of the posts measured 69" apart!) the shortened piece went in, and life could go on.

I managed to get that edit job done fairly quickly, so this left me enough time in the day to measure out the final span, buy 160 pounds of Quikcrete™ (this Lowe's didn't have 50 pound bags, only 80's), dig a hole, plant the post, and fill 'er up with concrete. And I did measure the span repeatedly to make sure I didn't screw this one up... once dry, the base distance was 72.25" or so. Today, Wednesday, I put up the brackets on the pole and hung the fence. Yaay... oh, wait, it's visibly not level to the rest of the sections. Unscrew them all, lower two inches, accept that there are going to be visible screw holes on that section, and start re-screwing them in... oh wait, cordless screwdriver out of juice after two screws, so go grab drill and extention cord. Alright, now it's done. :-D Click the image if'n you want to see it a little bigger (708x532).

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What am I going to do with you... beside the obvious?

now show me yours, JamieGreetings, all. It's been busy here in the magical land of The Mushroom, and fraught with stupidities that are mostly of my own doing so it seems. As promised last time and Jamie Dawn asked about in the previous entry's comments, here is the fence I have been building. Or half of it, anyway. The other half hasn't been completed, and there an interesting story about why that is... I'll finish the fence in a couple days, when I'm off work on Tuesday. So, here's what's happened and what's stupid about it:

* Tuesday, we went to Lowe's and bought the materials. Six 4x4s, five 6'x6' panels, 20 brackets, a box of screws (5 pounds by weight, no mention of how many that is but 4 holes per bracket = need 80 screws), 660 pounds of Quikrete™, and a post hole digger. Yes, I will agree with the people who say renting an auger is easier on the anatomy than trying to use a post hole digger, but it can be done if there's dirt where you're digging... and I'm almost still young and spry. We also rented a truck from Lowe's, which is $20 for 75 minutes, such a bargain! Getting everything home and offloaded to return the truck in time, that was the challenge.

* Wednesday, hole digging and pole planting and concrete laying. I decided to put the fence about 6 inches into my side of the property line so the goofs next door would not have any say or sway over it. The neighbors were home the entire time and some deliveries were delivered, but they never once stepped out front. There was work going on, that's it. It probably wasn't until the teenager got home around 5pm and said, "Did you know the neighbors are building a fence?" that they were fully aware. So I put in five poles, confirmed they were plumb and about 72 inches apart, and poured the concrete. Can't do much more until that's dry, right? Did not attempt to make hole number six because I thought it would be too far out into the road and we ran out of concrete (the package says two will do one hole... but not the way I dig holes!). Another measure once the fifth pole was up, however, indicated that there's still room at the edge of the property for the last pole. I'll worry about that in a couple days. The neighbors have added another junk car that far down the driveway, so there is a new need for the fence there so we don't have to look at it.

and show me Courtney's too* Thursday, hang the fence pieces. And this is where it gets stupid. It seems I measured from the middle of the posts, not the ground, so while it may be 72 inches at one point it's less than 72 inches at the bottom -- and those sections are 71½ inches wide, meaning that some can be put in with a hammer and some sanding while others are going to require a little sawing to even come close. More work than it's supposed to be due to miscalculations, arrrgh. So I put up two and it took all day to get them shaved/sanded/cut/pounded in. The woman on the other side of the fence did come out and say it looked good, and when her useless son asked if we needed help we said no... and never saw him again. I've taken to calling this project "the in-spite-of fence" because it's not put up out of spite, but put up in spite of them not keeping their pledge to replace their fence two years ago.

Hmm, life otherwise has been okay, and the skanks across the street are having a yardsale but it's mostly hidden by their overgrown trees and canopies, with only one easily missable cardboard sign on a telephone pole. The next door neighbor on the other side of the yard says they'll be gone by October but they seem not to be in any great hurry to move or sell anything. You know they're not going to take the two dozen cats with them, so the Humane Society will have to be called before things get stupid(er) with the kitties.

Monday, September 03, 2007

For our friends in Jingleheimer Junction... Friendship, Understanding, Caring, and Kindness!

Wow, what a fun last week. And I just get through today, Labor Day, at work (no extra pay) and I have three more days off. enema of the state Yeah, Chrome came over for a few days and we had ourselves some fun, and the comedy show was great -- Ty Barnett [3rd place in Last Comic Standing 2006, and a local] made an unannounced guest appearance. Friday was Jen & Aaron's wedding and reception, but I didn't know when the wedding itself was until the night before so I had other plans for the morning... a trip to IKEA for a sale. The reception was pretty good once some friends showed up, and you know it's gonna be a rockin' time when the invitations say "Dance Dance Revolution on the XBox" (which only the bride's 11 year old son partook of). Saturday was spent in Packwood at the annual rummage sale and surprisingly we didn't spend much money. The intention was that we'd buy some powertools. The reality was that we didn't really look at powertools, and other than food and some Christmas lights for me and an M&M's window vinyl for Paige's car there wasn't much that I felt like pulling out the cash for. Before we even got to Packwood, I spent $1.50 on three records at the Randall Fire Station and that was the real find of the day. I started feeling the effects of the cold she's had for a week on Saturday morning, great timing there, and I've been sneezing and faucet-nosed since then. And no, I didn't do any writing. Chrome and I discussed writing a combined R.A.T. entry in the Daybook, it's been a few years since we've done that, but we were mostly uninspired and without a topic so we let that one slide. There will be writing... uh, sometime soon, I have time off coming.

In the stupidities department, there were a couple involving computers and despite my ego I'm glad that Chrome was there for them because it would have taken me awhile to figure those items out on my own (if I did). How to balance the anecdotes between the nontechnical half my readership craves and the detail my geeky friends expect...

Item 1: A year ago a friend of my wife handed me this notebook computer that would not fire up, and asked me if I could fix it. No such luck; even after I bought a new power supply there were no signs of life. The friend wrote the computer off and (after I plugged the hard drive into my own computer) I copied everything from the notebook to a CD, but kept the machine for stray parts. Chrome and I came across an external drive case for sale that would let me use that 6 gigabyte hard drive from the notebook as a USB memory device, so I did. There were no setup directions, and quoting the manual: "There are only two steps: first, install the hard drive in the case; second, plug the cable into the computer." It's that first one where a little info (does this work with hubs? what should the jumper settings on the drive be?) would be nice! To skip the "we did this, it didn't work, so we tried that, no luck" details, I have learned that if I plug this drive into the back of my computer either directly or through the beige extention cable, it gets enough power to work, but if I try to use the four-jack hub on top of the computer that I plug almost everything external into or use the white extention cable I just bought it doesn't get enough juice. There was plenty of head-scratching and screwing around with this hard drive, the inside of my computer, AND the hard drive out of Chrome's notebook (for test purposes) before the matter was ironed out.

Item 2: I have DSL and have been using an A-B switch for moving the connection between my computer and my wife's computer in the next room. (No, I don't want wireless!) Thereby only one person can be online at a time, which normally isn't an issue because she hardly ever turns on her computer but there have been a couple times she's been online when I wanted to be. So Chrome and I found a four-port router so we can share the connection. (Ethernet and that's it routers are getting a little harder to find, everyone's gaga over wireless. Which I don't want.) There were no setup instructions. He wanted to set it up manually, I wanted to use the disk that came with it, and to cut to the chase neither method was working. It seems both the modem and the router wanted to use the same address, and the software would say things like "error 119, try rebooting" without an actual explanation because of that fact. I tried changing the last number of the router's address, and this didn't change anything; Chrome's had training so eventually realized that it's the second-to-last number that needed to be changed, and then everything worked. Ninja Ken rules all The stupid point (other than the router having the same address as 75% of the modems out there, geez) was that the software didn't diagnose or correct the problem, and I don't think the manual (found as a file on the disk) made mention this could be an issue in its Troubleshooting section. Oh, and no setup directions on or in the box, or in the manual.

While the interior home improvement thing is at a pause point, I think our next project will be an exterior one (and another huge stupidity on someone else's part): In the front yard there was this 4 foot high wooden fence that was rotting and overgrown with ivy, which technically was the neighbor's property, and they took it out with the promise to put up a new one. This was about a year ago, and every time we've asked the neighbors about the fence they have excuses why it's been delayed. My wife is tired of looking at their semi-functional cars, and I can understand though I kind of like being able to see up the street in that direction. Other less visible yard projects of theirs have not been put off, but digging flowerbeds and edging probably costs less than fencing. So we're going to take the bull by the horns and install our own damn fence -- the pre-built stuff, wood not vinyl, with the posts cemented down -- possibly over the next three days if the good weather holds out and before the snows blow. [Oh look, it just started raining...] Won't the neighbor be surprised? :) Speaking of neighbors, while the woman on the other side of our house said she was told by the skanks across the street they were being evicted so they were to be out of the hovel by the first of this month... they're not. *sigh*

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