Saturday, August 30, 2008

when the going gets tough, the tough go driving

the corner of the counterSo you might be wondering about the status of the kitchen. Here is the most recent photo, a couple hours after finishing the grouting of the backsplash and a few days after finishing the countertop. We'll seal this soon so I can put the sink in. There's still plenty of work to go, such as putting in the new floor (the place called today to say... well geez, they didn't really say anything, but details about those guys later) and putting up some cabinets (they're in the shed) and installing the new hooded microwave and oven (those arrived today), as well as wiring and hanging lights over the peninsula and sink, plus we still haven't hung the cupboard & cabinet doors back up yet. So many things to do! But it will all look stunning when we're done. We're taking a much-needed day off (like half of the time in the last month or six hasn't been "a break from the kitchen"?) to go to Packwood, WA to roam around the communitywide yardsale, and then we'll start in on the other side of the room... I've already hung backerboard for the wraparound backsplash and installed a new outlet, but now I need to find some help putting up the cabinets. Anhow, that's our kitchen progress. So far it's looking pretty good, don't you think?

Another design element to mention, and a silliness (not stupidity per se) to make it happen: We decided upon some Asian-inspired tall stools for our new breakfast bar, and most places carry some style of them (we first saw them at a Target last year when they were on a 'world market' kick)... cheesy from Bed Bath & Beyond for $30, sturdy at Cost Plus for $100 [on sale for $80 right now], and well-crafted at good furniture stores for more. The problem we have been having is that with the cheesy cheap and the sturdy spendy, we find offerings in the middle where there's only one specimen available. There are two of us, you know. But we did pull a gambit today... We went to Ross Dress For Less in Puyallup and they had one black one, originally from Thomasville Furniture so it's of good quality, for $30. We bought it. There are two other Ross stores in the area, so we drove to another one -- and found its sibling. Lucked out!

Speaking of looking good, since I had some 'sage' grout mixed up for the backsplash and not all of it got used Paige decided to put it into use on that bathroom windowsill art she started in 2006 when we were renovating that room and never completed. NOW we can call the bathroom completely done.
bathroom windowsill
Okay, now for the stupidity story about the flooring place. Months ago my bride decided that we would be putting Marmoleum down in our kitchen, and I got to choose the pattern we will put it down in. We went to the local flooring place which carries Marmoleum and asked some questions months ago, looked at samples, and so forth. So the other day we go in to order some. Hmm, never mind that our salesperson took fifteen minutes -- ten of which was spent twenty feet away at another desk just looking at us and saying "I'll be right with you" without actually doing anything -- to sit down with us. Marmoleum comes in two forms: vinyl squares that have to be professionally laid and do-it-yourself click squares; the click squares come in two sizes, one-by-one foot and three-by-one foot. You'd think the salesperson would know this, since afterall there are samples there in the showroom, the display describes and gives prices for all of the sizes and pieces, and it's been months since we first expressed interest to her that we want some of this flooring. Nope, she wasn't aware that there were 12"x12" squares, or that the two sizes use the same connecting system so they can be used together ("you have to get one size or the other"). And she didn't know how it was installed (whether it requires an underlayment, etc.). We gave her the dimensions and we calculated how many of the two colors of tile we need, and she said she'd give us a call at 11am the next day with a price and further information about what is needed. Time passes, I'm walking around the livingroom at 1pm and the phone rings. Paige has consciously decided not to get up even after I've shouted that the call she's been waiting for has finally come. The woman gave me a timeframe when things would be ready for pickup, and I gave her my credit card number to order this. I get back to the bedroom and Paige asks, "how much did it cost?" I dunno, she didn't say, and I didn't ask because I thought Paige already knew. The ensuing discussion ended with me saying that if she'd gotten up and taken the call like she was supposed to, the questions that needed to be answered would have been. Here's where I add that at no point after Paige got up did she call the woman back like I suggested she do. Anyhow, the woman said that the flooring was coming from Portland, and would be in Kent the next day. I said we were going to pick it up in Tacoma, so she said it'd be ready for us the day after. For some reasons she kept saying it'd be in on the 27th though I knew she meant the 28th. So on the magic day, we get the invoice -- the flooring cost less than we thought it would, no special materials needed, and a $35 charge to have it delivered to the Tacoma store. But we don't get a call from the woman. Late in the afternoon Paige called to ask about the flooring, and she said "It'll be here on the 27th." Paige replied, "Today is the 28th." Woman ponders how time flew. Okay, so where is the flooring? Woman gives some shuck and jive about it coming from Portland to Kent so it'll take awhile. Paige reminds her that she said it'd be in Kent on the 27th and Tacoma on the 28th. Woman says she'll call us tomorrow with more information, adding that we could drive up to Kent and get it right now. Paige replies that we were charged to have it delivered to Tacoma, we told her when we ordered it that we would pick it up in Tacoma, and please let us know when it arrives in Tacoma. Okay, so today is that tomorrow, Friday the 29th. She called us, yes, in the afternoon while we were out, but the message she left only said to give her a call so we could discuss the flooring. We were kinda expecting "come and get it" or something more informative. We're out of town on Saturday, they're closed on Sunday and (Labor Day) Monday, so it's going to be a little while before we can go get it. Or get answers as to where it is, though maybe we will be able to call there before we leave town tomorrow.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Up to my aligators in asses

   Funny how I check my blog every day or two for new responses but it didn't occur to me that it's been a couple weeks since I added anything. But I was waiting for Jamie's return :-D and as a semi-valid excuse I have been working on my kitchen and watching the Olympics so have been busy doing things that are worth talking about or taking pictures of. (It's semi-valid because it doesn't account for the other 18-20 hours of the day, heh heh.) How y'all doin'?
new countertop   The kitchen project has gone into full swing. Our target is to have this done by Labor Day -- yes, Illiterate, I will be in Packwood on Saturday; see you & yours on the back porch? -- and I suppose the word "done" means the painting of the cabinets and the completion of the countertops, acquisition of the stove and microwave (and potentially their installation), the installation of the new sink, and possibly the cleaning and painting of the walls but that's pushin' it. Somehow this doesn't include the reinstallation of the cabinet doors, the installation of new lights, the floor still hasn't been decided on, and the baseboards around the room and cabinets can't be done until a new floor is in. At left [click for larger image] is the newly-widened peninsula breakfast-bar countertop as it existed while writing this: after adding the trim strips but before the grout has been laid.
   This project is fun and exciting because I've always lived in houses where the only thing that ever changed designwise was what was hanging on the walls. The kitchen of my parents' house looked essentially the same when we moved in in 1976 and when they moved out in 2002; the only thing that ever changed was putting carpet over vinyl tile squares, and that was probably more about my mother wanting warm feet than about the tile pattern being fairly blah (and as I recall it, yellowish-beige). Even less changed in the bathrooms, including the parts that genuinely needed replacement because they were broken. And the walls? The only rooms that ever got new paint were the kids' bedrooms, neutral blue for the two rooms occupied by boys and neutral pink for my sister. The bathrooms were white. The kitchen was mostly wood panel so I won't complain about the lack of paint (paint on wood panel is tacky!) but the wall over the drainboard and all the walls in the diningroom that weren't brownish wood... white. As were the livingroom and the hallways and the master bedroom. Those HGTV personalities that carry their own paint sample card batches would have gone ga-ga for such a blank canvas, while others would have commanded, "Let's get this room out of the 1970's!!" seconds before going ape with a crowbar and an 8 pound sledge. That's where my wife and I come from, and while we're not into radical like some people (we have a friend with a stippled maroon livingroom and hallway, which looks great in strong natural light but like a dark cave down the hall where the only light is an incandescent bulb in a sickly off-nicotine fixture) we want color. It's subtle but present in the livingroom and hall, mostly light grey with two medium grey walls and in low light the two appear the same color, and the bathroom is a tasteful light green, but our kitchen will be purple and green and grey, dammit. Let there be color! But in the interest of full disclosure, you get one guess what color we painted the master bedroom a couple years ago. Uh huh. They can't all be revolutionary, we have to sleep in that room.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

There is new hope in my universe

Mitsubishi i MiEVI think I may have found my electric car.

For about a year the electric vehicle sites have been talking about Mitsubishi's project, the i MiEV (I-series Mitsubishi Innovative Electric Vehicle), being tested-marketed in Japan in 2010. Well, last month one of sites reported it's coming out a year early, summer 2009. Same site showed that the car was premiered at the New York Auto Show [YouTube] months earlier. The statistics say that it can go 100 miles to the charge, can get up to 85 miles per hour, and has the ability to recharge its lithium-ion battery while driving (along with using standard household 110VAC to fully juice up). The street price in Japan will be about $23,000 when it comes out in pre-release and the eventual North American price is estimated to be $17,000. Of course, no hard guesses when it will make it to America since there are hoops to jump and petrocentric agendas to joust with. Heck, with bureaucratic delays Mitsubishi might be able to extend the battery life a little.

Bring it, baby.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

picture-perfect stupidity and I'm not done being silent

no promises, but if you should fall...   A couple split days this week, a friend from college and her two foster kids are visiting town and staying at my house. I say "split" because they were here yesterday and they'll be back tomorrow, so tonight there will be silence. Once they're gone for good, my mother-in-law will be with us for three or four nights due to my oldest nephew getting married this weekend. I took a flock of pictures of the kids and, as a surprise, my bride and I wanted to surprise the family with prints of some of the best photos. (Which will be welcome since the matriarch left her camera here when she took them to the beach early this morning. D'oh!!) Things are not as simple as they seem sometimes... I tried to print my pictures on my printer, which I'd purchased months ago for the purpose of printing photos. Hmm, they're not looking right... Yellow is absent. I clean the cartridge with alcohol and add ink. Now we have yellow. In fact, we have too much yellow. Everyone is jaundiced. A few full-page prints later and it's tamed down. Halfway through the first picture of seven I started as a batch then walked away from, we're back to almost no yellow so they look washed out -- except in random bands, where it's suddenly yellow streaks. So my wife suggests I go have them printed by the machine in the photo/sound department of the grocery store. I've had good luck with that store's machine before and the people pay no attention to the content of your photos, which is important to me. Plus they're terrible at math so they charge you the 4"x6" price when you get 5"x7" prints, and don't mind much when you look over their shoulder at the machine's activation code they have to punch in, thus letting you start the process on your own later that day if you must return to reprint anything. Their machine spits the prints out the front of the machine right then, which is also important to me, and their pictures' color balance is very good.
   I drive up the street to the grocery store, and my expected concern is getting someone to come to photo/sound at 9:30 p.m. to punch in the code for the machine. No, actually, the concern I have once I get there is that there's no machine here. Well, crumbs. So I decide to do the next best thing and go to Walgreen's next door. Which stopped being my first choice a long time ago because half the time their machines were out of order, and half of the time when they do work their color scheme is totally off. But this is a different store than the one I won't go into (blame a clerk named Hagitha), and I want to get this done before the family returns tomorrow, so what the hell. I go to the machine, go through the gyrations to get the number of prints I want from each and crop each photo correctly (by default, the machine will cut your face in half; this is a vast improvement over the system at Target which doesn't let you tweak your photos, takes a week to process as though they were being sent somewhere, costs more than anywhere else, and will print your vertical pictures as though they were horizontal for some serious head-lopping cropping issues), and start the order. Being a tidy bureaucrasy, the slip you get says they'll be ready in half an hour, as though humans had any part in this process other than looking at the screen to see if your images are copyrighted (since they care and won't let you have your pics if they think you're a pirate); you really don't want to contemplate getting anything naughty printed there for that reason. So, sigh, okay, I'm going to wander around this 15,000 square foot store for the next thirty minutes and see if the subliminal messages in the Muzak™ make me shop more. Dum de dum, look! a laser level for $2.99!, la la la, I think I'll have some Brach Nut Goodies in rememberance of my grandmother, doot de doo, who picks the programming on this music loop anyhow? I'm in the car doodads aisle when this woman who looks like she gets her clothes out of the dumpster behind Fashion Bug comes down the candy aisle facing me and she's on her cell phone. I'm trying to stay occupied and she's blabbing away to her friend about a chick they know giving a guy they know herpes (but none of them knew that's what it was), and he gave this pregnant chick they know some oral action, and now that pregnant chick is concerned for her stuff [oh, now...] and her baby. Then she says the magic words, "Hey, I'm going to take you off speakerphone now..." Not that this made any difference since she went to the next aisle, yard doodads, and continues having this way-too-much-info conversation four feet away from me through the pegboard wall. The guy who keeps coming up to ask if she's seen the guy who is supposed to come pick him up sounds dumber than a bag of hammers, but one could speculate that since he's with her it's a good bet he is.
   I went up to the counter in photo/sound at 20 minutes after my order, figuring "I'm the only customer, surely this wait is just so they have plenty of time to examine my photos." The cute woman stocking the dairy case comes over to the register, comments that there's still ten minutes left to go, so I wander off again. I waited 15 more minutes, just to be on the safe side, and come back. This time after putting up a couple bottles of fruit juice she goes to the machine and... oh, it had never started printing in the first place. A detail she didn't bother checking earlier, she was going by the clock. But no problem, they can get this printed now (after changing the drum) in three minutes. Hmm, so if it only takes three minutes to print my pictures, what is the purpose of the thirty minute put-off? Oh yeah, getting me to buy some more candy and a 2 gigabyte SD card for my camera for half the usual price (my old one fell apart; honestly, it disintergrated a couple days ago). This counter guy who seems twitchier than myself rings up my purchases, gets the display unlocked to retrieve that SD card, takes my payment, and out the door I go. Bag of hammers is still standing outside the door, waiting. I've now been in the store for an hour or so, a fact that did not escape my ever-observant bride. And neither did the fact that I got one print of a photo she wanted a copy of, despite her not answering the question "do you want me to get two of this?" when I asked her twice (a fact that did somehow escape her).
   So here I am, in the relative quiet for one night, experiencing a sugar shock and fearing that I'll have bad dreams about strangers sharing the gift that keeps on giving, VD. The prints actually came out very good, better than my printer would be capable of even if it weren't alternating between hepatitis and dehydration, and almost worth the unnecessary 35 minutes of my 38 minute wait. And the whole experience gave me the missing impetus to blog for the first time in twenty-five days.

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