Wednesday, November 22, 2006

...And we're back!

Yeah, yeah, long absence and all that... OK, so here's a couple pics from Joshua Tree National Park.

I got there late in the day, took some pics in the waning light, watched the sun go down, stared at the stars. The first coyote call I heard after the sun went down lent some real ambience to the scene. By the time I heard the third howl, getting progressively closer I had to immediately jump in the car and leave, but I really wish I could have layed on that rock and stared at the sky all night...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

It's about time

One idea was to chronicle my home improvement projects up here. So, I'll start with the most recent: the half-bath on the main floor. When I moved in in September 2004 it looked like this:

It was outdated but functional so the kitchen took priority until early Spring 2006, when this bathroom's time had come. First the tear out, which happened over a weekend.

Sweet old wallpaper surprise. Everything came out. Tiles off the wall, the sink, light, mirror, cabinet, floor, toilet, wallpaper. Everything. Two weeks later I was able to spend another weekend on it and I rebuilt the cabinet. I had left the skeleton of the cabinet in place and just built on all new fascia, doors and drawers.

No turning back, now!

I built everything flush for a sleek, modern look. The design phase was obviously well under way, but I was still not sure exactly how the counter top, sink, faucet would come out. So I created a very simple line drawing on which to sketch some ideas.

Keeping with the modern theme I designed a curving countertop that extended all the way across the wall with a built-in shelf. By this time I had also decided to get a counter-top bowl sink and cool faucet. After a little searching I found both on eBay for super cheap, saving $250 off similar items from Lowe's and hundreds more compared to Restoration hardware and other designer shops. After a weekend with lots of help from the family (and an accidental plumbing error/emergency repair), it looked like this:

Thanks guys!

I used countertop laminate glued to cement board for the lower walls in a marble color and oak veneer hardwood floor. New toilet, too. Over the next couple weekends I cut the particle board for the counter top using a router for the curved parts. The counter top is laminate green marble. After installation of the counter top, I installed a 30-inch mirror and a 3-globe hanging light, and began searching for tile to use as border trim along the wall laminate. It had to work with both the cream marble and the green - NOT easy to find as it turns out. After lots of hours of online searching and probably 125 miles of driving I found it! That was the final element and I'm very happy with the result:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

They're Heeeeere...

I've been reading a novel by pulpy novelist, Dean Koontz the last couple nights. It's called The Taking and, well, it ain't bad. I have to admit that I am pretty much a sucker for anything weird or sci/fi so I get sucked in pretty easy. If it is also scary, then I tend to become absorbed.
So right from the first night reading this book, I'm starting to get freaked out. It's about this gushing rain that won't stop and brings evil creatures that want to eat your face off, turn mirrors into portals, you know real end-of-the-world type stuff. I finally get to an unscary part and put it down. Whew! I'm like scared to turn out the light scared from this book. Looking into the hallway, glancing out the window, closing closet doors. worried that the evil rain and baddies are coming for me. Not really scared, but very cognizant of the story even while not reading it. Really enjoying it.

Last night I'm storming through this page turner, the plot thickens, the evil rain is still falling, creatures are coming, eating faces, infesting minds, corrupting youth, etc. I finally give in and put the book down sometime after 12:00. Whew!

I am awoken, suddenly this morning at about 4:00 am by - no shit - an intruder leaping through my window onto my bed! The monster is small and less agile than he thought, because he falls off the bed and gets stuck between the bed and the wall. The window is thrown wide open and the wind blows violently through, flapping the curtain. Elsewhere in the house I here other intruders skittering past blinds, knocking objects off tables, invading!

A thunderstorm had rolled in and blown my window fan in, off the window sill. All the open windows in the house began breathing with the storm, throwing anything that weighed less than the October issue of Details around the room. (Seriously that thing is like 3 pounds)
Needless to say, with all the ideas rambling in my head, I was freaked out. Not the best way to start the longest day of my life, which by the way, is Minneapolis to Orange County for the afternoon, then to Spokane via Seattle. I'm on the Seattle layover now..... At least I get warm cookies in Spokane.

OK. I'm going to finish this book now. I doubt I'll sleep on the next flight.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Shawn the Thatcher

A little yard clean up goes a long way. I rented a power rake yesterday to dethatch the lawn. The buildup of clippings, mulched leaves and junk was 1/2 to 1 inch thick.

First I clipped the lawn very short, and bagged the grass. Then I set the power rake to the second-deepest setting and it dug into the thatch very well and loosened it up, pulling up dirt in some spots. But those were spots where the lawn was pretty much just thatch anyway.

Next came the clean-up. I spent the rest of the afternoon raking the junk into rows and picking it up by hand into a wheelbarrow. The mulch pile in back grew quite a bit. I suppose I should have been bagging the grass every time I mowed, but I've only mowed about 4-5 times this summer, as dry as it's been. Anyway, it's a big job, sore muscles, blisters, etc.

And at this point the lawn looks like crap. I planted some seed and fertilizer and will water for a week or so, but honestly, the front yard could maybe use an old Trans Am on cinder blocks to improve the looks a bit.

I'll let you know if the lawn bounces back next year...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Next time medium rare, please

I went all the way to Cleveland and all I got was this lousy sunburn. Seriously, if you are chronically Scandinavian, limit your time in direct sunlight as if you were a vampire. I went for the 1-hour burn-to-tan plan. It didn't work. It's been 4 days and I'm still glowing.

Monday, July 31, 2006

It's hahda than it looks

If I went for a run today in Back Bay near B.U. and had clam chowder and crab cakes for dinner, can you guess the name of the baseball park I'll be at tomorrow?

If yeh need a refresha, here's how they talk heah:

Bizah - odd
Flahwiz - roses, etc.
Hahpahst - minutes after the hour
Hahwahya? - how are you?
Khakis - what we staht the cah with
Pissah - superb
Retahded - silly
Shewah - of course
Wikkid - extremely
Yiz - you, plural
Popcahn - popular snack
Review mirra - so you can look at what you just passed, naturally

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Sure, but the 401(K) still sucks

I started excercising a few times a week about 3 months ago. Recently I upped it to running 3-4 miles at a time. Anyway, I've been listening to the unabridged Harry Potter series for every minute of excercise in these 3 months and according to my calculations I have now logged just over 40 hours of footwork. It's not tons, but it's like a week of work, well in my case 2 weeks of work. Maybe 3.

So to keep my head in it and steam right on past this milestone I'm creating my own personal marketing campaign on that theme. Some options:

1. Running is a part time job. At least it's not Burger King drive-thru.

2. Running is a part time job. Or training for the guy with no shirt on COPS.

3. Running is a part time job. You can't be fired; you can only quit. (Definite inspirational poster material)

4. Running is a part time job. No promotions, no vacation, no feeling in your legs!

...And put on your best Up With People face for my personal favorite...

5. Running is a part time job. The pay is terrible but the benefits are great!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Right to the bottom line

Lemonade Stand Economics 101

Stopped at a corner lemonade stand this afternoon for some delicious refreshment. The beverage was tasty, if a little warm (needed ice), the service was polite and prompt, but the price seemed maybe a little high for a less-than-premium product. 50 cents a glass (in a big plastic cup and not filled all the way) is the going rate nowadays.

Now we all know that in a fair market, supply and demand regulate cost at what the market will bear. Further, inflation and rising labor costs contribute in equal but different ways to the rising price of commodities, including, in lesser part, the raw ingredients of lemonade. Oil prices have skyrocketed per barrel leading directly to rising costs of petroleum products including plastic cups. Assuming the real estate has been procured for the lemonade stand and the raw ingredients are already factored out of net revenue, and the lack of competition in the area, this lemonade stand can project some pretty healthy profits. I only wonder, had they opted for a more enviro-friendly serving choice, maybe smaller biodegradable paper cups, that they would have

A) reduced the labor needed to remove the trash from the stand, thereby reducing overhead

B) increased the customer experience by giving them a full cup while still serving the same amount of product, and

C) increased sales by attracting new environmentally sensitive customers.

I think I'll take what I know about their practices, set up across the street and put 'em out of business. It's a tough world out there and business is business.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Do you know which way counter-clockwise is?

Thursday night we went out for some awesome Italian on Coronado Island, in San Diego bay. My choice:

Linguine Mare Chiaro - Thin flat pasta with clams, mussels, prawns and scallops; seasoned with tomatoes, crushed red pepper, garlic and trebbiano wine.

Yeah, just as good as it sounds. After dinner, we started to talk about the famous Hotel del Coronado located on the other side of the island. It's big, it's old, it wouldn't stand a chance against a match and some kerosene... And it's within walking distance, according to the valet guy.

valet guy (vă-lā' gī) n.
1. An employee, as in a hotel or on a ship, who performs personal services for guests or passengers.
2. A generally underpaid college student who fucks with tourists for fun and then tells his friends how he got 5 idiots to walk ALL THE WAY ACROSS the island to that dumb hotel.

So off we go, into the dark night, to walk to the big hotel, just a short walk away - it's just like a mile away, he said. Right - the half of an hour later we're still walking, mildly annoyed, and I gotta pee. So with the hotel still 11 blocks away (we called and they laughed at us), I dash across the street to a coffee shop to use the facilities. Two guys sat outside, either customers or employees, and tell me that they are closing soon, but yeah there's a bathroom I can use, no problem. The following is an account of what happened:

Me: Knocking on the bar as I walk in, "Hi, are you still open?"

The guy: Counting out his cash drawer, "No, close at 10."

Me: Since it's 9:50 and the neon OPEN sign is still on, "Oh sorry, do you have a restroom I can use?"

The guy: Pointing to unisex bathroom, "Sure, it's right there."

Me: "Thanks." I go in, pull the door closed and - this is important - turn the lock. I pee, I wash, I leave. Or so I think. I turn the lock back counter-clockwise, the opposite way from locking it, grasp the door handle and, turning it, push to open the door. The door does not open at this time. The handle merely turns loosely in my hand. So I keep turning the handle, waiting for it to catch, but it doesn't. I push again. Nothing. I turn the handle the other way, now starting to angle it, trying to get it to catch the mechanism inside, the whole process making a little more noise now. After about 20 - 30 seconds of fiddling I hear the guy outside.

The guy: Already bothered, "Turn it counter-clockwise."

Me: Turning the knob back counter-clockwise, "OK."

The guy: Very bothered, "Turn it counter-clockwise."

Me: Still turning, "It just spins. It's not doing anything."

The guy: Becoming agitated, "No. The lock. Turn it counter-clockwise."

Me: Oh, the lock. I grab the lock, which is already turned counter-clockwise (unlocked), and turn. It doesn't turn. I say, "It doesn't turn."

The guy: Indeed agitated, "Turn THE LOCK counter-clockwise. Do not push on the door."

Me: Wondering why I shouldn't push an outward-swinging door to open it, twisting harder now, not moving the lock, not pushing on the door, "It's not turning."

The guy: Angry, "Do not push on the door. DO YOU KNOW WHICH WAY COUNTER-CLOCKWISE IS???"

Me: Not-so-much-amused anymore, "Yeah, I know which way counter-clockwise is." Resisting the urge to quote lefty-loosey, righty-tighty, turning so hard I have red dents in my fingers.

The guy: Very angry, "DO NOT PUSH ON THE DOOR."

Me: Now pulling on the useless door knob and the tiny lock itself to somehow reverse my stupid pushing of the door. At the same time the guy, my nemesis, pushes on the door from the other side to releasing it from whatever lock-turn preventive position it was in. I grab and turn the lock (counter-clockwise) one last sliver of an inch, it clicks open, the door swings and I am free.

The guy: Angry, disgusted, oozing sarcasm, "There you go."

Me: Without so much as another word or backwards glance, I walk swiftly to the door and out into the night. Behind me I hear the unashamed laughter of the two guys sitting in front. They had heard the whole thing, and I don't think this was the first time it had happened.

20 minutes later we were on the other side of the island checking out the hotel, the beach. It was a pretty cool place and it did make the long walk and ordeal worthwhile. The breeze blew in from the ocean, the flags around the courtyard flowed and dipped, and a silver wind gauge spun...counter-clockwise.

The week in retrospect

Well, well, a hell of a 4th of July weekend! I'm sure that Tuesday is the best day of the week the holiday could fall on, giving most of us the four-day weekend and the build up to the big day. Only the tiniest gripe was that I had to fly out for work on Tuesday. Yes, only slightly, as I was headed to San Diego for the week - not so shabby. Tuesday was actually really cool, hung out with a co-worker, did some beach, did some sushi... Good times.

Also, to my surprise, I kept up with the running all week. The goal was to run in a 5K on Friday that coincided with the trade show, the 5K being the inspiration that got me started a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, we didn't officially run in the 5K, amid registration errors and erroneous doping charges, so no lousy t-shirt... but a jog by the bay beats a jog around the neighborhood any day.

So it was a good week - good food, good scenery, fun with the Canadians.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Not today

I decided last night not to run this morning. It must have been somewhere around the 4th hole or the 4th beer, not sure... So, I'm taking a day off from excercise, I guess.

But I golfed last night. And tonight I'm playing poker. That's a sport, right? I mean, if they have it on ESPN, it MUST be a sport.

Just like ice dancing is a sport.

I think you can see her flush...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I can't believe I ran the whole way

I've taken to running the past few weeks, trying to mix a little more run with my walk each day. Today I walked to warm-up and cool down, but ran the 3.5 mile middle part of the route. Now that I know I can do it, I'll have to do it every time, damn it! Well, it had to happen some time. I'm just glad I didn't wait until the day of the 5K I'm running next week. Now if I can just break that 10 minute mile barrier...

Family weekend

Had the whole family in town this weekend. Mom, dad, sis, gramma, even lil brother plus GF for a little bit. The girls mainly shopped for dresses for the wedding while dad and I patched some concrete on my steps. No big projects this weekend - but I will get around to posting the big projects that have been completed...

Sarah (sis) and I did get out to see Nacho Libre Friday night. Some observations:

1) Director Jared Hess apparently has a food fetish. Food is featured front and center in several throw-backs to the Napoleon Dynamite opening credits. Jack Black's friar character is even a cook.

2) Ana de la Reguera is way too hot to be a nun. Pure, yes.

But way



to be a nun.

3) Interesting how they dealt with the "I'm hot for that nun" angle. Or didn't. OK, not worth the whole analysis at this point, but it is very funny, you will laugh, you will be a little grossed out, and you will like it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Spicy Seafood Soup Recipe

I made this last week. I think it turned out great and it was a hit at work.

Spicy Seafood Soup
This has a very nice spice, but you can add some more peppers if you want to really kick it up. Re-heats very well for leftovers, too.

1 leek, thinly sliced
1 cup celery, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely diced

1 lb. fresh or frozen shrimp, thawed, tails removed
1 lb. fresh or frozen gem scallops, thawed
2 - 3 filets white fish, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 can clams with juice

3-4 cups water
3 cups Spicy Hot V8 vegetable juice (1/2 large bottle)
1 can bamboo shoots, drained
1 can bean sprouts, drained
juice of 1 lemon
Old Bay seasoning
Salt, Pepper

Place seafood, except clams, in a bowl or on a large platter and squeeze lemon juice over it. Season with corriander, salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat. In a large stock pot add a little Old Bay to the water, bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add leek, celery, jalapeno and clams with juice. Reduce heat and add seafood. When seafood is cooked (2-3 minutes) add V8 juice, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts. Heat until hot (don't boil) and serve.

Yield: 10-12 servings

Friday, June 16, 2006


And so it begins. I picked this crumby camera phone picture of myself for two reasons. 1) it is the most recent photo of me; and 2) it has an air of late night, techie, web-camminess that you just can't fake, for somebody like me who's not really techie or web-cammy.

I had considered using this first post to gripe about my long-brewing pet peeve regarding the overuse and misspelling of the word definitely, but I will not take a turn to Negative Town. Not today.