Saturday, December 31, 2005

new year

Yup, another year down, but man was it a busy one. Don't worry I won't recap the whole year here, just the last few days.

I've been trying to wrap up some of the finishing details on the house this week, and actually doing some bike work in the shop. On the house front, I finished up the bathroom fixtures, they're all in place and plumbed. I sure hope that's the last pedestal sink I ever have to plumb though. My inspector had warned me that they're a pain, but you never really realize how bad they are until you do one. All the plumbing lined have to hide in the pedestal, which is only open on the backside. That means you get to try and make all the connections without being able to see them, and with them inside a 5" diameter cylinder where you hands really weren't meant to go. Hooking up the supply lines weren't too bad, but the drain line was tough, it barely fit, which meant my hands don't fit! But after a couple hours I managed to get it.

I've got one crucial step left though before it can be fully functional. The main drain stack for the bathroom still has the plug in it for pressure testing. That means going up on the roof to cut off the cap them glue in a new mesh cover. And while I love snow, we just got about 6" this week, and it's wet and slippery, so trips up on the roof are out for a few days.

I finished up a few more odds and ends today as well. I put the last finishing cut on the breakfast bar countertop, which meant I could finally install that cabinet and counter permanently. While I was at it, I finally put the last mounting screws in the remaining kitchen countertops and screwed the dishwasher in place (I never quite got around to that back in March when we did the kitchen!).

To everyone who's been over to our garage since we installed the garage door, you've seen my high-tech garage door opener control system: Touching two bare wires together on the opener... Well, I finally fixed that today too, put in a real opener switch mounted to the wall and everything! I also put in a sensor that tells us if the door is open or closed when we're upstairs. I never even though about the fact that we have to go downstairs and through the shop just to know if the door is closed, it's kinda a big hassle when you're as lazy as me. So now we have a little indicator upstairs and a door control, so no more trips downstairs before going to bed!

Thursday I managed to get two repairs done in the shop for a couple of customers that had unique circumstances and needed these repairs done while they waited. One was a customer driving up from Rochester for a singlespeed conversion, the other was a guy leaving the country on bike tour in 5 days and he needed some canti bosses moved before he left.
I've been working on getting my new tube mitering machine up and running too. I got all the electrical controls mounted and wired up. After quite a few phone calls to my brother it does work, but I figured out that the auxiliary contactor isn't working right so it won't stay running. I think I just need to get a new one and everything will be running. The plus side is I finally really learned and understand how the starter and contactor system works. I spec these out at work fairly often but I hadn't actually wired one or known how the internals work.

well, it's about time to head out for some new years partying, so adios folks, talk at you next year!


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Holiday Edition

Man, what a week. The week before Christmas is always busy for me, but usually it's simply due to my procrastination of buying holiday gifts. Not so this year, got all the shopping done prior to this week, but yet here I am, going insane. Work got bad this week and I had to take a fast trip down to Little Rock AR with no notice. And traveling this time of year sucks. Really sucks.

Maybe I'll start there, with Little Rock since it's kind of a funny story. I wasn't going for any noble reasons, really just one of those required political statements to show them that I care...

For those who don't know, Little Rock is pretty much a hole. It's tiny, not very nice, and full of some rather unusual folks as far as I can tell. The plant I service is actually in College Station, which is far worse. This is true poverty, people living in shacks that are half fallen over with a dozen rusted out cars rotting in the yard (this one isn't hyperbole, that's sadly what you will literally see driving into the plant). In the winter months you usually pass a group of guys huddled around a 55 gallon drum with a fire burning inside, warming up their fingers, and their throats if you know what I mean (think drinking out of paper bags at 6 am). The three liquor stores I pass on my way in (I think those are the only stores I pass) all have 6" steel pipes filled with concrete all along the front side of the store, along with steel welded grating over the windows. Otherwise people drive their cars through the front of the store to get the booze (seriously).

Here's a short synopsis of my trip down to the plant, this seems pretty typical when I travel down there:

I fly into Memphis, with a connection to Little Rock from there (the Little Rock Airport isn't big enough to have direct flights, it's a 40 seater from Memphis to Little Rock). The connecting plane is late, as usual, so I opt to just drive to Little Rock. It's only about a 2 hour drive and really the flight takes about the same amount of time once you get through sitting on the runway for 20 minutes, etc... I'm about 50% on making that flight from Memphis to Little Rock, it seems to get cancelled a lot.

So I get a rental car, one way to Little Rock, and head out. It's all interstate to Little Rock, I-40 all the way, should be flowing free and smooth, or so I think.
About 20 miles in, traffic slows to a crawl for a few minutes, until I get to the source of the problem: a Honda Civic on the side of the road. Now if it were just a broke-down Civic I wouldn't think anything of it, but it was actually a Civic that was being towed. Now don't read that last line as if it was actually in the act of being towed. It had BEEN towed by the front bumper until the bumper came off! Yes, the bumper was laying there, along with the chains they were using to tow it. No sign of the actual tow vehicle, they were probably on their way to the Honda dealer to complain about how crappy that car was, the bumper just flew right off!

So traffic moves again after that, for about 50 miles. Then it slows up again, and I see a road construction sign. I'm in the left lane and there are semi trucks in the right lane, so I can't see much over there. There's a sign on the left shoulder though that says "left lane ends, merge right". Seems pretty simple, going to single lane, so I better get over to the right. Well, when I merge right, I notice there's a sign on the right shoulder at the exact same point that says " right lane ends merge left"! So some genius at the Arkansas hiway department couldn't decide which lane ended, so they marked both! as you might guess, they didn't actually both end (that would have been something!), the left land ended, but it completely screwed up traffic for a while.

Finally about 5 miles out of Little Rock, I seen something unusual on the side of the road (even more unusual than the previous things). There's a full size pick-up truck that appears to be on fire! I thought it was an engine fire, but the flames were really high. As I got closer, I realized it was the contents of the pickup bed that were on fire! looked like someone was moving, it was mostly cardboard boxes full of who knows what, all going up in a blaze of glory. Really, how does the contents of the bed of your truck start on fire? I could see an engine fire if something went wrong, but most people pickup beds don't spontaneously combust.

But I eventually made it to town, got my work done, then got the hell outta there. I'll write more about Little Rock some other day when I have more time.

On the the house. I finally have some pictures. I found the batteries for the camera and snapped off a few shots:

Here's how things look from the kitchen looking out to the new room. Note the cabinet at the end of the kitchen is finally in place along with the countertop on it.
The flooring is al new and runs out into the new room and the hallway. It's solid 3/4" maple. I love how it came out.

Try to ignore all the junk on the countertop, there's just clutter everywhere right now, but we're working on that.

Here's the hallway, you can get a glimpse of the wall color in the main room, and the hall.

And, here's the shower in the bathroom. It's about all I have done in there other than the floor, but it looks good. We love the wall color/floor combo. I'm hoping to finish this room up next.

And finally, here's a view outside the garage door now that we have a little snow. It sure is nice to have a flat driveway! The snows been great, I just wish I could have gotten out skiing on it more this week.

Well, that's about all for right now, I gotta run.

Have a great holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate.


Monday, December 19, 2005

holiday slacking

Well as you can tell I've been really slacking off with respect to writing here lately. It's the holidays and life is crazy, as I'm sure yours is too, so you understand. Thanks, I knew you would.

So much has happened since my last entry that I don't know where to start. I won't be starting with pictures of what I've been working on though since I just found the battery charger for the digital camera this morning. Hopefully that'll be up and running this afternoon and I can get some pictures up here.

So I'll try to fill you in using my literary photo album, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, you're in for a long, painful read!

Last week I wrapped up the end of the hardwood flooring install, and my knees have been rejoicing ever since. It looks fantastic and has lots of good character. Looks much better than the cheap laminate fake wood floor we had in the kitchen. We saved that though, and will probably use it in one of the less-used spare bedrooms in the future.

And with having the floor down, I was finally able to install the last kitchen cabinet and the final countertop in the kitchen (the peninsula cabinet and breakfast bar). It looks really nice, and it was so nice to finally install that. It's been sitting in our basement for the better part of 2005 just waiting for this moment.

Beth is almost done with the painting out in the new area, which is great. Once that's done, we can put all the electrical coverplates on and get the final electrical inspection.

The bathroom floor is also done, I installed a tile-like product in there called Adura. They're glue-down laminate tiles 16" x 16" but without grout between them, they butt up against each other and the seams nearly disappear. It's supposed to be really tough, so it should hold up well in the laundry room. The shower is also installed, I got that up last week, just have to do a little finish caulking around the doors.
I passed the last drainline pressure-test this week too, so I've got the greenlight to proceed with installing the bath fixtures and then get the final inspection on the plumbing. I really can't wait for that since our dining room is currently full of boxed plumbing fixtures (toilet, pedestal sink etc...). So we might even be able to see the floor in the dining room again soon!
The final tie-in joint on the drain line continues to plague me. The inspector didn't like the reducing fitting I used, said it had to be reinforced with a stainless mesh since I'm installing it above ground, then proceeded to inform me that he had never seen a pipe like the one I'm trying to connect to, so he didn't even know how I should do it. Big help there.
Well... The only fittings approved for above ground connections between cast-iron and PVC are straight couplings (4" to 4", 3" to 3" and so-on). Well, that means I have to chip out about 4 more inches of concrete around the pipe (in addition to the 2" I already chipped out) then somehow cut off the cast-iron pipe in an area where I can't get a chain cutter in and connect my PVC to that cut end. Piece of cake right??? I'll keep fighting with this one this week, hopefully get it done soon. Thankfully I have my grandfather's electric hammer, what a cool tool! It's literally a mini jack-hammer that runs off electricity instead of air. It's been really handy for chipping out the concrete.

I decided I needed a break from the usual home project work last weekend, so I tackled a side-project: optimizing storage space in the basement. I've had this idea for a while but never made the time to implement it.
The band rehearsal area in the basement has been slowly getting more and more crowded with non-band related stuff, so I had a great idea. I built a big drum-riser with storage for large items underneath it. I'm always sitting when I play my drums, so I had spare headroom, so I went up 14"! Wish I had a picture to put in here, but if you recall from paragraph 2, no pictures right now... It's so rock-n-roll. It's like playing in a seedy bar with a rickety old stage, but right in my own basement, plus it stores all kinds of crap under it completely out of site.
Between that, and my selling off of misc stuff from the basement, I was able to get rid of a large chunck of shelving and open up the band area quite a bit. Makes the whole basement feel bigger.

Thursday last week I managed to get out for my first ski of the season, went over to Como with a friend of mine after work. It was great due to the fresh 6" of snow we got last week. I can honestly say this year was the first time I've ever been able to go out on my first ski of the year and have good snow. I'm usually so excited to get out that I ski on the first 1/2" we get with grass and rocks sticking out everywhere. Well I've been so busy this year I wasn't able to get out on the bad snow, and fortunately we got some good snow early.
Went out again Sat to Lake Elmo, which was good classic, but the skating sucked. They don't really know how to groom well out there and most of the trails are classic only, so the skate lane tends to suffer. I'll stick to classic out there I think. Just need to get some classic ski's waxed up. I did set-up a wax bench in the basement though, thanks to all the new free-space I was able to make down there.

Alright, enough rambling for now, I'll write more when have some pictures to go with it.


Friday, December 09, 2005


Thank God for the end of the week. I was gone half the week and it still seemed like the longest week I've had in a while.

I don't usually talk about my day job here, but it's hard not to today. We moved our offices for the second time in 2 months today, moved back into our permanent space. We were moved out for the purposes of remodeling the wing of the building, new carpet, paint and furniture. Seemed like a worthwhile effort, 2 weeks of living out of boxes in a temporary area, then move back to all new digs.

Yeah right. One week into the temporary living, we were informed it would be at least 4 more weeks because the found asbestos tile in the old area. I want to know what genius didn't figure out that there was a good shot at the original tile being asbestos in an 80 year old building! So we hang out in the temporary area for more weeks, and finally moved back today. Should have stayed in the temporary area, it was better. We're now forced into half the area we occupied prior to the move. Our new furniture has about half the storage space that we had before, and we now don't have any real dividers between our cubes. In short, it sucks.

But what can you do...

I'll tell ya what, you can go out to the Kenwood Cash-sandwich tonight. A re-inactment of the now famed Jackass sandwich of several years ago where a group of gentlemen started at early happy hour at Lyles, then rode to Jackass the movie, then back to Lyles afterwards for late happy hour. Throw in some derbies and bicycle throwing in the middle and you got an event.
Tonight should be just what I need.

Well, more hardwood flooring tonight, maybe work on the bathroom this weekend if I get the hardwood in. Soon we'll have some use-able space again.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Blog, blog, bloggity blog.

Man, so much to write about. So little time. Unfortunately, I have a bandage on the tip of my left index finger from a bone-headed move while laying flooring, so typing is a little slow right now, so I'll keep it brief.

Had a quick jaunt out to sunny CA this week for work. What a shock getting back out to my car though today. It was 70 and sunny when I left, and about 12 degrees when I got to the car. Shoulda packed a bigger jacket! It was a pretty normal trip, too much to do, too many people around and too much traffic. Man I really can't imagine living out there. Maybe it's just the part of town I go to, but it seems like endless sprawl (way worse than Minneapolis). I don't mind the crowdedness so much as the lifestyle. NY is crowded and I don't mind that, but the people there seem more real, more down to earth than LA. Whatever it is, I'm always glad to leave. I think I'll stick to the midwest for now.

As the title of this post somewhat infers, I want to touch on the theory of a blog, once again.... It seems every time I write anything with any passion at all, it gets lots of good comments and a few maybe deserved bad ones. This is a Blog folks, that's short for "web-log" i.e. a log or record of things I do or come across which I care to pass along. This is not a newspaper, and to prove that I'll reference what has become my favorite quote of all time referring to my writing:
it is " a long-winded tirade lacking a clear point" and " his lack of structure and hyperbole"

My tirad-ness (is that a word?) and bad hyperbole are exactly what makes this blog a blog and not a New York Times Editorial (that and my really bad grammar, spelling, punctuation and all those other things I never grasped in English class). It's one of those ironies in life that I get the most off-list positive comments from people to my rants, and I also get the most flack, but I guess that's the nature of holding personal opinions. So to be brief, my last rant was not a personal attack directed at anyone other than Chris Hawkey, and any other idiot who consciously chooses to try and run cyclists off the road. Period.

I've debated just not writing about anything other than the mundane work of building bikes. But that seems boring, so I guess I'll continue to write about whatever crosses my tiny mind. Really there's only so much I can say about cutting steel tubing and brazing lugs. So if you don't see eye to eye with me all the time, please just accept that we're different people. That's a good thing, otherwise we'd all be Bob Brown clones running around building bikes and complaining about the world, then I'd be out of a job.

Maybe it's all my own fault that people sometimes get upset. I've always assumed that there are about 4 of you out there that actually read my ramblings, and I often write it that way. I'm continually shocked at how many people actually check this site and read the entries. Do you all have that little to do at work? anyways, I'm glad you're here. I'll try me best to keep you entertained.

I've got a wood floor to install, so that's it for today. I'm hoping to make it out skiing this week before the snow is gone again, so see you out on the trails!


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

2 in 1

Two posts in one day, how lucky are you readers!

this one is quick, but very important. There is a final meeting of the Minneapolis Park Board committee on determining the fate of the mountain biking experiment in Wirth park. If you like to ride there please try to go, more bodies = more support.

Here are the details:

Wednesday December 7, 2005
Minneapolis Park and Rec HQ's 5 - 7 PM
Board Room Suite 255
2117 West River Road, Minneapolis

Regretably I have a work commitment that night, so I can't make it, please someone take my place, or better yet, 10 people take my place!



I was all set to write a nice polite update about all the hard work I've done the last few days, then I went and read the KW discussion board...

Thorny was kind enough to share a story of what was said over the airwaves on KFAN radio last week. As you can imagine, most people I know wouldn't have anything to do with KFAN, we have brains. However lots of redneck idiots in this town do listen to the Clear-Channel spew, I know, I work with a bunch of them.

Apparently Chris Hawkey (the morning idiot) last week told a tale about how he intentionally tried to run a cyclist off the road on his commute in simply because he though it was stupid that anyone would ride a bike in the winter. How can someone still be legally allowed to drive after doing something like that, then bragging about it on the radio? How can Clear Channel still be employing this idiot? (well, that's rhetorical, I think being an idiot is a prereq. to working at KFAN).

In MN it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle within 3' of a cyclist on a public roadway (even if there's no shoulder), so no matter what, he deliberately broke the law. He admitted on the radio that he did it to teach the cyclist a lesson, that seems more like assault to me, or attempted vehicular manslaughter, but I'm certainly no lawyer, and I'm sure I'm just dreaming here, but if I were that particular cyclist, I'd be down at the police pressing charges against this asshole, any charge I could.

This is Minneapolis, the city with the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the US. There also happens to be a real winter here, with snow and everything (if we're lucky). If you put those two things together, that means there will be many people riding bikes in the snow, on your roadways. Mr. Hawkey, get used to it or leave. We've got just as much right to be there as you do.

Then, as if having these local idiots around wasn't bad enough, I was emailed a story about a cyclist in Colorado who was hit and killed by a teenager who was attempting to send a text message while driving. That's so sad you'd think I was making it up, but unfortunately I'm not. The kid is a minor, so they won't release his identity, and get this, he's being charged with Careless Driving Causing Death, which carries a maximum one year sentence. So this 17 year old was so stupid that he took the life of another person, yet he'll get off with only serving one year. Way to teach him a lesson. I sincerely hope he's riddled with guilt the rest of his life for what he did.

There is simply no accountability for driving these days. Period. Watch out.

Well, after that I don't even feel like writing about the weekend. I spent too much time working on flooring and it's not done. enough said.

We got some fresh snow though, which is exciting (not just because it means it's open season to run cyclists off the road either!) for skiing. I hear there was some decent skiing at Wirth this weekend, I wouldn't know I was inside all weekend. Maybe next weekend I can get out for a ski. More than likely this will be the first winter with real snow in years simply because I have too much work to do on my house to go out and ski...