Sunday, January 30, 2011

Windows & Crowns

Another day, another project. First up, the windows. Dipped into my stash of wood and used the miter saw to trim down enough pieces to fill in the gaps between the body of the window and the wooden studs. Also crafted up some homemade window sills and whatever you call that piece under the sill. (I'm sure it has a name.) Super happy with the results thus far. Some sanding, some Spackle (TM), more sanding, and a shade of paint. Then boom! Done, baby. Done.

And we ended with a woodworking miracle! My father came over to bear witness to it, even. The Patron Saint of Power Tools blessed us an amazing and unprecedented gift. Dad & I measured the four walls for crown work, and I made a grand total of three (THREE!) cuts. (I cut two of the boards at once.) And when we put them up on the wall... Not one... Not two... Not three... but all four of the boards fit perfectly. I've never gotten ONE board in place with a single cut before that. And somehow all four fit perfectly? Thank you, Patron Saint of Power Tools!

Next weekend? Case out the doors and closet. Paint. And we're finally done with Liam's renovation. (Amen.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Liam's Baseboards

My main weapons for this weekend are two of my favorite tools: a Dewalt cordless finishing nailer and a Dewalt miter saw. (It is actually a sliding, compound, dual-bevel, laser-guided miter saw. But who is counting?) Whenever I do trim work in the house, these things are absolutely essential. Between you and me, if it weren't for power tools, I probably wouldn't do half the stuff I do! Much like the gym, working with power tools is more effective and less expensive than therapy. So as long as a project involves them, sign me up!

First thing I had to do was trim down the corner pieces I bought for Liam's room. Sure, I could have put them in there without chopping them, but they would have stuck up too high. And I don't need to give Cindy any excuses to fire up the Gripe Box. So I measured all four corners half a dozen time. Then chopped them down to a point where the top of the baseboards will marry up to the accent on the tops of the corners.  Couple of shots from the finishing nailer and boom pow, corners are in place, ready to rock. No angling required on the corners.

The main event was pretty dull and predictable. Measure measure measure. Cut cut cut. Nail nail nail. A couple of scarf joints for the longer runs. Put down some shoe molding to cover the gaps. Worked around the un-cased door frames and have those sections ready, too. All set for sanding, Spackle (tm), sanding again, and painting.

But next up are the windows and the crown molding. Tomorrow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hockey Night

Liam sang the nation anthem at a hockey game tonight. Part of a program the team does with the local school systems, I think. He wouldn't let me take any action shots or video out. "That's not cool, Dad," he informed me. Suddenly I'm uncool, eh?

He did a fantastic job. Especially the last portion, "O'er the land of the freeeeee, and the home of the brave." Made us all proud of him. And the home team even won!

Cindy and Gigi left early. Liam went home with a friend. I was starving (since I'd gone directly from work to the game without eating dinner) so Meg and I stopped at Mugshots. I enjoyed the usual Woodchuck with a mighty fine sammich, and Meg colored while telling me about her day.

A good song. A good meal. A good hockey night.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

RIP Aunt Mert

My Grandmother's sister, my Aunt Mert, passed away. The wake was today.

Everyone gathered to view the body and pay their respects. Been a while since I've seen some of the relatives. Aunt Mert looked good, under the circumstances. I saw her on Christmas Day. She was sharp and smiling, glad to be with us. That's how I'll always remember her, with a smile on her face and a big hug for me.

RIP Aunt Mert. You've gone to glory.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Liam's Windows

More than a month since I first placed the order, Liam's windows were installed, today. I ordered them the week before Christmas. It took a week before Lowe's came out to order them. Then another week before the sub-contractor came out to measure again. And then a couple more days to get the paperwork signed. Followed by a howeverlong delay while the windows were delivered. And three MORE days waiting while Lowe's didn't call me back to schedule the install. Which brings us to today.

The subs were supposed to show between noon and one. I was home by noon. They called at one to say they were running an hour late. At two, a couple of them show up and get to work. By the end of the day, the first guys worked two hours and were joined by another couple of guys for two more hours. Ten hours in all. And they're professionals. Would have taken me probably twenty hours. Maybe two weekends. At least.

Final product looks great. I have to carve out some wood fittings to fill the gaps, this weekend. But I'm glad I didn't tackle this one myself. I know my own limits. And I've learned why some projects are best left to professionals.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Great Cleansing

Intended to throw down some woodwork today. As I go to pull out the appropriate tools, I discover the garage is pretty much drowning in random crap from around the house. And much of it was NOT of my doing.

So rather that do the work I had intended, I performed a great cleansing. Filled our trashcan completely full, loaded up four additional bags of trash, and still have two large sections to work through on another day.

Not happy. But I did chew through a ton of debris. It made a noticeable difference. And there's much more room to move around the garage now.

Woodworking will have to wait for another day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Liam's New Fan

Liam's old fan was pretty craptacular. The light armatures were all broken and took up too much space in the room. So I bought a new, smaller, and very modern one. So modern in fact, it has a REMOTE CONTROL. Seriously? We've come to a point in civilization where we need remotes for our fans? (A note on the picture of the old fan. It wasn't normally so dusty. In the photo, it was still crusty with debris from re-finishing the ceiling.) The old one came down pretty easy. It went out to the street as a donation. Maybe it'll find a new home. Or maybe end up on eBay. Godspeed.

Dad came over to help get the new one installed. Everyone should be blessed with an electrician in their family. Especially if he has experience with 40+ year old wiring. Like the stuff in my house. It isn't the same stranding as the stuff being made these days. Dad has to translate it. Also had to figure out where to conceal the clever wireless receive, for the remote control. It was surprisingly large and needed to wedge through a weird loop on the mounting arm. Not to mention the antennae and all the other wires which had to be tucked up there. I mainly provided moral support and heavy lifting. Though my shoulders were damn near dead from the swim last night!
About an hour later, we were done. Flipped up the wall switch, popped batteries in the remote, and VIOLA! It worked the first time out of the gate. The light flicks on and off. The fan flicks on and off. And we can adjust the fan speed. All from one little remote.

Afterwards, we celebrated at my favorite hangout: Mugshots. Dad & Liam had BBQ burgers. I had a Peanut Butter Burger and a couple of ice cold Woodchucks. Then we hugged it out and put a DONE sticker on the project.

Since I was feeling frisky, I rolled to Lowe's, at like 8P, and picked up the needed supplies for the baseboards, windows, and crown molding. The longest boards were sticking eight feet out from the front of my car, like a long pale lance piercing the night on my ride home.

Hope to make a big dent in those projects tomorrow and have everything wrapped up next weekend. This whole thing is lasting longer than some marriages and I'm eager to see the end of it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Making Waves

Phenomenal swim today. Made a total of 60 laps. 3000 meters. Almost two miles. Took more than an hour. And my face hurt from the goggles pressing against me that long. But a great swim and I'm proud to set a new record.

Hopefully I'll be able to move my arms tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Liam's New Furniture, Part III

Another busy night. After going to the gym (Parisi for Liam, running & core for me) and having dinner, we built Liam's new bed.  Was fun getting it in the house during a torrential down pour while doing 95% of the lifting by myself. The box was pretty beat up from delivery and/or my brute force efforts.

Then we had to make space in his room, unpack the stray parts of bed, inventory all the pieces, and dispose of the mound of trash left behind just from unpacking. That in and of itself was an adventure. Liam asked, "Who taught the Chinese how to pack stuff like this?" And we hadn't even hit step #1 of the instructions.

Then the fun began. But we only put a couple of items together upside down or backwards. Didn't scratch up the new floor. Or the new walls. Or the other new furniture. And Cindy only freaked out twice. (She thought, even though we weren't even half-way done putting it together, the bed was too flimsy.)

By 9:30P, he was asleep in the new bed. Cindy put a nightlight in his room. So he would see if he had to climb down. And she closed the night by telling him, "If you need me, just call, and I'll come help you!" Thankfully there was no nursing or diaper changes involved. And the umbilicus managed to stretch all the way to the top of the bunk.

Sleep well, kid. Sleep well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Liam's New Furniture, Part II

Cindy touched up the paint on the walls and closet. Took out the horizontal shelving by herself! Even painted those, too. Even bought some additional storage containers and organized the thing Liam decided to keep.

With the floors and most of the walls done (couple of spots to patch and some delicate lines to finish) we put most of his new furniture in place. The dresser, smaller cabinet, and futon worked out well. And I brought in a couple of surprise lighting features: a table lamp and matching floor lamp. Modern stuff for a modern kid. A huge change for all of us. But the kids are both growing every day.

Still left to do: assemble his new bed, install the new lamp, new windows, new closet doors, trim work, and casings. And then I'll actually be able to say: DONE!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Liam's Paint Job

Troy finished sanding the drywall and slicking the ceiling this morning. All together, he spent less than 8 hours on a project that would have EASILY taken me three days. He's a Da Vinci with drywall mud. An artist if ever I met one.

Once Troy was done, I tore into the painting. Bought the paints ($30/gallon!!) Shades of gray. A dark one for an accent wall plus an ultra light shade for the other walls. And picked up a new ceiling fan, for later. Cleaned out the closet. Put down the drop clothes. Pulled out all the hardware. Taped up the borders of the accent wall. And then the real work began!

Was in the middle of covering the newly-slicked ceiling with a thick coat of primer + paint and Cindy joined me! She skipped studying to help me  paint. I wrapped up the ceiling while she started on the closet. Then I covered the dark accent wall (which was REAL dark!) After that, I  finished out the closet and Cindy tackled the main walls. And afterwards, she did the bulk of the cleaning without lopping my head off. It was good to work together without issues or confrontations. Both of us on the same frequency for a change. No arguments, just work and cooperation.

In the end, the ceiling looked brand new. The walls were great. The closet was a HUGE improvement. And we only spent two and a half hours on the whole thing.

Hope to have the furniture in tomorrow. Liam's bed ought to be together on Tuesday. Maybe his fan on Wednesday. I'll trim out the ceiling and floor this weekend. The closet doors after that. And we still have a couple of weeks before the windows arrive.

But there's a bright light at the end of this long tunnel.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mud, Makers, and Mugshots

 With the drywall up, Troy came over to ply his trade. He's an absolute wizard when it comes to mud. Like a country version of David Blane! I wish I had Before & After pictures of the ceiling that he had to cover. It was extremely fugly. But in less than four hours, Troy unpacked, slicked down the ceiling, sealed the seams, and covered all the drywall holes. It would have taken me two days to finish. (It took me a day and a half, with my father's help, to hang it!) He did it in four hours. And his work is much much better than mine.

While Troy was working on Liam's room, we were building Liam's second dresser.The first one was only three small drawers. This one is much bigger. Twice as many drawers, And each much bigger than the first dresser. But they're a matching set. And should go well with the bed once it is built. I don't know what you'd call these things. I just know what I like. And how to following building instructions. Good times followed. Liam helped get everything assembled. It only required patience, four hours, an Alan key, and an optional rubber mallet (Liam's favorite part!)

Afterwards, we celebrated like men: with beer and burgers from Mugshots! I had all the beer (Woodchuck cider) and a fabulous Peanut Butter Burger. Liam had a milkshake and a Bishop Burger with bbq sauce. Just the two of us. Hanging out after a long day of work.

Good times on multiple fronts. And there was much rejoicing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

My Dark Gods

A fantastic ride tonight. 15 miles in under 45 minutes. Calories and anger sloughing off in hot ribbons. Drenched in my own sweat. Pure venom in my veins. Re-invented fire along the way. Built the Eiffel Tower out of steel and pain. And then a thunderous shoulder workout. Let loose the damn hounds. All of them. Five exercises. Concluded with shoulder shrugs and 260lbs of woe. Home late. But the thunder has been brought. And my dark gods will be pleased.

#1 on 1/11/11

On 1/1/11, out of the entire fifth grade class at Bayou View Elementary, guess who received the #1 highest score on the knowledge exams? My son, Liam! Knocked it out of the damn park, he did! Well over a hundred some souls. And he beats them all. A line stretching more than a hundred deep, in front is Liam.

Very double super extra proud of him.  Achieving far more than I ever did at his age. And he's only just getting started. Got a rocket strapped to his back, working toward escape velocity, soaring to heights I only dreamed of.

Love ya, kid. Love ya. You are a bright, shining star in my grim sky.

Monday, January 10, 2011

MOVIE: Moon (2009)

An ultra-low budget sci fi flick written and directed by Duncan Jones, Moon is a poignant and engrossing tale about Astronaut Sam Bell and a disturbing discovery he makes near the tail end of his three-year solo stint on the moon. He is supposed to be working, with a droll but privately compassionate robot named GERTY, to mine Helium-3 from the lunar surface and ship it back to Earth in automated torpedoes.

The movies entire budget was $5,000,000. It's US Box Office gross was $5,000,005,677. I don't know anyone who saw it on the Big Screen. But everyone has seen it since has suggested Sam Rockwell (who played Sam Bell) should have been up for an Oscar. Top notch acting. Enormously enthralling plot. Beautiful cinematography (considering the tableau and the budget.) Excellent writing and dialog. There's quite an interesting story but elaborating on it would diminish its impact.  Overall, Moon was far more entertaining than many sci fi movies with twenty times the budget.

Mostly safe for older kids who might like science and or the moon. Probably not flashy enough for the twenty somethings. Could make for a good date flick if all members of the party are partial to the genre. Supremely worth the price of a rental. And definitely Oscar quality. Shame it didn't get the respect it clearly deserves. But I'm glad I gave it a shot.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Liam's New Furniture

After the gym (core, forearms, running on the track) and some shopping for new long gym pants, we put together some of Liam's new furniture. Really just one piece: his three drawer cabinet. A really nice piece, actually. Sleek and modern. Very minimalist and functional. Sturdy, yet fairly easy to put together. Liam even lent a hand with some of the steps. Quiet handy with the rubber mallet, he is.  And eager to contribute to the project. (Which is nice considering whose room it is!)

Eventually, we'll have a big dresser drawer to build and his bed. Couple of lamps. Ceiling fan. You know, fun stuff like that.

We're a bit behind on the project. Drywall didn't get mudded last weekend. Windows might not be in for a couple of more weeks. But the walls are up and the floor is done. He can sleep in there, for now. Even though it is unfinished. But we could be done by the end of this weekend.

Then it is on to the next project...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

On Saturday

On Saturday, I rolled with the kids to the gym. Back and biceps by myself. Then some time in the pool for all of us. The kids splashed around in the 4' "Aqua fit" pool while I did laps. Only managed about 600 meters. Too distracted with thoughts of them. Alternated between the hot tub and the ice bath aftwards. So cold I could barely breathe. So hot my glasses fogged up. Not sure if I'll take the kids again. Too distracting. And far too loud, even on their best behavior.

For dinner, we went to Andy & Kim's house. They were throwing a Going Away party for Nicky & Rachel, who are moving to Waco, TX. Grilled hotdogs, salsa, spinach dip, chips, Blue Moon, etc. Ate around the fire pit. Took swings at a rocket-shaped pinnate. The kids fired up Rock Band, and Liam made a 100% Perfect score on Eye Of The Tiger. Good times for everyone.  And a long winter's sleep to conclude.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday Night Lights

After two short weeks (thank you Holiday Season!) the normal work week seemed to stretch across 10 days, instead of five. But I'm feeling better and things are coming together nicely. Liam's room. My training. Liam's school. Meg's art and dance. All the gears meshing together. Like they're supposed to.

Love it when a plan comes together.

Ended the work week with some interesting Friday night lights dancing across the parking garage. The sun dipping bellow the horizon. A lone car spinning up the highway. And I have the weekend calling my name.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

MOVIE: Bloodline (2008)

I like a good conspiracy theory. Especially one that involves Jesus, some drunken Frenchmen, and buried treasure. Bloodline has all three. And to top it off, the movie makes itself out to be a documentary. Over three years in the making, British Director Bruce Burgess presents evidence that Jesus (yes, Jesus Chris, Son of Mary & David, King Of The Jesus, etc, etc) married Mary Magdelene, and fathered a child with her. Following the crucifixion, Mary and child fled to the south of France, then went into hiding. To support his claims, Burgess interviews members of a secret society, unveils what he says is the mummified remains of Mary, and attempts to plumb the unbreachable tomb of the legendary Knights Templar.

Bloodlines picks up where The Da Vinci Code left off. If one is willing to accept everything presented, it is fairly interesting, thought provoking, and something of a dramatically paced thriller. Unfortunately, like the author Dan Brown, Bruce Burgess fails to see through the flimsy deceptions of Pierre Plantard and the fictional organization known as the Priory Of Sion  (PoS) is allowed to play a critical link in the long chain of clues needing to be followed to reach a believable conclusion. Personally, I discard everything stemming from the PoS. And there was still some meat on the bone of Bloodlines. Though only a little.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie, even though I didn't swallow the whole thing. There were certainly some very interesting portions. And some flimsy ones. Teens with a penchant for conspiracy theory will enjoy it. Not sure it would make any kind of interesting date movie. And it was informative enough to make it the worth price of a rental. Something infotaining for a long, cold weekend.

Gyms and Things

Worked out early. Chest and triceps. Hard for me to warm up in the morning. Especially in winter. Woke me up if nothing else. Everything was easy, after that. Did some running after work. My first 8 minute mile. If I can string three of those together, I'll be a happy old computer dork.

Liam went to Parisi. Prisoner squats. "A" Jumps. Situps. Bear crawls. Burpees. Suicides. Another good day for him. Crazy serious workout. Very very group of him and his continued efforts.

Meg wrote a new story, based on her vocabulary words. She parachuted into the Amazon to find some friendly snakes and peaceful locals. She only needed to write a couple of sentences. Instead she wrote almost two pages. She's the next Hemingway!

And Cindy started college again. First time in more than fifteen years. Going to work on her Nurse Practitioner's degree. If all goes well, she'll finish around December of 2013. Maybe then I can retire and be a House Husband?

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

MOVIE: Catfish (2010)

Been a while since I reviewed any movies. Thought I'd return with an interesting little indie flick that took in a grand total of like $250,000 during its opening weekend in September of 2010.

Catfish is an ultra modern documentary. Meaning YouTube and Facebook and Macs play roles as crucial as any actual humans. It follows on the efforts of a couple of young film makers to record the rapidly-developing and digitally-tangled relationships between a New York photographer (Yaniv), a young girl (Melody) who creates paintings of his photographs, her twenty something sister (Megan), and their mother (Angela.)

Street smart. Thriller. Sublime. Enthralling examination of the continued evolution of dating in the world of social networks and instantaneous communication. All that and a little more. Catfish starts off as an interesting look at the birth of an odd little relationship and warps into an odd, almost unbelievable yet completely disturbing psychological caper. The ending does drag a bit. And it leaves several questions lingering in the air. But there's a strange sense of confusion: was it objective or exploitative? Was it genuine, or fabricated?   I dunno. Either way, I enjoyed it.

Safe for teens, I think. Twenty Somethings will instantly relate to it. Forty Somethings and beyond won't get it. Thirty Somethings continue to be confused if it was real or not, but still enjoy it. I'm thinking a nice, mellow date flick that could inspire an interesting conversation afterwards. Certainly well worth the price of a rental and an hour plus change spent on the sofa.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Refinishing - Round Two

Flooring Guy returned this morning. Said our efforts this past weekend to remove the water spots were successful. He sanded down the final layer. Removed any sign of scars. And slapped down two (out of three) layers of varnish. Such a dramatic improvement from the original, it is amazing. Well worth the investment.

He has to come back tomorrow morning, for the final layer.And that will complete the refurnishing project.

A bit of foreshadowing for additional pieces of the renovation of Liam's room:

  • Contractors are coming to measure for replacement windows which I hope to have installed ASAP.
  • Troy will be here this weekend to mud and sand the room.
  • I have to hang new closet doors.
  • New paint.
  • New furniture.
  • New fan.
And then I get to sleep and contemplate the NEXT adventure. By the time I'm done, we'll have gutted the house from the inside, while living in it. No small task. Especially for an untrained digital redneck, like me.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Whose Shoes

At the gym? Check.
New cargo biking shorts? Check!
Nike Combat shirt? CHECK!
Attitude? CHECK!!!
Shoes? Um...
Shoes!? Hold on..
SHOES?!? Whose shoes are these?
Liam's shoes. And they don't fit me. So no workout today.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

First Workout

First workout of the year was shoulders and legs. Felt great. Focused. Plenty of strength in my shoulders. Even the right one, which was torn a while ago. I don't really clobber heavy weights any more. Don't want to risk another tear by doing something stupid. Instead I hit a lot of reps. Last set of shoulder shrugs was 260lbs x 15 reps. And then legs.  Not super heavy weights, but a lot of reps. Last set was 300lbs leg presses x 15 reps.

Great workout. Great mood. Great way to start 2011.

Hope it stays this way.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

2010 Predictions Revisited

I shared a couple of predictions with friends last year. Thought I'd revisit them and see how well or how poorly I did. Have to follow up later this week with some new predictions for 2011.

  1. Prediction: Real Bank Reform - I was hoping the current administration would come up with substantial reform, akin to the safety of Glass-Steagall Act. Instead we got a nudge nudge wink wink and flimsy reform that does nothing to diminish the power of exotic financial grifts such as the explotation of interest rate differentials, arbitrages, naked short-sales, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and other swindles based which create no value whatsoever.

    Grade: Pass, but barely.
  2. Prediction: U6 Unemployment stays above 15% - Our elected officials love to diminish the true depth of unemployment by citing the U3 report. U3 measures the number of people actively collecting unemployment benefits. But once benefits are gone, a person is off the U3 list. So there are millions of people without a job, but the government doesn't care to mention them and the media doesn't make light of the scam. Real unemployment is measured by the U6 report. And for 2010, the U6 report revealed not only did unemployment stay above 15%, it was actually above 16% the whole year.

    Grade: Pass.
  3. Prediction: The Great Depression V2.0 becomes a classic "double dip recession" in 2010 - I thought the lapse of "Cash for Clunkers" and the end of "First Time Homebuyer" cash would make GDP tumble into negative territory. But that didn't happen. Even though unemployment stayed high, foreclosures stayed high, and the general mood of the country was poor, we did not technically re-enter a depression.

    Grade: Fail.
  4. Prediction: DOW drops into 5000 territory - Not even close, here. The Fed did a great job propping up Wall Street fatcats while 1 in 6 people were unemployed, 1 in 8 people will deal with or have dealt with a foreclosure, and 1 in 6 kids live below the poverty level. The illusion of growth was maintained and investors continued to play Three Card Monte with our 401Ks and pension funds.

    Grade: Fail.
  5. Prediction: - Real Estate continues to suck in 2010 - Inventories went up. Foreclosures went up. Prices went down. In my world, that all amounts to a big dish of suck.

    Grade: Pass.
  6. Prediction: The current administration continues to miss the mark - I figured the POTUS would continue to disappoint me in 2010. Couple of good moves (Don't Ask, Don't Tell, 9/11 responders.) Bunch of bad moves (Flawed Health Care Reform, deficits, tax failure, financial reform failure.) Overall, I personally feel like he missed the mark, at least by my measure.

    Grade: Pass
  7. Prediction: The minority party continues to block and jeer - Probably not a fair prediction because the minority party is always going to do this. However, one day our politicians will work together instead of against each other. Not likely during my lifetime.

    Grade: Pass
5 out of 7. That's not bad. Right? Anyway, welcome aboard, 2011. Glad you could join us. Don't worry, I'll make some predictions for you, too. In due time, though. In due time.