Saturday, July 31, 2004

Sam uses tools

(Originally posted on Saturday, July 31, 2004 by Cathy)

For anyone wondering about the screwdriver thing, that's a jab at my dad (who isn't actually elderly - that's another joke, Dad), who left it somewhere in the basement while he was up here helping with the house, and has been complaining that we haven't found it ever since. I'm working on teaching Sam to help with the house, and he's taken a real liking to this screwdriver, so I'm not sure if we'll be able to return it any time soon...

Slow day today

(Originally posted on Saturday, July 31, 2004 by Cathy)

Well, it's coming up on noon here, and so far all I've accomplished is getting the fluorescent lamps on the medicine cabinet to light again. I wanted to keep the old fixture, at least until we redo the whole bathroom, since it's really sort of cool (in a retro weird sort of way). Anyway, we pulled it out and disconnected it from the old knob and tube wiring, somehow neglecting to note which wire was connected to which. (Of course, since knob and tube used black for both the neutral and hot, my confusion is somewhat understandable.) So we found ourselves faced with a white wire, a black wire, and two yellow wires at the top of the medicine cabinet, with not much indication of where they went, except that everything but one yellow went to one side.

Tried connecting the two yellows together (since there was one from one side, why not?), tried connecting the yellows (one or both) to the hot, nada. (Well, I did trip the GFCI a couple times by shorting hot to ground while trying to measure voltage and connectivity, of course...) Finally, I thought that maybe (stupidly enough) the yellows were actually neutrals too. Bingo. It's lighting happily again. Slowly, but happily. :)

That pretty much does it for the bathroom (until we remodel/replumb). Tim did a third coat of paint on the patch on the ceiling, so we're about set there. Now we've just got to get up the energy to go finish the demolition in the kitchen. I'm eating the last of the dengaku as I type this, so we're gonna be pretty hungry tonight if we don't have at least one countertop that isn't covered with tools, sawdust, and plaster dust.

Oh, I forgot...

(Originally posted on Saturday, July 31, 2004 by Cathy)

Just to add to the list of things accomplished before noon... I did give Benny his first bath of the day, and talk to my folks.

For those of you don't know Benny, he's my sister's husband dog, he's a chihuahua mix, he's 15 years old, weighs less than his age, and has no use of any of his four legs. He can, however, wag, as we discovered last night. It's about his only redeeming feature, beyond having a sweet personality. He's staying with us this weekend while Jes and Larry are in D.C. Benny is mostly a happy camper as long as he's being held (which is not entirely compatible with kitchen demolition), but last night we had a point where we just couldn't seem to get him happy. Bark, whine, squirm (he can squirm). Food? no. Being held? no. Being held differently? no. Going out to pee (an adventure in itself)? no. Finally we put him on his other side, and he settled down. Go figure. It's sort of like dealing with a baby - you can tell something's wrong, but they won't tell you what.

Benny hates his crate. He's willing to lie on his bed on the floor for a few hours (depending on mood) without being held, but he wants nothing at all to do with his crate. It could be worse - it turns out that our dogs just ignore him, so at least he can lie on his bed in the middle of the room and we're not having to fend off dogs an order of magnitude larger. Last night, I figured we'd put him in his crate to sleep, since I hadn't seen enough of the interaction with the other dogs to completely trust them yet. Bark, yip, whine. Bark, yip, whine. We dragged his crate into a different room. Bark, yip, whine, but somewhat drowned out by the traffic noise. I woke up around 3 am to some more ambitious barking (not happy about sharing his crate with some poop) and took pity on him and let him sleep the rest of the night sprawled across my chest. Apparently this is much closer to the manner in which he is accustomed to being kept, since he didn't make a peep for the rest of the night. Guess we'll do that again tonight. Sam and TY don't seem to mind sharing the bed, although Modi was apparently traumatized to vomit nuclear yellow puke on the carpet. Hmm. Yet another thing to get done today.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Have you seen me?

screwdriver lost.jpg

Dengaku (gesundheit)

(Originally posted on Thursday, July 29, 2004 by Tim)

Today we wired half the kitchen. Well, half the kitchen if you don?t count the overhead lighting. It?s hard to make estimates when it comes to 1st floor overhead lighting. Depending on what you find in the ceiling, it can take anywhere from half a day to a college semester to get the fixture installed and responding to a wall switch somewhere in the room. I?m waiting for someone to invent a device that talks to my lights by remote control and delivers 20 amp power to them without wire or singeing dog hair.

The biggest victory for today is the dishwasher. Huzzah! It is now hooked up and it appears to run as advertised. We have yet to test it with un-rinsed dishes. We will probably do that in a day or two after today?s dinner has crusted on harder than the plaster we just put up in the bathroom. Speaking of dinner, here?s one of the Japanese dishes I like to make. It?s officially street/snack food, but I make this as a meal. At it?s current size it?s good for two hungry people. Double it if you are cooking for more or just add another dish.

1 lb extra firm tofu
3 small to medium potatoes
1 Japanese eggplant cut into 1 inch rounds
toasted sesame seeds
6 tablespoons (3 oz) miso
3 tablespoons sake (or white wine)
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
juice of ¼ lime

Press water out of the tofu. To do this, I first palce the tofu block in a large colander. I then find a bowl slightly smaller than the colander and place it on top of the tofu. Finally, I fill the bowl full of cans of beans to weigh it down so it will press the water out of the tofu. You can pretty much fill the bowl with whatever heavy objects are handy: Rocks, batteries, cans of Spam, or 12 gauge electrical wire will do nicely. Allow the tofu to press for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into 1 inch rounds and boil them for about 20 minutes or until they are just beginning to become slightly tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside.

This meal gets its name from the sauce that is made with the remaining ingredients. Place the miso, sake, and sugar in a small saucepan. Add the 3 tablespoons of water slowly while heating and stirring this mixture until bubbly. Once mixed and bubbly, add lime juice and immediately remove from heat. Let the sauce cool to room temperature (actually, it doesn?t really need to be room temperature. Just let it cool a bit.)

Cut the tofu into ¾ inch to 1 inch thick pieces. Spray two baking sheets with Pam and arrange the potatoes, tofu, and eggplant on the sheets. Set your oven to Speed Broil so that you can use both of your broilers to cook both baking sheets simultaneously one above the other. If you do not have a Speed Broil setting on your oven, I don?t know what to tell you?I guess you bought the wrong house. Broil and flip the tofu and veggies until golden brown on both sides. When done, remove veggies from oven and brush with a generous layer of the dengaku sauce. Sprinkle the brushed veggies with toasted sesame seeds and serve warm with plum wine.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Wiring and Basements

(Originally posted on Sunday, June 27, 2004 by Tim)

Today I made my first foray into the attic. It's actually not too bad up there. The previous owners covered the center portion with floor boards. We currently only have a 6 foot ladder that we borrowed from Larry and Jessica. This results in a bit of gymnastics to get in and out of the attic so Cat hasn't been up there walking around as of yet. I was primarily up there looking for a way to run electrical wire (romex) from the basement up to the attic without punching through too many boards. The only really promising thing I saw was the hole for the vent stack (venting for the primary water line). Cat wasn't thrilled about running romex next to the vent stack so it looks as if we will need to find a different route.

In addition, I found a small rectangle cut out of the floor boards that had been nailed back down. Now I don't know about you, but whenever I see things like that I think "buried treasure" regardless of the most likely explanation. Needless to say I pulled the board up to see what was under it. Unfortunately, instead of gold doubloons or Hitler's brain, I found the more likely treasure which was the connection to the alarm system on the second floor.

We've also been doing a lot of work in the basement. While running romex down there I noticed that I've completely gotten over my childhood fear of basements. It has only taken me 30 years which surely qualifies me as a high achiever in irrational fear management. Maybe Mom and Dad could get a bumper sticker for their car.

I'm not sure why I feel different about the basement in this house. Maybe it's because I now know so much about what the basement is for and how we are going to use it for our projects around the house. Or it might be that I subconsciously realize that any basement monsters that could survive the radon and asbestos would surely have perished messing with the electrical system. I am now ready to conquer other not so irrational fears. I'm making a list to plan my activities for July.

Catdrillnophobia: The fear that Cathy will miss a wall space and drill a hole from the basement through the hardwood floor.

Samyaknaphobia: The fear that Sam will puke in the bedroom sometime in the wee hours of the morning.

Mowerblowupnophobia: The fear of spontaneous detonation of the riding lawnmower when one of the blades hits a rock, the sidewalk, or the buried oil tank in the back yard.

We Have Internet Access!

(Originally posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2004 by Tim)

Well sort of. We now have a land phone line at the house and we are using the modem to log on. We should have DSL at the beginning of next week.

The new phone number is 540-382-0008. Cathy thinks that it is a great number, but my first response was, "It doesn't spell anything." If you want a phone number that spells something, you need to not have any zeros or ones in it. Rarely have I gotten a phone number that fit that bill. Our Seattle number 425-355-2763 did spell things. It spelled easy to remember stuff like: gal-elk-a-pod and half-5-lbs-me. Our cell phone 425-238-8339 also contains no ones or zeros and spells: gal-be-tuff-9 and gal-bet-8-few. If only our Christiansburg phone number was 382-8888, then we could have "duct-tut". Or if we had 382-2228 it would spell "dub-a-bat". I'm pretty sure that "dub-a-bat" is our president's secret crime fighting alter ego. On second thought, it might just be better to have a number that is easy to remember directly.

It's cheap to have a vanity plate out here so I might have to make up for the lack of interesting number by getting a cool plate for our "hot rod".

Friday, July 16, 2004

Harry Potter

(Originally posted on Saturday, July 16, 2005 by Tim)

I?m once again enjoying the wonders of modern technology. I?m typing this up in the car on our way home from a friend?s wedding. Don?t worry, Cat is driving.

We?re currently stuck in a traffic jam caused by the thousands of families in line to buy the new Harry Potter book. I have to admit that I?m confused by current Harry Potter media frenzy. I read a front page story on the BBC web site last week titled, ?Boy buys Harry Potter Book.?

What?!?! This is BBC as in the official news organization of Great Britain and it was on the front page!

Apparently some book store in New York put the new Harry Potter book up for sale three days early. After bringing the book home, the parents of the boy realized that they had purchased the book earlier than the release date and returned it to the store. The father?s quote was something like, ?After reading a few pages we decided that we didn?t want to ruin the book for all the other families out there, so we brought the book back.?

I?m a little confused on the moral dilemma here. The plot of the book was going to be ruined by this family reading the book early? Now if he had said, ?After scanning and posting the book on the internet and getting 150,000 hits we decided that we didn?t want to ruin the book for all the families out there?? I might understand. What?s the real story here? I have two hypotheses.

The Harry Potter Mafia: My first hypothesis is that there is actually a secret Harry Potter enforcement agency out there. I?m not sure which branch of government it is associated with, but it has to fall under the umbrella of Homeland Security. It is a distinct possibility that this family got a call from the Potter Police threatening them with prison and loss of Potter movie privileges.

It is All A Clever Marketing Ploy: My second hypothesis is that the publisher actually manufactured this situation with a Potter loyal family. The conversation with this family probably went something like this.

Greedy Publishing Company: You like Harry Potter books don?t you?

Family: HECK YEAH!

Greedy Publishing Company: and you want there to be more books in the future, right?

Family: HECK YEAH!

Greedy Publishing Company: Do you want to help make the next Harry Potter book?

Family: HECK YEAH!

Greedy Publishing Company: Well for that to happen, Harry has to sell a lot of books this Saturday.

Family: So you want us to buy a lot of books?

Greedy Publishing Company: That too. What we really need from you is for you to pretend to buy a book early and then return it to support our media blitzkrieg.

Family: Isn?t that immoral?

Greedy Publishing Company: We?ll throw in a full set of Harry Potter action figures.

Family: Do you take Discover?

Saturday, July 10, 2004

To Bank or Not to Bank

(Originally posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 by Tim)

Cat and did a little research on local banks today. The easiest thing for us to do would be to transfer our accounts to the Christiansburg branch of Bank of America since a Washington branch has our money and they've been a pretty good bank. Of course, the problem with this plan is that Bank of America has branches in Blacksburg and Radford, but not Christiansburg. The Blacksburg branch is on the way to Jessica and Larry's house, which makes it pretty convenient. However, Cathy needs to deposit checks on a regular basis and there will come a time when we are not visiting Jessica and Larry every other day. This will probably be when we get an internet connection or when they move, whichever comes first.

We have collected information from two local banks so far. One is in downtown Christiansburg (9 blocks from our house). They gave me a handout that described 5 or so accounts, each with slightly different features. I'm looking for an account with no fees to it. The closest they have is "Free Checking" in which you pay no fees, but do pay for your checks. Checks cost roughly $17 per 200. I'm not sure why that bothers me, but it generally does. 200 checks are likely to last us over a year. Our other option is to keep over $1500 in a combination of checking or savings. Then the checks are free. For reference, I think our account balance may have dropped below $1500 once in our marriage. That would have been right after paying taxes the year after we bought our house with my Incyte stock option windfall. I'm unlikely to manage my bank account at this level, but I always think "Hey! I could invest that money in the market at 10% a year and make $150. I should go with the free checking where I pay for my checks."

The second bank we looked at is in the local grocery store and offers a free vacation cruise with each new checking account (I'm not making this up). Their gimmick is that while they offer the cruise, they do not offer transportation to it's starting location. "Free 3 day, 2 night, all inclusive cruise starting from Florence, Italy. Airfare not included." While these guys seem a bit goofy, they are really convenient. We are likely to continue to buy food on a regular basis indefinitely. Cat picked up a couple of brochures from them, one for a personal account and one from a business account. Unfortunately, neither brochure contained any information that might be useful in making an intelligent decision (besides the cruise info). I actually had to check the backs of the brochures to make sure that they hadn't been printed by the Democratic or Republican Party. Cat went back to the counter and asked for some more specific information like fees and minimum balances and services provided. The girl behind the desk told her that usually they print that stuff out for someone after they sign up for an account. Ummmm, OK... Still they are really convenient and I haven't ever been on a cruise. They also use a border collie as their mascot. All important things in choosing a bank.