My journal, oh how I have neglected you!

I’ve been ultra-busy lately at both work and home, but looking back at the journal, I haven’t written anything other than movie reviews in over a month.  I’m even way behind on the movie reviews! Christ I wasn’t that busy, I’m just neglectful.  I’m sorry journal.

In the past month, I’ve been working on a fun project at work that has occupied quite a few cycles.  My plan is to finish it by the end of June, and I don’t think that is an ambitious goal.  The sin-laws visited over the Memorial Day weekend, and while it was part social visit, it was clearly also part indentured servitude.  coco_b has wanted to better utilize the awesome evening light that was hitting the street side of the house, but much of it was sequestered in the front bedroom (which is her little yoga/reading/working/office/chill space).  After some discussions, we decided to replace the lame slab door (in the distance in that photo) to that room with a set of french doors.  This way the room was still a defined, separate room, yet open or closed, we still get the beautiful evening light and both rooms seem bigger.  Corinna’s parents have done a ton of work on their home, and her stepfather does cabinetry and woodworking as a hobby.  Even better, they always seem willing to help us out on whatever crazy projects we dream up.  :)

So they drove all the way down (er, over?) from Michigan, arriving Thursday evening…  We figured that if they were coming to give us so much free labor and advice, the least I could do was make sure they were well fed while they were here.  The night they arrived I whipped up some cheese fondue from scratch and we had some fresh bread from one of the local bakeries.  Even if it isn’t hip anymore, Fondue is a great way to eat and socialize at the same time.  Over the weekend I also made my signature pasta+cauliflower+cheese+onion dish, as well as some mediocre skewers, swordfish provencal, and I don’t remember what else (if anything).  My vacation time isn’t as copious as Corinna’s, so I worked on Friday while they begun demolition at the house. The door was significantly wider and a bit taller than the existing door, and we also had to relocate a light switch.  While I somehow optimistically thought that this would be a one or two day project, it ended up taking the entire weekend (not including jointing and painting).  We still managed to have fun, watched a few movies, ate lots of food, and just hung out, but I still think it’d be nice if we didn’t enslave them next time they visited. :)  Corinna finished most of the finish work this past weekend, and the end result is awesome.

Last Friday, jeffm was in town, and he suggested we all go to Fenway to see the Sox.  While this SHOULD have been awesome, the lineup was a little shaken up with injuries, and they got completely destroyed by the Mariners.  It was still a fun time, I had never been to Fenway with such a large group (8 people) before..  Afterwards we hit up Precinct in Union Square, which was quite a bit of fun, although it was a little out of the way for roryk and I.  Jeff’s friend Christen went to the game with us and works there, so we got a serious hookup.  New people, old friends, and good drinks ALMOST make up for shitty baseball.  Almost.

Left Door

Left Door
Originally uploaded by seangraham

I’ve been griping about how my spices have been completely unorganized since we moved into this house almost a year ago. I finally ordered a large quantity of metal tins to solve this problem.

Taking a cue from Alton Brown and Good Eats, I purchased small 4oz. metal tins and used Velcro to fasten them to the inside of the doors to one our cabinets. Originally AB used magnets, but recently I noticed that he silently switched to Velcro. I’m guessing that the adhesive magnetic strips simply weren’t strong enough and the tins migrated down the door over time. The velcro seems to do the job nicely, and also allows me to stick non-ferrous objects (which you can see in one of the other photos in the set).

Review: Flatwire

Flatwire Photoset
Originally uploaded by seangraham

In college, and I split the cost of a surround sound setup. Jon purchased the receiver and I purchased a set of speakers to complete the 5.1 setup. After I graduated I lost the use of Jon’s receiver, so I bought my own, which I used for the first few years living in Boston. After my retreat to New Jersey and subsequent return, Corinna and I decided that the living room in her old condo was simply too small, and the walls too fragile, to mount all the speakers to. So my glorious surround sound setup collected dust for several years.

Having moved into a new, larger, house and having bought a ridiculously large television, it only seemed to make sense to have a nice sound system.. Unfortunately, there were a few problems with this plan:

  • There are condos above and below us, so there was no access from above or below.
  • Corinna and I had no interest in unsightly wires running around the living room.
  • I don’t trust wireless speaker setups, and besides, I already have 5 perfectly good speakers.
  • We didn’t want to rip the walls down solely to run speaker wire.

Given all that, I assumed that others would likely have this problem, so I began searching around for a solution. After some research I settled on Flatwire. Basically, you glue Flatwire to the wall, tape over it with joint tape, then feather joint compound over the whole kit and caboodle to conceal it. I was somewhat skeptical, but after reading some good words I decided to take a bit of a leap of faith and shell out a few hundred bucks on the gear. I got 100′ of flat speaker wire, 8 wall boxes, the spray adhesive and extra-wide joint tape.

We found pages and pages of illustrated installation instructions on the company’s site, and they were a little intimidating.. Fortunately, Corinna and I sat down and carefully read them, making sure we understood each step before any installation started. Once we invested this time it became clear that this installation really wasn’t as complicated as it seemed at first. The instructions are just very detailed.. After understanding all the steps, all it takes is some solid patience…

We used a chalk line to snap out all 4 routes around the living room.. What became apparent quickly was that while it may seem that keeping the wires level would be really important, in a 100 year old home which isn’t terribly level anywhere else, what really mattered was keeping the lines a consistent distance from the ceiling. We took time to make sure we had enough space along the entire runs to account for any sags in the ceiling. Once we were confident in all of the chalk lines, we began the first run. It seemed logical to start with the shortest run, which was the front right speaker. We measured the length of the run, and then measured out and cut the appropriate length of wire. The instructions advised us to test this length of cable before proceeding, so we connected two of the wall boxes to either end and hooked up the stereo and a speaker. Everything worked great, so we disassembled the whole setup and began gluing the wire to the walls. First, we mounted the first wall box to the wall and connected the wire to that box as a kind of anchor while we glued. The glue is really, really sticky, and didn’t necessarily spray straight out of the nozzle, so it took a little practice to shoot straight.. Fortunately, any misfiring would be covered up by the spackle anyway, so I wasn’t too worried. After getting this first run glued to the wall we mounted the second wall box and connected the other end of the wire to it. After reconnecting the speaker and stereo to this first run, we successfully tested this first run. The instructions advised testing each run 3 times: Before gluing, after gluing, and after spackling. This would have taken us forever, so after this first run we only tested after gluing (and obviously after painting).

After this first run, we glued the remaining 3 runs to the wall and mounted all of the wall boxes, testing all of them successfully. With each run we became faster and faster as we became more familiar with the process. We started this process around 11am and finished gluing and testing around 4pm, just in time to jump in the shower quickly and catch The Police at Fenway. The next day Corinna began taping and feathering the wires.. This took her a few days, mostly because of the amount of spackle needed to really hide the wire combined with drying time. She may correct me, but I believe it took three passes to really smooth it out. After getting the paint on the walls Thursday night I mounted the speakers Friday and we took the system for a test-drive.

While I’m no audiophile, I do appreciate good sound, and as far as I can tell, the Flatwire doesn’t color or distort the audio in any perceivable way. The stereo sounds wonderful and bass and treble response seem identical to the traditional speaker wire I replaced. To be honest, I can’t really find any flaws in the system. It’s expensive, and it requires spackling finesse which may be beyond some (including myself), but if you are in a similar bind to me, it seems like a perfect solution.

Strange Week

I’ve felt out of sorts all week, and I’m not sure why…   I ended up driving to work most of this week, so perhaps that has something to do with it.  I slipped and fell on the way to work on Monday, thanksto some piece of shit who couldn’t be bothered to clear their sidewalk…  After I got to work, I hooked up my iPod to the computer and it wasn’t seeing the connection.  I thought it got damaged in the fall, but after banging it on the desk a few times and blowing out the dock connector, it finally seemed to work.

Corinna and I continue trying to button up the remainder of the pre-sale house tasks…  Last weekend we moved even more stuff into the storage locker..  We have a few final things to put in there, and I will hopefully get them together this weekend and be able to check that box.  Last night I took

to Home Depot so she could pick out paint for the bedroom and get some other supplies.  I am no fun to shop with, so we have an agreement where I am the chauffeur and then I sit in the car doing whatever..   Last night I spent the time catching up on old issues of Skeptical Inquirer.  I have a stack of about 6 issues that I never even opened, and I’d rather not move them if I don’t have to…

Today I walked in…  It’s so beautiful outside, it was really invigorating!

This Sunday, the film club is going to a pre-screening of “Hot Fuzz” at the Brattle, and Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright will be there in person…  Should be a good time!

Burned Out Excitement!

and I have been trying to get ready to sell her condo.  We’ve gone to a bunch of open houses, started tying up the projects we’ve been procrastinating on for months now, and started identifying things that we need to sell, give away, or put into storage…  I lined up a 5×5 storage locker for us to keep the stuff we want to move to our new home, but that makes the current place look cluttered to prospective buyers.

This weekend we have several projects to keep us busy, including packing boxes to put in storage, installing the threshold under the bathroom door, painting, electrical, etc…   I know that after we move, there will still be tons of projects to do in the new place, but at least then I won’t feel so guilty about procrastinating, as I won’t be holding up the sale and purchase…  I’m really excited to finish this process and move into our new home…  That said, this weekend is going to suck…  :)

God damn I hate home improvement.

Saturday afternoon we ripped out the old bathroom door, which was less traumatic than I expected..  Didn’t really do any damage to the walls removing the trim and ripping out the old door jamb/frame.  It seemed like everything was going to be peachy, I nailed the small lengths of 2×4 we purchased into the opening to make it a standard-er size, we started attaching the jamb to the frame and making sure it was square, level, and plumb.  We nailed it in on the hinge side in two points, and then shimmed it out on the lock side to give it a test run… And the door struck the jamb at the top lock side of the door.  Not only that, but I drove the nails in all the way, so we had to mar up the jamb getting them back out.  We playedaround with raising the sides and all kinds of things, but no matter what we tried even though the jamb was square/true/plumb/everything it just didn’t matter.  We worked on this whole project for about 5 hours and eventually gave up for the night.

Sunday, we procrastinated as long as possible and started anew.  We were just about to start when Corinna had the flash of genius to call her stepfather for advice.  He is retired now and doing lots of the construction on the addition to her parents’ home in Michigan.  We mentioned that we padded out the space to make the opening “the right size” with six short pieces of 2×4.  We explained that the old 2×4 that formed the hinge-side of the existing frame was completely cockeyed and we were using shims to correct for it.  He provided the (now obvious) suggestion of getting a single 80″ 2×4 to run the entire length of the hinge side, and shim that as necessary to make sure it’s plumb, etc.  Using one long board eliminates discrepancies in plumb/true/squareness between the 3 separate pieces of 2×4.  He also suggested using screws instead of nails, because you have more fine-tuning available by tightening/loosening the screws, plus if you screw up you can easily back them out.

With this knowledge in hand, Corinna ventured out to Home Depot (knowing how much I hate going to that store), got the 2×4, we had it up and shimmed out in 20 minutes, and less than an hour later the door was hung and swinging freely.

So I guess the moral of this story is that installing a pre-hung door probably IS easier than fitting one into an existing jamb if you know what you are doing and do appropriate prep work.

Update: Re-edited this to remove some nonsense sentences (I “repurposed” this text from an email I sent to my dad).

“Layla” : Music :: “Full Metal Jacket” : Film

Continuing the “I am a Jackass” theme of late, this weekend I was doing some of the aforementioned home improvement and managed to smash the shit out of my thumb with the hammer… A beautiful blood blister formed but I don’t think I did any serious damage. The trim around the front door looks quite a bit better now, and will look even better once it isn’t Primer White. Next up: Stripping and painting the radiators! FUN!

I’m finally writing code at work again, but only because I am forcing the issue…. I’m auto-generating my ICD/Design document via Doxygen, hopefully that won’t make anyone here blow a gasket.