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June 29, 2006

Best Birthday Gift -Ever-

Truly the best birthday gift -ever-. Useful, entertaining, arobic ;)

Tuesday was my birthday. Mom & Dad sent a box of gifts for me. I was good and didn't open it until my actual birthday. One of the gifts was this flyswatter (Electric / Electronic Fly Swatter).

As we were putting batteries into it Marc looked at me with a mischevious grin and said "I know you want to touch it". Now the truth is, I did. Kind of like rubbernecking at traffic accidents... or being unable to look away from the screen during a horror movie. I kind of did want to touch it. I told Marc, "Nah-huh. You touch it first.. maybe then I'll touch it"

He put the batteries in.. pushed the button... poised with his finger over the racket.. and then he did it.

Nothing happened. No buzz, no zap, nothing. Kind of a let down.

Then he noticed that there's a safety grid on the racket to keep curious fingers out of the danger zone. Ah-hah! The curious monkey had identified the engineered safety mechanism and figured out how to circumvent it.

He pushed the button again.. poised with his finger over the racket.. then carefully touched the racket between the bars of the safety grid.


I even saw the spark. There was much jumping around and shaking of the fingers. The racket made a noise not unlike the bug zappers you see in back yards. No blister.. but he definately won't do that again.

Then he waved the racket at me. "You said you'd do it"

Bah fooey! All my curiousity was gone. The racket had clearly fallen into the category of things you don't touch.

"Chickenshit" he mocked.

Whatever, I may be a curious monkey.. but I know good from bad.. I don't have to experience it to know I don't need to do it.. that and I got that double XX chromosone thing going for me.. so no amount of daring will get me to touch it. No how, no way.

I did prance around the house zapping flies. It's very effective. One wave of the racket and you zap them right out of the air with a "ker-pop". Much glee was had. Death to all flies!!

June 19, 2006

ROI: Fun with numbers

Commenting on Tip On Getting The Best Return On Home Improvements. For some reason this just tickles my funny bone.*

Let's say I decide to sell (it's not time yet... but this is all hypothetical). Tip #1 here says:

1. Clean / de-clutter - 973% Average Return on Investment: Remove clutter by storing items in basement, attic or friend’s home. Rent a storage space or sell excess items, if needed. Keep every room very clean during open homes. Do pre-open house cleanliness inspections.

Wow. 973% return. That just begs for a closer examination.

Let's say I decide to rent a storage space. Frankly I have no idea how much that costs. Let's say it costs $10.

Cost: $10
Estimated Return: $9730

That's extra cool! I could do with an extra $10K after closing.

Let's say instead that I decide to stash all my stuff in the crawlspace. Not a bad plan as long as I empty it out before the home inspection.

Cost: $0
Estimated Return: $0

Hrrm. Not as exciting as the almost-$10K above.

Ok, I know. I'll sell it all on Craigslist and Ebay. I have no idea how much my clutter is worth. Let's pretend I have a teeny weeny little bit of clutter (yeah, right)(I said it was a hypothetical *sheesh*).

Cost: - $10 ( I sold it.. so I earned $10. Negative cost).
Estimated Return: - $9370

Ok. Well that sucks.

Obviously the correct answer is to get the biggest storage unit possible for the longest amount of time possible.. and to pay for a maid service... and a dog groomer. I'm pretty certain that with nearly 1000% return I can double my house value in no time. :)

* I wish to state clearly that clutter clearing and general cleaning are great low-cost ways to improve the selling price of your house. Please don't allow my levity to convince you otherwise. I also wish to state that I don't care what any silly article has to say.. the replacement of the front door was -so- worth it. Yes, I'm still giddy about it.

June 18, 2006

Instant facelift

If windows are the eyes of a home... what is the front door? The nose? Mouth? No idea.

In any case, our house just got a whole lot more character. YEAH! A new front door. I'm giddy about it. Everytime I look at it, it makes me smile. How long does that last?

I know it should have been something I left well enough alone. I know when my realtor sees it he's going to sigh and shake his head.. but really, I couldn't stand it anymore. I needed a new front door. I needed it. I did this for me. Not for any future home sale. The gremlins made me do it.

The old door had a fan of glass at the top of the door. It was nice.. if a little boring. The biggest problem I had with it was that I couldn't see out of the glass parts. This annoyed the heck out of me. I contend that it's because the glass parts are set too high in the door. Not because I'm too short. (Marc says I'm too short. What does he know?*)

I can see out of the new door. It sparkles and lets tons more light into the living room. Hell, I think it even makes the room look bigger.

Ugly-but-functional old front door:
Sparkly lovely new front door:

This is a lovely arts-and-crafts like front door with a stained glass panel sandwiched between two flat pieces of glass. All of the pictures I snapped from outside have a huge amount of glare on the glass. Grr..

Marc moving locks from old door to new door. Note the really lovely sparkle in the glass.
New door at night. Lovely sparkle

A picture taken from the inside the morning after the installation.

The door was about $270. I'm hoping we can re-sell the old door on Craigslist for about $100. All said and done, I think it was money well spent.

*Today, just before we ran off to Home Depot to get the door.. Marc had me re-measure the door (to make sure I had the right measurements). I measured across the door.. and then from bottom to top. He laughed out loud when I had to stand on tip-toe in order to reach the top of the door. *sigh* Boys are mean. Maybe next time Lurch can reach the top of the damned door for himself. Sheesh.

June 16, 2006

Look Ma, Daisies!


When Mom and Dad were here we pulled out the (nasty horrible) cactus in the front yard and replaced it with daisies (see: Slave Driver). I -LOVE- daisies.

Unfortunately for these daisies (and frankly all plants that end up in my hands) I'm a bit of a black thumb. It's not that plants spontaneously die when I touch them.. it's more that it takes me about 2 weeks before I actually put a plant in dirt.. and then if it's lucky, I remember to water it. So it was with these daisies.

When I first bought them they were lovely, all in bloom. Just exactly what I wanted in my front yard. Then I let them sit around for about two weeks. When Mom and I planted these I described them as "really ragged looking grass bits ". So TA-DA! Water and planting have done these babies some good.

Screen Door

It's a ho-hum front door. I dislike it because it's so ho-hum.. and because I'm too short to see out of the fan on the top. This means when someone comes to the door, I have no idea who they are until I open the door. Our neighborhood isn't totally scary.. but I'm not 100% comfortable with just whipping the door open at the first knock. Our next project is going to be to replace this door with something with a bigger window on top. I think we might do this on Sunday.
In the meantime, we added a screen door. It was a necessary thing. None of the windows on the south side of the house open.. so as it's getting hotter and hotter for summer the front half of the house (living room, dining room) is heating up uncomfortably. I really have no idea how the previous owners stood for it. Well ok, I have one idea.. I think I spotted an ugly metal screen door in the garage. I have a feeling Mr. O pulled it off to make the house nice for the sale.

I actually forgot about the ugly screen door in the garage until after we'd finished attaching this new screen door. Even if I had remembered it.. I think we would have gone this route. This wooden door is very lovely.. it brings much more to the house than an ugly metal one would.

The wooden door was $27 at YardBirds. It was 1" taller and 1 1/2" wider than our opening. Mark hacked off the excess with a circular saw. We then verethaned it (though I suspect at some point we might sand it down and paint it green).

We then added decorative metal corners and the hinges. We moved it to the front of the house and added the retracting arm thingy (is there a better name for this thing?)



For handles we used a really nice oak and gold cabinet handle on the outside.. and a matching drawer pull on the inside. We also put a decorative oak button in the hole for the bottom screw on the inside.

Fenris and Tiggy peering out the door. You can almost hear them saying "Mom, what are you doing?"

Ta-da, instant(ish) lovliness.

June 6, 2006

Going Caddy Shack

Our front yard seems to have acquired a gopher (what -is- the difference between a gopher and a ground hog?). We've acquired some type of nasty ground digging rodent who is pushing up dirt piles in the front yard.

Marc went to Home Depot to get the "gopher elimination implements". The helpful staff at Home Depot told Marc that the way to eliminate the gopher was to "fill the gopher holes full of water.. then when the gopher runs out, bash him with a shovel".

It seems a little barbaric.. and frankly reeks of "snipe hunting" but we're game.

After several days of filling gopher holes full of water we're starting to look for another option. At this point, assuming our gopher doesn't have gills, we're thinking that one of the gopher holes empties out in our crawlspace.. So everytime we fill up the gopher's home the gopher escapes to the crawlspace.. and we're pumping gallons of water into the crawl space. Considering how anti-water-in-the-crawlspace I am... we're looking at other ideas.

My brother recommended that we hold off on using dynamite until a later time.

So.. what do you suggest?

June 5, 2006

Victorian Walking Tour

On Sunday of Mom and Dad's vaction we went on a "Victorian Walking Tour" in San Francisco. At $20 per person it was pretty pricy.. but the tour guide really knew his stuff. I think we all agreed it was worth the price.

The tour is supposed to start at precisely 11:00 daily at the Westin St. Francis Hotel. We left our house in the East Bay at 9:30am, drove to BART, BARTed into the city, hiked the 3 blocks to the Westin St. Francis and arrived at 11:04. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth (truthfully I was more upset than anyone else) we talked with the valet parking guy. He said that the tour had just left and that we could probably catch them if we took a taxi to Octavia and Post (though it should have been Octavia and Sutter). So we hopped a taxi and arrived a minute or two before the rest of the group. Even though it looks dark and dank, it didn't actually start raining until we were done with the tour.

The first part of the tour is an exploration of the interior of the "Queen Anne Hotel" of San Francisco. This hotel used to be an all-girls finishing school. Lots of lush details.



The tour then wandered around the area in a guided, non-athletic exploration of the neighborhood. Jay, our tour guide, knew a lot about the homes in the area. There were just too many Sticks and Italianate to take pictures of them all.

Our guide, Jay.


View along the tour of the Exploritorium with the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

I highly recommend the tour if you're ever in SF with $20 to spare and an itch to see some nice Victorian homes.

Let there be light (and air)

On Saturday of Mom & Dad's vaction (yes, I know, three weeks ago.. almost done with these stories) Marc got to demonstrate his mad skillz as an electrician. We installed a chandelier in the dining room and a ceiling fan/lights in each of the bedrooms.

Dining room:

Diningroom light before. What you can't see is that you could pull on the light and it would "stop" at whatever height you pulled it down to.. then if you pushed it back up it would retract. This isn't the light I want for my diningroom. I think Marc is planning to relocate this to his workshop.

Diningroom light after. Since it was a floor model we got the lightbulbs with it. I've since updated it to have all 5 of the bulbs be the nice big bulbs. I think it is made by Westinghouse.

I haven't gotten any pictures of the bedroom ceiling fan/light combos. They're very lovely and nice to have since it's getting hotter around here.

June 2, 2006


Ok, the date is set. The house is finally to a place where we're willing to allow people through the door and have an actual party. Our "housewarming" will be on July 8, 2006. We're in San Pablo California (it's near San Francisco). If you're interested in attending and remotely nearby, drop me an email at monica@fibergeek.com and I'll add you to the evite.

Normally, I think housewarming parties are terribly boring. Your friends and family show up, bring wine (so you may never be thirsty), bread (so you may never be hungry), salt or spices (so you may always have spice to liven up your life), and a house plant (so you may have something green to kill). They then wander aimlessly through the house for about 20 minutes before they wave bye-bye and bug out. *yawn*

We're breaking out of the mold (and protesting that we're -not- old). Instead of the usual yawn-fest we're having a shots party (so that we may always see the world through the wavy fuzz of an alcoholic haze)(kinda like rose colored glasses.. but less hippy-tree-hugger-y).

Guests are encouraged to bring a bottle of something they've never tried (or that they think is terribly good) and we'll follow a couple of drink recipe books and serve up layered shots.

Shots to include (but not limited to):
Squashed Frog
Bailey's Chocolate Cherry
Brain Hemorrage

Non-alcoholic drinks/shots will be available, crash space is also available.

June 1, 2006

Repairing a subfloor without demolition (part 2)

A while back I mentioned that we had a piece of floor that seemed to have termite damage in the subfloor that was causing flex in a certain piece of our hardwood (Repairing a subfloor without demolition). We got a lot of very good suggestions from the blogging community.. unfortunately it turns out we were wrong in our diagnosis of the problem.

In the picture to the left you can see the two pieces of hardwood that "flexed" oddly. On Thursday of their vacation Dad and Marc crawled under the house to check out the supposed "termite damage" that was our suspected culprit for the flex. They poked and prodded with an awl for quite a while but they didn't find any punky wood. Everything in the subfloor looks really good. Still the hardwood flexed. After mulling it over for a couple of days, Dad decided how we would tackle this problem. On Saturday he carefully remove those pieces of hardwood from above to see if he could identify the problem.

Fenris checks out the new hole in the floor.

First Dad scored a line across the boards with his utility knife. Then he used a hammer to run the utility knife deeper and deeper along that score line until he cut through the hardwood boards on both ends. We removed these boards and found the subfloor to be in perfect condition. Our culprit was actually the hardwood itself.

If you look closely at this picture you can see how the ends of the board are about twice as thick as the middle of the board.

We found that the boards we removed were a lot thinner in the middle than on the ends. My personal theory is that the house has shifted over time.. and in this spot the hardwood was pinched and flexed a little bit upwards. That was okay up until the point where we sanded the hell out of the hardwood floor. Once we removed enough material from that board the "flex" in the board when you stepped on it became really apparant.

Dad's solution was to slightly trim one end of the pieces we removed so that they no longer flexed. Then he filled the void with adhesive and applied weights to the top to hold the boards level.


Adding weight. BTW: the home depot book did -not- address this particular problem.

Ta-Da, no more flex.