Monday, January 31, 2011

Every nook and cranny...

So I've made no secret of all the projects I've been working on around the house. I've cleaned out years of clutter and outdated items and papers. I've scraped and patched and painted and rearranged furniture. I've updated window treatments, and shower fixtures. I've scrubbed years of normal use off the items that I intend to keep around. I've moved furniture again. I've scrubbed soot off the stone face of the fireplace. I've pretty well exhaustively handled most of the visible areas of the house to optimize the fashion and function of the spaces on my extremely limited budget.

What haven't I done? Well... The less visible areas leave something to be desired. If it is an area that I have less-than-daily interaction with, it has admittedly taken a bit of a back seat. Sure, I cleared out the kitchen cabinets and drawers. Sure, I cleared all of the unusable nonsense out of the bathroom cabinets. And yeah, in a kind of fluke move, I did really clear out an area of the basement that can function as a bedroom in a real pinch... I mean there is a bed there, (two in fact,) and there are some shoddy paneled walls and a ceiling covering the pipes, wires, and duct work for the rest of the house, but it is still undoubtedly very much a basement, and not a long term solution for a guest room situation. That really only leaves the rest of the basement, the ACTUAL guest room, and most of the closets.

This became particularly salient to me when I went in search of my old yoga mat... I knew I had seen it in the office a little while after my initial move-in and settling period. I remembered seeing it leaning against the bookshelf after I moved the book shelf in there. I knew it was in the house. I looked in the office. (Mind you the office is in a particular state of disarray at the moment, as the office became a catch-all for spring yard sale items, and for my tools and supplies during previous projects, and all of that is also in a particular state of confusion as I have repeatedly moved much of the already confusing contents because I've also been patching the plaster and working on repainting in there too...) After nearly two hours of what I thought was a relatively exhaustive search, looking around the office, my bedroom, my closet, the entirety of the basement, even the trunk of my car. No luck.

During my initial survey of the office, (where I focused much of my attention since I couldn't remember moving it out of there in the first place,) I looked in the closet in there. I shifted around box fans that haven't been used since late summer. I lifted old coats that had been relegated to that closet to keep them out of the way until I can get rid of them properly.

After 2 hours and three re-checks of that closet, I found the missing mat in a box with the wrapping paper that I didn't pull out to use at Christmas time.

This all really just renews my need for the wintry nonsense to hurry up and get it all over with, so that I can have a yard sale and get all this crap out of here!!!

I know this post was boring. But come on, its either this, or we go back to dead air... Something has got to be better than nothing, even something this spectacularly dull.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dear Mother Nature, (an open letter)

I know that you hear the same grousing every year... "Oh, it's too cold in the winter!" and "Oh it's too hot in the summer." I know you must get tired of everybody giving you guff for the standard weather of a given season. I'm sorry about that... Take it for what it is worth and write off most of it as people being too lazy to be bothered with living in an area that has a climate that they find more agreeable. That's usually the case.

As someone who has lived in areas of extreme cold in winter and relocating to areas of extreme heat in the summer, as well as growing up in a land of reasonably balanced whole seasons, I'm not going to bother with such a petty complaint. I know you've got enough on your plate trying to convince the non-science-minded conservative politicians that global warming is real, and that it really is all our fault.

I'm not going to ask you to up and change the system that has worked for you for eons. I am however asking you to cut me a friggin' break when it comes to this snow! I mean, yes, it's winter, and I live in a climate that enjoys all four seasons and winter has its place. It's supposed to be cold. It's supposed to be dreary and gray. It's even supposed to have snow and ice. (And I'm sure you love watching all of the little kiddies rejoice in a day off from school so that they can go sledding on the nearest hill.) I'm fine with all of these things. I am just asking for a break on this snow thing... Sure it can snow. Sure it can be cold. But can you do me a slight favor and let me go a week without the snow? Can't you just double up a couple of these weather systems that are only doling out one or two inches and give me a week or two off? I mean if it ends up translating into dumping 4 inches all at once, that's fine with me. I just want a morning where I don't have to sweep off and scrape down my car. Clearly I don't mind the snowy driveway, or I'd have had it shoveled myself long before that punk kid came around to wake me up on a Saturday morning wanting me to pay him to do it. I'm ok with one or two REALLY BIG snow events where the kids can celebrate an early spring break and have a whole unplanned week off, I'm even ok with several small to medium snowfalls, but this piecemeal, a dusting overnight, an inch here, an inch and a half there, bullshit has to stop!

You're just teasing the kids with, "Oh it's snowing at bedtime, maybe you won't have school tomorrow," only to let them down when they wake up and see that the roads are clear and the lawn is covered with just enough of a dusting to piece together a piss-poor excuse for a two-foot-tall snowman. Either really lay it on thick so that we can really build a truly proud giant snow penis on the local university quad, or just don't bother. You don't have to hustle spring along or anything. The cold and gray days can stay for their seasonal duration, but just quit jerking us all around.

Thanks for your time, I hope you take this under advisement.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

A bleary-eyed Saturday morning rant:

To the kid who woke me up wanting to shovel the driveway, a few customer service pointers:

1 Don't show up before noon on a Saturday, its a weekend, people want to sleep in. Furthermore, you're 2 days late. The snow showed up on Wednesday night... If you really gave a crap about making any cash, you'd have been out on Thursday and Friday. (and don't you give me that, "But I was at school" bologna, I saw the local news, and we both know that you didn't have shit else to do either day because school was cancelled!) And further still, by Saturday morning, the folks who want their driveway shoveled have either shoveled it themselves, given the job to the other annoying teenager who had the brilliant idea to come out shortly after the snow quit, or have driven on it repeatedly turning it into ice, and thus something that you want no part in attempting to shovel.

2) Under no circumstances are you to pound on my front door like you're the police. Do you have a gun and a badge? No? Oh, you say you're only 15? Then quit pounding on my goddamn door like that! The only reason that the citizenry allows the police to pound on doors like that is that they are armed... And for all you know I am armed. frankly you're lucky I opened the door at all, let alone opening it without some manner of weapon in my hand, a la Clint Eastwood telling you to get off my lawn.

3) If I didn't answer the door after the first ring of the doorbell, three more isn't going to make me move any faster. One ring is sufficient. Those who intend to ignore you are going to ignore you anyway, those folks who intend to answer the door after the first ring will not respond kindly to your repeated and overzealous assault on that poor little doorbell button, and my last nerve... You're going to make more money and piss off fewer customers by learning to knock rationally or ring once, WAIT for a few seconds without continued knocking or ringing and when it is prudent to do so, just move on!

Oh and don't come back in the spring you little pissant! I mow my own lawn, and frankly, I don't trust you anywhere near my garage. Now seriously, BEAT IT!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A new week, a new project...

So last week, I busied myself with installing a new rain head in the shower. To anyone who has ever installed a shower head, I'm betting you're thinking to yourself, "Why on earth would that take someone a week to do?" Well, I'll tell you...

I initially found the aforementioned rain head while actually out shopping for other things... (Namely, a vacuum cleaner that actually sucked things up and didn't overheat in the process of doing said sucking, and thus didn't end up causing my house to smell like a slaughterhouse populated solely by dust and death.) So while I was perusing the aisles, I happened upon a rain head that was drastically marked down. (I assume that most of you have never priced rain heads; I assure you that they don't typically sell for anything near what my tight budget would normally allow.) So, having found this bargain, I snatched it up without a second thought. (I also got a new vacuum, and I have to admit, it is kind of badass since it winds it's own cord up when you're done!) Anyway, back to the reason my project took as long as it did. Upon getting home with my new treasures, I immediately went into the bathroom to install the new shower head. I was excited to give it a whirl!

Upon completion of the installation process which took a mere 5 minutes of my precious time, I remembered what I discovered the last time I installed a shower head in this particular bathroom. (I installed my other shower head pretty much as soon as I moved in because the grandparents were still using an unsightly variable spray head that looked like it had just stepped out of 1976, and based on the calcium deposits that made it spray every direction except onto the person standing below it, I found it likely that it had not been properly cared for or cleaned since it was installed all those years ago. But I digress... The lesson I learned upon installing the predecessor of the rain head was that apparently when this house was originally built, Midwesterners were considerably shorter than they are today. I figured this out because the shower arm, (the bit that pokes out of the wall through all the original tile that I don't want to go to the trouble or expense of ripping out and/or replacing,) sticks out through said tile at about 6 feet in height. If it stuck straight out, relying on a shower head to provide an angle, that would be fine by me. I'm shorter... and if I were to have tall overnight guests, they would have to be content to bend down to get their hair wet or pay for a hotel stay... entirely up to them. But the shower arm doesn't just stick straight out. It sticks straight out for about 6 inches, and then it has an unreasonably steep bend so that the end of the pipe comes out around 5'8" which is more problematic. Furthermore, if you add the drop of a couple inches so that a shower head can occupy actual space once attached to the end of the pipe, we end up right around 5'5"-ish, give or take. At 5'5"-ish, we're low enough that EVEN I would have to duck under it to get my hair wet, which is wholly unacceptable. (Especially when you want to get the full effect of showering under a rain head.)

So, I did a little homework. I figured out exactly what I needed to do to remedy this situation. (I even asked a plumber friend of mine about my options!) Upon completion of my research, I determined that a simple solution could be found at my local home improvement store in the form of an adjustable shower arm extender which affords me the opportunity to change up the height and angle of the original fittings.

Unfortunately we had a 2 day break in the action due to inclement weather and shoddy road conditions... Upon determining that the roads were sufficiently passable, I ventured to the same poorly organized home improvement store mentioned in previous posts. I found the part that I needed with relative ease. (Nothing like the tape and toilet seat debacle!) So I purchased the item at a reasonable price and went back home where I promptly installed it.

You would think that would be the end of the story, wouldn't you?

Yeah, you would be wrong.

After completing the installation (roughly a 10 minute process,) I turned the knobs on the extender to adjust the angle of the arm... And though I am not typically possessed of super-human strength, I managed to turn the knob so hard that it just flat out broke off. Knowing that I just bought the damn thing, and that for all I knew it was a freak occurrence due to a flaw in the metal, I returned to the store and exchanged it for a new one. Upon returning home, I installed the second one. I adjusted it, and had no problem. I then showed my mother how I had spent my day, and her inspection yielded a nod of approval. She then wanted to see it work, so she attempted to adjust it. And then SHE twisted a handle off.

Clearly this was a design flaw and poor manufacturing. So I took it back to the store, got my money back, and looked at a different home improvement store only to find the same poorly made brand. At that point, I said to myself, "I'm not operating on the 'third time is a charm method' I am going to look at reviews online and purchase one that is built to do the job right." And that's what I did.

Then I was abducted for three days worth of "we're going to improve your sour jobless mood with some sponsored retail therapy" shopping trips and lunches with momma, so yeah, the shower head was my only project last week.

This week's project: the office and all the horror that that entails! (The office has become a scary catch-all kind of room during my other projects, and was densely populated with odds and ends even before my other projects began.) So this week will be dedicated to clearing out the nonsense, repainting the white walls a far more interesting shade, and then putting the items back into the room in a more amusing and functional fashion.

You know what they say about idle hands!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Quote of the day:

The Admiral and I were talking about the recent mass-deaths of birds and fish, in Arkansas, Louisiana, Chesapeake Bay, and Sweden:

The Admiral: "I'm not buying the New Year's fireworks theory. I don't care what anybody says... Crows are some smart fucking birds. They didn't all of a sudden get confused by the fireworks of a podunk town! I have never heard of such an event around fourth of July, and there are a hell of a lot more fireworks going on then! ... Basically, I'm not buying into any theory that doesn't involve aliens, time travel, or the real answer of the apocalypse we all now know is apparently coming."

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Adventures in the home improvement stores continue...

So last week paint was on sale... So being the natural penny pincher that I am, I went shopping when the bargains abound.

And anyone who has ever bought a can of paint and intended to use it themselves knows that they shake it up in the store for a reason. The pigments are not an original part of the paint, so they can settle out, and they can settle themselves out faster than you might like. So in an effort to prevent a color-matching disaster, I have been very busy getting that mess up on the walls!

But back to the home improvement store adventures. I learned a couple of things about my local stores.

First off, they are not as intelligently organized as you might think. For example, when I went looking for new toilet seats to put in my newly refinished bathrooms, I went looking near the toilets. Mistake. The toilets are over by the bathtubs, I guess it's the porcelain connection. Not finding my quarry there, I figured ok, maybe closer to plumbing supplies? Nope. Not there either. So I passed by all the aisles of various pipe fittings... Hmm, maybe they are near the shower and faucet fixtures? Nope. So much for that idea. ...Now, I know what I'm after, and I know I am in the right store, and I know that the aforementioned store is a profit seeking entity that earns that profit by having the products one needs in this particular situation readily available to the masses. I don't want to look like an idiot having to ask where they keep their toilet seats, but hell, even if I did, I can't find anyone around to ask... So after a few minutes fruitlessly scanning the aisles, I found them. Where, you ask? Why, a mere 6 aisles away from plumbing and related fixtures, well past the electrical section, right near the water filtration units, of course. (The water filtration section including units intended to be installed under the sink, which, if you ask me would be better marketed if you put them near the sink and faucet fixtures... But what do I know?) So I am scanning the aisle of toilet seats and water filtration units, and I find an appropriate and affordable option. Mind you, I also ran across a significantly not-affordable option too. Did you know that there are toilet seats that are not encrusted with gold and jewels and yet still cost upwards of a thousand dollars? A THOUSAND DOLLARS! FOR A TOILET SEAT! JUST THE SEAT! NOT EVEN A WHOLE TOILET! Now sure, it will also function as a bidet spritzing your naughty bits with perfectly warmed water, but COME ON! OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS? If I am buying that, I'm certainly not the one going out to the home improvement store and buying it myself or doing a do-it-yourself installation. If I am dropping more than a grand on a toilet seat, I am going to call some professional up, and they can get it themselves at some contractor's depot at half the cost and then mark it up to over a grand... INCLUDING INSTALLATION! (Though who would you call for that? There are electrical components involved for that bidet water to be warmed, so am I looking in the yellow pages for a plumber or an electrician?)

The second thing I learned in the home improvement store is that the products we have come to know and love have apparently been appropriated and renamed. For example, did you know that masking tape is no longer masking tape? It is now all considered "painter's tape." I learned this when I was in the paint department and asked where I would find the tape...

The clerk looked at me quizzically, "What? Like electrical tape?"

My impulse was to reply, "I am in a home improvement store's PAINT department asking for tape, and you instantly think 'electrical tape?' If you're that idiotic, you deserve your lot in life as a home improvement store clerk." Being that we just finished with the holiday season, I quieted my impulse and said, "No. I need masking tape... I'm not looking for the over-priced blue painter's tape though... I just need standard masking tape because I am not dealing with any delicate surfaces."

"Uhh... I don't know, but all of our tape is in that aisle down the way... See where the guy with the hat is?"

"The guy in the hat that is 30 yards away and walking toward us? Yeah, I see the guy in the hat."

"Well, it's down by him."

"He's walking down a main aisle here. Is it down by where he was when you pointed him out, or closer to where he is walking now?"

"Umm, well, sort of where he was before... But on the other side."

Impulse control fading out now, "Ugh... Never mind. You just don't worry your pretty little head and go back to leaning against that display there, I will find it on my own. You're doing a great job though... Who knows how long that display would have managed without you leaning there!"

(Now in my retail days, we were instructed to address product location questions by walking the customer to the location. Not by pointing to an area vaguely near where we're talking about, and certainly not pointing to someone who is in motion and who may or may not be near that location when the customer gets to the right area. Seriously... He deserves his lot in life.)

So I passed the guy in the hat. I kept going. I scanned the aisles and eventually found the right one, and there was plenty of tape. All the standard varieties, electrical tape, (strangely not in the electrical department, but that goes back to organization,) the over-priced blue painter's tape I expected, duct tape in colors I had not previously imagined, plumber's tape, (again, not in plumbing,) packaging tape, paper tape, and masking tape! VICTORY AT LAST! And as I examined the various widths of the masking tape, and the ridiculous pricing for the masking tape, and the packaging of the ridiculously priced masking tape in assorted widths, I kind of understood where the clerk got confused. Apparently now all tape previously known as masking tape is now packaged and sold as painter's tape. I must have just confused him by excluding the blue variety and referring to it by it's old name. Silly me.

I will likely post pictures of the improvements once things are closer to being finished as a whole... Right now everything is just a mess!