Sunday, April 22, 2012

I hate the new blogspot updates.

The other day I logged into the blogger website to compose a post. The website told me that they were instituting changes. They didn't really give me an option to say that I was ok with the old system, and that I didn't want the "upgrades." I should note that I haven't really used the new system much, at least not enough to know the ins and outs of what has been updated, but I do know that the dashboard that I have to navigate in order to compose a new post is now really cluttered with all kinds of crap I don't want or need.

I am not a fan of the clutter. I liked the old system and not because of any issues with change, but because they have just gone all hog wild with extra buttons and widgets and constantly pushing me to sell advertising on a blog that might get 3 user hits a day. I don't need all that crap, and there doesn't seem to be any way to opt out of it...

I was going to spend my writing time griping about being under deadline for a big work project and yet spending my weekend running errands that do nothing to further my progress on the project that I desperately needed to spend the bulk of my weekend focused on completing.

I would keep griping about this nonsense, but sleep and project work are both far more pressing at this point.

Keep it real.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

An uber-productive weekend...

I'm a little odd, I know. And while I take great pride in getting things done on a daily basis, I also allow certain projects to amass into a small heap until I just know I that if I don't get most or all of them done, I'm bound for a minor meltdown... This was one of those weekends where certain odd little home improvement tasks reached critical mass in my head and I knew I was going to be a busy bee in order get a little relief mentally. A rare weekend of total solitude lent itself particularly nicely to the high level of achievement for which I was aiming.

Given that I knocked them out with time to spare, I'm particularly proud of this weekend's accomplishments, I'm going to enumerate them for you now... Not the most riveting reading, I know, but I just want to be able to look back at this some day in the not too distant future and be able to say to myself, "Damn, I got a lot done in a relatively short period of time. I need another weekend of productivity!"

So here's what I did, roughly in the order that I did it:

First, I changed my sheets and did a couple loads of laundry. This was pretty basic stuff, no need for explanation.

Then I removed all of the vent covers from the vents, marking their location on them so that I could be sure to get them back to their proper places after I was finished... You see, after the fire, the contractors and construction crews ripped out most of the walls, replaced them with new walls, cleaned out the vents put the vent covers back on, and installed the new baseboards around them... But as a result of all the work that had gone on around them, and the fact that they are 70+ years old to begin with, they all ended up looking rather dingy and in need of a little rehab. So I hauled all 20+ of them down to the basement... ("Hauled" is an accurate term here because they are heavy iron things that weigh about 8 lbs each.) I then hand rinsed them of dirt and debris and used pliers to straighten a few bent parts of the grates. I folded my laundry while they dried off and then I proceeded to spray paint them all. Then, I watched a little TV while I waited for them to dry.

Once they were dry, I hauled them all back to their original locations and reinstalled all but one. The reinstallation process sounds simple enough, but since the new trim was installed around them, the fit was quite snug, and so several of them had to be beaten back into place using a process involving a hammer and a hockey puck. We'll get back to that lone cover that wasn't reinstalled momentarily.

I then took a few of the doors off the kitchen cabinets so that I could tweak the hinges a bit for a smoother closing action. I did my tweaking, and rehung them, but noticed in the process that I had slightly damaged the finish in a few places... So touch-ups got added to the list.

At that point, I called it a night and went to bed.

When I got up, I went to pick up business cards for my boss from the printer's. While I was out I shopped for the other items I knew I would need to bang out my list. I picked up a new mirror, some plaster, some herb plants, some topsoil, a few pavers, and a few flowering plants... Saturday's list would take me outdoors, fortunately, the weather was cooperative.

Upon getting home, I unloaded the car, and got back to work. I mowed the lawn, I planted the flowers in a spot near my back door, and I proceeded to dig up the weird non-flowering bulbs in a small patch next to the driveway and moved them out of the way. I then proceeded to set the pavers as edging, planted my herbs, added the topsoil and watered all of my new plantings.

Then I broke down some boxes that were lingering around, and loaded them into the car for recycling later.

That one errant vent cover was why I needed the plaster... You see, when the contractors were installing new drywall, they cut one opening a bit too big and the ragged edge had been peeking out and making me nuts, so I plugged the gap and plastered it so that it looks normal... It still needs to be painted, because I thought I had the right paint in the basement, but I was wrong... So that's another task for another day, after another trip to the home depot.

Moving along with my day, I removed the hardware from the cabinets in the upstairs bath, drilled new holes to accommodate the different handles I'd planned to install, puttied, sanded, and painted over the old holes. While I waited for that to dry, I touched up paint and plaster in the kitchen. Once everything was dry, I put the new hardware on in the bathroom.

Then I hung the new mirror, moved a little furniture around, hung another mirror in the front hallway, hung a few errant things which needed an obscene amount of careful measurement in order to look right on the wall, and called it a day for Saturday. And then I wrote this meandering post which is entirely too long, given its lack of genuine interest or substance.

Sunday holds little more activity than fetching the needed paint for that patch job, painting it, and then sitting on my ass, being awesome.

In the words of the fictional Dr. Sheldon Cooper, "BAZINGA."

Monday, April 09, 2012


So you already know, I lived in a hotel for five months while my house was being fixed. And the hotel that the insurance company sprang for was fine and all, complete with a kitchenette, but it was hardly the kitchen I have here at the house. It really just consisted of a smallish fridge, a microwave and a 2 coil hotplate. Yeah... When you care about food and food prep, that doesn't really cut it.

There was no oven. The burners were electric. The pans were cheap, cruddy teflon-coated nightmares. There was nothing sharper than a butter knife for any kind of cutting or chopping. There was no food processor, no blender, no juicer, and while they did have a toaster, it wasn't anything I was interested in consuming food from. Unfortunately, this lack of a proper kitchen translated to eating out a lot... Too much, in fact. I know that there are plenty of people out there who would say, "Eating out every day, never having to cook anything? That sounds amazing!" Trust me, the novelty wears off after about a week, especially when you actually enjoy cooking, and prefer to know what goes into the food that goes into you. Sure, you can pick a restaurant that sounds good that night, but you can't really control the contents of whatever dish you pick off the menu and around these parts, 99% of what is on the menu has been frozen and shipped in weeks or months in advance. And you would probably be astonished at how few restaurants actually know how to cook broccoli. Unfortunately, this lack of control led to some really unfortunate weight gain... And I'm working on undoing the damage at this point.

I had to complete the kitchen overhaul before I could really comfortably settle into things the way I wanted to, so that also meant a little extra time eating around the work zone to prevent problems with finishes and stuff...

Since being reinstalled in my own home with my own appliances and my own tools, I admit to not only relishing my time in the kitchen, and the fruits of my labors, but also to transitioning into something of a food snob. I'm not saying that I'm going all-organic-locally grown-vegan or anything like that... I'm just saying that I have a much deeper appreciation for quality ingredients and things being fresh and relatively natural. I don't mind standing and chopping vegetables and fruit if it means I don't have to swallow over-soaked mushy crap from a can. I take the time to seek out fresh ingredients and spend more of my time in the produce section for seasonal fruits and veggies, and at the proper butcher shop for minimally processed meats. I admit that it costs a little more, and it takes a little more time, but it is worth it, and I feel better knowing what I'm putting in my body.

The addition of the new grill has also been helpful to the cause.

I admit that there are some exceptions to the rule... I still drink diet Dr Pepper more than I should, and I do occasionally eat some crappy fast food when I'm in a pinch. (And I admit to having indulged in a trip or two to the local cupcakery, which I justified by saying that if I baked my own, I would just end up with a great deal more cupcakes on hand to tempt me, rather than overpaying for a single cupcake that is distinctly sinful and over-indulgent.)

I don't anticipate this page becoming a "foodie blog" or anything like that, but the transition in my kitchen is what's going on for me, and I have little else to report.

The conclusion of this post is unsatisfying, but that's really all I've got. But since I've got your attention, I would like to issue a special birthday shout out to The Admiral. All the best to the very best friend a misanthrope like me could ever hope for.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

New toys...

So, I got myself a new toy.

It hangs out in my garage, but it's not a new car.

It runs on gas, but it's not a new lawn mower, weed whacker, or chain saw.

It's this little beauty:

Isn't it pretty? And to boot, it's pretty badass! I've already made kebabs, pork chops, chicken, rotisserie cooked pork tenderloin with a homemade sauce. And while charcoal lends a certain flavor that gas can't deliver, I'll exchange that for the convenience of being able to just get this beauty fired up, cook, and put it away before the neighbors even have the coals heated... And it does offer a smoking tray for wood chips so I can get that smokiness if I want.

I was amazed to find that when I was cooking up some oven-roasted asparagus that just the roasting time for the veggies took longer than every part of the meat cooking process combined.

So, for the remainder of my spring and summer, if you can't find me around mealtime, I'm probably out in the driveway playing with the grill!