2004 in Review

2004 was a decent year for us, and as always (at least since I started this blog), I like to take a few moments to reflect on some of the important things that happened.

2004 was a decent year for us, and as always (at least since I started this weblog), I like to take a few moments to reflect on some of the important things that happened.

For me, the thing that dominated the year was my new “job” as a consultant. I’d done some consulting before, but in 2004 I managed to string together almost an entire year of work. Mostly half-time, so it wasn’t quite the income I would have liked, but I was able to pay the bills, and that’s pretty amazing. Really, all the credit goes to my primary client, Nicely Done Solutions, where the majority of my work comes from. They’ve kept me busy, and I hope to keep doing work through them for some time.

That dominated my day-to-day, but my biggest accomplishment in 2004 was my five year wedding anniversary with Rochelle. We have many more of those in our future, if we can both resist the temptation of butter.

Continue reading “2004 in Review”

Quiet, Busy, the House…

Some of what we’ve been up to for the last four months or so…

Been awfully quiet here in the past few months, with my last active posting going on in February. That was when we started the painting project for the bedroom, which we did eventually mostly almost finish. Our original intent was to move onto the parlor and office, which are connected through pocket doors that are nearly always open.

We didn’t do that. Instead, we decided that we couldn’t take the various stains on the light blue-gray carpet that covered half the house. (Two years ago we got rid of the other half, by putting in hardwood floors, which we are still in love with.) Time for new carpet.

Rochelle and David had already spent months finding just the right pattern and color, so when Rochelle’s twice-yearly ESPP kicked out a chunk of change, we decided to go for it. This involved moving everything out of three rooms (including, once again, the bedroom) for a day. And because of the noise and the strangers in the house during the installation, the cats liked this less than the painting. Let’s just say that Billie didn’t stop at puking this time.

But the carpet was fast, in no small measure because we weren’t the ones installing it. We were moving furniture back into all three rooms by the end of the day. We got a lot of the big stuff, but three months later, we still haven’t moved everything back to where it should go.

This is because we’ve decided not to move anything until we’ve decided where it really belongs. Which means we’re throwing out crap, giving away crap, selling off crap, taking crap down to the basement, etc.

To go with the lovely new carpet, we also bought all new furniture for the office. It’s all from IKEA, so it was reasonably cheap. Two bookcases, a three-level horizontal filing cabinet, and two huuuuge new desks for probably less than a grand, and the office is far more usable. And if we ever actually paint the office, it’s going to look really fabulous, too. Which will be good for me, since it looks like I will continue to be self-employed (gainfully, really) for a while. It’s almost to the point to where I could have clients visit!

In the last few weekends, we’ve moved a bunch of stuff to the basement, taken a bunch of stuff from the basement and either thrown it out or taken it to Goodwill, and generally spent a good 30+ hours working on house organization. It’s starting to feel good!

We also had a friend, who is a professional contractor, come and paint, stain, and varnish our brand new back door, which is really beautiful, with small glass panels framed in wood, and lets far more light into the house. The new door framing and brand new weather stripping mean it seals far better than the old door; in spite of being glass, the kitchen is actually 10 degrees warmer than it was before. This is going to be great this coming Winter.

Anyway, all of this is to catch up, and explain a little bit about why no posting. We’ve been really, really busy!

Painting Painting Sanding Painting Painting Painting…

It started with the idea of replacing our 12 year old (hideously cat vomit-stained) carpet. After searching for a while, Rochelle finally found a great carpet that should be durable and look terrific. But then, the real scope of the project became, if not clear, at least a topic of discussion. We would need to paint all three rooms that were getting the new carpet. And the hallway.

It started with the idea of replacing our 12 year old (hideously cat vomit-stained) carpet. After searching for a while, Rochelle finally found a great carpet that should be durable and look terrific. (Rumors that we color-matched against current stains can neither be confirmed nor denied.) But then, the real scope of the project became, if not clear, at least a topic of discussion. We would need to paint all three rooms that were getting the new carpet. And the hallway.

This past weekend was phase 1 of what will surely be a 5+ phase project. Colors were chosen, paint and tools acquired. Rochelle took Friday off, and we emptied our bedroom, and started prepping the walls. Which led to the second unfortunate discovery, that the wallpaper under the paint was sagging and bulging in places, and basically came off like peeling a bad sunburn. Three hours later, we had stripped off two of the four layers from half the bedroom, and sensibly called a halt to further destruction.

(Side note: the first unfortunate discovery came weeks earlier, when Rochelle went to start stripping off the wallpaper, and discovered she was peeling the paper off the front of the sheetrock that had replaced one wall. After she’d peeled half the wall. We became convinced there was no wallpaper in the room. We were wrong. The only place without wallpaper was where Rochelle started peeling. Unfortunate discoveries are a part of home improvements if your home is a Victorian…)

Saturday David arrived, took charge, and made us start painting what we could. Nothing is more motivating than seeing fresh paint on your ceiling and walls, and we got a lot done (while also going through three bottles and one magnum of sparkling wine).

Sunday, supposed to be the last day, it was back to the damaged walls. Lots of Fix-It-All and sanding. And dust. Lots of dust. This was a lot of work, and while we put a second coat on the ceiling and picture rail, and a first coat on one wall (which looked terrible, because we stupidly decided not to take off the last layer of wallpaper), we didn’t paint much.

Monday Rochelle went back to work, and I finished stripping walls, and then painted like crazy. Finally the room was starting to look good again. Tuesday saw the “final” coats of paint, followed by some hole patching, that will require, you guessed it, another coat of paint. I am very, very tired of painting.

Tomorrow I’ll paint one last time, one wall and some touching up, and tomorrow night, barring more unfortunate discoveries, we’ll move our bed back into the room, which should make the cats, if not happy, on the road to happy. (Ironically, the cats have not been taking the project well. Billie was so stressed out the first night that she, you guessed it, puked on the floor.)

Then it’s on to the parlor and office, both of which are bigger than the bedroom.

I think 2004 is going to be the Year of Paint.

DHI 55-57

Daily Home Improvements: Let there be light, enabling a paper trail, and the silence of the fan.

DHI 55: I went around the house with a ladder, replacing burnt out light bulbs. Sounds trivial, but we have these low-voltage halogens in the hallway, and each one of them has four screws that need to be undone and then redone in the process of changing. And the screws have a tendency to break. I did three of those, and one regular light bulb in the office.

DHI 56: Rochelle bought a lovely new toilet tissue holder for our redone water closet, and I installed it. It looks wonderful, and it makes the bathroom genuinely finished. No, really this time.

DHI 57: Rochelle’s computer is three years old, and one of the CPU fans started making the death rattle sound that means it’s about to stop working. Besides being incredibly annoying, sound-wise, when the fan dies the CPU overheats, usually with permanent consequences. So I scavenged another Slot 1 CPU fan from one of the hunk-of-junk computers that I have strewn around the house, and replaced the dying fan.

DHI 51-54

Daily Home Improvements: Computer hardware installation, software installation, a little home safety, and a little world safety.

DHI 51: We ordered a new LCD display for Rochelle’s PC, but to make the most of it, you need to connect it to a digital video interface on the graphics card. Rochelle’s existing graphics card was too old to have even heard of DVI, so I bought her a new one off of eBay. It came today (before the new display!), and I installed it in her PC. So now she can use her computer in 800×600 pixels, at 16 colors (that’s colors, not bits), and 60Hz refresh rate.

In other words, it currently sucks to be using the new card. I am trying to download the correct drivers from the ATI Technologies web site, but they’re totally fucked up, and every download link gives the same two-word error message: “Not Found”. Not helpful. Not impressed. ATI sucks. (For now, anyway.)

DHI 52: More computer work for Rochelle, installing Quicken 2003 onto her system. Another DHI will surely be getting together this weekend to work on initial configuration of our accounts, especially for online access and automatic downloading of information.

DHI 53: I reattached the smoke detector to the wall. We had detached it for the paint stripping work, because the heat gun kept setting off the alarm. We’ve been done with the paint stripping for weeks, but only this morning remembered we’d detached the detector. Oops.

DHI 54: I made a contribution to fund ads advocating inspections over war. If I help improve our country, my little corner of it will be better, too.

I’m not done with the week, yet, but wanted to post the link to MoveOn.org earlier, in case you wanted to help fund those ads, too.

DHI 44-50

Daily Home Improvements: The water closet is finished, a VCR hookup, debt service ends, this blog officially moves, window washing, and undoing a previous DHI.

DHI 44: I moved a few dozen books from other bookcases to the new shelves in the water closet. We’ve decided on themes for two of our three shelves, but neither theme completely fills its shelf, so there will need to be some rethinking done.

DHI 45: I connected the TiVo and the VCR, so that we can transfer shows off of the TiVo to tape, for long term storage. Strictly for personal use, of course.

DHI 46: I paid $300 to the MasterCard, which sounds like a daily chore, except we just transfered all bill-paying responsibilities to Rochelle, and that $300 will completely pay off our credit card, leaving us with no non-real estate debt for the first time since our wedding/honeymoon/bathroom remodel (which was followed closely by the stock options fiasco/stock market meltdown, which was followed by 3 months of unemployment each). Now that’s a home improvement!

DHI 47: I finished moving this weblog to aldoblog.com, moving the appropriate files from one location to another, and setting up some redirects in Apache to make links to the old site continue to work. In the process I discovered I had not completed the DNS configuration for the aldoblog.com domain, so I finished doing that, too.

DHI 48: I collected more books to move into the water closet, this time all of our travel books. I found a couple more SF and food books to move, too.

DHI 49: I stripped off an old photo that had fused to our front window, cleaned with Windex, and then scrapped off the glue residue and the accumulated grime of 11 years on Haight Street with a razor blade. The front windows are now about 90% more clear — I can’t wait until tomorrow afternoon when the sun is shining through them, and I can see the improvements the best!

DHI 50: After much research (scanning log files), and even more dithering, I turned off my server-side spam filtering software, because it is apparently occasionally dropping random messages. This basically undoes one of my prior DHIs, where I implemented the anti-spam measures. Which kinda sucks, but then, how often do you get every home improvement right the first time?

DHI 41-43

Daily Home Improvements: Loan applications, some domain twiddling, a little cash, but otherwise a week where I came up short.

DHI 41: I filled out my portion of the mortgage loan application we’re working on to refinance the house. The amount of money we get from lowering our interest rate is staggering (mortgage math is crazy!), but we regrettably have to plow it right back into the house.

You see, our house is more than 100 years old, and the foundation is original, and brick-and-mortar. A new foundation is going to be $75,000, a very scary number…but not as scary as having our house slide out into the street!

DHI 42: I finally got around to configuring aldoblog.com, so that this blog can move to a shorter domain name and URL. DNS now resolves (primary and secondary name servers), Apache recognizes it as a virtual host, and some initial redirects are in place to make the transition seamless. I still have some work to do, moving directories around, and setting up the real redirects, to move y’all over to the new location. That’ll have to come this weekend, though, when I can focus for a couple hours straight.

DHI 43: I coughed up $100 for our contractor when Rochelle was short of cash to pay him one evening.

The rest of my DHIs didn’t happen this week. I was too tired, or too lazy, or both. I plan to get back on track this coming week, but I haven’t yet decided what to do about the shortfall…

DHI 34-40

Mucking about in Mac OS X, fun with water, more gas, desktop action, FM broadcasting, curtains for Rochelle, and a party!

DHI 34: I updated software on my Mac, on a second hard disk that I’ll transition to, once I get all my stuff moved over. I did a small part of it today. Pretty lame, but sustaining a daily pace for these tasks is turning out to be a killing pace. Plus, when I get finished, I’ll be able to disconnect the very noisy hard disk in my Mac, making the office quieter, which will be a major improvement.

DHI 35: We had the missing gas line replaced yesterday, providing gas to our groovy vintage heater once again. But, the alterations to the gas lines required cutting off the gas for an extended amount of time, and blowing out the gas lines. Once hooked back up, our contractor re-lit the pilot light, but there was air in the lines, which caused the pilot light to go out on our hot water heater. In the middle of the night. Cold bath the next day. It took quite a bit of figuring to realize that it was air in the lines that caused it to go out, and make it hard to re-light, but I did eventually get the pilot re-lit.

DHI 36: While the hot water heater contained cold water, I drained it, to get the silt and stuff out of the bottom. Apparently you’re supposed to do this a couple times a year. So I did it.

DHI 37: Cleared off one side of my desk of the crap piled up there. The other side will be harder, a weekend DHI for sure.

DHI 38: I hooked up a $4 antenna to the stereo in the front of the house, so now we can listen to the radio when we’re in the office working on the computer. Or, hey, maybe someday we’ll have another party, and people can sit in the parlor, and, like, hear music!

DHI 39: I helped Rochelle hang curtains that our decorator picked up for us. We had to replace the old curtain rods, which were far too flimsy to support the heavier velvet curtains he picked out, so that was most of the work. It would have gone a lot faster, but both batteries for our cordless drill were dead.

DHI 40: We threw a small party at our house, our first in nearly a year. (We plan to do better in 2003 than we did in 2002.) This was a small gathering (10 people) with a focus on tasting fine champagne (more on this in a post tomorrow). Of course, there was a lot of cleanup and so on beforehand, but the DHI is really for inviting people into our house and making sure they had a good time. That’s a home improvement, in any sense of those words.