Saturday, September 30, 2006

As so many woodworking projects do, it all started in the fabric store.

I can't remember what Christie was looking for, but we ended up digging in the clearance section, where we found some tan ultrasuede for about $2 a yard. I said, "Ooh!" and Christie said it'd be all wrong for the thing she was working on, and I said, "Weren't you wanting a headboard?" Suddenly, we had a new project. I told her what I had in mind, and we headed to Home Depot and Lowe's to check out lumber. We picked out some stock molding, poplar, and some stain, then hit Westlake's for foam and Hobby Lobby for batting.

That was three months ago. I was, um, working out the details of the execution. Totally not procrastinating.

Anyway, the weekend before last, I did the cutting and glued up the frame. Last weekend, I stained it (I used a blend of cherry and walnut oil-based stain, then sealed it with two coats of water-based polyurethane). Today, Christie and I glued the foam to the backing, upholstered it, and mounted it on the bed. The last step was attaching some lights to the top, just for giggles.

I tried to take some in-process pictures so you could see how it all came together, but they didn't come out. Ah, well.

Photos of the finished product are here.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

How to get fast service at the cell phone store:
"The customer service agent eyes me warily and says, 'I think your son is peeing in our fake plants.'

"I shrug. 'Unfortunately, my wife and I cannot guarantee parental coverage in all areas. Please try again later.'"
Not only was there a Zombie Rights March in Austin, but it even had a counter-demonstration by pirates. I think the "Keep Austin Weird" people have nothing to worry about.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tempting: iRobot Dirt Dog, a Roomba specifically designed for garages, workshops, and decks. Only $130, too! That's cheaper than some shop vacs.
More good news. The Republican Congress wants to broaden the definition of enemy combatant in the new "compromise" torture bill to include those who have "purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States", which is an awfully broad net. Sure, it doesn't sound too bad, but the bill also removes the right to habeas corpus, and gives the executive branch the right to determine who does and does not fit that criteria. And remember that this is the administration that describes the New York Times as "giving aid and comfort to the enemy". Also, they want room to include U.S. citizens in the definition. Read the article: Detainee Measure to Have Fewer Restrictions.

Even if they never use it, this bill would give the President the legal right to lock up American citizens and use the same "coercive measures" that were used on our POWs that led us to push for the Geneva Conventions. I can't believe this is happening in my country. I really can't.
I have a feeling Christie's going to want this: Dremel’s Cordless Pumpkin Carving Kit
Concrete proof our media is broken.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I like almost everything on this gallery page from Chicago Bauhaus, but the Triple Helix Table and the Fibonacci-inspired chests of drawers are particularly inspiring. I'm not saying I'm going to spend $25,000 for a dresser. But I might steal some ideas.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sadly, this is news: Some colleges shifting focus to teaching.
The futurist in me has long expected new religions to start popping up. Our lives are so different from those of people even just a generation ago, let alone three generations back. New tech means new lifestyles, which means new emotional needs, at least to some degree. So new religions seem like a natural. The problem is that the sort of things that religions say are "truth" tend to be pretty weird if you're not brought up on them. Scientology gets around that problem by not telling its followers about their very, very weird metaphysics until they've invested a ton of time, money, and energy into the church.

But I'm starting to see a trend now. There are the folks who claim that Jesus hates gays because, well, yeah, they're a little light on the because part. Now there are megachurches saying Jesus is all about the accumulation of personal wealth. (thanks to Christie for telling me about the article) I don't know what's next coming down the pike, but I think the trend in new religions is going to be making up whatever the hell you want and pretending that it's Christianity.
Our bathtub has had issues almost since we moved in. It's got a spray handset, and the hose was old and had weakened to the point that it sprayed water in multiple directions, giving whoever was holding the handset a thorough soaking. Also the walls, the window, the cats, etc. There was also this little issue with the diverter valve that told the water whether it should go out the faucet or the handset. It has become increasingly indecisive in its old age, so the handset leaks even when the valve is turned to the "faucet only" setting, unless you futz with it. It's not as big a leak as the hose, but it's been bugging me.

But I've been putting it off because I know it's going to be a pain in the ass to fix. I can get to the workings of the tub, but only from the basement, and they're about 9 inches beyond my reach if I stretch to my fullest, and about 18 inches beyond my reach if I also want to see what I'm doing. And all of this is going on while I'm perched on a stepstool in the downstairs shower stall, reaching up between floor joists, electrical wiring, and plumbing.

I stuck conduit over the handles of my channel locks, and now I had a tool that would reach. So, to work.

I'll spare you the details, but it only took me five hours to get the old hose off and the new hose on. And just one trip to the hardware store for a replacement hose, since the one I had didn't fit down the hole into the basement. Nice. So nice, in fact, that I decided to tackle the diverter valve and see what it'd take to fix it.

End result: It's now permanently busted. I spent 6 hours to turn two minor problems into one major one. Which is progress, of a sort, I suppose. Luckily, Christie made me quit before I took a sawzall to the tub, and I've figured out how to fix it. I just don't know what the replacement parts will cost or whether I can get them locally. But, hey, what's life without a little mystery?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Everybody Poops, Especially Cats!
A little bird told me that Erin's getting a cat or two, and Rita was curious about how we manage three, so here's the straight dope on cat poop in the Terry household. Naturally, we've got a system. The first bit of it was inspired by Theron. Go out and get yourself a couple of big Rubbermaid containers. Like 60 quarts big. Ideally, you want ones with the smoothest bottoms you can get, since you don't really want nooks and crannies where cat litter can get stuck.

Step two is to cut a square hole in one side of the lid for the cats to get in and out. Doing it this way means they can't kick litter over the side and get it all over the floor, nor can they "miss" the litter box and piss all over the floor. This is the part I stole from Theron. Using a transparent or translucent storage bin was my idea.

Our cats don't like to share, so we have three litter boxes. Some cats are fine, so you might just need one. Regardless, buy one more bin than you need, and leave one lid uncut.

Next step is to pick up a sifting litter box insert. I've only ever seen these as part of a set, like this one from Amazon. If you're handy, I'm sure you could probably make one, but I had this piece laying around the house. If you do make one out of wood, be sure to seal it really well! You keep the sifter in the spare bin, tucked away when you're not using it.

If you've done your measuring well in advance, or if you're just really lucky, your sifting screen will fit perfecting in the bin when the lid's off. When it's time to clean the litter boxes, you pull out your spare bin and set it up with the sifter right next to the litter box to be empty. Pour the litter from the full bin to the empty one, and all the nasty bits stay in the screen. Empty that into a trash bag, put the lid with the hole on it onto the bin that used to be empty, but now holds litter. Put the screen into the now empty one, move onto the next litter box to be cleaned, and repeat as needed.

I've got the whole process down to about 5 minutes for three litter boxes, and a minimum of ick factor. It's like I always say: If you want to know an easy way to do a job, give it to a lazy man. That's me! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Tribune's got an interesting article on Co-op Cooking, which saves you time and money on food, while making food and cooking more of a social event than it used to be.
David Sedaris on the dangers of being agreeable.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Two things that have been rattling around in my brain lately:

Intelligent Design vs. Evolution. I've got enough of a background in science fiction, fantasy, and religion to acknowledge the possibility that entities so far beyond our understanding that we would almost certainly call them gods (or even the prime mover itself) might have intervened in the processes of our evolution in order to steer things in a direction more interesting to them. Heck, we do it all the time. (I dare you to look at my mother-in-law's Pomeranian and tell me that nature's going to produce something that puffy and photogenic.)

But if that's the case, I want to know the details, and I'm confident that if it's the case, the evolution guys would figure it out infinitely faster than the I.D. guys. And I mean that literally. I don't know how long it'd be before the evolutionists starting noticing something hinky, but intelligent design as an epistemological movement isn't about changing the direction of our enquiry, it's about calling off the search.

Thing Two - Path to 9/11, the silly movie from ABC: I've sent a couple of emails to our local ABC affiliate over the issue, but I don't feel 100% that I'm in the right. Not that I ever feel 100% that I'm in the right. Self-doubt is, after all, my drug of choice. But here's the thing: The writer has a history as a right-wing activist, and the producers invited lots of input from Republicans, but none from Democrats. The provided preliminary screeners to right-wing bloggers, but none to left-wing or moderate bloggers. And several Republicans have said, in essence, "I told them I thought they got this scene and that scene wrong, and they changed them", while the Democrats who provided the same sorts of critiques eventually quit the film in frustration at not being listened to.

I haven't seen the film, nor do I plan to. And I'm uncomfortably aware that this puts me in the same boat as the folks who burn Harry Potter books. The difference, for me, is that this film purports to tell a true story and claims to be based on factual sources, but the producers seem to have taken a strictly partisan approach to the truth, and left the facts to languish. Finally, a good part of why the media in this country is so conciliatory to the right wing is because they squawk so damn loud when something offends their sensibilities. The result has been that liberals, even moderate ones, are almost never seen on TV while the likes of Ann Coulter get carte blanche to tell lies about us. Maybe it's good for the media to know we can squawk, too.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Color me just a little freaked out. I know we live in a deeply weird world where it's not hard to find somebody who believes just about anything. Look at the flat earth dudes. But I just overheard two guys in the bathroom talking about nuking the entire middle east because, in their words, "they started it". Naturally, of course, there was the usual fun stuff about Democrats being traitors who want to destroy America, cut and run, and should just go ahead and change their name to Islam because they're allies. With the Muslims who all want to kill us. And, yeah, they were pretty clear on the fact that women and children would have to go, too. "No mercy", to use their phrase, is apparently the only way to 'win'.

I did speak up, but got dismissed with a "yeah, yeah, yeah" and a wave of the hand as dude one, the one who brought up nuking, walked off.

We have talk radio to thank, I guess, for people who think that the wholesale slaughter of millions of innocent people is not only appropriate urinal conversation, but also a legitimate foreign policy option for the greatest country in the world.
We've got an open staircase that's kind of a safety issue for our friends' kids, so we're looking for ways to make it not so without ruining the look. This homebrew baby safety gate could be a nice addition, with some modifications to suit our needs, like maybe a flipper door hinge so the gate could slide back alongside the stairs when not in use. Or rigging the hinge so it could flip all the way around onto the front side of the stairs, which would be a lot easier to build, and just as out of the way.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

We've all known a toddler that insists on doing it all themselves. Jeanne at HouseInProgress is pondering how to design for it. An issue, though, is how to incorporate the fact that your kids are going to grow, usually very quickly. Christie has a little stool from her childhood with the message "Stand Up to Be Tall, Sit Down to Be Small" painted on it, and we both use it to reach high shelves, but our friends' kids use it, too. Maybe as those kids get bigger, I'll build a raised walkway on the back side of the kitchen counter so they can participate in dinner prep.

Friday, September 01, 2006

This isn't necessarily something everyone would be interested in, but I found a source online for Hoosier Cabinet Parts, which means that, even though I don't have room in the kitchen for a Hoosier Cabinet, I could still have a flour bin with built in sifter installed in our baking cabinet. Or, you know, I could just add it to the list of future products, guaranteeing that it will never actually be done.
For Billie, and for my dad, PRESS-BOT, which turns your wide-mouth Nalgene bottle into a french press.