Saturday, May 31, 2008

New railing for the open stairs - Done!

The railing is finally done, and I'm pretty seriously happy with it. It's solid, feels good under the hand, and is a nice height. I've put the photos up on flickr and made some notes on them, and the rest of the blog posts are here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The poly is finally dry, so I've sanded and done another coat. Will repeat in a couple of hours. Exciting, yes?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'm feeling very confused by the "My Father is a Jewish Carpenter" bumper sticker I saw over lunch. I'm used to the "My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter" thing, and it clearly makes sense. I get what that's saying. Either you literally work for a Jewish carpenter, or you try to live your life in accordance with the teachings of Jesus. I get that.

But back in my churchy days, I never once heard anyone describe themselves as a child of Jesus. Yeah, there's the whole Trinity thing, where Jesus and the Father are one, so if you're a child of God, then, sure, you're a child of Jesus, by the transitive power of Divinity or something. But it's complicated and doctrinally weird. Or there's Joseph, I suppose. He was a Jewish carpenter, too, so maybe they're saying they're Jesus brother? I really don't get this, but maybe it's new. Christianity has changed a lot since I paid it anything but cursory attention.

On a related note, how do the Prosperity Gospel people get around the camel through the eye of a needle thing? Do they just ignore it, or do they claim Jesus was kidding? Ooh! Maybe they claim that you go through the eye of the needle when you're born again, so as long as you get rich after that, you're fine. That's what I would argue.

Can you tell I'm in a silly mood today?

New sidebar item

I'm using Twitter, but just to track my workouts. I'm trying to go the gym more often, and I think it'll help if the world can see the last time I went to the gym. All the online fitness tracking stuff is way more complicated than I need it to be, but Twitter is perfect for this, since all I want to do is display a single line of text.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I recommend that anyone with the slightest bit of remaining respect for Fox News watch this video. One of their correspondents makes an offhand joke about assassinating Obama, then chuckles delightedly.

By the way, her name is Liz Trotta, and she has no place on TV. But we live in a world where Pat Buchanan is hired by NBC to provide commentary on the Democratic primary, so I don't expect much will happen to her. Liberal media my ass.

Update: She has apologized. I don't particularly care. Someone who lets slip, in an unguarded moment, a desire to see a presidential candidate assassinated doesn't belong on TV, and a network that continues to put her on doesn't deserve to be watched. Of course, Fox has been blocked on my home TV for years now, so it's not like they're missing my viewership.

Railing Update

Apparently when you have a week straight of 100% humidity, it takes finish a really, really long time to dry. So the railing will not be going in today, in spite of my hopes. Oh well.

But I can at least show you the setup I used for applying the finish. Basically, I clamped a piece of wood to one of the pillars in the garage and attached the railing to that, up near the ceiling. That red bandanna you see is tied around the end of the lower clamp, which happens to be right at head level. The bandanna is there to remind me not to walk into the clamp. (Again.)

I've got a couple of fans on it, so I'm hoping the finish will cure sometime in the next day or two so I can do another coat, then I can finally install it and move on to another project. In the meantime, I can't really do much in the workshop, since any sawdust I make is liable to end up stuck to the railing.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

New blog crush: The Village Carpenter.

Why? Read this.
It is so strange, but since I wrote this post, over a dozen people have found my site by googling "We're drawn to perfection like the ocean is drawn to the moon" or some close variant. Which is weird, because I'm the only result.

In other words, this line popped into my head, I wrote it down, and since then other people have thought to search for the same line. So much for original thought.

Cookbook Review

Christie and I have fundamentally incompatible tastes in cookbooks. She likes glossy things with lots of pictures and poetic descriptions, because she wants to find things that look good and sound good, and just looking at a list of ingredients doesn't do it for her.

I, on the other hand, want good recipes, by which I mean clearly laid out, thoroughly evaluated, with at least a little bit of information about why I'm doing what I'm doing. Ideally, there should be options, so I can tweak things a little bit to fit my own needs/desires/ingredients on hand.

In practice, that generally means I want Cook's Illustrated cookbooks, but they tend to do the classy black and white thing, and are much more about technique than poetry, which doesn't deliver what Christie needs. And that's a problem, because the division of labor in our house is basically that Christie picks the menu, and I do the cooking. If that's not always the case, it's at least true that Christie has veto power over new recipes.

I was beginning to think we were doomed. But we took our stimulus check to the bookstore and sat down in the cookbook section to see what we could find.

The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook is everything both of us needed, and a fantastic resource for experience and newbie cooks alike. It's looseleaf, so it lays flat for cooking. It's well organized, and the inside covers are filled with quick references like substitution guides. Too many cookbooks are designed to be flipped through on the couch, but this one has clearly been built as a tool to be used in the kitchen.

I love this cookbook.
I've been thinking of putting grip tape on our stairs (polyurethane finish is particularly slick if you're in socks), and subhead anti-slip stickers may be just what we need.
I can't exactly say this Wii game from Japan is NSFW, but it's not exactly Safe For Work, either. It is, however, the weirdest damn thing I've ever seen, and that's saying something. Mary, I know you love your Wii, but I'm not sure you want to click this link.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The sawhorses in this this portable assembly station would be a radical improvement over what I have now. Too bad I won't have time to build them for a while. Unless I can convince myself that I need to have them in order to paint the trim for the upstairs bathroom. Then, I'd need them, wouldn't I?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Certain words, when typed repeatedly, cease to have any syntactical meaning, and become simply a string of letters. "Faculty" is one of those words. After typing it for the 20th time today, I actually had to look it up to be sure I was spelling it correctly.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A poem is different on the page than on the screen,
amidst the din of competing voices, where everything
makes noise, and the monitor sheds heat like a dashboard
in the sun, and the words elide and tantalize with the promise
of just one click and there is the grail and boredom is no more, not
like the page, surrounded by white space and silence, other voices
shuttered in their covers on the shelves nearby, and that
antiphonal silence is what I would capture if I could,
as if I could point at nothing and say 'that's it.'
An Italian comes to visit his girlfriend in the US and ends up jailed for ten days by Customs and Border Protection. What in the hell is happening to this country?
Just for the record, I don't want Hillary to drop out. Each primary builds party identification in voters and helps the dems build the database of likely voters they can then reach out to in November, plus it builds a network of local volunteers. It's all good.
I haven't always been the best about watching what I say around toddlers, and and I have a feeling karma is going to bite me in the ass sometime soon. See, I'm not a great lover of children's music, but I'm going to be the one taking Chipmunk to daycare this fall, so I'm trying to come up with a playlist for the drive that won't drive me nuts (no Raffi!) but also won't result in awkward conversations and interesting vocabulary choices when she starts talking.

I may be worrying prematurely, but it's what I do.

Anyway, I've been previewing the playlist and knocking things off as they come up. At this rate, it's going to be a pretty short playlist. Pretty much all the punk is out, even the cute punk, because they have a tendency to use the word "fucking" like it's punctuation. So do I, for that matter, but I'm working on it. "Blame Canada" is so, so out. And that Lyle Lovett song with the line "I want to impress her, cause I'd like to undress her" is definitely out. Same with most of the Johnny Cash. I don't want to have to explain death to her for at least a couple of years.

I'm considering switching to jazz.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Saturday, May 10, 2008

New railing for the open stairs - part three

See previous installments.

Today was an 8 hour railing day. The balusters I'd cut last time were 1 inch wide, and to get the right space between the balusters (less than 4 and a half inches), that meant the middle balusters need to be 2 inches wide. So cutting 2 inch strips of plywood was the first task of the day. Second task was notching out the newel post to fit around the second step.

The third task was a complete dry fit to mark the balusters for length and the angle they meet the railing, and to fine tune the notch on the newel post. The narrow balusters go where two steps overlap, and will be attached to both. The wider balusters will go in the center of the step.


The pic on the right should give you a pretty good idea of what that'll look like, except for the length of the balusters, which will be about 1/4 inch above the bottom of the each step.

The next step was to round over all the edges with a router. I didn't take any pictures of that process because it's pretty dull, except for the little kernel of joy I get from using the router table Christie got me two Christmases ago.



Next step was to make filler pieces to fill in the dado in the bottom of the railing. They're all the same size, which keeps the balusters an even distance apart.



Now everything's cut to length, the edges are routed, it's all together, glued up, and waiting. Next step is to sand, stain, and poly. After that, there's nothing left but the installation. I'm crossing my fingers about that part.

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, though, and Christie has requested pancakes, so I'm probably not going to spend much time in the workshop. But I did take another workshop pic.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Quote of the Day

Sweet Juniper!: "Fatherhood is not unlike the Special Olympics. Sometimes you get a medal just for showing up."
A simple fact that bears repeating:
In 1797, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the "Treaty of Tripoli," an attempt to deal with Muslim piracy and terrorism in the Mediterranean. One of its clauses read:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
Emphasis mine. The Treaty of Tripoli, by the way, was signed by John Adams and ratified by 23 of the 32 then-Senators, most of whom were veterans of the Revolutionary War and many of whom helped write our Constitution. You might even call them founding fathers.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Christie's in the middle of her eighth month, now, and I think it's as good a time as any for me to praise her to the skies. When I hurt my finger a couple of years ago, I was sidelined for a couple of months, with near constant pain, I couldn't do what I wanted to, and I was on drugs all the time. And, damn, did I get cranky.

Christie, on the other hand, has had seven and a half months of hormone changes, an acrobatic fetus, near constant discomfort, insomnia, hip pain, and a weight on her belly like a backpack you can't take off. Seriously. The last time I did a hike with a pack that weighed what her uterus does, I thought I was going to die.

Her body is literally no longer her own, and that comes with frequent doctor appointments, strangers asking intimate questions, and other indignities I will not go into, but which every woman who's ever been pregnant knows about.

Through all of this, I can count exactly two freakouts, and one of those was spider-related, so it might not have been entirely pregnancy-related (there's a history there).

Ladies and gentlemen, my wife is a superhero.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Heather Anne gets her backpack stolen in London. Spoiler alert: it has a happy ending.
It was a pretty busy weekend, but I don't really get why my leg muscles are so sore. Must have been the ladder work. This was my weekend:

Friday Night: Ministering to a sick Christie. It's just a cold, but still unpleasant when combined with third-trimester discomfort. Mostly this consisted of watching the first 2 hours of Pride and Prejudice (stopping right before the Worst Proposal Ever) and making corn muffins.

Saturday: Birthing class. All day. 8 hours in uncomfortable chairs in a hospital conference room is less than a raucous good time, but it beats 2 hrs/week for six weeks. But we went for donuts beforehand, so it's all good. Also, sitting in a room full of pregnant couples really drove home the experience. It was a "holy shit we're going to be parents" kind of day.

Saturday Night: Finished Pride and Prejudice. Felt migraine building, took meds.

Sunday: Got up ridiculously early, had breakfast, made some lists, then went back to bed for two hours. Second breakfast and some errands, then I got down to work. Cleaned the gutters (with my new Looj, which is silly but effective) and did some puttery, organizational type stuff in the garage, mostly consisting of building a ladder rack and dealing with the first layer of the enormous pile of crap that's been building up, largely consisting of baby gear hand-me-downs we're either not ready to move upstairs or just aren't going to use.

Sunday Night: Christie napped and read while I worked on a query for work that I ended up not actually needing. Mid-query, my migraine came back. Had I known then what I know now, I would have taken heavy drugs and gone to bed. Ah, hindsight.

So, today my legs are sore from the ladder work and my shoulders are stiff from the headaches. Maybe tonight I'll take it easy.

Update: Not so much. Mowed the lawn when I got home, because my throat was hurting so I might be getting Christie's cold and it's supposed to rain all week, and I knew it might be my last chance for a while. Then out to dinner, where we ran into our pottery teacher, which meant off to Access Arts to glaze pottery. And then, yeah, I got Christie's cold.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Everybody tells me that having a newborn in the house has an adverse affect on sleeping patterns, but can it really be any worse that a new John Scalzi book? I doubt it. Oh, and The Last Colony is really good.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fun article:
These days, according to Henry, only Scott can play Star Wars right, and I consider this to be an excellent development. This is payback for my years of conjugal loyalty despite my now searing hatred of George Lucas and all he has wrought. I have been known to exaggerate my cluelessness in order to encourage this line of thinking in Henry. I was told long ago that I didn't play Star Wars correctly because I talked about feelings, so now I'm sure to mention some character's emotion the moment my butt hits the carpet. "Let's play Darth Vader Is Sad Because No One Likes Him!" I suggest, and am abruptly exiled from the playroom, forced to read a book by myself or enjoy a hot bath while Scott gets to rebuild the Death Star.
Good summary of the problems with the gas tax holiday.

It also mentions Hillary's "shot of whiskey" in an Indiana bar, but it seems to think that it was some sort of political master stroke. That I don't get. I mean, it was Crown Royal. It's Canadian, so the America first crowd won't like it. It's expensive, so the kind of people who routinely knock back a shot in Indiana bars won't identify. And it's a blend, so the whiskey snobs will look down their noses at her. Shoulda been a shot of Jack, or maybe Jim Beam. That would have been a master stroke. This one's only effective because the press doesn't know much about whiskey.

Not that I'm knocking Hill's taste. When I drink whiskey, I drink Johnnie Walker Black Label if I've got a choice (also a blend, also an import, also expensive), so I've got no room to talk. Not that I drink much whiskey these days. That was more of a grad school thing. Nothing takes the edge off of grading a stack of freshman comp papers quite like a glass of whiskey.