December 13, 2011

Buy my house!

As was basically inevitable (given that I've moved 800 miles away), I've finally put my house in Galesburg up for sale. It is an awesome house, and so I have put together a webpage aptly entitled

Buy my awesome house!

Should you find yourself in need of an awesome house in the Galesburg, Illinois area, or if you know someone else who is, you should click and/or forward that link.

I'm so glad that I'll never fit in;
that will never be me.
Outcast girls with ambition:
that's what I want to see! --Pink, "Stupid girls"

Posted by blahedo at 05:34 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 11, 2010


Over the weekend I applied the vertical stripes to the bathroom wall—the same underlying colour with a higher gloss. It took surprisingly long just to get the walls taped (because I first had to measure, then drop a plumb line and snap the chalk, and then be careful to get the tape straight!), so that the actual painting was almost anticlimactic and fairly zoomed along. Two coats in two days, and then the tape came down this evening. There's a little residual chalk that I think will clean up easily with a damp rag; I'll do that later this week once the paint's super-dry.

I think it worked! I need to get a better look under natural light, but it looks like it'll have just the effect I envisioned. One step closer to the goal (see my previous post)....

On Zionism (in 1901): "However attractive this dream seems..., the future Palestine would be very different from the idyllic Palestine of the past. Jews will be living there as if on a volcano.... Conflicts and persecutions there will not stop until the Jews are expelled from there once again." --Ludwig Zamenhof

Posted by blahedo at 02:58 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 16, 2009

In for a penny, in for a pound

It might be my motto. Certainly it describes the attitude that has gotten me into some of my more memorable and epic projects. Today, it seems to have gotten me the mother of all bruises. Well, it's not even a bruise yet---it's a massive contusion that will eventually turn into a bruise of biblical proportions.

I should back up. The process of renovating my downstairs bathroom has been proceeding, and today at long last I got to the tiling. Out came the tile saw (and here is where I expected injury to show up), up went the tiles, and everything was going great. I tiled around the windowsill and finished all the regular-shaped pieces. Then I started thinking about the cuts I'd need for the tiles around the sill, and with four of them being more than just straight-line all-across cuts, and two of those being a quite complex curve, I thought, there's no way I'm going to make this look good. What's the right way to solve this?

And of course he right thing would have been to remove the sill and tile behind it, reducing the number of odd cuts and hiding the edges in any case. My sill was already painted, but awaited final coats anyway. So, drumroll please, I started removing it.

The flat board beneath the sill popped right off. The sill itself? Not so much. On one side, I could pull it down a bit and verify that it was not attached to the side trim, but the other side wouldn't go, so off came the facing pieces on the sides of the window (and indeed the right-side piece had a nail connecting it vertically to the sill). Still it wasn't releasing. I could now pull it away from the wall a little and see it was connected to the wall horizontally by one nail on each side; but it was also clear that this was not all. As it turned out, whoever had last assembled this was trying to prevent it ever being disassembled: three nails down into the sill base as well as the two into the wall and one up into the trim. Getting a crowbar between the two remaining pieces was proving nearly impossible, and of course even then I needed to pull it out before up, as well as up before out. Luckily, two of the vertical nails pulled through the wood and I was able to rotate the rest of it without causing much damage.

Note: still no injury. All the most dangerous things I did today passed without a scratch.

At this point the disassembly is done, but there remain two finishing nails in the sill base. One pulls out with some difficulty with the claw of a hammer. The other is more recalcitrant, and finally as I leaned a lot of weight into it, there is a sudden POP and my arm smears past the left framing piece, which though it isn't sharp, is square, and so it skinned the arm. Looking back to the nail, it seems the head has come off. I knock it around a bit more and manage to break off what's left of the nail.

I glance briefly at my arm, which by the way still doesn't hurt, and see that it isn't actually skinned, but contused and with a rapidly growing reddish-purple lump. At which point I drop everything and run to the sink to get it under cold water, which is when it starts hurting, and a few moments after that under ice. Which is where it has been for the last hour or so, except for a brief moment to take a picture of it; and by the way, typing one handed is A) faster than I would have thought, and B) still really annoying.

So, my trophy of the afternoon:

[my bruised arm]

(ok, so not quite biblical proportions. But it's big and impressive. Swelling's gone mostly down now and it's starting to turn purple.)

'If you carefully read its literature and analyse what its devotees actually do, you will discover that software engineering has accepted as its charter "How to program if you cannot.".' --Edsger Dijkstra

Posted by blahedo at 08:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 10, 2009

Aesthetic crisis averted

[the old sink]

One of the, um, features of my downstairs bathroom was always that the sink, because of its width and because of where the door swung, was not nicely lined up with the mirror. I hated this. (The mirror was also too high, but that was a separate issue, since fixed in the renovation.) One of the earliest design criteria when selecting a sink ("lavatory") for the bathroom was that it had to be narrow enough that it could align with the mirror and still not block the door. Not negotiable.

[the new pipes—askew]

When the plumber came to rough in the new pipes, this was more or less explained to him, and I carefully pointed out the marks to line up with so everything would look good. So you can imagine my consternation when I poked my head in to find that, although the drain was lined up, the supply wasn't. Specifically, the hot water pipe, on the left, was closer in than the cold water pipe. Since the sink is a pedestal, already purchased, this would be visible. Since the toilet is aimed straight at the sink, you would be staring right at the skewed pipes. I don't even know that anyone else would notice or care, but I would. I stared at this for a few moments, trying to decide how I felt about this, but I knew that every single time I looked at it, it would annoy me. It was at least worth bringing up to the plumber.

Who, happily, had not yet connected them belowdecks, which was going to make a fix that much easier. As he finished off sweating the drain pipe together, I brought up the issue and asked him about it. He said something about the pipes needing room, and that they always make sure to leave room so you can get at the trap. This... puzzled me, and he came up to look at it with me, dutifully pointing out how the P-trap would have to go in between them. Which was fine, of course, and I was just wondering if both of them could be moved over, like, an inch. What followed was an incredibly bizarre bit of talking past each other; I think maybe he thought I wanted to only move the cold water pipe to be closer to the other (despite my repeatedly and specifically saying this was not what I wanted). I knew they had to be a certain distance apart. I didn't even mind if they were a little further apart (and said so). A few times he told me that pedestals made it really hard to hide the pipes. Which was fine, that's the point, if the pipes are visible they should look good!

[the new pipes—fixed!]

Finally, something I said must have clicked, because about the third time I suggested moving just the hot water pipe, he said something like, "oh, so maybe just widen the gap between them?" Making it even easier to access everything, yes. Exactly. Now, the plumber was obviously not stupid, and this was definitely a communication problem rather than anything else; once he got what I wanted here, he was able to set it up just dandy, taking a snips to the support he'd run the pipes through (which I regret a tiny bit, because that thing was solid and those pipes weren't going anywhere) and readjusting, using steel tape to anchor it to the wall (the lath of the kitchen wall, which I fear he slightly went through, but I'll live). So now I have my nice symmetric piping. I am so glad I spoke up; for the cost of at most a half-hour's worth of work, I got something fixed that would nag at me for years and be fundamentally unfixable.

'If we wish to count lines of code, we should not regard them as "lines produced" but as "lines spent": the current conventional wisdom is so foolish as to book that count on the wrong side of the ledger.' --Edsger Dijkstra

Posted by blahedo at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 05, 2009


So I've been busy, although not that busy; I don't really have any good excuse as to why I haven't posted here in five months. I have a partial explanation: early in the summer I started actively using Facebook's status update as sort of a microblog (e.g. during my France trip). But, and this is both pro and con, those posts are both more ephemeral and more lightweight. Also, being geared to be written in the third person, there is a very different feel over there, and also a tendency to try to write a bit more cryptically. For instance, when my sister got the teaching job, I wrote

Don Blaheta would like to congratulate the newest member of the Barrington HS math faculty.
So that's fun and all, and I'll probably keep it up, but it really isn't amenable to more long-form stuff. But of course I'd already fallen out of the habit of posting regularly; in part because I'd delay posting until I could do a proper job of it, and then eventually I wouldn't want my first post after a long hiatus to be inane. With the inane stuff going to facebook, maybe I'll be able to pick it up again. :)

Since last I posted, I went to Chattanooga for SIGCSE in March, Cincinnati for the AP reading in June, and Paris for ITiCSE in July. Also, I taught two classes, one of which was as a substitute for David (who was on junior leave)—our class in operating systems, networks, and C, which was simply a blast, and at 9 people a lot larger than expected. Maybe we've got a good-size batch of majors this year.

What I haven't done is make much progress on my bathroom, at least until fairly recently. Way back in October, I finished the ceiling, and then got going with scraping the stupid glue off the walls, which was dreadful so I kept putting it off. I did lower the hole for the medicine cabinet, and I got the initial coat of paint on the tub, but other than that and the glue scraping, the first real progress was at the end of June, when I installed the moisture-resistant wallboard in the places with bad plaster, and painted the upper walls. The current work is actually getting the plumbing roughed in, which is partly done (tub done, toiled done except for pouring lead to seat the collar, sink remains but the pipes are cut and just need to be installed). From there I just need to cover the wall cavity where the sink work is being done, and then I can get on with the tiling. With a little luck, I'll be done by the end of the month (which would be a huge relief).

And the last piece of news of interest is that I'm still in limbo on tenure. The usual timeline is that I submit materials in December (which I did), and then a department committee, the faculty personnel committee, the dean, an outside examiner, and the president all think about it and make their recommendations, which the president aggregates into a final decision by late May, which he gives to the board of trustees to ratify at their June meeting. Apparently, though, the outside examiner flaked out, and so I didn't get tenure in June like the other professors up this year—but I also wasn't denied it, I just have to wait. They asked for an extension of the 1 July deadline to 1 September, which I granted (how could I not?), so now it's more waiting. We'll see.

Meanwhile, back to work. I'm teaching FP again this fall and I need to decide whether I can work The God Delusion into the schedule.

"Do the universities provide for society the intellectual leadership it needs or only the training it asks for?" --Edsger Dijkstra

Posted by blahedo at 02:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 01, 2008

Bathroom update

Good news and medium news and bad news!

Cardboard ceiling with three tiles missing

The good news is, after the first ceiling tile came down, subsequent tiles pull right off very easily. To the right is an image of the ceiling right now, with just a few tiles down; it'll take about fifteen minutes to pull the rest down, and another half hour to pull the staples. Hurray!

The medium news is, the old mounting for these was 1-by strips on 1' centres. This is good in that it makes the old tiles very easy to pull down, and it's more or less good in that it they could've been attached with adhesive or something. (Which would have sucked.) And wood (either strips or sheets) on 1' centres is just what I need to mount my new ceiling tiles! The problem is, the installers were lazy and started the tiles on the edge of the room, so that the width of the room has five full tiles and one 4" tile fragment. It really wasn't a big deal for the old ceiling, because it had a fine random-scatter pattern. But my new tiles are on 12" repeats, and it really needs to be centred in the room. Which means that where I need the boards is at 8", 1'8", 2'8", and so on, but where I have them is 4", 1'4", 2'4".... Sigh.

Some cardboard detritus

The bad news is, the ceiling tiles are cardboard... and were installed in 1956... and rip and flake when I pull them down (at least at the staples and tongue-and-groove joints).... so the odds are pretty good that I'm looking at the A-word again. After I took the photos, I closed up the room and from here on out it's Tyvek and a breather (I just bought fresh filters, the kind that don't say they're not for asbestos protection) until I get the ceiling and floor out. And the wall glue remnants, because I'm none too certain about that stuff either.

"Houston is not so much a city but a climatic disaster masquerading as one." --Matt Frei, BBC

Posted by blahedo at 12:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2008

Thanks, google

If you google for tub spout "nipple came out", you get exactly two links on completely different topics which, in retrospect, I should have seen coming:

  • Plumbing Basics - Google Books Result
  • - preconception, pregnancy, baby names, newborns ...
Er, thanks, google.

"Good ol' C++. It will happily let you shoot your foot off. It might alert you if your sight is misaligned." --Kevin Colby

Posted by blahedo at 01:12 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 16, 2008

It begins...

Schematic of my bathroom wall designI just placed an order for part #1 of my bathroom renovation. It is a ceiling. Specifically, it is this classic ceiling in tin-plated steel, which will be painted white. As will be this similarly classic cornice moulding (#C3). The white of the ceiling will be contrasted with cobalt-blue paint in faux as seen at right—the stripes will come from having different gloss levels in the paint. The image is a to-scale elevation of the room (thumb is 10px/3in, click for a 10px/in version) showing the relation of the cornice moulding, the paint, and the wall tile—arctic white subway, field, and chair rail tile and cobalt blue field, cove, and liner tile from Daltile, to be ordered tomorrow.

Hopefully, my floor patternThe floor will be hex tile, a plain 1" unglazed white hexagonal either from American Olean or Daltile, depending on which is a better colour match. Unfortunately, neither brand, nor any other I can find anywhere, has 1" cobalt hex tile (or even 1-1/4" or 2" cobalt hex tile) other than as part of a super-custom super-expensive thing. Unfortunate, because I really wanted the floor to have cobalt dots (as at left, same scale as the wall, click for same zoom). I've found some 7/8" cobalt hex, which might work; I put in a small order and will check fit and match before I order enough to do the whole floor. If that doesn't work, I'll give up and just make the whole floor white hex, which isn't the end of the world either. (It just dates the floor a little earlier than the wall, and I'm not a compulsive anachronist. :)

Thus completes the plan for the shell of the room. The plan for the major furnishings is roughed out but not yet final: the tub I'm keeping, of course. 4-1/2' clawfoot tubs are hard enough to come by, and I quite like it; and I'm almost 100% certain it dates to when the house was built (1906). Can't get more authentic than that. :) I will, however, scrape the flaking enamel off the outside while it's out, brush the rust, and paint/enamel it—my current plan is for cobalt blue for the basin and white for the feet. The pedestal sink I kind of like and might also be authentic; its placement relative to the pipes, the door, and the mirror gives me some doubt of that, however. It does have a bunch of rust and cracked enamel, though. And the kicker is that it is 23" wide, while the maximum width that can be centred on the mirror without blocking the door is 21". So right now I'm thinking it goes, probably to be replaced with another similar one. I'll keep the faucet hardware that I installed in 2005, though, which I picked out with an eye to this eventual project.

The crown jewel of the bathroom, I'm imagining, will be the toilet. The current one is nothing special, and the hardware in the tank is rusted out and broken, plus the thing is not plumbed to be low-flow. So it goes. To be replaced with a raised-tank model. The cistern will be white ceramic if I can find it, a high contrast with the cobalt-blue wall it'll be mounted on; the bowl itself, separate from its tank, can then be mounted diagonally, which aside from looking nifty will solve two other problems with the bathroom: right now your knee and leg bang into the tub, and there's no place in reach of the toilet to mount a toilet-paper dispenser. (Right now I have a floor stand. :P) Still shopping for this piece.

In the distant future, I'll be thinking about the little accessories, too, like shelves and TP holders and soap dishes and towel hampers and wall sconces, but I'm not even worrying about that until at least the shell is done. :)

For the reference of anyone else who is pulling their hair out trying to find hex tile and/or cobalt blue ceramic wall or floor tile—which is harder than it sounds!—I'm posting the following list of sites I pulled together. CAVEAT EMPTOR: I have NO IDEA what the quality of any of these are and am not associated with any of them. Best of luck, though. :)

Cobalt tile:

  • Mosaic Basics of Georgia has loose hex tile, including in cobalt. It is 7/8" side to side and 1" point to point (I emailed the owner and verified this).
  • AUC of California has so-called 1" blue cobalt hexagons (glazed), but they are 7/8" side-to-side; AUC also has cobalt field tile in 2x2 and 4x4 "Brittany" and rope and liner tile "Border", as well as assorted arts-and-crafts painted and encaustic borders that involve a lot of cobalt.
  • North Prairie Tileworks of Minnesota has cobalt trim and accent tiles (chair rail, cove) as well as square field tiles.
  • Restoration tile of Arkansas has a variety of patterns including hex, and does custom layouts, with cobalt as one available colour.
  • Classic Tile of New York has, afaict, just this one cobalt hex mosaic. I called and they "thought" it was 3/4" tile and didn't remember the brand.
  • Home Depot has at least one line of blue cobalt hexagon tile, nominally 3/4".
  • As mentioned above, Daltile has cobalt blue in two lines, Semi-gloss which has field tiles and a lot of edging and coving tiles, and Liners, which has flat-line and rope tile (note that the chair rail does not come in cobalt. :( )

Mesh-mounted 1" hex (no cobalt here afaik):

  • Subway Tile of Wisconsin does black and white floor hex (as well as, obviously, subway tile for the wall ;).
  • AUC of California does have a 1" unglazed white (or black) hex, but it is not the same 1" size as its 1" cobalt blue hex listed above—that one is 1" point to point (hence 7/8" side to side) while these are 1" side to side (hence 1-1/8" point to point). Frustrating, although at least they warn you with a diagram giving precise dimensions. Most vendors just give you the nominal size and leave you to guess or hope if you want to mix and match....
  • American Olean includes hex (in multiple sizes) in its unglazed mosaic series, but it also has a pre-mixed black and white hex in its Satinglo line.
  • Daltile's Keystone series includes unglazed 1" hex. (Larger hex is in Keystone Shapes, don't ask me why.)

"Two Cheers for the ACLU! I keep sending them money because they stand up for my values even in cases when I wouldn't." --Austin Mayor

Posted by blahedo at 02:24 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

May 20, 2008

More painting

Painting the various paintable bits of my house is one of those on-and-off projects that will probably continue for years, but right now I'm trying to figure out the long-term scheme for it: I've been mostly using plain white for trim, but I think the gables need something a little more. Here, for instance, is the front of my house as it is now (or rather, was as of last fall—some of the stuff on the ground has changed a bit):
My house (taken last year) That pebbled stuff just looks a dingy grey, and some of the rest should be something other than white.

I've settled on shutter green as the accent, and I think a brownish-beige to match the lighter tones of the roof would be good for the pebbling. Where exactly the green will go is still an open question. Two options: Front gable design #1 Front gable design #2 They're certainly not the only ones, either.

And then there are the two side gables, also all white right now (you can just make out one of them in the photo). I'm thinking this:
Side gable design The field area here is not pebbling, it's actually old shingle siding (hence the lines).

It'll be a while until I do anything with this, but I was playing with the graphics program so I figured I'd post. :)

"A mild-mannered neighbor most of the year, Snowblowerman---he wears many parkas---turns into a hero when the flakes fall. All he asks in return is a jaunty wave." --Eric Zorn

Posted by blahedo at 01:08 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 02, 2007

Random toys

I was getting caught up on the paper, and in last Thursday's had a column about a bunch of new DIY toys that range from the clever to the mind-blowingly cool.

The most "duh" one of them was something branded as "SquareOne", which bundles a tape measure together with a 90° square and a level, plus it has a writing surface and a place to clip a pencil if you're really lazy. I mean, of course you'd want to bundle a level and a tape measure! It makes perfect sense. And adding the square was really just a matter of changing the shape of the tape measure's enclosure—amazing nobody'd thought of it before.

Grip-Tite is another one that I wouldn't really use, but sounds neat if I could only understand how it worked. The idea is that it somehow uses cams to make a socket wrench that grips a nut well enough that they can guarantee it'll never round the corners. Even looking at their diagrams, it seems like there'd have to be a spring or something that would be a major point of failure; but in any case, good on them for improving on what is essentially ancient technology!

By far the coolest thing in this article, though (I'm skipping a couple things), was the "SeeSnake" inspection camera. The reason it's cool is it fills a niche I'd never really even thought of but which immediately seems like it'd make a good addition to more or less every home. The idea is simple: put a very small camera at the end of a 3' cable and a display on the other end. Suddenly you don't have to pull out the VCR, DVD, Tivo, and receiver just to see what's wired to what; you don't have to smoosh your head on the floor so that your eye can see under the couch; and it becomes possible to e.g. look around corners in pipes and such. I think the best tools are the ones that seem the most obvious in retrospect, and this one pretty well takes that cake.

"I'll pause now so you can catch your breath after choking on the idea that the office of governor of Illinois is dignified and respectful. Three of its last seven former occupants have ended up in prison, after all, and the current governor is less popular than staph infections." --Eric Zorn

Posted by blahedo at 06:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 06, 2007


It's currently 82° in Galesburg, and reaaallly humid. Much like last night, actually. I had been thinking most of today (when it passed 90, like it's supposed to do all week) that I'd turn on the A/C tonight, but actually, I'm more or less comfortable at this point (aside from my back killing me from kneeling in an awkward position to paint the windows, but anyway). Admittedly, I am shirtless and occasionally spritzing myself with water. But given that I haven't had the A/C on yet this year, I'm wondering if I can make it all the way through.

As for the window, I'm not supposed to be painting if it's over 90 or about to rain. So of course, now that I'm all set to paint, the weather sets up to be at least ten days of highs over 90 and/or rain. I'm not really interested in letting it drag out that long, so today when I got home from work around 8, I checked the temperature and weather forecast (and dew point!), and thought, hey, I can do this now. So there I was, frantically trying to get the outside portion done while I still had natural light. I was really glad for an impulse purchase I'd made last week: a little one-quart paint bucket that has a rubber grip for your hand and a magnet to hold the paintbrush. Absolutely vital on a project like this, I found.

The total time from start to finish was about two hours (for the prime coat), but that's higher than it will be for most future windows: it included time to cut and sand a new parting stop, which I'd forgotten to do in advance, as well as time to scrape the peely paint off some of the trim. Not to mention, on most of the windows in this house I won't need to paint the inside of the sashes or the inside trim, and with practice I'll get faster at it anyway.

"I should be able to see Christ in every member of Christ's body, for Christ is in them. It is not Christ's maleness that is of significance, in the Eucharist or in anything else, but his humanity, which obviously includes his maleness, but just as obviously is not limited to or by it. Which brings us to the serious doctrine this position contradicts. For it is taught that what is not assumed (by Christ in the Incarnation) is not redeemed. And Christ assumed the whole of human nature. Otherwise how could women be saved?" --Fr. Tobias Haller

Posted by blahedo at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 03, 2007

Not bagworms!

So after I made that post I did some reading on "bagworms", and the article I carelessly linked seemed to indicate that bagworms were not at all like what I had. Further investigation pointed to the Eastern tent caterpillar, which definitely builds the right kind of cocoonish structure, and attaches to trees in the peach/plum/cherry genus prunus (and my tree is a chokecherry), and at least according to whoever wrote the WP article, is often erroneously called a bagworm. However, it still seemed not quite right, because the ETC builds its tents in the crotches of trees, while mine were at the ends of the branches, and the ETC does its thing in early spring, which was rather a few months ago.

Further googling solved it: yet another unrelated caterpillar, the Fall webworm, which is often mistaken for an ETC, but has all the properties of the actual thing in my tree. Formerly in my tree. And that was probably an overreaction, since most of the sites claim that the Fall webworm is mostly harmless other than aesthetically. Ah well.

"When asked, I describe myself as a ten of all trades." --Gary Leitzell

Posted by blahedo at 10:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack


So there I was, standing on my window ledge and cleaning the frame, when one of my neighbours asks if I've noticed my tree out front. Was there something that had happened in the last couple hours? No... I had bagworms.

[Bagworms!]I know for sure that you've seen them before, possibly without registering what they were. I know I thought they were basically some funny kind of spiderweb (hence something I'd leave in place, because spiders are good). But no, in fact, a bagworm case is actually more of a funny cocoon, in which bagworm moth larvae—caterpillars—grow up, chew up leaves, and eventually kill the tree and infest the neighbourhood. Oops!

[Bagworms!]So I had to immediately divert my plans and remove them. This involved a bit of highwire acrobatics, because one of the cases was right up in the middle of the tree; and what you're supposed to do is remove the entire branch they're on, avoid touching any other branches, stick them in a heavy plastic bag, douse with ammonia, and then send them to the landfill.

That done, I went back to the window, and was trying to figure out how many more hours of daylight I had, when I managed to crack the edge of the sash: not a structural part, but one side of the channel the rope/chain goes through. It'd probably be fine if I just left it, but y'know, I had the window sash completely off, no better time to just glue and clamp the sucker.

So the priming has been postponed to tomorrow. The next round will definitely go faster, or at least, it had better. :)

"I have a policy about honesty and ass-kicking, which is, if you ask for it, then I have to let you have it." --Tayor Mali

Posted by blahedo at 09:20 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 02, 2007


You all know me as a Mac guy, but I'm here to declare my personal affection for good old-fashioned Windows....

[The newest house project: windows]...the double-hung kind. :) All the windows in my house appear to be original; if not, they're certainly period, with every openable window being a double-hung wooden sash window. (With crappy two- or three-track aluminum storms, but anyway.) Virtually all of which desperately need their exterior painted. Many also need to be re-hung.

So the current project is finally underway, after a lot of hemming and hawing and planning. I'm starting in... the kitchen, site of the last major project(s), of course. Then it'll really be done. For now, one whole window structure is removed, as see the photo above—note, by the way, the shards of wood from the parting stop that shattered as I removed it. Ah well, it's just a piece of wood, probably the easiest part to replace anyway.

Today I got all the loose glazing and sloppy paint off the sashes themselves, and re-glazed them. Tomorrow I'll scrape what little paint is left on the exterior casement, and hopefully get the primer coat on that and (where needed) the exterior side of the sashes. I'm taking notes so I can pipeline future windows a little better.

[My sad dog]I'll close with a picture that I initially took for the window frame, and as I snapped it noticed was a really cute framing of my sad little dog sitting in the yard and staring at me. :P

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." --C.S. Lewis

Posted by blahedo at 06:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 30, 2007

Back in Galesburg

After a brief vacation up in Palatine, I'm now back to work in Galesburg. I've decided to divide each day into four parts:

  1. House work
  2. Work work
  3. Social time
  4. TV and knitting
in that order, though possibly omitting one on a given day, with hopefully-not-too-distracting bouts of internet interspersed. I started to fall into that routine before the Palatine trip, and it worked really well. Today was not off to a great start, as I had set my alarm so I could go to the farmer's market, but accidentally left my phone on vibrate, so I missed the market and didn't get up until 12:30. But since then I've been trimming bushes and hacking at weeds in the yard, and now I'm going to mow the lawn. Then, despite the Saturday-ness of the day, I'll try to get some work done at the office. We'll see how long I can sustain this. :)

"The way the Bible is often used by Christians in this culture is scary, mean-spirited, and unlike the Jesus they know." --Kelly Fryer

Posted by blahedo at 02:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2007

Finding the summer groove

So here I am in my office at 7:30 on a Saturday night. Why? Well, let me back up.

I got back from the AP reading on Tuesday, and mostly just checked email, watched a little TV, and went to bed. Wednesday I'd intended to get into the office, but after mowing my lawn and puttering a little, I took a nap, and then it was time for the faculty potluck. Thursday I did some weedwhacking, then tidied a little and took a siesta, waking up in time to watch some TV, catch up on webcomics, and go to bed. I'd been on the edge of getting sick for most of the reading, and three months of sleep deprivation are taking their revenge.

So yesterday, I woke up around 10 and finally made it in to my office around noon. I got a little done, got lunch, and then sat down for some of my first really productive time in a while. I actually have a lot that I want to get done this summer, including at least two SIGCSE submissions, and I'm determined to not let this all slip until September (the deadline, not to mention, the start of school). So in and amongst my various house projects, I want to make sure to get at least a few hours of work done every day.

Normally I'd happily exclude weekends, but I'm going to be up in Palatine for much of next week, almost certainly not getting work done (probably not even trying), so I want to establish a bit of a groove before I leave. Not that I'm doing nothing but working—having finished the big kitchen-painting project before the reading, I'm now freed up to start on the next big one, re-hanging my windows. I spent several hours this morning dismantling my upstairs bathroom window (selected as a prototype because it's not huge, it's accessible, and it's painted, so if I accidentally gouge something it'll be easy to cover up). There was a brief moment where it was looking like the broken weight-ropes had fallen all the way to the floor inside the wall, well-nigh unretrievable, but that doesn't appear to be the case. These aren't the most accessible windows in the world, but they'll be ok now that I know how they're put together. And since all the windows in the house appear to be original, they should all have roughly the same construction. And although many of the upper windows are painted shut, it looks like they're all properly double-hung, so once I'm done they should all open from both the top and the bottom. Squee!

Anyway, after all that, I'm now back to writing sample assignments for a CS2 course. It's kind of a neat (and certainly novel) experience writing assignments and having the time to make them just right, since I'm not under the pressure of having to print and distribute them in a few hours (or a few minutes...). Maybe I should do this more often!

"I just got everything perfect in my life, and then I went and messed it all up by having a baby. I don't feel that way anymore, but the thought certainly crossed my mind a few times at the beginning. ... I compare the process to becoming a vampire, your old self dies in a sad and painful way, but then you come out the other side with immortality, super strength and a taste for human blood. At least that's how it was for me. At any rate, it's complicated." --Jonathan Coulton

Posted by blahedo at 07:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 01, 2006

Six to twelve inches, such bull

[my house under more than a foot of snow]The newspaper was predicting ten inches of snow for today and the usual websites 6–12". My ass. That's more than a foot out there, and it's wet, sticky snow at that, so an enormous pain in the ass to shovel. They've plowed Broad St about ten times just in the last two or three hours—and it stopped snowing long before that—but they still haven't been plowing side streets, so even if I had done my driveway (and I haven't), I'd not be able to go anywhere with my car. Plus, I'm not sure I could get back up the driveway again.

My next-door neighbour actually spent almost six hours on the road this morning: two trying to get to work up in the Quad Cities (but only getting as far as Woodhull, because I-74 wasn't plowed), then a while getting back to Galesburg, then he was going to stop at the Hy-Vee on Henderson for supplies, but that exit from 34 was closed because of an accident, and then the Main St exit was under more than a foot of snow, so they stopped him from going on, but wouldn't let him turn around or go back. They kept him there for about two hours before he could finally come home. And then his pickup truck couldn't make it up the driveway, so he had to dig out the shovel and try to clear enough of a path. He has a snowblower, but it appears to be cold-blooded—worked fine when he tested it a month ago, in 50° weather, but wouldn't start today. Last I heard he was going to try warming it on an engine heater block to see if that helped (but by that point he'd gotten the truck up the driveway, so it was less urgent).

[Nutmeg standing among snow up to his shoulder]For my part, I have a chorus rehearsal tonight, and I'm wondering how many people will be there; a lot of the group come from some distance away, and may be snowed in. I also have some stuff I need to get printed and done at school, but I think I'll just put that off until I get back from New Orleans, because I have basically no way to get there other than walking, and I'd rather not trudge through snowdrifts for twenty minutes if I don't have to.

UPDATE: rehearsal cancelled at the last minute, when they realised that although we could get into the church, there was no place for anyone to park!

"I would believe only in a God that knows how to Dance." --Nietzsche

Posted by blahedo at 01:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 19, 2006

Home improvement moves indoors

When the weather turned cold, I had to wrap up all the exterior projects I had been working on—caulking windows, laying a gutter/patio—and move indoors. Project #1: matching simple flat curtains for all the basement windows, so that when I forget to turn out the light, the entire contents of my basement are no longer on display to every single person walking on the sidewalk. Bought fabric yesterday, cut and sewed it today, and first thing tomorrow I can go buy dowels and hooks to hang them. Should be done by midmorning. Hurray!

"Dick Cheney: A man who can say, 'I'm not currently saying this', and mean it." --Betty Bowers

Posted by blahedo at 11:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 28, 2006

A four-show weekend

I managed to catch tonight both the Terp show and the KJE concert, so with the play last night and the choir concert tomorrow, it looks like this'll be a four show weekend. I do understand the necessity of packing in lots of shows to one weekend (it's Family and Friends Weekend!), but it's still kind of irritating that it clumps like that.

About the shows themselves, I don't have a whole lot to say. Terpsichore was about as usual, a couple stand-out pieces and a lot of Very Modern stuff. There was one piece this time that was Indian (as in, the subcontinent)-style, which was really nifty and definitely worth the trip.

The show was short, so when I got to the KJE concert, they were just in the middle of their first piece. I grabbed a program and stood outside the door, peeking through the crack and waiting for the song to end. A moment later, a stream of about a dozen people just walked in the other door. Shortly after that, someone walked past me and said, "I'm just going in." So it was just me and a mother-and-son pair standing out there and not being rude; at least in the case of the one who went in on my side, it was even clear she knew the rule and was breaking it. Why do people do that? It's not like you couldn't hear them from outside the auditorium. There is just no reason you'd need to go in and distract all the people who got there on time. Grrrr.

Jazz isn't especially my thing, but I do like going to Knox Jazz Ensemble concerts. It's really amazing how much volume can be generated by twelve brass instruments! And with nearly the entire group being freshmen or sophomores—and really good—I can't imagine what it'll be like in two or three more years.

I nearly didn't make either one, though: after getting a bit of a slow start, I spent all afternoon doing assorted prepare-for-winter tasks around the house, mostly caulking my windows. After a long, hot shower, I really didn't particularly feel like going out again, although in the end I'm glad I did.

"Are we Christians going to be held to the same standard? Are we going to start hitting Google News every morning to make sure we apologize on our blogs or in letters to the editor for every atrocity committed in the name of Jesus Christ? Because that is what we in the West are demanding of Muslims---apologies for every single thing done in the name of Allah that we find wrong." --Chris Tessone

Posted by blahedo at 10:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2006

Falling mercury

My furnace crapped out again today, same problem as last time ("pressure switch" something or other). Last time, they were able to say that the previous owner had not installed some warranty fix. This time, though? Well, we'll see. I could've called them in and paid them overtime rates, but I'm going to try to tough it out overnight and call them in the morning. Indoor temp 61°, outdoor temp 34°, both falling.

(Lest you worry, I'm certainly not going to freeze to death. First of all, I'm doing various heat-generating chores, like the laundry, and I'm making tea, and I may bake something a little later just cuz. Also, I have a space heater, if it comes to that. I'm pretty sure I've camped in temperatures lower than it's likely to get indoors.)

"Granted, some things require more involved assessments (like, say, James Joyce: I find his early work unparalleled in its style and its evocation of emotion, while his later writing became willfully opaque in a manner that leaves me cold). But other things don't require this sort of elaboration (like, say, John Grisham: He sucks)." --Seth Stevenson

Posted by blahedo at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 03, 2006

It's taunting me

So here I sit grading FP papers, and I have this incredible urge to stop what I'm doing and paint another wall of my kitchen. It doesn't help that I'm sitting in my kitchen, facing the wall that I'd be working on next. *sigh*

"Are people who teach function-oriented languages in CS1 crazy? On the contrary, there is a method to their madness, and we would like to incorporate some of their madness into our methods!" --Franklyn Turbak et al, "Teaching recursion before loops in CS1"

Posted by blahedo at 11:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 30, 2006

It is finished.

At least, for a relatively narrow definition of "it", which includes the kitchen floor but not the walls, and a relatively broad definition of "finished", which does not require cleanup or threshold strips. But the main thing—fitting and adhering linoleum to a well-seated underlayment, rolling and trimming the edges—that, at last, is done. And with just two mistakes, one definitely fixable. The fixable one is that I cut a small extra notch in one place in the linoleum; but I've read that holes in linoleum are eminently patchable if you have scrap pieces of the original pattern (and boy do I ever). The possibly-not-fixable one is that the linoleum knife slipped and there is now a cut in my recently-polyurethaned floor. It's small, but in a fairly central position; I'm thinking that if I sand it and am very careful I can add an extra coat to just that end of that board, and the boundary between this poly job and the rest of the floor will at least be less obvious than the knife-gouge. We'll see.

"I wish I could just go to Lowe's or Home Depot and explain this and have them load my cart, but my experience there has been about 10% amazingly helpful people and 90% "It's over there *vague hand wave*" when I ask for assistance. I wish the 10% wore different hats or something." --Tori O'Neal

Posted by blahedo at 11:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

It ends tonight

I'm now in possession of a 100lb linoleum roller that has to be back at People's by 8am tomorrow. And away we go....

'Ultimately it comes down to a set of axioms about what is needed for a "just peace." The darker side of Islam says that we need to stone suspected adulteresses, execute converts to other religions and forcibly convert the rest of the world. The darker side of secularism says that we need to purge the culture of all religions that make people worship a God or gods other than the state.' --Mark Hoemmen

Posted by blahedo at 03:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 17, 2006

Exquisite timing

Staining goes way faster than scraping and sanding, of course. So I was able to do it from start to finish tonight, and then as I tiptoed out via the backdoor (using improvised foot coverings made of clean rags), closed it, and stepped out onto the back porch, there was a huge and very clear bit of lightning. The rain started.

I sprinted around to the front door, and cast about for a big plastic bag. See, I have a fan in the kitchen window, and it really needs to stay there to vent the room of stain fumes, not to mention I'd have to walk over the fresh stain to pull it out anyway. So I grabbed the biggest plastic bag I could find and the key to the basement door, sprinted back, got a ladder out of the basement and some duct tape, and proceeded to tape plastic over the top of the window and the part not covered by the fan (and a flap that the fan can blow the air under, but which protects the rain from going in).

Because, of course, there is absolutely not a single time in this entire process when my kitchen floor would be more vulnerable to even a couple drops of rain splattering in. Argh. I suppose it could be worse—the rain could've come tomorrow while I was away from the house, or while I was still doing the staining. As it happened, there was just a lot of sound and fury and not much rain until after I'd safely packed all the stuff away.

It'll be interesting if this turns into tornado weather; right now the fastest way to my basement would be to grab Nutmeg like a football and make a dash around the side of the house for the basement door....

"The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work and then they get elected and prove it." --P. J. O'Rourke

Posted by blahedo at 08:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2006


My kitchen floor is way smoove now. Sanding done, I'll give it a day for the dust to settle, vacuum again, tack-cloth it, and then I'll be ready to stain. At last.

In other house-related news, I re-screened the swappable screen for the back porch door, and it looks great—better than my hands, which sustained considerable damage in the process. I also installed a drip strip across most of my front porch roof, to patch up the huge gap the marginally competent roofers left between the roof and the soffits that let water in to drain onto my porch. It actually looks pretty good if you don't look too close (aluminum nails bend way too easily, and once they're about halfway in there's no removing them), and I have enough of the things to go all the way round the front porch eventually, but the rest will just be for looks. We'll see how well they function: we have thunderstorms scheduled for tomorrow and the next day, so they should get a workout.

UPDATE: Pouring rain, and my porch is dry as a bone. Success!

"Please stop seeing everything I do or say as part of some bid for (higher office in) 2008. What I said needed to be said and it wasn't part of any plan or any campaign. It was part of what I'm supposed to do as a senator." --Barack Obama

Posted by blahedo at 11:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 06, 2006

Cheapness is counterproductive

Sometimes, at least. Tonight I set in for a long run of kitchen floor sanding, and right away thought to reverse the direction of the belt; one side was clearly more worn than the other, and I figured the embedded "sand" might have a sharper grit in the other direction. Not five minutes in, the sanding belt broke. A fortuitous occurrence, though it didn't seem so at the time: it was 8:45.

The reason that is significant is that Lowe's closes at 9. In other circumstances I'd just take it as a sign to quit for the night, but all set to work on this, now, and I didn't want to, er, lose my groove. (This is a theme in my life, you'll notice.) So I fly through the house, change out of my work shorts—not to become more presentable, but because my keys and wallet were in the other shorts and it was faster that way—and out to my car. May possibly have broken the speed limit. Got to Lowe's at 8:51, raced in...

...and found out that there were more "standard" belt sizes than I'd thought. I'd figured that the standards would be far enough apart I'd be able to tell which size I needed on sight. Having gotten this far, I certainly wasn't about to go home empty-handed. So although I thought that probably the 21" belt would be the right one, I (with some embarrassment) carried the 3x21 as well as the 3x18 and 3x24 belts up to the checkout. Thank goodness for lax return policies. :)

Upon my return, the fortuitousness: boy howdy does the sanding ever go quicker with a fresh belt. Why had I put off getting a new one? They're only five bucks a pair. I immediately flew through several segments of floor. Some of the parts I'd already done, but were still a bit blotchy, are a lot cleaner now. (I had thought the blotchiness was from age-old water staining; the water stains are still there, but much fainter and much much more even.) At one point while taking a break I was able to look at the floor and see that for sure and without a doubt I was well over half done, closer to two-thirds. When you actually pass the halfway point, it's sometimes hard to tell, and you're never quite sure if your optimism is letting you delude yourself. But get far enough past, and you can be positive. It's a real pick-me-up.

And then about a half an hour ago, this belt broke. Lengthwise. My belt sander now has a half-width belt on it. I suppose it must have caught a splinter just the wrong way, because although the grit was not quite at its original formidable strength, it still had a lot in it yet. But, having put two hours in, it seemed like a good stopping point. Another night like tonight and I'll have the whole floor sanded and I can move on to bigger, better things, like figuring out how I'm going to stain the floor without painting myself into a corner. :)

"I tend to look for weak, uncertain students and feed off of their insecurities; by preying on their poor self-images, I manage to temporarily assuage my own feelings of inadequacy and failure. I've also found undergraduate advising to be a terrific vehicle for venting a lot of my own pent-up rage and frustration." --Olin Shivers

Posted by blahedo at 11:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2006

Caught up!

Word to the wise: don't get behind on your lawnmowing.

Especially if you have a reel mower.

A few weeks ago, I had done an initial round of mowing on most of the yard (the part that grows faster), but the grass was needing mowing again shortly. I planned to do it over the weekend. But then, we got—no joke—a week straight of rain. Not heavy rain, but enough to make it impossible to mow. Last Tuesday it was clear and literally everyone was out there with their lawnmowers. I was trying to mow, but it was slow going. I only got the front yard done.

Then life intervened, and I was unable to get much further. By this Monday, large portions of the yard had gone to seed, and there were sections that were fully a foot and a half long. Yiiiikes. It was not only too long for my reel mower to do anything, I think even a regular gas mower would've had trouble.

I could've gotten a grass whip (think scythe), but decided to just go with the weedwhacker instead. Unfortunately, it is cordless, so I had to do this in 15-minute batches. And then follow up a day or two later with the mower to actually cut the grass down even.

So today I got the last of the whacking done, and all of the mowing done and re-done except for one incredibly thick, dense part of my back yard (although that part still looks ok). Mowing today the portions that I had already mowed a week or so ago was just as easy as it's supposed to be, trimming maybe a half inch or inch off the top, sending clippings flying in my wake.

And now I'm caught up, basically. It is imperative that I keep up! Because I sure as hell don't want to go through all that again.

"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism---it's turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do." --Br. Guy Consolmagno, Vatican astronomer

Posted by blahedo at 11:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 18, 2006

Purple tree redux

[tree with some purple leaves] I noticed the other day that the not-purple tree out front is actually starting to turn purple. How is it that I've never seen this process before? Anyway, it looks like this is the process it follows: first, send out small leaves on existing branches. Then, grow longer branches, and on those branches put out larger leaves. At this point, the older, smaller leaves start to turn purple.

So now I don't know if it's just the interior leaves that turn purple, or if they're just the first to do so. It's possible that with last year's major drought, the tree never got to steps two and three, so that only the old branches sent out leaves, and these turned purple. I dunno. But I'm keeping an eye on it!

In any case, it's certainly growing fast. Just this year, most of the branches have grown a foot or more (and it's only May). We'll see how soon it gets tall enough that I don't have to duck to mow under it....

"To use anything as an idol is to see in it the sum or measure of the Source, to forget what precedes what, and to follow the creation rather than That Which Creates." --Jonathan Prykop

Posted by blahedo at 03:45 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 15, 2006

Spring is here, Spring is here...

With volunteer tulips and peonies in the backyard, even.

I have to say, I find almost meditative the truly sisyphean task of weeding the dandelions.

In other news, I could have sworn that the tree planted right in the middle of my front yard was one of the purple-leafed trees that are so common in Galesburg. In fact, I have many pictures to that effect from last year. But it's leafed out and the leaves are perfectly green. Many other trees on the block (including the one in my parkway) that I remember to be purple are, in fact, purple. But this one is green. Baffling. (But not unwelcome, actually.)

UPDATE: Purple!

"Don would know how much more true that is than I do!" --Lee

Posted by blahedo at 05:10 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 25, 2006

Change of plans

I totally just spent six hours working on my kitchen floor.

Earlier this week, I came to the sad conclusion that there was just no saving my kitchen floor—although theoretically possible, it'd just be too hard. See, after Kathy and I got the top layers off, we discovered three things: 1) the kitchen used to be three rooms, and where the walls were the hardwood floor isn't, 2) a lot of nails broke when we tried to pull them, and just wouldn't come out with pliers, so we had to hammer them in (rendering later sanding impossible), and 3) the bottom layer of grey paper was solidly glued to the floor in most of the room.

So I talked to the guy at Breslin's to come out and measure my kitchen floor for linoleum; we scheduled a time for 11am today. Last night, I wanted to tidy up the kitchen and get the last of the quarter-round out before he came.

I'm not sure what made me do it, but I scraped a bit at the spot I'd spread stripper over. I'd tried that earlier in the week, but when it didn't dissolve the paper and glue, I abandoned it. But tonight I discovered that after it dried the paper had become brittle and really easy to scrape. And, afaict the resulting layer requires no sanding.

This caused me to reëvaluate my plans.* Because now, I have a very real possibility that I could get the part of the floor that's not the former walls (conveniently near the cabinetry) restored as a hardwood floor. So I had to check on that, verify that the stripper was doing what I thought it was, and make sure that the grey paper and glue was uniform over that part of the floor. After six hours (!) of working on the floor, I'm fairly convinced that I can get a good-looking hardwood floor out of the part of the room past the cabinets, and near the cabinets where the floor is clearly bad, I can do the linoleum. (Credit to Kathy for the original idea.) I may have the guy do both measurements just in case, although he's probably going to have to order the materials on Monday, so the extra set of measurements wouldn't do much good.

Anyway, now I need to take a nap until he gets here. I am gonna be so sore tomorrow. Today.

*Yes, yes, I knöw.

"For all I know, someone put it together as a joke and sent copies around. It almost doesn't matter: the example is so perfect that mere existence could not possibly add anything to it." --Vicki Rosenzweig

Posted by blahedo at 06:21 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 15, 2006

Kitchen cleared

My kitchen is now empty, or at least visibly so. There's still a bunch of stuff in the cabinets, but all the tables and such are moved out, and the counters are clear. I think I'm all set to get started on tearing up the floor now; hopefully the timing will work out so that I can get this all done before the start of the term. I'm not looking forward to the temporary dining-room-as-kitchen arrangement becoming any more long-term than absolutely necessary. :P

"To be sure, being forced, physically or through peer pressure, to 'chug' beer is not an obstacle. It's a stupid, dangerous, self- destructive act. Who's more of a pansy? The guy who won't chug the beer, or the guy who lets himself be browbeaten into a pointless and stupid act?" --Scott Harman

Posted by blahedo at 05:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 13, 2006

Ok, new plan

I've been saying for a while that the plan was to pull up the existing vinyl tile in my kitchen, which is in terrible condition, and replace it with nice new linoleum (by which I mean real linoleum).

Tonight, my curiosity finally got the better of me, and I pulled up a couple squares of the old stuff to see what the floor underneath was like. And, underneath the tile and the backing board and the black sticky stuff and a layer of what appears to be card stock, is the exact same hardwood floors as in the rest of the house. With varnish on, even, although some of that's going to come off in the course of removing the floor above it. But, from what I can tell, it's in pretty good condition.

So, maybe linoleum in the future. But for now, even a badly-finished wood floor would be better than the awful crud that is there. So, new plan.

"How dare the government make a moral judgement over you? You're supposed to be doing that over the woman!" --Jason Jones, The Daily Show

Posted by blahedo at 03:22 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 15, 2006

First time ever:

I bowled a 205 last night! Of course, I followed that with one absolutely awful game and then one that was thoroughly mediocre until I turkeyed in the last two frames. But, still.

My mom's here in Galesburg, since Thursday and until probably Tuesday, and it's quite motivational. Just in the last few days, I've installed a shower curtain ring upstairs, unclogged my laundry sink, unpacked or removed several boxes from the dining room, removed the duct tape gunk off my back door, and probably a few other things I'm not thinking of now. Now, though, I need to get to my grading....

"I will comment, however, that it seems that whoever is baking Jesus for mass these days is using more sugar. There was a distinctly sweet overtone on [Ash] Wednesday that I don't recall being there before." --Tori O'Neal

Posted by blahedo at 11:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 08, 2006

Holy cow!

I actually got some unpacking done this weekend. Like, a dozen or so boxes are now empty and broken down. Also, some miscellaneous other housework. But mostly, I've gotten almost everything out of my dining room that was there before my parents' last visit. (Things new as of that visit remain in the dining room, but those are more long-term, and will probably just get moved upstairs.)

My house is nearly... presentable. Huh.

"Oh, wait, I was talking! I got us confused." --Don Engel

Posted by blahedo at 11:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 28, 2005

Roof! Roof! Oh, roof!

I just dropped $9K on the re-doing of my roof, remainder to be paid next week after my paycheck. Whew. Now I get to look at a couple more months of austerity while I pay off the credit cards I've been rolling over since the roof thing started, and then start planning for the next thing. :)

Right now, I need to finish packing, buy underwear so I don't have to do laundry, and head off to play in Urbana for just a few more days before the new term starts. Whee!

"As for smell, there is so much damn marijuana, incense, sweat, and semen in the air at Brown that anyone with a working nose should be appalled at that, not smoking." --Amy Lichtenbaum

Posted by blahedo at 12:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 30, 2005


After a two-week hiatus, the roof guys are back today, and I'm getting cold just looking that them. It's sixteen degrees outside! Evidently, temperature is not a reason for them to take off work....

On Wikipediasurfing: "It always starts out with some modern presidential factoid. It seldom ends less than 90 minutes later, more recently than the 18th century, or farther up the line of succession than Secretary of the Treasury." --Matt Stanislawski

Posted by blahedo at 07:26 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 05, 2005

Knox does it again

Just got back from Urbana (again), where this week it was the Knox computer programming team competing against teams from a lot of colleges bigger than us. It went a lot better than last year (not hard), and Knox acquitted itself well: our two teams were 5th and 7th at the site (of 17, including three UIUC teams that beat us), and 23rd and 54th in the region (of 121).

So our teams did about as well as last year, but the competition was much smoother. Learning from our mistakes, the site coordinator set up the lab in advance and gave the entire group fifteen minutes in the morning to try out the judging system, submitting known-bad and known-good submissions and so on. Good for the teams, and great for the judges; as a result, we were much more confident that everything worked. And it did; not a glitch in sight. The judges got to have their usual frustrating and fun time seeing what errors people were making (and making, and making) in the course of writing their programs.

And now I'm sitting in the middle of a raging thunderstorm, marvelling that a thin sheet of tar paper (or its modern equivalent) is successfully keeping my attic dry. On the drive home, I was starting to get a bit worried...

"That's why it's called pseudocode, jackass." --overheard

Posted by blahedo at 10:42 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 03, 2005

Bang bang boom

After an eternity of waiting (ok, really not much longer than the four weeks they quoted me), I now have roofers dismantling the roof of my house. By sometime a week or so from now, I will be several thousand dollars poorer, but with a brand-spanking new roof. With no gutters, but that's a minor detail.

Right now, sometime today, I need to pick what kind of shingles I want. I've eliminated white, beige, and anything that requires a special order, but I'm left with a range of greys from medium-light to nearly black ("onyx") to choose from. I would be leaning towards one that is approximately slate, with just the slightest hint of bluish grey in there, except that I'm not sure it'll go with the red brick. :P

"A cure for those bugs that eat cloth,
Is steal," said old Heinrich the Goth,
"A flatulent pony."
He's wrong, but if only...
A stolen roan gasses no moth.

Posted by blahedo at 09:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 24, 2005

Long weekend

My weekend started last Friday, with a party in honour of a few of our new faculty at Heather Hoffmann's house. It was the best sort of party: most of the time, most of the people were standing around the kitchen, talking. And the hosts were nanobrewers, with one beer on tap that had espresso in it. Fantastic.

Saturday, I meant to get up at ten, actually made it up and showered and dressed by noon, and had an hour to do tidying and cleaning for guests. One of whom showed up early, but whatever. I have had people over before, but those were explicitly in an "I haven't moved in yet" mode; this was the first time I had people over to a moved-in house. It went pretty well; Chris and Christopher and I played a few rounds of Rumis before moving on to Lunar Rails, a crayon rail game that ended up lasting nearly seven hours (the box said 3-4, but they lie a little and we were just learning the game). Chris won, I lost, a good time was had by all. Definitely an experience to be repeated.

Sunday, then, started out uneventful (although at coffee-and-donuts one of the parishioners was celebrating her hundredth birthday), but after the community chorus rehearsal I bustled over to the knitting club, where they had a guest speaker. Someone's friend's mom, I think, but she's a weaver. She brought a table loom, which was pretty cool; easy to understand when you watch it, and in particular, easy to understand how to get from your "basic weave" (over, under, over, under) to more complex designs. The best part was her computer program, which lets her assign warp threads to harnesses, optionally assign harnesses to treadles, and then lay out a treadle pattern and see how the weave would look. For someone who can pick up the notation fast (e.g. me), this permits a much faster demonstration of the relationship between thread, harness, treadle, and pattern than would be available from actually doing it. She also had some very interesting and impossible-seeming woven scarves; mind-blowing. I was so sad that I had to leave a few minutes early to go teach ballroom.

That went well, too, of course; it was the last team class before our competition Saturday (!), and I ran it as a mock comp, going through each dance in turn, doing a four or five minute practice period and then clearing the floor, making them walk on with their partner and dancing as if in competition for the 90-second window of time they'd have. Hopefully, this got them a little more comfortable with the format. We'll see Saturday, I guess. :)

Of course, all of this stuff meant that I didn't get very much grading done. Alas. That's what I should be doing right now, I suppose. Ah, procrastination, what would I do without you?

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." --James Nicoll

Posted by blahedo at 11:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 15, 2005

And for tonight's excitement, we have...

After a late rise, I let the dog out and discovered my next-door neighbours pulling a cherrypicker into the back driveway; they were going to cut down the enormous dead tree on the corner of their property. This proceeded for a while, and eventually I left to go to the alumni-faculty ice cream social, around 4.

When I got back, after dark, they were working without a porch light on. Puzzling, and I thought, well, maybe they're trying not to night-blind themselves? The moon was fairly bright... but in fact, they had knocked out their own power. Oops. I turned on my back porch light, which helped them immensely, and then I said that (although I didn't have any long extension cords myself) they were welcome to plug in to my power. This let them set up a work light to finish re-running some electrical line, and they were thankful and surprised. Apparently the previous occupants of my house weren't very nice. But seriously, even if I were stingy, it's just one light, plugged in for maybe two hours.

Anyway, they have power again, the tree is mostly just trunk branches now, and the removal will recommence tomorrow morning around 10. (Thankfully, after I leave for church; especially after the power incident, I don't entirely trust them not to send a really heavy branch onto my garage. Which will be bad enough for the garage, but if it happens, I'd just as soon it not affect my car too. ;)

On Jon Stewart: "Those of us in television who dwell in the "actual news" realm are merely his content providers." --Brian Williams, MSNBC news anchor

Posted by blahedo at 09:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2005

Red letter day

I didn't get up until after noon, but I still accomplished a lot: all the million or so already-emptied boxes got broken down and taken to the attic; I rearranged my bedroom and unpacked several boxes and suitcases of clothes and such; and I cleared off and made the guest beds. Now I've taken a break for dinner and dogwalking and such, and I'm heading over to the evening session of the Black Earth Film Festival at the Orpheum. When I get back, maybe I can make some more inroads into the kitchen!

"Why do you think the world is more stupid than you?" --Yevgeniy Yevtushenko, to Richard Nixon

Posted by blahedo at 06:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 04, 2005

Knob-and-tube wiring

The neat think about living in a house with old K&T wiring is that you can play with it. The bar to entry is very low; and there is a sense of being transported back to the wild and woolly early days of electricity, when anyone could play. All I put in was an overhead light fixture, replacing one that seems to have been there long ago, but whose hanging wire at some point got cut. The one I installed was its direct descendant: plastic instead of ceramic, and with the socket mounted instead of hanging, but it was a simple white piece that screwed into the floor support and had two exposed screws to connect to the wiring. This particular one also doubled as an open junction box, providing power to one of my living room outlets. Yet as simple as it was, it was immensely satisfying to see it in place and working after I turned the power back on.

Replacing the bathroom faucets turned out to be a bigger job than expected, because the 50s-era plumbing that was there used rigid copper tubing to connect the knobs to the faucet, and these were hard to manoeuvre around. Also, I took the opportunity to remove the whole shebang from its position and see how the fixture and the plumbing fit together, which will come in handy when I get around to tiling that room. (Side note: ceramic sink-and-pedestal fixtures weigh a ton.) I got everything back together a little while ago, and nothing seems to be leaking, so, all good there.

I also managed to hang most of my plants, as well as my key rack, so progress is definitely being made. I needed to mow the lawn today, but forgot until it was getting dark, so hopefully I'll be able to find time tomorrow. (God I hate lawn care.) And, oh, I suppose I should be doing some more unpacking at some point....

"Infinity+1 must be prime. Multiply all the positive integers together, and you get positive infinity. So infinity must be congruent to 0 modulo every positive integer. Therefore, infinity+1 must be congruent to 1 modulo every positive integer larger than 1. So, it has no natural divisors other than 1; therefore, infinity+1 is necessarily prime." --Brent Spillner

Posted by blahedo at 11:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 31, 2005

On moving

The thing about moving is that the first 2/3 of your stuff, by weight or volume (you pick) takes a bit of time and energy, and you make your progress, and you look at it and say, "wow, the apartment looks really different without all my stuff." However, at least 90% of the work is actually yet to come, in dealing with all the fiddly little stuff that doesn't group well into neatly packed boxes. And when dealing with this "last little bit", you work for hours and hours and can clearly see that you are just as far from finishing as you ever were, inducing despair and ennui. Until, finally, with no warning, you realise that you're done.

Then you have to unload on the other end....

"Recent fashion photography also is more than a bit misogynistic. If photographers and editors really cared about the role of women in society, they would use models above the age of 20, who look like they could complete a sentence." --Karen Lehrman

Posted by blahedo at 11:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

Le unpacking

I'm still moving things from apartment to house, but I feel a lot more moved-in now. I think it may actually have to do with the fact that Nutmeg has now permanently left the apartment (although he appears to have left his own weight in shed fur that I'll need to clean up yet). Or perhaps that I now have cable, and therefore internet, at the house. (I'm sitting on my couch in my new house as I type this, in fact.) My washer and dryer are now hooked up, and appear to work, for all that the washer sounds like it's flooding my basement whenever it dumps its water into the laundry sink. I have a new hot water heater. I have an assortment of kitchen supplies. My dresser will shortly be reassembled, and my bed will be made as soon as this load of laundry is done. Several of the upstairs rooms are a mess and will remain so until various other things get done, but that's pretty minor. At this point, the main thing is to force myself to keep going back to the apartment to work on cleaning it and emptying it out, rather than the much more attractive things I could be doing here, like unpacking my bookshelves.

"Regular expressions are their own little language nestled inside of Perl. (There's a bit of the jungle in all of us.)" --Programming Perl, 3e

Posted by blahedo at 05:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 24, 2005


I was awakened today at 8am (I didn't need that sleep, really) by the plumber, who wanted to know if it would be okay for him to come install a new hot water heater right now. Still a little muddled from sleep, I eventually understood the situation and asked if 9 would be ok. Then I had to run around and take care of Nutmeg, then get over to the house to take a shower. (I have no clean clothes at the apartment! And if he was doing hot water work, I had to get the shower in before he got there....)

He showed up right at 9 and immediately got to work. The old pipes were so corroded from the copper-steel connection that he bent the steel one trying to separate them, so he ended up installing a longer-than-expected run of copper pipe. The removal of the old heater proceeded without ado, and someone from MSI came to deliver the new one---much taller---and it was put in place. He jackhammered out a brick and ran the 2" PVC pipe (I know, I know, but for HWH exhaust there actually isn't an alternative, as far as I can tell). Then he tried to turn the thing on, and while the fan started going, the heater part didn't. So he read the manual....

Turns out that since the last time he's installed a high-efficiency heater (recently, and otherwise the same model), they've switched to requiring 3" PVC. It detected the restricted airflow and wouldn't start. So then he sawed out the old PVC, went back and got 3", carved out a bit more brick, and reinstalled the exhaust pipe. And it worked! I now have a totally useless chimney.

Plan for tomorrow: cable guy installs cable and internet; water works does something to my meter; and I call the roof guys to make an appointment for that.

When you share wealth, you divide it.
When you share knowledge, you multiply it. --old Indian saying

Posted by blahedo at 06:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 23, 2005

I'm in!

Mad props to Christopher, Christopher, Steve, Morrie, and Noah, who contributed great amounts of help in moving all my furniture, books, and assorted appliances to my house. All that remains now is my TV, computer stuff (no internet at the house yet!), and kitchen supplies. Oh, and the piles of assorted papers and stuff that I shoved aside to go through later. *sigh*

But at least my house is now furnished. The living room actually looks pretty decent! And the kitchen looks a lot different with an actual kitchen table in it; the 1950s-vintage table and chairs fit perfectly.

Elapsed time to move: moving out of the apartment took a bit over two hours (with four adults and two kids). Moving into the house took about an hour and a half (with three adults). Not too bad, really. Although, I realised that when I did my long-distance move two years ago, I had a full night (two, as it happened) to rest between move-out and move-in. Here, I had an hour. About fifteen minutes into the move-in, I started losing grip strength and was worried I couldn't hack the rest of the process; but fortunately I got a second wind. Also fortunately, most of the house stuff was just going to the first floor, and the angles were a lot easier to navigate. :)

"I really don't feel like studying. Hm, maybe I'm hungry." --Emi Iwatani

Posted by blahedo at 11:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 22, 2005

Le packing

I've been telling people how great it is and how lucky I am to have a month-and-a-half overlap between closing on the house and needing to be out of my apartment. But now I'm thinking it's not. Not only have I gotten very little work done in the last month, but I was able to keep telling myself, "eh, if I don't have everything packed by the time I rent the moving truck, I'll just have people help move the big furniture, and I can move the rest later." And even the end-of-August deadline was a flexible one. Which means I was working under no deadlines at all, nothing to trigger my procrastinative deadman switch and make me say, "holy crap I need to get started!"

Which is why I've spent all day today packing up my apartment, and before too long I'll have to start resorting to labelling boxes things like "stuff from under desk", "stuff from on top of desk", and the like. Ugh. I was really hoping this move would be different. :P

"At least Cindy Sheehan now has her answer. It turns out her son Casey and 1,850 other U.S. servicemen and women just like him died so that Iraq could have a budding Islamic theocracy that, when it's not busy teetering on the brink of civil war, cannot come to a consensus---even when faced with a hard-and-fast deadline---on whether women should have equal rights under the law." --Jim Leach

Posted by blahedo at 09:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 26, 2005


My parents are such troopers. They came down to Galesburg for the whole week "to help with the house" (and check it out, of course), and most of what we're doing is cleaning. And a house that big requires a lot of cleaning.

"If Wal*Mart tried to sell high quality goods, their costs would go up and their whole cheap advantage would be lost. For example if they tried to sell a tube sock that can withstand the unusual rigors of, say, being washed in a washing machine, they'd have to use all kinds of expensive components, like, say, cotton, and the cost for every single sock would go up." --Joel Spolsky

Posted by blahedo at 10:56 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

July 22, 2005


Ooh, looking over the last post, I realised I forgot the best part of the day! When I arrived at the closing, early, I was directed into a conference room, and within a minute, most of the closing staff had converged on me---more than ten minutes before the appointment---and so we started. Early on, someone said, "you brought the check, right?"

"I brought my checkbook...." (and mere punctuation cannot convey the intonation here: assertion, about which I have no question, plus shades of "is that okay?" as well as "why do you ask?")

"Oh, that's not enough." Of course, this was me being an idiot; I knew from having heard enough other horror stories that one brings a cashier's or some other certified form of check to a closing. In my defence, nobody actually told me to do this here, but I suppose I should've known. I looked at my watch, still not even 2:30, so I offered to run across the street to my bank and cut the check. But no, they said, we could do that later.

So then, after signing approximately six thousand documents, the closing was pretty much done; my realtor commented that the disbursements from the title company probably wouldn't happen until I got my check, but the title company woman said, naw, that's alright, he can just bring it later. So she gave out the various checks to the realtors. She gave me my closing gift (one of those Off! mosquito candles) and a little sticky note with the amount the check needed to be for. And then I walked over to my bank, cut the check, and brought it back. Yay small town life!

Incidentally, clicking on the picture at the bottom of the last post, or here, takes you to a small gallery of house photos, in case you missed that before.

Anyway, today was Plumbing Day at casa blahedo; in addition to some assorted miscellaneous cleaning, I took apart my faucet---the leaky one---to figure out how it worked, and then went out and bought a new one. It's verra nice-ah. Brushed metal (nickel, I think), two handles, and this huge swooping faucet tap that will make washing pots and pans and such a breeze. I also bought a shower head, but that can't be installed until I get another piece to connect it; the pipe is much too narrow to fit the modern standard shower head. I also need to get a new, longer faucet for the downstairs bathroom that doesn't force you to jam your hands up against the porcelain to get them wet, but now that I'm an old hand at faucet installation, that shouldn't be any problem at all.

I certainly have nothing against paying someone to do work I can't do; and I don't particularly mind paying for someone to do work I can do, especially if it frees me up to do something else more interesting. But the big advantage of DIY work is that you get a really good understanding of how the various subsystems of your house work. Aside from the faucets, the other day I took apart my locks and brought in the cylinders to be re-keyed; I really grok my locks now.

Not sure what's next, though. Plaster, maybe.

"It's nice to see someone at least as concerned about people who have successfully escaped the uterus as they are about a group of cells who are simply laying around doing nothing at the Petri Dish Hilton." --Jim Leach

Posted by blahedo at 09:33 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 18, 2005

Joining the ranks of the landed gentry

The evening of Tuesday, 14 June, I made calls to three or so realtors who were listing houses that looked interesting. Wednesday morning (at SEVEN THIRTY), one called back; I went to look at the house he was listing, but then he smoothly took over as my buyer's agent and showed me three others. The next day I looked at one, and I liked it.

I thought about it. I decided I would put an offer in.

But first, since he had blocked out the time anyway, I looked at a few other houses Friday morning first. Two of them were real stinkers and one would have been decent but the foundation really needed structural fixing before I could think about it. And then, what the hell, I went to one that didn't look quite like I wanted in the picture, but had a nice location and some things I liked in the description.

I looked inside and thought I might buy it. After touring the whole place, I decided on the spot to make an offer. The realtor brought over the paperwork, and my offer was submitted that afternoon. Monday, I received a counteroffer, which I accepted the same day.

The inspection was Friday the 24th, and the guy was really thorough and pointed out lots of things that were of interest, and told me what to look for and how to maintain things, but aside from the roof and maybe the hot water heater, everything was in great condition. I thanked him and immediately departed for my conference in Ann Arbor!

As soon as I got back to Galesburg, my bank had a whole raft of paperwork for me to sign, and then I got to sit on pins trying not to jinx anything. And today the deal closed, and I own this house:

[My house]

This should occupy a bit of time. Off to go change the locks....

"My favorite letter on this point suggested that I'd like it better 'if they changed the name from Tour de France to Tour of Freedom.' A fine line, but I've got nothing against the French, honest. I love their fries, twists, postcards and kisses." --Eric Zorn

Posted by blahedo at 04:19 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack