Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Big Storm

Maybe it comes from the childhood memories of Winter. Lots of snow. A day off from school, here and there. Loads and loads of hours spent bundled up in a puffy mish-mash of 'snow gear' and just living in the snow.

Forts, snowmen, snowball battles, sledding...

Maybe it's a harkening for the good old days of college. The first snowfall of the season was highly anticipated. I'm sure we spent many productive hours drawing up elaborate rules and guidelines for it. But the gyst of it was : At the first sight of snow, everyone stops what they're doing and convenes at 192 Oakland for the party.

This includes weekends, weekdays, classes... that was the idea. To catch a snowstorm during 10:00 a.m. classes would've been great. In the couple years the 'First Snowfall Party' edict was in place, during classes was not to be. But it's the spirit that counts, yeah?

Whatever it is - which may be somewhere in-between the previous two examples - I always look forward to the first snow of the season.

*-------------------*

With that spirit, I decided to semi-document the storm as it progressed.

Where I am, the snow started falling around 2:00 p.m. I know that because it wasn't snowing before I went into the shower just before two - and it was snowing after I got out, shortly thereafter two. My deduction? The snow started falling around 2:00 p.m. that day.

This is when I actually decided to record the big event. Here's how the driveway looked around 2:00 p.m.

The Big Storm - 2 p.m., 19 December 2008
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About an hour later things were definitely adding up. The 3:00 p.m. record showed definite snow accumulation. Not much, yet... but it's coming

The Big Storm - 3 p.m., 19 December 2008
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As the four o'clock hour approached, things were well underway. The snowplows hadn't been around yet and just about everything at ground level was covered in a smooth, unbroken layer of white. The trees at this stage are just about the picture-perfect representation of the 'snow-dusted evergreens'... And the best part is that you can actually hear the snow falling. The snow insulates everything and it's more silent than ever. It's the best...

The Big Storm - 4 p.m., 19 December 2008
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Then the sun goes down and everything changes. It's tough to gauge HMHF - How Much? How Fast? Snow seems different at night. A bit more sneaky than during daylight. Luckily, for this project anyhow, there's a giant, honkin' street light right across the road from my driveway. It's always, always cranking. So, there's always, always plenty of light.

It also makes it a little harder to take pictures. I'm no where near acquainted enough with setting my camera appropriately for different lighting and all that stuff. Choosing the appropriate flash (or trying to) and adjusting the shutter speed in rough, 1/4 second increments is about as complex as it gets right now... but sometimes that works out for the better.

Not saying it does in this particular instance. I'm just saying that sometimes, a fortunate accident occurs. With no further ado... the five o'clock hour.

The Big Storm - 5 p.m., 19 December 2008
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At this point, due mostly to the previously mentioned darkness, things pretty much look the same from the vantage point of the lens. Here's things about an hour later.

The Big Storm - 6 p.m., 19 December 2008
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About an hour later... see what I mean?

The Big Storm - 7 p.m., 19 December 2008
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So, at this point it hits me. No one's going to move all this beautiful snow but me. The sad realization comes - it's time to trade in the camera for the shovel. I'm just thankful that my new driveway is only about 20% the size of my old one...

A refreshing 90 minutes (here or there) out in the cool, snowy night later and the job is done. Here are two totally different picture results from the same point... It's all about the settings.

The Big Storm - 8:51 p.m., 19 December 2008
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The Big Storm - 8:52 p.m., 19 December 2008
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It looks like it actually stopped snowing in the 40 seconds between those photos. Not so. It pretty much continued snowing all night and all day Saturday... and Sunday, come to think of it.

Wrapping things up here, there's a final house photo of the night and another of some fun I had inside the house during the project... (man, look at that tree. it has taken a beating!)

The Big Storm - 9:25 p.m., 19 December 2008
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And this from earlier...

The Big Kitty - 3:23 p.m., 19 December 2008
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There it is... the Big Storm of December 2008. The last 'huzzah' of the year.

Happy New Year to all in 2009.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Reflections

Blink. Blink. Blink.

The cursor blinks at me mockingly. Every day I encounter things, events, ideas - that make me say to myself, "That's something I should write about on my blog." However, for the longest time, I've consciously tried to avoid that word. Blog. Whether in its noun form or its verb form : to blog. As in, "I should blog about that."

I'm not sure why that is. Whatever the reason, I think I've been self-conscious about being one of the millions of (let's face it) useless blogs out there. Even when I know it's contradictory to my desire to put my thoughts, ideas, and general nonsense 'out there' for others to consume. Almost as if -- if it isn't mentioned - it isn't one. It's something else... I know. It's not.

That - and the incontrovertible fact that I'm an inherently lazy person - doesn't make a good pairing for a 'successful' blog. There, I wrote it.

From now on, I'll at least ditch the one thing that can be ditched with just a slight change in the vocabulary employed. The laziness, I fear, is a much more difficult obstacle to overcome. But you gotta start somewhere, yeah? So, from this point forward, I plan to embrace and use the word blog in all its forms. Not gratuitously, of course... just, no longer avoiding it.

That being said... the idea of maintaining a blog, in and of itself, is pretty egotistical at its core when you think of it. So, yeah, there might be some of that. Yet a big part of the draw for me is trying to create something that's entertaining for the reader. Or, most certainly, readers - plural. At least that's the idea. A slight diversion for anyone who takes the time to pop in and read whatever's here.

My benefit in all this is I have a creative outlet to hone my writing skills. Not quite sure what I'll do with those skills - or whether I even possess skills to hone to begin with - but that's my problem. Not yours. The point is, hopefully, we both get something out of it. That's the best case scenario. If I keep writing and feel I'm 'improving' but no one reads, well, there's still a net gain in my mind.

Okay - enough of the somewhat melodramatic introspection on "me and my blog" ... BOOOOOOReeeeeng!

Here's a quick recap/summary of things to grease the skids :

<------------------------------------------------>

Ehh.. a few thoughts, anyhow.

I don't watch Survivor but it happens that I witnessed the season finale on Sunday night. It was more background fuzz to start with... until I got sucked in. Long story short - I wasn't disappointed.

The final hour, or so, was some of the craziest stuff I've ever seen on the tube. And I'm a somewhat professional television viewer. Suffice to say, like all reality programming, they definitely stack the deck in favor of some truly.. let's say "incompetent" contestants?

Wow. I know there's not much, if anything, to go on here. It's just something that doesn't need any elaboration... They've got a formula that works. Most of these people are nuts.

<------------------------------------------------>

A hearty R.I.P. to the exquisite and groundbreaking Bettie Page.

<------------------------------------------------>

Alice Cook doing the 'sports' segment for WBZ news is a stroke of genius. She gives the sports report without any pretense or grandeur. Quite refreshing. Especially in this era of 'ESPN'-itis saturated sports casts/shows.

If I could pay a fee to choose the sports reporter on a local network, I would.

Alice Cook? I would pay for you. To report the local sports. To me. And whoever else wants to watch. Well, they'd have to pay, themselves... No, you. They'd pay you. But not like that. Just to do the sports. That would be a refreshing change...

<------------------------------------------------>

Debate? There isn't one.

When it comes to the Late-Night talkies, the rankings are indisputable.

Dave, Conan, Craig, Jay. Clear as day.

<------------------------------------------------>

Have you listened to Knobcast today?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

La Saison Glorieuse

What's your favorite time of year?

Let me point out, if you didn't say right now - you're wrong! Totally wrong. Winter, Spring, and Summer have their moments. And probably in that order... but Autumn is where it's all at.

Wait a minute. This all sounds waaay too familiar, donut?

Sure enough... after a quick search through the archives it's confirmed. Here's part of what was posted here a year ago just about to the day :

"Going back to the best month of the year - I can't get enough of the beautiful days and cool nights. Perfect for sleeping with the windows cracked. The Halloween decorations that rival the Christmas decorations fill me with delight. The mere act of driving down a tree-lined street, outlined in the gold, yellow, brown, and red leaves that punctuate the season... jack-o-lanterns... witches, ghosts, monsters, and ghouls... nothing beats it. Nothing."

Looking back and reading that again, not much has changed. The only changes I think I'd make are - 1> I can't quite sleep with the windows cracked, as I have no window screens and I'm not sure the windows would stay open and -2> The Halloween decorations have not only rivaled but surpassed the Christmas decorations as my favorite.

That's it. That and the rest is still the truth.

This past holiday weekend was phenomenal. The perfect advocate for this time of year. Clear, blue skies. Mild temperatures. Stunning backgrounds of foliage turning with the season. Defy me.

So, after popping out on Friday afternoon and seeing the magnificent colors, I decided to spend some time with the camera. I got a few hours in on Saturday and here's a sample. The colors aren't as vibrant as they were in person - but that's my fault, not using the camera to its full potential. In any case ::

This first one is the maple tree in my back yard.

The Maple Tree
P1010355

It's huge and is perfectly positioned (just about) to shade the majority of the back yard in summertime.

A few more of this fabulous tree. Anyone want to come help me rake its leaves? Forget it - this one I took from underneath with my back against the trunk.

The Maple Tree 2
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A couple to try and show some color.

The Maple Tree 3
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The Maple Tree 4
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Don't mind the playset. That's going away next year. A few more from another angle and time of day.

The Maple Tree 5
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The Maple Tree 6
P1010358

I've got some other photos from this set that I'll put up. Hope you enjoy these for now...

Knobcast - S02E02

Series 2 Episode 2 of Knobcast is now available for those so inclined to listen. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Learnin' How t'Crawl - or - LHC

Just a quick shout out tonight; mostly to keep my 'stats' up but I do get the urge every couple of days... problem is, it takes me much longer to actually get to it. I have a personal assistant that keeps my schedule and he sometimes forgets to schedule in my posting sessions. He's fired.

There was a radio program on today which covered the topic of the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC.

I didn't catch the full hour but I tuned in with about 10 minutes remaining. Luckily, it's archived and available to listen to another time. However, within the small bit that I did hear tonight, a caller's comment/question struck me.

To be fair, I don't know too many details about the LHC or what it's supposed to accomplish. As surprising as it may seem, I'm not a world-reknowned physicist.

What I gather about the project is there are scientists from about 85 countries involved. The main objective is to fire atoms, or some other 'particles', from each end of a 17 mile tunnel directly at each other in an attempt to re-create the suspected action which created the 'Big Bang'.

Feel free to correct me - but don't slag me off for the obvious lack of detail. As I mentioned... you know, the world-reknowned physicist thing. If you want to know more about 'the hell' I'm rambling about, check out the link referenced above.

From the LHC website :

"The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is being built in a circular tunnel 27 km in circumference. The tunnel is buried around 50 to 175 m. underground. It straddles the Swiss and French borders on the outskirts of Geneva."

For those uninitiated in the metric system, that's huge.

What piqued my interest and/or cynicism about the caller's question was the lack of vision outside his own realm of self it contained.

Paraphrased, his question was something like, "With all the issues going on regarding the world and gas prices today, why are scientists spending time and money on this project?" In other words, what is it that I'm supposed to gain from this research in my day-to-day life?

Simple answer? Nothing, bud. Sorry to disappoint you. Yeah, that's right. The entire world isn't really concerned about you, personally.

Harsh? Not really. It's the necessity of science.

Projects like this aren't meant to solve the problems of today. They have their own immediate intentions, of which the general public is typically unaware. However, in five, ten, maybe twenty year's time - or more - they tend to render solutions for the problems - or advancements - of tomorrow.

I'm sure when Alexander Graham Bell was working on what would become the modern telephone there were plenty of current-day issues that needed addressing.

Many other everyday conveniences we take for granted have roots in a long and, most times, expensive history. At the time when that expense is greatest, it's difficult for the average citizen to rationalize its worth. There's always going to be something more 'real' to deal with. However, in most cases, those efforts usually pay off and are well worth the wait.

The cost of the research that eventually delivers that advancement of civilization, whether it serves our generation or the next, becomes a bargain once that breakthrough insinuates itself into the mainstream society. In essence, that advancement becomes priceless.

How much would you pay for something today that you know would eventually become beyond pricing?

Technically, nothing. I know - because, you'd never get your money back if it didn't have a price.

But! In the less literal 'priceless' sense? It seems that any price, at the time, would be agreeable.

Sure there are going to be projects that fail and never make it past the expensive development stage. But that price is well worth it, as that attempt will never be tried again... which allows future researchers an advantage - of knowing where not to go.

Scientific research is one of the mystical professions of our time. The average person knows nothing about it and is constantly amazed at its results.

I'm not saying "Do not question science." On the contrary. I'm saying, "Please! Question science." So we may all understand its significance and, one day, enjoy its benefits.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Utter Randomness

Seventeen days. Not what I had hoped for in this, the month of "less is more."

My original 'Time Out' strategy (outlined a few posts ago) was, ehhhh.... let's say a moderate success. Could've been better but, more importantly, could've been much worse, too.

There was one week in August when I had multiple opportunities to stray from my plan, yet stuck to my guns and declined invitations for varied extracurricular (i.e. post-work) activities. That helped - but things quickly built up to previous levels and ... well, that's where the 'moderate' rating comes in.

Three nights in a row 'out on the town' can't really be considered cutting down on going out. It's not to say, in any way, that those nights were not well appreciated. On the contrary. Each evening held its own charm and enjoyment - which is precisely what makes turning down the opportunities so difficult!

So, it's a work in progress. I guess I was over-optimistic in assuming I could just shut it off at will. I'll keep working on it. I have to. I'm no C. Montgomery Burns.

<----------------------------------------------------->

I'll leave the analysis at that and move on to other unrelated topics. For one, the pants I wore to work today may have seen their last useful employment - for me, anyhow.

I've known for a while that they've been a bit ill-fitting. You know, just a bit too short in the leg... uncomfortably tight in the thigh/groinal area. See where I'm going with this?

Problem is, I've been too lazy to replace them. Save the fat jokes, please. Yeah, I could stand to lose a few pounds. File that under Common Knowledge. I know that these pants have gotten smaller over time due to repeated washings. Lord knows I'm not getting any taller - so, there's your scientific proof.

Bottom line is, I've had it with these pants. They were chosen today based on their color and not on their fit. And now I'm taking a stand and saying that fit trumps color. They're gone. Done. I'm sick of 'em.

For the most part, I've been wearing thick, heavy, corduroy pants all summer - because they're the most comfortable pants I own. Hot as hell but they fit. Yeah, Fall is right around the corner... but ignoring past improprieties does not bode well for future endeavors. These non-fitting, non-corduroy pants have to go.

While the current corduroy specimens should be okay for the upcoming season, it doesn't mean I shouldn't be in the business of picking up something new. Something that will be weather-appropriate come springtime. That, and I'm sick of wearing the same two pair of pants all week.

Mostly, I hated the effect these soon-to-be-discarded pants had on my ball-region while driving to and from work. Sitting at work. Walking around at work - and after work. You get the picture. I've had enough. My balls have had enough. They're gone.

Whew.. there. I've said it. I look forward to my new proper-fitting pants.

<----------------------------------------------------->

There was an article on Boston.com today linking to an on-line WebComic. I'm not sure exactly how to reference a "Web Comic" but they're, basically, comic strips that are posted on websites. Not 'traditional' media. So "WebComic" might not be appropriate but you get the picture. Perhaps you already have a few favorites of your own. Even better.

Now that that's cleared up, the WebComic (what I'll refer to them as until I'm convinced otherwise) I was brought to is called Questionable Content.

It's quite entertaining. There are over, what, 1200 strips? I've started at the beginning and gone through the first one hundred, or so.

The early strips look markedly different from the current strips - but that's to be expected. Much like when I look back on the early posts in this space, I notice things have evolved. I'm not saying for better or worse, just that there is some noticeable difference. This phenomenon intrigued me. It's actually what spurred me on this afternoon to go nuts with this post, tonight.

Anyway, I really like the original lines in the early illustrations. Something about the thick ink lines does it for me. Perhaps it's the detachment from realism. I'm not sure - but I know I like it.

It remains to be seen if I'll continue to enjoy it. I'm thinking if I go through it sequentially, it will all be seamless and there won't be any noticeable difference from early to late versions. I'm anxious to find out, though.

What's really amazing to me is that the dude, Jeph Jacques, started his thing in 2003. Yah! 2003, can you believe it? And, as it appears, he's kept it going through today. That fact was my inspiration for tonight.

Obviously, completely different spheres of relativity are at play here. His WebComic is viewed and enjoyed by many - my pitiful WebLog is reluctantly read by few. But that won't stop me from blathering on... relating my thoughts and observances to the masses, or at least those which dare to blow two to ten minutes of their lives reading this drivel.

And to those - I wholeheartedly give my thanks. For real. I mostly do this for myself but I do appreciate knowing that there are some folks out there that actually read what I have to write. That's cool.

Okay - this bit was supposed to be about Questionable Content (and the bizarre community surrounding WebComics that I've been introduced to)... So - check it out. Start from the beginning (or not). And enjoy. I wish I was as talented.

For now, the bizarre forum community observation stuff will have to wait. That short visit was strange. Some real freaky, scary 'real' internet stuff. On-line arguments regarding the nuance of a 'forum thread' vs. a 'chat room'.

I was schooled. Then I was uninterested. It all happened so fast.

Regardless of my whingin', you read. Sweet - and thanks, honestly, thanks for reading.

<----------------------------------------------------->

Honestly? I don't know what the frig it is I'm to blabber about. Fuck. This segment was really different than it will be in four minutes for you in what was, probably, two minutes for me.

Be assured, there was something here. About two or three minutes ago, yes. It was here. Something was, that is. Here. This is where it was. Surely, I confess, it wasn't over there.

Yet (is it me or does this seem like the perfect Russian-language based English word ever? not that it even is one; i'm just saying), I could just as easily be describing the actions of my cat.

<----------------------------------------------------->

Alright, I'll have to come right out and say it. Keep it "Short 'n' Sweet."

Never mind. I was about to put a political opinion bit right here - not sure if that's the thing to do, though.

I'll have my opinion - and influence you all to it, eventually, - but an all-out political rant would totally alter this blog. NOT where I want to go with this. So I'll keep certain 'Search Terms' out of the discussion... Capice?

<----------------------------------------------------->

Shit. Gotta go. This was going to be a record length post. For me, anyway. Obviously. This has no relevance to anything else, hey! Right; never mind.

'Night y'all... sleep with sweet dreams and god bless ya

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Half Time

It's not quite half way through August, sweet August, but it is Hump Day. Wednesday. Which is the half-way point of the week. And that's good enough. Also, with the Summer Olympics well under way I figured "Half Time" was an appropriate title for this post. Although, I've yet to actually see a televised event which has a true half-time.

Have you been watching the Olympics? Like, really watching them? Not if you don't like gymnastics, swimming, or beach volleyball you haven't. That's pretty much what has been force-fed to us on the major NBC network feed. It sucks. During 'prime time' the secondary NBC networks are fairly bereft of coverage.

I suppose it's my downfall that I don't, yet, have HD - as there are some full-time HD feeds, if I'm not mistaken. But the percentage of folks with HD has to be small compared to those with 'regular' television. And for those of us saps in the majority, it all comes on after 1:00 a.m. I've been tuning in (in prime time) - but I wish they'd give some airtime to some of the other events. Just wait 'til next week when we're drowning in all things Track & Field.

There are plenty of other interesting events going on. Why can't they take an hour or so each night to highlight some of those? Thank the gods for the internet. At least they've done that right. There are live feeds on NBC.com that are serviceable. You can't get video in full-screen (that I've been able to figure out) but pretty much everything is available.

So far, I've watched the second half of the Australia vs. Spain Women's Field Hockey prelim match (Australia routed 6-1, scoring 5 in the second half), some of the US vs. Italy Men's Water Polo match, last night's US vs. Australia Softball game in its entirety (US 3 - Australia 0; No-Hitter by US pitcher Osterman), a bit of Men's Badminton, some Women's Archery, and a bit of Men's Handball.

These are some of the sports I'd like to be able to view on the tele, not hunched over my laptop on a 3"x5" screen. Hopefully, as things get going, the secondary networks will pick it up and these will be available. Highly doubtful, though, with all the advertising dollars being spent. Because, as we all know, the Olympics aren't about the sport - they're all about the corporate sponsors, innit?

That being said, the tele's still much easier and more enjoyable to watch than the laptop screen. It can also pay off well.

Sunday night was the amazing Men's 4 x 100 Freestyle Swimming race in which the US pulled out a fantastic upset of France. The final leg swum by Jason Lezak (US) against Alain Bernard (FRA) was phenomenal. Bernard had been quoted earlier as saying something to the effect of, "The Americans? We're going to smash them. That's what we came here for."

Trash-talking in swimming? Gotta love it. The US beat them by a few hundredths of a second - but that's all it takes. I know it's not good sportsmanship to gloat... but the look of disbelief on the French swimmers' faces was délicieux !

Lezak's final 50 metres were tremendous. With about 25 metres to the finish he poured it on, catching up to Bernard and getting the touch in the end. It was damn exciting. Much more exciting than I can do justice to here. It's probably available on-line in the video archives. If you've got a few extra minutes, I suggest checking it out.

Swimming 'experts' say this was the most amazing 4 x 100 relay race - ever. That's not from me. That's from the experts. So you know it's good.

In fact, I'll make it easy for you. Here's the link.

You may need to install Microsoft Silverlight - but it's free. And quick. And it's worth it. You'll be able to watch all the Olympic action you want after that.

While I'm on links, check out this hockey goal by Australia's Nicole Hudson vs. Spain. The link goes to the full match replay - but, once it's loaded, scoot it up to about the 1h:09m mark (about 75% of the way) of the video and watch the next 2-3 minutes. Even better, watch the entire match.

For reference, there are about 25 minutes on the game clock at this point with the score 1-1. Around 1h:10m in the video, play develops in the Australian end and carries (quickly) all the way down field with a spectacular finish... Alex Ovechkin would be proud. The rout is on. Australia never looks back.

I tell ya, with high-speed internet, the video play is pretty impressive. Decent clarity (even better on close-ups) but excellent delivery speed. Once it's going there aren't many hiccoughs or delays.

The greatest benefit it holds, however, is that the events are broadcast without any commentary, commercials, or candyfloss studio pieces. It's a completely NBC-free experience. Nauseating Bob Costas.

Woah. Seems I've come down with a spell of verbositis. Didn't expect to ramble on so. Guess my Time Out update will be delayed.

In the meantime, check out some of the lesser known Olympic contests. Why not? You're already on the damn internet.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Time Out

It's 27 July and I'm anxiously awaiting the end of the month. As previously noted (on a few occasions here), the summer doesn't hold any real special place in my heart. I don't do the beach thing. Nor do I hold the feeling that a hot summer day is not to be wasted indoors. Those aren't the reasons behind my wishing to see the July page of the calendar ripped away, though.

What's doing me in is the heavy schedule of events - both weekend and weeknight - and the toll it's taking on my wallet. I knew when I was planning to buy my house that my monthly expenses would go up. The problem is, I have yet to re-adjust my social calendar accordingly. I've basically continued to live, and therefore spend, as I had been before the substantial increase in my lodging expense.

I'm not lamenting the purchase; just the lack of adjustment in my lifestyle to properly accommodate such a drastic change. It's four days until payday (a monthly event) and I've got about 100 beans to get me there. It won't be a problem but I don't enjoy cutting it so close.

Admittedly, the high gas prices aren't helping but they're not high enough to be making a serious dent. I'm simply spending more than I should without much forethought. June and July were chock-full of events. Too many events. Some big, some small - just too many, overall. It's time I took a Time Out.

I've already got a couple of 'big' events on the calendar for August which I intend to keep on the schedule... but I'll be making a concerted effort to minimize the addition of anything new.

It's not only the financial aspect that has taken a hit, there's also the personal aspect. Since my Project Walkway posting two weeks ago, I haven't been back out there at all - aside from the two new, green weeds I plucked from the already-been-plucked section today. I think that was the physical manifestation of what I've been feeling the past two months. Things are catching up with me.

There are also books I'd like to read, movies I'd like to watch (Netflix must be loving me and my return frequency), entries I'd like to post here, boxes in my house that still need unpacking, and projects I'd like to get done - nay, need to get done - on the house. These are all things I'm looking forward to doing - and all of them are free or, in the case of house projects, necessary expenses. Yeah, I pay a monthly fee for Netflix but that's negligible. And I'm already paying it, so I may as well get the most out of it.

This isn't to say I'm planning to board up the windows and doors and disappear for good. It's just time to stop, take a deep breath, and re-adjust my priorities. To carefully analyze any potential events or invitations... and to politely decline if I don't feel I have the time or it doesn't fit into the budget.

It's in my best interest, both financially and mentally. And it all begins on 1 August. Bye-Bye July.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Project Walkway

What an absolutely perfect summer day. Temperatures hovering around a pleasing 80ºF. Mild breezes sporadically sweeping past. Blue sky peppered with the occasional cloud. A great day to be out of doors. Just superb.

I took advantage of the agreeable weather by beginning my reclamation bid of the front walkway to my house. It had been taken over by weed and grass as the summer's greenery flourished, uninhibited by man's intervention. In this case, that man would be me.

A busy June weekend schedule coupled with my own bouts of admitted procrastination had put the task off until now. Well, not entirely. A couple weeks ago I picked up two spray bottles of Round-Up® weed killer. After work one night, I emptied both onto the unwanted vegetation - as much as they could cover, anyway. The bottles ran dry before I was able to cover the entire walkway. The remaining green has gotten a temporary respite. Live it up, Weedies. Your time is short.

Here's a picture of the stuff I'm up against. This is the section of walkway next to the driveway and up to the front-side door, which I use every day. You can see how it's been a nagging reminder that there's some work ahead for me. I'll assign this a Level One area ::

Weeds: Level One
Walkway Weeds - Level One

Friggin' disaster, innit? Those blue-greyish looking bits are flagstones which are about a square foot, on average. Some bigger, some smaller but they're there.

This is what the entire walkway looked like prior to the original application of Round-Up® a couple weeks ago. Once the spray was applied, the weeds began to die and after a few days were completely dead.

There are a lot of products out there that make bold claims of what they can do for you. That they're the best at what they do. This is the first product I've used to kill unwanted weed and grass, so I don't have a vast database of which succeed and which fall short of its promise. I will say, however, this stuff works. And works well.

Here is proof of those results; the treated portion of the walkway. This section gets a Level Two rating ::

Weeds: Level Two
Walkway Weeds - Level Two

Outside of non-existent weeds, these are my next favourite kind - brown, dried, and dead.

Looking good but the job's not done, yet. Once the solvent does its work, it's pickin' time. This is the part of the project I began today. Down and dirty, on the ground, pulling every dead weed and tuft of grass out by the roots. Just like my dad taught me when I was a wee tyke, after which I was forced into child labor to keep the tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, summer squashes, radishes, and bell peppers free to grow.

Today reminded me of those summers spent 'weeding the garden' as a kid. The work is a bit painstaking - but it also comes with a nice sense of satisfaction.

Here is the section I started on today. This photo represents just under three hours of work. After a short break to pick up my lawnmower from the shop, I continued for another hour and 45 minutes and did a bit more. This is the Level Three section of the walkway ::

Weeds: Level Three
Walkway Weeds - Level Three

This is pretty much the goal of the project; to rid the walkway of all weed and grass. Is it life-or-death? No. I could just as easily pull up all the flagstones and gravel, allow the grass to fill in, and be done with it.

That's not what I'm looking for, though. So, the project continues. Starting again tomorrow. I just hope Mother Nature doesn't catch up with me and I'm starting all over again right when I've reached the end.

There's a fair amount to tackle ahead and it won't be finished tomorrow, that I'm sure of. Just gotta keep on pluckin'. Once it's cleared, keeping up on it will be the task. Like Sisyphus and his rock...

Here's an overall view of the project area ::

Weeds: Composite
Walkway Weeds - Levels One, Two, &amp; Three

The beds inside the walk and up against the house are another project - for another time. Tomorrow, however, is slated to be another perfect summer's day. My back is a bit sore and my forefingers and thumbs are feeling it... but it's Day Two of Project Walkway for me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Awright, Awright

It's been a few weeks, I know. But I've got a perfectly viable explanation - I've just awoken from a three-week, heat-induced coma. Frightening stuff, to be sure.

Here's the deal. As noted in the last post, I was all geared up to enjoy the luxurious climate control that was to be delivered by my Jet Propulsion Laboratory made central air conditioning system (which I later learned was only engineered by NASA).

At first, I thought my misprogramming of the device was the reason it hadn't kicked in to deliver those first precious bursts of cool, cool air. The next two days were relatively cold, so it then seemed that the ambient temperature was to blame. Ahhh... No.

Fast-forward to Friday of that week. Outside temperatures rising in anticipation of the big weekend heat-wave. Inside temperatures dutifully keeping pace. Then the weekend arrived and things began to accelerate - out of control, one might say.

The 'cool' air that had been blowing constantly turned out to be not-so-cool, at all. The whole time, I kept wondering why the compressor outside wasn't spinning. A vicious cycle developed with me sweating on the couch, fiddling with the JPL/NASA thermostat, looking out the window anticipating (hoping? begging?) the compressor fan would start whirling - as it had done the month before when the heat was running.

Sweating, fiddling, begging. Sweating, fiddling, begging. Temperature rising. Sweating, fiddling, begging. Temperature rising... Sweating, sweating, sweating.. Until Sunday night when the thermostat read a blistering 85ºF.

That's when I lost consciousness. Apparently, I've been languishing on the couch, caked in a layer of salt from the gallons of sweat that had dried on my skin, ever since.

Actually, that's not entirely true. Oh, everything up until the Sunday night bit is 100% fact. The heat-induced coma is just a bit of hyperbole on my part.

Truth is, I got hold of the guy that installed the HVAC system and he showed up to have a look at the compressor that Monday afternoon. Timing is everything, they say, yeah? He found a conductor of some sort that had been fried, leaving the compressor powerless. Conductor replaced, compressor repaired, and the coolness did flow. Ahhhh...

It's been brilliant ever since and I couldn't be more pleased with it. Some say central air conditioning is a luxury; I classify it more as a necessity.

<----------------------------------------------------->

In the meantime, not much else of import has passed. Yeah, I'm aware that just about everything posted here is of little import. Touché. I'm gonna continue to put it down, regardless. So sod off! No, not really. Yes, Mr. Stokes, I am havin' a laugh...

That's not to say nothing at all has happened. This past weekend after mowing the lawn, I came in to wash up and after taking off my sneakers and socks, I noticed this :

Dirty Feet
Dirty Feet

That's exciting, innit?

<----------------------------------------------------->

One thing I've been happy with since moving into mi casa nueva, I have to say, is the small community of wildlife that I share my space with.

Birds, chipmunks, snakes (I've seen one). Over the weekend, I noticed a new visitor. A red cardinal (are they really called St. Louis cardinals?). I saw him in my front yard on Saturday, then saw him again out back on Sunday and took this photo :

Cardinal
Red Cardinal

It's not the clearest picture. He is much more vibrant with the naked eye. I hope he sticks around all summer, though. He's pretty cool to look at.

That's about it for now, so I'm gonna fly...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Baby, It's Warm Outside

Oh shit. Here it comes. The first real heat of the season.

Technically it's still spring until 21 June, the first day of summer on the calendar. Yet, the upcoming weekend is supposed to be bringing us a July-August preview, as it's said it could reach 90°+ for the weekend. I didn't want to say it - but - in super-technical meteorologist lingo, that's considered a heat wave.

Some of you will be lovin' it. I won't. The heat is my kryptonite.

Don't get me wrong - I loooooove the fine weather! However, much like Julio Lugo, I just can't cope with the 'high-heat'.

So tonight I thought I'd start working on the ol' central air-conditioning system to get the house primed for the scorching weekend. How's it working out, you ask? I'm sweating my Motha'uckin nuts off! That's how.

When I arrived home about 4:30 today the ambient indoor temperature was 75°F. After more than five hours with the C-A/C running the temperature is currently a cool.... 75°F. No shit.

It's likely that I'm not setting the NASA-regulated operating panel appropriately. But shouldn't setting the temperature LOWER (much lower) than the ambient temperature get the thing kick-started? That's how my old system worked - and that was only heat. No central-air. Set it a few degrees higher than ambient? Heat comes on. Set it a few lower? Yup. Heat goes off. Simple, innit?

Now I've got it set to the minimum - 45°F. I'm leaving it at that setting overnight. Maybe it will take some time to remove the residual heat from the square footage. To suck out all the heat. Mmmmm...

I'm hoping I wake up in the middle of the night, my teeth chattering, my David Bowie Nipple Antennae shredding my T-shirt and sheets whilst still sending 'dah-ta back to earth', and reach for the down comforter next to the bed. If not, something's not functioning properly. And - last time I checked - the antennae are in working order.

I've been perusing the instruction manual throughout the evening and I'm still baffled. Here's the control panel, which appears harmless enough. Trust me - based on the fine "detail" in the instruction booklet it'll take a PhD in Thermodynamics and Technical Application to figure this thing out :

(NASA™) Control Panel
Control Panel

See that LCD screen? The number on the right is the current temperature setting. The number on the left? Yah, that would be the current ambient temperature... after five hours running. Granted, I've eff-ed with it quite a bit tonight. And there has been a constant flow of 'cool' air from all the outlets. It's just not like my old, 30lb window A/Cs. Give those beasts 1/2 an hour on a 90° late July Saturday afternoon and you're sitting chilly. Just have to figure this thing out and adapt accordingly.

I only hope I can figure it all out by Thursday night and I'm well adapted by the weekend.

Oh, I just saw a pretty big spider cruising across my bedroom wall. Second one in a few weeks - and this one was bigger than the first. Like about an inch or more. Those mini, ¼-inch to ½-inch ones don't count. Creepy. In the family room is one thing but the bedroom? Super creepy. Imagine what might happen while sleeping. That thing was fast, too.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Of Bugs and Wires and Then Some

Thursday eve was out of the question. I wanted to put something up but I was a bit lethargic after watching the Celts/Pistons game at Ye Olde Hillside Pub with some friends Wednesday night. Question : "How does a basketball game, made up of four 12 minute quarters (48 minutes), take more than 3 hours to broadcast?"

Nevermind. I know how. Unacceptable. The marketing infiltration these days is offensive and needs to be curtailed, if not entirely eliminated, now. Odds on that one? Nil. Never gonna happen. Mini-soapbox - descended.

So, there wasn't much missed in those extra days. Yesterday made up for all that, though. What an afternoon...

Friday night; return home about Eleven pm and pop on the tele. No live tv feed. Alright, I'm thinking there's a sporadic outing and things return to normal in the morning. Watch some pre-recorded stuff. Bedtime.

Saturday morning; attain status of connection (tele, yes, in addition to internet and telephone). No connection on any of the three. It's time to make a call.

Saturday afternoon; Comcast agrees to send a repairman as soon as available and doesn't disappoint. For the second time since being in my house, Comcast has done me right in terms of service. This time, however, it's not your normal visit. No.

This time, the outside feed from the street to the house has been entirely ripped away. Completely. It no longer exists.

So, the first repairkid makes some calls to the 'bucket truck' (because this is no ordinary fix-it) and, eventually, gets up on the roof. Re-installs the necessary wiring; helps the 'bucket truck' guy with his wiring; I help the both of them with some tree manuevering, and such, to get the wiring into place. You know, standard Saturday morning shit.

No, I really didn't have that much to do with it - but the work that went into getting me re-connected? It was well appreciated. They did a fantastic job.

They had me back on-line (in all three senses of the word) before Five pm. Brilliant.

<----------------------------------------------------->

In addition to all of those shenanigans, the freakout of the month, nay, year also occurred. Those dreaded of most dreaded creatures appeared. Termites.

Holy Shit!! Oh fuck. And that's putting it cleanly. The last F-ing thing I need to deal with now is those buggers. I can't even type the word again.

The running theory is that they're the final bits of the colony and the sign of a defunct population. I'm betting high on that theory. What the hell!? I paid well over a grand to protect this place from those.. those... uuurrgghhh! Fuckin' termites!

I don't understand it. Although, I hope to be educated soon enough - like tomorrow afternoon. A guy from the company that did the initial treatment is supposed to come by and have a look. Surprise, surprise! Theeeeeey're baaaaack!

Which is what I find most puzzling. It's been almost three months since I first looked at this house. Nothing in that time would predict this. There had never been live activity? Jeepers... I don't fucking get it.

But, then again, I'm no insect expert. And it pisses me off.

I've got photos of the pricks writhing on the top of my dryer but I can't bear to post them... It's as if they'll win. I'll give the control company the benefit of the doubt and hold all comment. Until I hear from them. Then all bets are off.

<----------------------------------------------------->

Outside of all that craziness, good things also happened. Home Depot gift cards were used to get some privacy, among other things.

As much as I hate that I screwed up the measurements, it all worked out okay. The blinds I picked up still cover (most of) the windows in the family room. It's so nice to have the windows covered. Definitely going for the rest of them, first thing.

One thing I can recommend with 100% return : Always write down the measurements you need. Don't rely on memory - 'cuz it don't work! I was off by a half-inch and it almost sunk me. I was lucky enough to be able to put the shades on the outer part of the window... but I'm glad I took the HD employee's advice and went with the cheaper option.

Take my word - Measure twice, thrice... cut (buy) once.

And that's the recent excitement. god, what the hell...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Day Early and Many Dollars Short

The recent run of Thursday night posts has been interrupted by this Wednesday night early edition.

First things first. Comments have been pouring* in regarding my hardware. Things like, 'This is sooooo amazing! How do you manage this phenomenal blog?!'

Brace yourselves... here it is - a 'self-portrait' of the machine that allows it all to happen. My laptop :

My Laptop Computer

I picked it up just over a year ago - and just in time, as those of you that remember my frustrations with my desktop PC may recall. It's held up well (it should've, it's only been about 15 months). I've got to get my arse in gear and get a backup program going, though. No way in hell I want to go through that nonsense again. Especially with everything I've dumped onto this puppy.

(Dell, please leave a comment if you'd like to use this photo for promotional reasons. Otherwise, I will own you if I find this anywhere near an advert)

<-------------------------------------------->

Other than whoring out photos I find enjoyable, this post comes to you as the very first that's post-apartment and entirely home-owned. That's right. As mentioned last week, yesterday was the final day of my paid days at the old apartment. It's all mortgage ball-and-chain from here on out, baby! Bust out the pot noodle and let's celebrate...

One thing mentioned as I was going through the whole process was the timing. It's still working out pretty well in that regard. The upcoming weekend brings two, well-appreciated things. One - no previously scheduled events (visits, dinners, et al). Two - a Monday holiday. That's right. A three-day holiday weekend with no extracurricular activities to lend distraction. The opportunities are endless, as far as three days will take you, anyhow.

How much actually gets accomplished is up for debate but the stakes are high.

<-------------------------------------------->

For one (here comes the Many Dollars Short portion), I stopped at Lowe's on my way home and put in an order for a new washer/dryer set. It was a bit more than I was hoping to spend - but their utility will prove invaluable in short order. Not to mention, the Lowe's Chick hooked me up by taking the 10% discount from my USPS coupon package without taking the coupon. No, I don't remember which Lowe's store it was. It may have been in New Hampshire? Sorry, can't remember... much too long ago.

Anyway, they're scheduled to be delivered sometime on Saturday, installed, and (best of all) the old units will be removed. Paah-tay! Can't wait.

I suppose these are the mundane things that home-owners get excited about. Washing clothes. Brilliant. It may seem like an inconsequential thing but, over the long haul, it definitely makes the day-to-day grind that much more simple. Clears the schedule for the more important items and events. And that's a fine development in my eyes.

<-------------------------------------------->

Something else I'll have to learn to live and/or battle with is... the bugs. About two weeks after moving in, the stray black ant has been spotted. Sometimes by me, sometimes - as noted by the fixated stare - by Spinny. I've probably 'napkined' about 10 of them at this point. Nothing overwhelming - just something I never really dealt with in the apartment. Perhaps being on the second floor was they key. The folks on the first floor probably dealt with the brunt of the assault.

Tonight, however, was different. I found one of those slick, fast, creepy-looking silverfish looking things. Ewwww! Ugh - something about those filthy little critters gets to me at the instinctual level. They really creep me out.

Once I've got everything put away and the place is cleared out, it's gonna be bug-clearin' time. I can hope, anyway.

<-------------------------------------------->

That's about it at this time. If anyone has any bug-killing tips, feel free to enlighten me. Other than that, a few more pics of the house from before I deposited my junk (and one in progress) :

Mudroom
Mudroom

Family Room
Family Room

Kitchen
Kitchen

Helper
Spinny Helping Unpack 2

Takk...

*p.s. That's a facetious comment; no one has been asking about my lame-ass computer.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

And Down the Stretch They Come!

Another week, another step closer to making the break for good. The lease on the old apartment officially terminates next Tuesday - 20 May. (Cue Barenaked Ladies?) Things are on track for just a few more stops and 'old' becomes 'OLD', capital done.

The first piece of forwarded mail arrived at the new house today, which was a relief. I filed a change-of-address form on-line and was wondering where all my mail was. After checking the USPS site earlier this week, I was relieved to see that it usually takes 7-10 mail-days for the forwarding to take place. That explains the absence up 'til today. It should start flowing in like mad, now.

Tonight was book-keeping night, as I made a few more address changes for my banks and credit cards. I was relieved to receive my new car registration in the mail (and all-important sticker) with my new address intact, as well.

What also arrived in the mail, which kinda freaked me out a bit, was my first mortgage coupon. Holy crap! I've bought a flippin' house... That's it - no turning back, now. Why didn't anyone warn me!?

It's all good - but seeing that coupon, with that new monthly payment amount on it... aye-yi-yi! It'll be an interesting few months this summer as I adjust to the new budget. After seeing it in black-and-white, I know a few of the genius plans I had for this summer will probably be put on hold for a while.

Outside of that, things are absolutely swell. The house is still awash with boxes and debris that needs to be put away - but I've got all summer to do that (and it'll cost me nothing!)

No pics tonight; got going too late but I wanted to put something down to keep the post streak alive. Three Thursdays in a row. Gotta be a record for me, yeah?

More to come soon enough...

Oh, just one non sequitur - that song in the new Heineken TV adverts is quite catchy.

Sláinte

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Seven Days Later

Just about 37 minutes shy, to the week, since the last post and things are moving along swimmingly. Perhaps if it was rough seas, a mangrove swamp, or oatmeal you're swimming in.

Actually, it hasn't been that bad. It's just taking me a lot longer than I had hoped to clean out the residual clutter from my apartment. I made stops on my way home last night and tonight - and plan on another one tomorrow night - to pick up a bunch of stuff. Luckily (although, I'm paying for it), I have until 20 May to "git outta Dodge" for good. It's also a huge benefit that my old apartment is pretty much on my way from work to 'the house'.

A big concern I have is ditching the three air conditioner units at the old place. Once again, timing is everything in that Saturday is Norwood's Spring Hazardous Waste drop-off day. The new house has central a/c so I won't be needing them - and I sure as heck don't want them sitting uselessly in my basement to deal with later. As luck would have it, I spoke with my landlord today and he has offered to take them there for me (along with a broken down gas grill and, possibly, an old computer monitor or two). That will be a huge help.

For my efforts, I managed to unpack the majority of my kitchen stuff tonight. Only one large box of pots and pans to go and that room is done. The unpacking, that is. I wiped clean the cabinets and put most of what I unpacked away - but I'm not sold on the placement. Hey, at least it's out of the way for now. I'll do some re-arranging later when I get a better feel for the flow of the kitchen.

One thing I realized (as I was packing, actually) is that I have loads of packing paper to dispose of. I wish I could recycle it - but it's more likely that it'll end up as simple trash out on the curb. I still don't know what the deal is with trash pick-up in these parts. Guess I better call Town Hall and find out. Add it to the to-do list, I suppose.

<------------------------------------------------->

(Nerd Alert!)

I'm not sure what has compelled me to do so but I've created a spreadsheet to track all my home improvement and repair investments. Probably the excitement of owning a property as opposed to renting. Maybe I'll classify it as equity? Anyhow, I'm going to give it a go. It's possible that by the end of the summer I'll be so depressed with how much I've spent that it gets binned... but maybe not. It should be an interesting document if I keep it up. Looking back on the good ol' days. Nostalgia and that.

Here's what I've got so far :

May 2008
...May 01, 2008 - Shower Curtain/Rod - Home Depot - $23.19
...May 03, 2008 - Mailbox and Post - Home Depot - $99.69
May 2008 Total - $122.88

Fascinating, I know. You don't have to tell me twice. I'm a programmer. I live for nerdy shit like this.

<------------------------------------------------->

After a full week in the new digs (and no strangers a-comin' and a-goin') the kitty is definitely feeling much better about things. She's been wandering about and enjoying the many ground-level windows. Although she hasn't spent much time there, as I can tell, I think the French doors in the mud room out to the back will eventually become a favourite spot. Those windows are really at her level.

She did enjoy the bay window for a spell earlier this evening. Here's the evidence to prove it :

Spinny on the Lookout

Spinny - What You Want?

Those windows, by the way, are currently painted shut. The home inspector told me a metal spatula would do the trick. Tried it. No luck. The spatula's edge (which I bought specifically for this purpose - oo! I should add that to the spreadsheet) was too rounded for the job. Another item for the to-do list.

Anyhow, she's been great. Still eating like there's no tomorrow but she seems happy. By this point, she probably has no idea she's ever lived anywhere else. Not true, I know - but she may as well. It'll definitely be the last place she ever inhabits. It's science.

<------------------------------------------------->

Just for kicks, my bathroom sink - all 'arted' up in sepia tone. The masses are clamoring for house pics. Okay, one person asked. It's fun for me, though, so I'll happily oblige. Wait 'til you see my mailbox post. The Before and After pics will astound you!

Not Quite the Kitchen Sink but Close

Until next time. Viszlát !

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Success at Last

Unbelievably, everything has finally fallen into place. As I type this, I'm sitting in my new living room, in my new house, watching the Red Sox game on my new TiVo-enhanced digital cable system. Unbelievable.

Looking back on my previous posts, it was Monday 3 March when I first saw this house and put an offer on it later that evening. Here I am, 59 days later, settling in. It's freaky.

I won't bore you with the details of the frustration that went along with acquiring my loan. Suffice to say, there were a few things - one in particular - that were nothing short of maddening. That one thing had to do with satisfying the bank's requirement of ensuring that there was no 'structural damage' due to wood-boring insects (in this case, the mighty termite).

The crux of the issue was the bank needed proof that there had been no structural damage, yet they could not tell me, precisely, what form that proof should take. I'll keep it short and sweet and just note that it was all worked out. Albeit, literally, at the last possible moment but it was done.

I have to note that my loan was an FHA (Federal Housing Athourity, I think) backed loan - aka 'the Government'. So, I understand the added insurance they require to prove the house isn't about to crumble to dust. Additionally, it's an advantage to those who don't have alot of capital to put in for a down payment. Which is my situation. So, all in all, it really wasn't too bad. Just a bit of a distraction and point of frustration at some times - but as I sit here now, it's clear it was all well worth it.

Aside from that, I am amazed - pleasantly amazed - at how well everything has gone since the loan was approved.

The closing was scheduled for yesterday (30 April) and I hired a moving company to move me in today (1 May). Both events were executed brilliantly. Props to a friend who works for Gentle Giant Moving for hooking me up with a great experience. The three guys were in my old place at 9:30 a.m. and were finished unloading at my new place by 2:30 p.m. Excellent job. They left me with a customer service survey to fill out which is usually something I unceremoniously toss straight in the bin. This one, I'll be happy to fill out and submit. Now it's up to me to unpack everything and find a place for it all.

Another amazing event occurred when I called Comcast yesterday. Yes, Comcast. I spoke with a service representative, explained when I was moving, and where from, and he set me up with a relocation installation today. They had a local installation availability today between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. Perfect.

So, what happens? No - the technician did not show up at 4:45. He showed at 2:30. Literally as the Giant guys were hopping in the truck ready to pull away. He was here for about an hour and 45 minutes and when he left, my TiVo-DVR-Digital cable, internet, and brand new phone number were all up and running.

And here I am, about five hours later (after a trip back to the apartment, my first - of many, I'm sure - stop at Home Depot, and a well-needed shower), posting this fascinating story for your pleasure.

You don't need to say it; I know you're reading this slack-jawed with awe.

<------------------------------------------------>

Outside of all that, the other wild card in the process is Spinny, my cat. She's an ol' vet at 14 (and having moved no less than four times before she was five) but after 9.5 years at the old place, I was curious to see how she'd adjust.

The morning, and afternoon for that matter, were pretty rough. Quarantined in this room or that for periods of time, I could hear her mews of protest, anxiety, and nervousness. So, like females are wont to do in times of anxiety - she ate. I don't think I've ever seen her eat as much - or as often - as she did today.

Alas, she seems content, as she's currently reposing in the armchair across from me taking a late bath.

P1010200

At first, she was unsure of her surroundings. I know this because her first few spots visited were the corners of closets in various rooms. However, once I returned from my late afternoon errands, she began to explore a bit more. She seems comfortable now - as a wily vet would - and it appears she'll be back to her old self in short order.

<------------------------------------------------>

Lastly, there's one glaring issue with my new home. There are no window treatments to speak of anywhere in the house. So, for the time being, I'll have to curtail my nightly ritual of the nude security check. No prancing from room to room, unclad, as I check that everything is in order. At least until I get some window shades.

So there it is. 59 days, start to finish. Unbelievable.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Salute to the Boston Bruins

Alas, their valiant effort ended tonight in Montréal.

There are many things to take away from this amazing first round playoff series. In the end, it's not surprising the Canadiens won the series. What is extremely surprising, and promising, is that the Bruins were able to force the series to a game 7.

After the disappointing showing the Bruins had in the 2006-07 season, no one expected much from this team. They didn't really do much in the offseason to improve their chances going forward. They didn't have much salary cap room to do much. There were no big free agent signings, as with the previous off-season (Marc Savard - C, Zdeno Chara - D).

They did get rid of head coach Dave Lewis and hired Claude Julien. Personally, I liked Dave Lewis - as a person. He was an entertaining personality; he just never gained the respect? trust? something of the team last season. Apparently, coaching matters because Julien was able to do so much more with just about the same roster.

With that said, I think the young players that were here this season - which were not here last season - had a huge impact.

The new fan favorite, myself included, is 19 year old left wing Milan Lucic (#17). The kid is a beast. People are (prematurely, in my mind) referring to him as Neely-like. I think that's alot to expect. However, he is tough as nails with a nose for the puck. General Manager Peter Chiarelli was wise to hold on to him through the trade deadline. He's the type of player that Bruins fans love to watch and I hope he sticks around for many seasons to come.

Another player who had a huge impact this season was center David Krejci (#46). He turns 22 in a week. When Marc Savard went down late in the season with a back injury (courtesy of Les Habitants de Montréal), Krejci stepped up huge and went on a nice scoring run to keep the playoff hopes of the Bruins alive. I like this kid and, once again, I'm glad Chiarelli had the patience not to move him at the deadline just to make a move.

I'll round out the top three young impact players with center Vladimir Sobotka (#60). He'll be 21 in July. He's not afraid to get dirty, go deep into the corners, and - even at only 5' 10", 183 lbs - loves to hit. Keep it up Vladi.

Noting the last two players mentioned, they were here out of necessity after an unbelievably cheap hit by the Philadelphia Flyers's Randy Jones on center Patrice Bergeron (#37) early in the season. The October 27 boarding (which Jones only received a 3-game suspension for) nearly broke Bergeron's neck and left him with a severe concussion that left him sidelined for the remainder of the season. I'm looking forward to Bergeron's return next season. And the first Bruins-Flyers game.

<----------------------------------------------------------------->

Another thing I've taken to heart from this series is the renewed rivalry with the Canadiens. Since the mid-90s it hasn't been much of a rivalry with the Bruins not really having the team to compete with them. The Bruins lost all 8 games with the Habs this season (and the first 2 in this playoff series). To bring this series to a game 7 was an enormous accomplishment. The Bruins barely made the playoffs as the eigth, and final, seed. The Canadiens were the best team in the Eastern Conference. Believe me when I say - the Canadiens's fans weren't looking forward to a game 7.

Outside of that, watching this series has renewed my personal (sports) hatred of the Bleu, Blance, et Rouge... Their fans are smug and fair-weather, in my opinion. Watching them stream out of the Bell Centre during game 5 as the Bruins were handing it to them was a delight. I'm looking forward to the next round just to see who will take them out of Cup Contention. My second favorite team is the team that does just that.

<----------------------------------------------------------------->

Finally, I was glad to see that the Bruins managed to garner some interest from the local sports fan community in these parts.

I'm so tired of the over-saturation of everything Red Sox. I'm a Sox fan but things are getting a bit ridiculous. It's almost the same with the Patriots. And with the Celtics beginning their run to their next NBA championship, the Bruins have been a forgotten team - and hockey a forgotten sport.

It's too bad. Hockey is a phenomenal game to watch. Playoff hockey is that, ten-fold. The Bruins need to keep the pace of improvement and build on what they've accomplished this season.

It may be a generational thing, with this not being a generation of hockey fans, but I believe if the Bruins can get through a few rounds of the playoffs in the next season or two that may change. I'm hopeful, anyway. Yes, I know I'm biased - but I'll take an NHL playoff game over anything in terms of edge-of-your-seat excitement.

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There are probably hundreds, thousands, more words I could devote to this but this will suffice for now. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the Sox defense of their World Series title, the Celts' run for the NBA title, and the (ahem) NFL draft? No, sorry, I can't condone being excited for that... In addition, I also hope that you save a small bit of hope, excitement, of your heart - for the toughest guys on the Boston sports scene.

Let's Go Bruins!

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Oh! One more comment. One other thing that separates the NHL Playoffs from the other major sports. The handshake. The post-series handshake, when the teams line up on the ice, skate past, and shake the hand of each, individual player on the opposing team.

There were a number of big one-on-one battles within this series. I was particularly surprised by the effectiveness defenseman Aaron Ward (#44) showed in taking Alexei Kovalev out of the mix.

The battle of the series, however, was Milan Lucic with Mike Komisarek. These guys beat on each other for seven, long, tough games. It's one of the great sub-plots of an NHL Playoff series. In any case, through the magical brilliance of the DVR and the electronic wizardry of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01 Digital Camera, I was able to capture the precise moment these two players met up in the queue.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Home Fries

Jeez - reading back on that last post, makes it feel like a year. Apparently, it was about a month... somewheres in that vicinity, anyway.

It's about a month later and everything looks lined up. A couple stubborn hurdles to pass over but nothing (positive thoughts) insurmountable. Down the home stretch I go.

You hear a lot about how stressful the process of buying a house is. Some people take it and multiply it - so it's more stressful than it needs to be. Some people underestimate it and assume it'll be easy. Word to the wise - "They're all different. And each will drive you crazy."

That's what I can say I've learned to this point. Nothing makes sense. Everything is done backwards... It's mayhem! The Real Estate market is - fucked up - !

Seriously. It's well messed up.

Too much weird shit has happened within the last month that there's no way to doco it all here. They're stories worth telling, though. So. I guess. Beware?

One other thing before signing off - I just saw something on the news that led me to believe that Patrice Bergeron would be ready for the first round of the playoffs. This is a huge development, as he's been out since late October with a severe concussion.

I wonder if it's an organization pushing a player too hard for their own gain. Think about it. Bergeron's a Quebec native. The series opens Thursday with two games in Montreal (game 2 Saturday). That's a boost the Bruins could use - having gone 0-8 against the Habs in the regular season, without Bergie.

We'll see. It's probably a lot of over-thought and over-analyzation but it stands to mention : Let's see how much Patrice Bergeron produces in the playoffs; and let's see how much punishment he takes.

Don't get me wrong - I'd have nothing more than the Bs upsetting the Habs in round one... but, realistically, I don't see it happening. Montreal is too fast and skilled to lose to the Bruins in a seven game series.

I have to go with the Canadiens in five games. Gods be pleased, I'm wrong.

Let's Go Bruins!

Monday, March 10, 2008

In the Hold of Others

First, a quick re-cap of last month's 'offer' I was preparing for my first ever bid on a house.

I finally got everything together and prepared an offer about a week and a half ago - maybe it was Wednesday 27 February. Thursday, I find out that the nitwit selling the house already had it under agreement for two weeks. There was no indication in the MLS system which, apparently, isn't quite 'kosher'... Had I known, it would've saved me alot of stress and aggravation. I wasn't too happy with that revelation at the time.

Now, it could be classified under 'unexpected negative events that tend to correct themselves somehow'. For now, at least, that's the case.

As soon as that deal fell through, it was back to the search. I went to three open houses the following weekend and one of the three houses looked somewhat promising. While making arrangements to view the property with my friend (aka Real Estate Broker), an automated e-mail came in Monday morning (3 March). The photos looked great, the location was within my range, and I had to check the place out.

That afternoon during my lunch 'hour' I went and took a look. The house looked perfect. We were told that an offer was coming in that evening, so I decided to throw one of my own in, as well. So, one good thing about the original debacle was that I had already gotten alot of the information I needed to put in an offer in good standing (what I felt was something I could handle). That made things so much easier to make that quick decision.

The next night, I heard back and the sellers had accepted my offer. A pretty sly offer it was, too.

So now, I've got a signed offer on a house in the same town as the original house I was looking at. This new house, however, looks like a much better match for what I was looking for. The two most obvious things being a wood-burning fireplace and an attached, one-car garage. Things the original house did not have. Funny how things like that work out, innit?

Friday afternoon was the home inspection and things went as well as could be expected. A few typical things were found - but nothing catastrophic that might scare me away from buying. On top of that, everything in the house is practically brand new. Tile floors, hardwood floors, a large 'family room', etc. It's perfect.

I can't get too caught up in it, though. I won't claim it as my own until everything is taken care of. Right now, it's (what else?) the financing that is the biggest question. Originally, I was told, "Don't worry, we can get you in..." with all the requirements I would need to get the deal done. Now, I'm on edge waiting for that confirmation that, yeah, they can get me in with all that.

It's brutal, not knowing. I do have some slight recourse, should I need to tap some additional capital. Ideally, I won't have to.

So that's where it is now - a signed agreement with the Purchase and Sales signing set for Tuesday 18 March and a closing of 30 April. That gives me a week to nail down the lender to commit to giving me the loan. And that, in today's market, is no slam-dunk (as much as I was told about a month and a half ago).

For the time being, I remain optimistic. Time to put the screws to 'em and get some commitment from them. That's the next step. Once I have that, I'll feel alot more confident that it will all work out. Until then, I'll proceed with tempered enthusiasm, knowing that things could go pear-shaped at a moment's notice.

I guess that's what everyone is referring to when they say home buying can be stressful. Personally, I know I'm ready. It's relying on other people, institutions, and such that really bring the stress into it.

I'm ready to roll, yet stuck in the hold of others... a tough situation to be in.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Strange Days Indeed

Odd things are happening these days. Cryptic words, for sure. As they could be assigned to your personal 'happenings'... in the event anything happening around you, you find odd.

Think about that. For some time, later on. In the meantime, by the innate nature of the blog, I hate to say that you gotta read my thoughts. Them's the rules.

Luckily for you, I've lost, misplaced, or entirely forgotten most - if not all - of my thoughts. Thanks alot.

What I do know is that I did not put an offer on a house, as I insinuated in my last post. However, things have been on the upswing in that realm and this might be the week.

I've found a decent mortgage broker and I like the house, so if things go well this week an offer is in the making.

Whether it's the offer that gets it done is another story. But ya gotta try it to know...

This week could be interesting.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bon Hiver

What a weekend.

It's dead winter and I've had a phenomenal weekend. Everyone's always complaining about winter in Massachusetts... I say, "It is what you make of it."

Not sure if I've ever, technically, said that - but I do know that's been my theory ever since I was small. The winter season is beautiful and therapeutic. The idea of your entire existance being blanketed with layers and layers of snow is fantastic.

Every winter, snow comes to New England. Every winter, people complain. Every spring, why would you be anywhere else?

No idea.

One of the cool/exciting things I did over the weekend was visit an Open House. It's an old 'colonial' about 100 years old with the inside refurbished. The interior is all new - doors, windows, bathroom, kitchen, floors, etc. Detached two-story garage. Very nice.

Much to my surprise, I'm throwing an offer out on the place. Kind of surprising but it looks in such good condition, I have to do it.

It's only the 3d or 5th house I've looked at... but it's got alot going for it. Now, I just have to find someone who'll lend me a few bucks and I'm on my way.

Should be interesting. I'm well prepared for it not happening. In fact, that's just about what I'm expecting. That's fine. It's a great opportunity to get things rolling and start learning the process. On the other hand, if it works out I'll be pretty happy. At least until the roof caves in...