Sunday, December 26, 2010

All that and a jigsaw puzzle

Wow.  This has been the best Christmas season in some time for me.  Not for the gifts - all wonderful - but for the emotions of the season, and for the good fortune I have been enjoying.

(On that gift subject, who'd a thunk I could get so excited about a shaver?  But really, it's awesome!)

Our fixer upper home away from home is Officially Ours now and I can't wait to get up there and dig into getting it ready for the vacation rental market.  It should, by my estimation, be a great rental.  It's roomy enough for eight, the furniture and decoration will all be new, the appliances and kitchen will be new, the location is outstanding, we'll have a compressor so you can blow up your inflatable boat, it's about 1000 feet to walk to get to the lake, there are great restaurants nearby for breakfast lunch and dinner, we'll have enough room for a deck to relax on.  Importantly, we've been renters up there for years and we know what a renter needs and wants.  We'll have it.  We already have two families that want to rent, and with about ten more the property will begin to pay for itself.

All of my children are here in the house for the season.  Let's just stipulate that I love them a lot.  You know all those families you hear about where the people can't stand each other - we don't have that here.  We get a little irritable from time to time, but for the most part you can just feel the love when you're here.  It is a priceless gift.

I'd like to talk about someone who is more dear to me than my children, or my friends, or even my half dozen hammers of all sorts.  I'd like to reflect on a very special woman; someone who has made possible everything that I talked about here (yeah, the whole blog, all six years or so of it).  Without her I would be a lonely fellow who was very good at building things.  I would have little if any art in my life, I would not be immersed in the pastimes that have brought me so many friends that I need a computer to keep them all organized, I would not have a cabin in Lake Tahoe, nor would I know how to make it the getaway destination that will pay for itself.  I would not have my three beautiful children, whose love buoys me day after day.  I would not have learned to be the father that I am, nor would I have had the opportunity to read stories to kids over and over again.

She helps me fill up my life with more than just work, having shown me repeatedly that there is more to life than toil and that there is joy in even the smallest bits of life.  She has led me back to health when I've been away from it, and wakened me from delusions that made me a fool.  She has taken the myriad pieces that make up our life and patiently assembled them into a cohesive picture; it's her vision that drives our family.  Our house is a home, a happy welcoming passionate and casual home, and it's my great pleasure to give her all the credit for that.

Thank you, Sharon.  Thank you.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Gentle Readers

Just when you thought I'd given up, I go and write another post. I know, right?

So let's talk about Christmas shall we.  Personally (and this should not come as a surprise) I doubt the whole Christ story.  Nonetheless we celebrate Christmas, and we even call it that and properly capitalize it.  This will be my fiftieth one so I'm getting better at it, bit by bit.

We got the tree selection process down to a science.  We tried all the Christmas tree farm shtick, and the tree lot folderal where the selection takes hours and you have to get just the most perfect tree ever.  Everyone has to agree, and it takes the whole day and night...  NO MORE!  We went to Home Desperate and opened one tree (of the last dozen they had) and it was just as good as any of the other ones.  We took that lil tree home and it's perfeck.

And we kind of all got some gifts for each other.  There's plenty of wrappings that we'll get to clear off in the morning.  It should be fun.

Bert and Ernie are on the TV (It's a Wonderful Life).  NBC has seen fit to sell a lot of commercial time.  Thanks guys.

All of my kids are here. :-)  Even though they are grown ups (well 2/3 of them) they're here and that's just delightful.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hawaii Five O

I'm fifty now.  Suddenly I feel all wise and stuff.

Happy now?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Lost my train of thought there for a while...

In which I plead for your forgiveness for not posting for nearly a whole month...

Remember that little "kitchen project" that I was working on?  Well, it's all functional and stuff, but it doesn't have any trim anywhere and there is a cabinet door missing and there are no handles on some of the drawers.  It's pretty good.  The room is really roomy.

And in case you forgot about that little place up at Tahoe.  We finally got the OK from the bank on the deal, which means... this month we'll be getting some new keys on our key rings, and we'll have a laundry list of stuff to fix.

Would you like to rent a house at Tahoe?

Saturday, November 06, 2010


We have a sink once again, in the kitchen.

That also means we have counters in there.  Maybe tomorrow (after Dickens workshops) we can mount up some wall cabinets.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

House blog, post number Way Too Many

So, we can almost start using this as a mini-kitchen.  When we can, it's curtains for the old counter and walls.

Friday, October 01, 2010

So many things to assemble

We have PAINT!

The pantry is painted now, though your local perfectionist gets the heebee jeebees when he see the fibers from the bargain roller all stuck in the semi-gloss.  I actually took a single edge razor blade to a lot of them, but really, shaving a whole wall or ceiling; not gonna do it, wouldn't be prudent, not at this juncture.

And tonight I assembled some cabinets from that place that sounds like eye key ah.  Our friend that is a contractor told us that, "Friends don't let friends buy IKEA cabinets." but we went ahead and did it anyway.  As if she was going to stop us.

So now we have a pile of cabinets, painted walls, some counter top pieces, and a bunch of other kitchen parts.  Tomorrow I will work on assembling a 7X8 foot kitchen with a hall through the middle and no fridge.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Now in 360 degree spin-o-rama

The drywall saga in the kitchen is nearly to an end.  The next goal is to get the pantry - with its wee sink - finished enough to use as a ersatz kitchen while we demo and re-build the remaining counter with the sink.

When will our nightmare project be really done?  Your guess is as good as mine as I tend to think each step will take about 1/3 of the time that it actually takes.  Maybe I need to multiply myself.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chili con Yeso

So, the kitchen has looked like this for a couple of weeks now. There is progress here and there but it is not fast enough for my satisfacion. Maybe I should invent magic genies that do it all while I'm at work. I'd call them "contractors".
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 12, 2010

I'm progressive

I got a lot of things done on The Project today. Now we have drywall on the long wall between the dining room/kitchen, the pantry and the long wall have some finishing compound. The long wall needed some of that ridiculously heavy plaster taken down - MESSY!! - and new drywall put up.

We're closing in on precisely which floor and counter top we're going with; progress! It's exciting!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The cocoon

The cocoon takes shape... First a pipe to bring water to the refrigerator, than a bundle of insulation for the ceiling...
Tomorrow - DRYWALL!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like pantry, with every nail I drive

More fun today with hammers...

I only ended up getting two things crossed off the list, but it certainly took all day.  First there was the completion of the garage wiring.  This included terminating the feed cable for the porch outlets into something other than a spool of romex in the attic.  I got it snaked around the main heating duct, stapled down, and terminated into a 4S box above the panel.  Then I needed to clean up the panel wiring because it was a complete mess.  Power off to the garage, rewire the panel, and then it was on to the rewiring of the light switches.  This was the item that was actually on the list but it needed the first two to get done.  This lovely task involved removing conduit, pulling out all the wires that were in much if the modified conduit, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

Then that trivial door...

The framing, such as it was, came out pretty easy.  Bang bang, a little new framing, some precise shimming, heavy duty screws, a four-foot level, screw screw, LIFT the door into place, and voila you get a new door into the garage.  Sharon tested it with a laundry basket, but it could have been wider.  This would have required more framing effort and would have left no place for the light switch into the garage.

Here's a picture so you can see that I'm not just making this up.
  There is a boatload of work in this one little room.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

More more more, how do you like it, how do you like it

The butler's pantry and kitchen progress continues apace.  I crossed 14 items off the list today.  There are 11 more to go.  Let me twiddle on for a while here...

First up was the shopping.  I got my plan together and went shopping for drywall, insulation, studs, wire, electrical boxes, romex clamps, a water filter, paper tape, some drywall compound, screws, a pre-hung door, and some paint and primer.  Naturally, this takes up approximately all of the remaining room in the garage on top of the cabinets and the furniture form our recently returned college graduate.

Then the demolition, and that big giant pile in the previous post.  Apparently the house is made out of enormous piles of stuff.  And all of it is heavy, and dusty.

So last weekend we (I) pulled down the ceiling which was made of plaster, and covered in about ten inches of blown-in insulation.  I can assure you it made a stupendous mess.  Then there was the triumphant moving of the electrical panel - four hours of no power to the house.
The above picture is the "during" shot.  The panel eventually ends up in the stud bay to the right, approximately where the ladder is.

So last night and today, I...
Demolished the existing pantry closet
Demolished a couple of feet of wall in the kitchen
Drilled a bunch of holes
Ran new romex through the holes
Screwed electrical boxes onto studs
Built a new doorway into the room
Reframed part of the ceiling
Rewired the switches for the pantry and kitchen
Wired two circuits for the pantry counter plugs and the refrigerator

Tomorrow I'll...
Remove the existing door to the garage and the frame
Throw that sucker on the pile with the rest of the crap
Reframe the door rough opening for a larger door, that happens to be really heavy
Install the new door.  Did I mention how heavy it is?
Figure out and install the water filter for the refrigerator
Insulate the ceiling in the pantry
Put up some drywall on the ceiling - that should be fun as hell
Insulate the walls with all of that fiberglass insulation
Whip some drywall onto the walls.\

I would take more pictures but, it's kinda a small room and you can't see much in one shot.  Suffice to say, it will be beautiful.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Cleanup on aisle nine!

If you have a big yard, you have the opportunity to crud it up with a lot of items a crapload of crap.  That's what I did.  So yesterday, #1 son and I put on some gloves and pulled it all into a pile in the driveway for easy disposal later this week, perhaps by some sweaty men with a big truck.
I took a tape measure to it and it's seven cubic yards.  There's even some broken glass due to the fact that in the middle of that big stack in the middle of the picture, there are two derelict original windows from the house.  Late in the stacking, there was a loud "click" and the load all shifted down a bit.  Hmmm.

So on today's home improvement list, there is the wiring up of the power connection to the fountain on the porch.  Hopefully it'll go quickly.

Friday, August 06, 2010

House call

I have been a lot busier these last few months than I think I ever was anywhere at any time.  I have a lot going on:
1. Big project at work to completely revamp the department I took over at the beginning of the year.  I'm leaning more about sales, accounting, transactions, and customer relationships than I ever thought possible.  Also, my advice to you is don't try to get anything substantive done through email.  It just turns into a crapstorm most of the time and you spend the first five hours of your day undoing and correcting everyone's misunderstandings from the previous day.  The upside is that the department will be much more under control when the project is complete, and then we can begin to address the myriad other issues.
2. Meetings.  Wow.  These need to get faster and more effective.  Does that sound familiar.
3. Our kitchen... we're remodeling in case you haven't seen it.  It looks kinda like this:
Sorry that's the wrong picture.  I'll tell you about that later.
Here's what the picture of the kitchen:
So it's a LOT more open now.  There is still a buttload of work to be done, some of it starting tomorrow.  I'll try to take a few pictures.
Now, that other picture.  Here's another...
Now what the hell could that be?  Hmm.  Santa's workshop?  Old King Cole's place?  Juke joint on the highway to hell?
Nope.  It's a four bedroom house with two bathrooms about 1/4 mile from Sunnyside resort on the west shore of Lake Tahoe.  The most primo spot on the lake.  Where we've been looking for a vacation home for approximately forever.  Round about a week ago this place came on the market - saying it needed lots of TLC.  They weren't kidding.  That first picture is of the back, note the stellar condition of the deck.  And the owner is underwater on the loan so it's a short sale.  That's why it's affordable, at least in Tahoe terms.  So we made an offer.  The seller has accepted, now it's up to the bank.  That's a pretty big if, but so far we're very hopeful.
I'm changing my two middle names to Home Improvement.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Really, I have a lot to say...

I keep meaning to blog, but life (and Facebook) always seem to creep in there somehow. Well, I'm feeling writy so here are some seemingly random thoughts, though they've been rolling around for some time.

So what do you think of when I say 9-11? FDNY? TSA? Al Queda? Airplanes and skyscrapers? Box cutters? Death, and fire? Undeclared war by non-state actors. The PATRIOT Act? Gitmo? The 20th hijacker? All the conspiracies? "Heroes"? Afghanistan?  How Bush squandered all of that by getting us involved in a useless war which killed more American people than the attacks in the first place even though the enemy wasn't really in that country, and there were no Ws of MD; the fucktard.

I don't think of any of those either. Every time the date rolls around, or when I see those digits on my clock, I only think of one thing.  That's my friend Walter's birthday.  I want you to know what a fine fellow he is.  Walter listened to pretty much all I had to say at work for about ten years.  He would hardly ever let me get away with sloppy thinking or hollow arguments.  His friendship and our conversations made me a better person, a better thinker, and a better promoter of my ideas (which are too numerous to count).  He and I were inseparable, until the day that I was released from employment there in Sunnyvale.  In a lot of ways, leaving there was really good for me, but in one way it was a real drag.  I no longer work with the man who taught me most of what I know about computers, critical thinking, and Occam's razor.  I miss spending time with my friend.

And he's not just a computer guru.  He's a great father and devoted husband.  (And I'm here to tell you that you don't get that way by just falling off of a log.)  He is a careful and thoughtful man, and an asset to all whose lives he touches.

We used to get together for lunch every first Friday after another friend of ours left there - for years we did this.  It was a way for me to mark time, and since he now works too far away, we just can't anymore.  I really miss those times.  I owe it to both of them to find a way to re-connect.  THAT is what 9-11 means to me.

Friday, July 02, 2010

So, yeah, um remodeling

Our kitchen has always been not quite right.  It had a diagonal walkway through it which cut through the work triangle.  Not so great.  And the family room has had a bare concrete floor since, uh 1996 or 1997.  And there is this HUGE beam that hangs down like a horse cock into the doorways from the dining room and kitchen into the family room which used to be a porch until it was enclosed about 45 years ago.  Not exactly like a horse cock, but dark, looming and intrusive like that.  And the dining room has always been cramped because it was essentially a big hallway with doors ON ALL FOUR WALLS, in the middle, and three of them at least 4 feet wide.


Now, through the magic of construction debris, we have demolished that pesky wall between the family room and dining room.  Now there is just a few things left to do before we can enjoy our new kitchen:

1) Choose floor
2) Choose sink
3) Choose counters
4) Choose cabinets
5) Choose range
6) Choose dishwasher
7) Choose refrigerator
8) Create detailed plan for framing, electrical, plumbing, cabinets
9) Store items in spare bedroom to provide temporary kitchen and office
10) Move computer and office to spare bedroom
11) Clear family room floor
12) Provide dog door and floor space in living room
13) Fence corridor to dog yard
14) Provide temporary kitchen facility in spare bedroom
a) Counter with utensils (demolish)
b) Refrigerator
c) Microwave oven
d) Dishes
e) Washstand
15) Remove contents of cabinets to storage or temporary kitchen
16) Remove appliances
17) Remove counters and cabinets and sink
18) Remove lighting in Kitchen and dining room
19) Provide protection for windows in demolition area
20) Provide dust control measures for construction area
21) Remove ceiling and cellulose insulation
a) Kitchen
b) Pantry
c) Dining room
22) Remove all trim and wall board
a) Kitchen and Pantry
b) Family room wall adjoining kitchen and dining room up to ceiling
c) Dining room EXCEPT wall adjoining living room
d) Archway into family room from dining room
e) Pantry back and side wall
f) Built in bookcase in family room
g) Baseboards and doorway trim in family room and dining room
23) Remove electrical wiring per plan in kitchen, dining room, pantry, family room
24) Remove flooring and underlayment in kitchen to subfloor
25) Cut flooring to end under doorway into living room from dining room
26) Remove dining room flooring to subfloor
27) Patch flooring to match in doorway into the living room
28) Dispose of demolition waste
29) Reframe double opening into family room
a) Support kitchen and dining room roof rafter ends and ceiling joists
b) Support family room ceiling joists
c) Remove posts and beams
d) Cut family room ceiling joists flush to framing plane for wall under western kitchen and dining room roof edge
e) Provide posts and continuous 4” beam to support ceiling and roof loads in wall
f) Provide attachment hardware to connect posts to foundation wall and roof and rafters and joists to beam, and beam to exiting wall framing.
30) Reframe door opening into pantry wall and pantry extension into family room per plan.
31) Frame false wall behind refrigerator per plan.
32) Relocate natural gas supply to range location per plan
33) Relocate cold water supply to refrigerator false wall per plan
34) Revise heater ducting per plan
35) Install electrical per plan
36) Install telephone and Ethernet per plan
37) Install insulation in ceiling and walls per plan
38) Install and finish sheetrock per plan
39) Prime and paint walls and ceilings
40) Trim windows
41) Install cabinets
42) Install countertops and backsplash
43) Install sinks and disposal
44) Install finish electrical
45) Install dishwasher
46) Install flooring
47) Install baseboard and door trim
48) Install refrigerator and range
49) Move furnishings into kitchen dining and family rooms
50) Setup office in family room
51) Plan party to celebrate

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers Day

Thank you for first having and then helping me raise three such wonderful kids.  The experience has transformed me from a selfish scrawny dude into a selfish proud father.  I am in awe of what we have done together.  I present Exhibit A:


I never thought when I met you that someday far in the future we would be standing side by side when I took this picture, and that just looking at it would fill me with such pride in our children.  When I met you, I knew I wanted to be with you every day and make a life together with you.  I just didn't know how splendid it would turn out.  They aren't just handsome kids that smiled for this picture and returned to being brats.  On the contrary, they are kind and thoughtful people that have the respect of others.  They regularly impress our friends of all ages so much that they tell us what wonderful kids they are.  We have done so well.  I am proud beyond words.

When Jessamy graduated I was in awe of the spectacle.  It was so grand, and something that I never experienced.  I was so proud of my little girl who has grown into a young woman now.  She's really her own woman.  Since I am so bad at predicting the future (see above) I can't imagine how wonderful her life will be, though I'm sure it will be some amount of wonderful.


In a few weeks, Andy will leave the house for college himself.  It will be his first time living away from home and I know he's looking forward to it, mostly for the freedom it will bring.  I predict (see above) that his move out will be permanent.  He's a responsible and capable young man.  He'll call on us for support, but he'll get it done himself.

Danny (who fell out of his crib and broke his arm what seems like just a few months ago) embarks on his own odyssey of high school in a couple of months.  Holy crap!  I'm sure he'll do fine, finally realizing that he actually does need to finish most of the homework.

Wow, just wow.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Just wow

So we've been having a problem with file downloads here at the house for about TWO MONTHS and we made our (approximately) tenth call to support tonight after two hours of working to reproduce the problem while we DISCONNECTED the phone line from the house wiring entirely (well, almost).  After spending 30 minutes on hold, then 59 minutes on a call back from the supervisor (tier 2), and then the call dropping, and then another 25 minutes on the phone, we were assured (again) that the problem will be addressed by the technicians on their end and we will be notified to retry the connection.

If this doesn't work, we're going to another service provider.

In much happier news, it seems that not one but two of my children graduated recently; Jessamy from SFSU with her BA and Danny from eighth grade.  It is on to a job (somewhere) for Jessamy and high-school for Danny.  Needless to say I'm very proud of both of them.  Congratulations, kids.

Monday, May 31, 2010

How I write this [fragment]

I hardly talk about the process of writing this blog. [unsupported statement] I obviously don't do it on a schedule. [self deprecating humor] Since it started as a lark, I created the purpose and the rules as I went along, to the extent that there is either in any evidence.

The "rules"
I try to keep it interesting.
I try to keep YOU in mind, my gentle reader, since the set of YOU include people who've seen me naked, and those who would not care to; you are a diverse lot.
I try to be funny, or at least clever.  You already have a phone book around to read if you want boredom.

As for process; I just start writing.  No outline, or notes, or preparation.  Sometimes I think about it a little beforehand.  Mostly it's just, "I should blog" then I just start.  I always start with the title, then I follow that.

That's it.

And now to quote Freddie Mercury:
I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it
I thank you all
But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
And I ain't gonna lose

Friday, May 14, 2010

So then two weeks went by...


There was the Cain's Crossing Renaissance faire in there:
Wake up in the dark
Get going not too long after that
Eat breakfast after two hours on the road
Get to site after picking up a friend
Get dressed
Do you folks have furniture for THE QUEEN????
What do you mean, a backless chair and ONE plastic 4 foot long table??
Do Faire All Day Long
Where's the FOOD????
Dance on the bumpiest mushiest turf ever
Repeat faire, with added rain mid afternoon, this time with adequate food & inadequate furniture
Pack up
Drive home

And I went to work about ten times, where I'm really busy, but the work is going well...
The company is growing well ($, not people)
The gear is going together better - more goes right than wrong
Service department (my other department) is undergoing transformational change - exciting!

Oh yeah, next Saturday we'll be the parents of a college graduate.  Way Cool!

Friday, April 30, 2010

The new workplace

Here it is, all filled up with stuff.  Looks like a good place to make tens of millions of dollars worth of product if you ask me.
If I was any prouder, I'd hand out cigars.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

These hands

These hands typing this surprised me today.  Maybe it was just being short on sleep, but I was holding up my hand today and darn it if it didn't look like I had WRINKLES on my hands.  Wrinkles!  OMGWTFBBQ!  The apocalypse is nigh.

Vain, I know.  Go ahead, mock me.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Whaddya mean, "Abandoned Blog"!

Harrumph. Didn't mean to avoid you all. I was too tired to write lately because of being busy and stuff.

So here's my new work area thing, presented in kinda time-lapse order of construction...

So, there it is, without anything in it.  At this point in the pictures it is just 1590 square feet of room.  I'll take a few more shots next week to show you all what it is like now that it's done.

Saturday, April 03, 2010


Last weekend I was lucky to attend a hiking and camping retreat that has been going on annually for 22 years.  It is just for the menfolk and by invitation only.  I gathered up the requisite stuff - borrowed pack, new hiking boots (haven't had any for more than 15 years or so), and all the other junk I needed.

I'm glad I got the boots.  The trail in was pretty rustic in spots and I would certainly have injured myself in sneakers.  The pack I borrowed from a friend who is a bit smaller than me, more like a big medium than an extra large.  As a result my shoulders ended up pretty sore from the upper straps that didn't fit.  I think I'll need to borrow a pack from someone BOB SIZED next time.

The hike in was beautiful.  The camp is at Point Reyes, so tons of great ocean views followed by lots of up and down patches over a five and a half mile trail. There were several lakes we passed, hawks and snakes, and lots of hills.  FYI - beer is heavy, as is charcoal.

Now they call this a male bonding trip and as a result there was an initiation ritual that I am not at liberty to divulge.  Suffice to say that it involves eggs, riddles, and ritual chants.  Every year, the trip is declared the "Best Bonding Ever" by everyone regardless of the circumstances.  Lastly, the event is organized by one of the members from the previous year, known for the season as "the man with two dicks".  I will not tell you why because you would then wish that I hadn't.  Structure can be so comforting.

Here is a BIG picture of the camp.  Click on the little one here to see it magically expand.

That fellow down right is my sponsor, and he's my best friend since he carried the tent both ways on the trail. Remind me to tell you about his flashlight some time.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The marathon

Work has been stupendously busy for the last five or six weeks.  It has been something of a marathon for me.  Let me recap:
New workspace project - because I'm a perfectionist, I had to manage every detail.
Having the good fortune to need to build a lot of gear, more than ever before in one month I think.
While collapsing operations into about 2/3 of the normal space
And managing the project above
With the real crunch coming last week during our warm spell
With the air conditioning out all week long.

But now all that is done. And we achieved our lofty sales and production goals, and fixed some sticky problems along the way.  And tomorrow we can start moving operations into the new space, because that project is done too.  And I got kudos from my boss for all the hard work.

I ran it and, essentially, I won.  Wow, I'm tired.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Procrastination 101

Step 1 - Promise yourself that you will update your blog TODAY.
Step 2 - Wait about a week to allow something blogworthy (Firefox thinks that is misspelled) to happen.
Step 3 - Actually forget that you "maintain" a blog because you are so friggin busy.
Step 4 - Update your Facebook status.
Step 5 - DR. TRAN!
Step 6 - Come up with a hilarious post.
Step 7 - ???????
Step 8 - PROFIT!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Because busy is hot

Work has been bonkers.

We have the construction project that is making the new manufacturing area - my area.  So I designed the space, and drew up the plan that the architect created the plan from, and I gave all of the information to all of the sub-contractors and the general contractor, and I negotiated the original schedule and all but one of the revisions and figured out how to get us back onto the original schedule after the start date was pushed out a week by the one revision I didn't do.  And I worked with the contractor and subs all Saturday while all the major demolition was happening and reconfigured cubicle walls and moved refrigerators and moved and reconnected alarm lines.  I mediated between the HVAC subcontractor and the repair and maintenance contractor after the sub screwed up and cut the control line that gives us heat in the building.  I found and pointed out the missing electrical drops and the window framing the framers missed.  I have worked my butt off on this project.  In two weeks or so, we get to occupy the space.  There are a few hundred more details for that part yet to go.

And we are experiencing record sales for the month of March, including FOUR copies of an instrument that we had planned to build ZERO of as late as one month ago.  This just happens to be the instrument that is the most challenging to make, and that is supposed to have undergone a few MAJOR CHANGES that make it easier to make by now, but hasn't yet.  And we are running out of the parts that we stopped buying because the design was being superseded by the MAJOR CHANGES that haven't happened yet because they were supposed to happen NEXT MONTH, after we had a month in which we didn't need to make any of them.

And I have just taken over the Field Service function and the pressure to make it work perfectly and at a profit is increasing, except I mostly get indirect micromanagement instead of goals and strategies.

And the project to make everything in one product line on one pretty pretty platform is a bit off the rails due to technical snags.  It's a rather messy project.  Ugh.

So work days are long these days.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


No so much coughing now - I had to pause to cough just then - as before. I apparently still hate being sick.

We had one of those cleanup days round here on Monday. That's where the garbage collection company allows you to put out just about anything short of a herd of expired rhinos and they'll haul it all off. We put out a couple of decrepit bikes, a few bundles of half rotted fence boards, a bunch of particle board shelving unit that had been cut up, a few cans of trash of various sorts, an old lounger frame, etc..

It looked like the garbage dump had burped up a whole load of stuff onto our curbside. I thought for sure they would leave some of it behind as not allowed or too much. Nope. When I came home it was ALL GONE like magical laborers had taken it away. It was awesome.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hack, hack

I have a cold.

I'm still as busy as a beaver. I just feel like crud while doing it.

At least I'm not feverish and delirious like on Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh yeah, my blog!

I was abducted by aliens and they told me that they couldn't allow me to use the internet because their router password was too long for my laptop to handle.  Sorry you had to wait.

So we had the long weekend there and while my friends to the east simply dug out of the snow, we here at Casa de Collier got down and dirty with our funky funky garage.  Sexy, eh?  We got all Medieval on it and stuff.

Number one -- Clear out a bunch of stuff from the "up top" which is really just a gigantic 6 foot by 20 foot shelf.  Science knows why we had all that crap.  Now, less crap.

Number two -- One 4X8 foot piece of pegboard.  Want it?

Number C -- Cabinet that had got wet in the flood, and was now moldy.  In its defence (Yeah, that's the UK spelling.  You gotta problem with that?) it was kinda old and made of particleboard.  We never really liked it.  I sawed it into bits and we took all the mops, brooms, vacuums, and plant food items and set them aside while I constructed...

THE FLAMING STEP OF THE CALIGARI!  Actually just a wee platform that is, if I take Amy's word for it, "pretty awesome".  Here is a fantastic COLOR picture.

Several times, I just went out there to look at it.  Seriously.

Just your basic 2X4 framing shimmed up level at each of ten joints (with different thicknesses to match the floor), glued in place with fancy schmancy construction adhesive, topped with 1-1/4 plywood (awesomely heavy in a 4X8 sheet), graced with premium 99 cent peel-n-stick tiles and finished off with aluminum stair nosing and painted trim boards.  I even painted the base frame.  This step will outlive me.  This makes me happy.

But wait, there's MOAR!

The (friggin) fluorescent lights in the garage USED TO buzz and flicker like a broken overhead warning sign in a post-apocalyptic movie scene.  No longer.  With the advent of $20 fixtures to replace the crappy four year old $14 fixtures, instant, bright, silent light, holy light bathes our laundry equipment and assortment of stuff.  These new fixtures actually have a very nice efficient electronic ballast.  It's almost like being the ruler of Narnia just stepping out there.

Oh yeah, I'm as busy as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest at work.

That is all.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


So about two years ago I started dreaming (almost literally) of a big revision to the instrument product that we crank out at the workplace there.  This was not going to be a change for the performance enhancement of the system, or for cutting the cost in half, but it was going to be a huge boon to the worker needing to make one of the things, and it would make it less likely to just crap out all of the sudden.

So for two years I've waited.  About a year and a half ago, we were coming out with our slick new product which is a best seller and makes us a lot of bucks.  At *that* point I was sure we could come up with a MUCH better design for this part of the product.  Alas, the design that was delivered was - in my professional opinion - WORSE than the crappy original part.  I wasted no time in telling my colleagues that this new design was "not manufacturable".  For my trouble, I was told I hurt their feelings.  Literally.  In those words.

Now mind you, it is my job to know whether something is manufacturable, having been hired to use my three decades of manufacturing experience to aid in this assessment.  The organization nominally depends on me to assist the design people to make this assessment, and to guide their work to achieve more manufacturable designs.  My friend Charles W used to refer to me as "the Dennis Miller of manufacturability" based on my zeal and attention to detail in the endeavor.

It was hard to put into words how deeply offensive this "design" was.  The current (very bright and clever) electronics design fellow remarked that it was difficult for him to simply take one apart, and that he was ecstatic to find out that someone else would build the one that he was to work with.

So tomorrow we will be "releasing" the replacement design.  Releasing is essentially publishing the documents that describe the complete design that you will be building.  It allows us to start buying parts.  The new design, with no small inspiration or input from me, will cost far less, take 1/8th the time to build, and be more robust than the three designs it is replacing.  Additionally (my idea, BTW) it will work for all of the products in this format, not just one.

Given our actual level of sophistication two years ago, we couldn't have made this product then.  In a sense I glad we waited, or rather, had to wait.  I know it's a goofy thing to get excited about but I'm really very delighted and expectant about this.  The project to get it into all three products and to get them all re-certified and to have everything done on time is one of the most complicated coordination projects we've attempted.  On the manufacturing side, it is all up to me to make it all work out.  I'm really enjoying the project.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Close to my heart

That would be my left lung. :-) And good friends.

Yesterday we paddled upstream to Rocklin to get our straight Renaissance dance on with our friends Kat and Mark and Joel and their respective guildmates.  For those of you who do not speak jive and renfaire, we drove to Rocklin (2-1/2 hours + 50 minutes for a very bad freeway delay from an accident), and taught two 90-minute dance classes to people in two affiliated Renaissance Faire guilds.  We had a great time teaching and visiting too.  We declined the offer to crash there and paddled back downstream (that would be following the Sacramento River back to the Bay Area) (faster, no traffic and no accident) and crashed in our own bed.  Nice.

Last week was hectic at work.  Two large simultaneous projects coming up; building a new 1600sf manufacturing area in an unused section of the suite we are in, and the re-introduction of our four most popular products with majorly revised guts.  I'll be super busy busy for the next eight weeks or so.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Manly ditch diggin'

So part of the reason that that perfectly good pump #2 went tits-up was it was having to work too hard.  That line didn't have a check valve and both of the pumps went to the same tee and then into a pipe that was the same size as the outlet of the pumps.  So when it was really raining hard, pump #2 was putting part of its water into sump #1 if pump #1 wasn't running.  And when both pumps were running at the same time, they were each trying to stuff a 1-1/4 inch pipe full of water into a single 1-1/4 inch pipe.  That's too much, and the effect was that pump #1 (where the flood was) could not get rid of its water fast enough.

But not any more, not any more.

Today I got a few fittings and used up about 50 feet of pipe running a second drain line for pump #2 starting where the two pipes used to join up. And this is 1-1/2 inch, so that pump #2 won't have to work so hard since it's pumping through about 90 feet of pipe.  This also involved 50 feet of sweet, sweet trench.  I'm gonna hurt tomorrow.  Check out these super-sexy trench shots.
Here's pump #2, safe and sound, submerged.

This is where the pipes used to join and co-mingle their dirty juices.  Now they are torn asunder, flowing side-by-side to their ultimate destination; the gutter.  The do get to join hands for the last twenty feet or so, but that's in a big thick FOUR INCH PIPE.


As the Beatles said, that's the end - o little girl.  Note the artistic flair of the 45 degree entry into the FOUR INCH PIPE.  Almost brings a tear to the eye, don't it. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

So much to say

More blather news!  So I mentioned good news at work, but at the time I couldn't elaborate since it was uh-fishall.  Well now it is, gentle readers, and if I may bend your ears twice in less than 24 hours I'll let you in on it.

For a long time at The Company, we've had a fellow in charge of field service - sending people out to fix something that broke or to do something more complicated than can be handled by a bio-molecular scientist with a PhD.  Well, he's gotten too busy to do that and we at The Company also want to apply a lot more rigor to the Quality Management dimension of the field service function.  That's where I come in.

So starting Monday, Field Service responsibilities become my responsibility.  Two more people will be reporting to me and I'll have the charge to implement an effective integrated service management system.

In other words, I just got an upgrade. And I get an iPhone.  OTOH, I think I'm gonna be pretty busy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Pent-up writing frenzy

So much boring blog-worthy stuff to write.  Too bad my blog layout makes you have to scroll so much.  I suggest you prepare to hit the PageDown key.  (Hint, it's immediately below the PageUp key.)

Here goes...

First, The Great Flood.  "The Hell?!", you say.  (Pretty sure Hell is capitalized, right?)  So last week we had a long heralded series of storms.  The weather nannies told us over and over that we'd better be ready Or Else.  So like a smart sheep, I cleaned out the sumps so the pumps would not clog.  I cleared out the gutters.  I picked up literally hundreds of pounds of leaves.  I checked that the pumps were plugged in, turned on, and that the floats didn't hang up.  I even cleaned the filter screen, fer fucksake.

And then it rained.  A lot.  (No problems so far, feeling smug and stuff.) Then the rain (which continued like a PBS Pledge "Break") ruined my Monday morning.  It (Monday) was all normal and stuff, and I was buttoning my shirt when No. 1 son comes to tell me that there is water coming into the garage.  So I put on my slippers and a tee shirt and went to look.  Sure enough, my adult son can identify water coming into the garage.

This is what the outside looked like.  This is well into The Catastrophe, and as you can see the water is about two inches deep, about one inch over the threshold of the garage.  There's a little dark spot just to the right of the door and underwater, right next to that pipe.  That's one of the two sumps.  It's about 20 inches deep.  Oh, and IT'S OVERFLOWING!
Oh, joy.

So while I'm working on this garden water feature (before the picture), it is pouring rain.  Of course the dog came out to "help" me.  I would look up from my damp jihad against the storm and see a very wet dog, staring at me.  Eventually my coat and pants had soaked through.  Turns out that one of the pumps would only pump for about a minute before it would overheat and shut off.  Then ten minutes later it would work again for another minute.  Bad bearing, I guess.  But the pump looks pristine!
So the better half of our marital brain trust posited to her frantic husband that we should just let the water run through the garage and down the driveway.  Then she came up with a nifty garden hose dam that kept the water in a pretty good stream, 1/2 inch deep, 24 inches wide right on through there.  See...

At first I thought this was madness until I saw how well it worked.  It kept draining at that rate for the hour or so it took me to go to the local Orchard Supply Hardware.  When I got there, I discovered about eight other people all buying pumps. I got the LAST 1/3 HP pump on the shelf, brought it home and plumbed it up and proceeded to drain the yard.

But I still got to work by about noon.  And our lodger slept through most of this.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Here is the Readers Digest version

Yard flood
New pump
Yet more good news at work
Replaced bed
Ripping albums
Little Dorrit
A lodger

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I love this song

The Rain Song

That's all.

Halfway to 1000

Well, now that the magical 500 posts mark has been surpassed (amazing, I know) I'll need to figure out what to say for the next 500.  I doubt I'll be lucky enough to have to buy another lamp for my refrigerator, so I'd better work on polishing my wit.

How about a joke or a poem?

Neither, eh? Mmmkay.  I'll have to think of something else.

Windows 7?  OK!  So I got all converted to Windows 7 at work since we will soon be shifting our product to that platform.  It's pretty different.  My job is to figure out how to do everything the Windows 7 way so I can be ready for the big switch.  Things like application installations, driver installation and settings, USB configuration, folder management, scripting.  Stuff like that.  Are you already an expert?  Gimme a jingle.

Oh, so it's about to storm for five days straight, so I spent the morning getting the sump pumps all ready to do their magic.  Glad I looked, since one of them was unplugged!  Lots of mucking out, leaves, filthy filter screens, and stuff like that.  I know how to party.  I should have taken pictures.

Do you think those fundamentalist preachers and radio hate talk show hosts that said that the earthquake in Haiti was the victims' fault (Pat Robertson) or that Obama was going to use "his" response to burnish his image with American blacks (Rush Limbaugh) are full of crap?  It may be confirmation bias, but so do I.  I was thinking that I'd transform my blog into a running political rant, then I remembered that you might not want that, seeing how there is so much of that out there already.

So in a few spare minutes at work, I've been following the federal court challenge to the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in CA.  So far, the plaintiffs (the people that want prop hate 8 overturned) have been presenting witnesses to press that case.  Next week (I think) the haters defense will try to tell us all once more that gay people getting married will harm children, make more kids "try out" being gay, reduce our nation's ability to produce enough citizens, oppress religious people, invalidate the unconstitutional mandate will of the voters, bring on the next phase in the gay agenda: legalizing sex with young children and animals, and all of the other hysterical lies they told to scare all of those voters into stripping gay people of the right to marry the person of their choice.

I think that Judge Walker will overturn Prop 8, that there will be immediate appeals (which are no doubt already prepared), and that the case will be before the Supreme Court before very long at all.  I can only hope that at least one more of the "Conservative" justices will step down and be replaced by President Obama before the case is argued, and or that the likely swing justice, Kennedy, will take the correct legal view, which is:

The state has no compelling interest in keeping people from marrying those of their own sex.  The converse is true:  The benefits of marriage that accrue to ANY married couple are beneficial to the children (biological or adopted) of the couple, and that the union benefits society as a whole, and the purported harms that those in opposition to same-sex marriage are so loudly warning of are not, in material fact, likely.  Further, the continued prohibition of equal recognition of the union of a same-sex couple is unconstitutional.

I am not a lawyer, but that's my opinion.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Holy crap! Five Hundred Posts!

Well, it happened.  The inevitable march to a number of posts evenly divisible by one hundred, and by five, and a whole lot of other numbers, like 250, and four, and 25.  But NOT three, or seven, thank you very much.

So what has happened in the intervening years since I started this?  Um, I suppose we could just go back and read the posts, (tl;dr) but here's a handy, totally incomplete summary in absolutely non-chronological order and with no relative significance whatsoever implied by the groups of eight:

I went on vacation a few times.
I put one third of my children through college, almost.
A friend of mine was divorced and very happily remarried.  Congrats!
A friend of mine was divorced.
Exchange student hosted.  Check.
A friend of mine was divorced.
A friend of mine was divorced.
A friend of mine was married and is making a baby with science!
A friend of mine was married.

Two thirds of my children "became adults".
A friend of mine was divorced and very happily remarried.  Congrats!
A friend of mine died.
I canceled Satellite TV service.
A friend of mine fell deeply in love, was engaged, then broke it off.
A relative of mine died.
My old company closed.

We bought five cars and sold three cars.
I taught my son to drive a stick shift car.
I cut myself off from some toxic people.
I taught a friend to drive a stick shift car.
I had a transmission rebuild.
I made a reputation.
I made a few hundred friends.
I was laid off.

I was hired.
I was promoted.
I distanced myself from someone who made me cry.
I was promoted.
I had an epic party.
I banned two guests.
I played The Alien in green makeup and a bicycle helmet.
I played Sir Studly.

I got a new doctor.
My dentist died.
I played Mr Brownlow.
I made gross errors in judgment.
I made a coat and trousers.
I got a dog as a puppy.
I got a dog as a puppy.
I had to have a dog put down.

I learned a lot about myself.
I saw a lot of boobs! (. )( .)
I built a stone patio.
I had hernia surgery!
I built a fence.
I put in windows.
I installed Windows.

I bought at least four computers.
A friend of mine moved away.
I learned to dance.
A friend of mine lost her father to cancer.
A relative of mine was divorced and very happily remarried.  Congrats!
I brought home the bacon.
I collected unemployment.
I found a great new hobby that at first I thought I'd hate.

I found renewed love; deep, abiding love.
For that, I'd like to thank my wife (and love of my life), Sharon.

Friday, January 01, 2010

499 Bottles of beer on the wall

Well, it looks as if 2010 is the last year of the first decade of this century, not the first year of the second decade.  It's apparently very complicated.

We had a fabulous party to celebrate the new year.  Lots of fun people came over to visit and celebrate.  Nobody had any drama.  At all.  We whooped it up until about 4:45 AM.  That's when the last puzzle got finished.  Whoopee!

I need some chocolate.