Water Heater Blues

Last Sunday, I returned from a business trip, and on Monday, I went out to the garage to do the bags of dirty laundry. What did I see? Alas, the water heater was doing a steady drip-drip-drip from the bottom. Damn, it was dying. Continue reading →

Roses in our Yard

Upon moving into our new house last year, we knew there was work to do to the back yard. As I mentioned in earlier blogs, the yard was a mess when we bought it. It was clear that the owners spent nothing to maintain, let alone spruce up the house, and the yard was a dump. We quickly engaged the neighbor who runs a landscape business to clean it up, but it took almost a year to get to a good state.

ground eye view of our rosesWe did replace the two fences that were about to fall down, and fixed the part of the yard that never dried up, but we needed a little color.

There were several rose bushes along the back fence, and we added a few to fill in the gaps. One thing about roses, and one of the key appeals to them, is that they are almost impossible to screw up. Water them semi regularly, trim them (WAY) back every winter, spray for aphids, and they just grow.

loyaltyEasy peasy.

And then they bloom.

We also found this wicked cool garden statue (or gnome). It is a meditating dog, and it’s title is “Loyalty”. It is already in our yard, watching over our plants.

It is a fitting addition to our back yard.

Not going to happen – Comcast Solar

Over the last week, I have had three calls from Comcast. Trying to sell me on their "Energy" program.

Apparently they want to install solar cells on my house, pay me $1,200 for the privilege of doing this, and save like 20% on my electric bill.

Asking them who "owns" the panels brought about a lot of hemming and hawing. Apparently I grant them access to put them on my roof, and to feed into the power grid, and I get some minimal credit for the electricity. But I don't own them.

From the hassle I had to go through selling my house in Tucson, even though we did own those panels, me thinks that having something owned by Comcast on my house would be a very bad idea.

Look, it is bad enough that I have to use these wads of fuck for my Internet and TV, as scummy as they are, but to trust them to put photovoltaic panels on my house?

Not in this fucking century.

Mail Theft

A few months ago, we moved into a new (for us at least) house in South San Jose. After a bit (ok, a LOT) of work it was very home-y. One of the charms was that instead of a central mailbox shared by a block of residents, the mail delivery is personalized here. The carrier walks it up to your door.

How quaint.

Last Friday, late afternoon, I hear the doorbell ring. I opened the door to see a Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Deputy on my stoop.

After madly thinking what the hell I did to draw his attention, he proceeded to tell me that they apprehended an individual who had stolen our mail, in particular, those “convenience” checks sent by your credit card company.

One of the checks had been torn off. This dirtbag had either passed it off, or tried to pass it off.

Motherfucker. So now I have to cancel that card, and have a fraud alert on my account (fortunately, it hadn’t cleared).

Apparently this guy had some other lady’s checkbook, and had written a check to himself for cash, as well as meth and heroin in his possession.

House Journal – Failed Project

House Journal – Failed Projects

Yesterday started innocuously enough, a trip to Lowes to get a few items we needed, and to pick up an under-sink water filter. There was a filter when we moved in, an old GE unit, that was so old, that filters were no longer made, and old enough that I couldn’t find cross referenced replacements. Perfect time to upgrade to a reverse osmosis system.

A little more challenging to install than a simple cartridge filtration system, a reverse osmosis system will have a solvent stream (drinking water), and a solute stream (the stuff you remove) that will need to be handled (disposed of). This requires a connection to the drain, and therein lies the cause of my failure yesterday.

As I mentioned, there was a filtration system that was so old, filters were not readily available. It was probably installed when the last owners remodeled their kitchen, 20 years ago. So it is safe to assume that the sink and the plumbing is 20+ years old.

Step 1 in the installation was to insert the waste drain in the sink drain. Unfortunately, the P-trap holding nut was corroded solid. So, after removing the old filtration system, I was stymied at step one.

Foiled by a plumbing challenge.

Many years ago, I would have made multiple trips to Lowes, bought tools, cursed, banged my knuckles, and finally gotten it done. But in my old age (almost 50), I have learned that it is far better to pay the man (a plumber or handyman) and avoid the frustration.

Things I used to do myself but now just pay for:

  • Plumbing – except for minor things, it is far cheaper (in time and money) to just pay a pro.
  • Electrical work – I will still replace a socket, or a switch, but anything that requires conduit, romex, or cutting a hole in drywall? Pay the man.

I will still do most appliance repair though.

House Journal – New TV

I have been MIA lately, the move, unpacking, and some insane deadlines at work have meant that I had no time to write, but I will begin to rectify that.

With the move, the trusty Pioneer Plasma screen was showing its age. When we bought it in 2006, the LCD panels at the time sucked big tool. Side by side, there was no comparison, the plasma kicked their ass all over the playground.

It was a 42″ unit, and a solid performer, but it was input constrained, and while the picture quality was superb, it was a bit of a power hog.

With our new house, we knew we wanted something a bit larger (but not too large, as our viewing room was modest) with smart TV capability, and more HDMI inputs.

I looked long and hard at the 4K screens, but at the size we were interested in, 55″ it just wasn’t compelling. No real content (some netflix, and some DirecTV) and to get something with a good refresh rate, you need to drop about $2K.

Much browsing at Bestbuy, looking at the Samsung, LG and Sony panels in our range, and they were all good, and apart from the Sony, comparably priced. However, the Bestbuy sales droid pointed me at the Panasonc Bravia 55″. On clearance, and a size exclusive to Bestbuy, the screen was sweet. 240hz refresh rate, excellent colors, and a compelling price, I was sold.

Hanging it on the wall was a breeze, and our electricians made passthroughs for the cables, so it is almost clutter free.

Quality of the display is impressive. Bluray movies “pop”. I tossed in The Matrix, and Casino Royale, and the quality is superb.

I haven’t explored much of the apps yet, but the Netflix app, built in (and a netflix button on the remote to boot) makes it super easy to watch streaming videos. Way better than the old way, firing up the Xbox, and using the app there. That takes about a minute and a half until you can begin watching. Now, about 20 seconds, and you are streaming.

Our Tivo hooked right up, and covers our DVR/live TV needs.

HD resolution, on the 55″, at the viewing distances we have is plenty good. I am not regretting the choice of not going to the 4K resolution. This thing is awesome.

And being a LED backlit display, this unit uses less than 1/4 the juice that the Plasma screen did.

We did donate the plasma screen, and it has a new home at one of our movers, I am sure it will continue to be a great screen, but we aren’t pining for it.

Prima donna Appliance Installers

We bought a house, and as the appliances were ancient, well used, and put away wet, we decided to replace the kitchen set. There were some difficulties finding a refrigerator that fit the space in the cabinets, but that was minor compared to the Bosch Dishwasher we bought.

First, it was back ordered. Many deliver dates were promised, and missed. Apparently the installers would pick them up and deliver install at their whim. Finally, we had them deliver it, and then send the installers.

The week we moved, on Friday, the dishwasher was delivered (it took 5 weeks from order to delivery). The installers were scheduled for the following day. Cool.

Not cool. The installers said they wouldn’t install it. The hot water valve had some corrosion on it, and they wouldn’t touch it, as “plumbing can go wrong, and we aren’t plumbers”.

Sigh, so they gave us a phone number to call when the plumbers replaced the valve.

After they left, I crawled under the sink and looked at the valve. Yes, a little green brass corrosion. But it was minor, and the valve actually looked fine to me. I would have just installed the dishwasher. But what do I know, I just tagged along with my appliance repairman stepfather as a teenager…

Of course, the plumbers are busy, and it takes almost 2 weeks to get them to come out. The plumber takes one look at the valve and is as equally as perplexed as me. His comment was that the valve was no more than 4 years old, and a really good valve (not a budget Lowes special). The hard water of the area tends to cause the green coloring.

The installers wanted to not install on this valve. Wimps.
The installers wanted to not install on this valve.

The plumber cleaned the valve off with some CLR and it looked brand new.

Later the same day the appliance installers return (the same crew), and he wanted to refuse to install the appliance, bitching that the plumber should have changed the valve.


Fortunately Barbara insisted that they install it. They then claimed that the washer was broken as the lights on the controls didn’t turn on.

The quietest dishwasher I have ever seen
The quietest dishwasher I have ever seen

Of course, the idiot didn’t realize that being on the top edge of the door, they only come on when you open the door. Douche extraordinaire.

So, net result:

  • we have a dishwasher – Yay!
  • the subcontractor for Pacific Sales is a whiney bitch primadonna.

Suck it up cupcake, and do your job.

House Journal – the Fence

As we settle into our house, I will be writing about some of the work we have done. I have already commented on the plumbing work that escalated, now I will talk about the fences.

fence-2One of the first observations we made when we initially looked at the house was that the fences sucked. Actually two of the three sides of our yard were in pretty bad shape (the back fence is actually OK and serviceable.) We knew we needed to have them replaced.

Of course, there were complications. There always are. Both sides had/have large trees impinging upon the fence. One side, had a smaller tree, but a limb that was hitting the fence, the other has a giant tree (at least 60′ tall) with roots that are lifting the fence.

The cool thing is that both neighbors are ecstatic to split the costs. The bad thing is that the larger tree is big enough that the city needs to issue a permit to have it removed.

The west side is done. The slightly impinging tree has been removed, and on March 25th, the fence was replaced. The speed with which they tore it out, and replaced it was mighty impressive. It is solid, well built with new lumber, and I am sure it will be fully serviceable for a long time.

The East side is still waiting for the permit to remove the tree, but it will be done soon.


Moving notes

Been a bit radio silent this last week. The move has been in progress since Tuesday, and the time since then has been a blur. Each day was at least 12 hours of shifting boxes, packing, loading the van, unloading, and finally unpacking.

There is no graceful way to move. If you have beaucoup bucks, you can pay someone to do all the hard stuff (packing, loading, moving, unloading, unpacking) but there is always some effort and pain involved.

Since we aren’t rolling in the dough, we did a lot of the work ourselves.

Since we moved from Phoenix to the bay area, and have lived in an apartment for most of a year, a LOT of our belongings were in storage. But a ridiculous amount was also crammed into 1100 sqft of our apartment, complicatind somewhat our move.

The early move era

Continue reading →

House – Almost Ready!

As the sojourn of our house comes to a chaotic close, we are almost ready for the heavy lifting of the move. A good time to reflect on the travails to date.

When we started, the house was ridden hard, and put away wet. The interior had some surface warts, including an odd paint scheme in the rooms that look somewhat haphazard, popcorn ceilings that were the rage in the 1970’s, a yard that was overgrown, and unkempt (totally understandable, as I am loathe to do yard work personally), and appliances straight out of the pleistocene.

However, even with this veneer of tired and well worn exteriors, clutter in the yard, and in need of some TLC, we saw a diamond in the rough. The inspection report supplied by the selling agent wasn’t too scary, and our own inspection concurred. This is a house with good, solid bones.

The journey began with a successful offer to buy, a whirlwind of navigating the loan and closing, and finally, transfer of title.

Continue reading →