Friday, November 30, 2007

Finishing Week 3

The kitchen has most of its trim and it looks like we are on schedule for the painters next week. Hopefully the last base cabinet will be in before the granite. As long as that timing works out and Herb (the electrician) is able to finish up, we should have nearly all but the floors done by the end of next week. Appliances arrive Tuesday so they should be here and ready for Herb to hook stuff up and for Doug to figure out the vent for the hood. Flooring should happen week after next, so it looks like I have two weekends to rip up the old flooring. I will be helping a friend of mine move this weekend, so he will return the favor by helping with floor removal on Sunday. If all goes well, we will have the old hardwood floors up by the end of this weekend.

The last renovation update for this week is in the week 3 web album.

The Day
  • Workout: crunches, push-ups, dumbells
  • Music: Sierra Leone's Refuge All-Stars

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Tragedy and Blackness

There have been no photo updates the past couple days because the workers have just been slinging drywall mud and sanding. There are some week 3 updates today since the drywall work is done and most of the cabinet doors are now on. We are still waiting for a couple cabinets that had to be modified , but after a few days that seemed slow-moving, visible progress is happening again. Some folks have asked who has been doing the work. His name is Doug Jones.

As you might notice if you look at today's music selections, I am feeling particularly black today. The recent passing of Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor and some rather interesting articles on the subject (e.g., by Mike Wilbon) have me thinking more about blackness.

First of all, I'm not exactly the "blackest" guy around. Still, I feel the conflict of the different worlds to which I belong. The one way in which Wilbon is slightly off base is that the draw of the culture that draws in some black men to a world of violence and entitlement and living on the wrong side or edge of the law and responsibility can be weak when the right environment and upbringing are brought to bear. We all saw Michael Vick deal with the conflict between worlds in a very public way, but does anyone imagine that Grant Hill had such a tough time making the right choices when he was young? When you have the right environment and the right people raising you, making the right decisions can become natural.

How can a black man help foster good decision-making while keeping touch with his background? I'm not sure, but recognizing and acknowledging the complexity of the issues seem like good first steps. Maybe I'll just make sure they listen to lots of Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, and George Clinton.

The Day
Workout: interval running
Music: Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone, Funkadelic, MFSB

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Keeping in Sync With Google Calendar

On the reno front: It's mostly about getting the drywall to look pretty. Lots of mud being slung around. The painter looked at the room today and the granite guy came and made his measurements. This evening, The Wife went out and used our Home Depot gift card (a rebate from buying the fridge and microwave/convection/hood) to buy our pulls and a new kitchen faucet. We are still looking good for being done around the end of next week.

Google Calendar: The Wife and I each have our own gmail accounts. We use those accounts to manage our calendars as well. It's cool. TW manages calendars for herself and each of the kids. I manage my own, but we each share with the other so both us of can see all four calendars color-coded in Google Calendar and iGoogle (the personalized Google front page.) My events are black, TW's are orange, Jack's are blue, and Maggie's are pink. The system sends me an email once a day with my agenda (which I can view on my Blackberry.) Anyway, Google provides some nice tools for sharing information. Keeping in sync is key.

The Day
  • Workout: medium run
  • Music: Bob Marley

Monday, November 26, 2007

Less (hair) Is More

Nothing much going on with the renovation today. We decided to deep-six the cubbies that were supposed to be under the cantilevered granite peninsula because they created a seating/eating problem. They forced a big distance from the tops of your thigh (under the cubbies) to the eating surface (an inch or two above the cubbies). This would have created a situation where either your legs would have been squished by the cubbies or your food would have been in your chin. Neither would have been a good situation. Anyway, we are going to take the cubbies and make a little homework desk out of them in the family room.

BTW: Week three of the reno has its own album in picasa. The Wife has threatened to impose a complete media blackout, so the pics could stop flowing any day.

On an entirely unrelated topic: If you are a man with a receding hairline (like mine), think twice about fighting it. Someone I work with just hacked his hair back with clippers and a #1 guard. It looks much, much better.

So, here are some thoughts for guys who are having problems accepting their scalps.

The combover: Lots of guys try the combover. It starts out innocently enough. You start styling your hair that way (perhaps because you saw your mother's father and knew you'd need an excuse in another decade or two) and just by accident, the style covers up your developing lack of hair. What a coincidence. When the combover only hides a small bit of scalp, this is fine. What is small? Let's agree on the size of a roll of scotch tape as reasonable. When it's the size of a roll of masking tape, you have issues and should try something else. When it's the size of a melon, you have major issues and need counseling.

The ug's (rugs, drugs, and plugs): Any solution that requires you to spend money is probably a bad idea. Any solution that has potential side-effects or recovery time is completely crazy. Stop the madness.

the good: the bald hall of fame

the bad: Marv Albert, Gene Keady

Shaving tips:
  1. You don't need to take it down to the skin like I do. Use clippers and go with the Andre Agassi look. A #1 or #2 guard can work wonders. I especially suggest this path for most melanin-deprived gents out there. When white guys shave it clean, it can look like the result of chemo, so keep that in mind.
  2. Never shave in a hurry. If you do, the result will be a "lost a fight with a weed-whacker" look.
  3. Shave in the spring when you can ease your way into a good head tan. In the winter, you will end up with a pasty look for a while. In the summer, you might burn.
The Day
  • workout: crunches and push-ups
  • music: Art Blakey, Bjork, Brian Setzer

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Day

A day without renovation. We actually were able to sleep in a few minutes and it felt really good.

Turkey Day starts with Turkey Bowl. A bunch of middle-aged men running around trying to play football. Most of us are slow, but we have fun. This year was an unusually injury-free day, so that's a good thing. I see a bunch of these guys only once a year, so it's always a good time.

Next, we went to my sister's house for dinner. She's not very healthy, but was having a good day. I'll write about her another time when I have lots of room, but at this point, suffice it to say that she is an amazing woman who has made many doctors look stupid. She has been given months, weeks, and even days to live as long ago as 15 years and as recently as a little over a year ago. She's incredible and all of us are thankful that she is still around.

I have been pretty good about food for a year, but moderation went out the window today. When turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes and gravy are put in front of me, I revert to the adolescent who thinks he has a bottomless pit for a stomach. Weak people (skinny people) save room for dessert. Strong people (over-eaters) make room for dessert.

Normally, desert at Thanksgiving with my family is the weak spot. Some store-bought pies. Probably a home-made cake. Perhaps orange jello with banana slices.

This year was different. After eating too much dinner, I found that a cousin had made both banana pudding and peach cobbler. I went back for seconds on both. It's unfair when someone who is nice, attractive and very smart is also a good cook. The former Tournament of Roses princess who is now on Harvard Law Review baked killer desserts that might force me to go back up a notch or two on my belt.

The Day:
  • Workout: interval run and Turkey Bowl football
  • Music: Sounds of the Seasons

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Drywall Finishing, Cabinets Starting, Granite Chosen

Cabinets are being hung by the kitchen with care in hopes that the granite soon will be there.

Drywall is done and cabinets have begun. We also picked out our slabs of granite. The granite is greyish and blueish and has a few shiny flecks in it.

The Day
  • Workout: crunches and push-ups
  • Music: Vince Guaraldi and Bola Sete, The Stone Roses, Big Audio Dynamite

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


When I came back from my "run" this morning (I have to use quotes on that when I move as slowly as I did today. Honestly, I can still feel the pain from my 5k run on Saturday, so I am not pushing it), I was happy to see a county pickup in the driveway. Inspection went smoothly, so they started hanging drywall. Frankly, our GC was pretty chummy with the inspector, but I am hopeful (and pretty certain) that this is not a bad sign.

Cabinets should start tomorrow, but the big news for me is that it looks like I am going to have to pull up our old hardwood floors so we can save a bunch of money. This is going to be backbreaking work, but at least I have my youth. Wait. No, I don't. I'm a decrepit, old man. This is going to hurt for weeks, but I will save over a grand.

Time to get the ice packs ready.

The Day
  • Workout: nice, slow 3.5 mile "run" to Steeplechase
  • Music: War, Wayne Shorter, William Shatner, Yes, XTC

Monday, November 19, 2007

A New Week, A New Renovation Album

So, when the stillness of a beautiful Fall morning in Reston was shattered by the hammer, circular saw, and drill, I knew the renovation week had started.

Last week was awesome. Stuff got torn up, and few things are as fun to watch as controlled devastation. This week has started off more subtly. Today, they did a bunch of work on wiring and got the pantry framed in. The bigger event was that Habitat for Humanity showed up and hauled away the old cabinets and the old freezer. It was really great to see that stuff go away and at the same time help someone out. Our new cabinets will begin showing up in the garage this week.

The inspector comes tomorrow to make sure we are up to code. As long as all goes well, drywall work will begin tomorrow right after the inspection. We need to pick out a slab of granite (maybe tomorrow) and make the call on flooring.

My brother and his wife and daughter will be with us this week. Entertaining in the construction zone and makeshift kitchen should be fun. It will be good to see the Brooklyn, Chicago, New Haven, and Cambridge crowds.

Note: I have decided to keep a separate album for each week of the renovation, so this (the second) week's pics are here in the Kitchen Reno Week 2 album. Once the renovation is finished, I will combine them into one trimmed down album, but for now I will upload a bunch of photos each day.

The Day:
  • Workout: dumbells, crunches, dips
  • Music: The Beatles, Brian Eno, Saint-Saens, Miles Davis

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Raking on the Edge of the Desert

When most people think about yard work, they probably imagine manicuring a neat lawn or raking leaves into a nice, neat pile.

These people have never seen a house in the older parts of Reston. Controlling your yard in this area is like trying to control a small sandbox that is in the middle of a desert. I filled six bags of leaves from the front yard, then turned my attention out back. With the help of a leaf blower and ample work with the rake, I made a massive leaf pile. You could hide a mid-size car in there. I'm kinda afraid to let my son jump into the pile because he might not find his way out. He's a nice kid and we'd hate to lose him.

By the end of the week, the yard will look like I never touched it, so I better take a picture of it now or the moment will be gone forever.

The Day
  • Workout: raking and blowing leaves, lawn mowing; ice skating with Jack at Town Center
  • Music: Gorillaz

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Being Healthier: Eating Better

First of all, I am nobody's health nut. I still eat and drink just about everything I like to eat and drink. On the other hand, I want to model a healthy lifestyle for my kids, want to be able to play with them, and want to be around for years to come. I'm on the old side, so this takes work. The result of eating better and exercising is that I can play more actively with the kids and feel much, much healthier.

Here are the highlights of the better eating routine:
  1. Start the day with some exercise at least 5 days a week (more on that in a separate entry).
  2. Eat breakfast every day and have that breakfast be raisin bran or frosted mini wheats (FMW) and a glass of juice 6 days a week.
  3. Try to snack before lunch (preferably dry FMW, but maybe not). This happens maybe half the time.
  4. Normal lunch (avoid fries and greasy chips)
  5. Snack between lunch and dinner (FMW or pretzels or fruit or yogurt, fruit, and granola).
  6. Normal dinner, but usually no seconds and generally end with a big salad. Cut back on french fries.
  7. Drink water throughout the day.
  8. Drink Arnold Palmers (iced tea and lemonade mix) instead of soda when eating out.
  9. Cut back on dessert after dinner. In the summer, this is usually Fla-Vor-Ice Plus (33% juice and 25 calories each). I need a cold weather option for dessert.
That's pretty much it. When I go out to dinner, I often get a buffalo chicken salad or steak salad, but not always. Notice that I still eat desert, drink the occasional beer, and enjoy waffles with strawberries and whipped cream every once in a while. This isn't about starving myself; it's about moderation.

I started this about a year ago and am feeling much healthier. As you might imagine, I violated every one of these just about every day before that for years and years.

If I think of something else I am or am not doing with my diet, I will edit this entry, but the other side of this is the exercising I have been doing. I am a big believer in the demand side of things (burning calories), but the supply side (diet) is important as well.

The Day
  • Workout: Herndon Turkey Trot 5K Run
  • Music: Cake

Friday, November 16, 2007

Gun Control vs. Sleep

I'm generally a pretty conservative guy in terms of wanting the government to stay out of my life. The ACLU usually has it right in my book. I don't want the government supporting religion or suppressing free speech or otherwise taking upon itself to tell us what to do.

On the other hand, I don't think that semi-automatic assault rifles and armor piercing ammo should be available. I know this is a bit of a conflict, but so be it. Hunting rifles are fine. Target shooting is fine. AK-47's and glocks are dangerous.

Why does this come up? I like to sleep. Actually, one of my favorite pastimes before kids was to wake up at 8:00 on a weekend, then roll over and head back to sleep. Just because I could. Then kids came along and they have been our alarm clocks for the past 6.5 years. Until now. What wakes me up every morning just a little after 6:00? A woodpecker pecking on the lovely wood siding right behind our bedroom. I appreciate that he wants food and shelter, but that's what we have zillions of trees for. This isn't an area that has been clear-cut. We have scads of trees, but this woodpecker wants my house instead. I am ready to buy a shotgun and start looking up woodpecker recipes. Woodpecker and dumplings? Woodpecker pot pie? I'm ready to give them a try.

Anyway, the NRA is still pretty evil, but I want one of those evil folks to come by my house one morning and help me do some selective reduction of the woodpecker population. I'll even invite the sharpshooter over for some dumplings or pot pie.

The Day
  • Workout: 3 x (dumbells(curls, shoulders, chest) + 100 crunches + 12 dips)
  • Music: WFMU, Cloud Cult, Dee-Lite, Led Zeppelin
  • Photos: Day 5 of the renovation

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stinky's Reaction to My Rambling Blog

(2:09:47 PM) stinky: you created your own blog??
(2:09:51 PM) me: i did
(2:09:53 PM) stinky: what's the matter with you?
(2:09:57 PM) stinky: you don't have enough to do??
(2:10:01 PM) stinky: you need some chores??
(2:10:18 PM) stinky: come over sat morning. i've a few things for ya to do since you've got so much free time on your hands
(2:10:32 PM) me: doesn't take any time, really
(2:10:37 PM) stinky: dude
(2:10:40 PM) stinky: it's just one more thing
(2:10:54 PM) me: actually can save time. "how is the reno going" me: "check the blog"
(2:10:57 PM) stinky: i'm trying to take things off the list, some as simple as a phone call or putting the seat down

Scary Renovation Stories, Part 1

On the first day of renovation, the GC and the electrician were joined by some muscle who helped with the demolition. Since that first day, it's been a two-man show. I like hearing them work stuff out together and it gives me great comfort. One person is bound to miss stuff. Two are more likely to work stuff out well (geeks in the audience might think about Extreme Programming as an example of this).

Anyway, the scary part is when they find messed up stuff (which is often.) They have found:
  • Junction boxes that are wired in an unsafe manner.
  • Live wires tied in to boxes and just hanging behind drywall (so a nail driven into the drywall could have found an exciting surprise.)
  • Outlets that had fires behind them years ago.
  • A big, fat electrical cable that goes nowhere and was cut off abruptly with a saw.
Maybe they are just making this stuff up, but it gives me comfort to know that all the money we are paying (and it is lots of money) will result in a house that is more pretty, functional, and safe.

It almost makes the 6:55 a.m. wake-up call (courtesy of a reciprocating saw in the dining room) worth it.

The Day
  • Workout: interval running (30 sec. hard run/30 sec. jog for about 2.7 miles) here is the map
  • Music: Carl Orff, The The, Sublime, Beastie Boys, English Beat
  • Photos: Day 4 of the renovation

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kitchen Renovation Begins

Well, we have finally decided to renovate our kitchen. The old one was small, ugly, and not well laid-out.

Problems we had with the old kitchen:
  • The crazy former owner blocked off the family room, so he had to put in a sliding glass door where a window used to be so he would have access to the deck. He was a nut. He also had walled off the dining room, but that's another story altogether.
  • From a single spot in the kitchen, you could see 7 different flooring surfaces.
  • The space in the kitchen was very cramped and there was no good place to eat in the kitchen (thanks to the slider)
  • Everything was old and hideous.
  • We really wanted a second oven as well as a fridge that didn't stick out into the room.
  • Not enough storage or light.
What we are doing:
  • Gutting the entire room.
  • Moving the opening from the corner to centering it on the Dining Room wall.
  • Moving the Dining Room wall over a foot (toward the kitchen) to make enough room to walk through from the rest of the house to the new pocket doors into the kitchen.
  • Putting in a small pantry.
  • Replacing the slider with a window, extending the counter down under the window and adding a peninsula that will extend from under the new window.
  • Adding Maple cabinets and new floors.
  • New counter-depth fridge and moved other appliances.
  • Marble counters.
  • Recessed lighting.

Anyway, here are the pics of the project. I have been pretty good so far about uploading updates every day.

Starting off

OK. Let's see if I can keep this puppy going. Time to start having a place to post random stuff.

Some recurring themes that can be expected moving forward:
  • Reston stuff
  • Exercise
  • Cool websites
  • Random stuff
  • Topical stuff such as our kitchen renovation (currently in progress)
  • Work
This might be short-lived, but I gotta try.