Prime Time

Well, the long weekend has drawn to a close. Didn’t get to the beach, though I did hit the pool club on Saturday. Lollygagged a bit on the project, but I still hit my mark. First, the den:

![The den, with primer on the formerly wallpapered walls][1]

And the office:

![The office, with primer on the half-wall][2]

In the office picture, off to the left near the lightswitch you can see one of my Problem Children: the tape joint between the new wall and the old wall. The dark splotches on the lower left are wet spackle spots – yes, still trying to get that one right.

One more treat before I go…you’ve seen the overhead lights in the shots, but I’m not sure if I mentioned the sweet digital dimmer I bought for them. Here’s a little demo: All I’m doing is turing the light on and off. The dimmer is doing the rest.

NOTE TO STU: Yeah, I know. But you’ll love this: the plate is over the switch because we were checking to make sure the crappy cutout job would be fully masked by the plate. I just left it there. I’ll boost it before I paint that wall, sucka.




We Interrupt…

So it’s been home improvement 24-7 around here, or so it would seem if you read my blog. Which, clearly you do. (Sucker.)

Anyway, that’s not really the case. Truth be told, I’m completely worn out from the construction. Week over week of wiring and hanging drywall and all that business really takes its toll. So, Memorial Day weekend couldn’t come too soon. My employer gives its people Friday and Monday off, so a four-day weekend sandwiched by two four-day weeks is just what the doctor ordered.

As if to prove my point, when the wife and kid shoved off at 9-ish on Friday morning for Emily’s class trip to a local farm, I had every intention of heading downstairs to sand and spackle. I just needed, say, a quick 30 minute nap. You know, just a little shut-eye to compensate for the early rise on a non-work day.

When I woke up at 12:30, I saw that I had missed two calls and slept through half of the brick-by-brick dismantling of my neighbor’s patio. It was the thud of bricks being tossed into a pickup truck that woke me up. “What the f**k is all that noise this early in the morning,” I remember thinking, not realizing it was only a valid thought somewhere in the Far East.

The rest of the weekend has been like that. Oh, sure, I’ve made progress on the room. Only a few tape joints need any more care and feeding (had the tape come up in a few spots, dammit), and my ceiling holes are all patched and spackled. My goal of primer by Monday is firmly within reach. Any mention of the previous goal of completion by Mothers’ Day, by the way, gets you a kick in the teeth.

So, what I really want to say today is that with the onset of Memorial Day and the Unofficial Start of Summer ©, it’s all about the grill. I’ve already done a burger night and some chicken this year, and I’m making a firm commitment to improving my burger recipe and getting it down on paper.

Speaking of burgers, for all you foodies out there, the Minimalist column in the NY Times served up a [nice piece on the trusty burger][1], validating some of my own thoughts while also advising against what I think makes mine a good burger. I’m keeping an open mind, however, and I’m going to give his ideas a shot.

So what’s in my burger? Glad you asked! As of Summer 2007…

> *The Nickburger*
> * 2 lbs. ground beef, 80% lean
> * 1/3 c. Worcestershire sauce
> * 2 tbsp. Colman’s powdered mustard, prepared
> * 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
> * 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped coarse
> * salt and pepper
> Mix all but salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl by hand. Divide into 8 oz. portions and
> press into shape with a burger press. Grill over medium heat, turning once. Season with salt
> and pepper at each turn. Serve on toasted buns. Makes 8 burgers.

Nothing fancy, nothing crazy. Prior to acquiring a [Pampered Chef chopper][2], it was garlic powder and dried onion flakes. Yeah, I know, but I have not the time for all the slicing and dicing. The chopper makes it all go so fast now. Also, I used to add more spices to the mix – cumin and chili powder, mostly. I’ve moved away from that too – I like the spicy and all, but not for the everyday burger.

So, here’s hoping you’re having (or had) a good Memorial Day weekend, and that you weren’t one of the suckas who sat on the Garden State Parking Lot trying to get to the shore. (If you were, here’s a hint: the back roads are clear, and free of your fellow bennies.)

[1]: “For the Love of a Good Burger”
[2]: “Yeah, I know, its cookware sold at parties. But this thing fucking rocks!”

Damn you, Vezzini

So I was going to title this post “Conundrum,” because that’s what I thought I had on my hands. But as Se&#00F1;or Montoya so aptly put it, “I do not think that means what you think it means.”

> co·nun·drum (kə-nǔn’drəm)
> n.
> 1. A riddle in which a fanciful question is answered by a pun.
> 2. A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma.
> *- American Heritage Dictionary*

I have neither a riddle, nor a dilemma. A bit of a paradox, maybe.

Call me crazy, but I like spackling. Seriously. I finished the first coat on the room the other night, and I have to say I had a good time doing it.

Sanding, on the other hand, is probably what they have the guys doing down at Git-Mo, at least until the Red Cross finds out. Holy crap does that suck.

Anyway, half the room is sanded and second coat applied. The rest of the room awaits the sanding of the first coat. I’m taking tonight off…I’m really beat, and have another early commute tomorrow. Tomorrow night it’s sanding for sure, and in case you didn’t know, Friday is supposed to be in the upper 80s and sunny: beach day!

From the Mailbag

Occasionally here at Phantom Eyes, we get offline comments, IMs and other items to which we feel compelled to respond. Lately, the most common has been “WTF? Where are the pictures of the renovations?”

As always, we’re here to help.

First off, for the lazy or those who just don’t care enough, [here are the before pictures][1], taken a few years ago during our first walkthrough of this house.

![The den, looking toward the garage door][2]
![The den, other side of the room][3]

On the window side, you can see the exposed ventilation duct. The windows themselves are like a non-picture picture window: two pairs of four windows, of which one window of each set of four would open, if not painted shut.

There is a sill around half the room – this is where the wooden wall ends and the concrete foundation wall ends. You can see the one electrical outlet in that window-side photo. That’s one of only three in the entire room. The ceiling light is plenty bright – 4 x 100 watts isn’t bad, but it cast horrible shadows.

The walls aren’t paneled. It’s wallpaper. No shit.

No photos of the office – sorry. But, now that you’ve been introduced to the room, here is what it looks like now:

![Holy crap, that’s a lot of stuff in a work room][4]

Same basic view as the ones above. The vast majority of the work is on that outside wall. The old walls above the sill came off. We replaced the complete piece of crap “insulation” with actual insulation, and brought in a contractor to replace the non-functional windows with new energy-efficient ones. We’ve pulled the ceiling light and put up recessed lighting, adding a separate lighting circuit for lights in this room and the office.

Around the duct, we’ve cut about 5″ back from the ceiling to create a work channel. When we were trying to figure out how to wire up the lights, we first considered wiring through the outer wall, or using the trench that exists under the sill (it’s exposed in this photo – look under the new drywall). The problem with that was we couldn’t bring the wire up behind the duct and then over the duct into the ceiling.

Then, we considered punching holes in our living room wall (which is the room to the right of this one, up a half-flight of steps). Well, I considered it for about half a second, until the wife said no.

I had the idea for the work channel when looking in my crawl space at the wiring that was done when we upgraded our service. The electrician used these very cool brackets that nailed to the stud, and then had room for about 8 wires. I put them up on the joists, and was able to run the multitude of wires for outlets and lights around the room.

To close up the work channel, we’ll box it in roughly according to this diagram:

![Crappy powerpoint diagram. Sorry.][5]

The idea is the sit the plywood in the dado cut on the board, and then rest it on quarter-round. Should I want to ever get back up into the ceiling for additional wiring (surround sound, for example), all I’ll need to do is lift off the plywood and unscrew the board, which will be attached to the joists with L-brackets.

Anyway, that’s a quick overview of where I’m at. New lights, new walls, as I said the other day. I didn’t do squat with the spackle this weekend – I took the weekend off. So this week, got to complete the spackle and put up the prime coat of paint.

More photos of the renovation, including the office, are [here][6].


[1]: “Flickr set: The Old House Back Then”


[6]: “Flickr set: Progress on the downstairs room”

Dear kind ma’am with the umbrella…

You are not going to melt. Put it away and spare us all the horrors of you poking us in the eyeballs.

Same goes for the guy in the raincoat and baseball cap. What the hell do you need an umbrella for? Buy a waterproof or leather case and move on, you pansy.

Timeline is a four-letter word

So, I’ve been deep into what must be the biggest home improvement project I’ve ever attempted: converting our heretofore unused lower level into an office and playroom.

When we bought our house, in the pre-kid days, we used the downstairs for storage. Crap we either didn’t use, didn’t need, or didn’t care about just sat down there in boxes for over a year. Then we went through a huge organizational kick, and actually cleaned it out. What we were left with was two rooms: a large room, 23×13, and a bedroom we used as an office, 10×12.

Problem was, the office had paneled walls down to the foundation hip-wall, and then bare concrete to the floor. Ugly. The big room was drywalled, but covered with faux-paneling wallpaper. No lie. Ugly.

So, since we have the space, and since Emily’s toys are outgrowing their little home in our living room, we decided to renovate. Down would come the wall between the office and the big room, and in its place would be a half-wall lined up with the foundation’s hip-wall. Instead of junk-collecting closets, smarter storage in bookcases and bins. Painted walls throughout. New windows, new lighting, more power outlets, new networking, new floor. New everything.

So where are we? New lighting is up. New windows are up. New walls are going up. Networking is done, as are the new power outlets. I ran three new circuits to to the panel. Brought in a contractor to do the windows, but the rest of the work has been me, my dad, my father-in -law, and my friends Greg and Andrew. Oh, and Andrew Junior, who wired up the new power outlets in the office.

 It’s been tough work, but not terrible. Certainly more work than any other project I’ve done. But it’s nearly habitable down there. Drywall target is this weekend, paint late next week, and the its floor time. Put up the trim, and from there we can start using the rooms.

I need to take some photos of the work. For the before pictures, check my Flickr.


Tragically Dipsh*ts

Just got back from seeing the Tragically Hip at [Irving Plaza][1]. I’ve never seen them before. Most likely, I will never see them again. They weren’t bad…the music was very good, the beats and riffs were rockin’. What sucked were:

* The singer’s voice
* The fucking fans

Seriously, the singer sounded like [PiL][2]-era Johnny Lydon, and the fans were the worst sort of fans: overgrown frat guys who couldn’t hold their beers. Honestly, it was like a whole bunch of 7th graders at their first concert, standing in packs, jumping up and down, crashing into other concert-goers, constantly pushing their way through their jumping crashing packs to throw their drunken arms around their drunken friends and sing four words of the current song before resuming the drunken crashing jumping behavior.

Honestly. What fuckfaces.

And here’s the worst part: they were Canadian WANNABES! No lie! They had on Leafs hats and Canada hockey sweaters, said “eh” and “fuckin’ a!,” and probably woke up this morning having a wet dream about ass fucking Dudley Do-right on the counter at Tim Hortons.

It was bad enough the singer’s voice and delivery captured the worst parts of [Peter Garrett][3] without any of the enlightening social commentary. I had to endure it while fending off Labbatt’s-soaked poseur Canucks. Fuckin’ A indeed.

Anyway, it’s late and my music adrenaline has been completely spent. Work tomorrow, and then work on the downstairs room. And no stupid-ass Habs.

[1]: “Irving Plaza”
[2]: “PiL”
[3]: “Peter Garrett”