Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Finished floor pic

Here's a picture, at last. Two coats of polyurethane. Compare to the "before" picture.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Police @ Hershey Park

I finished the floor on Saturday. But my camera battery was also finished so still no pics.

I wanted to post a quick concert review in the meantime. I saw The Police at Hershey Park Stadium last Friday, July 21st, with my brother David. Thank god for technology. Traffic was backed up for nine miles coming into Hershey. If it weren't for my GPS and his Google Maps (it is possible that we are way too wired) we probably would have missed part of the show. Luckily we managed to dodge about four miles of standstill traffic using backroads, as guided by divine navigational satellites and internet access.

Anyway, my capsule review.


  • Great show. Band was tight, energetic, and had a lot of interesting new arrangements of old favorites. As far as these reunion shows go, it was about as good as I could have hoped for. Didn't feel phoned in and the guys even high-fived a couple times.
  • Really nice outdoor venue, and the weather was perfect.
  • No security to speak of. If only I had know that before, so I could have brought my own refreshments. (See "Cons," below).
  • Impeccable sound - sounded great from up front where our seats were, and just as good when walking around other parts of the venue.

  • Traffic sucked. Think Nissan Pavilion, but worse. Took almost 90 minutes to get there from where traffic backed up about 9 miles out - and that, with our GPS backroad dodge.
  • Traffic really sucked. Another 90 minutes on the way out just to get to a road that wasn't a cluster f*ck.
  • Pennsylvania blue laws. Beer lines were horrible, by the time we got into the place and waited in line a half-hour for a beer, it was 8:30. At which point I noticed the sign saying beer sales would end at 8:45. Jesus, the band hadn't even started yet! And limit two per customer of course. The only thing to do was buy two, and pound one immediately while the guy was taking our money - which entitled me to buy another one. Unfortunately, my beer-chugging skills have grown weak. I didn't have the stones to take the 2nd one down before we had to move on. But we were able to jump back on line before the cutoff, finish the beers in line, and get two more before it was all over for the night. So I managed five (large) beers out of that situation, which was OK. But next time there is no question I'm bringing my own. Props go to David for successfully occupying the beer vendor during the purchase process long enough for me to kill one and buy another. What was merely unfortunate, could have been tragedy.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to bring a camera. So the phonecam will have to suffice. View from our seats of the stage.

Friday, July 27, 2007


I sanded and put a coat of polyurethane down in the front hallway last night. I guess I was high on the fumes, though, because I forgot to take a picture. It looks pretty cool already, and I'll post a pic after the next coat of poly. This wasn't exactly a high priority (compared to, say, the waterfall coming off the end of the gutter that I noticed when it rained a couple days ago). But I'd been looking forward to trying out my new tool, a Milwaukee 1/2 sheet sander. It pretty much kicks ass.

Sanding floors with a palm sander (even a big one like this), is at best, a very time-consuming activity. I took this approach just because the floor was unfinished (pictures) and really just needed some stains sanded out, and the surface cleaned up a bit. If you tried to sand a finished floor this way, or one that needed any significant amount of material removed to make the surface even, it would take forever.

I started with 60 grit to get the stains out and take down some ripples from the previous (not very good) floor sanding job, then finished with 150 and 220 grit. All told I did the whole hallway, about 16 feet by 4 feet, in a couple hours.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Urgent IT Bulletin

From: ******
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2007 4:29 PM
To: All
Subject: IT Bulletin
Importance: High

Please remember to be very careful of opening an
attachment or link within messages where you don't
know the sender or if the message looks the least
bit suspicious. When in doubt, leave the email alone
(ie. don't forward it to anyone or click on anything
in it) and call or email the helpdesk for assistance.

Sigh. I work for a consulting firm. Even with an industrial strength spam filter, I still get a dozen or so junk mails a day. As does everyone else here, I assume. Yet still, we need to tell people - professionals, who work in offices - not to open the virus/scam/trojan horse emails.

This is 2007. Most people don't even realize that "spam" was actually a canned meat product before it was junk mail, and googling news about "phish" will return as many results about phishing scams as it does about the band.

I am just trying to figure out: exactly who isn't getting it? Who reads that email that says "Your [CLASSMATE] has sent you an invitation, click aakdkdk.iluv.superscams.ru/28231uiopjj32138129038lsdaxxxx.jsp.exe to view it" and thinks to themself, now THAT sounds like a good idea?

It really takes a lot of effort to fall for an internet scam these days. Email programs and web browsers warn you relentlessly about running any executable. Attachments are filtered mercilessly - to the point where it's actually quite a challenge for me to get an executable to certain clients for a legitimate purpose. You can't just accidentally read the email - you have to open it, follow the link, then click yet another link which actually downloads the virus. Then, your browser will give you dire warnings about running programs from the internet, or force you to save it to your hard disk, at which point you can finally commit technological suicide.

The moral of the story is, it's pretty hard to prevent stupid people from hurting themselves. I'm not sure that warnings like this really work. You might as well tell people not to stick their hand in a vat of boiling oil, it might burn! Oh yeah, and don't eat broken glass. It hurts going in AND coming out.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Sketchy Fundraising by Barack?

I got a phone call a couple days ago from Barack Obama's campaign. Here's how the conversation went:

Phone rings. Number is "Unavailable". Sadly, I have a client who blocks their phone number, so I must answer these calls.

Telemarketer: Hi, this is so-and-so calling you back from the Barack Obama campaign. How are you today?

Jamie: I don't remember calling the Barack Obama campaign. Umm... I'm doing fine. At least I was until I answered this call.

Telemarketer: You made a pledge for $25.00. Your pledge is as important as ever. Will you still be able to fulfill your pledge?

Jamie: I definitely don't remember making a pledge. I'm a little confused. When did I make this pledge?

Telemarketer: Um, let's see, you made it in April over the phone.

Jamie: Hmm. Three months ago, things were a little crazy. It is possible that I drunk-dialed the Obama campaign, made a pledge, and blacked it out. I better dig deeper. This is strange, because I don't remember making a pledge. I also don't remember getting anything in the mail from you. Can you tell me the address you have for me?

Telemarketer: Reads address to me. The address is one I have not used in more than two years; I've moved three times since then.

Jamie: Something is fishy here. If I made a pledge over the phone, and they didn't ask me to pay right then, why wouldn't they have my correct address? Would I really have committed to giving money to the campaign, yet not have given them any way to collect the money other than calling me back? Would anyone really take a pledge without verifying the address of the donor? Excuse me, that address is more than two years old. I don't remember making a pledge, and if I had, I can't understand why you would not have my current address.

Telemarketer: Oh, er, hmm, I'm sorry, I guess there must be some mistake. Goodbye!

Well. I suppose there could be some scenario under which I had made a pledge, didn't give them my current address, asked that they call me back in three months to collect the money, and then completely forgot about it.

Or, on the other hand, the much more plausible scenario: Obama's campaign is engaging in some sleazy fundraising. Tell people they "pledged" a sufficiently small amount of money, and most people, wishing to honor a pledge that they can't say for sure they didn't make, will just pay it.

I'm going with #2.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Farm Fresh Meat

In a moment of clarity, I suddenly remembered my very favorite domain name that I registered years ago. Not quite as cool as freshmeat.net which should be familiar to any self-respecting geek, but they only got the dot net anyway.

Anyway, since my dreams of starting an internet-based business for selling organically-raised beef, half a cow at a time, never came to fruition, I decided that it was as good an identity as any for my blog.

Welcome to farmfreshmeat.com. I will be updating the logo when I have a chance.

Signs of the Apocalypse #223: Ping Pong Safety

From DCist, I find news of my old neighborhood. Little did I know that while I've been away, a dire public safety situation has been threatening this whitebread enclave. As shocking as this sounds, it's really true: there is outdoor ping pong playing on Connecticut Avenue.

ANC Commissioner Frank Winstead has carefully documented and Fox News-ified a video of the sidewalk in front of Comet Ping Pong. It indisputably shows people playing ping pong. To anyone watching this surreptitiously obtained video it seems possible, even likely, that a ping pong ball could enter the busy street, perhaps even hitting a car! I can only imagine the consequences should a ping pong ball, weighing perhaps one-half of one ounce, roll into the street or strike a moving vehicle. We all owe Frank a debt of gratitude for bringing this developing crisis to the public eye.

Don't be fooled by this idyllic scene. The innocent-looking ping pong table could be the greatest threat to DC public safety since the shotgun stalker.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Saturday: Destroyed

The kitchen. Not me. Really. Thank you to everyone who came to help, or just to hang. I think if I hadn't actually forced them to stop working, Kelly and Joe would still be at my house now, most likely tearing bricks off the back wall, after having finished turning the kitchen into a smoldering pile of rubble.

A lot of work got done, and against all odds, there were no trips to the emergency room. I really appreciate all your help.

Here are a few pictures from the party. I wish I had taken more but didn't think of it until too late... though I did see a disposable camera that was abandoned in my living room, so maybe that will reveal some more secrets. If anyone wants to reclaim it let me know, if not, I'll post the good pics here. Especially the one where you were dressed as a policeman in drag. That's right, you know who you are.

You can click on a picture to expand it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

And now for something completely different...

A brief rant. In today's post, there's an article about Metro's upcoming plans to issue new "paper SmartTrip cards":

Metro wants to upgrade its Farecard machines so riders can use cheaper, paper-based SmarTrip cards, under a plan approved by a board committee yesterday.

Disposable SmarTrip cards might be preferable for tourists and other infrequent users who don't want to spend extra money for the regular, plastic cards. The minimum purchase for plastic SmarTrip cards is $10, including $5 for the card. The limited-use cards will probably cost less than $1, officials said.

Can someone explain how this would differ from a REGULAR F#&?@NG METRO CARD? What makes these geniuses thinks that someone who wants a "limited use card" would pay even $1 more than the $0 you currently have to pay to get a paper metro card that works perfectly well? I am struggling to understand what possible benefit there could be to a consumer to have something between the existing metro card (which is, by definition, limited use) and a SmarTrip card (which is, by definition, meant for frequent riders). If this is about the busses - and I give huge props to any tourist who's ever set foot in a metrobus, because I lived here for at least 8 years before I figured that out - then this seems a completely backwards solution. Instead of creating yet another technology that needs to be supported by every bus and metro station, why not just update the busses to accept the existing paper metro cards?

Also in this article, disturbing news from the Mint:

As part of the upgrade, all 900 Farecard machines will be able to accept new dollar coins that will begin circulating in January...

I guess I missed the press release, but I am deeply troubled to see that we are about to have yet another dollar coin. What is this, the fourth one in the last 20 years or so? It should be clear by now that Americans simply will not accept dollar coins, any more than we will accept a hamburger with a tomato from McDonald's. Most people either accidentally spend them as quarters, or assume they are foreign currency and stick them in a bowl on their dresser.

Besides, the only way these things ever got into circulation was in change from the Post Office vending machines. But those are hardly even around any more, and will all be gone by 2010. So it's unclear how anyone is going to end up with one of these new dollar coins in the first place.

Speaking of the post office, I recently realized that first class stamps cost 41 cents now. I am pretty sure this is the third rate hike within a year. The only thing the PO has done right lately is to issue that forever stamp that will always be valid in the future. Since the price of postage seems to change more often than my age does, and I can't even remember that, at least it is no longer important what the current price of postage might be. Hmmm... I wonder what the return on a large-scale investment in forever stamps might be?

Well, I'm glad I got all that off my chest. Obviously, the folks at WMATA, USPS and the Mint have been drinking a little too much of the Kool Aid. Or maybe it's just because today is Friday the 13th. But at least it keeps us on our toes here inside the beltway. Back to our regularly scheduled house renovation.

Speaking of which, the kitchen will be gutted tomorrow. Watch here for pics...

Monday, July 9, 2007


I took a little break from home improvement last week to try to settle in. That means going through the mountain of boxes that covered most of the downstairs floor space, and finding homes for the contents of each. Or in some cases, just moving them to another room. But either way, the goal was to be able to reach my television & stereo so I could hook them up.

So I got a lot of this stuff put away, got the music working, and the TV basically hooked up. Of course, I don't have any furniture, so for now, television viewing will be done from the floor. Next on the shopping list: sofa. Anyone who has one in their basement that they don't want... let me know. While I don't plan to revive the ages-old group house tradition of alley picking for furniture, I wouldn't mind having something free or cheap to fill the void until I can make the effort to buy something more permanent.

I got a little bit of organizing done in the basement, and wired up a dedicated circuit to the downstairs window unit A/C. This was a necessary, since as it was, I could only run one A/C at a time. Pretty much all the outlets are on the same circuit now. That's going to be rectified over a long period of time, but the predictions of fire and brimstone for this week scared me enough to get that solved. And not a moment too soon. It's EVIL out there today.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

GPS: Backcountry will never be the same

I went on an overnight canoe trip with John, Lee & Mark to celebrate Mark's final days of bachelorhood on the 3rd and 4th. We did about 30 miles of "mellow water" canoeing on the Shenandoah river and spent the night on the shore. The trip was great. Haven't done that sort of thing in ages, it seems like, and we had great weather too. Lee's going to post pictures soon so I won't duplicate his effort. It is so nice to check out of life for a couple days and just enjoy the simple things. Or maybe not so much... which brings me to the subject of this post.

I recently signed up for Verizon's GPS navigator service on my cell phone. Very cool - brings a full featured navigation system to my cell phone, which is handier than one built into the car for any number of reasons. It's portable to any vehicle so I only pay one service charge; it's good for navigation on foot too in the city; you can look up restaurants and shops by category or by name in any area; and apparently it also has some value for being OFF the road.

I fired the thing up in the middle of the river on the first day and lo and behold, it was able to give me a basic map of the river, which I could easily match against our paper map to figure out exactly where we were on the route.

Pretty cool huh? Well, maybe more gimmicky than useful for a 2-day river float, in which we had to remove a crossbar from the canoe in order to fit our giant beer cooler. But nonetheless valuable, since we were able to figure out later in the day how much farther we had to go before our campsite. I suppose in the old days, you could actually stay sober enough to pay attention to which bend in the river you were passing, but this was a lot easier.

It also gives such incredibly useful information as direction and speed. Did you know that a full-bore paddle in a canoe heavily laden with beer is about 6 mph? I bet you didn't.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Upstairs Bathroom

My house came with 1.25 bathrooms... a small but efficient full bath upstairs, and a toilet in the basement. My original plan had been to build a full bathroom in the basement first, and then gut the upstairs bath and expand it into the "office" (third bedroom) once I had another bath to use in the meantime.

After living here for a couple weeks, I realized there was no way I was going to keep using that bathroom, in the state it was in, for what could be months. The hot water in the sink barely worked, and the base cabinet was disgusting and rotting. There was a space between the bathtub and base cabinet where stuff had obviously been dropped and lost over the years, and I was starting to have nightmares about what kind of organic life might be festering in that dark crack.

So this weekend I decided that a hundred bucks or so for a new sink is a small price to pay even if I do completely remodel in six months. So I ripped out the old stuff and put in a new pedestal sink. In the process I also replaced the shutoff valves and discovered the reason for my lack of water pressure - the iron water supply pipes had a ton of rust and debris built up at the ends. That was quickly cleaned out with a screwdriver and wire brush, restoring glorious water pressure. The tiles under and behind the old base cabinet, once cleaned up, turned out to be in perfect shape.

The bathroom (pics later) looks so much better, I'm actually starting to rethink if I really want to gut it any more. There's still some unfortunate caulking around the tub that needs to be redone, and the blue tile isn't necessarily my first choice, but other than that it's not it bad shape at all. Amazing what a few new fixtures and some Comet can do.