Monday, May 9, 2011

Home improvement season: Windows 3.0

It's that time of year again. All right, to be fair, I haven't done anything on the house in about two years so let's say "it's that time of the decade again."

I've gotten the home improvement bug, and this time I'm serious. I'm not stopping until there are palm trees in the back yard.

Last fall I bought a bunch of storm windows. The original windows on my house, while beautiful and built with craftmanship of the sort that died some decades before the drive-in theater, are a hundred years old and were not well maintained.

However, vintage double-hung windows are worth restoring. There's not a single modern window made today that will wear as well as one of these bad boys, and there's nothing even close to as attractive. Most people think that you should just get rid of old windows. Most people are wrong. A new window that's not total crap will probably cost you $1000 or more, for just one. Not including installation. True, it will provide better insulation. At least, until the seals between the panes of glass break and the vacuum goes away. Then it's just like an old window, except uglier because it's probably plastic or aluminium, and probably doesn't work as well. That's just for starters.

Restoring old windows isn't rocket science. And there are web sites dedicated to the process if you need a roadmap. While time consuming, it's definitely a reasonable DIY job for anyone with moderate workbench skills and some patience. Finally, putting new, good-quality storm windows over an old double-hung window will give you heat insulation performance comparable to a modern window.

I had storm windows made for my house by The Burch Company in Baltimore. Very nice product, and they worked out to be less than $200 each. While more expensive than the garbage they sell at Home Depot, they're not even that much more expensive, and these windows have all kinds of nifty features. Like the screens & glass can be popped in/out from inside the house, and the exterior flush mounts so they don't look like storms at all, they look like part of the window. And that's a fraction of the cost of a whole new window.

I put the first one in with last year's total window rebuild project. That took two weeks, and I had a gaping hole in the house for much of that time. Luckily it didn't rain much. This is a much more manageable project because I didn't have to actually rip out the frame and make a new one from raw materials felled in the forest.

Installing the storms is a piece of cake. The problem comes with getting the old window ready for that. Which basically means taking the whole thing apart, fixing broken and rotted parts, and putting it back together again.

This weekend I did that for one of the big floor-to-ceiling windows in our bedroom. The goal was to take the window sashes out and have the storm installed by the end of the day. The sashes won't actually go back in until later - they need to be stripped, cleaned up, reglazed, repaired, which isn't actually a ton of work, but takes several days because there are lots of phases of gluing/painting/staining/drying. So I just neeeded to get things ready enough that I could put the storm in and have a window at all.

Turns out this can be done in a day, barely. I got all the old paint off the frame, the sill fixed, some cracked parts nailed/glued, and the exterior primed so I could install the storm. I still need to paint the inside of the frame and fix up the sashes and all that, but there's no hurry since there is actually a window now!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Go vote tomorrow... because it might matter

Most of the time, voting in DC doesn't really matter at all. We don't have any representation in Congress. Our electorates always go to the democratic candidate in a presidential election.

Yet, for some reason, the only time people feel compelled to go out, wait in line, and create their irrelevant hanging chads is on those big election days. I guess it's peer pressure or something.

The reality is, if you're going to skip a vote, you might as well skip the Presidential election because it really doesn't matter. At all. No, really, it doesn't. What? Third party? No. It doesn't matter. Nope. Nope! Still doesn't matter.

Tomorrow, on the other hand, we elect a city council member in a special election.

So why bother tomorrow?

Because so few people will vote, that your vote actually could make a difference.

So go vote. I think you should vote for Bryan Weaver.

Or, get a half-dozen of your friends together and write yourself it, if you want to be on the city council. You couldn't pay me enough to do that, personally, but this is your big chance.

But there's no better time to vote then one of these special elections. It's like being in a raffle where there's only ten other people in the room. It's awesome! So go do it. And because nobody else will be voting, it will probably take you all of 30 seconds.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Google Doccing

The title of this post is the next candidate in my eternal quest to coin a term. When I succeed, I will finally be able to move on to my next life goal, which is even more difficult, because it will require the services of a midget.

We all know what google stalking is. But there's something else that lots of people are obsessed with that lacks a brilliant "internism."

Google doccing is the activity of diagnosing yourself by searching the web for symptoms of your likely psychosomatic problem. Typically, the google-doccer concludes that they are afflicted with a disease that affects about 1 in 1,000,000 people, since that is the only disease which actually may manifeste every single one of the systems that the hypochnodriac believes they are experiencing.

Google doccing itself will probably become a medically recognized obsessive compulsive disorder category. If it's not already. I know many people who've convinced themselves that they have any of of HIV, Parkinson's, an ebola infection, and lupus, to name just a few. Trust me. If a disease affects pygmys in New Zealand 99% of the time, and actually has only been diagnosed conclusively a couple hundred times in the last century, you probably do not have it.

Google doccing. Got kind of a ring to it, doesn't it? As of now, I'm the first to document its use online. Urban dictionary doesn't know about it. Though there are five google hits for the quoted term, all of them seem to have to do with using Google Documents. Which is obviously a far less hilarious and disturbing than the act of freaking yourself out by looking at horrible pictures of rashes, and comparing vague lists of disturbing symtoms to yourself.

So start talking about google doccing. But I'd suggest seeing someone with an actual medical degree, before you conclude that your disorder can only be cured with experimental drugs mail-ordered from China.