Monday, November 26, 2007

It's done! (kind of)

Sorry for the long silence, but as you can imagine, I've been busy with sorting out details of the new house. On top of that, I've had to travel for work the past two week, including Thanksgiving week. Strangely enough, travel last Wednesday was a breeze. I flew back from Canada, which celebrates Thanksgiving in October, so there was no congestion there. Coming back into the states, though, was quiet. My hometown airport was empty, in the gates, the restaurants, and the baggage claim. It was pretty weird.

The good news is that we have closed on both transactions today! The title issues have been resolved, and the sellers are fixing the things we asked for. Now all we need is for the loans to fund and the deeds to record and we'll have a new house tomorrow. Then we get to move all our shit, which is terribly exciting, as you can guess. We've already rented a truck and loaded it. It's full right now, waiting to go, but there's absolutely no furniture in it. We'll have to do that stuff on a second run. Hopefully we won't need a third.

So that's the update. I'll write again once we're in.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Good, The Bad, and The Even Worse

The Good:

As I mentioned, we sold our house and have bought a new one. We're supposed to close on both deals the last week of November, and move in sometime that week. It's quick, but very exciting. The house we bought is in a great neighborhood, in a great town. It's over twice as big as the one we're in now. We love the layout, and most importantly, my wife likes the kitchen. There will be some issues to take care of the first few months/year we're in it, but it's very live-able as is right now. We looked at it about two months ago, and it's been our favorite ever since. We made an offer on it two months ago but it fell through. Turns out that happened because of our incompetent agent. We have a new agent now, and the house was still on the market, so we got it. Moving is going to be a big pain, but we'll soldier through it and reap the benefits.

The Bad:

With the sale of our house approaching finalization, the house threw us a curve. The toilet (yes, THE toilet, we have only one) clogged. When this happens, a short bout of plunging solves it. My wife plunged a bit and the water wasn't going down. So I plunged, and it wasn't going down. So I plunged some more, and it wasn't going down. My wife looked up some toilet-unclogging advice online and found out about toilet auger . It's a drain snake with a curved tube for insertion up into the toilet and a crank handle for turning while you cram it into the drain. I went to Home Depot and bought one. I bought the cheapest one, about $8. There were $30 and $40 models that I thought were more than I needed. I got it home and struggled with it a bit, but finally got through the serpentine drain. When I pulled it out, there was a bit of crap in its bore-end (basically a cork-screw made from loosening the coils of the long spring). It had taken a core sample from the offending clog. But the toilet still wouldn't drain or flush.

I figured the 3 foot auger wasn't long enough, so I went back to Home Depot and bought a 25 foot drain snake for about $12. I got that home and tried to cram in into the toilet, but couldn't navigate past the first turn inside the toilet. My hands, already sore from all the plunging I did, had trouble turning and pushing the coiled spring while submerged in the toilet water. Plus, I without the plastic tube of the auger, I was scratching the shit out of the porcelain at the bottom of the toilet bowl. I decided to combine the best features of the snake and the auger: put the long snake through the auger's tube. To do this, I had to use pliers to shrink the auger's bore end so I could pull it through the tube. Then I put the snake's skinny end (non bore) through the tube and forced that into the toilet. It took a while to get it around the curves, but I did, and put about 10-12 feet of it in. Still no dice.

My next idea was to cut the part of the tube off so I could go back to the auger device, but be able to get more of it into the toilet. I did that, got about three inches more of the spring into the toilet, but nothing changed. So I turned to my last idea. I pulled the auger spring out and then shrunk the bore end of the snake to fit it into the shortened auger tube. That took a while, as the wire on the snake was particularly recalcitrant. I did get it, though, then I proceeded to methodically push the snake through the toilet and pipes. I probably put about 22 feet of the snake into that damn toilet, but it didn't work. I finally called it quits after about four hours and two very sore, gray hands (the metal of the snake wearing off on my skin).

The next morning I called a plumber, who came and charged us $100 to stick his super-duper-professional-auger-with-extra-large-swivel-head into the toilet three times. Of course, that worked like a charm. So what have we learned? That I am a very bad plumber, but that I am stubbornly persistent, almost to a fault. Hopefully the buyer doesn't get mad about the scratches in the toilet bowl.

The Even Worse:

While I was battling with the toilet, our real estate agent called and informed my wife that the man selling our new house to us is not, in fact, on the title to said house and property. His ex-wife is the one on the title. O, frabjous day! No word yet on how they're going to resolve this before we close. Hopefully there's no bad blood between the two.

Bonus - The Really Good:

Heroes! It's dangerously close to having too many independent storylines, but they're doing an awesome job with the stories they're telling. I love it so far.

And 30 Rock this week was really good, as well. It's been kind of off this season. Sometimes it tries too hard with jokes, and it's also turning into a live-action Family Guy; filled with silly cut-takes showing what the characters have just mentioned. Not as lame as Family Guy, but still pretty disappointing to see them relying on that device.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Last New TV review and Annual Pumpkin Parade

I'll keep this short because, of the two new shows I've been able to watch, one's been cancelled and the other one's not very interesting.

1. Viva Laughlin - I've made no secret of my man-crush on Hugh Jackman, so it's no surprise that I gave Viva Laughlin, a musical drama, a chance. While it was probably tied with Cavemen in the race for most negative pre-season buzz, I thought the promo of Hugh singing "Sympathy for the Devil" was great. The show, though, was pretty dumb. I'm not a big fan of musicals, but simply being a musical isn't what failed. It was the execution. Not only were most of the numbers cheesy, but they had the characters singing while the originals were playing behind them, like they were singing along to the radio. That was really dumb, and distracting. Plus, having Melanie Griffith sing was a huge mistake, too. Combine those things with a protagonist who's an asshole, boring family sidestories, and a lukewarm murder mystery, it's no surprise it was cancelled after two episodes aired over four days. The only positive of the show (aside from Hugh, of course) was Madchen Amick. I've heard of her before, and probably seen her in movies and pictures, but I was never aware of how totally cute and hot she is. Rowrr!

2. The Next Great American Band - I don't know why I thought the producers of American Idol wouldn't ruin the concept of finding good bands. Silly me. This show is a major disappointment. I watch Idol, but my musical tastes are much more band-oriented, so I thought this show had a chance to be good. Of course, almost every band the judges chose for the finals is either a gimmick band or horribly derivative. The most interesting bands on the show are the Bluegrass band, the trio of revival minister's sons playing a smoking country-bluegrass mix, and the gospel/funk/hard rock band from Philly with incredible musicians. That Philly band, Franklin Bridge, WAY overdid their songs on the second episode, though. They have a shot to win, my other favorites probably don't, though. I'll keep watching to fill my Friday nights and see who wins, but I'm not very excited about it.

And now for this year's pumpkins! (This is for ACW, a much superior carver of pumpkins).

My 7 year old son carved his a few weeks ago, and did a great job. Unfortunately, it started decaying well before Halloween, as you can see here:

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The small pumpkin above was decorated by my 2 year old boy with markers. He's so proud of it. Whenever he walks by it he points to it and tells us it's his pumpkin.

I didn't carve mine until the night before Halloween, and was up pretty late doing it. I tried some new ideas this year, which like every year, are better in theory than execution. Here it is in daylight:

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The eye shape came out well, but they look crooked because of the tilt of the pumpkin. I didn't draw the shapes with the pumpking standing as it would on the porch, so my bad. The menacing teeth design was a last-second idea. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the lines quite wide enough to really show the teeth and allow for the light to come through. Here it is lit up:

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By the time Halloween came around, my son's pumpkin looked a lot like a zombie, so the decay worked out well.

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Here is a blurry photo of the pumpkins lit up on Halloween night:

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Meh. Better luck next year. Hope you all had a great Halloween!

P.S. - Oh yeah, we sold our house and bought a new one! I'll try to write more about that soon.