Refinishing projects: The Goodwill desk and the dining room table.

The refinishing desk (and dining room table)The painter is coming to start work this afternoon. Maybe that is what got Lorena inspired to start sanding stuff with her new Walmart sander (she LOVES it). She has the desk fairly close to being ready and from what I see in the bottom left of the image she texted me, it looks like she is getting close to refinishing the dining room table. She just needs to do one more pass with a finer grit and she will be ready to paint.

Kitchen remodel: The stove hood

After Mark attached all the drawer pulls yesterday afternoon, he stayed all evening to install the stove hood. It is not quite all done as he has to add some flashing on the outside of the house where the blower fan resides. Still, we can use the stove and hood now and we are quite pleased with it all.

Thermador stove hood from angle

Thermador stove hood straight on

Kitchen remodel: Cabinet glass and drawer pulls

Glass in the cabinetsThings are spinning back up again. Today, Mark put glass in the cabinets that needed them and add drawer pulls to the already installed cabinet door pulls. He also plans to have the stove hood up and working (with a little more work required for some flashing and other things when he comes back. Wednesday, the paint guy will start his work on the kitchen and living room. We can hardly wait to have this all finished.

Drawer pulls

How to not be assimilated by the Borg–resistence is not futile

Brave browser (click here to go to their website)Google, in the minds of many, is pretty much the devil. I have started to come around to that opinion myself. There are lots of people who believe this. The problem is there has never really been any other option. After the most recent spate of ignorance and draconian overreach when Google fired a guy for expressing an idea that is objectively true, I decided to see if I could bail out of use of the Google search engine because, in my opinion, they censors what is good and true to promulgate evil. I found out that is kind of a hard thing to do. There are some searches for my work at which Google is better than anything else available. That led me to the idea that I need to minimize my Google searches to those for which there is no other alternative.

The good news is that I found a solution. I wrote earlier (here) about what I believe to be malfeasance on the part of Mozilla in their treatment of a very good man. That man, Brendan Eich, got fired from Mozilla for unconscionable pretexts. Because he believes in and supports “traditional marriage” (just marriage for non-double-speak people), he got fired from Mozilla. He immediately started a competing browser company named Brave. I tried that browser when it first came out, but it really was not ready for prime time. I tried it again today because I was so feed up with Google and Mozilla and I have to say that if it is not yet ready for prime time, it is very, very close. In addition, they have a way to set my browser (I use DuckDuckGo to avoid Google for the vast bulk of my searches) and Google only for those where it works best–stuff where they cannot impose their extreme hard left-wing bias. Brave facilitates all of this and I am grateful. Check it out. Don’t get swallowed by the Borg.

The mountain appears as Kiwi does battle with the printer

Kiwi does battle with the printerThe weekend was an interesting one. Lorena, Kelly and I attended a church convention this weekend. I had not been to this particular one for over forty years. Even so, I made connection with old friends from Oregon, Washington, California, Virginia, and Arizona. Lorena so the sister of some dear friends of hers from Mexico City. It was a great weekend. While we were there, it rained enough to knock down sufficient smoke from the British Columbia forest fires that we could make out the outline of Mount Rainier out our back window.

Kelly spent the weekend here in Centralia. Lorena is driving with her back to Seattle and then taking the train back to Centralia. Kiwi is helping retrieve her Amtrak ticket from the printer.

Incredible evolution

When I say evolution is incredible, especially the abiogenesis part, I really mean it. It is not credible. James Tour is incredible, but in the popular sense of the word. Watch this video to see why.

Kitchen remodel: Semigloss hardwood floor

Retouch of floor -- matte to semi-gloss and defect repairWork inches forward on the remodel. We found some pretty serious defects in the floor, so the floor guy came back, fixed the defects, did something called “refill” and then put a coat of semi-gloss finish. Lorena was ecstatic with the finish. She liked the previous matte, but likes this much better. Next week we hope to have the stove hood in place, glass in the kitchen cabinets, and the painting mostly complete. The hood was planned for this week, so things have stretched out a little.

Using Mattermost

Using Mattermost from home serverI have installed a program named Mattermost on my home server. I have been using it for a couple of weeks and it is very powerful. In my previous job, we used a similar program named Slack that we used extensively. Both of these are super-capable chat clients. I figured out how to do task lists in Mattermost. This is a life saver for a lot of the stuff I am doing.

I like Mattermost best because it is free at the low level I need, easy to use, I can run it on my home server, and it does everything I want it to do.

Christian cleans up on visit home

Christian's haircut after Boston internshipIt seems like Christian makes a big effort to look a little scruffy whenever he comes to visit us. I used to think it was because he did not have time or just did not think about it, but now I like to think it because he likes his mom to make a fuss about it. She takes him down to one of the local haircut places, then he comes home, takes a shower and trims his beard.

We are up in Canada again for my work. Christian spent the night in Seattle so he could go out to dinner with Kelly and a few friends. One of those friends was John Michael, who recently moved out from North Carolina. He was a math major at North Carolina and spent many an hour with both Kelly in Christian in the undergraduate Math lounge in SAS Hall. I am sure they are having a great time. Christian flies back to Tempe, Arizona tomorrow night.

In the meantime, work is progressing at the house. It has slowed down fairly dramatically, but we have hope it will be complete before the end of August.

Family time: Turning off the telephone

August 6, 2017 Family PictureI did something yesterday I have not done in a long, long time: I turned off my telephone and just spent the day with the family. We tried to figure out when was the last time we had all been together as a family in our own home–not in apartment, not at a funeral or other event, but at home. The reality is that we have been very distributed for a long time. With Lorena and I in North Carolina or in an apartment in Texas, or Oregon, Kelly in Seattle and Christian in Tempe, it has taken some effort to get together. We have only been able to manage it a handful of times since we left our home in North Carolina, so it was very, very nice to be together again even for such a short time.

We did not do much. We went to church and ate out a couple of times, but mostly we hung out at home. Lorena and Kelly cooked and we talked and talked and talked. Kelly went home to Seattle last night. Christian is leaving to spend a couple of days with her in Seattle before he returns to school in Tempe. Lorena are trying to work out how and when we can do it again.

Kelly comes home to see Christian

Kelly comes home to see ChristianKelly came down for the weekend to bake blueberry muffins and spend some time with her baby brother. It is truly nice to be in a house (as opposed to the apartments we inhabited for the two previous years in Texas and Oregon) and the family is all together. This is the first time for that in over three years. We know it is fleeting, but it is a very good feeling that we hope to make happen more frequently now that we have a home base.

Christian’s natural habitat (Starbucks)

Christian studying at starbucksThis is Christian’s new habitat now that he does not have Mom’s kitchen island anymore. It has been fun to have him here and it is so nice to see him sitting down in the kitchen, thinking, playing his guitar, working on his computer, and studying while Lorena works in the kitchen. We miss that. We have been to Jimmy John’s twice, and out to breakfast three times since he has been here. Lorena has him all cleaned up with a new haircut. Lorena and Christian have been down to Anytime Fitness a couple of times with the obligatory stop at Starbucks for some coffee. Christian spends a lot of study time there. It is a way to keep going on his studies while avoiding being stuck in his apartment or the lab for ours on end. It is kind of amazing to us that he actually sits and just thinks a lot. It is part of the territory with his area of Information Theory. Most of all, though, we are trying to get him to forget all that for a few days and just relax. Maybe he will come back again before too long.

P.S. Note the nice new haircut. Mom dragged him down to the barber earlier today.

Christian’s first visit to Centralia

Christian home from Boston on Grandpa Milo's birthdayChristian came to visit us after finishing up in his research work in Boston. He will be here for a week. It is especially poignant as today would have been Grandpa Milo’s 88th birthday. We went to Jimmy John’s, our favorite sandwich place (he being a college student) as soon as he got into Centralia. We were all excited for him to be here, but were a little bit disappointed because the smoke blowing down from the forest fires in Canada prevent us from seeing much past the river let alone all the way to Mt. Rainier.

Haze from forest fires in Canada obscures Mt. Rainier

The view without smoke Mt. Rainier hazed up from Canada forest fire smoke

It is a beautiful sunny day, but smoke from forest fires burning all the way up in Canada. The Canadian border is over 200 miles away. We can not even see the high school on the other side of the river. If the smoke haze was not there, we would be able to see Mt. Rainier right in the middle of the image. The picture where you can see the mountain (zoomed in a little more than the other) was taken a month or two ago.

Walmart online vs. Amazon: Round 2 — Hand sander

Hand sander from WalmartWith no end in site to Lorena’s new (to us) furniture refurbishing projects and her fervor to do them, we decided to buy her a new hand sander. We looked on line at both Walmart and Amazon and, again, Amazon was not even close. This time we would have had to pay a 30% premium for the privilege of buying the closest equivalent at Avalon to what was offered by Walmart. to buy from Amazon. There was not really a whole lot of difference in the offerings. The specs are below. We had two ways to get the sander in our hands from Walmart: 1) Pick it up at our local Walmart which we drive by several times per week or 2) make a purchase of $35 which we needed to do (sand paper and some other supplies) for the project whichever choice we made. Amazon had a one day shipping for Prime members, which is additional cost, but that we have. We called it a wash on that, too.

Feature/Item Walmart Amazon
Product  Hyper Tough 2.4Amp Random Orbit Sander  Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch
Current rating  2.4 Amps  2.0 Amps
Shipping  2 days (w/$35 purchase)  1 day with Prime membership
Price  $18.73
 $26.99

Room remodel: Buying cheap stuff to refurbish

Green Goodwill nightstand with a dingLorena spent $52.99 yesterday at Goodwill and a thrift store Bob and I stepped into when we first got to Washington a few months back. She bought stuff with an actual purpose:

  • The nightstand in the photo to the right ($24) for our upstairs guest bedroom that now has a really nice Walmart bed. It needs a gouge filled and some paint.
  • A beat up but sturdy desk ($8.99) for the upstairs guest bedroom. It is pretty dinged up and will require some pretty serious elbow grease to get into shape, but Lorena is going to use that as an excuse to get a hand sander. If it looks interesting, we will probably post about it here.
  • Two small (hard to know what to call them) nightstandish kind of thing that has baskets in them ($10 each) for the basement bedroom when we get around to it–probably going to use them as a stopgap organization tool to get the master bedroom closet under control until we can figure something else out. This needs a couple of screws to be tightened or replaced, but other than that, they are good.

We have decided to not try to take on too much at a time after spending the last four months on the kitchen/living room remodels. We have three pretty big interior upgrades: the upstairs, the basement apartment, and the carpet replacement, probably with LVT.  The first step is to finish the upstairs guest bedroom. We have decided we will take them in order and do a little bit at a time as we can afford it. There is also a ton of exterior stuff, but that is another story.

Christian sees Renoir’s Dance at Bougival

Dance at Bougival, Christian sees the real one at the Museum of Fine Arts in BostonGrandma Sarah bought a print of Renoir’s Dance Bougival back in the 1980’s for a small apartment where I lived by myself that had nothing on its walls. I had few good going on in my life at the time and was, frankly pretty down, so it was a great act of kindness and I have loved and admired that painting very much. It is such an amazing work of art that has such an amazing reminder of my mother’s love for me and for the underdog. It was so very typical of the kind of thing she would do. The funny deal is that Grandpa Lauro and I, independently came to the conclusion that the dancing man reminds me very much of my brother Doug–even now.

Christian’s last day of work for the summer at Lincoln Labs was yesterday. He presented his research to the team, went out for ice cream with his church friends in the area–visiting scholars and students at the area schools from New Zealand, Toronto and Jamaica and went back to the dorm to pack for home. He knows about this picture. It is always the one we hang first. Last week he learned that he lives virtually across the street from the permanent home the original of our print.

Today, he texted me this photograph of himself by the painting. I had asked him to do that for me if he could, but he was so busy, he knew he was not going to be able to do it. Nevertheless, he found a few minutes and ran into the museum to take this photograph just a few minutes before it closed on his last full day in Boston. I am very grateful Christian was able to make the time to take the picture. He was surprised the painting was so big–bigger than our print by quite a lot. Lorena and I got the painting out and have decided to find an appropriate frame for our print as soon as we can.

Walmart online vs. Amazon: Round 1 — Bed and mattress

Bed from Walmart beats Amazon badlyWe have been members of Amazon Prime for a number of years now. Amazon is convenient and has good prices. So, when Lorena returned from IKEA a couple of weeks ago, disappointed by what she believed were low quality offerings at not such great prices, we decided to buy a bed from Amazon. We found something that would just fit the bill: A Tokyo Bronze Queen Size Metal Bed and a Slumber 1 – 8″ Mattress-in-a-Box. I had heard that Walmart was upping there game in online sales to compete with Amazon, so on a whim, I checked out Walmart’s offering. Here is what I found:

Walmart: $296.17 with Free Shipping
Amazon: $339.14 with Free shipping for the mattress and “free” shipping with Amazon Prime membership for the bed

That “free” shipping thing with Amazon Prime membership always seemed like an oxymoron to me. The Amazon Prime membership costs money so the shipping is really not free. We have Amazon prime so the shipping only cost a little more for the Amazon order. Nevertheless, we would have had to pay a 12+ percent premium for the privilege the bed from Amazon. That is a privilege I am not really interested in exercising.

It all arrived today and we were very happy with the quality of the product when we got it put together. This whole turn of events reminded me that I never want to be a single source shopper. I am never going to buy anything from Amazon again without checking Walmart online first. The reality is I will probably check Walmart first going forward.

Kitchen remodel: The tedious finish work–door handles and alignments

Mark installs the under cabinet lightsThe shattered bottom oven door is replacedWe had a great time with Mark here yesterday. He did a lot of finish work on the kitchen including the adding of three missing can lights in the ceiling, undercabinet lights, cabinet door alignment and the placement of all the cabinet door pulls. He put the stove hood in his van when he headed home last night so the exhaust fan could be added “at the factory” instead of in the field. They have the tools and special skills to do it. He will be back next week to add all the drawer pulls, the moulding in the living room so we can paint and install the stove hood. We are getting awfully close to being done.

One additional thing we discussed was the addition of a gas fireplace close to the kitchen so we can have it set up similar to our house in Raleigh. It is a great idea, but will require that a window be moved. Mark said he was up for that small addition, but probably not much more. We still have a few months to work on him although I am pretty sure we do not have a winning hand when it comes to the apartment in the basement. We have not yet given up hope.

Cabinet doors aligned with door pulls

Kitchen remodel: Mark does lots of little things

New hardwood floor vents (the double)

Brazilian cherry floor vent in living roomOur contractor, Mark P. came today and got a lot of finish work done. He looked at a couple of issues with the floor, installed the floor vents, and decided to bring the floor guy back for about a half days work. The floor vents are beautiful. In addition, Mark adjusted all the cabinet doors so they were aligned properly, installed all the cabinet door pulls (but not the drawer pulls), installed the remaining under-cabinet LED lights, installed the missing three overhead lights, and installed the replacement oven door for the one that was broken. I will put up pictures of all that other stuff tomorrow.

The really good news, though, is that he has agreed to help us put a gas fireplace in the kitchen/dining room. We came up with a great plan that he says he should be able to complete before the end of the fall so we will have it this winter. We hope he will be able to draw us a plan, but it is not so complicated, so that may not be necessary. At any rate, we think it will be a great addition to what Mark has already done and we appreciate his willingness to come back here because we know it is a major effort for him to do it.