Happiness. Short-term, stupid, self-interest.

Home Renovation – Drip

March 2007

Can you believe it? As I checked out the color of the room in the morning sunlight I heard one of the most dreaded sounds for a home owner.


Yes, the roof was leaking by where the stove pipe was installed. I tried not freaking out, but it was starting to ruin the drywall and the paint where it ran down a beam to the wall. I got out a ladder and went up on the roof to clear away the melting snow around the pipe which stopped the leaked for now.

The contractor made an emergency call to my house that day to check it out. All he was able to do was what I would have done… try to add more sealant in the flashing and hope that fixed it. There was no charge for the visit and he noted on my record that it could happen again next year so that I won’t ever be charged if they have to come out again.

So, I fully expect to have this problem again next year. I’m glad we hadn’t started on the ceiling yet. Speaking of which… we needed to get started on that ceiling. My wife and I were sort of dreading this next step. It was big, and we were unsure how we wanted to do it and make it look good. We both wanted the ceiling to play a key role in adding character to the room. We considered plain sheet rock because it would be cheap and easy, but we wanted more character than that. So, we considered adding some false strapping; we also considered stained hardwood plywood paneling. There were a bunch of ideas that we considered and in the end we chose to go with tongue and groove planking.

All we had to do was pick out a stain color….

Ok, ok, ok, I’ll spare you the picking out of the stain color, but I’ll say this, sample the stain on the wood you will be using. The difference is dramatic, even on the same type of wood, using the same cut, but from a different manufacturer.




We came up with a pattern to stagger the cuts of 8’ boards without having to work with 12’ footers. We also made estimations for how many boards we would need. I estimated the number of boards by square footage plus 10% and my wife estimated the number of boards by actually calculating the number of rows minus the scrap because each board has to land on a joist that is 16” oc. We actually came up with the same number, 101 boards, and my wife drew up a color coded plan.
We purchased the wood and believe it or not, it all fit in the mini-van in one trip. (truth is, our decision on how to do the ceiling was partially based on being able to buy all the planks without having to get them delivered and make them easier to work with) Now we were committed. It was still March so I was hoping that we could get a decent start before that second week in April.



June 25, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Home Renovation – Redo

 March 2007

 Re-do, only one weekend for three coats of primer and 2 coats of paint. I really like the new color, especially because there is no way we are ever painting this room again. My wife likes it, too; as a bonus, she never killed me. It will look good with any of the wood molding we choose and it should look good with the furniture color that we have in mind. Black has become our accent color.

First, the re-priming…

Then, the repainting…

It looks almost golden in the sunlight, but muted, and greyer at dusk. It really is close to the color of barley stalks in a field.

Ok, ironically, the truth is that the name of the actual color is Filoli Antique Lace, but I like calling it Barley Field better, and it is a name I can relate to. It also has lent some inspiration to the name of the room… I’m calling it the Barley Room these days.

This last one is with the flash, showing it in unnatural light.

It was time to move on to the next step which was going to be a tough one… the ceiling. I still needed a plan and a stain color. (here we go again) Snow was still on the ground (the photos were taken a later time). The forecast for the second week in March was for warming weather, and highs in the 50’s. That, along with daylight savings would be the perfect time to start staining and sealing the wood for the ceiling.

But for now, I was psych’d to see how the new paint job looked the next morning as the sun beamed in our northeast windows.

June 22, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | 1 Comment

Home Renovation – Too Many Colors

I’ve spent too much time on color, but now I think I can make an appearance on the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Why am I torturing you with all this talk about color? Because it reflects how much dam time I’ve put in thinking about it.

There were taupe’s and tan’s: “Warm Buff”, “Pebble Path”, “Castle Stone”, “Desert Camel”, “Beachwalk”, and “Expedition Khaki”

There were warmer yellows: “Song of Summer”, “Applesauce”, “Banana Cream”, “Bavarian Cream”, and “Riviera Sand”. (by the way, Riviera Sand looks great with blue for a boy’s room)

Cooler grey’s: “Woven Basket”, “Mesa Tumbleweed”, “Sandy Cove”, “Calm Air”, and “Timeless taupe”

Colors that made you hungry:  “Latte”, “Baked Brie”, “Cream in my coffee”, “Bran muffin”, “Oatmeal”, “Warm muffin”, and “Moose Mousse”

Colors that seem dry and identical: “Adobe Tan”, “Arizona Tan”, “Nomadic Desert”, “Desert Camel”, “Arabian Sands”, “Whole Wheat”, and “Toast” – come on… is that toasted whole wheat, rye or white?

Colors of beige you didn’t know existed: “Familiar Beige”, “Raffia Beige“, “Simplify Beige”, “Gray Beige”, “Kiln Beige”, “Practical Beige”, “Basic Beige”, “Burmese Beige”, “Bungalow Beige”, and “Bonjour Beige”

Colors to get you drunk: “Vanilla Brandy”, “Tequila”, “Brandied Pears”, and “Moonshine”

Colors that made no sense: “Sabrina”, “Stampede”, “Dust Bunny”, “Believable Buff”, “Tattered Sail”, “Turning taupe”, “Aloof”, and “Filoli Antique Lace”

… Filoli Antique Lace???  Come on man! What the heck is that!!!

Can I please just find a color….?!?!?!?!?!


Finally, there it is… “Barley Field

June 21, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Home Renovation – Hit the Books

I have no idea what works. I’ve gone back and forth on different aspects so many times my head is going to explode.

I spent time at the library looking at books on color and interior decorating. (*ugh*)

My wife couldn’t take it anymore, said to narrow it down to 5 or less, then call her.

It is amazing how many brain cycles I spent trying to figure this whole thing out, but finally I think I figured out the crux of the issue. I have from the beginning pictured a room that is more like a sunroom, or an indoor porch. Words like open, airy, breezy, comfy, warm are how I want to describe it. Not, rustic or woodsy which are words that have crept in along the way.

So I’m looking for neutrals/naturals for colors, all monochromatic. But in order for that not to wash out, you need two contrasting colors, one dark and one light. The light might be in the trim, or possibly the ceiling. The dark will come from the stove and slate hearth and floor. But there is also wood… wood in the windows, wood in the entertainment credenza, wood on the doors, wood in the table, wood in the coffee table. How much is too much? What should be painted, or pickled? – I still had some thinking to do.

Ironically, I’ve been trying to find a different name other than “porch” project to better describe this “great room” and guess what… I’ve wanted a porch all along’ it needed to be lighter.

We even purchased samples to figure this out, but some looked way dark in comparison to the sisal, and some looked too dark.

June 20, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Home Renovation – It was Green

This story of choosing a color went on for several weeks, but I’d hate to torture you with 5 weeks of me rambling on about color like tortured my wife with. So, there will be a post each day this week to bring this to a conclusion much quicker than I was able to do in real life.

It was a very nice color during the day with the sun reflecting off the snow. It was khaki grey, a neutral color that would look nice in Mr. Peterman’s regional office outside of the jungles of Africa. It was calming, cool and in control. Sophisticated. At dusk or in the evening you could see it trend toward green. It changed dramatically with in different lighting.

I liked it in bright light, though it was still dark. (these are two 500W halogens lighting this picture, plus the flash, and it never really looked this color in person)

This is more what it looked like… in daylight, it was kind of grey.

Here, it goes toward green.

Looks ok, here.

It matches the carpet almost too good.

My wife liked it a lot but not in love with it either, and I still agree that it is a very nice color, but it just wasn’t what I wanted in this room. In the evening it really sucked up the light. I swear it was just too green.

Why the big deal? It was $80 and a good day of work; I hated to just throw it away. But we did.

June 19, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Home Renovation – It is a good day to Prime

February 2007

We wasted no time in getting the room primed; with no moldings or outlets to paint around, it was a “no-brainer.” It didn’t take long at all; we were able to put 3 coats of primer on in one day. But first, the primer for the adjacent room….

Prime the rest…

We wanted to paint it as well since we were in that mode; however, while I’ve pictured several aspects of the room in its completed state, I have never been able to picture the room as a whole, particularly the color. I was then forced to think more about these final finishing details, like color, choosing a ceiling, trim and even the carpet. Thus we took some time to truly think about it. We took some furnature out there and got some samples to play with.

Choosing a color was much more difficult than I thought. Usually, you can pick a color based a color that exists in an inspiration piece, like a painting or a piece of furniture. Our only inspiration piece was the stone hearth, so we try to find a color in the stone that we wanted to pull out. The trouble was, the hearth was very dark and it had a lot of different colors in it. In the end, it was more like just trying to get close to what we wanted and taking a shot at it. Went with “sisal” which was somewhat neutral but also pulled out some of the greens and browns as well.

 First, the adjacent room. (glad we saved the primer and paint) (the spots in the image are dust mites)

Then the sisal…

In just one day, the room was painted with two coats of “sisal” and we were done … or were we?

June 18, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | Leave a comment

Desktop Tower Defense

Here is a real-time strategy game that delivers. It has a great design, sufficient graphics, and is very addictive. Not only that, it’s free. Prepare to defend your desktop, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Made by Hand Drawn Games – Desktop Tower Defense

June 15, 2007 Posted by | Gaming | 1 Comment

Real-Time Strategy Games and Supreme Commander

The Real-Time Strategy (RTS) genre in video games was established many years ago. One of the first RTS games I can remember playing (on my Atari 800XL) was The Ancient Art of War, which was very simple and great fun. The basic premise of these games has not changed much except in the scale and types of units available; all of which leads to a much more complicated game.

Almost all RTS games are military based, but designed in many flavors such as middle age warfare, mythological warfare, present day warfare, science fiction warfare, etc. The basic premise of an RTS game is that you build military units (tanks, swordsmen, bombers, goblin hordes, knights, nukes) and then send them off “strategically” to defeat your enemy. The catch is that you usually need to harvest some type of resource in order to build your military units; like farm the land to feed your soldiers, or create and store energy from the natural resources available to build your battle droids. The object of the game is to balance the care and feeding the creation of units while using them offensively and defensively such that you win more battles than you lose; usually until your opponent surrenders, or you completely obliterate them.

sc1.jpgA great example of current generation RTS games is Supreme Commander. Supreme Commander delivers a science-fiction based world where three factions are pitted against each other, each with unique land, air and sea based military units. The game promises incredible graphics for realism and global management of the battlefield. I’ve been looking forward to this game thinking that it might be a strategy game I would find fun and do away with many of the shortcomings I usually find in all RTS games.

I’ve been playing with the demo version of the game for the last couple weeks and I have to admit, I’m having a lot of fun, however, many of my pet peeves with RTS games were quickly substantiated.

The first problem with this game, and all RTS games in my humble opinion, is that too much weight is still placed on the micro management of building units. You spend most of your time watching your “energy” and “mass” production (which is how Supreme Commander has implemented resources) in order to create units, and very little time if left for planning military strikes and defenses. The little global strategy that exists is tough to mind and manage when you have to assign a new engineer to patrol the forests for natural resources because some enemy scout took him out when you were not looking.

Which brings me to another pet peeve, things happen that you don’t see; it happens and you don’t know how, why or when it happened. There is not a good implementation of feedback to the commander (you) that someone is under attack, and where it is taking place. That makes part of the “strategy” of the game running around the theater of war checking in on every little patrol, which to me, takes away from the overall strategy of the game. You become both the CEO and the manager of the mailroom.

Now, my understanding is that some people really like this. I was reading that games like Starcraft (one of the most popular RTS games ever) are commended for their requirement to micro-manage everything on the playing field. So, I guess if you like that, you will like Supreme Commander, too.

Many factors that would make this more of a strategy game are not there, or do not matter. Tactics like flanking, surprise, terrain, time of day, playing a units advantage against another’s disadvantage all really don’t matter nearly as much as shear number of units that you can produce. The winner is the best micro-manager who can produce tons of units, whatever they may be.

sc3.jpgThe graphics are amazing; the battles look very real. But it is too bad you can’t ever watch them because you are off to micro manage something else. The camera is difficult to use as well. There is a replay feature in the full game; it might be fun to play a game not worrying about watching anything and then replay it on the big screen to watch all of the action. But, the system requirements for the game are quite hefty and even my gaming rig had slow frame rates in the bigger battles. (rumor has it that you really need a dual core CPU to run the game smoothly)

I’m not sure if I’m an RTS game fan or not. I think I’m either looking for something much simpler, or I’m looking for something that let’s you play the strategy part without having to micro manage. I’m not sure how a game like that might work, but someone will sooner or later think outside the box of the RTS genre. I would start with a game designed around building or buying your army as the beginning phase of the game, then enter a new phase where you don’t have to bother with that and you can concentrate on winning a war with what you got. (perhaps one exists that I’m not aware of) Or, just let the computer deal out equal resources to each side and you can choose what you want to do with it.
The saving grace of Supreme Commander was the “pause” feature, where you can pause the game, but still manage your units. Without that feature, I would have been very frustrated. Of course, this would never work in an online multiplayer game. Thus, this game would be for me and me alone, even though I’m primarily looking for a game where I can hang out online with friends to play.

The full game has varied environments, campaigns, you can play all three factions, and you can play multiplayer online. (plus the replay feature) There is also a lot of downloadable content. I am actually strangely addicted to the demo, enough that I took a look at the current price, $40. I could buy this game… a manual would be nice as the in-game help sucks, say, compared to the Civopedia in Civilization III. If you are a fan of RTS games as you know them, you may absolutely love this game; I just haven’t made up my mind yet.

Lastly, I think I could have enjoyed this game a ton more if I were sitting on my couch, having a beer and playing using my remote Phantom keyboard/mouse while watching on a 50” LCD and 5.1 stereo home theater. (unfortunately, right now I only own the beer)

My current system specs: AMD Athlon XP 2500+ Barton, 1GB RAM, nVidia 7600 GT.

June 13, 2007 Posted by | Gaming | 1 Comment

Home Renovation – Bring in the New Year with Tape and Mud

January 2007

During the holiday break I was able to review the roadmap to completion of this project. I came to an understanding with myself that with the allowed time and budget that it would be more than year before the room might truly be “completed.” Completed in my mind includes everything from new furniture to high definition TV; and from window dressings to a new integrated media center computer. In order to do this right, which includes maintaining the budget spreadsheet, and maintaining sanity, it just was not going to get done anytime soon.

However, I did come to a comfortable understanding that the room could be “done enough” by Fall of 2007 to both move into the room making it the primary family room, and also to be able to host Octoberfest 2007. I will have to use my current furniture, which is not at all a good fit, and I will have to use my aging home theater gear. But, I’m OK with that and perhaps by Octoberfest 2010 I will not only be done with the room, but also have completed some other key projects currently on the back burner.

Even with this revised timeline, there was still a lot of work that needed to be done and I know very well that come April & May, time will get very scarce. First up was to finish hanging sheetrock and also tape and mud the whole thing, which included some work on the adjacent inside room as well.

I tried to take my time taping and mudding because there is definitely a skill required for this and I didn’t have much practice. I tried not getting hung up on places I knew would be covered up by molding and other things in my plan. I was pleased with how well it did come out, even though there are plenty of obvious mistakes that may never get fixed. But, in life there are things that matter and things that just don’t; perfect walls just don’t matter.

When I was done, I actually felt ahead of schedule. This would be a great time to prime and paint the room before the moldings and outlets are installed. If that could be done by the end of February, I would truly be ahead of schedule. All we had to do was choose a color…

June 11, 2007 Posted by | Home Improvement | 1 Comment

Cake and eat it too

Spring means cake time at our household due to the plethora of birthdays we celebrate this time of year. A year ago I told you about something you may not know about me. Now, check out these cakes:
katies-first-butterfly-cake-001.jpg   katies-ladybug-cake-for-pop-pop-010.jpg
These cakes were extra special for me, because I didn’t make them. I have a new apprentice in the house, Katie, my 10 year old daughter, and this year she was teaching me.

As part of an “After School Fun” program, Katie took a cake decorating class and made the dragonfly cake above. Then, for her grandfather, she made a very special lady bug cake that she let me help her make. I was surprised at how many things she was able to teach me. (hey… I’m supposed to be the one who knows everything!) The little tricks she showed me were very helpful over the next few weeks where I was in charge of making the cakes, though I was happy to have the help of both my children in making them.

This cake was for my wife’s birthday; daisy’s are her favorite flower. It was a lemon cake with lemon icing.
kims-lemon-daisy-cake-006.jpg   kims-lemon-daisy-cake-012.jpg

I didn’t have a lemon icing recipe so I improvised based on the standard butter cream icing recipe. I loved it; others thought it was a little too lemony. Here it is:
2 lbs confectionary sugar (sifted)
1 cup white Crisco shortening
1 cup butter
2 tsp lemon extract
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp lemon juice

In a mixer, cream butter, shortening, extract and lemon zest. Slowly, mix in the sugar; it should chalky looking. On high, whip in the lemon juice until creamy and fluffy.

To tone it down a notch, I would probably not use the lemon juice at the end and use the standard milk to thin and fluff the icing. (The other option to tone it down would to go back to the vanilla extract instead of the lemon extract)

My son got a soccer ball made from a specialty baking pan. These cakes, frosted with just dotted stars are the easiest to make.

This cake was extra big for a party where we celebrated everyone’s birthday and it had vanilla pudding between layers. All of the flowers were leftovers from the previous cakes.

This last one I made on my own, inspired by a Wilton designed cake, and it was a huge hit at Katie’s sleepover birthday party where each girl had their own, custom made, matching face on a pillow they were able to eat. They were all very excited to “decapitate and eat their own head”. In honor of Mistoff, I put him sleeping on Katie where he spent the greater part of his day.
katies-10th-birthday-sleep-over-party-and-cake-015.jpg   katies-10th-birthday-sleep-over-party-and-cake-084.jpg

In April and May, I get to make cakes and eat them too. (and lots of it!)

June 7, 2007 Posted by | Family, Food & Drink, Life in general | 5 Comments