Wednesday, September 30, 2009

House: Third Week

This week was all about framing at the new house. Or at least four days worth of framing, as progress got rained out last Friday.

Last Thursday they framed the basement walls and placed all the floor joists

Then on Monday they did all the rim joists, decked the whole first level, built walls around the garage, and assembled three or four other pieces of walls.

On Tuesday they finished all the exterior walls except the front entry piece, and pput up the fiber board around the walls.

Finally today they finished all the interior walls on the first level, except the stairs to the upper level, did all the rafters for the garage and built the front porch ceiling.

It's starting to look a lot like a house!

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Two Movies

I watched two movies over the past couple weeks.

Glengarry Glen Ross was the first one. I picked it up because it was mentioned in Boiler Room or some other movie and I had never heard of it. When I looked it up and saw all the big names in the film, I was like "Oh, must be good". Unfortunately it was far too slow for my tastes. I enjoyed Alec Baldwin's opening rant, and a few of the other parts, but in general I was bored and wishing things would move along.

Get Smart was the second. This was chosen because I thought Linzy and my Dad would enjoy it, and actually it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. You had to be in the mood for silly humor, but that was true of the old TV series so that shouldn't come as a surprise. The physical humor was pretty good, and I also enjoyed the two computer geek characters. All in all it was far better then I thought it would be (but keep in mind I was expecting cringe-worthy terrible).

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Eighteen Days

IMG_0584The topic of much conversation at the Eck household these days is the progress on the new house. Specifically, how long framing is going to take. Even after framing there is a lot of work to do on the house, but given that it is nearly October in Minnesota a key concern for delays is the weather. And having the framing complete means that delays will back to things like "We can't find the right ceramic tiles", or "The HVAC guy totally said he would come today and then didn't show", but not "It's rained all week and so we couldn't do anything".

Framing is something that, while involved, should actually be pretty quick especially if you are banging out another copy of a house you've built 8 of in the past three years. So as the builder was getting ready for framing last week, there was much debate about exactly how long framing should take.

The consensus for Linzy and I was about two weeks with a crew of around 5 guys. In talking with the builder, they say 18 days. And it wasn't a 'think about it' type answer, he knew immediately. Having never framed a house, nor watched a house be framed, I have no sense of whether this is long or not. But to my totally uninformed thoughts it seems long.

It seems to me with a crew of five guys you could have one guy cutting boards to length and two crews of two putting the sticks together. Since a significant portion of the boards are the same length it seems like the cutting would go fast. And then with nail guns the assembly would go quick. Assuming lumber keeps getting delivered as you need it, a day or two for the basement/foundation, four days for the first floor, four days for the second floor, and a day or two for the roof seems like it would pretty much get it done.

It's all academic at this point, but I will be interested to watch the progress and compare it against my official schedule of where my crew would be.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

New Record

At work we don't have a specific dress code, but as with most things that I can control, I tend to follow a routine. In the summer I usually wear polo shirts and in the winter I usually wear button-down dress shirts.

For the dress shirts, because I'm far too cheap to pay for dry cleaning and too lazy to iron my shirts, I am pretty particular about what kind I have. They need to be made of a material that doesn't get too wrinkled even after months of no ironing, and ideally I like button-down collars. Again, because I'm not going to iron anything, don't wear ties, and the button-down collars tend to stay a little nicer looking then the regular collars with plastic straighteners.

The trouble with the plastic straighteners is that in a lot of shirts they aren't stitched in, so they get lost in the washer/dryer. A few weeks ago Linzy bought me some new dress shirts she found on clearance at Macy's. Last week when I went to wear it for the first time, I realized that one of the plastic collar straighteners had already been lost. At that point it had only been washed once, and never worn, yet already the plastic piece had been lost. Which had to be a new record.

Luckily the shirt came with two extra collar pieces, but at this rate in a couple weeks the shirt's collar will be a lost cause.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

House: Second Week

Only a bit of progress on the house this week, several days were lost to miscellaneous tasks that had to happen in a specific order.

Last week they insulated the foundation.

On Friday they hooked up sewer system and water pipes, which didn't make for interesting pictures. The foundation inspection on Monday didn't either.

Backfill on Tuesday made a big difference though.

It was surprising how much of a difference the backfill made in terms of making the foundation look like a basement.

Wednesday was lumber delivery

According to the jobsite inventory list, there will be 508 2x4s delivered at some point. Right now it was mostly floor joists, flooring, beams. And fiber board, for some reason.

Today the framing started, which should make for more dynamic progress next week.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No Jaywalking

On my way home from work today, I was stopped at an intersection and watched a lady jaywalking across the street at an intersection. This was across half a four-lane divided highway, and while she was crossing at a crosswalk, it was against traffic. After she made it across the first two lanes and had stopped in the median to wait for the light, not one but two cops pulled up and stopped in the middle of one of the lanes of traffic to question her.

And not just roll by slow and say "Don't Jaywalk" or something, but actually turned on the flashing lights and stopped right in the middle of an intersection blocking traffic and got out to hassle her. By the time the light changed they had already gotten her id and the second cop was getting out of his car to 'assist'.

It seemed pretty crazy. Admittedly she shouldn't have been jaywalking, but having two city cops blocking traffic on a busy road seemed unsafe as well. I guess things were slow on the police patrols this afternoon. It's also a reminder that jaywalking with two cops sitting at the light on the other side of the intersection might not be the best plan.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TV: Burn Notice

Just shortly before we moved, I happened to be taking a break from packing and stumbled upon an episode of Burn Notice on TV. I was quite amused by the show and ended up recording a few other episodes that day (it was a marathon) and watching them later that weekend. Since then I've moved to getting the show from Netflix and have watched the first season, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I haven't quite put my finger on why I like the show as much as I do. I do find it quite funny, but I'm pretty sure not everyone is going to appreciate the humor. And of course I generally like spy movies/shows and this definitely has some fun with spy cliches and storylines. Plus it stars Bruce Campbell, so really, what's not to like?

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Sunday, September 20, 2009


So far this summer I hadn't been able to do much biking at all. This spring had relatively uncooperative weather, on top of extreme busyness at work. Then earlier this summer the house and moving preparations were taking most of my time. The end result was that I had only been on serious bike rides a pitiful number of times. But once we got settled at the new house, the nice weather and a little less stress in my life has resulted in pretty consistent two bike ride weekends. Which has been a lot of fun.

I've found some good routes nearby, including a difficult hill route that is continuing to challenge me even after several rides, and a longer (relatively) flatter route that is good for a break from the relentless hills of my training route. My average speeds are still depressing compared to with past years, but I'm having fun with it.

Now if only it would stay light enough in the evenings that I could go after work, but I guess I can't have everything. And sunny beautiful weekends are probably a better trade anyway.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Video Games: Shadow Complex

When we moved out of our house, I was fairly ruthless in determining what would go into storage and what would remain out. Basically the only things that made the cut were my computer, the cameras, seven books, and the XBox 360 and two games. Everything else went into storage.

When I set up the 360, I realized it would not have a network connection. Which isn't a problem in-and-of-itself, but what I didn't consider was the fact that I never bothered to transfer the licenses for all my games to the replacement console after my original one died. As long as you are online, the licenses don't really matter and it is a pita to re-download everything you've ever bought. Which in my case includes an embarrassing amount of Rock Band DLC.

Anyways when I rigged up a temporary way for the console to get online and downloaded all the licenses, I decided I should spend some of the MS points that were burning a hole in my virtual pocket. I was debating between Castle Crashers and Shadow Complex, and after trying both demos I decided on Shadow Complex.

Since then I've really been enjoying the game. If you have any appreciation for Metroidvania games, you will definitely enjoy Shadow Complex. At first I was wierded out by the occasional use of 3D depth for enemies, but eventually it has just become part of the game.

The exploration and secret discovery gameplay is done very well, with a very tolerable amount of backtracking through the map, cool advancements and a steady flow of rewards. I'm probably a little over two thirds complete, and still really enjoying the game. I'm dragging my feet and going for 100% completion since I know that the end is nearing.

I don't have many negative things to say about the game. The timer for running out of breath is a bit aggressive and causes problems if you try to explore around too much early in the game. Also I encountered some minor bugs with the placement of save rooms and respawning enemies if you exit the game and restart.

Overall Shadow Complex is a lot of fun, and thoroughly recommended. Although I should note that I am a known fan of 2D Castlevania (Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin being favorites) and Metroid games (Super Metroid in particular).

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First Week

There's been lots of progress on the house in the past week.

Last Wednesday they had just leveled the ground a bit:

Then they excavated:

And poured the footings:

Then after a few days, they set the forms:

And poured the walls:

The pictures of the foundation are somewhat deceptive, because the walls are much taller then they appear. I'm excited with all of the progress, even if I do know we have at least 16 weeks still to go.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Unexpected Refund

At the closing of our house sale several weeks ago, the final distribution amount was lower then I was expecting. Now to some degree this is expected, at least if you understand how the system works, because everything anyone ever shows you for costs is always qualified as an estimate.

In this case, however, the amount they came up with was about four hundred dollars less then even the high end of all of the estimates combined. Of course I had no paperwork with me at the closing, and even if I did, it would have just been an estimate. But I still was questioning the amount rather strongly.

In the end I was more interested in selling the house then $400 and so I let it go. And by let it go I mean I signed the papers and then bitched to Linzy about it for 20 minutes on the way to the State Fair. That evening I checked our estimates and found to no one's surprise that a bunch of the fees had come in higher then the highest estimates.

Anyways, that was the end of it. Until earlier this week we got mail from the title company containing a check for $372.24 with a hand written note on the check saying 'refund of closing cost overage'. I'm not positive why they audited the account to determine they owed us a refund, but I certainly was glad to take the money back. I barely even mentioned how I had been right about them overcharging us.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Recent Movies

Over the past few weekends Linzy and I have been watching a few movies at home. We've had a pretty bad stretch recently.

Max Payne - I never played the video game, but I am aware of it and the 'bullet time' feature. I'm not even sure why exactly this was on the queue, but it just showed up at home one week and so we watched it. The movie was really not very good. The plot was simplistic and predictable, and the acting was uninspired. I was bored, though some of the special effects were kind of cool.

I Love You Man - I added this to our queue after my Dad mentioned that someone had told him it was hilarious. Not so much. It had funny moments (though not the kind you should be watching with your parents), but overall I found most of the humor to be of the 'behavior so awkward it is hard to watch' variety. There were a few really amusing parts, and they did feature Rush, so it wasn't all bad.

Fast and Furious - Not to be confused with The Fast and The Furious, this was the fourth movie in the street racing series. I've only seen the first movie and parts of the second and Tokyo Drift. But I did enjoy the first movie. The fourth was more of the same, and actually better then I was expecting. Some of the racing was exciting, and things kept moving along fairly well. It wasn't particularly good, but was clearly the best of the last three movies we've watched at home.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

See My Belly?

DSC_2656This weekend we had a few people over to the house for dinner. Pippen was really excited to see everyone, as always, but in particular she really liked the kids now that they are all big enough to interact with her a little. Unfortunately for Pippen she is far more interested in the kids then they are in her. After some initial laughing and petting, the kids are on to more interesting new things.

Pippen on the other hand kept following them around getting in front of whatever direction they were going and being submissive. She'd flip over on her back so they could rub her belly. Except of course the kids would just ignore her, so Pippen would reposition herself a bit more directly in front of them. The kids would move away and Pippen would reposition herself again.

It was hilarious and sad all at the same time. No one loved the Silky as much as she loved them.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

About Time

Almost exactly two months after we signed up to build a house, they finally got started with actual construction.


I guess the mad rush of zero other people buying houses in the neighborhood slowed things down. But at least things are moving now.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Location Awareness

Last week my passport renewal was completed and I got an e-mail on Thursday saying that it was winging its way back to me via overnight FedEx. By the time I got home on Friday evening I had kind of forgotten about the package, until Linzy and I were coming back from a walk with the dog. At that point I checked the front porch and couldn't find the package.

Thinking perhaps I hadn't done overnight delivery back, I checked the tracking, only to find out that the package said it had been delivered. So then I really started to wonder and checked the front porch, the front door, and the garage. Plus my Mom was home at the time of the delivery but wasn't home that evening, so I checked the entire house thinking maybe she had accepted the package and had left it inside somewhere. Still no package to be found.

So I called FedEx to ask what happened, and of course at that point it was late on Friday night and there was no one to talk to at the Bloomington center. Which meant it was going to wait until Tuesday.

All weekend I was expecting one of the neighbors to stop by with the package, assuming it had been delivered to the wrong address. But then again, this was FedEx, so you don't really expect that kind of US Postal Service behavior.

No package showed up, and so it was back to waiting for the driver to figure out what had happened. It turned out that he had delivered the the house across the street (say, 608 rather then 609). The people there claimed that they didn't realize there was a house 609 and so hadn't know what to do with the package.

Cause, you know, it's the house across the street. That whole orderly odd/even street numbering is pretty tricky.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Not Much To Report

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, there hasn't been a whole lot to report. Last week I was on vacation, at least from work, but put in a full week of manual labor packing and moving. That hard work, coupled with regular emergencies for work resulted in a less-then-relaxing vacation.

Regardless, we're all settled at the new place now and impatiently badgering our builder about why everything is taking so much longer then planned. I have a feeling the answer to that one is soon going to be a simple 'get used to it'. Right now the approximate time-line is early January. I'm not holding my breath.

We did find time to go to the State Fair last Friday, which was a lot of fun. I wasn't able to try the peach-glazed pig cheeks, but I did have deep fried cheese & jalapeno ravioli which was very tasty.

Then on Sunday we went to go see G.I. Joe, which was just about the right level of seriousness after a stressful few weeks. It was not a good movie, but I thought it was entertaining.

Finally yesterday it was back to the real world, and work. You are now all caught up.

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