Topiary – for reals, yo

I actually used the word ‘topiary’ in proper context yesterday. I was proud of that. And don’t anyone laugh, but I actually have flowers planted in my flower beds now. I got tired of just looking at dirt. If it doesn’t work out (and I don’t have high hopes) I’m out like $30. I actually have “before and after” pictures of one bed that I’ll post one of these days.

So a lot of yard work has been done. I actually had to mow my own yard for the first time in a year or so this weekend. It was a lot more work than I remember. Now granted, the yard was soggy and crappy so it was more difficult than normal… but still. It’s a POS mower that you can’t adjust the push bar on so you have to mow hunched-over the entire time. It only spits the grass out the side so I end up with long rows of cut grass in piles when I’m done. Soooo… I think I’m picking one of these up. I always made fun of people with self-propelled mowers – I apologize for that now. I’m not just getting it because I’m lazy, I’m getting it because the self-propelled one are supposed to last longer. Hopefully this thing can do a better job of mulching the grass too. We’ll see.

This is going to be an expensive year – have too many thing I need/want to buy for the house. I really only have one ‘toy’ on the horizon, and that’s just a new motorcycle helmet. Not much of a toy I guess, but more of an expensive toy accessory.

So other random things – my list of links at the right side of the page now has a ‘Movies’ subcategory when you can actually see the movies I’ve rented via Blockbuster and what’s still in my queue if you’re really that curious. They seem to be broken at the moment… I think Bloglines is screwed up. So here’s My Queue and My Rental History

Other random stuff: Driving to work today I saw a lady stop at a stoplight, open her door, and spit out a mouthful of water and toothpaste. I’m assuming it was toothpaste because it sorta looked like that and she had a toothbrush in her hand. How odd. I wonder what she would have done if she had gotten all green lights on her way to where ever she was going.
Another random funny: Earlier today I ran to the bank to get some cash. On my way out, I happened upon two young ladies with a stroller firmer lodged in the revolving door. I’m not sure how they got it wedged in there in the first place, but it was half-in, half-out, and the door wouldn’t move in either direction. As I got closer, I saw a passerby yank the door hard enough from the outside to actually break it…. I think. the doors can “fold in” on the hub. I’ve seen them do it before, but I’m not entirely sure the purpose – maybe it’s for just such an occasion. I’ve seen them intentionally do it before during fire drills and whatnot. Picture the revolving door turned into two open doors separated by the ‘flaps’ pushed into the middle … so from the top it looks like ( | ) instead of (+) Anyway, back to the story… they’re getting the stoller out as I get closer to the door, so I angle for the normal door next to the revolving door (the one with the big sign on it that says ‘Please Use Revolving Door’) and as I get to it one of the young ladies looks at the door and back to be and says “Excuse me, do you know how we can get this door open? We’re trying to get the stroller through here.” She didn’t really need to say anything, I was heading out the door anyway… I looked at her, looked back at the door, turned the handle and opened it. In her defense, the door only has a handle on the inside (they really want you to use the revolving door) but it’s not like it’s hidden or anything, it just only opens from the inside. So that was my laugh today.

I think GTA IV is working better.  They released some patch for it already and I haven’t had any more problems.  Fun game, go buy it (yes, I own stock in TakeTwo)

Nothing else too exciting at the moment.

More Improvements

So the insulation project continues to pay off – used 98 CCFs this past month compared to 112 last year. A 13% drop is pretty good (actually dropped my bill by closer to 19% over last year) but what makes it more impressive is that this last month was actually a lot colder than last year. The average temp was year was 40 degress, it was 35 degrees this year. So there was actually a 22% increase in “degree heating days. So my bill really should have been 20-25% higher than last year.

Been doing some indoor projects the last couple of weeks (of course, with Bert’s help because I don’t eally know what I’m doing)
Old disposalNew disposal

Not sure who hacked that original garbage disposal in there, but they should be punched in the face (there’s a lot of that with this house) Most of the mounting bracket was held in with some kind of putty. The drain tube wasn’t really on right either, so that white bucket you see in the background actually served a purpose – it caught some of the leaking. That is of course when it was actually under the pipe – I think it sometimes got shoved towards the back when people stuffed more crap under the sink. It also bugged me that the electric was just kind of hanging out the bottom. The new one is wired better, plumbing is a lot more solid, and the thing is so quiet you almost can’t hear it. Now keep in mind, I went to Home Depot to pick up a new baffle for the old one (the plastic part you can see when you look into the drain) because the old one was missing a few of it’s sections and stuff would spit up from the disposal. It also allowed things like spoons to fall into the drain/disposal. I was pretty good at making sure foreign objects didn’t enter the disposal, but one or more of my roommates didn’t have the same diligence. To replace the baffle on that old one though, you had to actually remove the disposal… and it wasn’t one of those nifty twist ‘n drop connectors. So instead of $10, I spent $200. 😀 This turns into a theme… hang on…

Old openerNew opener

Next project – garage door opener. I actually went to the store to find another motion sensor light adapter doo-dad. The light in the old opener never has worked, so I put in one of those indoor light socket motion sensor things so the light in the garage would turn on when someone would enter the garage or open the door. It just stopped working for no apparent reason. Went to Lowe’s and couldn’t actually find one. I don’t know if they don’t make them anymore or what. But they were having a sale on openers, I had a gift card from Christmas, and I had a 10% off coupon 🙂 I ended up buying a whole new setup. The control panel actually has a motion detector built into it… so I still got my motion detector, I just paid about 6 times more than I should have for it. Oh well… this actually works out well – the door is a lot faster and quieter (belt driven) … I think the old one was about to die anyway. Also forced me to do something I’ve been wanting to do since I moved in there – put an electrical outlet in the ceiling for the opener and my shop light. The old opener actually had a really long power cord, stapled across the ceiling and down a wall to an outlet :S It didn’t have the child safety sensors at the door either… so I think legally I shouldn’t have been able to buy this house with it installed.

Speaking of safety – replaced the outlets in the kitchen with GFCI outlets.  I do enough dangerous stuff, I didn’t want to be killed doing the dishes.

Before I go, quick plug for Karen’s latest project — not sure where she’s going with this, but what the heck, I’ll help 😀


“Your home used less energy than most of the similar homes in your area.” (…and you thought this was going to be about Balki and Mae … phht!)

I guess the ‘average home’ in my area used $207 in gas last month. That seems high, but let’s compare to last year:

2006 = 3.52 CCF/Therms / day
2007 = 2.17 CCF/Therms / day

So if my math is right, that’s about a 38% drop. It’s almost exactly a full gas bill too with the new & improved insulated attic – it’s off 1 day one way or the other. Didn’t quite translate to a 38% savings on my gas bill because gas was a smidge higher.

gas use chart

Now I know you’re thinking “…but how was the weater?” Glad you asked. This November was actually a hair colder than last years. The ‘cooling degree days’ line on the graph shows that. Last November had 732 degree cooling days, this November had 789. The technical goes as such:

  • “Degree Day” is calculated as the difference between the average daily temperature and a basis temperature of 65°F.
  • Example: A winter day with an average temperature of 30°F has 35 heating degree days (and no cooling degree days); while a summer day with an average daily temperature of 85°F has 20 cooling degree days (and no heating degree days).

    Should be interesting to see how we do in the rougher parts of the Winter.  Should only take about a year to pay back what I put in, and I’m saving the environment… or something.


  • Happy Thanksgiving!

    Happy turkey day everyone!

    I was going to just write about my insulation project from last weekend, but then I found some pictures on my camera that I hadn’t uploaded yet. So first, here’s the garage floor project from June. The first is the ‘before’ picture, which I actually took after we had cleaned the floor. I used the Rust-Oleum garage floor kit that I picked up at HomeDepot for about $70. Speaking of HomeDepot — what is their obsession with the uScan lanes?! I went on a Sunday afternoon to pick up the kit, and there were no normal lanes open. Those DIY lanes are great in a grocery store, but try running a 2×4 or some other over-sized item across the stupid scanner. If that’s not frustrating enough, now figure out how to put it in the bag so the stupid computer stops telling you to “…please place the item in the bag.” But anyway…. to the garage. It turned out really well – I don’t think my garage floor had ever been sealed (actually, the epoxy probably won’t take very well on a sealed floor) so the concrete had actually started flaking in some spots. I spent almost 2 days cleaning the floor first – a degreaser to get rid of the bad oil sports, then the cleaner that came with the kit. I’m not sure the floor had ever been cleaned either. Probably should have done this when I first moved in – I sure have accumulated a lot of junk in the garage.
    Quick tip for you – get one of those telescoping, metal broom handles and a scrub brush. The handle will actually come in handy for rolling the floor too. While we’re on tips – have at least one extra roller on hand. I got a little over zealous and broke the plastic handle off one, and had to run to the hardware store in the middle of the project to pick up another one. Makes it a little stressful because you have to apply the epoxy pretty quick after mixing it. So, spare parts and an extra set of hands comes in very handy. I didn’t use the ‘decorative flakes’ that came with the kit, but I did buy some of the mix-in ‘anti-slip’ stuff too. It’s basically just sand but it sure does help when the floor gets wet. I think it turned out well – click on the thumbnails for full versions.

    GarageBefore GarageAfter

    I don’t think I took any pictures of the gutters I put up. A big thanks to Bert for helping out with that one. I really just wanted leaf guards on my existing gutters, but the snap-in ones you can pick up at the hardware store just suck. I got a few quotes to have someone come and replace the gutters and put the nice guards on, and they all came in at like $3,000. I figured “They’re gutters… how hard can it be?” It turned out to be a little more complicated than that, but lucky for me Bert used to do stuff like that years ago so he had the know-how and tools. After measuring things a couple dozen times, we had a local building supply place come by and run-off the required lengths of gutter (so they’re seamless) and Bert, Bobo, and I spent a couple of days hanging them. They look great, work perfectly, and ended up costing me less than $800. No more cleaning the leaves out a couple times a week for me.

    On to my most recent project – insulating the attic. Last Winter, I had a couple of months where my gas bill was horrific. I investigated the attic and discovered it had very little insulation – some spots were completely bare, and the highest point might have had 3 inches. It turns out I’m supposed to have about 15 inches of the blown-in type for my area. So again I thought “… how hard could it be?”
    I asked around a little, and the only person I knew that had experience with it just said that Lowe’s would rent the machine for free if I bought at least 25 bags, so even if I didn’t need 25, but 25 and return what I didn’t use. Ok, my house isn’t that big, I figured 20-30 of these bags would be enough. A few hours, a few hundred bucks… no problem. Well imagine my surprise when I got to Lowe’s and started looking at their coverage chart. Turns out I was going to need 100 bags! I ended up using 90, but still, each bag is about 22lbs – so I literally put a ton of insulation in my attic. Lots of insulation First order of business was to clear out the pile of trash in the attic. Seriously, who hangs onto this junk? There were old closet doors, a waterbed frame, old rolls of wallpaper, scraps of floors, and even a couple good-sized rolls of carpet. Some of the carpet was actually unrolled and placed over the rafters of the house. My only guess if that they were trying to use it as insulation. Getting it out of there was a little tricky – it was so old and baked it just cracked when I tried to fold it up. Talk about a mess.

    So after 6 hours in the the attic, $700, 4 trips to Lowe’s, and 4 heavily used respirator my “couple hours and couple hundred bucks” project was finished. And boy was I sore the next day. Stepping from joist to joist, walking hunched-over/squatted down, hose and flashlight in one hand using the other keep from falling through the ceiling, and the whole time barely being able to see or breath with all the crap flying around… I am glad it’s done, and it’s not something I want to do again any time soon. I missed ‘green week’ by a few weeks, but the insulation is made from 85% recycled material and I should be using less energy this Winter. Anyway, here’s a couple before and after shots – the pictures where there’s no insulation at all in the ‘before’ are actually of the area over the garage. I went ahead and filled that in too… just because it seemed like a good idea. Oh, and the stuff that looks like snow in all the pictures is actually just the dust that stuff generated.


    Goodbye spam, hello front porch.

    “Akismet has caught 100 spam for you since you first installed it.”

    Awesome. A week of using Akismet and it caught 100 spam comments. I think 4 or 5 got through that I had to moderate, but I’ll accept that. If you have a WordPress blog, check them out at – takes two minutes to install. I hope Jessica doesn’t install it – it makes me happy that she has a billion-zillion comments to delete everyday.

    In home improvement news, click through to see my new front porch… Continue reading