Monday, December 31, 2007

In the new year.

This morning, I thought I was just going to make an entry wishing all my readers a wonderful New Year. I do sincerely hope the New Year brings you the things that most make you happy. Family, friends.. not wanting to beat people in the stores. You know.. that kind of thing.

I figured I'd reveal that even though I'm not one who makes resolutions - maybe this year there was something I hoped I could accomplish. I'm not sure if its really a resolution... but it would be nice nonetheless.

It is to be less suspicious of people. And maybe a little more trusting.

You see this morning Mr S. and I had decided to start the New Year off by taking a couple of days off from the crap shack and sleeping in. The sleep quiets some of the daemons. I wasn't feeling sarcastic at all this morning.

Over the Christmas break - we'd been watching a lot of those flip shows. We wanted to make sure we weren't doing the same thing people on those shows were doing. Hello travertine. All of a sudden I'd started feeling pressure to get more stuff done at the house.

Which was kind of weird, because our plan had never been to turn the house in super short time frame. We didn't want the process to be super stressful. We'd factored in a ton of time and were already way ahead of schedule anyway.

We hadn't accounted for getting more workers than we needed. If we just wanted to do a quick job we could get the house back on the market in a month. But we didn't want to do that. So, it was nice having a few days to regroup and sleep in.

But then my zen was broken, because I realised I would have to go to the store since everything would be closed tomorrow.

Everyone here knows the store is something that is guaranteed to make me surly.

I thought there wasn't anything that made me hate doing that chore more than I already do - but apparently there is. Cell phones. Don't get me wrong, I love my cell phone - but I still try to be courteous when using it in public. I still walk out of the store when people call me so I can have a conversation. If I do use it in stores I have very brief conversations.

Most people do not however. And if you are on the side people are holding their phones - you are basically in their blind spot. Magnify this by a zillion people.

You can't get passed them. You can't get your stuff. Just annoying. I should know better to go the store the day before a holiday. Or ever.

At any rate.. I still hope everyone has a wonderful New year. Anyone want to share anything they hope they can accomplish for the New Year?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Maybe they are special.

I woke up this morning feeling rough. Yesterday we'd only gotten a room and a half primed, so I was a little surprised at how much my body was hating me this morning. Normally that little of activity wouldn't be making me feel this way.

Mr S. and I went to breakfast, and I debated my sanity in not hiring someone to paint the inside of the crap shack. If I was feeling this way after only a room and half, this was going to suck. I had 80% of the house left to go. I started wondering if painters were special after all. Especially after making a snarky comment they weren't.

We got to the house this morning, and Mr S. went to get coffee. Somewhere in that time - I completely found my groove. By the time he got back I was done with two rooms. He could barely keep up taping off rooms in front of me.

In the end, today we got 80% of the house primed. I think I might have been able to bust the whole thing out if my girlfriend/neighbor hadn't stopped by.

So, for now... the painters can be replaced.

Maybe with robots.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What's bothering me today.

I actually didn't think I was going to post today. We've been over at the crap shack painting. You can't imagine how much I love the smell of paint. Just add a paint gun, and things are fabulous! Paint contractors think they are so special. But they just aren't. Especially if you don't have to protect anything.

Anyway.. I have two things that were bothering me today. Both of them because my paint gun hose had a leak, and I had to go to Home Depot. Which was still better than paying a contractor to paint.

This is the first thing:

Who's fucking idea was it to make those plastic bags you get at the store so thin? For months I've been getting slightly more annoyed at buying something. Walking out to my car to have the bag virtually explode. Even when I have things which have no corners to rip them.

Say for instance a perfectly round can will cause one of those bags to tear in three places. Count it! Three! It makes me want to use 20 of them - which is super annoying, because I know the reason they are making them that way - is so they will break down in landfills.

But honestly... I actually have to use three of them to do what one bag used to. And it isn't just the shopping bags. Its vegi bags too. How a cucumber can cause a vegi bag to wind up completely shredded is beyond me.

The is thing number two:

The hoodie phase. Yep.. that's it.

I really don't like not being able to see someones face. I especially don't like a car full of young boys all decked out with their hoodies on. Especially if they are driving.

And before you go there.. it isn't a race thing. Its a young male thing. If you are a young male, chances are your going to eventually do some dumb-ass thing. And when you do, I'd like to identify you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Reflections on the holiday.

It was pretty weird not doing the capitalistic Christmas this year. Mostly. We did buy stuff for family and such. Just not ourselves.

I do love the Christmas thing. Even though my belief system doesn't go with what the holiday is about. Sometimes you don't even realize how much you miss it until you abstain for a year.

We just figured we had enough crap for now, and it kind of felt nice to make the holiday better for other peoples families. Of course, I'm talking about our contractors. Often times - even when they finish jobs, they don't always get paid - and a few were really hurting this year.

One thing we did over Christmas - was have Tivo record a bunch of those shows about flipping houses. Other than Flipping Out, we didn't really watch any of that stuff. Buying the worst house on the block and renovating them has always been what we've done. Even before the term "flipping" became popular. The only difference is we aren't living in this house.

So, it was interesting to see why the term has gotten such a bad name. Some of those people are complete hacks. They take stupid shortcuts that would cost so little more to do the job right.

At any rate, even though we treat our contractors really well, I have a whole new respect for them. Our guys are really, really good. That isn't to say they don't make me crazy from time to time. But, they aren't hacks. Which is why they've been with us a long time. Which brings me to another interesting thing that happened this holiday.

Yesterday evening our roofer started trying to get a hold of us. I was kind of done with the whole day, and didn't answer the calls.

Over time - he and I had gotten in this weird place. I didn't think we were quite friends, but not quite clients either. A few minutes later we hear a knock at the door, and he'd left a gift basket with a card. Which was really nice. But, what was more surprising the card had an invitation to get together with him and his wife for dinner.

So, now I don't know exactly what we are. If you are just doing the holiday thing. You just wish people a happy holiday and move on, right? I didn't even know his wife's name to be honest.

I know it sounds really lame to wonder, but as you get older - relationships are much more complicated. The line between friends and not friends is much more vague, and it takes longer to form true bonds.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Its all about the arch.

I should have been getting my bake on today.. but instead we were dealing with contractors.

Yes... on Christmas eve.

I'm pretty sure they aren't even heathen atheists like we are. But, they chose when they wanted to work, and as long as they aren't pissing off the crapshack neighbors - I'm happy to let them.

The day started out simply enough. Do a drive by at the crapshack. See if anything unexpected cropped up, and see if they guys needed anything. Go to the bank. Come back and start cooking. Simple.. right?

Yeah.

The guys were putting up the gates today, and when we got to the house they had one side hung. And it was terribly wrong.

I had my heart set on a gate with an arch, and the side they had up - was an arch. But it was such an exaggerated arch that the side that attached to the post was only as high as my hip. The side that attached to the other gate was taller than I am. That's a couple of feet from one side to the other.

At this point we start trying to figure out if we can salvage the gates without making it look like a hack job. And it didn't look like that was going to happen.

Mr S. says he can make a template, because he understands what I'm looking for. He sets off to the house. I set off to the bank and Home depot, because we need more hardware to support the extra weight of the gates.

I think it actually took about two hours and 5 people to work out a simple arch.

Apparently arches are much more complicated than you would ever expect. It seems like such a simple thing.. but it turns out not. But the gates are up, and I'm actually a little wore out. Hopefully I can gain a second wind, because I didn't really expect to have a big contractor issue today.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Goodby Santa.

In other tear out news.

We weren't going to do anything with the crap-shack this week. I can only stand about a week of the contractors, and then I need a break.

Don't get me wrong, the guys I have now have been mostly great. But, it is a lot of babysitting to make sure things continue to go "great". With so many contractors in last week, I was pretty burnt.

But - an interesting phenomenon seems to happen when we move into houses. Since we tend to choose the worst house on the block - when we start fixing the house up, some neighbors will start to fix things up too. We aren't sure why this happens, but it seems to do so with regularity.

Last week we noticed one of the neighbors who shares a fence started to tear down some of his fence, and was in the process of putting up a new one. The only problem was the concrete pour for his post would have made it impossible to repair a segment we shared - without screwing his stuff up. So, we talked him into holding off for a few days, so we could repair the area.

Mr S. and I were going to build the gate initially. But, since we didn't want to hold up the neighbors, we called one of our contractors to get it done more quickly than we could have on our own.

I didn't really expect any of the guys to work this week - but, I guess they needed money for the holidays because they volunteered to work today. They also agreed to tear out the floor in the master bath. The one that was up on jacks. Which was a huge bonus. This is what is looks like now.



This is what it looked like before.



I was a little nervous of what we might find when we got the floor out because of all the water damage, but other than the shower area resting right on the copper pipes (unsupported) the beams were in remarkable shape. I'm super shocked that one of the core structure has any mold or rot or anything.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I think I'm in a CES funk.

Well... it doesn't look like we are going to CES this year - without having to fight hard for the tickets. And, I'm sort of bummed.

I never thought I would ever be "not in a completely bummed state". But it has been an exhausting couple of months.

I would try harder for the tickets if it weren't for that. But, I still sort of want to go. Because - it's CES and it brings out the inner tard in me.

Products so maxed out, you couldn't possibly need them - but you do anyway.

At least I'll be avoiding the CES plague, and will feel slightly pleased every time I read a reviewer telling about how sick they are. Because I won't be.

I still want to pout though.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dear Amazon.

This is my recipe box.



You would make me the happiest woman on earth - if I could put these on the Kindle. I don't want you to sell me recipe books. I'm a magazine page puller.

I just want to be able to scan these in, and be able to index them. In essence, make my own recipe book (for a price of course).

Sincerely,
Your New Kindle Customer.

Monday, December 17, 2007

I don't know why I'd want to - but I'm gonna.

Some of you may remember Mr S. talked me into buying a slingbox a while back. (Here)

It was mostly a brilliant effort to placate me.

He was trying to minimize the pain of staying at bitchopalloza. I thought the whole thing was a little frivolous. But, he wore me down by saying that when we upgraded our cell phones, we'd be able to use the slingbox on them. I gave in.

We have new cell phones. Now you must look!



Survivor on my cellphone!

There is no earthly reason why I need to watch TV on my phone, but you honestly have to marvel at how fucking good it looks. And the frame rate is actually really damn good. And then..look at this!



All you diehards will know what this is. So I'm not even going to 'splane it.

If you need a guess, let me know.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

For the love of Christmas!

"Multi-bird roasts, where different types of bird are stuffed inside a larger one, have become the thing to carve this year - and the more birds involved the better. One of the top-sellers is the Waitrose four-bird roast: guinea fowl, duck and turkey breast stuffed inside a goose. "

I don't know if this has a catchy name like turducken.... so, I'm creating my own.

Tuk-duck-goose. Enjoy!

They just suck all the fun out of it.

Mr S. and I aren't doing anything much this Christmas.

Rest is the present we are giving ourselves. Sweet - delicious - rest. And I couldn't be happier. Let me tell you why.

The one thing we did decide to do - was update our cell phones. And it couldn't have been more of a pain in the ass. It actually reminded me a lot of being in the doctors office. You give them your name. You sit down in the waiting room.. I mean waiting area. The cell phone company puts on a glove, and puts his hand up your wallet. Well.. something like that.

It mostly annoyed me that it took a solid hour. Even though we knew exactly which phone we wanted, a Verizon XV6800 - this one:



We didn't have any questions, and basically only had one person on the waiting list in front of us. We were pretty excited about buying the phones, but they managed to suck all the joy out of it. And, by the time we left I was in a surly mood.

But, I really needed a new phone. When using mine, it was getting to be a daily occurrence that I wanted to throw it into a wall. Or firmly jam my heel right into the center of it. There were so many things I hated about my phone. The way the buttons were all placed in inconvenient places, and got pushed all the time. No matter how careful you were.

Getting the camera to come up took an extraordinarily long time. And despite turning the phone off, you could still activate all the features of the phone. Particularly annoying was random redialing of people in your phone book. So annoying in fact, I refused to enter any of the numbers of my friends into my contact area. I was afraid I'd be out, and even thought I'd turned the phone off - just holding the phone in my hand the wrong way would cause it to randomly call someone in my phone book.

Even worse, the phone would have some devil lock on the line. So the person the phone had called, just couldn't hang up on their side and get their phone line back.

I can't tell you how many times my husbands phone called me from his pocket, and I'd be reduced to screaming into the phone in the hopes he could hear me so he would hang up. I wouldn't be able to use the line until his phone terminated the connection. Just.. so annoying.

Anyway. The new phones are a great improvement over the old model. They are faster, and actually have better reception. But - its only day 2, and I'm probably high on the factory air.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Crapshack today.

I don't know.. Crapshack Today sounds like it could be a magazine. Doesn't it?

Anyway...I am glad the week is coming to a close. None of my contractors have made me crazy. Yet. But, I'm just tired of them. Despite how charming it was to walk into the house this morning to all of them singing "How deep is your love?" by the Bee Gees.

My last set of guys are in the house finishing up texturing the walls - so I thought I'd post some pictures.

For some insane reason, the people that owned this home put a new roof everywhere - except the back bedroom. That area to the left of the picture. I'd make arrows... but I'm tired. Just point to the left of your screen.



This resulted in water damaging most of the drywall in that area. Plus, I don't know if you can see it, but it had 70's mirror tiles on the wall.

This is a picture of the room before we took possession. Some may remember the bank removed all their stuff. Thankfully.



This is with part of the drywall ripped down.



They did it so fast, I didn't get any pictures of the ceiling being completely gone. So you will just have to use your imagination.

Somehow we managed to get really lucky, and not have any mold in the framing of the house. When water gets in, mold is always a concern.

This is what it looks like now.



It will look much better after the texture dries, and it gets painted.

This is what the new roof looks like from the back.



New roof from the front.



Before picture of the front here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Natural disaster for hire.

I hope to post some pictures tomorrow of the crap shack. Things are moving so fast I can barely keep up.

So fast, in fact, one of my new neighbors called the fucking building inspector on me.

I get to the house today and my roofer informs me the inspector was just here.

I figured it was just one of the inspections for the roof. As I recall there are 2. So I didn't think much about it until he told me I got called in. Which totally pisses me off. Just wait until you see some pictures of the place! Those people should be fucking leaving me presents. Not calling me in.

At any rate.. since I don't cut corners, it wasn't a big deal other then making me want to stink eye every one of the neighbors.

The funny thing is when I asked my roofer who he thought did it, he pointed to two houses. One of them is house where my friend lives. My roofer doesn't know she lives there.

I'm sure the neighbors are annoyed about the noise, but that is a very temporary thing. My guys gutted my house in two days flat. I've never seen anything like it. When my roofer went to unload his dump trailer it weighed 12 thousand pounds. The dump-master said he'd never come in weighing that much. 12 thousand pounds people!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How to waste a weekend - Ending

I'm going to try to wrap up this story.(Read part 2 here) I'm pretty much over the whole thing for now, and I have a ton of new updates on the crapshack.

So anyway... with the heat out - Mr S. and I left a message for an HVAC tech we had given work to at our old house. Then spent a pretty sleepless night on the living room floor. We had a full room heater going, the oven - and we were waking up every couple of hours to put logs on the fire. Which pretty much sucked.

We also decided that auditioning for Man vs. Wild was pretty much out of any future fantasies. I know I'd pushed my Bear Grylls skills to the limit.

Next morning, Mr S and I were still trying to figure out what to do. Because we didn't know if our tech even worked on weekends. We were just hoping that since we'd worked with him before he might take pitty on us. He called around 9:30. He said he'd be out in an hour and a half at the latest. He was out three hours later.

He finally got the heat on around 3:00, because he didn't have the part we needed on his truck.

We then had to immediately start getting the fireplace cooled down. We were suppose to be at a party at 5:00. But since we had been burning wood for 15 hours it took quite a bit of effort to get it to a stage I felt comfortable leaving the house. I think we were two hours late.

At any rate.. there is almost nothing I love more than heat, and I'm happy that whole thing is over.

Todays image.



Well. There's your problem, right there.

Monday, December 10, 2007

How to waste a weekend Part 2.

So, I just have to tell you HVAC tech's are about the only segment of humans on earth that I just fucking hate. I despise those bastards. 95% of them. And, that is being generous.

There are no market forces to make those in the profession more than thieves. That's right. I said it.

First - a person probably sees someone to fix their heat once or twice in their lifetime. So, there isn't much repeat business. That means there is no incentive to not take you for as much money as possible. After all, they are never going to see your cold dumb ass again.

Second - Most people are not going to work on heaters themselves. They have like 10 fucking parts - but holy shit all those wires scare people.

Some shit about them not wanting to get electrocuted. Whatever. I am batshit nervous about electricity, and even I don't think it's that dangerous if you exercise a little care. But, since most people are nervous about that crap - it is almost impossible to find information about fixing the 20 year old furnace you have. The best information you can find is "pilot light not lighting - you need to call a professional".

Thank you professor obvious!

Third - they always have you in a vulnerable position. The heat never goes out when you can live a day or two without it. It always goes out in the evening. On the coldest day of the year. It won't ever go out in the morning on the coldest day of the year. Then you could actually pay regular overtime, instead of super quadruple overtime.

Fourth - their main incentive is to sell you a new unit. Some are more hard sell than others. But some are pretty much like "well, I guess you are going to freeze to death if you don't buy a new unit". Or "if you don't buy a new unit, I'm going to make you wish you had" by charging you so much. And oh BTW.. we at least know enough to figure out how much all the parts in all those units cost. We know how much they are marking stuff up.

So anyway - enough ranting... back to 8PM on Saturday when my heat went out. I'm not happy about it, but I'm starting to get cold - and we decide to just call someone out. Despite 90% of the HVAC tech's in the phone book advertising for "emergency service" none of them provided it. And! not only emergency service, but 24x7 support. Not one of those fuckers even had the option of having a tech paged after hours. As a matter of a fact, all of them listed normal working hours on their answering machine messages. Every - single- one, in the phone book.

So apparently in my city, if your heat goes down after 5:00, you are fucking screwed. And we were.

More later.
Part 1 here.

How to waste a weekend.

The universe has a way of evening things out. Since everything was going smoothly at the crapshack. Something bad had to happen at my place. Which it did.

On Saturday our furnace decided it wanted to act up. It doesn't matter that it was suppose to get down to 32 degrees that night. Oh wait it does. Fucking universe.

Anyway. Mr S. and I spent a couple hours working on it. We actually managed to get the thing working by cleaning up the pilot ignitor sensor to get rid of corrosion. Three hours later though, at 8pm, it spewed it last cough and completely stopped working. Did I mention it was suppose to be the coldest day of the year? Oh yeah - I did.

We went over our options. One of which was bugging out to a hotel. But - with the bunnies, the pain in the ass factor was high. So we decided to close all the rooms down, and hope we could keep warm enough by sleeping in front of the fireplace in the living room. We don't have a huge place, but with the freezing temps and it being pretty windy - a house gets frigid quickly. I also found myself at Target at 10:30pm buying an electric space heater.

I just have to go off on a mini tangent here.

So, I'm in the middle of a melt down. Target was filled with workers in the isles stocking, and doing whatever. I had a question about the heaters, because a few of them were called "Oil Filled Radiator Heaters".

Space heaters are really dangerous - and I didn't want anything that needed to be run on oil inside the house. My question was simply " do you have to put oil in these things"? It doesn't seem like too lame of a question. Does it?

The worker looked at me like I was from mars - and asked "you want price check"? It was then I realised he barely spoke two words of English. Which normally doesn't fucking bother me. But it so totally did this time.

It is one thing if you want to speak your own language. I don't care. But you should at least be able to speak enough English to help customers. Irritated the shit out of me.

Anyway.. I'm going to have to break this up into parts. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

New - from the crap shack.

Things are going pretty smoothly at the crap shack. I'm still using guys I've used before - and they are treating me well. I'm happy to give them work. Especially at this time of year.

They are making the place look so much better. I can barely stand it.

This is the side of the house - before.



That area was basically a trash heap. Plus it was unusable space. Pretty obvious from the beginning. But after it rained recently - it made me so happy I chose to put some concrete there. It was a muddy mess.

It also led to the garage, and I figured most people would hate walking out of their garage to such a fucked up area of their yard.

This is what it looks like now.



Also an unexpected bonus?

After nuking most of the back yard... I found the fences shared by neighbors on two sides, were practically band spanking new! You couldn't even see the fence to the neighbors behind before. And once my guys got all this crap off the side, only then could you see what good shape they were in. It makes me super happy.

You can't imagine how big of a deal that is. Trying to get neighbors to fix fences - sucks big time. Even when you have a really good relationship with them.

Friday, December 07, 2007

What?!

I have a really bad habit of ending conversations by exclaiming "what"?

Which, recently has started driving Mr S. batshitty. He won't say it that way. But I know its true, because he has started mimicking me.

Example:

Me - I went to the store and this person was driving me crazy, and I just wanted to beat them. What?

Mr S. - What?

So, last night Mr S. and I had to have a discussion. Because admittedly, his mimicking me was driving me crazy. Yeah.. I hear you guys! What?

It went a little something like this:

Me- Babe.. why is this all of a sudden bothering you so much.

Mr S. - because you do it all the time.

Me - I know I do.. but a lot of people have ticks. Some people say "like" a lot. I say "what".

Mr S. - Well I don't know what to say to you. It sounds like you are constantly challenging me.

Me - I'm not challenging you. I'm prompting you. Like - "what do you think"?

Mr S. - Well, you don't say it that way. You say it in a "what the fuck are you looking at way".

Me - Babe,I don't mean it that way.

(I hold up my right hand making it look like a sock puppet. So I can have a pretend example of our conversations)

Look, this is what happens.

Sock puppet hand is saying "wha, wha, wha, wha, wha". Then looks to my left hand which is laid flat. Left hand makes the sound of chirping crickets.

Me - So I have to say "what". Because I don't know what you are thinking.

This of course made him crack up.

At any rate.. I'm going to try to be a little less annoying.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

If it were up to me - I'd fire a bunch of people.

Oh wait - hopefully they are getting laid off.

This is the thing about my crap shack. I went about buying it totally honestly. I didn't fudge income. I didn't get creative with financing.

So - it kind of irritates me when the lenders are basically fraudulent without needing to be.

I liked to amuse myself by thinking that more people than not - knew what they were getting into when it came to the whole sub-prime thing. As more time passes after buying my crap shack, the less confident I become that is actually true.

Take this for example. Today I get the appraisal of the house. Which we paid for, but had no influence over. Imagine my surprise when I find the following on my report:

"RECENT IMPROVEMENTS: THE SUBJECT APPEARS TO HAVE A NEWER COMP SHINGLE ROOF. VINYL DUAL PANE WINDOWS. NEWER GARAGE DOOR WITH OPENER. THE KITCHEN APPEARS TO BE RECENTLY UPDATED WITH NEW COUNTERS, CABINETS, FLOORING, AND FIXTURES. THE MASTER BATH IS 80% COMPLETE WITH WHAT APPEARS TO BE NEW CABINETS, VANITY, NEW CULTURED MARBLE WAINSCOTING AND SHOWER AND NEW TILE FLOORING."

You will see more of the house later.... but are they fucking high? This is the master bath they talk about in the last sentence. The one they say is 80% done, and bla bla bla.





First- you see it has plywood on the ceiling right? The bathroom is a complete tear out. The fucktards who owned the house were using the shower as it stands. Causing water to degrade the sub floor. That bathroom is up on jacks (litterally). There is a jack in the crawlspace under the floor holding it up.

Secondly - cultured marble - what the fuck? And, you can't see it in this picture, but they were actually using a football to put over the toilet drain. The toilet was missing.

Just pisses me off someone would actually write an appraisal like that. Oh - just wait till next week, when I show you how other parts of the appraisal were so totally ridiculous.

Todays customer service rant.

Maybe I'm being a little bitchy. But, when I call customer service - and the first thing they say to me is "how can I exceed your expectations today"? I immediately become annoyed.

It doesn't make me happy. It doesn't make me feel more confident. It makes me feel like " Who are they kidding"?

I'm positively giddy if they just meet my expectations. Simple stuff - like answering my fucking question.

I've pretty much given up on them meeting my expectations if something needs fixed. That requires 3 or 4 calls of playing the customer service lottery. Hoping to hit the magic rep. who has worked for the company more than two days, and actually has some knowledge of the company and and how to fix my problem.

This "how can I exceed your expectations" greeting - is bullshit. Train your workers better. That would exceed my expectations.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Who loves robots?

I do! Especially when they have boobs and a tiara. Watch the clip courtesy of Reuters.



The other thing I find great about this clip - is how fast robotics are progressing.

Last year, when I was at Robogames, and I got picture after picture of the fighting robots falling over. They were pretty top heavy - and their handlers basically were treating them like a toddler taking their first step.

See this guy holding out his hands the way you do when a baby is starting to walk?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Not - Global Warming?

I don't know about you - but I'm a weather junky.

In California this year, it's been sort of like the super bowl for people like me. Drought, Santa Anna winds. It's been pretty extreme.

So you know when hurricane force winds hit Washington this week - it got my attention.

Earlier in the month when the Santa Ana winds hit Southern California Mr S. and I were having a discussion about them. He was pretty amazed at the wind speeds, and said he'd never heard anything like it in California before.

Oddly, sometimes I run across interesting tidbits - and had recalled an event in 1962 called the Columbus Day storm. I told him what I'd read about it. Which basically is - the remnants of Typhoon Freda went extra tropical and had hit somewhere up north. It had pretty much destroyed a town because the winds were so severe. A very rare event. I then promptly went on with life.

At the time it was just an interesting tidbit, and it seemed like one of those once in a lifetime events. As a matter of a fact - it was such a remote memory, it took me the better part of an hour to plug in the right keywords to find the story again.

If I do say so myself - it's pretty interesting. The two storms have a lot of similarities.

This is from Typhoon Freda. Compliments of www.islandnet.com. You can also read about the story there.



This is the satellite loop from the Storm this week compliments of www.blog.oregonlive.com. Who also has some fantastic photos of the event.



It will be interesting to see what they say about the 2007 storm after they get done analysing it.

Welcome to the Big Top.



My house has termites. I'm not thrilled about it. But - what do you expect when some douche bag piles up wood and garbage against a house for centuries. You can see it here in the before pictures.

Perhaps I shouldn't speak ill of the dead. Never mind. The guy was a douche bag. But - whatever. I knew about them when I bought the house. So, they are more of a mild irritant.

In general - I hate the idea of termites. Even though they haven't destroyed anything yet.

I've spoken to a lot of people about them, and they don't seem to be freaked out about a house with termites. In California, it seems they are at plague status. Since we don't get cold freezing temps, there is nothing to keep them in check.

Then, there are douche bags who do everything to make sure the species proliferates.

Here is my mini rant for today: Houses like my new crap shack really make me sad. I bet when these people moved into this house they were full of hopes and dreams. As those dreams slowly died, so did the house.

You see - when I was a kid, we moved all the time. Sometimes several times a year. Most of the time we would get kicked out, because my family was poor. So - houses hold a special meaning to me. It is such a huge deal to own a house that you can do anything the fuck you want with it. Including, I guess - let the house return to the earth. It still makes me sad when that happens though.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Santa claws.



Clearly - she is not amused.

Huh - who would have guessed?

For some reason I'm feeling unseasonably festive. Today we got our Christmas lights up. We even had to shop to replace a string of lights that didn't work anymore - and I didn't want to push anyone down and beat them.

We went to like five stores. And despite rumors of a horrible economy, places were pretty packed. But, I digress.

Oh - and LED lights this year are apparently the hottest thing to have. That's what we wanted to get, but the color we wanted was sold out. The checker told us they had been selling out of them for days. Finally.... some LED acceptance.

I've also been feeling uncharacteristically unstressed and un-neurotic. Which is amazing considering the month I've had. Perhaps its because we've already done the family thing. Mr S. and I have decided to do the low rent Christmas. He wants an e-book reader. I just want a fancy toe ring.

It was kind of the perfect time to buy a house, because there just aren't any "must have" toys this year. No video game consoles. We're all computered up. Robot level adequate.

Its kind of a nice level of zen right now. It won't last... but you have to take it as it comes.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

After.

You must see the before pictures.



Oh yeah..That shed was there in the before pictures. You just couldn't see it until you were right on it, because there was so much overgrowth.




See.. that palm tree did make my house look small.



The nice thing is - you can see it has a yard. But now the house looks super craptacular.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

When did they start doing that?

I've had a loan through Bank of America for 2 days, and they are already calling me trying to sell me death benefits that forgive the loan. If one of us were going to die.

I hope it doesn't mean they are such a pain in the ass to deal with we might expire in protest.

I've held loans with 4 or 5 different companies, and none of them have done that. And it's just weird.

Today's rant.

Snow making. That's right. I said it. Snow making.

Has anyone living in California noticed its only rained 3 days in the last year and a half? Yet the ski resorts are using a million of gallons of water per day to make snow. They estimate they will make snow for 300 hours to get a pack. About 12.5 days. Equaling 12.5 million gallons of water. That is about 37.5 acre feet of water. Lets all keep our fingers crossed it stays cold. We don't want that pack to melt.

Yet Southern California will soon be reduced to drinking toilet water. Farmers won't be allowed to grow anything (here), but at least we get to ski.

I can't even figure out how using that much water is economical. Surely growing things generate more revenue than skiing.

Before.

Well - the crap shack is ours.

I'm having stuff done on it today. So I wanted to start posting some "before pictures".

All the junk is pretty much gone as you can see in this post. I'm guessing Countrywide spent around 1500$-2000$, just removing the contents of the house.









Read more about this story here and here.

Jittery.

In California these days - when you see this...just about everyone freaks out.



This was apparently a controlled burn - but it seems like a lot of people didn't know about it. So emergency services were flooded with calls.

I think it's a precarious time to do controlled burns, personally. It isn't like California hasn't had these things get completely out of control. With the freakishly dry conditions, it wouldn't take much.

Monday, November 26, 2007

It will all be over tomorrow.

It goes against every fiber of your being to run into a burning building while everyone else is running out. That is basically what I am doing.

We sign in the morning.

Bank of America took our loan. 30 year fixed, non-owner occupied @ 6.625. A 90/10 loan. Our lender apparently paid down BofA to take it. I'm not sure how much it cost them. I know I got docs from BofA with a rate a full point higher than the rate my lender agreed to. My lender apparently paid that down too.

Some may think lenders are still just handing out money like candy. They aren't. You need smoking good credit. I would be amazed if you read many instances of people getting the deal we managed to get. For a while, at least.

The next part of this show should be interesting. You see... we've spent the last 5,6, 7 years begging contractors to come to jobs. One year - when I wanted to get the old house painted. I called 10 painters. 2 showed.

Now contractors are hungry. They need work.

Thankfully we've accumulated quite a few contractors we trust. It will be interesting to see what happens with the rest.

Read previous here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I (heart) Slingbox.

I've been meaning to write a review of our new Slingbox.



Normally I like to wait much longer to give feedback, because the factory air clouds my judgment - and products I thought were fantastic turn out to be annoying. Or somehow break six months down the line.

This might still happen. But what was so impressive about this bit of technology was the super easy installation. You just plug it in, and it found all the wireless networks without any configuration.

If you've spent any time putting something on a network, you will marvel at just what a good job the Slingbox people did.

Say for example, you are staying in a technology black hole - like I was recently. You can't understand how comforting it is to be able to connect to your home cable system and watch News, Cranky Geeks or Red Eye.

The only small drawback is being able to find a good connection from your wireless provider. Mine is Verizon. So, if you are in an area that has sparse coverage... for example - in a Starbucks 500 feet from a Verizon store (like we were), the video stream may get a little choppy.

Maybe I'm being bitchy in thinking that if I can see a Verizon store, I should be able to get more than one tick of a reception bar on my phone or wireless network. Just say'in.

Friday, November 23, 2007

More news about the mortgage fiasco.

Update: First - I'm super giddy that both the Captain Capitalism, and Infectious Greed guys linked me. I love reading their blogs. Thanks guys!

Second - In the mail today I got a loan confirmation from my lender under the original terms. So, I'm somewhat sure I now have a loan. I also got loan docs from Wells Fargo. Even though I'm positive my agent told me Bank of America took my loan. So maybe I have two loans?

My lender claimed they couldn't sell my loan to anyone for less than 15%, and the only reason Bank of America bought the loan was because my lender called in some favors. If Wells Fargo has also decided to take my loan - it would mean that whole favor thing was bullshit. Surely they wouldn't lie to me. (rolling eyes)


--

Today would have been the day I closed on our house.

On Monday things blew out of control to epic proportions. To recap:

Two days before we were to sign papers (last week) my lender called me to say our county had been declared a declining market. I would need to put down 15%, and not the 10% we had both agreed to.

They did everything in their power to try and make me agree to the new terms. I did everything in my power to say no, and get them agree to the terms initially agreed upon.

By Monday it looked like the deal was falling apart. I just wasn't going to pay the extra 5%. Especially when they changed the rules 2 days before I was suppose to sign papers. That seemed like a bait an switch to me. And I told them so.

The other thing that was pissing me off was the amount of time my credit had been run for this house. Seven times!

  • Once by Countrywide to pre-approve me to even start the process;(because this was a Countrywide owned property)
  • Twice by my lender;
  • and four more times by the companies my lender tried to shop my loan to.

I was pissed.

Since they were running my credit steadily for more than a month, rather than over a short amount of time - I told them I thought they were trying to damage my ability to gain credit from other sources. So, if they didn't agree to the terms set out in the good faith agreement they had sent me one day before they changed the rules - I was backing out of the deal.

On Wednesday my real estate agent called to tell me Bank of America agreed to the terms. So, my lender was able to sell my loan to them. I don't know if I believe them. My loan docs are suppose to be in on Monday. But if they do agree to the terms - I managed to get a pretty good deal. A 90/10 loan. 30 year fixed at 6.625 interest on a non owner occupied property. From what I read.. this is not something easy to get. Things could still completely fall apart.

Just to put that in perspective. Countrywide offered me 12% interest. I told them to pound sand.

I still don't know exactly what caused the loan company to move so much. If anyone has any insight, I'd love to hear it.

Honestly - I wish one of these guys who talk about the mortgage market all the time would read this post and weigh in. So I'm gratuitously linking them. A girl can hope... right? Paul Kedrosky and Captain Capitalism.

(More real estate related posts here, here, and here.

Do you brine?

I must admit - a couple of years ago when my husband ran across the fad of turkey brining, I was not amused.

I'm a bit of a germaphobe when it comes to poultry. I know the irrationality comes from a story I was told in school, and has only been heightened by news stories of salmonella. Or whatever. See, I'm not even sure what bacteria it is.. but I'm still a germaphobe. Turkeys are messy.

The first year I placated him. Declared it a pain in the ass, and decided I would never do it again.

Not only do you have a turkey with all that weird bacteria, now you have to get rid of several gallons of water the turkey has been sitting in.

Three years later, I'm still placating him - and I've decided it is totally worth the effort. Even if you think you've never had a dry turkey. It will knock your socks off how moist the bird will come out if you take the time to brine it.

My recommendation - buy a cheap trash can with a lid. Jumbo zip lock bags.

1 cup of sea salt, and 2 cups of brown sugar per gallon of water.
Make sure to dissolve the salt and sugar in boiling water with whatever spices you like.

Let it cool before adding to the rest of the water and turkey. Let it soak for 12 hours or so.

The rest? Magic!



Sunday, November 18, 2007

Today I was a hippy.

Most of my regular readers probably know - I don't give a shit about saving the earth. But I do care about delicious home grown tomatoes! Which is why I found myself at a worm farm this afternoon. Our city gives us deals on "green" things. Like compost bins, and worm bins. They also tell you where the local worm farms are.

So, Mr S. and I make an appointment with the worm farmer, and we drive to the next city over to get them.

I shit you not.. this was the most high end place to buy worms on earth. I expected it to be some trailer on the edge of town. But it wasn't. It was some guys house. But the house backed up to a country club. They had to be million dollar homes. I mean... look at the neighbors gate.



I never did see the farm, or the farmer. He left the worms in a cooler in the garage, and we just left our money. But, I was entertained by the whole process.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The modern Ghost town.

Don't be alarmed. This isn't going to be a real estate blog. I'll be getting back into technology and robots soon. Real estate is just a dominating thing in my life at the moment.

Anyway.. before the drama with the house - Mr. S. and I had planned to drive to a Restoration Hardware warehouse sale. If you've ever seen the stuff in the catalog, you know that stuff is off the chart expensive. Since they were offering steep discounts, we thought we'd at least go and see what they had to offer.

Oddly, last week I'd gotten into a conversation with a gentleman about a town that was on the way to the warehouse sale. Everyone seems to know about this town because it is getting hit really hard by the mortgage meltdown. It is rumored to be 46% in foreclosure. How can that be possible you ask?

Because, they started building houses out there, and essentially created a new town. I don't think anything existed there more than 3 years ago. The rumor goes...neighbors don't even know who lives there anymore. People pack up in the middle of the night, and just leave.

Personally.. I was very curious to see what something like that looked like, and since it was on the way to the warehouse sale - Mr S. and I drove through.

It honestly was the craziest thing I'd ever seen.

I thought it was just a development of about 500 houses. It's not! There must be like 3000 houses out there. They created at least two schools for the town. It has its own parks. It really is a town. In the middle of nowhere! You have to drive 10 miles to even shop. And these houses are freaking McMansions. I'd estimate about 3000 to 4000 square feet. On postage stamp sized lots. With for sale signs on every block.



I don't even know what will happen to the town. But it is the weirdest thing ever.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Maybe I am.. maybe I'm not.

Readers...I'm sorry posting has been light this week. I've been very stressed out.

I don't even know how to describe what has happened this week. Let's just say I've learned a lot about the mortgage industry. Whatever you think you knew - toss that all out. It is now a market of fear and over-reactions. Guaranteed to make you eat your stomach lining.

Everything was going swimmingly on the house. Until this week. Two days before signing, my lender informed us there was a new rule in place. Instead of putting 10% down, the lender wanted 15%.

This was not a shady lender. I've used them twice before. It's a big reputable company. But because of the market, all the lenders started implementing some new rules. Which would have been fine if I would have known earlier in the process. Like for example when the lender first knew. Instead they decided to send me a good faith estimate with the original 10% down even after they knew about the rule.

Which pissed me off. Mr S. and I were going to exit the deal. I mean... do they think people are just going to just say "okay" to something like that? Two days before signing? And I wasn't just playing chess with the lender - I meant it. I'd resolved myself to having the winter of naps. That house is going to be a lot of work.

And let me just say - it wasn't the people who put down less than 20% on houses that fucked up the mortgage market. It was the people who got crazy teaser interest rates. When their loans adjusted to the prevailing interest rate, they couldn't afford to make the payments. If they had gotten a loan with a realistic interest rate in the beginning - many people would not have been able to afford houses. But there wouldn't be as many defaults either.

For example when we bought our first starter home, it was really common to only put 10% down. There was a very low default rate, until people got into creative financing. But I'm getting off track.

Anyway - when I made it clear to my agent/friend we were going to exit the market, and wait for the mortgage companies to figure out how to do business. Everything blew up. I'm not sure what the back story is yet - but I've never seen a bigger reversal by a giant company in my life. The mortgage agent called me back and was so far up my ass I felt really uncomfortable. To the point of telling me that if we didn't close on time, they were going to pay all the fee's incurred in that. Paying to have couriers drive to my husbands job. Just really crazy groveling.

It made it even weirder that I didn't even make a big deal about anything. We just figured we didn't want to chase a house. If we could buy it under the terms we agreed on, fine. If not.. we'd wait until another point. Its freaky to get your way, when your not trying to.

I can only guess the lender did something illegal in sending out the good faith agreement. If the deal closes I'll be able to find out. Right now, everyone is in protection mode.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In the end.



Some of you might remember I was talking about buying a house before we left for bitchopalooza. (Read here) We are in the end stages, so I guess we are.

When we started looking at the house, we knew that both owners had died. Their kids came in and looted the place. Taking only valuables, leaving only trash. The kids let the bank foreclose. Which really is the only reason I could bring myself to buy this house. Morally, the bank is a nameless faceless entity.

The story of the family we've found out is pretty sad. As if whats above isn't sad enough.

This weekend my agent friend who lives across the street called me to say there was a giant truck at the house, and they were removing all the garbage. She was pretty animated because the large truck was full, and they were pouring crap out on the lawn. Somewhat of a spectacle. So Mr S. and I rushed over.





This is when all the neighbors started sizing us up. Doing essentially what neighbors do. They were all very kind. But - the dead people house is making their property values tank, and besides.. its just a sad situation. I think they just wanted some reassurance things were going to be fine.

At any rate.. the neighbors gave us the story of the owners. BTW - No matter what you think your neighbors know about you.. chances are they know a lot.

This is how the story goes.

Apparently the wife had some kind of MS type illness. The husband had been taking care of her for a long time. One night they'd gone out to dinner in town for their anniversary, and the wife choked to death. He died about three weeks later.

Sad, right?

Some people say eyes are the window to peoples souls. I think their homes are the windows to their souls. It's the place they can really be themselves, and protect themselves from the outside world. This is one of the things I find fascinating about houses. You can tell so much about people. More than what they would reveal to you in real life.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Snakes on a plane.

I mean bunnies!



We wound up taking Paisley and Saffron with us. Saffron traveled well. Paisley was her normal pain in the ass self.

She went off her kibble 3 days in. Which was a calculated risk. There was an equal chance she would have done that if we left her at home, and we weren't sure our bunny sitter would be able to deal with the allergy issue.

Since it comes on so fast, we figured it was better to have her with us so we could monitor her. Thankfully she wanted hay and carrot tops, or else we would have had to see the vet while we were there.

We were fabulously happy with our sitter though. The cameras went down 2 days into the trip. For some reason that happened the last time we went out of town too. Don'tcha just love technology? Totally different brand of security cameras. So we couldn't see how the bunnies were faring.

At any rate - 3 days in, the sitter actually called us to inform us the camera lights had changed somehow. She medicated Jane for her glaucoma.

Even though I felt very neurotic about how the bunnies were doing, the sitter was so sharp - I just let her do her job and not annoy the hell out of her with my stupid worrying. See.. I can be normal when I have to.

I of course also gave her a big tip. She did a great job just making me feel reassured the bunnies were in good hands. That woman is a saint. I bet you need to have a very calm personality to take care of peoples pets.

On a side note.. I think the bunnies are capable of missing us. Sometimes I wonder how much I read into their personalities. When we got home Kirby ran right up to the cage door, and when I stuck my face in she started kissing and kissing me. It was so cute and sweet.

Oh yeah! Continental Airlines continues to get major props for how they handle people bringing pets onto the flight. They are always super nice and professional.

Sometimes I think I'm a nature photographer.

This is the last of the country shots. I'm already bored with all this stuff anyway.



Thursday, November 08, 2007

Reflection.

Kitchen Nightmares.

Readers.

One of the biggest problems with my trip to bitcholooza was my MIL's cooking. She insisted on cooking every meal.

There is nothing that woman can't cook to death. Even worse! She thinks she's a fabulous cook. So, I have to lie and tell her I like everything. Which I really hate doing. She does bake well - but holy fuck can that woman make everything else taste like sweaty gym socks.

Another example of her weirdness - Mr S. and I bought some bottled water to drink instead of her tap water. Which of course made her become all offended. It wasn't like we complained about the water... we just went out and bought some.

When she figured out what we had done - I found Mr S. getting grilled about it. He finally had to tell her we liked bottled water. But that didn't stop her from trying to push her water on us. Finally, one night we relented to drink her water. She seemed so proud she'd managed to stop us from consuming that evil bottled water. What does it even matter to her?

Another sucky thing? Mr S. and I had originally wanted to have a nice dinner out in bitchopoolza. Even if you know the trip is going to suck, you can resolve yourself in enjoying the local cuisine. Right? I fell in love with Cuban coffee this way. Every state I've visited has some item I have to go back and enjoy.

But, this was not to be the case here. I don't think Mr S's mom eats out at all. We would have been happy of she would have come. But nooooooo. I couldn't even go to visit a Ruby Tuesday. One was right in bitchopoolza. They advertise for them here, but they don't have any within a four hour drive. I don't know if they are good or not, but they look good on TV.

Most annoying? I was up for less than a minute one morning, and she'd already shoved breakfast in front of me. Who eats breakfast within minutes of getting up? I want some f-ing coffee and some space.

To my horror things didn't get better when we were able to escape and eat a meal with Mr S.'s dad. I found myself eating boxed potatoes at a really pricey restaurant. Over a hundred dollars pricey. Boxed potatoes people! I mean... if there is one thing the Midwest should have is fresh potatoes. Right? Wigged me out.

This trip was the first time I'd ever flown anywhere and came back weighing less than when I went. And I was looking forward to deep fried everything. A Midwest staple apparently.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It's for the greater good.

I'm home now.

As we were flying somewhere over nothingness - that place where there are more stars in the sky than lights on the ground, I began to yearn for light pollution. A sign of all those things that generally annoy me. Crouds, lines, traffic.

Once we hit a mountain range - which I assume was somewhere over Utah, I could see the vivid sprawl of lights and cities. Civilization.

I became happy.

You see, I've just spent a week in a place where people yearn for nothing to ever change. They stay in the same jobs pretty much all their lives. They detest that new 5 story building going up on the other side of town. They have the same friends since childhood.

When the kids do come back from their exciting jobs in other states, the people who've remained have that wistful look in their eye that says "if I'd only done something different with my life".

But generally they are the type of folk who like their routine lives.. and never would have strayed far from the place they were born anyway.

I have some pictures.. but I'm not going to post many. The place was a picturesque postcard around ever corner, and how much of that can you see before you get bored.

We got lucky that there were still leaves on the trees. We didn't get the pique leaf colors, but I was just happy we had sun until 2 hours before we hopped our plane to leave. All the other times I've visited everything is just grey. Grey sky, grey everything.

Apparently today it was suppose to sleet and snow. How great was that timing?

I also have some rants.. obviously. But I'll have to save that for tomorrow. I'm sleep deprived.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Scenery.

It is super hard to write at the moment. Just know - the urge to say fuck has passed. I've died inside.. but - I don't need to say fuck at the moment. Lets go to a happy place. Shall we?

ROFL gang.

Lamest gang tag ever.



 
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