Forgot coffee pods. Hello, old friend.

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HVAC funtime!

My AC unit may have died.

Last night I returned home from work. I was greeted by a schnauzer that is very happy that mom and alpha-dad are home again, and by an ambient temperature of 80 degrees fahrenheit.

Thermostat is in order. I switched it from auto to cool and set it down to 72. Good airflow from the vents but the air is only cool, not cold. Check the unit outside… fan is running, no frost on any of the couplings. Check the filter and where the line connects to the furnace… filter fine, no frost here either.

I scheduled an appointment with a local HVAC contractor that I can trust (as much as an HVAC contractor can be trusted) and I’ll find out later this morning if it’s a leak that can be fixed, or if the compressor has died (in which case we may have just lost the prospect of a backyard deck in lieu of a replacement unit).

Bullet list!

  1. These things are going to happen. They do happen, and they are never convenient. There is no reason to get upset.
  2. I’ve gotten nearly 20 solid years of comfort and (relative) efficiency out of the low-end contractor’s grade 10-SEER unit that the house was built with. Winning!
  3. The cost of a new unit of higher efficiency will pay off in the long run with better savings. So while it’s improbable that we’ll make up the total cost – the cost will be subsidized by the energy savings over the long haul.
  4. An Amana unit will have more resale appeal than a well-worn Armstrong.

Sheera is waiting for the service tech, and she will give me a call later with the verdict and our options. Come on Armstrong… dad came back from certain death, you can too!

UPDATE: The tech will be there between 1 and 5 pm. Or maybe after 5 pm. I’m sorry – did we make an appointment with the cable guy? At least Sheera will be there to open windows and turn on the fans during the warmer hours of the day.

UPDATE: Just a burned-out capacitor and low on refrigerant. Whew!

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Week in review

The last few days have been an enjoyable grind. Here’s what’s made it an awesome week:

  1. I’ve been adding a few ideas to my Pinterest page. Sheera and I will be updating the living room in the near future and we may go with a French Quarter theme. I’d love to do something with exposed brick.
  2. The fence is coming right along, and right on budget. When all is said and done – I’ll have installed some 240 feet of picket fencing for approximately $2,500. Estimates from local contractors were way over that… and they would have used cheaper materials and nails instead of epoxy-coated deck screws. Plus – I get to build an awesome arbor-gate in the rear (pics coming soon – it’s a project within a project)!
  3. Sheera cooked up a pot of Chicken and Dumplings this week. Sooooooo good.
  4. Work has been bustling. I’ve been up to my elbows in more development and had a hand in the soft publish of a new awards feature mini-site that goes live Monday.
  5. Tonight – I rest. I think I’ll grab a 6-pack of Dig and watch the Rangers vs Caps. Hoping to see the Rangers move on and beat on ‘de Debils.
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Road Trip!

Road Trip from Sweetwater Brewing

Last night I got home a bit late from work, had a little shopping to do with Sheera, wasn’t sure if it would rain or not, and needed to take the dog for walkies. Too much to do to be able to work on the fence – so part of the shopping involved getting some beer.

Hellooooooooo, luscious!

Sweetwater has released their Summer special, Road Trip, and I was eager to pick some up. I’ve had it before and it’s a perfect summer beer. Hoppy enough to be interesting, flavorful enough to be worthwhile, and light enough to be refreshing on a warm day.

A problem with drinking some of the “good” beers during the summer months is that they are just too over-the-top. Way too heavy-handed with the hops or too malty and dark to be appropriate. Who wants to mow the lawn, come in all soaked with sweat, and refresh oneself with a doppelbock or something so hoppy that it burns?

For this reason, I still enjoy “pisswater” beers as a cooldown after doing yard work in the heat. Sure – they rate pretty low on the flavor scale, and are to beer what Olive Garden is to Italian food. But in their defense – they sure go down cold and easy when the work is hot and long.

Enter Road Trip.

This is to me the quintessential summer Pilsner. A perfect balance of all things beeresque with a merry 5.2% gravity. It’s bitter! But moderately enough to exit quickly with a crisp finish, that’s not too tangy as it’s tempered with a slightly creamy malty note. But not too much. It’s a solid, refreshing beverage that would be perfect after grunting around in the yard.

Normally, when something tries to be moderately everything, it fails to be much good of anything. In the case of Road Trip – it all comes together. I’m looking forward to more of these before the run is done.
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Pork stew

Literally. That’s not a metaphor, an indy band, or even a silly alliterative mashup like “Lobster Punch.” Last night I cooked a stew that featured pork tenderloin and it is pretty amazing.

Thanks to those rather horrific little seasoning packets with such innocuous names as “Stew,” “Soup” and “Taco” I’ve been under the mistaken assumption that a good stew stock required lots of flour as a thickening agent. Well according to the recipe that I borrowed from homeboy chef John Folse that just isn’t quite the case.

The only flour that was used was perhaps the 1/4 cup that was used to dust the pork chunklets before browning them. The actual thickening came about as a by-process of the carrots and potatoes disintegrating ever-so-slightly during the cooking process.

This reminds me of a gravy recipe I gleaned from Gordon Ramsay as he was screaming it red-faced and laced with profanity. The gravy isn’t flour-based or reliant upon various adjuncts in jars and packets (or upon profanity for that matter) but is a true gravy based upon – you got it – the disintegration of the veggies. Come to think of it… perhaps the profanity does aid in the disintegration. I will need to test this theory. But I digress…

So today I am looking forward to some leftover stew, served over steamed white rice, just as it should be. And to make it that much more enjoyable, I will eat it in the presence of my vegan co-worker.

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Building a fence

I’m building a picket fence around the back yard. It’s as much to keep out the stray cays that have adopted our neighborhood and who hold MMA-style territorial disputes in our back yard at 2am as it is to allow our dog freedom to run without a lead. All of the posts are set, some cursory banding is up, and I’ve completed 5 runs of pickets. Here’s a few thing that I’ve learned so far.

1. Measure correctly

The fence is laid out in 8-foot spans. For each border of the fence – well, just measure 8 feet from the start, make a mark, then measure 8 feet from there – right? Easy.


I’m pretty accurate with tools and measurements. God gave some people good looks or charm, to others he gave a delightful geekiness for all things related to Star Wars. Me? I work with my hands pretty well. Thanks, God. You did me a solid – even if I would like more of that “good looks and charm” stuff. But there’s a little problem with measuring mark-to-mark that I’ll call The Cumulative Oops and it works like this:

You measure from point A to point B and spray a mark on the ground that is 1 inch off of mark due to person A allowing the tape to slide and your own inability to master a can of spray paint. You then measure from point B to C and your partner measures from the edge of the dot instead of the center, and you make another wobbly dot of paint.

Repeat 6-7 more times and you can potentially add an extra foot or two to the entire line. Now here’s the fun part: Allow your hole to be off a couple of inches due to the auger drifting and you end up with posts that are slightly off the mark, resulting in post centers are are juuuuuuust longer than 8-foot bands can reach.

Got a shovel? Good. You’ll need it to re-dig the side of your holes and/or you’ll have to set your post slightly off of plumb in order to connect the bands.

The correct way would be to run the measuring tape as far as it will go and make marks every 8 feet from a common origin. This will prevent The Cumulative Oops from mounting up to any significant number and greatly decrease the chance that you’ll need to go in with a shovel and profanity.

2. Rent the auger

I have some 36 holes back there, 2 feet deep and 8 inches wide. I had originally thought to buy a post-hole digger and just do a couple every day after work.


I don’t know what geological phenomenon is afoot – by which i mean that I don’t know how each and every hole is composed of a completely different variety of difficult pain-in-the-ass impenetrability. Clay? Check. Packed sand? Check. Roots in clay? Check. Diamond-tempered porcelain? Hell – could be. Banging a post hole digger into this stuff would have resulted in my rotator cuffs declaring mutiny.

So I had the unusually good foresight to invest in the rental of a gas-powered 2-man auger that the wife (Sheera – She Who Must Be Obeyed) and I used to tackle this lack-of-holes-in-the-yard problem. Even with this monster piece of equipment that looked like a beam-weapon from Ming the Merciless’ arsenal we had difficulty in some areas. Some of the packed clay/sand areas were so tough that we simply had to let the auger spin full bore as the teeth shaved only 1mm of each with each pass – if even that. It was a horror. A manual digger would have been useless – leading to shovels, resulting in huge holes and much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Where we were fortunate enough to have normal (or as I prefer to call it “non-malevolent”) turf – the auger went in and out with an eagerness that switched us immediately from Push Down Really Hard mode to OMG Pull Up Before We Hit China mode. It was awesome.

Unscheduled expense for 1.5 days of auger use: $180 and worth every damn penny.

3. The Cumulative Oops 2: Straight Line Boogaloo

There are 2 sorts of straight: there’s the straight that occurs post-to-post and then there’s the straight that you want your fenceposts all to align to so your run of posts doesn’t rival the misalignment of a hockey players teeth.

Guess which straight I have?

I made the mistake of trusting the holes to be in line and also of not questioning whether or not it mattered. I was just so happy to have holes in the ground that I dropped the posts into them, adjusted them to a common height, plumbed and set them with concrete, and only then did I look down the line to realize that they do not line up.

Lesson learned: set the corner posts, run a taut string between them, and then set all of the posts in-between. I did this on the last couple of runs and it works like a charm – straight like a freakin’ laser. I still had to adjust some of the holes in order to compensate for auger drift but I have nice, straight fence lines now and they are a thing of beauty to behold.

4. 18 to a run

By some cosmic happenstance, or maybe by clever planning, the French-style pickets that I am using fit to a perfect 18-per-8-foot-span when they are given a gap using the edge of a 2×4.

Set the piece of 2×4 against the 4×4 post then set the picket flush against it. Plumb and screw down the picket. Set the 2×4 against the picket and set your next one. Repeat. On a level 8 foot run it works out perfectly. If there is slope you can expect to adjust the last picket(s) as you will lose a bit of level length to work with.

I love when things work out this way. It gives me one less thing to think about as I’m working and I can just get into my zone and put up pickets.

Speaking of which – it’s time to do just that.

One quick final note: while it may be a little mis-aligned here and there, and it may have its other little hiccups in the build – the fence dresses up really well as the pickets are added. Also, the misalignment can be disguised by cleverly placed bushes and decorative grasses that break up the line of sight into smaller sections. And at the end of the day, despite wanting to do my best and have it look like something out of Southern Living – it’s still just a fence and nothing to get too bent out of shape about as long as it is structurally sound and more-or-less aesthetically pleasing. Historically there have been more wonky fences like mine built than the picture-perfect ones that we see in glossy home magazines. And to top it all off… I did it myself.

And that’s awesome.

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Cinco de Mayo

It’s a Saturday and I’m at work. Fortunately there’s a TV at the desk (a benefit of working for a broadcaster) and I’m able to keep up with game 3 of their 2011-2012 Stanley Cup playoff series. Let’s go Rangers!

This is my first season as a hockey fan. I caught the bug watching a couple of Thrashers games prior to their move to Vancouver. In their absence I began to keep up with the Rangers as a buddy of mine is a fan of theirs. It’s a good year to start following the team, and I was in long before the cutoff for “bandwagon” status.

I also began supporting our local ECHL team – the Gwinnett Gladiators. They made their playoffs but were knocked out in game 4 of the first round. It was still exciting to watch some live hockey and I have come to have a love for hockey that rivals that of NFL football.

So enough of this. Time to get back to testing a web page for browser compatibility and listening to the puck slap off of the sticks.

Rangers lose thanks in part to the usual suckage from the refs.

Back home and cleaning up some of my mess from around the house before going to rent an auger to finish digging post-holes for the fence. Afterwards… Cinco de Beero time. If greeting card companies can make up holidays – why not beer distributors?

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