Saturday, June 30, 2007


We no longer have a TV. We gave away our gi-normous 200 lb Sony (including the integrated stand), and our smaller tabletop TV, just because we had no where to put them, and they didn't fit in our long-term plans. So the question is, how to watch television for the next 30-60 days while the project is being completed?

We could buy a new TV on we don't have much room, so it would have to be a small flat-panel TV if we bought one. A quick scan indicated we could probably get one for about $250 or so. Another possibility would just be to not watch TV. That's completely out of the question, since the Tour de France starts next week. There is only one, you know, and there are certain things you just can't miss!

So it turns out there's this product called Slingbox (and some apparently inferior variants) that allows you to watch TV over your home network. The box plugs into your video sources and your home network. The software that comes with it has onscreen remote controls (that emulate your real remote), and you can control the devices with that. The Slingbox Pro handles up to 4 external devices. If you set it up correctly, you can also watch TV remotely over the internet (like if you're on a trip, for example).

We went to Circuit City and I was able to get it there for $149 (the retail price is $250). Not bad! I went home, followed the quick start instructions, connected the RF + TiVo to it, and it worked with no fuss!

I downloaded the software application on my Mac, and watched one of my saved programs. It turns out that the video quality on a "big screen" (my 17" Mac) is only so-so, but it's definitely of acceptable quality for the next couple of months. Since I have to watch TV in a smaller window that I thought (due to the video quality), I will load the Windows application on my PC and see if that does a better job. On the Windows version, they also have an on-screen TiVo remote, so I'd like to get that. They also have a Treo version, and I'm hoping to try that out.

I'd give this a definite thumbs up! It saves me from having to buy a TV until the house is done and we have enough money to buy our 50-60" LCD or Plasma. And it could be that in our quest to get the best technology at the cheapest price, we don't buy it for quite some time!

Home again!

We are home again, this time for good! Yesterday, the building inspector came and did our final gas inspection. We had three conditions to get a temporary certificate of occupancy: 1) put temporary handrails on the stairs, 2) protect the outside deck from anyone going on it, since there are no handrails (and no deck yet, really), and 3) cap off all the exposed wiring and put protective plates over all the outlets. Our contractor put caution tape on the stairs and across the upstairs sliders, since at this point there is no way to do anything temporary, since the hardwood floors are going in on Monday. All the wiring in the new part of the house isn't connected to power, so #3 also isn't a concern. When I went down to the city to get the gas release, I explained it all to the building official and he was okay with that. He's going to have our gas release ready for pickup in late morning on Monday, and then we'll take that to PG&E so they can bring back our gas meter. We should have gas some time next week if all goes well.

We had thought we would try to get all our stuff out of the condo yesterday, sleep at the house last night, and then come back today to clean. But really, the condo is so small, and we brought so little stuff, that two carfuls did it. Our landlady wanted to sleep there last night, so while she was getting a load of her belongings to bring to the condo, we madly cleaned the place. So we're completely out of there now! We're not completely back in our house yet, but we're getting there. Lots of unpacking/reorganizing yet to do (of just the stuff we have out).

I found out that there were a rash of burglaries at construction sites the night our place was hit. I don't know what was taken from the other places, but it looks like the work of the same person/people who burglarized our house.

Last night I got a great night's sleep -- the first time in a month! No one was coming home late from a bar or getting up early to clean the sidewalks with a portable sidewalk cleaner. I am not sure I could have ever gotten used to the noise. And it was nice to be able to just step out the door to take Coda out to pee. It's good to be back home!

More pictures today, I promise. They are making great progress on the house. They're coming today to build the deck, so we'll probably put it to good use, guardrails or no. Maybe we can put caution tape around the perimeter...that oughta do the trick!

Friday, June 29, 2007

A silver lining

A lot has happened since the weekend. I'll post pictures tomorrow (hopefully); we just haven't had time with everything going on.

Monday, we went to our various banks and closed/reopened accounts and put all our remaining valuables/important papers into the safe deposit box. I hope I got everything. I also talked with the city, and after hearing our tale of woe, consented to restore our gas service prior to a final inspection as long as we got a final gas inspection. (Hooray!) The gas inspection is today, and if all goes well, we should have our gas restored some time next week. We will be staying at the house tonight, because my fear is that the thief or thieves will be likely to come back this weekend for more. Note to thieves: we're armed, we're dangerous, and we have a vicious attack-trained dog. (Oh sure, she looks cute, but just say the word and she'll be after you.)

On the construction front, a lot has happened in the past week. The kitchen floor is finished, as is the entryway tile inside and out. They're finishing the tile border around the great room today. The ceiling is completely in, and it looks very very nice. It took them over a week to install the planks -- it was an amazingly painstaking job. The downstairs shelving in the library (Rakks system + custom shelves) will be finished today. I am hoping that the glass tile that I am having shipped from New Jersey will arrive today.

They are painting the shear wall in the master bedroom today, and painting the fixed drywall in the master bath. So it will be a little stinky in there tonight, but what can you do?

They fixed the broken door and are reinstalling the lock today. The new door will be much much harder to break into. I hope.

Today and tomorrow we will finish moving out of the apartment we rented. This time we have to clean the place when we leave, however, as our landlady will be moving in tomorrow.

So... everything is coming along, and things are looking up!

Saturday, June 23, 2007


We woke up this morning kind of late; both of us were very tired from a long week. I finally checked my phone around 10, the ringer had been off, and there were two messages and three calls, which is somewhat unusual for Saturday morning. Our contractor had called and left a message... our house had been burglarized last night. Sigh.

It turned out that the thief or thieves had broken down the door to the locked room which was intended to be the office. The door is in pieces -- they tried to bust through the door first, and failing that, broke the door frame and busted in. They stole selected things in the room, and left other things untouched. It really looked (to me) like someone knew what they were going in there to get, which makes me a little bit more worried. But most of all it's a creepy creepy feeling to know that someone has violated the sanctity of your home.

So now we're in a quandry. What do we do? Should we move back home right away? Or should we just wait it out until next weekend? Should we have all the doors rekeyed?

Monday I'm going to go to the city (again) and ask them to turn on our gas. If they say no, we might just move back and use the apartment as a place to shower and that's it. If they say yes, then we'll move back as soon as we can get the gas turned on.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Finishing details -- floor and ceiling

Finally, the true finishing details have started! The painting is still in progress, but the ceiling installation started earlier this week, as did the kitchen and entryway floor.

The ceiling must be painstaking to install. They are installing about 1/6th of the ceiling every day, so at this rate, they should be done mid next week. Before they started installing the ceiling, they had to install black strips of wood around the perimeter to create a shadow line.

To get the floor tile to flow seamlessly from the entry into the kitchen, they're installing it in long strips, starting in the entryway and finishing at the office, and then starting all over again. It's pretty cool to watch the installation happen.

Speaking of tile, the glass tile we ordered for the downstairs bathroom was supposed to arrive last week. I called and called and called, and finally got ahold of the warehouse who said we were waitlisted until August (!). Upon further probing it turned out that they had enough of the tile to fill our order in their New Jersey warehouse, so it's being shipped and should arrive next week. (Okay, getting to that point wasn't as smooth or as quick as this narrative might imply.)

The downstairs bookshelves are being installed next Tuesday, and the kitchen cabinets will, with a large dose of luck, arrive the second week of July. I hope and pray.

Everything is taking shape, but there is still so so much to do. Once the ceiling's been installed, the electrician can come in and install all the lighting and finish electrical (uh-oh.. I think we'll have to decide on the color of the wall plates... not another decision!).

More pics can be found on Kurt's website.

Urban living

As mentioned earlier, we're living this month in a lovely condo in Palo Alto Central, right next to the train station. I like to pretend we've rented a flat in a foreign country and are experiencing a different culture. Okay, it's not really that different, but it is sort of. It's very nice to be so close to everything, and so close to work. I walk either to or from work (or both) every day... I'll miss that when we move home. Kurt was initially worried that I wouldn't want to move back home, but although there are a lot of plusses here (like a gazillion restaurants within walking distance, Izzy's bagels just down the street (which has great coffee of all things), living so close to work, etc.) there are some downsides.

For one, we have never lived in an apartment or condo with a dog. Taking the dog out to do her business is not just a few steps out the door, but down two flights of stairs. And since there's lots of interesting stuff going on outside means it takes the dog a while to do her business. She's just not used to all the distractions! Living so close to others is also a challenge because the dog reacts to sounds in other apartments. We seem to have one neighbor who likes to get in very late at night and another early in the morning, and we have to hold onto the dog so she won't start barking. But she's slowly getting used to it.

There's also a lot of activity outside until pretty late at night. Since it's hot, we have been sleeping with the window open, so we haven't been sleeping as well as we'd like. I miss the quiet of our house.

All in all, it's a nice change of pace, but I'll be glad to get home in a week (which it looks like is where we're heading next).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Interior colors -- which to choose? Opinions wanted!

The painter has been painting away. The trusses have been painted the color of the new windows (as have our old window frames). Should we go with this charcoal gray color or perhaps with more of a red, to match the color of the kitchen cabinets (there are a few glass doors in the kitchen cabinets which will be red). We're also thinking of painting our garage door a burgundy red to add some more visual interest. What do you think? We need to decide within the next day or so -- no pressure!

The interior wall color is also up for deciding on. Right now, we're leaning towards the sample on the right, which is called something like vanilla shake. I actually like them all, with a preference towards the left-most (which has a hint of green) and the right-most. In fact, the white that the drywall is is also fine with me. I never thought that choosing a color of white could be quite so difficult!

They have made a lot of progress this week. The floors are prepped and ready for the hardwood and the tile to be laid. Downstairs, the bathroom cabinetry has been installed. Painting will continue over the coming week, and the house will continue to look more like a house. I suspect that the ceiling installation won't start until our contractor returns in a week.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Where we are, and aren't

Last week was very busy -- I was at a conference all week and didn't have time to blog. Last weekend we moved into our new temporary digs, on California Avenue in Palo Alto, next to the train station. We moved a minimal amount of stuff; unfortunately, I had to bring all my business clothes because of the conference, but they can go right back home this weekend. The wireless is now set up as of today, so we are set for the month of June. The place is right across from the grocery store, and about a mile from where I work. So we will truly be living locally this month. I don't know what we'll do for July, however.

I wrote an empassioned plea to the city to turn on the gas at our house in July, but I have yet to hear a response. They're getting tired of hearing from me, I'm sure. I'm very tired of moving, and really would just like to go home and stay there. So I'm not sure what we'll do when July rolls around.

The house is progressing, slowly but surely. The drywall is completely finished. The outside of the house has been painted with at least one coat. The painter painted four swatches of white for the inside so we can choose an inside color (and here I thought we were done making decisions!). So we'll do that this weekend. I'm thinking of painting the garage a deep red, just to add a little bit of visual interest. Gotta choose that color too.

The floors have been prepped for the tile and for the hardwood, which I presume will be installed next week. The ceiling planks have arrived and are stacked up in the office, ready to be installed. The medicine cabinet and the vanity have been installed in the bathroom downstairs. I'm still waiting to receive the tile for the downstairs; it should arrive next week, but I haven't been able to get in touch with the tile people to find out. The kitchen cabinets will not arrive until July, which is a real disappointment. (Don't get me started on the kitchen cabinets -- I'm sure they'll turn out great, but the process of buying them has been the worst part of this entire project.)

Pictures can be found on Kurt's site.. I'm just too lazy to post too many at the moment. I've got lots of catching up on work and other things in life to do, having been gone all last week! At least we don't have to move this week!