Tag Archives: Family

Playing Catch Up

Has the novelty worn off or have I just nothing to say? (Did I ever?)

For whatever the reason, I haven’t felt much like blogging lately, not that there isn’t just scads of things going on. I’ve been going through the photos and here are a few that bear mentioning, just to catch everybody up.

Chronologically, then:

IMG_0413.JPGThis is the answer to a question that’s been bothering me for some time: How the heck are they going to have curved electrical wires running over the top of the Phoenix Light Rail when it bends at Camelback and 19th Ave?

Answer: The erected an elaborate web of cables and wires over the entire intersection, stretching the power lines into something roughly curved.

As it happens, they’re putting up the final stretches of wire and I’m told testing on the trains has already begun, although I’ve yet to see (or hear of) a train this far north. It seems they’re concentrating their testing along Washington. Light Rail is still (apparently) on schedule to begin December 29th.

IMG_0416.JPGNow, this photo is a pizza I didn’t eat. A friend had this Prosciutto and Melon “pizza” the other day at Sauce and quite liked it. No cheese, no red sauce – not pizza – at least in my book.

IMG_0421.JPGThis big story has to be “the storm.” A Phoenix fireman told me it was the biggest storm in 10 years. I’ve been here 26 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it. Winds near my house were clocked at 80-100mph, and it came on us fast. I was in my computer room/office when I suddenly heard a very distinctive sound outside. It’s the sound of a hurricane – I’ve only ever heard it once before, but you never forget it.

Next morning, the city was paralyzed. Power was out all over central Phoenix. (We were just 1 mile outside the power-out zone, but we did suffer several black-outs.) Tree were down everywhere, lying in the roads, billboards were bent over, ripped up and smashed. I took this photo on the way to work. Note the metal girders that are broken.

IMG_0435.JPGFinally, there’s this bacon. This is a snapshot of shame. Never in my life have I left a piece of cooked bacon uneaten. The other day at Arby’s, the bacon on my sandwich was so inedible that I had to peal it off and throw it away. Bad for you Arbys on Camelback and 15th Ave. I won’t be back for a long time because of this.

Curved Kitchen

Finished? Finally!

Construction on the kitchen has finished… which is not to say renovation has stopped, there’s still a lot of painting to do.

Here, then, is the final cabinet arrangement along the east wall. Photoshop couldn’t quite cleanly stitch the 12 photographs together… the wall isn’t warped (at least not like this) and the countertop is actually flat.

It’ll never look this clean again…

The Kitchen Progresses


It’s been a frenzied day (and last evening) of building IKEA kitchen cabinets.

Our handyman finished the sealing of the new tile floor and today marked the start of cabinet installation, so I had to get them ready.

I’m actually quite impressed with the ingenuity that IKEA has engineered into their cabinet system – with the exception of the backboard. That seems the rickety excuse, just nailing that flimsy faux-wood cardboard, or whatever it is on the backside. Everything seems engineered, the back just seems flung on there as an afterthought.

Still, after you build 9 or 10 of the things, you can crank them out pretty fast, assuming you’ve got the right ones.

We had a little comedy of errors with the ordering of the parts. I originally laid out the kitchen using IKEA’s kitchen planner software (Windows only – those jerks), and, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, had arrived at a workable combination – recognizing that my house wasn’t built in an era of standardized cabinet sizes. In the end, along the base we needed four 36″ cabinets and one 30″, unfortunately, the technician at IKEA didn’t download my project file, he just manually re-entered it off the print I had, and he got it wrong – he put us in for five 36″ cabinets. Unfortunately, we didn’t notice either.

They weight a ton, and my back is worthless these days, my wife is small. my usual fallback lifting person has a broken arm and I prefer not to get my 77-year old father to do heavy lifting, so we just had them deliver the stuff. Pity they wouldn’t bring it in the house, so we (and when I say, “we”, I mean my wife) ended up carrying it in piece by piece.

That’s when we discovered the mistake. To IKEA’s credit, they arranged for the right piece to be delivered and the bad one picked up the next day, which was Thursday.

This morning, I cracked the box open only to discover it was bright white, not the natural birch color of all the rest of the cabinets. This time calls to IKEA weren’t as immediately satisfactory, but they were willing to fix the problem, but they couldn’t do it fast enough. In the end, Irene had to take the bad part to the local store and they replaced it.

By the end of the day, all the cabinets are in place (although, they still need securing) and the countertop is being prepared. Tomorrow, we should have the cabinets secured, the countertops installed, the sink and dishwasher installed and functioning. We might not have all the drawers, doors and shelves in place, but we should have a working kitchen again – not a moment too soon.

We can already tell that the new arrangement is a lot better. There’s more cabinet space and the kitchen is more spacious. It’s going to play havoc on continuity shots on the next episode of Fusion Patrol: 1999, but I’ll just have to live with it.

Another thing that’s really exciting – we finally have an ice/water dispenser in our refrigerator! Our “new”: fridge, now over a year old, has a built-in icemaker. That’s nothing surprising in a modern fridge, but this house was built before such things were even dreamed of, and so the “fridge spot” is absolutely nowhere near a water supply. That has been resolved! Cold, fresh, filtered water. Ahhhhhhhh.


Life – In General

Life is a series of vignettes. Some longer than others. At times they may feel like they’ll never end, and when they do, you know they’ll never come back and you might feel a little maudlin.

And so a new vignette begins. Since 2002, just before Michelle was born, Irene has been a stay-at-home mother. We both felt that these early childhood development years are too important to entrust to day care. It hasn’t been easy, financially. I can easily understand how others may not have that option although it is often a question of lifestyle choices.

James is now three and has been attending a summer pre-school as a trial run. Starting next month, he, like Michelle, will be in school full-time. Next week, Irene goes back to work as a kindergarten teacher. It’s a good job. The hours are good, it’s near our house and near the kids’ school. Most importantly, we’ll be able to begin reversing the direction on our debt.

Still, my kids are getting bigger. Some days I think they can’t mature fast enough. Other days, I want them to stay my little kids forever.

Blogging? What? Me? Ok, just a quick iPhone post.

Improved iPhone Maps Accuracy

I’m sick as a dog this weekend. (Come to think of it, my dog doesn’t seem to feel well, either.)

Still, while I was sort of healthy on Friday I upgraded my iPhone to the V2.0 firmware and am pleased and horrified to report that the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync stuff worked flawlessly. Now (Yeah) I can get important e-mail from work wherever I am and also (Oh crap) I can get all the rest of the junk e-mail from work wherever I am.

The firmware upgrade was far from smooth, and my phone was bricked for a few hours while the iTunes servers creaked and buckled under the strain, but about 4 hours later it kicked in and completed the upgrade without a problem.

Battery life seems to have taken a hit with the new firmware, but that might be because I’ve been playing with the phone a lot more over the weekend. (Lying in bed sick, with a new toy, what else have I to do?) This may be similar to when I first got the phone. The first weekend had terrible battery life, and I had to charge the phone twice a day, but once the novelty wore off, putting it on the charger at night was sufficient.

Yesterday and today have been two-charge days, but that might be Super Monkey Ball, too.

One thing that has changed is the Google Maps functionality, presumably because the 3g models have “real” GPS (not really, try using it where there’s no phone signal).

First, it’s more accurate, although, owning to being stuck mostly in the house, I’ve only been able to test it in a couple places, but the accuracy target is much more refined and the crosshairs are closer to the actual location. (See the picture, prior to the upgrade, my accuracy circle would have covered half the screen or more.)

Second, on the old firmware, the button on the lower left was a press once and release button, that pinpointed your location. Now, the button stays depressed and, periodically updates the location. Presumably this is from the GPS-enabled models, but it’s been carried over into the older ones too. That also seems to burn more battery juice (until I learned I needed to hit the button again to turn it off.)

The Apps store is cool, and I (like thousands of others) have now been admitted to the iPhone Developer program. I’m not as far along as I’d like on that, but I’m getting there.

There are quite a few nifty programs, so far I’ve only purchased Sega Super Monkey Ball, Electronic Arts’ Sudoku and Connected Flow’s Exposure – which is a nifty Flickr browsing program. I’ve also grabbed several free apps, including AIM. NetNewsWire, AP Mobile News, eBay AOL Radio and WeatherBug

It is cool finally being able to extend the phone without having to risk jailbreaking it. The future is here, we finally have mobile computers in our pockets. The significance of this development cannot be overstated.

Fast Passport


How often do I get the chance to compliment someone on a job well done? It seems all I’m ever doing is pointing out the flaws. Well, today is different.

Kudos and thanks to (of all people) the US Government, passport office!

I submitted my expired passport, by snail mail, Friday June 6th. My replacement passport arrived, by mail, today, June 14th. Subtracting out one day each way, they got that processed in 7 calendar days. They haven’t even cashed the check, yet!

Not only did I receive my passport by priority mail, but, in a separate mailing, standard mail, I received my old passport back, too. That has a postmark, so I know it was mailed two days ago. They must have processed my passport in 6 days. Amazing.

That’s nowhere near the 6 weeks they tell you to expect. I pity the people who pay the extra fee for expedited service.

Once again, I’m free to roam the world, and my new passport book is rather sad because it’s empty…

Looking at my old one, I have all those stamps and visas:

  • Taiwan 15 May 1998 to 24 May 1998
  • Taiwan 15 Dec 1998 to 20 Dec 2000
  • Singapore 20 Dec 1998 to 26-Dec-1998
  • Taiwan 26 Dec 1998 to 05 Jan 1999
  • London Gatwick 21 Jul 2000 – No exit stamp – I guess I never left
  • Taiwan 26 Mar 2000 – 22 Apr 2000
  • Tokyo Narita 01 Jun 2001 to 05 Jun 2001
  • Taiwan 05 Jun 2001 to 25 Jun 2001
  • Taiwan 15 Jan 2003 to 20 Feb 2003
  • Taiwan 29 Sep 2005 to 07 Nov 2005
  • Taiwan 05 Jun 2007 to 25 Jun 2007

They’ve all been fun, but looking at the list, I think we’re in a bit of a rut… and that’s why we’re UK-bound in Jun 2009…

WII Madness

Some friends of ours recently went to Taiwan for a wedding. During their stay, the husband, Phil, apparently spent his time playing WII games. He was clearly addicted because as soon as they returned, he started hunting for one.

It would seem that even after all this time, the WII is just a bit difficult to find, so it took a couple days, plus mail time. When he got it, he brought it over to show us. (I’m convinced that he wanted to bring it over because his wife and three-year old daughter were not a suitable challenge for him at WII Baseball.)

After playing it for most of a day, apart from the 3 days of agonizing muscle aches afterwards, I can see why it’s such a strong product. I’ve got no piercingly insightful thoughts, WII has simple foregone state-of-the-art graphics in favor of state-of-the art player interaction. It make for some fun games that the whole family can play.

So, of course, I had to buy one.

We spent a few days waiting to find one available online, and when we found one, ordered it. It was scheduled to arrive between June 4 and June 12, after we’ve returned from vacation.

Hopefully, my muscles haven’t softened up again and I won’t experience days of pain again.