29 April 2008

Work Ahead

Our pergola measures about 11' x 15'. Tonight I set myself up for several days of hard labor by marking out a space approximately 15' x 19' around (as in, including) the pergola in which to put a brick patio. I also created space for a small path to head back to the garden.

Practically speaking, this means a lot of digging, then a lot of shoveling gravel, then some tamping, then carefully arranging the bricks to fill the space (which will likely include some cutting), then some sand and some water.

My plan is to take a couple weeks of vacation to dedicate to working on this, but there are two problems: the best digging time is right about now, but the best "slow time at work" isn't until July. What to do. What to do.

21 April 2008


One common response that people have to being burgled is a sense of violation. I can now authoritatively say that not everyone feels such violation. More like an odd mix of curiosity and sadness, and not a little perplexity.

19 April 2008


Yesterday was my triennial review. One comment from a colleague that got mutilated by spellcheck One spellcheck-mutilated comment from a colleague: "He has a sure grasp of the computer world and proposes a course of action without impatience or condensation."

Thank goodness. Excessive personal moisture is one of my greatest concerns.

On a completely unrelated note, I replaced washers on each of the bathtub faucets today. So now the bathroom is working properly.

13 April 2008


Yesterday I got bold and decided to attempt repairing the faucets in the bathroom since replacing the diverter and shower head had gone so well earlier in the week. So I removed the screw that holds the handle in place, removed the valve stem, went to Lowe's, found the appropriate washers, returned, replaced the washers, the stems, and the handles, and the sink faucets magically stopped leaking. Flush with success I thought I'd tackle the tub faucets.

The sink faucets, I should note, have shutoff valves located directly below the sink in the bathroom itself. The tub, on the other hand, has no shutoff valve. Indeed, the nearest I could find was just as the water enters the house. That's right ... to shut off water to the tub, I needed to kill the water to the whole house. And that posed a minor problem.

I attempted to remove the tub handles and was unable to do so, for fear of prying too hard and doing irreparable harm (need to get some penetrating fluid, I think). I returned to the basement and turned on the water, and noticed dripping from the main valve. Uh-oh.

As it turns out, when a valve doesn't get used with any regularity, the packing nut can "set," so that when the valve is next used the nut gets a little loose and looses its seal. A 1/8 or 1/4 turn of the nut fixes that problem.

So yesterday I learned that. And now I know it.

I also know that there is something called a "packing nut."

And, for what it's worth, today I replaced the bathroom mirror. Mr. Home Improvement. That's me.

09 April 2008

(Short) Train of Thought

Today as I walked to work I started thinking about Don, who is busy crafting the end pieces for the shelves in the AMBS Library. The panels in each end piece are supposed to be 1/2" thick, and Don is starting from 5/4" stock. Apart from being a handy example of why kids should learn common denominators and fraction subtraction, it got me to thinking about something else.

I thought to myself that when run a 5/4" thick plank of wood through a planer to remove 3/4" (see? fraction subtraction) from it, you don't set the planer to remove 3/4" all at once. Rather you set the planer to remove a little bit of wood and run the piece through several times.

Then I thought to myself that I knew that a person did not remove all 3/4" at once. How I know this I do not recall, precisely. Probably my father told me at some point. But the point is, I know it.

Then I thought about how difficult it would be for me, or for anyone, to convey to someone else everything I know. Sure there would be some obvious things, but some things I know, like the fact that you don't use a planer to remove 3/4" of wood from a plank in one pass, I cannot even conceive of remembering to convey. And most of the things I know are like that, I suspect. Where would a person even begin?

I know that when you use a planer to reduce the thickness of a plank of wood by more than, say 1/8", you make several passes removing a small amount of material each time rather than attempting to remove the total desired thickness in one pass.

There, I've started.