Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Party Rundown

This past weekend was a whirlwind of family, friends, and activity.

Here’s the rundown:

My dad picked up my middle sister at the airport a little before noon and they showed up at the house around 12:30. With lunch, which was good.

Much of the day was spent doing last-minute cleaning and organizing. We picked my friend Sam up at the airport around 5pm—he and I have been friends since we were kids and he came all the way form Chicago for this. My youngest sister’s bus was late getting in so we went to pick her up around 8pm or so.

Came back, grilled dinner (steaks for the guys, salmon steak for my lovely wife, hot dogs for our daughter, veggie burgers and veggie dogs for the girls), did a bit more around the house, then crashed. Sam took the futon in the office while the girls slept on an inflatable mattress in our daughter’s room. She was thrilled—she’s been talking about it for weeks.

My cousin and his wife got in around 10:30 and took a cab to us. We were already up, of course. A final touches to the house and then people started getting ready for the onslaught.

The first wave arrived at 12:30, an hour early—I answered the door in T-shirt and shorts. Managed to change into more presentable clothing a few minutes later.
The actual baby-naming was supposed to be at 1:30 but we delayed until about 2pm because the rain (it poured for most of the afternoon) was slowing down arrivals. All but one guest was here by the time we started, however.

dochyel did the honors, and very nicely, too. Our son was very attentive and well-behaved, as were most of the guests. The actual ceremony is short, so after that it was just hanging out and socializing.

We had a total of forty people over, all of them either family or close friends. Our son was held by at least six different people during the course of the day, and our daughter played with not only her cousins and her playmate but her grandfather, her aunts, and other relatives and friends. My lovely wife did an excellent job with the food (she started cooking on Thursday) and we still had ample amounts afterward despite everyone eating their fill. Drinks we ran pretty close on but we didn’t actually run out; it’s just that afterward there wasn’t much left.

A few people left around 4:30 or 5pm. More left within the next hour. By 8pm it was down to just us, our houseguests, and my dad. Which was fine. We cleaned up, picked at leftovers, hung out, watched SNL (first time I’ve actually watched it since my daughter’s naming—my cousin and his wife are fans), hung out a bit more, then all collapsed.

My cousin and his wife took the sofa bed in the family room, so we had a total of nine people in the house. We could probably fit another one on the living room couch if necessary.

We got up around 10am and nibbled breakfast. My cousin and his wife caught a car to the airport, missing my dad by only a few minutes (he had meant to take them but had forgotten his cell phone and hadn’t called to confirm).

We relaxed and nibbled lunch before taking my youngest sister to her bus. Then a little more time at home and off to the airport (LaGuardia) with Sam, then down to JFK with my middle sister.

My dad spent the night with us, so after all the airport runs we simply relaxed and ate a little dinner and all went to bed at a (for us) reasonable hour.

Monday my dad left early for the airport. I got up at my usual time an hour later to go to work.

It was an excellent weekend. Busy, definitely, but it was really nice to see everybody. As with any event of this nature I wish I’d been able to spend more time with most of the people who showed, and I was happy I got to see my cousins and my friend and my sisters for a bit before and after.

Most of the food is gone now. The house is basically cleaned back up, though for now we might leave the living room in its new, more open configuration. Our daughter misses having her aunts and her grandpa and her cousins staying with us. Our son probably misses having so many people to hold him—he was rarely set down during the weekend because there was always someone else willing to shoulder him.

I think we’re still catching up on sleep.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Busy busy busy

So this past weekend I:

• Took the family to the bank and to go shopping

• Collapsed a bunch of boxes and moved a few others out into the garage

• Cleared off all the tables on the first floor (all seven of them)

• Hung candle sconces in the dining room

• Hung a coat rack in the foyer

• Replaced the family room light

• Framed several pictures for our daughter’s room and one for the living room

• Removed about eight bags of gravel from the front porch

• Put away some laundry

• Hung another picture

• Organized my tools and hardware

• Brought in several more boxes of paperbacks and put said paperbacks up on the ledges in the family room

• Transferred files off our digital camera

• Set up our new printer (a spiffy Canon Pixma)

• Occupied the children while my lovely wife worked on a big project of her own

I have a whole list of things to do before our families visit this coming weekend. I got perhaps a third of it done this past weekend, which was pretty good.

Installing the family room light, something I’ve been putting off for a year because I was leery of the electrical work, proved to be easier than I’d expected. The previous owners still did strange things with the wiring, and some of the old wiring had to be completely taped up because the casings were utterly disintegrated, but I got it all put together. It works and there were no sparks and no heat on the floor above (something that my lovely wife had noticed with the previous fixture) so I think I did a solid job.

The winner of the “What a colossal mess they left us” award this weekend was actually the coat rack. Which is sad, really. And not entirely the previous owners’ fault, since I’m sure every house on our block has the same construction. But the exterior side walls are old concrete or cinder block and don’t take nails well—they tend to either resist completely or just crumble away. The same goes for drilling—in one spot I couldn’t even get the drill through and in another it left a large hole. I wound up having to cheat it a bit with a nail but the coat rack’s up and looks good and seems sturdy enough. We’ll see what happens once we start hanging things on it.

Oh, and for Father’s Day my lovely wife and adorable children (and cute cat) got me:
• The Cat from Outer Space on DVD
• The extended Sin City on DVD
• A deep-fat fryer: I’ve actually been wanting one of these so I can do my own fried chicken, among other things
• A frying cookbook
• A cookbook of quick-fix recipes

Tonight I’m hoping to repair our DVD player. It stopped working over the weekend and a quick Google search showed that it’s a recurrent problem with this particular model—because it has a standby mode and never fully powers down, a capacitor tends to blow out after 6-14 months. We’ve had ours for eight, so on the shorter side of that window. Fortunately someone put up detailed instructions of how to replace the capacitor. I picked up a soldering tool and a new capacitor today and we’ll see how that goes tonight.

I didn’t get any writing work done this weekend, but that’s okay. It was a nice break. I’m going to be revising my second Warhammer novel next, then finishing up a short RPG piece and starting a new writing project. More on that one at a later date. And of course I’ve got the rest of this to-do list to get through. My dad’s coming up tomorrow, and my sisters will be here Friday.

Should be an interesting week.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Another Wiring Nightmare While Wide Awake

My goals this weekend were simple: replace the doorbell, replace the light switches in the foyer, hang a few pictures, hang the mirror in the laundry room, and do a little writing.

No problem, right?

Yeah, not so much.

Hanging the pictures was fine. The mirror was more of a pain, since the wall down there is crumbling cinderblock, but I did finally manage to drill some holes that didn’t collapse in on themselves immediately afterward.

The doorbell was a problem and for once I can’t really blame the previous owners. When my friend Paul and I rewired it a while back, we used decent wires, sturdier than you might normally find on such things. That proved to be a mistake. The wires were too thick to fit on the doorbell leads easily and too sturdy to bend easily, which meant I couldn’t push them back inside the wall without having the ends pop off the leads. And the new doorbell was a flush-mount style, so the mechanism had to fit inside the wall—and the hole there wasn’t large enough to accommodate it. Eventually we gave up and did an end-run around it, since my lovely wife has never liked our existing doorbell anyway (and the bell for it is inside a kitchen cabinet, which is ridiculous). We bought a new wireless doorbell, which is much louder and was easier to install (though I did have a few moments of swearing when I drilled into the wall to hang the chime itself).

But this past weekend’s problem child was the foyer. Oh my yes.

We had two switches in the foyer, side by side. Or rather, one switch and one dial. The switch worked the dim overhead light in the foyer. The dial was a timer control for the porch light. We had removed the switchplate back when we painted, before moving in (yes, over eighteen months ago now—how times flies!) and had never replaced it (because they’d carved it to make room for the dial, and it didn’t really fit properly). Which meant that every time we turned on the foyer light we could see the sparks jump from the switch. Not good.

So I bought two new switches and a new switch plate. I’d done light switches before, so this should be no big deal. Right?

I removed the old switches and found four wires. Good, that’s how many there should be. Except that two of them were taped together. And when I removed the crumbling tape I found they were actually twisted together in the middle.


So I untwisted them and, suspecting what would happen next, hooked each to its respective switch.

One switch worked. The other? Nothing.

I reversed those two wires.

And again one switch worked. The other one.

Which meant one wire was live and the other not. They’d crossed them to basically split the wire. And I wasn’t all that thrilled about crossing them back again.

It was getting dark and I wasn’t sure what to do about the wires so I figured I’d leave it until Sunday. Which is when I found the next fun bit of information. Because we went to turn on the living room light—and nothing happened.

They’d apparently drawn the power for those two switches from the living room somehow. And without crossing those two wires we didn’t have power in the living room anymore.

Sunday I went to HomeDepot and asked the guys there what to do. The answer? “No, we don’t have a connector for something like that. Just use electrical tape.”

Oh joy.

That’s what I did, though. Shortened all four wires to remove any excess, wrapped each wire separately with tape, re-wound those two wires, wrapped the juncture with more tape, connected both switches, turned on the breaker.

Yep, they all worked now. All three lights: porch, foyer, living room.

And the foyer light is at least three times brighter than it was. Apparently that connection hadn’t been tight, which is why it was dim and why it always sparked. Now at least it’s secure, and securely taped.

But it took me most of the weekend to accomplish that, which I thought would be a half-hour job.

Not surprisingly, that was most of my weekend. I did manage to get in some writing, and to do most of my other self-appointed tasks, though I still haven’t hung sconces in the dining room. And slowly, piece-by-piece, I’m uncovering the idiots’ legacies throughout the house. And fixing them.

Or at least smothering them in electrical tape.

Friday, June 09, 2006

But can I scale a wall with no hands?

Yeah, I know, I went quiet again. That keeps happening to me. :)

Not too much to report, really.

Found out my StarCraft novel is definitely available--people have reported seeing it (nice big displays, too) in Palo Alto and Peoria. And they said it wouldn't play in Peoria! :)

I finished the first draft of my fourth novel and I’m waiting on editorial comments—so far the editor says she likes it but needs me to suppress my “nice-guy” tendencies again.

I turned in the revisions on another project and I’m waiting to hear back on that one as well.

I’ve also got a story pitch out, and I’m outlining two more. Plus I need to write a short piece for something else this weekend. And maybe an RPG if I can squeeze it in. :)

House-wise it’s been quiet. I put up my daughter’s ceiling fan last weekend—same wiring mess but I knew about it this time so it didn’t faze me. I did have a problem at one point because I wired it up, hooked everything up, put everything in place, turned it on—and nothing happened. Which meant a wire had pulled loose (I’d checked to make sure the connections were right before putting everything together fully). I switched off the breaker again, turned off the wall switch, pulled down the fan—and realized I had a problem.

This fan, like most these days, has a handy hook on the mounting bracket. You can hang the fan there while wiring it, so you don’t have to hold it (or have someone else do it, which was one of my jobs growing up).

Except that doesn’t work if you’ve already attached the blades. Which I had.

One wire had pulled loose, out of three. But the other two were still firmly attached. So firmly attached I couldn’t simply pull them loose.

And even if I could, there was no way I could reattach the wires while holding the fan in one hand. And my lovely wife was outside working in her garden, which she doesn’t get to do often enough. And both kids were asleep.

What I wound up doing was very Jackie Chan, only not as graceful. I stepped down from the stepladder, still holding the fan in one hand. Then I hooked my daughter’s dresser with my foot and dragged it to me. Then I hooked one of her Playschool toy chairs and dragged that over, and managed to flip that up onto the desk. Then I balanced the fan on that, which was just high enough that the wires would reach.

Reconnected the loose wire, made sure it was tight, hauled the fan back up, and reattached everything.

And it worked. A little wobbly, which is just because the mounting bracket isn’t as flush as I’d like—secure, just not perfectly flush. But it’s all up and works fine and my daughter is thrilled.

This weekend I’m hoping to replace the doorbell and the entryway light switches. And hang a few pictures. If I’m feeling really brave I might see if I can install a new family room light—it’s only been a year or so since the old one burned out and we had to make due with a pair of lamps down there.

Oh, and we’re going to check out Hex, the British show that just made it over here last night. I’ll let you know what we think of the first episode.

The kids are doing fine. He’s got at least one tooth now, we think, and doesn’t seem to be hurting from teething as much, though his allergies are still giving him hell. She’s also good and still super-cute—we switched her to a closer-to-normal toothpaste this week (from a baby toothpaste that’s actually just to get them used to the concept and the brushing motion), which means she has to spit it out now, and she’s thrilled by this.

The wife and I are good, still moderately sleep-deprived (though this week that was partially our own fault because we stayed up late to watch a movie one night) but otherwise fine. The new computer is up and running nicely. So on and so forth. And soon I get to head home for the weekend—I love summer publishing hours. :)