Friday, October 19, 2007

A Little Monkey Business

One of my co-workers has a thing for Apple the point of bringing a ginormous screen in from home.

I have to confess a small amount of monitor envy led me to add a small decoration.

If the joke seems a bit thin, I should probably point out that, according to rumor, the internal code name for Apple's OS X operating system was "Cheetah."

Hee Hee

And the Wheels on the Bus...

Today, I did something that I've been meaning to do for some time; I tried using our local public transit for my commute. Now, I live roughly 40 miles from my office. I'm not sure how familiar you are with the greater Seattle transportation system, but a generous description would be simply that it stinks.

It's great if you happen to live or work in Seattle, Tacoma, or Everett...cities connected by a straight line called Interstate 5. But, if you work and work in communities outside of that line, you're pretty much out of luck.

I live south of Seattle and I work in a community east of Seattle. I basically have two choices, I can drive to Seattle and then take a bridge to where I need to go (this is really out of the way) or I can take one of the most congested roadways in the area. The worst part is a seven mile stretch that regularly takes 40-60 minutes to drive. As a result, my average one-way commute takes about 90 minutes. While I've (rarely) made it in 45 minutes, it can take more than two hours on bad (read: rainy) days.

Folks have asked why I don't take the bus. Up until recently, the routes were designed to move people through downtown Seattle. Get them in town, the logic went, and then shuttle them off to where they need to go.

It was a pretty effective strategy when I was in my teens. However, the demographics have changed in the last 30 years, along with the real estate prices. People moved away from the city to find places they could afford. Unfortunately, the transit routes remained behind. Downtown Seattle was still considered the gateway to the rest of the region.

Ten years ago, I lived in Kent, a community south of Seattle. A friend of mine snagged a temporary job with a large employer on the Eastside. At the time, my friend lived in Bellingham, a community roughly two hours north of Seattle. Unfortunately, my friend wasn't able to drive at the time and asked if he could stay at my place for the length of his contract.

My friend had to use the bus to get to and from work. Because the routes were designed to serve Seattle first, he couldn't go directly from my home to his work place. As a result, a one way trip took 2-1/2 hours, longer if he missed his connection. As you might guess, my friend quickly made alternate living arrangements.

Today, JP and I live in a community south of Kent and it was with some surprise that I discovered that a bus route directly connects our community with the one I work in. It's taken a while to try it out, but that's what I'm doing while I write this.

The ride isn't overly luxurious, but it's not bad. The seats are upholstered and there are air nozzles above the seats, similar to the ones you find on airplanes. They're not overly great, but they do offer a feeble amount of circulation.

While the seats are a little cramped (I'm a tall guy, after all), it's nice to be able to completely forget about driving conditions. (It started raining like crazy not five minutes after I boarded.)

Time wise, it looks like relying on the bus will add another hour to my daily commute. (I think I can trim that a bit by changing stops.) Regardless, it beats the five hour ordeal my friend had to face in the 90's.

So, while our local transportation system has along way to go before it stacks up well against New York City, Washington D.C., Paris, or London, it's made some progress in connecting the farther flung communities.

I'm not going to be able to use this every day, but I may try it for a while to see what else I can accomplish with this time.

Hopefully, I'll be able to work on posting more frequently to my blog or to work on other projects I've been wanting to tackle. We'll see.

I'll update you on my progress in a little while.

Photo credit: Me, taken during one of my innumerable drives to work.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Regarding Home Improvement

We've been in our new home for three months now (though in some ways, it feels like it's been much longer) and I've begun to learn some basic skills I imagine are common to all homeowners. While our home is relatively new (10-15 years), some minor repairs and improvements have already been necessary.

When I stumbled downstairs a few Sunday's ago, looking for my first cup of coffee, JP informed me that the kitchen sink was backed up. Now, I was nervous when she asked me to fix it, as I had no idea what to do. My previous experience with anything even remotely related to plumbing (beyond using a plunger) was as a small child, when my father was the one who did routine maintenance. As I recall, it involved a large pipe wrench, a threading machine, some rather messy (and smelly) paste, and a lot of cursing from my father. With that background, you can imagine that I wasn't looking forward to attempting to fix the sink…especially since I don't even own a pipe wrench, let alone a threading machine.

JP was under the impression that we would need to replace the disposal. She'd already done some research and, based on the links she'd found, it looked do-able. I really didn't want to have to replace the disposal if I could avoid it, so I dug around the Internet for some more information.

I came across a site that suggested checking the trap. After turning off the water to the faucet, I was surprised to discover that I could unscrew the pipes with my bare hands and was able to remove the trap without any tools whatsoever. As soon as I did so, I discovered the problem; the trap was full of eggshells. I dumped those into the trash, rinsed the trap, and then reinstalled it. The sink drained perfectly and, no, there were no leaks afterward.

All told, it took about twenty minutes, much less time than I'd anticipated.

Once, we discovered a leak under the sink. Although I had no idea when I started trying to solve the problem, I quickly traced it to the faucet, which has become slightly unscrewed. After rinsing the rubber washer and tightening the faucet, the leak disappeared.

Another time, JP bought a new light fixture for her office. Now, my electrical experience is about as extensive as my plumbing experience. Still, I knew enough to turn the breaker off and managed to install the new fixture relatively quickly. Since then, we've also replaced the fixture in the kitchen.

A few days after the weather turned, JP mentioned neither her office nor DD's bedroom were getting any heat. I remembered that the home inspection we got prior to buying the house had determined that a heating duct was disconnected under the house. I went into the crawlspace to take a look for myself and traced the loose duct to the vent leading to JP's office. I also noticed that the other ducts were attached using heavy-duty nylon ties. After a quick trip to the local hardware store, I reattached the duct and secured it with a new nylon tie. I'll admit that I wasn't entirely sure this would solve the problem, but it did.

When we started looking for houses, JP expressed a hope that I would be an "active partner" in helping to keep the place up. I wasn't offended; I know I'm not the sort of person you normally think of as being handy. You might ask me to take a look at your website or to troubleshoot your network, but you probably wouldn't confuse me with Tim Taylor. During my previous stint as a homeowner (my first marriage), I was involved in a total of zero improvement projects. I knew JP knew this as well, so I understood her concern.

I also knew that JP's prior experience as a homeowner (in her previous marriage) was less than satisfying because it was, um, difficult to get some projects finished.

As it's turned out, though, I think I'm proving to be a quick learner. Oh, sure, there are days when I would rather be doing anything but working on the house, unpacking, or reorganizing. Nevertheless, I do think I've been an active partner. I hope so, at least.

Photo credit: NASA

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Everything's Fine

No, I haven't dropped off the face of the Earth. Things have gotten really hectic since school started and it's been hard to find time to actually sit at my keyboard long enough to compose a good post.

We're all good here; just busy and tired. More soon.

Photo credit: me. It's a gooney bird and looks a bit like the way I feel right now.