Saturday, July 30, 2005

The House Project: Internal Framing & External Walls

Sure enough, the internal wall framing is up, and some of the external walls are in place. Some of the pictures may look a little odd--it was dusk, and I have had to artificially adjust the brightness.

Here's the master bedroom, master bath, second bath, exterior wall.

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Here we are in the kitchen, looking towards the laundry room and garage.

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Somewhere in this sea of studs is my office and another bedroom.

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I think this is the view from the dining room. The redhead, of course, is for whom I am having this house built. (An old friend asks why she hasn't aged since he saw her last in 1994. She claims that there is a picture of her in the closet that is aging. Actually, it is Oil of Olay that is doing the miracles.)

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The water pipe is now going under the house--presumably for connection to plumbing fixtures. I don't know why they don't put the pipes for this in place before the subflooring, but I presume that there's a good reason, established back when the materials arrived by horse-drawn wagon.

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Here's the view through what will be a sliding glass window on the master bedroom.

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Oh yeah, a cool sunset, accentuated by forest fires somewhere in the distance.

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Previous house entry.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The House Project: Fun With Propane

We are going to be using propane for the cooktop, for the water heater, and for the furnace. It will also be the fuel for the emergency generator. Thursday I spent making calls and asking questions.

The obvious way to do this is an underground storage tank, both because aboveground tanks are unsightly, and because I really don't like the idea of a brushfire lighting up a thousand gallon tank of propane. But should we lease or buy the tank? The builder pointed out that if you lease, then you are tied to the propane vendor. If you buy, you can switch to a different vendor.

It turns out that in this area, there are only two real vendors to speak of: Suburban Propane and Amerigas. Amerigas won't lease underground storage tanks, and their purchase price for a 1000 gallon underground tank was $2942.40. Suburban Propane does lease the underground tank for $160 per year. Purchase price is about $2546. In both cases, if you buy the tank, you now have the cost of excavation and dropping it in. If you lease, they install it and run the line to the house. Let's see: at $2546 to buy or $160 per year, that's more than 15 years of leasing to buy the tank. Whatever advantage there might be to having multiple possible vendors of the gas, it is hard to see putting out that kind of capital on a tank--and then being responsible for maintenance of it.

How much propane will I use? Suburban thought it would be about 1400 gallons per year; Amerigas indicated that most customers use 500 to 1000 gallons a year. At about $1.79 a gallon, this would roughly equivalent to what we pay for natural gas here in Boise--and with the advantage that we are pretty much independent of the world for months on end. If al-Qaeda managed to disrupt our economy, and we were careful in our use of propane, we could live for many months without getting our tank refilled. Obviously, if we lost electric power, we would run through the gas rather more quickly.

Previous house entry.
The House Project: Walls Up!

The builder said that the exterior wall framing would be done today. Well, pretty much. The big square is the family room sliding glass door; the rectangle is the kitchen door:

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Here's the east end of the house, with bedroom rooms near the center, the front door and living room on the right:

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Here's my wife looking through the kitchen window. At least if you are standing at the sink, rinsing dishes, you have a great view!

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More detail of the family room. Big windows on either side of the sliding glass door. That's the view we want to look at while talking to friends!

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Here's a view from bedroom two (which I will probably use as an office, and from which I will probably be blogging):

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And another view, facing south:

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Here's the back of the house:

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Here's the front of the house:

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I took the water samples to Alchem Labs in Boise. The coliform bacteria test came back clean; the water is at least not biologically hazardous. We are still waiting on tests for lead, iron, arsenic, and hardness. To my surprise, these take a couple of weeks, I suspect because they send them out somewhere.

Previous house entry.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The House Project: Well Pump, Water, Walls

I've gotten a bit behind in documenting this project, what with figuring out logistics for helping my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law, who are in declining health, get moved from Orange County in Northern Mexico to Boise.

My wife and I went up Thursday evening, and there is now a pump that had filled the water tank about half full (600 to 700 gallons), and a water line down to the house with a water faucet. Unfortunately, without a pump from the water tank, there isn't quite enough pressure to run the water four feet up the pipe to the faucet. I really don't see why this would be--the faucet is still several feet below the bottom of the water tank.

At the request of readers with dialup connections, I am now using thumbnails (which are reduced size pictures) which you can click to see the pictures full sized.

Here's the faucet:

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The well pump interface to the well was a bit different than I expected. I assumed that they would take the cap off the well, and stuff the pipe and pump into it. No, they drilled a hole into the side of the well casing well below ground level instead. The yellow cord is temporary electrical power, until we the permanent electric meter and house wiring.

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Here's the electrical power for the well pump (which goes all the way down into the bottom of the well) going into the top:

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Thursday afternoon, we went through a close relative of this house (slightly smaller) with our builder, and suddenly, my wife and I found ourselves feeling very boxed in by how small it seemed. When we returned to our current home, we realized why: we have nine feet ceilings, and the house we went through only had eight foot ceilings in several of the rooms.

So Friday morning, I called Scott, and asked him if we could change this. The kitchen will now be a vaulted ceiling (like the family room, living room, and front hall), and the rest of the rooms will be nine foot ceilings. Since eight foot studs had already arrived, Scott had to call the lumber vendor, and ask them to do a swap. Scott is such a patient person.

We also noticed on Thursday evening that all the floor joists were in--but one--they had run out. At first I thought: "Programmers aren't the only people that have fencepost errors." A fencepost error is when you ask someone, "You are making a ten foot long fence, with posts one foot apart. How many posts do you need?" A lot of people will say, "Ten." The answer is actually eleven--one at each end. But after talking to Scott, I figured out that the real problem was that Scott normally put floor joists 24 inches apart--and because we are using tile flooring, he decided to go for 19 inch spacing. This reduces flexibility, which is the big enemy of any stiff material. Think about concrete, which breaks readily if it is not fully supported.

On Sunday afternoon, we took some pictures of the now completed subflooring, facing to the east.

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Along the boards to which the studs mount are a series of carefully penciled (and sometimes, crossed out and moved) marks indicating where the studs should go, window centers, doors, etc. I spent a bit of time analyzing the abbreviations, and eventually guessed that "KS" stood for "King Stud," where two studs were mounted side by side. Then, I found "King Stud" actually written on one position. I guess I would have called them "Siamese Studs," but whatever.

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Monday evening I drove up to fill the sample bottles for testing the water. I would not be surprised if we need to chlorinate at least the water tank initially, just because it wasn't clean when we started. In any case, we are testing for coliform bacteria, iron, water hardness, lead, and arsenic.

At least two of the walls are up. This is the east wall of the house, where the master bedroom and the bedroom that will contain my office go.

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Here's the view through the hole where the sliding glass door of the master bedroom will go.

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That will be quite a view to wake up to in the morning!

Here's the view from the master bathroom.

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Here's the view to the east from the master bedroom.

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Here's the view to the east from the bedroom that I am going to use for my office.

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Previous house entry.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Humor & Perhaps Wisdom

While walking through the supermarket today, my wife pointed to what she called a "poorly picked product name": Creole Style Injectable Marinade. Injectable? Does it leave tracks on your arm?

On an older Subaru, whose contents and driver suggested that this was wisdom learned the hard way: "Condoms Are Easier To Change Than Diapers."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The House Project: A Little More Progress

You may be wondering if I go up there every day to see how it is going? Not really, but when Rhonda and I were there last night, the garage looked awfully small for something that is supposed to be four cars or two SUVs. So I drove up there to see if our eyes were playing tricks on us, or perhaps someone measured wrong when laying out the house.

Anyway, there's a pile of lumber up there, looking about as neat as my office.

You can see that there is a bit more done on the floor joists and the subflooring.

The garage really looks tiny, doesn't it?

But when I measure it, it matches the floor plan. Including the eight inch thick foundation walls, the garage is 28 feet long and 25 feet, two inches wide. In practice this means that we could fit the Corvette, the Malibu, and the Equinox in side by side, but there wouldn't be much room for the doors to open (a big issue for the Corvette's rather long doors). We may have to get a little creative to fit two of the cars in side by side, and the third car in the other end of the garage. (Perhaps we will end up with something where one car fits between the other two, rather like bricks.)

There will at least be enough room to have a decent workshop out there. Worst comes to worst, there's no shortage of land on which to put a large storage shed where we can keep the larger power tools.

Previous house entry.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The House Project: Wood!

My contractor told me that his crew went up Saturday and starting pounding nails--but when we went up Monday evening, we found a bit more than that!

The contractor had been trying to get Idaho Power to commit to when they were going to run the power cable through the conduit and get the transformer running to provide temporary power.

And we could hear the buzz of electricity from inside the transformer! It also appears that the crew had been using the power, as well, although the meter still shows no use.

I don't know what they are called, but the beams that bolt to the foundation upon which the risers and floor joists attach are in place, and some of the floor joists are in place. (That gap you see is where the door from the laundry room leads to the garage.)

Some of the subflooring is in place as well.

Apparently the framing crew is getting there at 7:00 AM, and knocking off about 2:00 PM. (We are getting some pretty hot days here lately.)

A September completion date is looking better and better. Now, if I could only get the lender to finish their paperwork, and start cutting checks to the builder.... If I can't get this to happen shortly, I may skip the construction loan completely, and pay cash until I can get a Certificate of Occupancy, and then finance it with my credit union. (This is less than optimal, because I would have to take out an equity loan on my current house, or sell some of my portfolio.)

The garage looks way too small for four cars, but assuming that the rest of the foundation was correctly poured (28 feet wide, except around the master bedroom), this should do the job for four Corvettes/Malibus/Equinoxes. I think the eyes are playing tricks on us.
Clergy Abuse Scandals

The Archdiocese of Spokane, Washington, is getting ready to start selling stuff off--just like other archdioceses have had to do:
SPOKANE — The bankruptcy filing of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane raises the prospect that some or all of the 82 parishes could be sold to pay victims of sexual abuse by priests.

It could also prompt Catholic schools to close, Catholic cemeteries to be sold and the bodies disinterred, and charities tied to the Catholic church to scale back their work.

That has outraged some Catholics, who wonder why they must pay for the depredations of a few pedophile priests.

"Do 90,000 innocent people deserve to be punished for the sins of those few?" said Robert Hailey, co-chairman of an association of parishes in the Spokane Diocese. "These people and their ancestors put their sweat and their money into building the churches and schools that you see in parishes today."
Unfortunately, the leadership of the Catholic Church for too many years ignored these problems--and sometimes played an active part in covering them up.

I've read the excuses that the Church has used, and I find most of them terribly unconvincing. Perhaps the strongest excuse was that the leadership relied on psychiatrists who told them these pedophile priests were cured, and the leadership wanted to extend mercy.

Some of the other excuses, however, just leave me going, "What?" I remember reading somewhere a quote from priest who had not been charged, saying that in the late 1950s, he could remember discussions among others in seminary about how sex with boys wasn't really violating the celibacy rule, because it didn't involve a woman. You just shake your head and wonder what was going on that priests could rationalize sex with a child because it wasn't a woman--while still insisting that God wanted them to be celibate.

The problem, unfortunately, isn't just sex. One of the scandals where I used to live, in Sonoma County, involved one Catholic priest engaged in embezzlement; to keep it quiet, he had to submit sexually to the bishop. I can't remember now which one of them was having sex with children, or if both of them were. Here's another one of these disturbing stories that show that immorality in one area often couples with immorality in another:
Just four days later, the Rev. Robert E. White began a two-day visit to St. John's Cathedral on behalf of Food for the Poor. The Florida interdenominational Christian charity asked if White could say Mass and raise money at St. John's.

After checking with White's home parish in San Diego, Driscoll agreed. But what he didn't know was White had resigned as a pastor in California after admitting he misappropriated parish funds and engaged in "behavior inconsistent" with his vow of celibate chastity.

Faced with a new test, Driscoll passed. After a suspicious parishioner brought allegations about White to him June 27, Driscoll investigated. The following weekend, Driscoll disclosed White's past to parishioners at St. John's, who had heard White solicit funds at six Masses on June 18 and 19.


Before approving White's visit, Driscoll asked his home diocese of San Diego about White's background as part of a check done for all visiting clergy since 2003. Driscoll asked if White had ever behaved in a way indicating "he might engage in sexual behavior inconsistent with priestly celibacy" and whether he ever was involved in "any incident ... that might adversely affect his performance as a priest."

In a Feb. 1 letter to Driscoll, Vicar General Steven Callahan wrote that he had reviewed White's personnel records and affirmed he was "of good moral character and reputation." Called a "Good Standing" letter, the background check is required for visiting clergy, whether they are filling in for vacationing priests, performing weddings or funerals, or soliciting for a charity.

But Callahan didn't mention White resigned as a pastor in 1996 after admitting he misappropriated parish funds. White also acknowledged "behavior inconsistent with celibate chastity as well as immaturity in relationships with teenagers, although there was never sexual misconduct on his part involving another person," Callahan said in a written statement released July 27, 1998. Callahan was then chancellor of the diocese.
What does that mean? It sounds like fine hairsplitting to cover over something that White shouldn't have been doing with minors--and pretty clearly someone who can't be trusted with money.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

The House Project: It Is Beginning To Look Like a House!

I went up over the weekend, and I photographed the footings. (I'm told that these aren't strictly speaking the foundations, but the base on which the foundations are poured.) The footings had steel reinforcing bar in them, although I didn't have my camera with me the day that I was up for that. My builder explained that the purpose of the rebar was to make sure that if we had a bad earthquake, "You can ride the house to the bottom of the hill!" (He's kidding, of course, but perhaps I can file a completely absurd lawsuit against in the event of a bad earthquake, asserting that this is an oral contract!)

This is back where the garage meets the rest of the hillside.

This evening my wife and I went up there again. Quite a bit more has been completed. The actual foundations have now been poured. Notice the bolts sticking up; the floor joists attach to those, I think. (These pictures aren't quite as good because it was getting dark, and the camera was trying to compensate for the darkness with longer exposures and flash.)

This looks up the trench from the front of the house to the cistern.

Here's the cistern in place.

Here's the trench from the cistern to the well.

That's my wife down there, imagining the view from the master bedroom.

Here's the trench where the power line from the electric panel in the garage goes down to the well, to operate the well pump.

This forlorn piece of equipment will be the electric meter, I think.

This is one end of the conduit through which Idaho Power will supply us electricity. (Bad focus; not enough light.) That pinkish looking thing at the bottom is a big sheet of copper which I believe provides the ground to...the ground.

Here's the other end of the conduit, where it goes up the electric pole at the road.

For some reason, I didn't photograph where they filled in the trench, after dropping the conduit into it.
New Product Announcements

It has taken a while, but I have updated the ScopeRoller web page, and sent out New Product Announcements to the usual suspects for ScopeRoller 11 and ScopeRoller 700. Oddly enough, at least one of the Losmandy dealers actually responded this time, and indicated that he was on vacation, and would take a look when he returned.

I am getting orders for ScopeRoller 8 from the Sky & Telescope new product announcement, and orders for ScopeRoller 11 from the ads. I'm actually getting enough orders now (typically 3-4 a week) that I am glad that I ordered up another case of the 5" wheel casters--I may even break down and start running magazine ads and buy a lathe if this keeps up.

It is going to take a lot more activity to quit my day job.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Gas Wall Ovens: The House Project

The layout of our kitchen has a wall oven and a microwave oven, and cooktop in the island. I've run into an interesting problem: it seems that gas wall ovens come in a 24" wide size; if you want 30" wide, you need to go to an electric wall oven. I am a little concerned that a 24" wide wall oven won't be large enough for a turkey. We have a conventional electric range/oven combo right now, and a large turkey just barely fits. Is there something that I am missing?