Tuesday, September 30, 2008

network confusion

So here's one way in which I have been absolutely unable to adjust to living here. It's really not a big deal, but it's amazing how much of a challenge this has been for me.

I can't figure out the TV stations.

My whole life, NBC was channel 4, WRC-TV. FOX 5. ABC 7 on your side. Channel 9 CBS, UPN "my" 20, 50: the WB. The adjustment to PBS hasn't been as difficult as we always had a lot of PBS channels to choose from. I can't get this though. I look at the TV menu and I don't recognize the numbers- they aren't even switched around, they're just totally different numbers. The call letters are familiar now, but I can't seem to actually associate them with a particular network or even channel number. I find myself staring at the guide sort of blankly and then finally scanning for the shows that I watch- which doesn't help much because I only have shows that I watch three days a week- until Lost comes back on and then I might have 4.

I know this is a stupid thing, but it's amazing to me that my mind hasn't managed to wrap itself around this. I've got the roads down pretty good, even the radio stations to some degree. Maybe I'm not trying hard enough, as I do only turn the TV on a couple of times a week, maybe I just need to watch more TV. Interesting.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

fall yard work

Now that the "must-do" inside projects are basically wrapped up, I've been getting around to some outside stuff. It's nice weather outside, too, so it's fun.

I did a nice refurb of the fire pit using stones I found in the yard along with a nice truckload I got for free off craigslist (back when we had the pick-up, of course!). It looks great, and we're finally able to get rid of the rest our construction waste (the old countertops, the cardboard boxes from the new cabinets, etc).

I'm finalizing my carport plans and writing up materials lists - looks like it's going to be a huge project, costing well over $1000 in materials alone. Yikes!

I've been continuing work on my "yard master plan," too, which incorporates all the garden areas, the planned sandbox and castle playground, and the "park" side of the yard. I need to get started with moving some of our hostas and splitting some lilies before they disappear for good, too. Tris' Aunt Melon has promised us some big grasses from her place in Chicago and Trissie bought a whole slew of bulbs that all need to get into the ground... good thing the tiller mysteriously stopped working!

I've also started the fence project - what was to be our first priority when we moved in is finally getting done ;) Basically I'm getting a short wire fence up across the front property line to help keep the kids from running out into the road. Dean's gotten much more mobile over the last couple of months, so it's better late than never that this is getting up!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

dining room / extra room project: part 3

The extra room floors are down! There was a funny rise near the foyer, and despite my efforts to fill in the dip with cardboard, there's still a squishy spot right where you walk in. Ah, well. Maybe we'll put a thick rug right there and no one will notice :P

Tris figured out a good way of arranging the furniture, which was no easy task - the room is an "L" shape with a wall of closet and doors on either end. But it looks good! We need to find a little sewing table for Trissie and some sort of low table for my records, but other then that, it's done! We decided not to bother painting in there until later, since there's so many other rooms that we'd like to take care of first (Dean and Mark's room will be next, I think).

Sorry no pictures in this update, I'll get some posted soon!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

traffic patterns

Traffic is hugely different, as we've posted about before. But I noticed two things in particular last week.

First was due to the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Power went out here and there, and we were driving around and there were many stoplights not working. Back in Burke this would happen and it was like no one knew what to do. The people on the main road would just go through the intersection, a steady flow of traffic, effectively trapping people on the side streets who could never get out. Every intersection was just anarchy - cars slowly nosing in, cars slowing wayyy down as they rolled through, some blasting across full speed, some stopping and starting randomly.

Now when dealing with a non-working stoplight, the law is to treat such an intersection as a four-way stop - all cars stop at the intersection and take turns. And you know what? Here in Indiana they do! At every intersection we approached I was shocked as I rolled to a stop and saw the other cars stop too. I attribute this partly to Northern Virginians suffering from a mob-mentality of opportunism and partly to the amount of non-native drivers. I think here most everyone grew up knowing the law and how to drive in such situations. Plus everyone here is much more polite and chill on the roads in general.

And now my second and quite wacky observation: the most common thing I see that would go into the scoff-law or aggressive driving category is one that a driver in Northern Virginia would never get away with. The set up is as follows: At an intersection where there is no green arrow, you are stopped with a red light. You and the opposite car both get a green light. And he makes a left turn in front of you! I've seen this happen a lot. I think it is because generally drivers here don't rocket off the line when they get a green - so that gives enough time for the other driver to make the quick left in front of them.

Maybe this a regional thing. Or maybe, since technically doing so really doesn't slow anyone down, it goes back to that classic mid-west laid-back attitude of "eh, no big deal."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

midwest 9/11

9/11 came and went today with barely a mention here. There was only a short bit on the news about the Pentagon Memorial and only a little quarter-page blurb on the front of the Herald-Times newspaper. At work, there was no moment of silence or All-Staff email from the University Presidents anything like that. There was a ceremony at the Bloomington City Hall that included remarks, a prayer, and "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes, but the focus was "Honoring our Police and Firefighters," not remembering victims. To be fair, there was a big article on the front page of the student newspaper and there were candle light vigils planned on campus this evening, but considering 25% of IU students are from the East Coast that's not too surprising. Overall, not much. No one at work even mentioned the day's significance.

Back in Virginia, especially working for Arlington County, 9/11 was always a big deal. I remember every community having their own little 9/11 memorial, and on this day, their own ceremony of sorts. It seemed everyone in Northern Virginia had some sort of three-step connection to someone who died that day, and I knew folks that actually watched the plane fly over their heads on the way to the Pentagon. Now, I'm not all weepy sentimental, so I was surprised today that I missed some of that ceremony and the retelling of some of those stories.

I guess the point is that our move to Indiana has resulted in this being the first year since 2001 that 9/11 didn't really make much of an impact - back at MHz it was always retelling of stories or noticing that some coworker was taking the day off. At Arlington, it was a big part of our job to cover the big bell-ringing on Courthouse Plaza that would be attended by hundreds. There was a moment of silence, flags hung on office buildings, and it seemed to be all over the TV. I guess somehow here, 500 miles away from New York and Arlington, 9/11 is more a conceptual attack on values or something like that and less a plume of smoke visible from your window. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

dining room / extra room project: part 2

The dining room is all but complete! Just need to do those pesky transitions and paint that ugly orange door, but otherwise we're done! The pain of leveling out the uneven floor (thanks to the fact that these rooms were once a two-car garage) was rivaled only by dealing with the 2-inch change in elevation between the dining room and the living room - we essentially had to bust up another little bizarro ramp and pour a sort of concrete "step" between the rooms. The actual installation of the floors took no time at all through, only a few hours.

The boys really were thrilled with the whole process, and Mark has really taken to commenting on the home improvements - "Wow, this is so bee-yoooo-tiful!" Of course their "help" tends to de-evelove into hinderance quite quickly, but we've been getting good at gauging when to involve them and when they are really done and are ready to do something else.

And now that this is done and the furniture is in, we'll start moving stuff out of the extra room and do the same thing in there!

Friday, September 5, 2008

dining room / extra room project: part 1

We're doing laminate flooring throughout the dining room and extra room. Tris researched it and we bought it a couple weeks ago when it went on sale at Menard's. But, before we put that down, it made sense to us to paint first. So, the old carpet came up, the moulding off, and Mark and I set to work with trying to cover up the horrible, awful orangey brown color in the dining room. As Mark was working, I kept thinking his paint job was reminiscent of that creepy house at the end of the Blair Witch Project.

train of thought

Since we moved here, I've been waiting to be stopped at the train tracks. Always a huge novelty growing up in Northern Virginia, I've always liked going out to West Virginia or other places and actually crossing train tracks and even having to wait in line as one goes by. We would even take Mark out to the VRE station in Burke to see the commuter train roll in and I would always take him down to the Metro when I brought him to my office in Arlington.

So living here, where railroads were (and somewhat still are) a major part of industry, I was excited by the prospect or having trains be more a part of my driving experience. We can hear the train from our house and the railroad tracks cross many major roadways, sometimes on bridges, sometimes with gated crossings, but in town, many crossings are merely marked with a sign and blinking lights - no gates at all.

Well, finally, when I was going to the junkyard to inquire about a starter for the truck, I was headed south on Adams Street, and there was the train! I pulled up behind two cars, ready to stop and enjoy its passing, when the last train car emerged from the trees! I didn't even get to a complete stop before the cars ahead started across the track!

Not to miss my opportunity to achieve my goal of actually (literally) stopping for a train, I made a quick right turn and zipped up Vernal Pike toward the junkyard.

Basically, this was another crossing with no gates - just signs - so I was able to get ahead of the end of the train, roll all the way up to the tracks, and sit with my front bumper only a few feet from it as the last several cars slowly rolled along. Fun!

I know this post is kind of weird, but I like trains, I think having trains in my town is really cool, and there's something fun about having to stop and look both ways at train tracks while driving around in town.

the truck is gone

Amazingly, we sold the truck- in just a couple of days even! A small family whose son professed "me and my dad, we fix trucks" bought it $300 and an arc welder. It's a nice, but older arc welder that's in need of a minimal repair, so we're going to see what the pawn shops will give us for it. If we weren't so busy remodeling, moving in, building a carport, fence and a playground, we just might keep it and learn about welding, but I do think it might be possible that our plate is full right now.

So I'm already on the lookout for a new truck. This one wasn't really what I wanted anyway- I didn't like the step-side or the bed. Think Uncle Jesse on Dukes of Hazzard and that's a lot closer to what I want. I'm sure one will come our way when we have the cash and the need for it though. Am I still a genuine Hoosier without a rusted pickup, though?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

the kitchen: part 6

It's been a while since the last update, and there's lots that's been done! Whew!

All of the old kitchen (all the bags of insulation, the panel walls, flooring, sink, piping, some cabinets) went to the dump in the back of the pickup truck. The new drywall is up (cutting drywall is a pain, FYI) and the dust from all of the patch and seam work is just about cleared from our lungs. All the cabinets are installed (including two gigantic corner cabinets with double-stacked lazy-susans). Flooring is down, walls are primed and ceiling is painted. The countertop people are measuring on Friday, and it will take about a week for it to be ready for installation. After much research on Trissie's part, we went with Silestone, which is great since it's the toughest of all of them and I really want to cut on it and put my red hot egg pan right on the countertop (though Trissie still insists that it doesn't matter what the brochure says and I absolutely may not get into the habit of regular cutting and putting on of hot pans).

The window guy should be installing our new window this weekend or next, too. We're getting a big garden window that will be a full five feet across and stick out about 26 inches including the sill. Awesome!

The plumber came and moved the sink over for us (about three feet to the right) and he swapped out our horrible little 1/2 inch copper tubing lines for 3/4 PVC. Things were quite a mess down there, with a giant cast iron drain pipe that had to get cut out, weird shut off connections that didn't make any sense and more than one "mystery pipe to nowhere." But with the changes we were able to install the bottom cabinets, we're fully ready for countertop installation, the dishwasher is exactly as it should be, we have a hose properly (and safely) run to the ice-maker, and the new PVC will give us our maximum possible water pressure at the sink.

New light fixtures are up, too - a big flourescent 4' on the ceiling and a nifty little bar light over the sink. That one was a bit of a challenge because we took out the soffit that went around the whole kitchen and that was concealing the wiring and recessed light that used to be there. So some cramming of old wiring back into the wall was required. So far the house hasn't sparked up in flames from my do-it-yourself electrical work - and I only electrocuted myself one time installing the new outlets! Woohoo!

These photos were taken before it was done, but we got the kick-plates on the lower cabinets and the little moulding all around the bottom of the upper cabinets. They really look awesome. The under-cabinet lighting still needs to be installed, but we bought it and that should be a quick job. We also got a nifty under-cabinet TV from Meijer. Tris installed the handles and had a bit of a tough time - the templates didn't line up or the holes went funny, or whatever, but they all eventually made it in nice and straight. And after swapping a couple cabinets from left-swinging to right, we're very satisfied with the overall look of the room!

Other then the countertop and window, all that is really left now is the transitions from tile to the other rooms, moulding at the bottoms of the walls, wall paint, and the backsplash! Yay new kitchen!

To see some 50 plus photos of the whole job in process, click over to Tris' Facebook album!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

eric's new job: month 3

Yup, it's been just over 3 months. Almost long enough that I can't really effectively use being new as an excuse anymore ;)

Work is great. I've been all over the state shooting stuff, meeting interesting people and going to cool places. Things are ramping up with the Fall. Students are back, so the parking lots, streets, and hallways are crowded between classes, which is kind of fun to have around and gives the place a bit more life. I'm just about fully comfortable with the ins and outs of all things logistical and technological with the job, and I've reached that point where things have reached a state of normal-ness - I'm not feeling like a new guy figuring it out anymore.

Also, I've been at my regular desk for a while now, so I'm all unpacked, which makes me feel much more "at home." Everyone back in Arlington can laugh because, yes, it's nothing like the excessively luxurious accommodations you guys have. In fact, about half the stuff I had back at Arlington couldn't fit into my new space. But it's a nice set up, with a window and everything, and after a few more people shift around I'll gain some more real estate in the same room.

One of the really fun "other duties as assigned" jobs that I've taken on are the football and basketball games. I'll be doing some shifts running the jumbo-tron graphics (like the "De-Fense!" or "Make some noise!" animations). I worked the first home game last weekend and it was pretty cool. Most of the crew was in a TV production truck outside, but I was up next to the announce booth with the official instant replay guys. Not having watched or been exposed to much (any?) college sports before, it was lots of fun! Maybe I'll become a real fan!

So, this post is really all about the end of my "new to the job" status. On Thursday we're having an all-staff "round-up" kind of thing where we all pow-wow for the coming year: strategic changes are discussed, updates are announced, and recent additions to staff are formally introduced (me!). And then the regular shows start their weekly schedules the next week!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

death truck truck death

Since we got it, I've been calling our 1984 Ford F-150 "The Death Truck" because it was a big hunk of rust, had a busted strut, no blinkers, and was all around a little scarey to drive around in. Plus, it looks like something a crazy hillbilly murderer would roll up to your campsite in while you were sleeping.

We had grand plans to paint it like a bumble bee, or with flowers, or with a montage of old-school NES characters. Well, that's all going to have to wait for the next truck now. We went out to pick up some free concrete blocks from craigslist (for a sandbox project), and after we had stopped to load up the truck wouldn't start. Just a click-click-clicking noise.

A new battery, a solenoid diagnostic, and a replaced starter... no luck. Whatever the problem is, the truck is still sitting there on the side of the road in the middle of downtown Bloomington and I don't want to pay to have it towed or sink big money into repairing what is ultimately a really really crappy (awesome) truck.

So we'll either sell it back out on craigslist or look into the "we buy junk cars" people - their ads say they will pay as much as $350 for a full-size truck. We shall see.

In the end, we have no regrets for buying our truck - it took care of lots of hauling jobs: our storage locker, the apartment, free sand, the John Deere, landscaping stones, firewood, trash to dump, and drywall for the kitchen. And of course there was all the the fun we had owning it and driving it and tinkering with it.

So, we'll get another truck sometime soon. We'll have firewood to go get, right?