How to Pack a Weekend

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been repairing earthquake cracks in the living room with mesh tape, Flex-All, and stucco. In the process, digging through previous generation’s layers of accreted paint, realized for the first time that our living room was once upon a time coated in gold glitter, top to bottom. Trying to visualize this former hey-day, and the shag rugs and chandeliers that must have accompanied it.

Friday moved everything to the center of the room (including 300 lbs. of LPs and a 1950s capiz shell console) and went at it with the orbital sander. A little detail work with Crawford’s spackling paste, then out for a couple of beers with a friend. Saturday up early, friends took Miles for the day, and Amy and I dug in on a long-overdue paint job (we’d never loved the chiffon yellow LR paint we inherited, but over the past year it had started to make both of us nauseous). Six hours later it was a more mature “Woodwind” (named, I think, for the color of the bamboo reeds in saxes and clarinets), and looks FABulous. We’re so stoked.

Saturday night, off with another friend for a mind-blowingly good sushi dinner, then off to see Martin, Medeski and Wood with John Scofield at the legendary Filmore Auditorium. Amazing 3-hour show (will write it up for Stuck if time permits) left me inspired and exhausted.

Today up early again to touch up the baseboards, then get ready for Miles‘ fifth birthday, at Head Over Heels gym, where circus performers train. M’s friends had full access to trampolines, trapezes, a deep foam pit, balance beams and an obstacle course of misc. gymnastic equipment. This is the third year running we’ve had his birthday party at the same gym. The kids dig it, why mess with a good thing?

One of his friends, whose mother is way into letterboxing, put together a multi-stage geocache for Miles, so after an afternoon wrangling tiny Playmobil parts, he and I took off to discover it. Such a cool, thoughtful present, with hand-drawn maps and clues, and plenty of places to play along the way. Amazing.

Returned home in time to start putting the LR back together, do some grilling for dinner, and get the DVR hooked up in time to record the start of Ken Burns’ The War.

Life is rich.

Music: Don Preston :: Ode To The Flower Maiden

For Want of a Washer

Tiny drip in the supply hose from a valve under our sink to our dishwasher yesterday. Unscrewed the connector, re-taped it with Teflon, and … the leak continued. Ah – must be the washer in the braided hose! Removed it again and dug at it with a razor blade until the old compressed one finally pulled free (in shreds). Off to Ace for a replacement. Dozens of types of plumbing washers in cute little bins, but — uh oh — none in the size I needed (3/8″). They had 1/2″ versions, but nothing a smidge smaller. Talked to the employees, who said they didn’t sell them, never had. One employee said that in six years of working in hardware, she’d had a ton of requests, but that they had never sold them – didn’t even think they were available. Though she wasn’t sure why.

So here’s where the day gets complicated. Rather than a 10-minute job and a .25-cent washer, it was starting to look like replacing the entire braided cable ($16). And that meant pulling the entire dishwasher… which meant pulling the baseboards out from under the kitchen cabinets. And that’s how simple jobs turn into all-day affairs.

Got it done before dinner, but the whole job took three hours (including trips to the hardware store), some bruised knuckles, a good dose of swearing, and a ton of disbelief. Why in the world would they not sell 3/8″ conical washers? Some arcane historical reason? A good (but opaque) reason? No profit in it (come on, the rubber washer industry is no profit center for anyone). Or did I just get totally bogus information? But our Ace has everything, and super-knowledgeable employees. I don’t get it.

Music: Funkadelic :: Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad

The RIOT Wheel

Riotwheel Tell me you don’t want one. “The RIOT Wheel is a huge, heavy motorized single-wheel vehicle, originally
built for Burning Man, the natural home of deviant vehicles.” The version currently being worked on is actually a hybrid (take that, Toyota!). The weight of the rider out front is counterbalanced by the weight of the engine, which hangs freely inside the wheel. An adjustable crane lifts the engine up and down, changing the angle of the dangle and thus its leverage. Apparently it’s steered by leaning, though it apparently steers like an oil tanker. Coupla videos here. Not too zippy in those vids, though inventor dude claims to be working towards a land speed record (his own, I imagine).

Music: Mahmoud Ahmed :: Belomy Benna

Maker Faire 2007

Spectacle-Tm Spent the day with Miles at Maker Faire 2007, where you can’t swing a cat without clobbering a team of reality hackers. Enjoyed the giant Mousetrap game (perfect functional replica of the original, writ large (very large)), the myriad bicycle hacks from Cyclecide, the whale blimp, Ukey Stardust (the entirety of David Bowie’s ;em>Ziggy Stardust performed on ukuleles), the Victorian mini-mansion on wheels Neverwas Haul, The Disgusting Spectacle (kids running on a hamster wheel cause giant to pick enormous gobs of snot from nose), playing with stop-motion claymation video, performance by the original Pepsi and Mentos dudes, the sonar-controlled self-balancing skateboard (which both Miles and I rode!), the endless procession of robots both sleek and gritty – some of them engaged in mortal combat, others the picture of gentility.

Flickr set posted, though I think my set from last year was better (in fact, I think Maker Faire was better last year in general, but not by much – may have been a state of mind, or creeping jadedness). But Maker Faire has already become an amazing father/son bonding tradition thing for us. Now I just need to learn to weld before he turns five.

Music: Velvet Underground :: Sweet Jane

Goodbye Shipyard

Sad news: Berkeley’s unique mechanical artists’ collective The Shipyard is being closed down by the city, after six years of creative construction and innovative alternative energy production. At core is The Shipyard’s use of shipping containers as storage and construction bases, and the city’s perception of them as unsafe. Shipyard is moving to Oakland, so it’s not a total write-off, but Berkeley as an alternative cultural mecca will be worse for the loss.

Clock Building
Photo: Scott Beale, Laughing Squid

Neverwas Haul, the ‘Yard’s three-story steam-powered Victorian House, will be on display at this year’s Maker Faire (Miles and I will be there!).

Shipyard rep Jim Mason’s letter to the City of Berkeley is reproduced on their site – the crew is scrambling to meet Berkeley’s demands (which appear to be impossible).

Covered at Laughing Squid and on the O’Reilly Radar.

Sweat Solder

Sweat Joint A minor first for me today – rather than call a plumber, read up on sweat joints, went out and bought a torch and a flux/solder kit, and installed my own fittings on 1/2″ copper. Not beautiful, but amazingly, all three joints (two sink + one toilet) came out watertight on the first try. Once brief elation had passed, discovered that the sink we picked out for this already very small area was 1″ too wide, so we have to take it back and get a tiny one – a wee hand-washing basin. S’okay – we’ll do something less frowsy looking this time, so it’ll work out for the best.

Music: Pinpeat Orchestra :: Sathouka

Rocket to Mars

Miles and I made a rocketship a few weekends ago. It was all his idea – he saw a pile of cardboard on the curb and said “Daddy let’s make a rocket!” Outta nowhere. Lots of cutting and taping and gluing and painting (yes, much of the paint ended up on his legs and on the deck). Had to go online to remind myself how to make a cone (just cut out 1/4 pie from a disc and it’ll curve up nicely). A brave knight’s helmet will service in a pinch as a space helmet. Great weekend project. Of course it’s been sitting in the garage since that day…. but it’s the fun of making that matters.

Miles Rocket1   Miles Rocket2   Miles Rocket3

Yesterday was his “four and a half-est birthday,” which called for the making of a cake covered in green frosting grass. Make make make. That’s all we do around here lately. And I love that. He still talks about last year’s Maker Faire, and we’re pumped to go again this May.

Music: Sweet Honey In The Rock :: Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Stayed On Freedom

Sanding. Microwave.

Spent all day behind the wheel of a Bona ProSand 8, a highly efficient, surprisingly graceful, 115-lb floor-sanding beast. Almost zero dust – the built-in vacuum is voracious. The work is tedious, meditative, exhausting. Coarse grades today and tomorrow, finer grades Sunday. We have not yet upgraded the electrical system, but the sander draws a heap of juice. Every time I strain the motor on a bump, a 15 amp fuse blows. Learning to finesse it, but going through fuses like no tomorrow. Better than burning down the house.

Amy painting shelves and cupboards with Miles on her back. It’s a family thing.

The new place has a cubby in the kitchen clearly designed to house a microwave oven. I’ve never lived with a microwave (astonishing but true!), though my grandmother had one of the first — the Amana Radarange — in the early 70s (my mother always insisted we play in another room when it was running, lest we become sterile from the radiation). Amy grew up with one but hasn’t had one since high school. No real reason for either of us, other than habit and stubborn-ness. I think a part of us likes resisting all the mod cons. But now I’m sort of interested in getting one, though it would be tantamount to an act of resignation at this point in life. Amy remains staunchly opposed.

Do you have a microwave?

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Music: Cab Calloway :: Foo A Little Bally-Hoo