Slow progress

Setting a land speed record in reverse, it took us two weeks and two days before we painted a room in the Arlington house. Our living room, previously an anonymous cream color, is now a nice yellow. (Compare this with our Kirkland house, where we painted the living room on my second day in the house.)

I also assembled a manual, “reel”-style lawn mower and mowed our grass for the first time. If possible, this house has even less grass than the Kirkland house.

Finally, I started to get the storage and workbench area into shape today. For one thing, there’s now power in the room, in the form of an extension cord.

If you’re getting the feeling that things are starting to get a little slow here…well, yeah, it was a slow weekend. But I can’t say I’m not glad to have a day go by without demolition or plumbing problems.

Everything put together falls apart

It is one of the undeniable, though bittersweet, joys of homeownership that the bad times make you remember how wonderful your life is when all the mundane things that you take for granted actually work. For instance, I remember a time when we could flush a toilet in our house and not have unmentionable muck bubble out of the storm drain in our driveway. Such an innocent time.

The plumber’s already been here and it’s not our inside pipes, so now the city guy is striding down our driveway to the back of the house (where the garage entrance is), a pickaxe over his shoulder. This is going to hurt, I can tell.

I think I’ll go sit in the local RMV office for the fourth time this week to see if they’ll accept my newly arrived checkbook or notarized deed of quitclaim as proof of residency, since they wouldn’t accept our duplicated unsigned mortgage papers or the mailer from the bank that had my debit card. Maybe I’ll have a Massachusetts drivers’ license by the end of the day.

Hey, it beats unpacking boxes, right? Right?

Faces of Bush supporters

Interesting juxtapositions popping up around the administration’s supporters today. First, word that the official DOD record for Kerry’s Bronze Star commendation supports his version of events, not “Swift Boat Veteran” critic Larry Thurow’s:

Larry Thurlow, who commanded a Navy Swift boat alongside Kerry in Vietnam, has strongly disputed Kerry’s claim that the Massachusetts Democrat’s boat came under fire during a mission in Viet Cong-controlled territory on March 13, 1969. Kerry won a Bronze Star for his actions that day.

But Thurlow’s military records, portions of which were released yesterday to The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, contain several references to “enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire” directed at “all units” of the five-boat flotilla. Thurlow won his own Bronze Star that day, and the citation praises him for providing assistance to a damaged Swift boat “despite enemy bullets flying about him.”…

Last month, Thurlow swore in an affidavit that Kerry was “not under fire” when he fished Lt. James Rassmann out of the water. He described Kerry’s Bronze Star citation, which says that all units involved came under “small arms and automatic weapons fire,” as “totally fabricated.”

Now, someone is lying here. And my money says that the DOD, which would have every reason to cast Kerry in a bad light following his war protest activities, is probably telling the truth. Which makes Thurlow, in plain speech, a bad actor and a liar.

Then from Beaverton, Oregon, comes this lovely photo of reasoned rebuttal from a Bush supporter (courtesy Oliver Willis):

An unidentified supporter of President Bush tries to silence protester Kendra Lloyd-Knox (right) outside Southridge High School in Beaverton.

An unidentified supporter of President Bush tries to silence protester Kendra Lloyd-Knox (right) outside Southridge High School in Beaverton.

It’s good to know that the administration’s record on civil liberties is setting a positive example for its supporters.

John Eddy steps up to the mic

Over at my old work blog, the Community Kitchen, John Eddy has posted about his job as Newsgroup Administrator for Microsoft. In the process, he conveys a little bit of emerging philosophy about software support:

I believe in the newsgroups.  I believe that NNTP is a good solution for technical support.  I do not believe it is the only one.  I believe there are places for IM, chat/IRC, mailing lists and good old phone support, and yes, even blogs and wikis.  Heck, I really think MUDs and MUSHes could be utilized too (yes, I still mud in this day and age) and would make a great forum for online conferences, in this day and age when physical attendance at conferences seems to be down. 

When I interned at Microsoft in 2001, helping to work on the first iteration of executing Microsoft’s online community strategy, we called this “finding where the party is and making sure we were there with the beer.” In other words, it’s most helpful to our users if we can engage where they already are.

Boston blog meetup

On Anita’s suggestion, I got out of our house last night and down to the Trident Cafe on Newbury Street for the Boston Blog Meetup. In attendance:

Had a good time, even though the free wifi was a little low-powered. No complaints, though, especially since the provider, Michael Oh of Tech Superpowers, popped up on my Rendezvous list in iChat!

Likes and dislikes, twelve days in

I’ve had a while to get accustomed to this Cape Cod and am starting to warm to it, now that I don’t trip over boxes everywhere I turn. I’m going to try to list balanced “like/dislike” lists, with the goal of starting to figure out what works for me in the house and what should be addressed with future projects.

For this week, we have:


  1. Really solid original wood doors and fixtures (including door frame moldings!) throughout
  2. The main floor seems to hold temperature really well. We’ve consistently kept well below the outside peak temperatures.
  3. Dining room built-in. Nice corner cabinet (that unfortunately sits over the only place we’ve seen in the house where settling has occurred, with the result that there’s a crack in the plaster on the wall behind the cabinet).
  4. Practical basement layout: garage to utility room to storage room/workshop.
  5. The master bedroom. I love the Cape Cod slanting rooflines, which don’t pose too much of a problem with headroom thanks to a shed dormer in the rear that spans almost the entire width of the house), and the whole bedroom is spacious and feels bigger than it is thanks to the nook formed by the shed dormer where the bed resides.


  1. Most of the outside doors, and all the ones in the basement, stick. Some are really tricky to open; the front door cannot be unlocked and opened one handed, which is a problem when you walk dogs a lot.
  2. The second (bedroom) floor gets very hot and muggy on hot days. I think the uninsulated attic opening (not really a trap door, just a panel) and lack of attic fan are to blame. A couple of projects right there…
  3. No fan in the upstairs bathroom, which means an opportunity for me to get very dusty installing one.
  4. No easy access to the back where the garbage cans live. To get there, I have to go downstairs, through the media room and the utility room and out through the garage door. Which is heavy, and sticks. (Pattern?)
  5. In general, there are far too few electrical outlets in the house. There are none in the full bathroom upstairs, for instance, and only one in the dining room.

Rewiring the wireless network

smc 2671W wireless ethernet adapter

Now that all the major appliances are in and working (we had a plumber out on Monday setting up new pipes for the washing machine and cutting a vent for the dryer), we’re turning our attention to finer points. Like printing.

In the Seattle house, we had cable running to our bedroom, and had a little network corner there. On one Ikea mini-bedside-table (really four two-by-two pieces of Ikea wood in a sort of box shape), we had:

  • The cable modem, connected to:
  • An old Asante ten-port Ethernet router (courtesy Glenn Fleishman’s office move and $5), connected to:
  • Our SMC Barracuda 802.11B wireless router, and
  • Our HP LaserJet 2100 with an Ethernet print server card
  • A barely working HP DeskJet color inkjet printer (connected to the Barracuda)

With this setup, we could print to either printer wirelessly from anywhere in the house. Lisa could also jack into the router if she was working on sensitive stuff that she didn’t want to transmit wirelessly. I described the process of hooking up the SMC, and getting the printer to work, earlier.

Fast forward to the Arlington house. Here we have set up a bedroom that does not have cable as our office space. We’ve accordingly hooked up the cable modem and wireless router in the living room, where they’re more or less discreetly tucked in among the audiovisual equipment. This means we need a new solution to hook in the laser printer, since we do not want it sitting out in the living room. (We’ve all but given up on the DeskJet. We just don’t need color very often and the consumables are expensive, and tend to dry up if you don’t use them for long periods of time.)

I wanted to do an AirPort Express, but I’m not sure it would work to put the LaserJet on the network (if I have time, I’ll check this out at the Apple store). Also, at $130 it’s a little more than I wanted to spend just to get the printer back on line. So I’m looking at SMC’s 2671W EZ Connect 802.11b Wireless Ethernet Adapter. For a product with such an ungainly name, it only does one thing: get Ethernet only devices onto a wireless network. And it’s almost exactly half the price of the AirPort Express.

I should have an update in a few days about how the install worked.

(Incidentally, 802.11b is one reason that going all-out on structured wiring hasn’t made sense to me. But the fact that we still have Ethernet only devices is giving me cause to rethink that point, though buying an adapter is cheaper and easier than snaking cable up through walls that we’ve never opened. Maybe when we do a big remodel.)

QTN™: Harpoon Scotch Ale (Wee Heavy)

A while back, I blogged the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series—“one of a kind creations fashioned by a Harpoon brewer, limited to a single 100 barrel batch.” At the time I didn’t think I’d have a chance to try any, but I’ve found two since moving back to Massachusetts. The Alt Ale, which is currently on their website, I found uninspired—a little timid, too little hop to balance the malt. The Scotch Ale (subtitled Wee Heavy), on the other hand, is pretty darned good, and true to the tradition too. High head that recedes quickly, good copper color, excellent malt nose, a little heavy on the palate in the true style, a good sweetish aftertaste. And strong too. A better effort than the Alt. But still room to grow in this series; I look forward to tasting more of the individual brewers’ efforts.

Alas, the herb garden

The last time I left Seattle (after my summer internship), I wrote a post about things I would miss upon returning to Boston. This time I held off; everything moved too fast to pause for reflection, and I didn’t know what would show up on the “most missed” list.

Then tonight I was in the grocery store and I had a full-on Proustian moment. I was going to pick up a chicken to make one of our favorites, a fricassee with rosemary, garlic, and white wine, when I thought, “Guess I need to buy rosemary.” And just like that, it came to me in a rush: I miss my herb garden.

Obviously rosemary in particular is important to me. But I really miss that whole garden bed. Out of the six raised beds in the back, we only kept one going consistently. As I described when I dug it, I put in a full bouquet garni of herbs, and then some: a border of different thymes, of which the standard English and variegated lemon varieties did quite well; sage, which froze in the winter but bounced back and thrived after; marjoram and savory, which hung in quite well; basil and parsley, which needed seasonal replacement but some of which hung on for the next year; oregano, which may well have taken over the whole box by now. And what ended up being two rosemary bushes, one of which was three feet tall when we left. I never had to buy herbs, except cilantro and parsley (we consumed far more than we could grow). I could always walk out back and grab a handful of stuff and improvise.

This house has no established garden area. We’re going to have to work quite hard to carve one out of the back yard, which is shadowed by three overgrown maples and blanketed with weeds. So it will be a while before I get my herb-fu back.

Taking Jefferson’s name in vain?

On Friday, Chris Pirillo posted a quotation that was sourced to Thomas Jefferson:

Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough to take everything you have… the course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.

Having read a good many of Jefferson’s works, I was suspicious. This didn’t sound at all like Jefferson’s diction. A little Googling turned up a couple other suspects for originators of the quotation: Gerald Ford and Barry Goldwater.

And in almost every case I’ve found on line, the quotation is on a conservative forum and the ellipses are intact.

Which raises, for me, some questions:

  1. Was it Jefferson, Goldwater, or Ford?
  2. Why, when Jefferson had so many other good quotable moments about the limits of government, did someone want to attribute this quotation to him?
  3. Who was the first person to make this attribution?

In partial answer to the last point, a search through Google Groups shows a reference in 1996, posted to, that cites the second half of the quotation and attributes it to Jefferson, while a 1995 post to rec.arts.frp.marketplace shows the first half of the quotation. But earlier references can be found sourcing the quotation to Davy Crockett.

So what’s the real story here? Jefferson wrote enough during his lifetime that you could find support for just about any liberal or conservative position in his own words. Why bother attributing such a clumsy phrase to him? And why do so many people quote it without question, even on pages that source every other Jefferson quote by date and addressee?

Fridge Part III

As it turns out, I wasn’t quite ready to have our fridge would fit in our kitchen. When Lisa and I measured the fridge cubby in the kitchen, we forgot to take into account the width of the baseboard molding. So after ripping down the cabinet, and after the fridge was delivered, I had one last piece of demolition to do.

Ripping out floor trim can be tricky if it was put in before the most recent floor was laid. In our kitchen, there was a layer of linoleum and other flooring material that obscured the base of the trim. So instead of being able to get a prybar under the base of the trim, I had to work in stages—first splitting the trim in half along the line of the bottom trim nails, then removing the top half, then pulling the bottom trim nails, then levering the bottom half of the trim out.

After this last piece of demolition on the right hand side trim, the fridge fit back about three-quarters of the way into the nook. Maybe tomorrow while the remnants of Hurricane Charlie dump rain on us, I’ll remove a little trim on the left hand side so it can slide the rest of the way back.

In the meantime: we have a fridge!!!