Drywall is UP!

Our latest home-improvement project has reached a milestone: we have hung the ceiling in the dining room.

naked dining room ceiling

All of the drywall is hung – eight panels on the ceiling and one panel on the wall

Meghan and I completed the ceiling in a one-day marathon of equipment procurement and hard work.  We finished the wall section the next day after returning the rented panel-lift and truck.

Next up: “mudding” and removing the remaining sections of wall paper.

Power Tools

Home improvement can be a real pain in the ass.  Buying new tools makes it fun again!

Oscillating Multifunction Power Tool

Oscillating Multifunction Power Tool

Today’s project involves removing baseboard trim that was installed before the hardwood floor. (who does that?!)  It’s nearly impossible to remove, so we’re going to cut it out so it’s even with the floor instead, and install new trim the right way.

 

There are 10 types of people…

Aside

There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who know binary, those who don’t, and those who didn’t expect this joke to be in base 3.

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who know binary, those who don’t, those who didn’t expect this joke to be in base 3, those who didn’t expect this joke to be in base 4, … , and those who didn’t expect this joke to be in base n.

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who know ternary, those who don’t, and those who mistake it by binary.

There are 10 types of people in the world. One who knows binary, and nine who can’t tell a joke right.

There are two kind of people, the ones that can extrapolate information with incomplete data

There are 1 kinds of people in the world: those who start their arrays at 0 and those who don’t.

There are two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors.

Welcome to New England

Aside

It snowed today.

Well, they were really flurries but still, it snowed today.  I believe that this is the earliest snow I have ever seen in southern New England.

I have a hypothesis that the earlier the snow and cold come, the milder the winter will be.  I’m hoping this rings true this year.  I’m no fan of global warming, but I’m also not into paying huge heating bills either.

Maine 2015

Backstory: a long time ago as the ice sheets from the latest ice age slowly receded, an island was carved out of the Maine coastline.  My father purchased a few acres of land shortly before humans showed up in North America to jack up the prices, intending to build a vacation home when modern building methods were developed.

Alpha, Beta, and Butter

Taking a quick break on the trail

A house never materialized but we made annual treks to the island, called Islesboro, for years while I was growing up.  After my parents lost interest, I occasionally went there on my own to go camping until finally I, too, got busy with life and stopped going.

Fast-forward a couple of decades, to last Sunday night in fact.  Meghan and I got to talking and we realized that we’re really only a short drive away from Islesboro nowadays– only about 3 ½ hours from door-to-ferry slip.  Why don’t we go?  So we booked a room for Friday night and started rearranging our schedules.

A little more backstory: When I used to go up by myself, I generally spent a my first night at a little motel on the mainland, just a mile from the ferry slip.  This motel was about as bare-bones as you can get: little cabins with a clean bed and a shower, and if I recall correctly it was about $25 / night back then.  They family that owned it made you breakfast in the morning (Best blueberry pancakes I’ve ever had.)

The hotel is still there, under new ownership and a new name but still relatively inexpensive – and still clean and comfortable.  They also accept dogs, so we could bring Butter instead of trying to board her on short notice.

We left mid-day Friday, after I finished up my tasks and morning meetings at work — my employer offers some scheduling flexibility and I put in a number of extra hours over the course of the week to make sure my promised deliverables were deliverable (I have to explicitly mention this since some of my co-workers may actually read this blog).

Meghan, WW1 memorial tower

Megh standing near the peak of Mt. Battie. The tower is a memorial to the soldiers of ‘The Great War’, dated 1921.

The trip was rainy as hell on the way up.  We detoured into Freeport to visit the LL Bean store — even if you’ve been to a L. L. Bean store, it’s not as big as the L. L. Bean store.  The girl-folk went inside to procure winter jackets for the kids, while I took a nap in the car and walked Butter around in between squalls.  (Did I mention I’ve been staying up late all week to get stuff done?)

Hiking Mt. Battie

Hiking upwards on the Tablelands Trail, Mt. Battie

We arrived in Lincolnville around 5:30 pm.  The rain was still coming down and occasionally pouring, but the breaks were getting longer.  After settling into our room, and letting everyone (including Butter) stretch their legs a bit, we headed back up to the road to downtown Camden in search of dinner.

We found a nice tavern, away from the main drag, called the Smokestack Grill.  Not much ambiance inside — it looks a bit like a sports bar with large TVs over the bar — but the building is an old mill so there’s architectural interest.  I had a jalapeño cream cheese and bacon burger, Meghan had calamari, and the girls split a fried shrimp dinner.  The bill was quite reasonable, our server was attentive and friendly, and the food was delicious.  Butter, sadly, stayed in the car and waited for us.

Afterwards we went back to our room and got ready for bed – except me, I stayed up until the rain stopped so Butter could get in a short walk — she is a princess and doesn’t like to get wet, and sleeping in close quarters with a wet dog is not high on my list of things to do.  I  didn’t have to wait too long, and we were all in bed early.  There’s something about travelling that just makes you tired, even if you’re sitting in the car all day.

Saturday morning was sunny but really breezy and chilly.  The kids were divided on whether or not to go to the island, so I cast the deciding vote: no, the seas are rough and I don’t want to spend $70 to have two seasick kids and a sick dog – we’ll come back for that.  Lets go do something else this time.

Right up the road, between the motel and downtown Camden, is a state park called Camden Hills State Park / Mt. Battie.  We drove in, paid our fee, found a place to park, and went hiking up the ‘Tablelands Trail.’  It takes you right up to one of the peaks, which overlooks both the Penobscot Bay and downtown Camden, from nearly 800 feet up.

After playing around on the peak for while, and after the clouds started playing peek-a-boo with the sun, we headed back down to find some hot chocolate in Camden to warm us up.  The breeze was making us chilly even when we were ascending on the trail, so without the sun we got downright cold.

Camden starts to shut down before October, so while a majority of shops were still open there were a few that have already closed for the season.  We window-shopped and walked around downtown for an hour, and hit the road for one last stop down Route 1.

Maine State Prison showroom

The Maine State Prison “showroom” for prisoner-made woodcraft. The store is still staffed by prisoners and prison guards. The items inside are made with impressive quality, including furniture that is as nice as a high-end store (but much lower cost)

For whatever faults the Maine prison system may have, they maintain an intriguing program of teaching trades to prisoners, including woodworking.  The finished products are then sold to the public.

I’ve been stopping at the Prison Store in Thomaston for as long as I’ve been going to Maine.  The last time I was there was in 2001, and the store was still attached to a working prison; in 2002 the prison was closed and subsequently torn down, but the store remains.

Unsurprisingly, we came out with some gifts for family and a few things for ourselves.

After Thomaston, we made a bee-line for Bath (home of the BFC – Big Friggen Crane – at the Bath Iron Works) and the interstates so that we would be home in time to make dinner.

All in all, it was a fun little jaunt, even if we didn’t actually step foot on the island.  Next time I think I’ll try to just take the day off instead of squeezing five days worth of work into four.

Penobscot Bay

Over looking Penobscot Bay – Islesboro is the big island in the middle, stretching the width of the picture. If you click to view the full-size version you can see the ferry.

View of Camden from Mt Battie

Looking down on Camden from Mt. Battie. There is a trail that descends from here into town, which looks like it might be a good hike for next time. The color is a little washed out because we’re pointed right into the light.

SE view from Mt. Battie

Taken from the tower on Mt. Battie, looking off to the south east.

View of Mt Megunticook from Mt Battie

Mt. Battie isn’t the highest peak in the park, it merely has the best view. Mt. Megunticook stands 400′ higher — I think I’d like to tackle that next time.

Hot Chocolate

Quote

[Scene: I’m standing on a rocky ledge with both girls and Butter the dog.  Meghan is above the ledge, refusing to come down to meet us.]

Me: You could be down here with your daughters and husband and dog.

Beta: That’s better than hot chocolate!

Alpha: Well… Hot chocolate is actually pretty good…

American Chop Suey

American Chop Suey is Meghan’s comfort food.  It’s quick to cook so I can generally make it on short notice, when I know she’s had a really bad day.

The instructions below are meant for multi-tasking and making everything come together at the right time — an expression of an unplanned dinner made on short notice.  🙂

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of small-shape pasta (elbows, mini-shells, or rotini are all good)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 2-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce, 15 oz or so, depends on how saucy you like it
  • 1 or 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • olive oil

You’ll also need a large skillet and a 9×13 glass pan to go in the oven.

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Put on a pot of water to boil, and put on a large skillet on the stove with medium-low heat
  3. Dice onion and pepper
  4. When the water is very close to boiling, turn up the skillet to medium heat, add some oil, and throw in the onions and peppers
  5. When the water boils, add the hamburger to the skillet and brown it with the onions and peppers
  6. Put the pasta in the water and cook to al dente; strain.  If the meat isn’t done yet, toss with a little oil to keep it from sticking.
  7. When the meat is brown, drain off the fat and mix in the jar of sauce.  Put back on medium heat until the sauce starts to bubble.
  8. Pour the cooked pasta into the 9×13 pan, and stir in the meat sauce.
  9. Sprinkle (or if you’re like me, shovel) the cheese on top, cover with foil, and cook at 350° for 20 minutes

Magnus Chase

Alpha and Beta have been following the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan almost since the books first came out.

To kick off the latest series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Mr. Riordan hosted a Q&A / talk in downtown Boston that Meghan and the girls attended.  They got signed copies of the book, and some swag, to boot.

Alpha holding book and swag

Alpha is very excited to a) see Mr. Riordan, b) get a copy of his latest book, and c) get some swag

When I went to pick them up, there was no question I was in the right spot: as I watched, a sudden stream of very happy people holding ‘Magnus Chase’ foam shields appeared on the side walk.  The event was sold out and the auditorium was standing-room-only.