Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Busy, Busy

I know the holiday season is supposed to be a busy one with shopping, decorating, parties and road trips here and there. But I'm already wiped out and I've done none of those.

After stripping, scraping, sanding, staining and putting two finishing coats of Miniwax on our front room floor, I'd only just begun a run of home improvement efforts. I spent much of this past Saturday gingerly replacing the furniture in that same front room lest I scratch the finish. Do you know how hard it is to gingerly move a piano?

Then on Sunday we ordered carpet for two other rooms, hoping the installers can get here before Christmas. To ease the financial pain, I volunteer that we will tear up the old carpet, the padding, the tack strips and any stray nails and staples. Somehow I'll find a way to dispose of all this too before the carpet-layers arrive. The ordering salesperson asks if we have a garage where the carpet can be cut. We answer in the affirmative.

What we didn't confess is that our garage has been used mainly for storage and is a jumble of clutter from one end to another.

On Monday, I called the local car dealer and told them I wanted a deal on a new mini-van like one advertised by a competitor down the road. Fortunately, I was speaking with a lady salesman whose father was sales manager. She said she would call me back. When she did, she offered a fairly competitive deal (I get the feeling dad wanted to help her make the sale). Wendy and I were at the dealership till almost 10 p.m., but we signed the papers and now are proud owners of a 2010 Grand Caravan.

But that meant a trip to the bank today to get a cashier's check for the down payment, a phone call to the insurance agent to make sure our vehicle was insured and twenty minutes of wrenching to get the rusty old plate off our old mini-van (in the end, they gave us a brand new plate free since the old one was in such bad shape).

Meanwhile, Wendy was camped out at home, waiting for the carpet people to do the preliminary measurements on the rooms we want re-carpeted. The technician arrived at the same time we promised the car people we would be at the dealership to pick up our new mini-van.

Somewhere during all this, Wendy managed to put up outdoor Christmas garland and to secure the gate on our backyard fence since we had to also dog-sit our son's rascally Boston Terrier, Simon. When he was here previously on Saturday, he pushed open the gate, ran down the block and across the street to terrorize a woman and her little girl walking their two big dogs. I was seriously worried that we might get visited by the police afterwards.

Maybe the woman was somewhat forgiving since Simon was wearing a University of Michigan sweater and the Wolverines were getting pummeled at the time by the Ohio State Buckeyes. U of M fans of all types needed to release their frustrations somehow.

So it's been and will continue to be busy, busy. OH, and I almost forgot. I still have to write my blog.

OK, so this is it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Move Over, Daniel-san

Let's first admit one thing. I'm not a handy man.

Some guys instinctually are at home with power tools, blue prints and a pile of boards. I'm more like the guy whose wife alerts the local rescue squad when he's undertaking a major home maintenance project.

But when we called a professional to refinish the hardwood floors in our front room, he said he was booked up the next three to four weeks. Three to four weeks? But . . . all the carpeting had been pulled up already. All the furniture is out and is in our family room, making that room as cozy as an igloo on Thanksgiving (Wendy says it reminds her of our days living in an apartment). Something had to be done now.

There's no need to fear . . . Big Dave is here. Well, actually that's not so good, but we had no choice. First stop, Home Depot to rent a power sander. There are basically two types of floor sanders. One is a belt sander that will rip through varnish and paint with a speed and fury that rivals that Tasmanian Devil from the cartoons.

Not for me. I instead rented an orbital sander that was less likely to eat through the floor if I had to stop to sneeze. Got it back home, set it up, plugged it in, threw the switch and it rumbled to life . . . just for a few seconds before the motor stalled and the machine went silent.

Did I break it already? This was ridiculous. Then I saw a tag that said, "To reduce nuisance tripping, use a 20 amp outlet." Show of hands, how many out there know what that means? I figured it had something to do with my machine sputtering to a halt. After I re-set the circuit-breaker in the basement, I found a different electrical outlet that I thought should handle this beast.

Bingo. The sander whirred to life and started dancing across the floor. Seriously, that's what it felt like sanding my floor, sometimes I would lead and pull the machine where I wanted it to go; other times it led me down its own primrose path. After about four or five hours, I had stripped the floor as bare as I was going to get it. Even Daniel-san from the Karate Kid couldn't sand the floor any cleaner.

The next day I applied the stain, a medium oak color. Then for the finish, I picked out a water-based polyurethane because it was quick-drying. However, when I e-mailed my dad what I had done and where I was going, he responded:

"I don't like to say this but I don't like water base polyurethane . . . "

Aarrrgggh! My dad is a handy guy so I follow his advice. I exchanged the water-based poly at Home Depot for oil-based polyurethane. Two coats later and you can see the result. Not bad, I'd say, even if it took me more time than I wanted. This room normally serves as the dining room for Thanksgiving. Obviously not this year, not in this condition.

So Thanksgiving is at my sister-in-law's house this year while our floor dries out and cures. I can finally relax, for now anyway. And happy Thanksgiving to all my family and friends, both inside and outside cyberspace. May you all have something to be thankful for. I'm thankful that my next home makeover project involves re-carpeting, something we'll leave to the professionals.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

If I Twittered

Does anybody out there do tweets? Twitter is the program actually. I don’t. Maybe if I ever became a movie star or President people would be interested in what I do on a minute to minute basis. But blogging is self-indulgent enough.

Still, I wondered if I did twitter, what would I tweet about? Going over events of the past week, I pondered this and came up with some sample tweets. Remember, they can’t be over 140 characters long so a tweet needs to be short and sweet.

My ‘’ isn’t typing. Frustrting. Need new keybord. Wit minute. @h h@! Think I found the @nswer.

RIP Doogie 2 years ago today. Miss u, your ‘bird’ impression, your love of pizza and your outrage at ringing phones.

On a roll, UM Wolverines, 2 wins 2 wks, and my ff Mock Draft Bloggers, 3 wins 3 wks. Is that nephew Vic fading in my rear view mirror?

(That last one was tough, 140 characters exactly)

Need Daniel-san’s help. Pro floor sander can’t come for month. Room empty, furniture out now. OK, I rent sander. Wax on, wax off.

Why does waitress keep calling me honey, sweetie, sweetheart? I’m 57, not 7!

Training session today for new software we’re getting at work. 4 trainers, all under 30. Boy do I feel old.

Key West guide came in mail today. Duval Street here I come. Can’t wait to waste away in Margaritaville. Maybe before year’s end.

Winners this week: Wendy, $5 scratch-off. My sister/her husband, raffle trip to Bahamas. Wendy needs to set her sights higher.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Car Sharks

Our 13-year-old mini-van is nearing the end. The instrument panel has so many "service" lights burning, it could double as Christmas decorations. When I tried changing tires a couple weeks ago, the tire jack couldn't lift the car without puncturing the rusty frame. If I had everything repaired that needs repairs, the cost would bankrupt my pension.

But there's one thing scarier than driving around a rusting hulk with more strange sounds than the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyworld: visiting the showroom of a new car dealer.

I hate, hate, hate dealing with new car salesmen. I think that was even before an incident several years ago when we purchased and drove home what we thought was a brand new vehicle, only to find out it was two years old when we played the new car owner's video guide lying on the back seat. Argghhhhhh!

Anyway, I checked the internet, watched the ads, and started pricing likely suspects. It appears that Chrysler is the only domestic dealer that makes mini-vans anymore. I saw an advertisement for a 2010 Town and Country for under $19,000. Not bad. Wife Wendy heard on the radio that they have employee pricing for everyone. I called a salesman and he kinda confirms that we should get a great price on this car.

This dealer is about 40 miles away but for a good deal, we'll drive that far. Found the dealership and asked for Chris, the salesman I talked to on the phone. And . . . it's like the phone call never happened. Suddenly, under $19,000 became over $25,000! What??

Now here's the scam. From what I see, all the Chrysler advertisements for new cars in the area newspapers are full of rebates that the average car buyer would never qualify for. In order to get the advertised price, the buyer has to be a Chrysler employee, be a member of the miltary too, must be turning in a leased Chrysler vehicle earlier than the contracted lease period, have a daughter named Bob and be able to stand on his head for 30 minutes while juggling balls with his feet.

In otherwords, very few qualify to get this car for the advertised price. We said so long to Chris and wondered if our mini-van could possibly make it to 300,000 miles (it's already well past 200,000).

This week, in our local newspaper, there was another ad for a Town and Country for under $19,000 at a local dealership. OK, new plan. I'm not even going down to the sales lot until I get a commitment on a price over the phone (is anybody out there chuckling at my naivete?)

I do call and get Tiffany, a new car salesperson, on the phone. I told her I assume that the advertised price is for Chrysler employees. Yes, I am told. So what kind of deal can an average Joe like myself get for the same car.

She says she doesn't know. (Doesn't know???) She says I would have to come down to the showroom, pick out a vehicle, then she would see what rebates I qualify for and then give me a price. But she says they are selling cars at "rock bottom" prices. I wonder if that's any better than the "great deal" the other salesman promised.

Couldn't she at least give me a ballpark figure so I know I'm not wasting my time, and my wife's time, driving down there? Apparently not. She refused to quote me any price whatsoever. But she told me to come down and she would have several vehicles ready for me to test drive. There was even a $25 gift card in it for me just for visiting.

I told her I would get back with her.

In the meantime, I think I'll pump a little more air into my Schwinn. If the mini-van goes, at least I'll have a back-up.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Return Of Mike

Wasn't there a Halloween sequel entitled Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers? Of course, he was just a movie character. Halloween at our house this year also featured the return of Mike. But this Mike is my nephew and he's real. Check out my 'haunted' front yard in the photo above and you'll see him seated at our front door in his wolfman get-up.

Mike likes to come over to my house to entertain the trick-or-treaters who like a little boo with their Baby Ruths.

That wasn't too easy at first since the neighborhood's costumed beggars began showing up at our doorstep at 6 p.m., when it was still quite light out. When Mike lurked threateningly in our front room behind me as I passed out candy, one youngster nattily dressed in a pin-striped suit said, "You don't scare me", then pulled out a toy tommy gun and blasted Mike through the open door.

So Mike tried banging on the inside of our steel garage door. Scared my wife Wendy but didn't do much to phase the youngsters a few feet on the other side. Then Mike moved outside, finding a chair that he put in front of our garage and sat in, next to a trash can that he rigged up with a black cape hanging out of it (can't remember what his inspiration was there). Still only a tepid response.

Now it was starting to get dark, so Mike moved his chair right up to the door. He also stuffed a pillow under his sweatshirt so he appeared to be more dummy than real. Then the fun finally started.

A little girl came up to our door and seeing Mike slumped in his chair assumed it was a dummy. She tapped his head which brought Mikey to life with a "Growwwrrrrrrrrr." She fled the porch screaming until she was safely at her father's side over on the sidewalk. No amount of coaxing could bring her back to get her candy.

New plan. No scaring the trick-or-treaters.

So Mike sat silently, stoic, only occasionally moving as droves of youngsters came up for their treat. That didn't make the kids any less wary. Most of the time their eyes didn't leave the wolfman sitting in the chair next to them as they approached, got their treat, said 'thank you' and left. I could have been handing out broccoli and they would have been none the wiser.

A few patted his belly. One asked, "What are you supposed to be? Are you supposed to be a chihuahua?" There was debate whether he was real or not. "I think he's real. That knee looks very human," one kid commented.

One mother stood a distance away as she worried that this monster might spring to life and frighten her charges. I shook my head. "He's been told," I assured her.

However, another girl after getting her treat returned to her father in the driveway with her report. "It's just a dummy," she said. At the same time, the dad's eyes widened and he bent over in a fit of laughter. "He moved," the father said. The little girl wheeled around with an ever so serious look of horrific revelation.

Ahhh, Halloween. I'm sure our neighborhood kids will have memories for years to come, both good and not so good. By the way, isn't that a cool pumpkin I carved? Here's another picture below. He's getting ready to hurl his little brother.