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    • CommentTimeAug 3rd 2009
    The tribulations of homeownership.

    Though we still don't actually own the house yet. That should happen on or before August 14th, as long as people stop asking me for more paperwork. I will not go into the details on the latest eye-rolling-inducing rigamarole, but I can assure I about got my left eyeball stuck in the back of my head.

    Anyway, so we're completely moved in and no longer have possession of the apartment, which is awesome. As we made the last few treks over there to clean it up, I thought, "Wow, this is a real shit hole." But it really wasn't! It just seems like that when compared to the house, so I guess we are officially spoiled. This is tampered by the amount of work required to maintain a home. It's a lot, which I knew, but is now very real in its annoyance.

    Changes needed to or around the house:

    New garage door and garage door opener
    Build on screened-in porch
    Rake the whole backyard
    Try to get some grass to grow in front and back yards
    Get some splash blocks to divert rainwater a bit further away from house
    Figure out how to stop water from pooling in walkway....no clue on how to do this
    Lots of furniture
    Shelving for closets
    Buy and install projection screen and switch box thing
    Better lighting! This will take many years and lots of money though.
    Replace ugly outlets and light switches. Also, why are so many light switches installed upside down? Is this really so hard to do??
    Improve attic insulation

    And on and on.

    As if we haven't spent enough money, we bought a robot. The iRobot Roomba 562. Before we even moved in, I knew that keeping the floors clean would be a constant problem.

    I decided to wait until we moved to see what method would be best. I bought a $25 dust "mop" (a smaller version of a janitor-type dust mop), and while it does a good job of getting all the fur and hair, I would still need to follow up with a regular broom for larger dirt. And of course sweeping this big ol' house takes forever.

    So I looked at tons of reviews of cordless, rechargeable stick vacuums. I didn't want to have to push around a big heavy vacuum with a cord. A few stick vacuums get really good reviews, but the major downside is their batteries don't hold much charge and lose charge overall over time.

    That's when I started to seriously consider the Roomba. Reviews for the latest generation of Roomba models are generally great. What I gathered is that when it works, it works great. But of course some people get Roombas that just do not work or not work for very long, and many have had issues with the battery losing the ability to hold charge. These potential problems, combined with the big price tag, made me rule out the Roomba at first.

    But then I was faced with these floors...getting dirty over and over. I do not want to spend all of my time cleaning them. The infamous tumbleweeds of cat fur appeared on day three of living here.

    I reconsidered the Roomba. If I was going to have to deal with battery issues, I'd rather it be for a machine that will do the bulk of the work for me. I have read some guidelines on keeping the battery in tip-top shape, and I think this is something that the iRobot people have really tried to improve.

    I was also really concerned that we would spend $300-400 on a Roomba, only for it to break down just after the 1-year warranty. I then found the Hammacher Schlemmer company, which offers unconditional, lifetime guaranteeson all its products, and they sell a few Roomba models.

    So we took the plunge.

    I turned it on for the first time yesterday evening. I stayed near for the first hour while it went around vacuuming. I wanted to gauge the cats' reactions. They were extremely curious and kind of scared, but not nearly as freaked out as I feared they would be. They would even get pretty close to it until it turned around and went right at them. Even then they would just back away quickly. Not a single one had raised fur or a bushy tail - I was so impressed! The Roomba is not nearly as loud as a traditional vacuum; I would say it's about as loud as my electric toothbrush? I mean, I don't know that I would be able to concentrate on something difficult with it in the room, but the noise didn't bother me when a couple of walls separated us. I think the cats were more intrigued that it was moving by itself than bothered by the noise.

    I made sure that the floor was clear of things that could potentially stall the Roomba, like loose cords. Charles and I then went to a party and left the Roomba running with free rein of the whole house. When we returned three hours later, we found it stopped in the master bathroom. It had shut itself down because too much stuff was clogging its brush.

    Oh man, there was so much cat fur and hair (from me) caught around the brush and bearings! The dust bin was completely full too, mostly of fur but also lots of fine particulate. I was impressed. We cleaned it up, which was not hard to do, and turned it on again. It cleaned for at least another thirty minutes, then navigated itself back to its docking station, flawlessly. As we walked around, we could tell most of the floors were clean. This model, 562, is supposed to be able to clean four rooms on one charge, so I wasn't expecting it to do a thorough job of all 10 areas or so in the house.

    There is one thing I observed that worries me. The Roomba can detect walls and boxes blocking its way, and it will slow down and very gently touch these barriers. Which is great.
    But it can't see other barriers that aren't so tall. For instance, we have a glider/recliner thing with a metal, tubular round base, which is about 1.5 inches tall. This is too tall for the Roomba to roll over, but not tall enough to register on its sensors, so the Roomba bangs into it at full speed. Now, full speed isn't very fast, and I'm not really worried about damage to furniture, but more concerned that these repeated bangs could damage the Roomba itself.
    It also doesn't seem to detect some skinny table and chair legs so well.

    It is really cute though. The beeping noises it makes when you turn it on and when it docks just melt my heart. I know, I'm pathetic. I was sad when we discovered it stopped and clogged, and then so proud when it docked itself, as if I had anything to do with it.

    Our model also comes with two "Virtual Wall Lighthouses," which keep the Roomba contained to a specific area, and it can be scheduled to run at specific times. Yeah, so, so far so good. We'll just have to wait and see how the battery and robot hold up over time.
    • CommentTimeAug 4th 2009
    Just give it a few weeks and your cats will be hitching a ride on the roomba. After a few months, you and Charles will do something like this:

    Or maybe not. But if you get two roombas and two dueling harnesses, your cats can joust. That's just hours of fun right there.

    On a more serious note, my vacuum has had an accident. I ran over an errant sock by accident, and it got all caught up and then a nice puff of smoke shot out of it and the little brush thing no longer spins. It could be just the little belt that drives the whole thing, or it could be that I burnt out the motor or something. If it's just the belt, I'm reasonably confident that I could replace it.

    If not, I'll seriously consider that roomba (and thanks for that link to the site with the guarantee thingy - awesome, never would've found that). Thanks for bring it up, because I totally forgot about it, and it sounds perfect for my level of procrastination/laziness. It follows that I'll then need a cat and dueling harness.

    Anyway, welcome to home ownership and congrats on the new house! The working on the house part sucks, and it's never really over. Or maybe that's just because I ignore 90% of what I should probably do to this place. It could probably use some paint (most of the house is a rather bland beige color), there are still some holes in the wall from stuff the previous owner presumably had hanging there, and my sense of decor is rather shit. Also, my furniture, while decent and somewhat matching (er, who am I kidding) could probably use an upgrade.

    One of my toilets has some sort of leaky valve, which sucks arse. Those things are so goddamn finicky, I swear. The last time this happened I spent like a month trying to replace various pieces of the thing, to no avail. Finally, my dad took over and bought a full replacement thingy (i.e. he replaced all the guts in the top portion of the toilet, not the toilet itself) and it was fine for a few years. Ah crap.

    Also, I'm working on my master bedroom shower. It's one of those small stall things, but because it's next to the master bedroom, I've always used it for my showers. Either I used cleaning stuff that was too powerful, or I didn't clean it enough, because it needs to be re-caulked and re-grouted. I'm started with the re-caulking because that's the bad part and I'm worried that water will start seeping into the walls. So I've been screwing around in my bathroom, trying to remove the existing caulk and clean the area so that I can re-caulk. This is something I've never done before, so it could be disastrous, but I guess we'll see.

    Luckily, all my outdoor stuff is done by the condo association, so no raking leaves, cutting grass, or other yardwork for me (I had my fill when I was little, believe me - I think my parents were fans of the "your kids are indentured servants" school of parenting). You have fun with that. Do you have a big yard? Does it warrant a riding lawnmower? Because riding lawnmowers are awesome.

    Let's see, what else? I've been exercising very regularly for the past month or so... except, apparently, for the past 5 days, during which I've only exercised once. But I've found that using Wii fit increases my workout time by almost an hour or so, which puts me up around 2 hours for a workout (and shower). This is just too much sometimes, so I'm going to try dialing down the Wii fit and dialing up free weights and elliptical. Still, getting those 2 hours back means I can get a lot more done. Tonight I was able to cook a nicer dinner than normal, cut my hair, and start the cleaning/caulk removal duties mentioned above. Also, got the third movie challenge posted in the blot (man, those things are taking a lot of time!) as well as the answers to the second movie challenge and the rest of the blot.

    Anywho, It seems I have about 5 weekend trips coming up. This weekend, I'm going to be heading up to the mountains, to a place I've never been called Eagles Mere or something. Should be fun. A couple of friends are all making the trek. In a couple of weeks, another friend is going to be showing Point Break outside his house (apparently a big projector or something). Point Break is a big inside joke between a few of us, and we love making fun of that movie (perhaps double feature with Hot Fuzz). Then I've got a possible trip to the Adirondacks for about half a week, another possible trip to Ocean City, Maryland for a weekend, and a trip to glorious Connecticut for labor day. None are really tremendous vacations, but all should be fun...

    How's everyone else doing? Anyone still here? Heh, I keep telling myself that I should post more, but I never get around to it. I blame the exercise.

    • CommentTimeAug 4th 2009
    Mark, I wish I could decorate your place. Because I LOVE decorating and you probably have a mostly blank slate there.

    But then you might want me to stay far away. If you saw my pics of the house, then you know that I am not afraid of color, and when we get more furniture and can really start decorating, you'll see I'm not afraid of patterns. This is where I come up against the wall that is Charles though. What bothers me the most is that he hates purple. Purple! It's such a beautiful color...I look really good in purple actually. Anyway, I found that I felt more at home after I decorated our last apartment, so I encourage you to personalize your space.

    Caulking in the master bathtub is one of the things I requested before we moved in. There was a bit of space around the base plates to the faucet handles, and I was worried about the wall behind the wall tile getting wet and growing mold.
    I need to do a wee bit of caulking around the drain hold in one of the kitchen sinks. Some of the caulking came off last night when I was cleaning. I'm guessing it never got to dry completely.

    Our toilet in the apartment was the bane of our existence. It leaked foooorrrrrever. I replaced the flapper once myself, then the lift rod and chain. But it continued to leak. Maintenance finally did something to make it stop...for a while. It was leaking again a few weeks later. The whole water control assembly was basically one plastic piece, so they finally had to replace that in order to fix whatever the problem was. Until then though, we turned the water off and on with the shut off valve to stop the toilet from constantly running.

    We initially considered buying a condo because we didn't want to have to worry about yard maintenance. However, I read lots of negative reviews about local condo associations. They either didn't actually maintain the outside, or they charged huge fees, used shoddy products, or poorly skilled laborers. My main desire in owning a home is to have total control of the property, so I decided condo living was not for me.

    Our yards are not tiny nor huge. I'd say the backyard is a bit smaller than average though, especially for this street. Our house and the neighbors' sits on a slight curve in the road, but the subdivision developer decided to give our neighbors an especially large yard and us a smaller-than-average portion. Weird. That's cool with us though since we have no real need for a yard except to expand outward for the screened porch.

    I grew up in the semi-country, on a road labeled as a Rural Route (RR) and now as a Farm-to-Market (FM). The two houses I grew up in were on lots of land that required a riding lawnmower. Most of the trees were junipers, and the few areas of lost leaves we had were left alone. So yeah, I never had to do yard work.
    What's really weird to me are leaf bags. Like, you put all your fallen leaves and twigs and stuff in bags, and let the garbage collector take them? I'm used to living next to a sprawling pasture and just chucking organic refuse like that over the barbed wire fence.

    I would like to pay a neighborhood kid or family members to rake my backyard. I'll do some myself, but it's a big job for even a small yard. Plus, it's still 100 degrees or more here every. single. day. Can I just wait until autumn to rake it? Some weeds shot up with the last bit of rain, so I'm afraid that by the time it gets cooler, the whole backyard will be overrun with weeds that will require being cut down before I can rake.

    Sov recommended My Fitness Coach, and I back up that recommendation. I get a real workout with it, but I also am not in any sort of athletic shape, so it doesn't take much to get my heart rate up. I haven't done it or any typical exercise in a long while though. I have been physically active with packing, moving, cleaning, and unpacking. I want to get a stationary bike to use here at home. There are so many times when I just want to spend 10 minutes being really active without having to lather on the sunscreen or feel suffocated outside.

    That's a lot of vacationing! Sounds like lots of fun too. I'd like to go somewhere cold (meaning, 80 degrees) with water nearby. And flowers! I miss flowers.
    • CommentTimeAug 5th 2009
    It's not so much the decorations that bother me as the, you know, working to put them up. I hate doing housework, so if my decor is a bit sparse but functional, I'm all good.

    I remember raking leaves at my parents old house. I wasn't that old, so it was never that big of a deal for me, and when we moved, the new house didn't have many trees on the lot, so we didn't have to do anything with leaves. It was awesome. Of course, we had to cut the grass like crazy, but that's a different story.

    The problem I have with Wii fit is that it just takes too long. I like some of the exercises/games/whatever you call them, but they take a while and you have to navigate through all those info dialog boxes - it gets very annoying. Even when I do something like boxing, I've gotten to the point where I know all of the different combinations they want me to do - but the guy goes and shows me every damn punch I need to throw before I throw it. I could get the same workout done in half the time if they streamlined it a bit. Plus, the workout I get from Wii fit is nothing compared to the rest of my workout. I barely break a sweat, even if I go for 40 minutes on Wii (which would take around an hour, depending on what exercises I do). Meanwhile, 30 minutes on the elliptical has me almost completely soaking my shirt. I suspect that's much more valuable than the stuff I do on Wii. At this point, the only thing I really want to use it for is as a way to keep track of my progress... Though I'm not sure how great of a scale the balance board is. I just get the impression that it can't be right.

    I'm looking forward to at least a couple of the vacations. I'm assuming at least one of them will fall through, but whatever. They're all short weekend trips though. Next year I want to do something a little bigger and longer.

    Any vacations planned for you? Or is the house taking up all your time:p

    • CommentTimeAug 6th 2009
    I might be weird in this regard, but I like doing things around the home, most of the time. (Sure, I have my weekends where I don't want to do anything.) And by "things around the home," I mean more of the decorating-fixing-improving the structure and not so much the cleaning, hence the Roomba. Which is still awesome. I ran it last night and forgot about it after 30 minutes until it bumped into my leg.

    I wish we were going on a vacation, a real one. But we can not spare the monies. I suppose we could do something short and cheap, but that would probably mean staying in Texas. The shortest way out of this state is 5 hours north to Oklahoma. No matter which direction we go, it will still be uncomfortably hot.

    Unrelated: I had a dream the other day in which you made an appearance Mark. I was at this crazy outdoor mall type of place. There was a really tall set of stairs and tons of people were trying to make their way down as fast as they could because storm clouds with lightening were coming. Anyway, I made it down to the ground, and I saw you off a little ways with the hugest umbrella. Like, 20 people could fit under it. You motioned to me to come over and take cover, and I asked, "Where do you get an umbrella this big?" You replied, "It's just one of those things."

    ??? You weirdo.
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2009
    Motion-activated porch light installed
    Garden hose and reel set up
    Toilet paper roll holder installed
    Curtains and rods for five windows purchased (yes this was a feat in itself)

    But now I have to shorten the hem of two curtain panels, not to mention installing the rods...Oy.

    I also still need to install: towel holder in the guest bath, the smoke and CO detectors, the outdoor dusk-to-dawn light, new doorbell, and bike hooks. I should also finish unpacking the bedroom since I actually have shelf space in there to hold stuff.

    Oh and we had our first tree-limb-randomly-breaking-off-and-landing-in-the-street incident. It's not a huge limb, but it could have caused damage if a car had been parked underneath. Everyone in the houses on our end of the street refrains from parking along the curb, which makes me happy.
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2009 edited
    Man, you guys make me feel so lazy. I've been running again, which has been great, but tonight I was supposed to and instead I'm finishing off this bottle of chardonnay. If it makes any difference, I'm listening to a lot of electronic music, so I have to get up and dance now and then. My place is decorated pretty sparsely as well. It's not that I don't mean to do it, I just end up getting easily distracted.

    Somewhat related, I actually have a considerable chunk of free space in my bedroom that I suppose most people might occupy with a chest of drawers or what have you, but I find that it's really refreshing to have that space open. I'm a much happier person when my space is not cluttered, to the point that I think it's actually really weird, but whatever.

    Owning a place sounds so fun (minus the maintenance issues). Just, like, a place that's yours, and you can do whatever the hell you want with it, whether it's painting the walls weird colours or holding a monthly roomba demolition durby (hint hint). My dad wants me to buy while the market's low but I don't really know that I want that just yet. Plus I like living downtown right now but I don't see a lot of good houses to own around here, just loft apartment type things, which seems weird to me as far as ownership goes. If I'm gonna own a place, I feel like I should never be banging on a wall to get my neighbours to shut up. A friend of mine owns a place like that, and I think long term his plans are to buy a home and rent out of the apartment, but that just seems more hassle than it's worth.
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2009
    Running, drinking, dancing. You are anything but lazy. Lazy is doing nothing with your evening but watching Quantum Leap. Heh, not that I did that. It was a friend okay?

    I hear you on the free space. The den is empty, except for some boxes along the walls. The cats obviously love it since I hear them zooming through that space multiple times a day. We do need more furniture (because where would family and friends sit when they come over?), but I have no desire to occupy every little space with accent tables or a bookcase or plants. And I'd love to do a murphy bed for the guest room.

    Just, like, a place that's yours, and you can do whatever the hell you want with it

    Yes! It is truly a great feeling. Maybe that says something about my character (i.e., getting too wrapped up in material possessions), but I don't care at this point.

    Instead of buying a house DyRE, invest in stock, if you have any funds to do so. Buy low, sell high and all that. We've been having to sell some stock in order to make the down payment and afford house-related expenses. It's a bit of a bummer, but the stock did go up past our purchase price, so we aren't losing money at least.
    I don't think you should buy a house until you're overcome with needs or desires that you can't fulfill in a rented place. (That sounds so bad.)
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2009
    Don't feel bad DyRE. It's not like I've done any of the things I mentioned since I posted (i.e. Spence has been much more active than me:P). I own a condo/townhome style place, so it's not an absolute freedom thing (opportunity for knocking down walls is limited) but I also don't have to worry about outdoor stuff (which I think I've already mentioned, so I'll stop now).

    Also, I've fallen off the exercising wagon and haven't done so since, uh, last Wednesday? Shit. But I was active this past weekend, so that helps I guess. It was a trip to Eagles Mere - a little further west than my regular trips to the mountains, but still relatively close. It's near a lake and it's known as the town time forgot, which I find endlessly amusing for some reason. There's nothing especially strange about the place - it's your typical mountain lake town, though it seems to be populated with a certain kind of people that.. hard to explain. My friend's father said the town was like a typical 50s American town. No one locks their doors, the kids all roam the streets on bikes, etc.. It's a nice place. Everyone knows everyone, and it was a fun weekend. Though I do have to mention, my friends have 3 young (infant to 2 year old) kids, which can be a bit much to handle at times:p

    So a good time, but a bit exhausting. Next vacation is next week, in the Adirondacks. Another mountainous town, though a further drive and less kids (I think my nieces will be there)...

    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2009
    Also, does watching like 6 hours of True Blood this weekend count as lazy? I think I might be able to achieve that.
    • CommentTimeAug 11th 2009
    Do you like True Blood? Is that worth my time, which is obviously oh-so valuable? =P

    Though I don't have cable, so I might not be able to watch it.
    • CommentTimeAug 12th 2009
    I do like it. It's not as good as, say, The Wire (which is brilliant), but it's entertaining enough. I'm only a few hours in though, so I'm not positive. There does seem to be a very hoaky soap-opera-ey feeling to it that could get kinda silly and grate after a while. Some of the dialogue is cheesy and there are definitely some cliches running around, but it's all in good fun, I think. At this point, I'm just kinda intrigued by the vampire mythology and world they set up. I think a big part of why I like the series is that it immediately knocked me off balance by.... well, don't want to ruin it. But within the first 5 minutes, it became a world that was very different than the grand majority of other worlds where vampires exist. And there's a lot of sex too. I guess that counts for something. So in the modern vampire soap opera scale, it's somewhere above Twilight (far above, and I didn't even hate Twilight, I actually kinda had fun with that too) but still below Let the Right One In. There's a lot of potential for it to go either way, but from what I gather, it stays pretty interesting right up until the new episodes that are airing...

    I don't have HBO, so I've been watching it on Blu-Ray (from Netflix)... but if I like it enough, I might just call Comcast and get HBO so I can watch the second season. I have Showtime now, and Showtime kinda sucks. I guess Dexter is alright, but the last season was kinda meh and Showtime has an awful movie selection.

    In some ways, watching TV on DVD/BR is quite addictive. I plowed through the Wire pretty quickly if I remember correctly, and in some cases I would watch like 4 hours in a single night. In that case, it was well worth it. Other shows... maybe not as much, but still. So yeah, I'm enjoying True Blood, but it's not like it's the end-all and be-all of modern television.

    At this point, I'm pretty well caught up with Eureka (which I watched the first season on DVD and caught up with most of the second season during a marathon while going through that crazy site redesign project a couple years ago), which is another fun show that isn't especially lighting me on fire, but which makes for a good Saturday morning, I'm eating breakfast and watching TV show.

    I also tried out Warehouse 13 recently. This one I'm not sure about, though it has some fun elements to it. Kinda like X-Files stand-alone episodes mixed with the old Friday the 13th series. Remember that thing? That was a pretty awful show, but I do have fond memories of it for some reason (just like the completely unrelated movies). I suppose I should start on Dollhouse too, but the premise just sounds way too dumb. I'm more inclined to wander into Buffy DVD territory at some point.

    Or maybe I should stop watching TV altogether and read. I'm like 300 pages behind on Infinite Summer at this point. Shit. At least part of that has to do with the fact that Infinite Jest just doesn't tickle my fancy as much as other books, but I should really get on that...

    • CommentTimeAug 14th 2009 edited
    Alright, I made up for not running by running this lengthy trail around a nearby stadium and its parking lots. Didn't run the whole thing as I was with a friend who isn't as in shape and he had to walk now and then, but my endurance was a lot better than I was expecting (my time might not be but that will get up there). I've run around my own neighbourhood quite a bit in the past few weeks and it always kills me too quickly, I feel, but going around this trail showed me what a difference level ground makes to crazy hills (such as the ones I live on) for this sort of thing. I mean, I knew it made a difference, but I guess I didn't realise quite how much. I've been entertaining the idea of turning my walk to work into a daily run (it's a little under two miles) but I need to do a test run over the weekend and make sure I don't smell too bad by the time I get there.

    I should totally invest instead of watching minuscule pieces of interest trickle in while The Fed™ laughs at me for not helping to revitalize the economy.

    tallman, I'm not sure what these Adirondacks are but they sound like some kind of futuristic robot race. In fact, considering you just went to a town out of the 50s, I'm willing to wager you've somehow come across a time machine, either through your own ingenuity, happenstance, or nefarious porpoises, and you've been making weekends out of figuring out how it works. Frankly, that's awesome.

    (Actually, I just did a Google image search on Adirondacks and they look beautiful.)
    • CommentTimeAug 14th 2009
    How did you find out about my army of nefarious porpoises who will rain down aquatic justice on mine enemies? I demand to know!
    • CommentTimeAug 14th 2009
    Will you direct your nefarious porpoises over here? My trees (and the farmers and ranchers) could use some aquatic justice.

    Or uh, maybe California first since they're on fire.