Sep 29, 2013

Fireplace Fixup Stage 1.5 - CPC (Cat Piss Corner)

Something smells.

Pigtails asked to spend the weekend with her mom's side of the family.  I don't blame her, they live on a 100 acre hobby farm with horses, 4-wheeler trails and a well stocked pond.  Seemed like a good time for me to get dirty with the fireplace and make hay on the dusty parts while she's out.

Order of operation is important when working a project.  I can't latex the brick without first removing the lower cabinets.  Yesterday and today went like this, 12 hours of work:
  • Sawzall, sledge 'n chopped the cabinets
  • Neutered the studs that held the mantel (tedious, hand chiseled the last bits)
  • Patched the brick
  • Painted the back and sides of bookcases to blend with the wall
  • Coated firebox and steel surround with high temp flat black epoxy
  • Removed the floorboards and quarter round; will need to cut and lay new trim

Here's how she looks at Stage 1.5, tape outline on the brick denotes size and location for the plasma:

Sep 25, 2013

Fireplace Fixup Stage I - Busting Chops

Time to fix my fireplace, here's what things look like before digging in:


-Hide the flesh colored heat vents
-Take the shine off the brass surround
-Brown brick is ugly, take care of it
-Do something with the side shelves and why are there kitchen cabinets in my parlor (what is a parlor)

I pulled the mantel to see how things look without it.  That thing was stubborn, took a lean into an 18" crowbar to pry the string of screws securing it to the wall.  Surprise, there are two wood studs protruding to support the mantel.  Slight overkill, mantel was used to hold photos, not a heifer.

Also removed the brass fireplace surround and glass doors so I can paint or keep it off if tidy beneath.  Good shape behind the brass, matte black metal and only a few visible screws. 

Sep 21, 2013


1990, a Boyz II Men cassette tape and Casio calculator watch were on my birthday list.  It was also the year Dad and I pumped the Schwinn 500 miles on Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.  14 yrs old and loose spandex, plugging away 3" behind Dad's gassy derriere.

The memories etched.
Little things like up at 6:00 am, pedaling through the cool of morning towards an orange dawn.
Hearing corn stalks rustle in the wind and the bike chain clacking through the derailleur.
Our country cruise powered by Methodist apple pie and pork chop stands littering the route.   
Camping at night and seeing Team Gumby build a giant slip 'n slide and get smashed on beer bombs and brats.

Wanted Pigtails to experience the ride as I did when a runt, so woke the tandem out of retirement for RAGBRAI this July. 

Sep 15, 2013


Buying stock is the shortest path to wealth.    

Money does not bring happiness.  But it allows more flexible use of time, additional choices and the ability to help others.  Which are three things that make me happy.

I mainly want enough saved up so I won't be stuck eating ramen and diet water when I'm old.

Some people are maybe not sure where to start when it comes to investing.  Or they don't feel like they have the knowledge and skills to get it done.  Hiring a pro to help guide our savings makes sense for many.  Just realize that route costs money, potentially tens of thousands $$ in fees over the years.

My 401K, Roth IRA and daughter's college 529 are managed by experts that (hopefully) know what they are doing. A few years ago, I had a small amount of play dough sitting, so decided to take the plunge and learn how to buy shares of stock on my own.

Almsgiving Mishmash

Just as it's important to diversify our investments, so too should we diversify our giving.  

Our church parish is on a capital drive to raise a million bucks.  Half the money goes to our church, the rest to the local diocese.

A member stopped by my house last week and asked if I'd be willing to chip in some change.  Told him I'd think on it a few days, then let him know.

Here's what I said when we later talked on the phone:

I think it's important to diversify both our investments and our giving.  I already fork over a fair pile to the church each year.  If I increase the contribution, I won't have anything left to help out with other charities. So I'm unable to contribute anything to the capital drive.

95% of the other families in the church said yes when asked to give.  I was the odd man out.

Sep 12, 2013

Erected in 1894 to Probe Uranus...

Telescopes, folks.

On my list for a long time, Pigtails and I finally visited the Drake Observatory this summer.


Each Friday evening, the dome opens to the public for a free speak and peek.  The lecture that warm July dusk covered moons in our solar system.

Sep 9, 2013

Burlap Sacks on my Glass

My life is so exotic, hanging at the JCPenney Home Store on a Sat. night, discussing draperies and other important matters with the curtain lady.

It started with a glass swap.  Nuked the picture window and pair of double-hungs, supplanted by a single sheet of commercial glass.  The new feels massive, brightens the small room and is clean without the screens, frames and spiders that shacked up in the old.



Sep 3, 2013

Fuzzy Ears

When a person needs help, talk is cheap.
Action makes the difference.       

Pigtails and I met Quincy a year ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Iowa.  He's in 2nd grade and always smiling.  We hang out twice a month, every other Sunday afternoon for two hours.  We ride bikes, shoot hoops and read at the library.  I reinforce the importance of school and encourage him to stand up strong when a kid was hassling him.

Here's how last Sunday went down...crabs, chocolate covered chicken drumsticks and more (link).

Quincy was born deaf, but is able to hear pretty well after cochlear implant surgery brought the sound.  His sound processors, the curved computers that clip behind his ears, are six years old.  Like an Atari, they are obsolete.