Notice I don't call it "vacation," and here's why. On the other hand, it sure was a nice break to not have to be "on" for classes all week!
  • I've been writing several mornings, every week since mid-December. Completely revised the opening scenes of The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella, completely re-envisioned how I'm handling POV (which means significantly rewriting every single other scene, too), wrote many more notes for future scenes, and cut thousands of words while writing thousands more... I've passed a total of 44k words, which means it's more than half-way done (based on a projected 70k)!


  • Finished updating all three syllabi and Blackboard sites (that's the web interface for KU courses) for my spring semester classes. Sent all the students links to where their syllabi live online. HOORAY! Good lord, is it just me or does it take everyone most of a day to do this for each course?

  • Worked a bunch on the hot-rod Newport, including rebuilding the broken valvetrain; finishing installing the new fuel-injection system; installing half the custom exhaust (with electric cut-outs for added raucousness on demand!); designing a crankcase-ventilation system that won't put so much smoke into the intake and getting started installing that; and finding a great deal on a new front-drive system that'll upgrade the alternator to handle fuel-injection duties, the A/C and power-steering pump to something that works, and convert it to a simpler serpentine-belt system that'll make it more reliable and more efficient - oh, and it's all polished aluminum, so it's much lighter and really pretty, too. ETA for street duty: a week or two! Assuming something else doesn't blow up....

  • Did a bit of work on the Chevelle, but I want to get the Newport mobile, washed, waxed, and covered before really diving into this project; picked up some more parts I'll need, though. ETA for street duty: Late spring.

  • Rewired a cool vintage ceramic lamp and installed it in the ceiling of my living room. MUCH nicer than the old (light-free) ceiling fan that used to clutter up the space:


  • Did a bunch of updates on the Center for the Study of Science Fiction's website, and planned much more. Oh, and we're working with a major donor right now who's intending to support not only a full-ride scholarship for the summer Workshops, but also something even bigger for a student coming to study SF during the regular semester. Details to come....

  • Started reading for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel. Loving everything so far, which is great, but could also be trouble come decision time....

  • Got back into astronomy, with a new (to me) 100mm f/9 apochromatic refractor. WOWEE, does it provide gorgeous images! This is my first apochromat, a type of refractor that uses varying types of rare-earth glass to produce lovely, sharp, and color-free images. On a really nice German equatorial mount with dual-axis drives and a handy through-the-polar-axis North Star finder:


  • Resumed a regular, hardcore workout schedule at the gym. Tried the beautiful-but-useless fancy fitness center here at KU (Ambler), because it was free to staff & faculty last week; we usually use beat-up, old, and dingy - but free - Robinson, because of its really useful and large free-weights room, and only visited crowded Ambler that once.

  • Oh, and on a related note: Not to sound braggy or anything, but over Break the awesome Clevermanka started giving me regular, multi-hour massages at least once a week, sometimes EVERY DAY. OMG, I am so lucky.


Other stuff, too, like watching the new BBC Sherlock series! (Which starts on PBS tonight.) LOVE IT SO MUCH.

What did you do over the past month, whether or not you got a break?

Best,
Chris
mckitterick: aboard the New Orleans trolley (just Chris)
( Aug. 3rd, 2013 01:02 pm)
I have good news and bad news about my house.

The good news: You know those carbon-monoxide alarms you can get combined with your fire alarm? Well, mine work, as they went off last night (both of them). I changed the batteries before going to bed, thinking that was the problem - and also opened the doors to let in the sauna-air, just in case.

The bad news: This morning, on a hunch, I looked into the utility closet and discovered that the vent atop the gas-fired water heater had slipped off. Odd; has the house settled that much? Then I noticed water around the bottom of the water heater... seems it's about to blow, not only leaking a bit but also settling in a discomforting way.

Great month for this discovery: This is the month I don't get paid, and also the month I pay for my vehicle tabs, taxes, and insurance. *sigh*

Fate, you are mean-hearted.
Tags:
View of the house from the (abandoned) street during Snowpocalypse V.2. Look at how the branches curve toward the earth, white gravity pressing from above. Gusts of wind peel lumps of icy snow from upper branches which cascade down, becoming a crunching avalanche. I went outside and took a bunch of photos, even a little video. It's so quiet, muffled, the only sounds are birds chirping, falling snow, and distant chainsaws.



Oh, and what appears to be a bush beside the tree? Branches. Also, the little "tree" on the left of the photo is actually a giant branch that landed thick-side down. I fear for the trees in the area.

It's lovely outside and all that, but if this means Cory Doctorow isn't able to get here for his talk on Thursday....

Stay safe and warm out there!

Chris
Here's what I've been up to over the past week or two:

Visited Free State ComicCon


This is always a blast. Picked up a pile of graphic novels (and an awesome T-shirt of John Brown, Superhero).

Later that week was the "Weird Edition" of Super Nerd Night at the Jackpot.

Chased off a Home Invader


At 4:10am on Saturday night (or Sunday morning, whichever you prefer), the doorbell went off. Being a light sleeper, I woke instantly, if not clear-headedly, heart pounding within my ribcage, wondering, "WTF?!" A few seconds later, it rang again. Worried that a friend was in trouble, I set about searching for pants (found some stretchy shorts in the dark), glasses (no luck), and dagger (beneath the pillow, natch), and then headed downstairs. This is when the doorbell began ringing in eanest, as the visitor pressed it repeatedly for at least a dozen times. Now my concern turned to irritation and a bit of worry, because my friends wouldn't do that, would they?

Downstairs, I found my phone. No missed calls, so not a friend. Unfortunately, the front-door motion-detector light was turned off, making it tough to see outside very well (no Moon, either), so I inched the front curtain open. The doorbell-ringer had left. Whew.

Just then, I heard the back sliding-screen door open. Here's when I went all HOLY CRAP INTRUDER! The ensuing adrenaline cleared out any remaining sleepiness. The back-yard motion-detector light on the garage was unplugged, I learned later (probably my own fault from turning it off with a long stick), and the back-door light is switch-only (and off at the time), so no light back there, either. I peeked around the corner in the kitchen as the man - a little taller than me, I judged, and wearing bulky clothing - tried to open the sliding-glass door. Because of last year's adventure with locking myself out (this involved a drill, lock-puller, chisels, hammers, Sawzall, and such), the back door doesn't have a lock but is instead blocked; ironically, this is much more secure than a simple lock, so the door only slid an inch or so before hitting the rod in its runner. He put his hand INSIDE THE HOUSE, searching for a chain or something, I suspect, then pushed the door again.

Pissed off now, I turned on the overhead kitchen light. The intruder-dude CONTINUED TRYING TO GET INSIDE. Unfortunately, the sliding-glass door is virtually impossible to see through when it's dark outside and the overhead is on inside, so all I could see was a hand. CREEPY. At this point, it was time to go upstairs and fetch something more menacing than a dagger.

In the back bedroom where I store the menacing stuff, I discovered that, naturally, chernobylred had slept through all this. I turned on the light, informed her what was going on, found what I was looking for, and went back downstairs. En route, I also found my glasses.

When I reached the kitchen, he had left.

chernobylred, being more level-headed than I, asked, "Shouldn't we call the police?" Uh, yeah, good idea. Ahem.

They arrived within minutes. A cruiser rolled past on the street out front, lights off like a land shark, while another pulled into the alley with lights everywhere. Two police walked the alley with flashlights as bright as the sun, and another walked through my yard. The intruder was gone.

I gave them my report and discovered that they had found a suspicious man nearby on a bicycle. Of course I couldn't give any description, but if that was him, perhaps he'll be more cautious in the future. As in, NOT TRYING TO BREAK INTO HOUSES.

My theory? The doorbell-ringing was to find out if anyone was home. If someone meek had answered, he might well have busted inside for nefarious purposes, but I bet he'd have run away. I think he wanted to find an unoccupied house, break in, and steal stuff. I wish I'd gotten a good look and we could finally catch - assuming it's the same guy that's been robbing neighborhood houses - this serial burglar.

I'm double-locking the doors now and sleeping with more-substantial equipment within reach. Oh, and now all the outside motion-detector lights work.

Wrote a New, Um, Thing, Plus Jack and Stella


At last Thursday's Write Group, I finished a new piece of writing. My first sub-1000-word work in a long time! Now some polishing and off it goes.

Oh, and is coming along nicely. Over the past week or two I've written another couple thousand words. Best of all, I worked out parts of the plot-arc that were shaped more like nebulae. Also wrote a scene for the next book in the trilogy (I think it'll be three...).
The Galactic Adventures of Jack and Stella progress:

Went to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival


Since the KC RenFest opened three weekends ago, I've gone three times! Different goals each time, naturally, with next time being a group trip to the Barbarian Battles region, where I intend to pummel my friends with foam swords. This last weekend, I caught a whole bunch of shows and finally rode the bungee-trampoline. HOLY COW was that fun! I aimed for the sky, and reached a good 30 feet or more toward it. The combination of trampoline below and gnarl of bungees attached to each side of a climbing harness = HUGE AIR. I leaped so high that the bungees were actually pulling me down, and upon hitting the trampoline, I sank in knees-bent several feet before it launched me back up.

A MUST-DO BLAST FOR ALL!

This was a day when I intentionally wore jeans, not the kilt. Ahem.

Saved a Baby Snake


I was working in the garage today and discovered that one of the sticky traps I put down in there to capture horrid things like Brown Recluse spiders had captured what looks like a baby Brown Snake. It was still alive, but barely moving. Only about eight inches long, thin as a pencil at its thickest, with a teeny pointed tail and wee face with long, black, nervously flicking tongue. It was stuck upside-down on the glue trap, face first, looking like it was trying to eat the cricket stuck there.


Click the image to see the Great Plains Nature Center's website.

I felt so bad! I looked up how to humanely free a critter from the trap, and it seems that vegetable oil will do the trick. So I trimmed the glue trap down to near the snake, then drizzled olive oil (the only oil I could find in the house) along both sides of its body. I set it down in the shade in the grass upside-down so that the snake would be upright, then soaked the back (paper) of the trap, too, thinking it would loosen the glue faster.

Went back out after an hour, and the snake is gone. Hooray! Go free, little Brown Snake, and eat bugs and snails!

Conclusion


Sorry I haven't posted much in the past week. I've been busy with teaching, writing, and so forth. Hope you're well!

Best,
Chris
This might not seem like a big deal if you haven't been in my garage before, but if you have you know how much work it was to make room for the new baby. Suffice to say it took a whole weekend's work - and building a shed to store some things - to carve out a spot to work on the new car. Here I'm standing on the workbench at the front of the garage:



To the left is the workbench where the drill-press, vise, grinder, and hardware all live; to the right are (temporarily) my telescopes... until I finally bite the bullet and build an observatory on the roof of the house.

This shot shows a bunch of new shelving along the far wall, soon to be filled with Chevelle parts. There's actually plenty of room between the telescopes and the toolchest (and workbenches) in front of the Newport, but not as much as I'd like. This shot is taken from the doorway:



Wow, is the Chevelle smaller than the Newport, in every dimension.

And finally the rear view, standing on some scrap wood at the (rear? but it's the main door...) corner of the garage. Notice the nice, big expanse of pegboard above the workbench in front of the Chevelle (past the ladder). Woohoo! More organization!



I'm hoping to do a bit more juggling of stuff from the shed onto the new garage shelves, then from the garage back into the shed. And starting this weekend: Off with the Chevelle's suspension!

Chris
Here's how I spent my summer vacation... er, the weekend after finals: building a big-block Mopar engine! Getting closer to hooking up fuel and spark and seeing if it runs. Check it out:


Here's how she looks right now. Almost time to bolt up the water pump and intake!



Here's me grinding the camshaft bolts for the 383. Every part so far has needed to be customized in this build. EVERY part. Yes, EVEN THE BOLTS. They were rubbing against the front timing cover, along with the cam button (which I also had to chop and grind down). When I get some time, I'm going to write up a fully illustrated build for this engine so others can save mountains of time and heartache when duplicating it.

I want to get back out in the garage, but this afternoon is for grading finals... well, for a while more, maybe.... This morning was mowing, chopping branches, chopping intruding fence-vines and vines creeping up trees, and so forth before today's storms begin. I think all the rain has something to do with the explosion of green growth lately.

Maybe just a few more papers, then ENGINE BUILDING HOORAY!

Chris
Tags:
...I almost forgot: The reason I turned on LJ was to post a "hello, tell me about your life!" plus to announce that I survived working on the roof, sealing leaks that revealed themselves during this week's massive thunderstorms. Of course, I haven't had any time to make fixes lately: This always happens at the most inopportune time; it's as if my house is mocking me. Homeowners, you know what I'm talking about. And of course, my lawn looks more like a jungle than grassy plain.

Anyhow, despite 95°F heat index and scalding-hot shingles, all's sealed up (for now...) and I made it back down safely.

Later!
Chris
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The temps in Kansas and Minneapolis are about the same this week, yet the forecasts describe it differently. In Minneapolis, it's simply "Wind chills down to -5°F" while in Kansas it's "Bitterly cold," with no mention of numbers. Oh, and the coldest place I've ever lived (Peerless, Montana) continues to deliver: "Mostly clear, with a low around -23°F. Wind chill values as low as -33°F."

In similar news (especially for you, [livejournal.com profile] sf_reader), my photos from the first day of Snowpocalypse 2009™:


Here's a shot of my front yard snowscape. Snow is pretty in the sunshine.
click for more )
Today (and last night, and yesterday...) it rained approximately a billion inches here in Lawrence, Kansas. A side-benefit of such a downpour is that one gets to discover where one's roof leaks. In my case, that would be a few places: where the wall and ceiling join on the south side of the house, where two roof angles meet above the center of the attic, and the chimney.

To stop the first leak, I cleared the gutter on that end of the house (yes, in the pouring rain). I suspected a clogged gutter because, 1) (ahem) it was clogged, as evidenced by the overflowing water; and 2) a similar problem with the front gutter had caused a similar wetness on another part of the ceiling as water found its way under poorly fitted roofing-to-wall joints. *sigh*

To discover the other leaks, I climbed into the extended section of the attic (remember my "secret room"?) to see if I could find the source - and identified a leak in the chimney siding (yes, it was built for crap). I'll have to seal that when the siding dries. Or maybe just refinish the house's siding properly... when I stumble upon a suitcase of cash. Couldn't find the other leak (surely hidden above the new roof-insulation I installed in the spring), so I guess I'll just have to climb up onto the roof and squirt sealant underneath the flashing that joins the two roof peaks. When I can use my shoulder again, that is.

Which leads to a moment of low comedy. Getting back out of the attic's secret room was... something else. See, it has a sloped floor on both sides, which is also the cathedral ceiling of the living room, aka "gaming room." The room is about 14 feet long, but width and height vary from 3 to 8 feet depending on the slant of the roof, the ceiling beneath, and how the compound angles join. See exhibit below.

Exhibit A: The Secret Room Prior to Insulation-ing


I know I have photos of Mike, Matt, and myself insulating this space - buried in blown and sheet fiberglas, sweating our brains out in long sleeves inside that oven (now comfortably insulated, thank you, Mike and Matt!) - but can't seem to locate 'em. Anyhow. To cross to the side by the chimney (that's the steel tube hanging out inside that out-thrust section of wall), one must clamber over the peaked top of the ceiling below. It's simpler now, because I installed plywood on this side to make the space usable and 2x4s on the other side to act as steps, so getting over wasn't difficult. However, with my shoulder messed up and not able to bear much weight, getting back across the peak was... interesting.

The journey was partially successful, in that I discovered the leaky chimney-siding, but partially unsuccessful in that I couldn't pinpoint the roof leak.

Rain has stopped, thankfully! May your domicile be rain-free (inside, anyway).

Best,
Chris
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mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (house)
( Mar. 19th, 2009 12:14 am)
Howdy! Sorry I've been offline lately. Much work-related stuff I don't want to talk about, plus a very busy couple of weeks. This week it's Spring Break at KU, so I've taken the time away from the office to build a brick sidewalk in my back yard from the carport and garage up to the house. Many thanks to the wonderful [livejournal.com profile] cba1282zyx for all the help in collecting bricks and other supplies (which was a deathmarch), cleaning them up, laying the path framework, and putting down the walk. Also thanks to [livejournal.com profile] madmatmax for dropping by today to help finish setting the bricks. Woohoo, I finally have a non-muddy walkway between the garage and house! This is a big deal in Kansas, especially in my neighborhood, as spring and fall = endless mud which = filthy floors. Sometimes the back yard has standing water, because the clay-heavy ground doesn't drain well, so anyone passing from driveway or garage to house had to cross a moat. No longer!

A discovery worth sharing: One can no longer buy actual bricks from home-improvement stores. Nor at building-supply stores (new or recycled). Nor at places with "masonry" in their name. Not even at brick stores, fer gosh sake! I kid you not. The "Lawrence Kansas" brick manufactury has ceased production, and the other local-ish brickmaker only sells wholesale. Everyone else only sells crappy cement lumps that aren't even the same size as real bricks. I already had enough bricks to do most of the walk, so I just needed to buy another 100 or so. Who knew that would become an all-day marathon of frustration?

Happily, each place provided tips to the next places, which finally led to the one store that still sells baked-clay bricks to regular customers here in Lawrence: Capitol Concrete. They carry all kinds of bricks, new and old, paving and building, concrete and clay. I bought 150 nice, dark-red bricks that look like they formerly served in a chimney. Two trips in the Saab later, we resumed laying the walk. A few hours later - viola! Done!

Next: Insulating the non-insulated roof over the living room. After that: Finishing building the Newport's 383. That's more than plenty for the rest of Spring Break, methinks, especially because I need to do a bunch of day-job work tomorrow. Once that's done, it's back to home improvement.

Chris
Tags:
Just wrapped up a heck of a day of physical labor. Matt came over at noon, and since then we FINALLY drilled out the shattered (hardened steel) tip of the bolt extractor stuck inside the broken bolt in the Saab's engine block. Woohoo! Victory! And the right-angle drill adapter necessary to reach the bolt didn't melt (the last one did)! Woohoo! And we tapped the hole so a new bolt will fit inside! Double-woohoo!

Between bouts of drilling (it took a really, really long time), we let the drill sit to let the right-angle adapter cool off. See, its casing is made of plastic. Yep, plastic. Which melts when the gears and bushings inside get hot. As they do when one is drilling hardened steel.

Those "breaks" consisted of cutting down four trees in the back yard as well as a lot of small trees, bushes, and other crap crowding the yard. Then of course we had to chop up the tree trunks and branches to make them small enough for the city (or friends: Hello! Firewood!) to remove. I wish we had photos. Matt held a rope which terminated in a grappling hook wrapped around the tree trunk, half way up, which I attached by climbing a ladder and hooking it in place. Then he applied pressure to pull the tree in the correct direction while I notched the trunk with my chainsaw. See, the safe fall-way lay between the fence and my garage is pretty narrow, and if the tree fell even 10° in the wrong direction... crunch!

But all went well! Now I have a giant pile of tree-pieces in the alley behind the house. Need to log off now and run downtown. I owe Matt dinner and several beers!

Best,
Chris
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For part of yesterday and all of today, I worked at installing a solar-powered attic fan. This I did because my attic gets as hot as an oven in the summer. I did it now because... well, my attic gets as hot as an oven in the summer, and I didn't feel like working in an oven.

Anyhow, after overcoming a variety of obstacles, the fan is installed and venting heat from the attic, thereby cooling my upstairs to the tune of three or more degrees, woohoo! Obstacles included having to install the 10-watt solar panel almost all the way across the roof to where it was exposed to direct sunlight, because the tree on the south side of the house provides a great deal of shade to the roof: Good for keeping things cool, not so good for powering a solar panel. This entailed cutting and splicing another 18 feet of wiring into the power supply, running said wiring beneath the roof's crown shingles, and sealing the shingles so no water gets beneath where they're raised slightly for the wiring.

The attic would have been unbearable to work in this afternoon (was cooler when I installed the fan part in the morning), but the roof wasn't much better. I wore a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, but also gloves because - WOW! - roof shingles get hot in Kansas August! Even with half of 'em shaded. I have a multitude of lacerations and bruises from the composite roof, including a doozy of a bruise along one side of my chest from leaning over the edge of the roof while drilling and screwing fasteners into place.

But it's done! And my house has moved 10 watts into the future!

I'm expecting not only that my upstairs will be cooler, but that my elecricity bills will be smaller.

Best,
Chris
Tags:
As you can imagine, weeks of rain-storms have turned the local yards into something akin to fields of wheat. Today it's sunny (and hot: already 90-ish... wasn't it just freezing a few weeks ago?) and dry, as it was last night, so I took the opportunity to mow.

I'll just say it was slow going. And humid; did I mention humid? I'm currently re-solidifying in my air-conditioned living room. There are dead branches in the trees to cut, new fuel-system valves to install in the Saab, and heads to remove from the Newport, but right now all I want to do is suck down a cold beverage and watch the robins gobble up the bugs that my mowing exposed.

Perhaps after cooling off a bit. Looks like a lawn again. One charming thing about my lawn, by the way, is that it sports a crop of teeny strawberries this time of year. I'm very popular with the bunnies.

Oh, and locals: Tonight, [livejournal.com profile] tmseay, I, and the usual suspects will hit Harbour Lights for some nice, cold brewskies. You're welcome to join.

Best,
Chris
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I don't water my yard during droughts because, well, why? But today I learned why you should from the Jim Clark Motors courtesy-van driver. I dropped off my Crossfire this morning for a variety of warranty repairs. On the way home, we naturally discussed the weather. I mentioned how the ground around the foundation of my house has at places pulled away an inch or more, and the post-retiree driver said he has cracks in his yard that are eight feet deep.

I wondered aloud whether the soil's retreat might be affecting the crack in my foundation (it's a slab foundation) that appears to be growing (the tile grout is opening up above the crack).

The other passenger in the van said, "Oh yes. The same thing happened to my house until I started soaking the ground around the foundation."

"Whatever you do, don't fill the gaps near your foundation," said the yard sage, our driver; "that'll only cause you more problems when the rains come. The clay can't take up much water when it's this dry, so the water will just sit there. There's nowhere for it to go when we get rain, so it'll just move your foundation more."

Huh, I thought. "Why doesn't anyone tell new homeowners these things?" I asked.

"You're not from Kansas, are you?" asked the driver.

"Nope. Minnesota."

To which he told stories about the natural fortitude of Kansans.

Anyhow, I sense a really useful book for new homeowners. It would include tips such as this:

Water your yard around the foundation during droughts. This helps prevent your house from settling and your foundation from cracking.

EDIT: Needless to say (yet I'm going to say it anyway; I mean, isn't that what always comes after "needless to say"?), I've been soaking the soil around my foundation since I wrote this, and will continue doing so until I've done so all the way around the perimeter. I'm almost half-way done now.

Best,
Chris
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Yeah, as in 107° with heat index right now. After hauling about 150 bricks. Assuming I can get rid of some of my excessive body heat, I'm about to go back outside, unload said bricks, and then go get another load of about equal size, then unload that, too! Why? Because I'm crazy!

Also because they're free. I plan to install a brick sidewalk in the back yard, and with these I might just have enough. Of course, if I were to actually try to start digging the path and laying those bricks in this weather, I would die of heat exhaustion.

EDIT: Whew, finished the second load, showered in COLD water, and am feeling moderately more human.

Also, I just learned that today's heat index in Lawrence reached 112°. Holy fried-Kansans, Batman! And this lovely weather is scheduled to continue through Wednesday.

Best,
Chris
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mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (house)
( Aug. 9th, 2007 11:12 am)
Hey, home-owners -

Do any of you have a tankless water heater? What do you think of it? How much did it cost to install?

When I bought the house, the inspector said that the existing hot-tank water heater was at the end of its useful life, and now it's four years later. Rather than replace it with another "keep the water hot all the time" type of heater, I'm considering one of the tankless units. They're much cheaper to run (only heats when you request hot water), more compact, and pollute less. They're not cheap, but qualify for a $300 tax rebate.

Any thoughts or recommendations?

Best,
Chris
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mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (house)
( Jul. 2nd, 2007 10:24 pm)
I forgot to mention: [livejournal.com profile] 0verdrive finished putting in the floors and steps in my house this weekend! Photos to come when I have some time....

Best,
Chris
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mckitterick: Yes, this is one of my actual scooter helmets. RESPECT THE EMPIRE. (house)
( Jun. 7th, 2007 12:13 pm)
Back in this post, I asked "What is this plant?" It was six feet tall and looked like asparagus, but mostly what was weird was that the tall stalk had appeared seemingly overnight. It had never before grown a stalk in the three years I've lived in this house.

Well, I learned it's a yucca plant, and the reason it hadn't grown that stalk before is that yucca has a freakish life-cycle: In order to blossom (that's why the stalk), it has to be eaten by little moths.

Nature is freakish.

Anyhow, here's the end-result: beautiful blossoms!

Note: The picture doesn't do it justice. Looking at it now, it seems unspectacular; I should take another shot with me standing beside it to show scale.

Best,
Chris
I don't know if I've mentioned before that my house is regularly assaulted by woodpeckers. My chimney has a steel UFO-thingy on top of it to keep birds from nesting in the chimney proper. One particular bird finds this to be a wonderful tool for enhancing his mating call. Here he is, roosting on top of the chimney:
cut for bird photos )
What you can't tell from this peaceful photo is that, just a minute before I took this shot, I was working inside when RAT-A-TATATATAT! Like a machine-gun's bullets pummeling a lightly armored vehicle, his beak assaulted my chimney. This was not the first time. No, pretty-boy here:
Read more... )
regularly pounds out a wake-up call in the morning, a "calling all female woodpeckers!" message in the afternoons, and pretty much every time in between. I decided that today I'd catch him in the act, because today was special: I had two competing woodpeckers pounding away on my roof's sheet-metal. Here's the second one on the vent out back:
Read more... )
Duelling machine-gun fire. Note the war-wounds my house has sustained: Those dents aren't from hail.

Moving on. Does anyone know what this alien growth is?
Read more... )
It's growing beside my house from that leafy mass on the bottom. I have three such leafy masses around the house; the leaves are long and sharp and very fibrous, but never before have they sprouted giant green pillars. It's about six feet tall! What comes out of the top? The invasion force? Or will it one day just open its eyes, stretch its legs, and walk away?

Houses: endless entertainment.

Chris
This is relevant right now for locals:
What's your flood risk? By Floodsmart.gov. (Mine is low, thank goodness.)

Best,
Chris
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