Wednesday, November 9, 2011

He’s Back. And Probably Gone Again.

So a little while ago, I got a phone call from a number that I didn’t recognize, aside from the area code. It was from Rhode Island. Since I never answer my phone if I don’t know who’s calling, I let it ring and hoped that the caller would leave me a voicemail.

Boy did they.

I called my mailbox and was greeted by the automated voicemail woman letting me know that I had one new voicemail. No duh. The message finally began. It was, ahem, Crazy. Jeff. Doors.

I was elated.

He started off the message by saying, “Hey Ryan, this is Jeff. You know, the guy who you think burned down your house.” I cracked up. It turns out that he was calling to let me know that there is a building “as big as an entire block” for sale in Providence for 60 grand. He thought that I should buy it. He also asked if I had any work for him. He said that in a much less concise way, but no matter.

Amanda looked at me funny, I relayed the message, and more importantly who it was from, and got to texting. below is out exchange, verbatim:

Ryan: Hey Jeff. Thanks for the heads up. We don’t think you burned anything; that’s crazy. We moved out of RI, so unless you want to drive to Texas, I probably don’t have any work for you.


Awesome. That’s the Jeff I know and have a hard time dealing with.

Jeff’s Second, Unsolicited Reply: I’m glad you guys are Happy. God Bless. Im doing well. My case just settled in Federal. Have to wait until Feb to receive CAPITOL THEN this Slave State will find a way to suck it all back. but my quality of life will be much better. ROSIE DIED 4 13 11. She was very sick. Im good n on my own n my SAVIOR LOOKS OUT FOR ME. AS ALWAYS. PEACE.

Holy moly. So much unwanted information in a text message. The best part of it all is the fact that I had, and still have, no idea what he is talking about in most of it. Rosie, who is dead, was the giant woman who would sit in the car while he worked at my house(s). The rest of it? No idea. The random capitalization? What case? Should I know what he’s talking about? I don’t care. I loved it.

I sent back an ‘I’m sorry to hear that’ text and that was that.

Jeff is awesome. I really hope that he calls me again someday.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My Job Is Crazy Right Now

I work all of the time. It stinks. This will be short.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve torn out some carpeting, laid some more laminate floor covering, painted some things, put up some lights, installed some ceiling fans and entertained a visitor. And worked a lot.

Here’s a short photo essay of the floor project. Before, for reminding:


Mid carpet removal (with fun dog stains):


This is how much the previous owners’ dogs liked to dig:


Once the chewed up padding was gone, trim and carpet tack removal began (and ended with a pile of trim):


Aside - The fun part about this project was just throwing everything out of the window onto the ground. Carpets and padding crushed the crappy and dead bushes in the front of the house, and the trim/wood/nails went into the garbage can I dragged under the window. It’s really oddly satisfying to throw things out of a window. I recommend it. – Aside over.

After cleaning up, I discovered this. A terrible thing to read on something that you walk on all of the time (it says “Replace”):


Undeterred, I moved onto the next step. Since the floor in the bedroom is really, super extra uneven, I had to improvise a shim system made from paint stir sticks pilfered from Home Depot:


Not too bad. Once properly shimmed and semi-level, it was underlayment time:


Underlayment down, I spent the next several hours interlocking engineers fake wood boards:


Luckily, I wasn’t able to finish, as I ran out of boards. I needed maybe five more to be finished. Crap:


The floor still looks like that, weeks later. I have purchased one more box of flooring, since I purchased it, I’ve been to a wedding one weekend and it’s rained the other weekend, not to mention that I work all of the time now. I hope to finish up this weekend, along with baseboard trim, but who knows?

Another weekend, my father-in-law came to visit us. Here’s what his room looked like when he came:


It’s not quite all the way finished, but it was livable and is almost all the way finished.

More fun to come someday, but don’t count on it, as I’m working a lot. It should die down a bit after Monday, so I may be able to write more often, but again, no promises. The next big project is the kitchen remodel, but that might be a month or so away, as kitchens are expensive as all heck.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Wrist Is Different

In that it is getting worse, rather than has been surgically repaired.

So at about 4:45pm on the Thursday before my scheduled wrist surgery (which you can read about a few posts ago), I got a phone call from the folks who would be doing the surgery.  They told me that my insurance wouldn’t cover it until July of 2012.


I asked why my insurance wouldn’t cover it and they replied that since I injured my wrist months ago, before I was insured by Blue Cross of Central Texas, they considered it a pre-existing condition, which isn’t covered in my apparently terrible health plan.  Not to worry though, as the folks who would be doing the surgery assured me that they would still love for me to come in at the scheduled time to get the surgery anyways.

This tickled me a bit.

Expecting hilarity, I asked them how much this would cost me, were I to still have the surgery.

The woman on the phone assured me that they gave heavy discounts for certain types of payment.  She went on to explain that if I chose to pay by credit card or personal check (what?), they would extend a whopping 65% discount.

I immediately asked what the price would be.

She again explained that the discount is significant and refused to actually quote the price after the discount.

I asked once again what the out of pocket cost for crazy wrist surgery is.

She explained the discount again and finally divulged the after-discount price:

Just over $8,800.

I laughed at her and told her that there was no way that I would pay that amount of money the next day.

She assured me that there was an even better discount if I chose to pay in another way.  I cut her off there and said something like, “is it going to be under a thousand dollars with this next incredible discount?”

She laughed at me and replied, “no.”

I thanked her for her time and terrible news and let her know that unless it was under $1,000, there was absolutely no chance of me showing up on time for my scheduled surgery.  I regret not having listened to the next incredible discount, but whatever, I didn’t want to waste anymore time.

In summation, I can’t get surgery until next July.  I have called multiple times to find out if there is anything I can do, but apparently once you get rejected by your insurance company, your surgeon refuses to call you back to discuss things.

Update tomorrow coming.  I haven’t done too much to the house since I last wrote, as we had a visitor over one of the two weekends, but I took a few pictures and will share them.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Labor Weekend Weekend Part II

So, when I last wrote, I had removed all of the carpets from the second floor.  What happens to all of these carpets and carpet pads once they’ve been removed?  They get thrown away to rot in a landfill for the next seventeen hundred years.  Go Earth!

The reason that I tore out the carpets over the weekend was because the City of Austin was starting curbside pickup of bulk items.  I had spent the week before trying to find out if 750 square feet of carpet would be too bulky to be considered for bulk pick-up, and found out that the City of Austin would be happy to swing by and dispose of all of that garbage.  Awesome.

Not awesome?  Dragging it all to the curb.  Here’s the pile of garbage that came out of this fun project (and the living room project):


I sweat a lot.  A fun thing I learned?  When lugging hundreds of pounds of awkward tubes of carpet  thirty feet to the curb, it’s a good idea to wear long sleeves.  I was in short sleeves.  Here’s what one of my arms looked like afterwards:


That’s either from rough, scratchy undersides of carpeting or some flesh eating thing.  I still have forearm skin, so it’s probably a few tens of scratches from the undersides of discarded carpeting.

I have since healed.

Also done during the weekend, with the help of Amanda and her super brain:


There is not one good looking ceiling fan in the entire world.  Why is that?

Fun fact from the dismantling of an old and mantling of a new ceiling fan: I had to modify the mounting bracket because it was too big for the electrical box.  This thing will come crashing down at some point.  how is that not universal?  Was it universal when the house was built and they have since changed the universe?


Another fun fact: It took a long time to put up (since I had to modify the mounting bracket and kind of ghetto rig it thereafter) the fan.  Once Amanda and I had put it up, I flipped the breakers back on and turned on the fan.  Nothing happened.  I swore many times over and over.  I was preparing to re-wire it when Amanda said, “did you turn the fan itself on?”  I had not.  I turned it one and miraculously, the fan began to spin.

I gave Amanda a wet smooch.  She is a genius.

To wrap it up, yesterday, we got carpets installed.  For four hours yesterday afternoon, horrifying ranchero style music of Mexico was echoing throughout the house.  My blood pressure rose.  I put up with it though, as the folks who were installing the carpet were listening to it.  Here are some of the results:


It was also put in the office and Mr. Stotzer’s Bedroom.  I hope he enjoys it.

For the observant among you, you may notice the nice paint-less bald spot on the wall in the upper right of that last picture.  You can clearly see the outer limits of my reach with a paint roller.  It will eventually be painted, I promise.

This might be the last post for a little while, as I am having my ruined right wrist surgically repaired.  Or at least worked on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Weekend Weekend

I labored all weekend, instead of just one of the days of the long weekend.

In this post, I will go over hours and hours of work and make it seem like it didn’t take hours and hours.

Two weekends ago, I started in on the process of putting some baseboard trim up in the living room.  Since I had destroyed it all when I took out the old flooring, the trim was in real need of replacement.  I measured the room and realized that I needed over 80 feet of trim to do the job.  Holy moly.

I bought what I needed, including some paint, and then, painted:


That’s a lot of trim.  Also, the giant deck we purchased along with the house makes a great workshop.

once the trim had two coats of paint and had dried, I got to measuring, cutting and gluing the trim to the bottom of the wall.  Kind of tedious, but overall pretty easy.  Not bad looking when it was finished either:


Admittedly, I kind of slacked two weekends ago.  Although, the trim took awhile, I could have worked harder.

Labor Day Weekend, which ended yesterday, I worked much harder.  The hardest of the hard work, was tearing out the carpets on the stairs, the second floor hallway and the two guest bedrooms.  It was terrible.  To give you an idea of how gross these carpets were, here’s the underside of a carpet that sat within the closet of the guest room.  Please keep in mind while viewing this carpet that it lived in a closet.  A closet.  Please extrapolate after viewing and digesting how gross it was how gross actual higher traffic areas’ carpeting was.  This carpet is in a closet:


That’s in a closet.


So yea.  These carpets were just disgusting.

After tearing out the carpets, I was left with, once again, a better looking carpet pad.  Certainly better looking than the disgusting carpets:


The easiest part of carpet removal, if the builders were cheap, is removing the padding.  You just roll it up.  Non-cheap builders actually glue the padding to the sub-floor, but luckily, 1984 builders were cheap.

Carpet padding rolled up leaves a nice and dirty sub-floor:


Fun sub-flooring quirk:


That’s the floor in the office.  Quite the awesome difference in floor levels.  It’s like a step.  Nice work 1984 builders.

To illustrate further how super gross these carpets, which are luckily removed now, were, I submit this:


Take a look at that hard dirt line at the back of that stair.  The light color is the color that the carpeting used to be.  That filthy, darker hue is what the carpet color actually was (is).  So gross.

Anyways, once I had removed all of the carpeting, it was time to paint the miles and miles of baseboard and door trim throughout the uncarpeted room and hallways.  Pictures to come…

Friday, August 26, 2011

Unrelated, but Awesome.

So, awhile back, while we were living in Puerto Rico, I wrote about the time I fell of of a motorized scooter and really messed up my wrist.  You can read all about it here.

Since returning to the Continental United States and entering the First World again, I’ve been to two orthopedists about it, as it’s still pretty messed up.  I wanted to share, with images, just how messed up it is.

A few weeks ago, I set up an appointment with a local orthopedic surgeon.  He took a look, X-Rayed it and we looked at the results together.  The results were hilarious.  We looked at them and he basically said “since it’s healed up like this, any surgery to fix it would be major and probably not worth it.  He did say, and I saw, that it was super broken and he would have operated on it the day I came in, were he the doctor in Puerto Rico.

You may recall wheat the doctor in Puerto Rico said to me, “it’s not broken”. 

The fact was, and I guess still is, it was super extra broken.  Really mangled.

Resigned to the fact that I would have a slightly off, very inflexible wrist for the rest of my life, the doctor mentioned that he would kindly refer me to a colleague of his, who specializes in hand surgery, for a second opinion.  He mentioned that she may be able to get some more test and get a better idea of what can be done, if anything, as that was her area of expertise.  I thanked him, made the appointment to see the hand specialist and left.

I went back the next week to see said specialist and she took a look at the X-Rays, played around with my hand a bit and told me to make an appointment for a CT Scan.

I went back once again a few days later for the scan.  They laid me down, I stuck out my arm and placed my hand into the tube.  the scanned it and sent me on my way.  The next step thereafter was to set up a follow-up appointment with the hand specialist, who was on vacation for two weeks.  Sweet.

Two and a half weeks later and I headed back into the clinic to talk about my mangled wrist.  She showed me the results of the scan, and here they are:


That’s a 3D image of my bones.  How cool is that?  Not very.  It shows how messed up things are.  If you can’t really tell how messed up they are, I will help:


The previous images are a few different shots of my bones.  If you’re not an idiot, you can easily see that something is really very wrong.  The big problem is how wide that weird bone on the bottom has become at the tip.  What apparently happened when I smashed into the ground was the tip of my bone broke off almost completely.  The rest of my hand bones then slid down into the space created  by the smashed bone.

Once I got the OK from the ER doctor in Puerto Rico, and thus didn’t anything fixed, my bones then started to “heal”.  This basically means that new bone started to grow into the new space, thus solidifying my fate.  That fate being either a super messed up wrist with extra mega arthritis in a year or so, or the other possible fate of a messed up surgically repaired wrist with extra mega arthritis later than within a year.

The hand surgeon, after taking a look at the scan result, wants to operate on it.  She wants to first make a couple of slits in the top of my wrist and stick a camera in there.  This will inform her of what to do in Part Two of Ryan’s Crazy Wrist Surgery.  Part Two of Ryan’s Crazy Wrist Surgery will basically consist of the surgeon flaying open the underside of my wrist/upper-forearm and going to town with some sort of bone saw.  She will cut out all of the new bone, then try to shove the old bone pieces back together, cast it and hope for the best.  I’m told it will be a very painful operation.  And a long one.

So yea, that’s the fun conclusion of my failed trip to Puerto Rico, where they hate white people enough to basically lie to them at hospitals about X-rays.

The surgery is scheduled for the 9th of September at 7:15am.  They told me to be there two hours in advance.  A 5:15 arrival is not likely to happen.

Once the surgery is finished, I’ll be in a cast for four to six weeks, then have super fun/painful physical therapy for awhile.  I’m really looking forward to it.  The best part?  When my useless wrist is immobilized in a giant cast, I won’t be able to do much around the house, so this blog will get really boring once again.

The good news is, I will try to get some hilarious cast color.  I’m hoping they have strips of casting material that look like American flags.  I think that would be really funny.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The First Floor

We’re taking a break from the usual here to show you some actual work.  No more hypothetical work on this blog (except for when I decide to write about the out of doors area of the house soon).

Last Thursday, we purchased about one-thousand dollars worth of laminate flooring.  That bought us about 500 feet squared of floor boards.  I planned on installing it over the weekend.  This is that story.

On Friday afternoon, I got started by tearing up the terrible, dog stained, old carpet in the Living Room and Dining room.  For reference, here’s what it looked like:


Beige with spots all over it.  Some spots (like the one under those windows) bigger than others.  It didn’t take me too long to tear up all of the carpet, roll it up and drag it out of doors.  Probably an hour or so, no big deal.  Here’s what I was left with:


Strangely, the under-carpet padding (made from recycled shoes, which is awesome) looks better than the old carpet.  Thinking of no good way to persuade Amanda to keep it as-is (as-was?), I sighed, and began the horrible, horrible process of prying up all of the seemingly miles of carpet tack strips laid about the perimeter.  The fun part of all of that was the fact that they were set into concrete, so it was just and awesome time:


It was even doubled up in some spots:


This process was just terrible.  Each nail was embedded into the concrete and each nail took a surprising amount of leverage to pop out.  Some of them even came shooting out of the floor, launched from my pry bar and flew to the ceiling in an attempt to embed themselves therein.  The process was made even worse by the old wood of the strips themselves.  Instead of coming off in one piece, or at least two or three pieces, they would stubbornly disintegrate, make my job that much more arduous.

No matter.  I persevered and after a few hand soreing (not a word) hours on the floor, fighting with each nail, I was finished:


Once each nail was removed from the subfloor, it was time for the baseboard molding to come off.  This process was much easier, as the builder used regular nails into regular sheetrock, so not much struggle was needed to pry the ugly molding off of the wall. 


Fun fact:  The builders put the molding onto the base of each wall before they created the masonry fireplaceJust an incredible idea and makes my life much easier.  No it doesn’t.  Here’s what it looks like (still):


I have since trimmed it back, but still.  There’s baseboard running behind the fireplace.  Crazy.

After that, it was time to pile the debris from the evenings work onto the yet-to-be discarded carpet padding.  There was a lot of debris, which I had to wrangle by hand, but it was finished up and the padding was rolled and out of the hour in an hour or so.  Here’s the fun pile of waste in our side yard:


The good news is, that pile will continue to grow, as pretty much every surface of our house has old and smelly carpet on it.

After the rolls were lugged outside, further cleanup began.  This time, vacuuming the floor to get rid of the piles and piles of old dirt.  Some of this dirt hasn’t seen the light of day since 1984.  That’s kind of great to think about:


The observant among you may notice the message written on the floor.  Here it is, in further detail (avert your children’s eyes, as it contains a curse word):


I have yet to call this Jeff Reeves fellow, as I am married and have no plans of infidelity, but if I ever get divorced because of some deeply hidden homosexuality, Jeff Reeves is my first call.  I hear he gives a good effword.  if anyone is looking for something like that, the area code of the greater Austin area is 512.  And in case you need it, I think that the last number, while barely legible, is a 3.

Once everything was nicely vacuumed and hopefully prepared for Saturday’s planned festivities, I watched some TV and went to bed.

The next day, I gave the floor one more vacuuming for good measure and the various items I had used off of it.  I was left with a semi clear canvas with which to paint a flooring masterpiece.  Just kidding.  It was a flooring paint by number at best.


The first step to a new laminate floor is the all important underlayment.  This keeps moisture from the subfloor from getting into the flooring and also adds a bit of a cushion to the flooring to both quiet it and keep you from dying when you fall on it.  It comes in giant rolls and goes down pretty easily:


One edge of the underlayment had an adhesive strip, so I basically rolled it out, squared it as best I could, then stuck it to its neighbor.  This took awhile, but it’s an important part of the job (I was told) so I wanted to make sure to get it right.  I probably did not get it right, but whatever, I tried.

The next step I took, which should have probably been the first step of the day, was to cut away a bit of the bottom of the door trim, as to give the flooring some room to go underneath it.  A coping saw and a few minutes later:


I am now a carpenter.  Just like your probable Lord and Savior.

This picture gives a good look at what the underlayment actually consists of.  I don’t know hat other underlayment is made of, but the cheapest kind that I could track down is Styrofoam balls sandwiched between two sheets of plastic.  I paid 22 cents per square foot of this stuff and it looks like I got gypsied on it.

Once the sawing was finished and cleaned up, it was on to the actual floor laying work.  The way to do it (I read) is to lay the first three or four rows of flooring, then put it in place.  I did just that:


You put the first few rows of flooring together (tongue and groove in this case) to give it some rigidity, then slide it into place along the wall, with some spacers:


Once those rows are as square as you can possibly get them, you can confidently lay the rest of the flooring knowing that the flooring won’t be off kilter (because those rigid few rows are square, hopefully), nor will it buckle or warp later on (as you left some gap with the spacers to let the floor breath, or expand and contract with the changing temperatures and relative humidity).  Either way, the floor was and is still square and there aren’t any giant frost heaves in it yet, so it might have worked.

Another thing to note, in that picture showing the first rows, please note that pretty much every box of that stupid flooring was dragged into the living room and opened.  This is because everyone recommends pulling planks from different boxes each time to lay one, as to make the flooring look ‘natural’ as a whole.  I can understand that with actual natural wood, but this laminate stuff is man made and thus, shouldn’t look all weird one way or the other.  I don’t know.  Get your essword together laminate flooring manufacturers.  I should just be able to pull planks from one box until it is empty, then move onto the next box, instead of traipsing all over the living room pulling planks for this box or that.

Now’s a good time for some random pictures.  This was where I did all of the fun cutting:


Our porch is still covered in sawdust.  I was hoping that the wind would take care of it, but apparently there is either no wind back there, or the wind is so pathetic that it cannot be bothered to lift the ultra light grains of dust that remain.

Amanda brought me some lunch of Wendy’s at noon.  I drank from this cup:


Why am I telling you this?  because before that cup, I had probably six full glasses of water.  I had that cup filled with lemonade from Wendy’s, then used this cup for the rest of the day.  I probably had between 15 and 20 full cups of water bringing my day’s total to about 26 adult sized containers of water.  Conservatively, each container full was maybe 16 ounces.  That’s, again conservatively, over 300 ounces of water during the day.  I did not urinate the entire day.  I am not kidding.  I was sweating like a maniac methamphetamine addict and couldn't replace the fluids fast enough. 

Wait.  Why did I tell you that?

Another fun picture.  This is me during the day:


I felt like Casey Jones from the Ninja Turtles.  Instead of an awesome golf bag filled with various sporting good implements used as weapons, I had super gay kneepads, and rubber mallet with a towel over it (as to not damage the flooring) and glasses.  Like an idiot.

Well, fun’s over.  Back to the floor.

I started working on the floor at 8:30 on Saturday morning, at 8:15 on Saturday night, I laid the last of the planks and called it an night.  Or so I thought.

When I was in bed, I was thinking of those last few planks.  I didn’t measure the gap between them and the wall, so I might have had some more work to do.  in the morning, I measured and whimpered a bit.  The gap was about an inch and a half.  Crap.

I got back to work, cutting a bunch of one inch strips of flooring and laid them in:


Stupid things.

once that was finished up, it was time to cut away the excess underlayment that was poking it’s way out of the flooring (see previous images for visual evidence).  This wasn't difficult, and was finished in a few minutes, but I did almost involuntary manslaughter this lizard:


Luckily, he avoided my utility knife blade and made it out alive.

During the process of cutting two sheets of plastic adhered to little balls of Styrofoam, you can imaging that little balls of Styrofoam go everywhere.  Your imagination is correct:


I vacuumed them up, along with a bunch of sawdust, and the floor was ready for some mopping, which Amanda kindly took care of:


After the mopping, it was finally time to bring our giant furniture collection back into the room.  Luckily, we have a giant foyer, or I don’t know where it all would have fit:


Just kidding.  We only have a couch and a TV stand right now.

We put the little felt “don’t scratch up that new floor that Ryan spent the last 14 hours on” pads on the legs of our furniture, dragged it into the room and relaxed.  New floor finished.


The next step in all of this is the floor trim.  I’ll get that, paint it and install it this weekend.  It will likely take less time and will likely make me less sore.