Friday, July 30, 2010

E Friday - at the park

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics.

E lives up in Portland Oregon, where it is usually a lot cooler (and wetter) than Las Vegas. Despite this, there seems to be a lot more outdoor things to do there. They have a lot of bike trails and large parks, a beautiful rose garden on the hill above downtown and a very nice zoo. E’s parents have an annual zoo pass, so that they can go as much as they like without paying each time. E likes the zoo, and so they go quite often. They sometimes have special events, such as the birthday of their oldest elephant, where kids get birthday cake and big paper elephant ears to wear.

Last year they had a dinosaur exhibit, with models scattered all over. E liked the dinosaurs

And evidently they didn’t bite. (and stripes for Lisa).

When they come to visit we go to the park near our house. There are not near as many trees as at the Portland parks, but it is a pleasant place to go play in the wintertime.

E still likes the slides, and has no problem climbing up the big structure to get to the tall ones. There are shorter sets for smaller kids as well.

Of course, we always have to bring a snack in order to keep up our energy.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Assorted July

This summer seems a bit warmer than previous ones. We had our first 43c (110f) day back in June and for most of July the afternoon high hasn’t been under 38 (100f) with nighttime lows above 29 (84f). There has been no rain for quite a while; thunderstorms were predicted for yesterday and we woke up to lots of clouds. At our house it was 30 at sunrise and we soon heard some noise out in the back yard. We’ve got a large metal cover above the back patio, which makes for a very noisy sounding board when it rains. The rain yesterday started out with just a few plinks every few seconds and quickly grew to a roar and just as quickly tapered off to nothing. We ended up with an official rainfall of zero – not enough to measure, but I did step outside and get wet just a little bit. Right now there are a few puffy clouds up in the bright blue sky with a 20% chance of precipitation

The cicadas are out in force, filling the trees with constant buzzing all day and night. If you haven’t seen them, cicadas are small beetle type insects, about 2cm long and a dark brown. They can fly, but usually just sit on tree branches buzzing for mates. The then lay eggs on the ground, with the young spending a year or more as grubs underground before coming up for a few days to buzz and breed before dying. And the buzzing is loud – you can hear them from over a block away, and if you are under a tree where one is then you cannot really hold a conversation with someone because of the continuous sound.

We have a cover on our pool which we normally keep closed; it stops evaporation and keeps the water clean. It’s a rather large backyard pool, being about 7x12 meters (22x40 feet), and I’ve learned over the years to set the pump timer and have it run the filter at night. If it runs during the day the water temperature gets really high because of the sunshine on the cover. Right now the water temperature is about 35 (95f) which is a bit high. I’ve got to keep the cover off for a few nights so that evaporation will cool things down before it gets too hot to swim in. But it is really nice to float in and watch the sunset at this temperature.

We have some palm trees running down one side of the pool. When we first moved in I was able to use a ladder and get up to trim them, but they have now officially gotten too high for this old guy to do that. I don’t like having someone spike their way up to the top for trimming; it can introduce fungus into the tree leading to decay, so we now have the tree guy down the street do it for us. His crew stopped by last week to take care of the four trees, as they did last year. They only get trimmed once a year, now in July when the trees flower. This type of palm has long spikes filled with little tiny flowers, and when they fall off our pool gets filled with them. So we like to get the trees trimmed after the flower spikes come out but before the flowers dry out.

I would highly recommend these guys: Ryan's Tree Care, call him on his cell at 702-497-0435. They use a boom truck instead of spiking up the trees, do not over trim, and do a great job at cleaning up. They also take all the fronds instead of bundling them and leaving them in front of your house for trash pickup. Ryan also lives just a few houses away, so I can walk down and yell at him if they mess up.

Just to post another picture: a few months ago we went to the Red Rock Station casino and I stopped to take a shot of the houses to the west. This is one of the latest areas of the valley to get filled up with housing tracts. Most of these houses are less than five years old, and there is a lot of empty space for the developers to start up again when the economy improves. It’s just a few miles around that hill to the Red Rock park, a great area for hiking and biking, and where Michele Obama appeared a few weeks ago to talk about childhood obesity.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday vids - MoTown

Several weeks ago our local PBS station was running a pledge break – we watch a lot of things on PBS, the documentaries are pretty good and we like the Sunday Night Mystery shows – and they were playing a show about MoTown and the Fabulous Funk Brothers. There are several YouTube videos posted from the show, but most cannot be embedded, I’ll still put click links to a few, but it also brought to mind some musical groups from the same time period. One of them that was really big was the Temptations:

I like the coordinated outfits and choreography. I also liked Marvin Gaye

Ray Charles was a big voice then. Whenever I hear his rendition of Georgia I think about this claymation short that came out when president Jimmy Carter was in office

Friday, July 23, 2010

E Friday - performing

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics.

We’ve had this electric guitar for a long time. It doesn’t have strings, but buttons on the neck that you push to play different notes, and buttons on the bottom you push for it to play a background drum thing or even whole songs by itself. E used to like setting it on the floor, pushing a song button, and walking in circles around it. For hours. Now that she is bigger and taking violin lessons up in Portland (I don’t think she asked, her mom thought it might be good for her) she is learning how to hold and instrument and even though it doesn’t have strings she is playing songs herself instead of letting the guitar do all the work. When visiting last she wanted a stage set up (with backdrop) so that she could put on a performance.

It seems to have been well received.

I think a cake was made to celebrate the event. Yes, she did help with the preparation and icing of it (photos posted a while back on those)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cooking with Joe - quiche

I frequently stop at a French bakery near our house and partake of their fine products. For those of you in Las Vegas, it’s Bonjour Bakery at 4012 south Rainbow, near Flamingo. I would highly recommend it – their pastries are great, but I mostly love the baguettes – crisp and light inside (yum). I started stopping there more often after reading somebody’s suggestion of supporting local businesses. The suggestion was to partake of locally owned (non chain) stores in your neighborhood and spend $50 a month or so, to help stimulate the economy in your home town. I don’t spend that much at Bonjour, but my waistline says I spend more than I should. Anyway, when there a few weeks ago I purchased some almond croissant for breakfast and saw on the counter some little quiches (quichies? What’s the plural?) and took some home. B mentioned how we used to make quiche a lot back when, and wondered why we stopped.

Last week I was over at Anna’s place reading about her making quiche, and was prompted to try out her recipe. It sounded simple enough, and when shopping at my local Von’s I picked up some pie shells and cheese to start.

Here is the recipe right from Anna’s, with a few changes:

1 9 inch pie crust
8 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup Gruyere, grated
2 large eggs
1 egg white
3/4 cups half-and-half
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on your taste)
dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush the pie crust (already placed in a 9 inch pie tin) with the beaten egg white and bake for 5-8 minutes. Or follow the directions that came with the dough or crust.

Lower oven temperature to 425 degrees. Fry bacon until crisp, drain onto a paper towel, reserve the bacon grease. Saute onion in the same pan with the yummy bacon grease until translucent, drain.

Fill pie shell with crumbled bacon, onions and grated gruyere. Combine beaten eggs with half-and-half, salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Pour over bacon and cheese. Place quiche on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until firm but jiggly in the center. Let quiche cool before serving.

I used readymade pastry, and put it into a pie pan and baked according to the directions on the box (after brushing with the egg white). The egg whites make it shiny, and keeps it from absorbing the liquids of the filling.

Anna uses more eggs, but she might have a bigger pie pan than I did.

It came out pretty good. I paired it with some fresh corn and a green salad – Von’s had a sale on corn, which we buttered and spiced and cooked on the grill outside, after which I cut it off the cob; much easier to eat than directly off the cob even if not as satisfying. And you are probably saying “grill in Vegas in July?”. Yes, even though it was about 42 (108 f) like it is right now we still fire up the grill and cook. We don’t sit out there to eat in that heat, we might be dumb enough to live here but not that dumb. Much better than canned or frozen corn. It was great fresh, and just as good cold the next day. And it has bacon – who doesn’t like stuff with bacon?

If you have a bigger pie pan then double the eggs and half and half part. The rest of the stuff is filler, so feel free to put in things that you like instead. Instead of bacon (OK DM, don't get mad here) use fresh tomatoes and zuchini from your garden, or add basil or whatever herbs you have. Replace the onions with green onions, use turkey or ham instead of the bacon, that kind of stuff. It's just a not sweet pie and you can make it however you want.

So today let's thank Anna for posting that recipe.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dogs on Tuesday - hats

It seems like we have had pets in the house forever. When I was young we found out that my younger brother had some severe allergies and so we never had any pets, I guess to compensate for that time once I had my own place we ended up with a never ending stream of animals. When we first moved down to San Diego we had one dog and five cats, which I think was our high point. No, we didn’t pick them all out, my wife was visiting a friend when she was offered the dog (our vicious Rose) and two of the cats came from kids that dumped them on us when traveling. The other cats came from friends that also moved and said ‘we can’t take the cat with us’, thus soft hearted Joe took them in. Most of the cats stayed outside with only one being an ‘inside’ cat. We had flipper doors for the dog to come and go which also worked for the cats, and with the San Diego weather they preferred being outside.

Right now we only have Buster staying with us. After Rose left at age 15 we waited a year, then I started visiting the local animal shelter looking for small dogs. Rose introduced us to the idea that a four pound dog was a lot easier to handle than an eighty pound dog, and I wanted to continue with that tradition. Rose was a long haired Chihuahua, with soft grey hair that stuck up in all directions.

It was very evident from visiting the animal shelter that large dogs were more common than small ones. When small dogs showed up people got on a waiting list to take them, while large dogs might sit in those cages for quite a while with no interest, so I guess other people wanted them too. Now I understand that California animal shelters are overrun with Chihuahuas and can’t get rid of them, perhaps Paris Hilton just dumped hers and they went out of style suddenly. It took me almost a year of shelter visits before some small dogs showed up. I came upon Max in a cage one day and went in to the office to see if I could have him, he had been there only one day and already 15 people had signed up for adoption. Back then dogs that were dropped off were kept for a while in case the owners realized they missed them and came back for them. The smaller the dog the longer they were kept, with dogs under ten pounds being kept for two weeks, with extra days thrown in if they were neutered, chipped, or had other personal touches. Buster came in at the same time and shared a cage with Max and a full breed Chihuahua. I got on the list for the other two as well, hoping that one of them would be available. Three weeks later I got a call that I could come and get Max, and the other two were mine if I wanted as well. Due to the hold system I couldn’t bring Buster home until a day after Max, and B said two were enough, let someone else have the little dog.

So Max came home with us and took over the house. He was estimated to be about eight months old and given up by a college student, who tracked us down and called periodically to make sure he was OK. We picked up Buster the next day, and when we walked in the door Max was a little disturbed. I guess he had enough of Buster being stuck in the same little cage with him for three weeks, and figured he now had our whole house to himself. He bit Buster, and informed him that Max was king of the house, and he remained so for fifteen years. Whenever he got excited or mad he would bite Buster on the butt, and poor Buster just took it. The vet estimated that Buster was about four years old, and must have lived with an older woman for as soon as we let him loose he jumped up into my mother’s lap (she was living with us), which annoyed her but Buster kept doing that for years and eventually she accepted him.

Besides being easier to handle one of the fun things about little dogs was that they were easy to dress them up for holidays. Here is Max on Christmas of ’98. He really looks thrilled to have on a Santa hat.

Since Max was the boss he of course got the Santa hat while Buster got to be one of the reindeer. He too seemed really thrilled with his antlers.

Yes, both being held because as soon as they were put down the hats somehow came off. Come on, they enjoyed the attention, and we didn’t make them put on little suits or other outfits, though there may have been a Halloween or two when they got costumes.

Both guys were beggars; we always left down a container of dried food, but they for some reason kept asking for treats. We don’t feed them table scraps or people food, but do keep on hand bags of Snausages and Beggin Strips and other doggie delights, which were given out periodically. Whenever we opened the cabinet where the treats were kept the guys showed up, hoping to talk us into giving them something. Max would just stand and whine and jump around, but Buster had been taught to sit up (before he came to us, we never taught the guys anything) and he would quietly just sit there waiting for something letting Max be the obnoxious one.

With his declining eyesight, and Max not being around to compete with, Buster no longer sits up to beg. He just wanders around until he finds you, then stands there periodically poking you with his nose until he gets something. He rarely makes any noise, only barking when he is really mad about something. He and Max used to run up and down the driveway barking together at visitors and anyone who dared walk on the sidewalk in front of their house, but by himself he just doesn’t do that. Max used to go bonkers when the doorbell was rung, running back and forth barking; the poor guy couldn’t distinguish between our doorbell and ones on TV, and would get up off the couch and go running around when someone on television rang a bell. Buster joined in but stood back, as when Max got excited he would run up behind Buster and bite him in the butt, so Buster learned to stand with his back to the wall far away and just join in the barking and not the running. With his deteriorating hearing I don’t think Buster can hear the doorbell any more, he doesn’t even look up when it rings. Guess when I’m that old I’ll just lay around sleeping all the time too (he’s around 20, which is what, 140 in people years?)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday videos - Double Rainbow plus

More stuff from my listening to Zed FM again today. I listen while seated at my computer, and the advertisements are less obnoxious to me if they are for things not sold here, especially if done in an interesting accent.

For a few weeks now the morning crew has been playing a recording done by Hungry Bear in Yosemite. He walked out of his cabin one day and saw a rainbow across the sky. I don’t know Hungry’s frame of mind, but the morning crew use this as an example of how much fun you can have on drugs (I can't say that, who knows, he might just be a very happy guy). It’s his video of the rainbow, with commentary

Taking this interesting commentary, someone displays again what you can do with a home computer and AutoTune: converted into the Double Rainbow song:

They also have referred to a heavy metal musical group for kids from Finland – Hevisaurus

Looks like they are into Chiquita bananas. And what we get on US television is Hannah Montana. These guys look like so much more fun.

For the moms – here is something you might find amusing, the Dad Life from Las Vegas Mama:

Friday, July 16, 2010

E Friday - talking

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics.
Here I reach back to some old pictures, way back to last year when she was only four. She does tell us that she is now five, so I have to remember that. We were sitting in her basement up in Portland talking about something and playing with the balloons that she got for her fourth birthday. She had gotten a new shorter haircut recently and looked cute. Not sure what she was talking about, but she is animated when she explains things.

Later we were outside waiting to dine Alfresco (which Fancy Nancy explains means we were eating outside) when she again was telling us a story about something.

Whatever she was talking about, I’m sure it was fascinating. (hey, I’m Grandpa, everything E says is fascinating)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Just a little warm

The national weather service issued a severe heat alert for Las Vegas today. After living here for a while I guess that means it was expected to be pretty hot. Well, getting into my car it seemed a bit warm, and it took the air conditioner quite a while to cool the car down. I looked down and saw why:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's Warm

Into our warm season here in Vegas now; the time when you walk outside and realize that it really is hot. I click on the weather link on my phone and see the display for the week: 42, 43, 44, 43, 43, 42 (OK, 108, 110, 111, 110, 109, 108) and realize that the last week in July is the hot one, and we aren’t there yet. The hottest it has been in the eight summers we’ve been here so far is 115 (46) with 118 (47) being the record high. And to think that Phoenix is even warmer than us.

We have a big covered patio out back with a metal cover high overhead – I put it up about four meters (fourteen feet) when we built the patio, so that the heat from sun on the roof would be way up there, and hopefully blow away without melting us down below. That concept has worked out very well, but still when I go out back in the shade it feels like I am going to melt. Walking out into the sunshine is even worse. The nighttime lows are around 32 (90f) so things do not get a chance to cool off; walking outside barefoot early in the morning the concrete is still hot under my feet.

Most places compensate for the summer by really cranking up the air conditioning. The big casinos are the worst; it’s almost freezing inside and always dark. When you walk out of one of those huge places on the Strip the heat and bright sunlight feel like a slap in the face, probably what they are aiming at, so you will just turn around and go back inside. Summer is dead season for conventions, so the big halls are empty, but high season for tourists, so the hotels are fairly full. Of course the tourists want to see Vegas while they are here, and most walk up and down the Strip to visit the big casinos and resorts. With the hot weather most wear not much clothing, and with all that exposed skin sunburn often sets in. Taking lunchtime walks on the Strip it was always amusing to see the bright red arms and shoulders, while at the same time feeling the pain that those people will have that night. So I would say that red is the color of summer here in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is the city of favor among Hawaiians; we’ve got the largest population of people off the islands. I guess it is as far away from water and damp as they can get. A lot of people here have boats and go cruising Lake Mead or Lake Havasu on weekends. My neighbor has a huge one parked in his driveway, it’s about as big as you can get and still pull it with a private vehicle. He has a big pickup truck and takes the neighbor on the other side with him to Mead all the time.

We also have periods of high winds, which don’t really cool you off when it’s that hot, but feels more like you are standing in a blast furnace. At least it’s a dry heat: average humidity is around 5%, so when you sweat (sorry ladies; perspire) it dries off almost immediately. When you get out of the swimming pool you almost don’t have to towel off, you’ll air dry very quickly. On days when we don’t have winds the dust and car exhaust hangs in the air, making things slightly hazy.

That’s the Strip from about as far away as you can get and still see it, a little hazy in the distance. This was taken from Henderson about to go over the pass into Boulder City, about twenty miles east. The foreground is our standard Nevada landscaping, open scrub and dirt. The Stratosphere is that little dot in about the center of the picture, with the big hotels running south, to the left. You can see all the clouds in the sky, which produce all the rain we don’t get.

Still, we’ve lived in other places and right now I don’t think I would rather live anywhere else (well, except for Paris, I loved Paris). Back east it was too damp and cold; in the summer the temperature would only be 31 (88f) and it would feel darn uncomfortable as the humidity was around 100% all the time and it felt warmer at night. I was raised in New Jersey, and we didn’t have air conditioning, so all we could do was turn on a fan and sweat. Upstate New York was worse, as in the winter it would get down to -29 and stay there for a week, I would much rather sweat than freeze. Southern California was beautiful, with all the tropical growth and consistent temperatures, but San Diego was just a tad too cool, even in the summer. But I do miss all the green, and how easy it was to grow things.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dogs on Tuesday

I was going to make this a regular thing, but other stuff has been rolling around. Down from Dogs on Tuesday to just Dog on Tuesday, Buster is still doing well and getting around like an old man. We figure he is around 20 years old, we picked him up and the animal shelter down in San Diego, and the first picture we have of him is dated is 1995. The vet figured he was four years old, so that leaves him at twenty. Whatever, Buster has lived with us for over fifteen years, and for some reason now thinks that he runs the place. Here are Buster and Max together on our blue chair about ten years ago.

That’s back when he had more teeth. He is part Chihuahua, and those little dogs are prone to having bad teeth. He had to have most of the front teeth removed a few years ago, so we shifted him from crunchies to soft food. He has a severe under bite, and always looked like he was mean and growling at people but he’s just a big softie. We used to just leave a big self feeder out and those guys could munch whenever they wanted to, now with soft food we have to put it down for him periodically. He has gained a little weight, but still weighs around nine pounds. He lost his left eye to an infection (and an incompetent vet, but that’s another story) a year ago, and his right eye has cataracts, so he can hardly see any more. He’s almost deaf, but still gets around. This is his favorite place.

I like the path of footprints up to where he is. We put pillows down both sides of the bed so that he doesn’t go off the wrong side and fall down. We have some boxes at the end of the bed that are about half the height of the bed, so that he doesn’t have to jump that high; he can’t jump up all the way anymore anyway, and put down a ‘dog sheet’ on top of the covers.

Back when we lived in San Diego our house had a long yard. There was a canyon along one side of the yard filled with brush, and strange animals used to wander into the yard. Max had a run in with a small skunk one time, raccoons used to tear up my small pond to get at the fish, and coyotes ran through chasing the cats. Most of these animals came through at night, and our boys usually stayed inside after dark. But the hillside was also full of gophers that would dig tunnels up to our yard and eat our rose bushes and flowers from the roots. Buster had very good ears and could hear them digging under his feet. He finally figured out what the noise was and would sit for hours at a gopher mound or hole waiting for them to come out.

He caught quite a few, more than the cats that lived with us did. No gophers in Vegas, the ground is too hard and there isn’t much for them to eat. Buster spends most of his time sleeping now anyway.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Video monday - old movies and Elvis

Elvis was in the news today. Well, the term used to be Elvis Impersonators, but the current politically correct term is Elvis Tribute Artist. Large Elvis just got engaged – he used to weigh 900 pounds, but has dropped to only 400. Large Elvis used to have a regular gig here, I’ll have to search around and see if he still does. Another Elvis was recently married; he gave his bride a wedding ring that Elvis (the real one) designed for a friend and was married in one of those little chapels by, of course, another Elvis minister. That is really a Vegas wedding.

OK, so here’s an old Elvis; the real one

Way back once upon a time I attended college and my major was Photographic Arts. I found computer programming to be more interesting and so have worked with machines since then rather than with film (or digits now) but I still keep my interest in seeing good pictures and interesting movies. I like some of the very old stuff, before all of the modern electronic advances that have made worlds of fantasy easily come to the screen. Since we’re on to old things (well, that Elvis video is probably over 50 years old) we can go back another fifty years to see what San Francisco was like in 1908.

Compared to how people drive today, I am just impressed by how slow everything was, and how people just walked across the street in front of everything.

Just 13 years prior to that the first motion picture ever made that was shown to an audience

It was only a few years until stories were made into movies, in 1898 one of the first was a British production of Santa Claus

The first science fiction movie came in 1902, A Trip to the Moon from the HG Wells and Jules Verne stories, by George Melies (sorry, my keyboard doesn’t do the proper marks above the letters). With special effects, the precursor to mat paintings (with cardboard cutouts of buildings and backgrounds) and action!

See how easily I bounced from Elvi to old movies? You get an assortment when you come here. (hmm, not sure if I'd rather watch these or ladies in underwear from the previous post)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Quick vid - We No Speak Americano

Haven’t posted videos for a while, so I thought I’d just throw up a quick thing just because I've now heard it a dozen times and it's cute. Still listening to the New Zealand radio station Zed FM, and this is one they are frequently playing that I haven’t heard here yet, Yolanda Be Cool’s We No Speak Americano:

And let’s not forget one from a while back, the Salmon Dance: (sorry, can’t embed, you have to click)

More bathroom work

Yesterday I briefly discussed our bathroom makeover. Yes, it has gone from a simple ‘fix the pipe’ to a major makeover, taking too many weeks to complete. But in the end it should be pretty, moving from a builder grade 70’s dull bathroom to a nice modern one. Probably by the time we sell this house it will be outdated again, but we weren’t banking on the old style rolling around again to be popular, and anyway we are doing it so that we like it.

Biggest mistake of the remodel: somebody falling in love with those 60cm (24”) tiles. Yes, I know they look nice, but in a small bathroom the immense size is not that big a factor. The problem with big tiles? They require a lot of cuts; a lot. And being big this requires the rental of a tile saw that can handle big tiles. Fortunately there is a Home Depot near our house and they have a good rental department. Unfortunately the tile saw that can handle big tiles is also big, and will not fit in our car or trunk. Fortunately I have a small trailer it will fit in. Unfortunately the trailer was full of my small train stuff which now has been sitting on the patio for quite a while so that I can hook up the trailer and drive off to HD to get said large tile saw which unfortunately also rents for a corresponding large amount. I don’t even want to add up what this effort is costing us, all for a $2 piece of pipe. (oh, yes, we are sticking up the tile ourselves).

Here is what the place looks like now:

That’s B in the tub, here is what the shower looks like:

The color difference, my great Photoshop work. I think the real color is closer to what the second photo of what the shower looks like, more of a very light beige with some darker brown accent tiles. Can’t tell too well from the pictures, but the sample tiles B saw in the store were 30cm x 60cm (12” x 24”) not square. B liked the look of the rectangles put up with the long edge vertical, and thought this style would make the small bathroom appear a little larger. The tile style has been discontinued by the manufacturer, so all we could get were the bigger squares and the smaller ones, which has led to my cutting a lot of big square tiles down into big rectangular tiles. But it would not have mattered if the rectangles were available, our bath walls are not a nice multiple of the tile widths, I would end up having to cut them down anyway. The shower for example is 85 cm (33 1/2”) wide, requiring strange width individual tiles.

There is a nice side to being able to rent specialized equipment, in that it would be very expensive to purchase. The down side is that other people have used the stuff, and it seems most people don’t handle rental items quite as well as they would handle things they owned; taking apartments and rental cars as other examples. Since I had to make those long 30cm cuts in a lot of tiles I expected that the saw would cut in a straight line. Unfortunately that was not the case, and we ended up with tiles that had curving edges. Coupled with the fact that the corners of the room were not square (as in most houses) and the walls are not perfectly flat and we were dealing with big tiles with irregular sides sticking up those tiles ended up producing grout lines between the tiles that were not nice and even. Oh, did I mention that besides the big tiles B also liked the concept of very little grout resulting in the tiles having to be quite close together, which really emphasizes the irregularly cut edges. Fortunately the grout color is close to the tile color, so we notice the irregularities but hopefully our guests will not (I doubt if E will comment on it, but we’ll see next month when she comes to visit, and she concentrates on the toys in the tub not the tiles).

The bigger tiles required thicker thinset behind to hold them up, and the not flat walls made getting them to lay perfectly flat difficult. This resulted in a somewhat uneven appearance which again we really notice. One of the places I worked at also used 30cm x 60cm tiles, and I did notice that not even professionals end up with perfectly flat surfaces. It would have been much easier with smaller tiles, but that was not the look that was desired.

Saying all that, it still looks pretty good. We have the one wall left to finish, not in tile but getting the drywall taped and textured. From previous work we acknowledge that we are not very good at getting patches to blend in with existing work, and are waiting two weeks for a good finisher to appear and make it all nice, hoping he doesn’t charge too much for one small wall. Knowing now how much we are ending up doing I wish I would have just stripped the room up front and started clean, it would be much easier than matching work now. Ah well, I didn’t plan on such a big job, but hopefully the end result will be as nice as we envision it.

For a small diversion I offer you women in underwear doing chores:

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Bowling and bathrooms

Las Vegas is an interesting town to live in. We like the weather, the sunshine, the tourists, all the fancy casino/resorts (that’s what they like to be called now) on the Strip and most of all the way other people look at Las Vegas. It seems to be a popular destination (well, that is basically the only reason Vegas is here) and subject of many movies and television shows. There is a new TV show advertised for the upcoming season based on two Vegas attorneys, which looks like it might be interesting. There are several shows currently based in Las Vegas, the most prominent being the original CSI (not CSI NY or CSI Miami), which we also like to watch. There was a recent CSI episode repeated that involved bowlers and someone’s head rolling down the ball return which looked to be in a familiar setting.

Somehow my wife started volunteering to work at Habitat for Humanity. She has helped build several homes around the valley over the past few years, and we also get calls to help when Habitat is donated things to sell in their store or use on their projects. This did enable us to get to see the Design Center when vendors at a big show donated furniture. The Design Center is a large complex of tall buildings located near downtown, and is usually only open to people that work in the furniture or home design industries. It is full of the newest stuff which is just being shown for the first time and not yet appearing in stores. Well, that’s the purpose of the Design Center, for manufacturers to show off new things to store owners and interior designers.

Another donation project we worked at was the dismantling of a large bowling alley constructed inside of the Cashman Convention Center. This was built for some world bowling championship series, and was used for quite a few months last year by a lot of bowlers. This bowling alley was the one used by CSI for that episode, and a lot of time was spent inside the facility. I guess the producers look around for interesting sets to use, and then the writers come up with a story that involves the location. Sometimes writers come up with stories and the producers have to then create the sets to match, but when big things come around they adapt. Anyway, we were called and showed up one day to help take down the lanes. There was a lot of plywood and lumber that Habitat was able to reuse in their home construction, and it took crews almost a week to take the place apart. My son is a union carpenter and frequently discusses construction projects, and I would bet that a union crew built this place, as the construction work was quite good. (meaning – a heck of a lot of nails to pull out when we took it apart)

This is what the place looked like when we showed up. We weren’t able to make it to the first day of disassembly, when the carpets, hardwood flooring and a lot of other stuff were removed. The lanes were still there, and crews from the lane and equipment companies were taking those apart. But we pulled up all the plywood covering where the bowlers walked and sat, along with a lot of lumber underneath holding it up in the air three feet. I think there were fifty or so lanes across this space in the convention center. The big displays across the ends of the lanes were working, and assorted bowling related videos and advertisements were running while we worked.

The red and blue areas were tiles glued onto a thin wood base, and had to be pulled up and thrown away in order to get at the wood underneath. This took big pry bars and a lot of work to get off.

The plywood was held down by a lot of wood screws. Good square headed screws were used at one end (probably the first section put down) and these were fairly easy to remove. But it seemed that they ran out of the good screws before finishing and switched to cheaper Phillips head screws further down. Most of these were stripped, or the heads stripped easily, and the heads broke off being removed as well. All we could do after that was to pry up the plywood and use pliers to unscrew the shafts from the wood afterwards. That was a lot of work.

We had a crew of six, and for some reason I ended up being in charge of the group. But they were volunteers not being forced to work, so it was fairly easy to ask somebody to do something. Most of the women worked with the screw guns and two big guys carried the lumber off and stacked it. When we first showed up they said we had to wear hard hats, but after a bit of trying to keep those on your head while bent over we just piled the hats in the corner.

At home we have our own construction project going on. Our house has three bathrooms, and the front one is shared by the two bedrooms up there. This is where our daughter and granddaughter E stay when they come to visit. There is a bathtub in there, and a small shower stall that I put in when we first moved in (my mother moved with us, and couldn’t lift her legs to get in the tub to take a shower so I had to put in a stall with lots of handles to hang on to). E is the only one that took baths and we found that the water filling the tub was rusty, probably from age and little use (we use the big shower in our bathroom). Prior to E’s summer visit (she loves the big pool with the nice warm water – did I say its 33c?) B suggested we fix the tub so that E wouldn’t have to sit in rusty water.

Well, that involved taking off some of the tile to get at the pipes. B has never liked the tile in there, it looks like the 70’s tile that it is, small pink squares. Since I had to take tiles off for the fix she suggested we just pull all the tile down and replace it. Ends up the rust in the water was caused by a small (about 10cm – yes, I’m trying to convert to metric here, keep up) piece of iron pipe. Most of the plumbing is copper, but for some reason the original plumber that put the bathroom in use a little piece of iron pile to connect the tub valve to the spout back in the 70’s when the house was originally built. So this little piece of pipe has led to our current construction project. It seemed simple, just open the wall and replace the pipe. Then the ‘let’s replace the tile’ part.

And our daughter suggested that as long as we were tiling why not pull out the plastic shower stall and tile the shower area. Which has led to the need for a new shower pan, as the plastic kit pan couldn’t be used for tile. And since we had the walls open why not put in some of those in wall shelves to hold shampoo bottles and stuff. (Do you know how hard it is to tile those inset space? No? Take some advice and pay somebody else to do all that stuff)

Since we watch so many home improvement shows on TV I decided to use the Kurdi shower system I’ve seen on so many recent shows. (Holmes on Homes uses it a lot). It’s a plastic wrap and Styrofoam kit used to waterproof the walls and floor and properly slope the shower floor so it will drain. Only one place in Vegas sold that stuff, and it ended up being a rather large tile store as well. When we went to order the stuff E walked around the showroom and fell in love with one of the tile styles. It ended up being 24 inch (not metric, live with it) (OK, 60cm) square tiles. We eventually tiled around the tub and in the shower and were laying out the floor when I (for some stupid reason, don’t ask why I don’t know) I suggested the large tiles were so nice we should pull out the old vanity and tile the whole floor.

Unfortunately B was listening and said OK, so this has led to ripping out the other walls to put in lumber to support the floating vanity she wanted so that the tiles could be seen. And more time spent trying to find exactly what would be nice in there, and more money to buy the one that was found on line. has some nice stuff, and with only $2.95 shipping eventually a truck showed up with a big pallet holding several boxes and several hundred pounds of vanity, counter, mirror and sink. Unfortunately the sink looked too big for the small room, so another round of internet searches has led to a loverly sink and faucet (why do the nice things cost so much?) which has been ordered and is on the way. At least I hope it’s on the way; my credit card has already been hit.

So, one little rusty pipe ended up with all the walls stripped down to the studs for application of concrete backer behind the tub and shower and installation of support beams for holding up the floating vanity; plumbing changes for the new sink; electrical changes to put lights over the tub (already put one in the new shower) and move the light over the sink since B wanted an offset on the counter design. The only thing staying is the tub, fortunately it was white and in good condition (and being old is cast iron, heavy, and a lot better than the new fiberglass ones). New low flow toilet to go in, but that plumbing wasn’t moved. We have concrete slab floors, and the moving of any pipes that go under things becomes even more complex with having to break up the concrete, so glad we didn’t have to do any of that.

Today you get pictures of the in the middle of construction as I haven’t put up shots of the tile work. The walls are all done and grouted, but B just read an article on tile grout and decided she didn’t do it right and is regrouting as we speak (well, as I type). The one wall behind the sink is dry walled and awaiting taping and texturing, the walls will then be painted and the floor tiles then applied. After that I get to hang that big vanity and put in the sink and over counter lights, which B hasn’t picked out yet. So be happy with in progress shots, and more to follow as I get them up.

Monday, July 05, 2010

In the pool

The fourth of July is a big holiday in the US. It is supposed to be the birth of our country, and is usually celebrated with cook outs and fireworks, both of which are big here in Vegas. Several of the big hotels set of large fireworks displays, and there is an Indian reservation just a half hour drive north of here where all kinds of big do-it-yourself stuff is sold. Our neighborhood has been noisy for weeks leading up to this, and last night it sounded like a war zone out there.

We followed our standard tradition of burgers on the grill followed by floating around in the pool watching the sunset. It was a little cool, the temps didn’t go above 40c, but the water in the pool was a nice 33c, and very pleasant to swim in. That’s the temp we will keep it at until probably mid October. No, we don’t heat the pool, that’s just from the sun.

Here is what it looked like

We’ve got four palms along the side of the pool, they are all blooming now and dropping little flowers into the water. We’ve got the guy down the street that has a tree trimming company bringing his big truck over next week to trim the flowers off and the dead fronds.

Friday, July 02, 2010

E Friday - Rosie

In following the tradition of Clare we return again to E Friday, where I post photos of my darling granddaughter E, because VG really likes to look at these pics.

A few months ago E asked mom if they could get a cat. This was before they saw the musical cats. At least that is how it was relayed to me, it might have been mom that suggested to E they get a cat, but since I wasn’t involved in the whole process I can’t be sure. Anyway, they went down to the animal shelter and picked out a friendly animal and after much paperwork and approval they brought her home. E got to pick a name and instead of naming her Princess Twinkle Twinkle Fuzzy Cat like I suggested she named her Rosie. Rosie and E get along very well, and when on phone calls I can hear the two of them in the background running around the house. There are even times when both of them sit down and watch TV together.

On the big couch in the front room.

E and her family live in Portland Oregon, as she will tell you if you ask her where she lives. Not in Las Vegas Nevada anymore but in Portland Oregon, and she is proud of her city.

But I still wish she was here so that I could see her more often. At least now before she gets to be a teenager.