Friday, March 31, 2006

I've Got the Power! (And Cable Too)

We got the full electricity connected today around noon and the cable guys came and, after a full afternoon of toil, got the cable hooked up. Julie was finally able to watch some of the old Daily Shows and Colbert Reports she'd saved on the DVR weeks ago.

I've been able to fire up the sauna and get sweaty.

And our master shower is the best. Having the two shower heads is amazing--it's a whole new shower experience. Coupled with the endless hot water system, it could be a recipe for dependency.

The builder even got most of his stuff out of the carport so Julie could park Hank (the Explorer) it his rightful place. Sadly, Princes Daisy will have to wait until after the BBQ to go into her garage (we have to dispose of our nasty old couch and chair but we'll use them during the party).

We also got a proper wooden toy box for Dada and one of those snazy PlasmaCar riding toys, which she can use in safety now that we have the big driveway apron that slopes away from the street.

Cooking With Gas

Yesterday we go the gas hooked up but we didn't yet have full power and the dudes weren't able to get the Rinnai water heater going last evening.

However, this morning Doug showed up and go the Rinnai sorted and turned on the gas to the stove.

We can cook.

Having anticipated this possibility I had bought bacon yesterday. So I grabbed the trusty cast-iron skillet, fired up the range, and started cooking. It was a joy beyond joys. And the bacon wasn't too bad either (Boar's Head brand).

Even with half power we should be able to shower and run the dishwasher, which is really what's important. So only the sauna is really waiting on having the full hookup.

We should get cable hooked up today and maybe full power too, although according to the lady I talked to yesterday, it could be any time between now and the end of the day Tuesday (they promise connection within three business days). The home theater guys should be out on Sunday to install the in-wall speakers and finish cabling up the projector.

So if all goes well (as if) we should be able to watch the Sopranos in high-def glory on the big screen, stuffed from a home-cooked meal and pleasantly scented from our recent hot showers. It's a dream anyway.

Dada helped me assemble the rub for the meat for tommorrow and we had a hot breakfast out on the screened porch. The plumber is here attending to various minor plumbing issues.

I might even get a nap today....

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


We finally have all the inspections and permits in place: permits

Unfortunately, some higher power seems to be determined to test our humility and forebearance because yesterday we had the heaviest March rain on record. This meant that not only is our unlandscaped yard a mud pit that the dogs are determined to transfer into the house one pawload at a time but the power company couldn't trim back the trees in order to hook up the power.

But with luck this will get resolved today. We had coincidently arranged for an arborist to come out today (to trim the trees away from the house generally) but he won't go up into the trees until today's heavy weather passes. So Doug the Construction Supervisor said "mind if I do it?".

The picture above shows the completely finished car port with the fence that fully encloses the yard. The only thing missing is the fan blades for the ceiling fan, which are back ordered. As are the last few of our interior light fixtures.

So here's hoping we have power and gas by the end of the day or first thing tommorrow. If we do then the BBQ can go on. If we don't then we'll have to reschedule.

But today's forecast for the weekend says it should be warmer and dry. Here's hoping....

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Roomba Roomba Roomba

We still don't have power or gas which is too depressing and maddening to think about so today I want to talk about a bright spot in our life: Roomba.

Roomba is a robot vacuum cleaner. Our Roomba, which we refer to simply as "Roomba", was my birthday gift from my father. It's something I never would have gotten for myself but now I have no idea how I ever lived without it.

Roomba is facinating to watch. It does a remarkably good job of cleaning the floors. It has very sophisticated robot intelligence in the area of working around a room to get into every part of it. It has very sophisticated algorithms that make it seem almost alive. I've posted two videos of Roomba in action on DailyMotion: part 1 and part 2. There are two parts because as I was filming, Roomba got stuck on the rug by the front door and I thought I would have to rescue it but, plucky robot that it is, it quickly freed itself, so I continued filming.

Besides being a facinating bit of technology, Roomba is handy in part because it can thoroughly clean a floor largely unattended while you're doing something else or out of the house or whatever. As long as you've not left any stringy things or cords in its way, it will either do its job to completion or, if it gets stuck somewhere and can't extricate itself, it will simply shut down and wait for rescue.

It has also had the interesting side effect of motivating us to keep the floor a bit more picked up than we might otherwise, because in order for it to work you've got to get the clutter off the floor: toys, old newpapers, socks, etc. This is a good thing.

The dogs don't seem to mind it--you can see from the videos that they coexist just fine with Roomba.

I cannot recommend Roomba enough--it is really a great tool and a remarkable feat of engineering. There are people who are totally Roomba obsessed, who own several, who hack them and mod them and all sorts of things and I think I understand why.

One of the cool things about Roomba from a geek perspective is that it provides an interface port and fully-documented programming API that lets you do anything you want with it. You can, for example hook up a laptop too it, mount the laptop on the Roomba itself, and, using wireless communication, turn Roomba into a general-purpose robotics platform. Very cool. I think there might some fruitfull father-daughter activities there somewhere.

So while we may not have hot water or clean clothes or a working sauna at least we have robotically clean floors. At least we have that....

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Still No Power or Gas

It is Sunday 26 March and we still do not have power and gas. The permit snafu at the city was even worse than we realized and the builders either missed it or were unable to fix it through back channels. So while all the construction inspections now show as passed on the city Web site, there's one missing inspection: the sewer cleanout. The sewer cleanout inspection that should have happened (and almost certainly happened) a year ago now has to be redone because there is no record of it having been done even though even the inspector who did the companion rough plumbing inspection agrees that if he did one he would have certainly done the other. So they had to dig out the sewer connection at the street so the inspector can see it. This inspection better happen on Monday (and early Monday) or things are going to get ugly. But even if it happens Monday, the soonest we can then get power and gas is almost certainly Tuesday.

I discovered this part of the snafu on Thursday morning when (from the conference I was attending in North Carolina) I called the gas company to find out the status of the service order and why the hell wasn't it connected yet. They said the city hadn't sent them the info indicating the inspections had passed. What the #$*@%!? So I called the city and they said, yeah the construction inspections have passed but there's still the water and sewer inspections. Say what? I don't see that on the form on the web site. No, she says, it's right there at the bottom--there should be a "Y" in the little box with the cryptic notation. That's the sewer inspections. Oh. You have to call the water and sewere people. Fine. So I call the water and sewer people. No record of a sewer cleanout inspection. The water inspection isn't needed because there's already a water meter there (I've been paying that bill personally at commercial rates for a year so there must be a meter there). So now I'm on the phone to the construction supervisor saying "What the #$@*%? Get this fixed now" and the builder calls me back and says we're on it and so on. This was Thursday. Suffice it to say I was angry. I'm calmer now, but like I said, if the inspection doesn't happen on Monday and we don't have power and gas on Tuesday, it will get ugly (did I mention that one of Julie's uncles is a high-powered attorney in Dallas?).

We are now into our second week with only partial power. Having no heat would have been a big problem given the weather this last week--we've been affected by the same cold snap that's put the rest of the country in a deep freeze. Daytime highs were in the mid 50's all last week, with lows in the high 30's and 40s. However, the house never got below 62 degrees inside, and the upstairs actually warmed up slightly over night as heat from the ground floor migrated upwards. Yesterday the high was close to 80 so we were able to raise the interior temperature to about 70 by opening some windows.

Our friends Sasha and Ash got moved into our old house, which they are renting, and let us use their U-Haul truck to get the rest of our stuff--mostly stuff from the back yard like the bikes, smoker, and Dada's outdoor toys--as well as the couch and chair which were so nasty that Goodwill wouldn't take them (tip to Bassett owners--go with leather which will resist the damaging effects of having dogs on them all the time [and I don't want to hear any "why don't you just keep them off the furniture" crap--they're bassetts, they will be on the furniture]). Julie and her mom put in really hard work to get the old house ready on short notice (I was out of town on a trip that had been planned months ago).

So at least the moving stuff from the old house part of the move is pretty much done and we can concentrate on trying to make the new house a little less chaotic, although we can't fully unpack because we're not sure what additional things need to be done that we would get in the way of by unpacking. We'll get that clarified on Monday.

Still, despite the stress of living in a box-filled, underheated house with no hot water we do really like the house itself. We've been here for a week now and haven't discovered anything that is just wrong wrong wrong and why did we ever put that in design. Which is good.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Quantum State of Occupancy

We've been really busy the last couple of days. At this moment (Thursday AM) we have finally gotten the city to show all our inspections as passed (permit), which means the power and gas might get hooked up as early as today (but more likely Friday [I hope]). We've been showering at the old house while cleaning it out so the cleaners can clean it so Sasha and Ash can move in on Friday.

In quantum physics there is the concept that subatomic particles can occupy all of their potential states at once, only falling into one of those possible states when the particle is "observed". At the moment we are in a sort of quantum state of occupancy where we are in the house, sleeping there, eating there, yet we're not really in because there's no hot water and we can't do much unpacking for fear of interfering with the final finishing work so we're still a little bit in our old house. So it's a little strange, although we're pretty comfortable.

One very lucky break is that because the house is so well insulated, it hasn't gotten uncomfortably cold even though the daytime highs have been in the 50's the last few days, with the downstairs temperature staying steady at about 65 degrees. Julie reported that the upstairs actually got warmer over night, presumably as the warm air from downstairs migrated upstairs.

We had a little excitement yesterday--the sheet metal guy was installing the metal cladding for the bar and accidently put a nail through one of the water pipes for the sink. Oops. Not that much damage, mostly just soaked a little patch of drywall. No big deal (except the water had to be turned off and was off most of the day--I had to let the painter use water from Jay and Kay's hose bib so he could finish painting the screen wall). We were all over at the old house working on clearing out remaining stuff.

But then when we all got back to the house about noon I discovered that the metal dude was putting on the wrong kind of stuff. He had been told to use the corrugated stuff we used on the outside of the house but the design called for flat sheet metal, which is certainly what we want. So he had to pull off what he'd already done and the work was halted. Since I'm out of town today, not sure if this has been worked out yet, but there's only one correct solution.

They also finished up the exterior fence, so the dogs now have a yard, albeit a yard of hard-packed dirt and mud, but at least they can now go outside. The dogs seem to be getting the hang of the electronic dog door, at least for going out. To get them to the ground I just put a board up. It's a little too narrow and slippery, so we need to refine that at some point.

So it's all still more stressful than we would like but at least we are in the house and can see an end to the current problems with power and gas.

This also means that you can start sending mail, presents, bars of gold, etc., to our new address.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

We Are In

Originally uploaded by drmacro.
Yesterday (Monday) we moved the bulk of our stuff to the new house. We spent the night there, despite having only partial power and no gas and this maddening beeping from the built-in smoke alarms (or the alarm system, we're not sure which).

Pictured here is Eliot enjoying a nip of single malt scotch having finally reached a point of collapse following a very long day of moving.

Everying seemed to survive the move without incident except for one little hall table that had it's foot broken. But since it was free from Jay to start with and since he's next door to fix it, we weren't too stressed about it.

There is a snafu at the city with our inspection that is holding up getting power and gas to the house. Hopefully it will be resolved today.

We love our screen porch.

More later

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Packing Day

Today we packed. My friend and collegue Joshua and our friend and bandmate Joanna both came over and helped with getting all the furniture into the PODS pod. It was amazing.

Julie and I were both pretty stressed out from all of this and starting to fall into a state of overwhelmed indecision. At one point this morning I went wild and started sorting out all of Dada's livingroom toys in order to pack them into their (more or less) proper containers.

With Joshua and Joanna's help, we got all the big pieces of furniture into the pod in a couple of hours, leaving behind only a few essentials, like our beds, or light pieces that can easily be moved in the Explorer or maybe by the guys who will be moving the piano. Joanna put a bunch of rain-proof stuff into her pickup and took it to the new place for us (mostly Dada toys and the futon bed, which wasn't going to fit in the pod).

Julie and Dada and I expressed our most abject thanks to Joshua, bid him adieu, and then raced over the new house to unload Joanna's truck and have some food. Dada fell asleep on the way and when I got her out of the car and tried to put her on the couch in the livingroom (which we had taken over there on Friday) she wasn't having any of it, so I took it as an excuse to collapse exhausted with Dada on my chest and have a little nap.

Image006We slept for about an hour. When we awoke, we found the house cold (it was about 71 according to the thermostat), significantly cooler than it was outside. The concrete floor really keeps things cool. We had a little snack on food I had stashed there yesterday then decided to go back to the old house for a more substantial dinner.

As you can see from the picture above they've almost finished doing the backsplashes in the kitchen, which really finishes the kitchen nicely.

CIMG3548Julie's pretty sure that they gave us the wrong range (that is, not what we ordered and paid for) and I also realized while I was on the couch with Dada that they had not installed the sink properly--it is supposed to be a rimless sink, but the guys who installed it just dropped it onto the countertop like it was a self-rimming model. Not sure what that's going to mean but it has to be made right.

Tommorrow (almost today as I write this--a big thunderstorm woke me up and, being Broody McBrood, I can't get back to sleep) I'll go to the new house first thing to meet the murphy bed people and try to get the gas and electric hooked up, finish installing the window treatments upstairs, and talk to Doug about the sink. The pod should be moved sometime in the morning and the piano/pod unloader guys should show up sometime after lunch. If we're really lucky the gas company will show up at some point to hook up the gas. And if we're really really lucky the city will hook up the power. I'm not counting on either.

We are scheduled to close on the house loan Tuesday at 3:00.

It's all roaring along like a freight train, but now that our old house is much emptier we feel a little less overwhelmed by it all.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Getting Dressed and Moving

Originally uploaded by drmacro.
The big news is that Dada has started to put on her own clothes. She can't do it 100% but she can at least get the process started by herself, which is a big step. It's clear that she considers it a big accomplishment and it makes her feel a lot more independent.

We're also making progress with the whole pee pee in the potty thing, although not to the point of moving away from pullups, at least not until the whole move thing settles down.

Dada continues to improve her language skills--she picks up new words very quickly and is starting to use multi-word phrases. She is doing lots of pretending and seems to understand the distinction between really doing something and pretending or faking.

Bedtime has been pretty calm the last week or so. For a while it was a struggle to get her to get into her bed. But lately she's been declining stories and getting right into bed. Let's hope it continues.

This weekend is the big pack and move. We're having our PODS pod moved to the new house on Monday, along with the piano. Then professional movers will show up at the new house to unpack the pod and put all the furniture in the right place (we didn't want to be carrying stuff up the stairs). On Monday they will also be installing the murphy bed, so its going to be a busy day. Yesterday we got all the stuff from my office at work--couch, chair, A/V equipment--and moved it to the new place, so we have some real furniture in there now.

The other big news is that we have renters for our current house, at least for a few months. My co-worker and friend Sasha and her husband Ash have been trying to sell their house in Dallas for the last nine months with the plan to relocate to Austin. Well they got a buyer and have to be out of their house on March 24th. They tried to find a rental here in Austin but couldn't find anything that would accomodate their need for a short-term lease and two dogs. Turns out our house is almost a perfect fit--already dogified, has a yard, we're perfectly fine with a short-term lease, and they're willing to rent it for what we need to break even, so everybody wins. And they're willing to put up with the house being in not quite as good a shape as it would have to be if we were renting to strangers.

So this means that we don't have to deal with selling our current house right away--we'll have at least two or three months to get settled into our new house before we have to deal with getting the old house ready to sell.

It also means we have to be completely out of our current house by next Friday, which means we can't procrastinate and drag it out like we probably otherwise would have.

Now all we have to do is get the power and gas hooked up at the new place....

Thursday, March 16, 2006

We Have A Home (Almost)

We received word that the City issued our Certificate of Occupancy today so we can now get the gas and electricity hooked up and start living in the house as soon as we can get our stuff moved. Our plan is to spend the next three days packing like mad. The P.O.D.S. pod is scheduled to be moved on Monday. Also on Monday they are supposed to delivery and install the Murphy bed. Also on Monday movers will show up at our current house to move the piano and then go to the new house to unload the pod, assuming is has, in the meantime, been moved to the new house. While all that is happening we will be assembling all the Ikea stuff we bought, including Dada's new big girl bed.

We also have all the paperwork in place to close on the house loan--we might have been able to do it today except that there's apparently some holdup with the bank that has the current construction loan--I don't know the details. Anyway, we might close tommorrow, at which point the house will really and truly be ours ours ours! (In the sense that we will own a huge debt owed to a heartless financial institution, but it will feel like it's ours).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Close but no CO

The City showed up yesterday to do the Certficate of Occupancy (CO) inspection. Unfortunately, they were not satisfied with the state of the construction. A couple things were reasonable (wanted the gas shutoff for the dryer in the utility room, not the room behind it) but most of what he identified seem pretty bogus, like putting insulation on the drain trap on the utility sink in the garage. He also wasn't happy with there not being any grass in the yard, even though he was assured that the landscaping would start as soon as we moved in.

Hopefully this will get resolved in the next day or two, as we are planning to finish packing and move this coming weekend.

The final finishing work continues apace: they've got the kitchen countertops almost installed and have should all the stonework done today or tommorrow. Once that's done they can quickly get the backsplashes in place.

CIMG3530They have stained the exterior landing to match the stained concrete inside as well as the transition between the screen porch and the side porch.

We're still waiting for the interior lighting which appears to be backorder limbo somewhere.

So it's likely that if we do occupy the house early next week that we'll still be having workers in and out for the next few weeks as final bits get finished up.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

House Update: Almost There?

The house is still not quite ready. There was a problem getting the material for the countertops. Doug said that he would personally go to get it today (Tuesday) and start cutting and installing it. Pretty much everything else is done except for the final fencing around the carport and the driveway and installing the final light fixtures, which are still on back order.

Yesterday Austin Energy came out to assess the house's suitability for solar panels. The guy took one glance at the house and was like "yeah, you're approved". I've got a call into the installer that did Peter Pfeiffer's house--the next step is to get a quote and see if we can afford to do it now (while the city offers a rebate, it's not 100% and you have to float the cost up front).

Here are some more pictures of recent work:

This where the bar will be.

Walkway from the entry porch to the driveway

Stairwell showing the lighting, the finished railing, and the maple treads

Spotlights on the screen wall

I Love You

Sunday night Dada said "I love you" for the first time. We had gone through the usual bedtime ritual and as we left her room we said "we love you", as we always do, and she said "I love you" back. We almost broke down in tears right there. She did it again last night and it was just as affecting.

This picture was taken on Sunday in Houston, where we had spent the weekend with Peggy--I had been in Dallas for the week and Julie had gone to Houston on Wednesday. She was going to return to Austin on Friday but she got sick Thursday night so I flew to Houston from Dallas instead and we stayed the weekend.

CIMG3428On Saturday, my birthday, we took Dada to the Houston zoo, which was lots of fun. She especially liked the monkeys and kept asking for "more monkeys". She also like the lions. We also rode the Herman Park train, which is a miniature train you catch next to the zoo and it takes you on about an eight-minute ride. Dada loved it--she would have been happy to ride it all afternoon I think, but it was getting on to nap time so we had to leave.CIMG3435

I spent the rest of my birthday napping and playing with Dada, which was just fine.