Turns Out People Are More Interested In Guys With Umbrella Hats Than I Would Have Thought...

According to my StatCounter, there are a lot of people looking for pictures of guys in umbrella hats. Seriously, I get more visits everyday for that post than any other, with the possible exception being the Sandy Duncan Glass Eye post. Well, for those of you who are into guys wearing umbrella hats, here are a few more.  Dig in!



Thanks to some warm weather the day after Thanksgiving, I was able to get one last kayak in before winter down the river that runs past my house.  I fucking love it.  I drive a few miles, drop in, paddle back to the house, and then either ride my bike or have Megan drive me back to my truck.  When I went earlier in the fall, the river was teeming with huge salmon which were jumping out of the water left and right.  The camera is duct-taped to the center of my paddle.


Happy Birthday, Carl Sagan...

Thanks for everything. I know you're dead and won't see this, but thanks anyway.


This Is My Job...

I haven't talked about it much on the blog, but the last several years have not been good for someone working in architecture in northern Michigan.  There are very few people building right now with a glut of cheap real estate and foreclosures available.  Last fall it became clear that there just wasn't enough architecture work to keep me steadily busy.  So I worked as a paid ski patroller for the resort I've volunteer patrolled at since 1997.  It wasn't great pay, but it was something I knew how to do.  Besides, I love to be outside during the winters up here, especially if it's spent skiing.  Once the season was over, I thought I had lined up more lucrative architecture work, but it fell through.  After I got done fixing our bathroom, it was time to find something to do.  The resort where I ski patrol also has a year-round zipline tour.  Since I knew a lot of the other employees from the ski season, I asked if they needed help.  A lot of the college students were leaving to go back to school in August, so I started leading tours and have been there since.  The downside is that the pay sucks, at least compared to what I used to make.  Luckily, it is a pretty low-stress job.  No one ever yells at me for anything.  Most of the people who come out are looking to have a good time and I honestly have never had a complaint on my tours.  You're outside.  The ziplining itself is fun.  And now, we are enjoying some kick-ass Indian Summer - leaves at their peak colors and close to 80 degrees.  It's beautiful.  I also like the people I work with, most of whom are much younger than me.  It's reassuring to know that I can still relate to people in their early twenties.  It's not something I plan to make a career of, but it's not bad for the meantime. The video features five of the ten lines on the tour.


Documentary Film Of The Day: Gashole...

I'd call this a must-see.  For those of you who still have Netflix and still follow my recommendations, this is one I hope you'll watch and then tell others to watch. It's about greedy-ass oil fucks and just how crooked and sinister human beings can be.

It's available for instant viewing HERE


Ladies And Gentlemen, I Give You Michele Bachmann...

...unveiling her new (blow) jobs program. Hey-O!

The guy behind her seems impressed.

Here's another angle to really
sear it into your memory.


Documentary Film(s) Of The Day: How To Start Your Own Country & Cave Of Forgotten Dreams...

As someone who likes relatively obscure documentaries, I am pretty limited as far as access to these films living in northern Michigan.  Most of the time, I depend on Netflix.  The only other venue available to me is the Traverse City Film Festival.  I haven't been able to attend the last couple years, but Megan surprised me for my birthday with three movie passes, two of which were docs.  The first was How To Start Your Own Country, a film about "micro-nations".  It was often humorous, but also thought-provoking.  It makes you think about what constitutes a country.  The filmmakers (as well as one of the micro-nation leaders featured in the film) were there to answer questions afterwards.  The other film was Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, a 3-D film by one of my favorite directors, Werner Herzog.  It's about a cave in France where, in the 1990's, they discovered a perfectly preserved set of drawings that are 35,000 years old.  The cave is off limits to the general public for obvious reasons and access is highly restricted.  To be able to see some of the earliest artwork ever discovered was awe-inspiring and made me wonder what else is out there that has yet to be found.  Neither of these films are available on Netflix yet, but be sure to check them out when they are.

Separated At Birth...

 Rick "Frothy Mixture" Santorum


Jerry Seinfeld when he got the bad haircut.


Anatomy Of A Bathroom...

As some of you may remember, I live in a house that was given to me for free, provided I had it moved from its previous location to somewhere new.  At the time, I found a lot, cleared a bunch of trees, excavated, built a foundation, had it moved, and basically did a whole bunch of other shit to make it livable.  For the first few years, I was living in the house alone.  As a bachelor, I was not as concerned about the interior aesthetics, especially in the bathroom.  My requirements for a bathroom are minimal.  When I shit, does it end up on the floor?  Is there water spewing uncontrollably?  If not, I can overlook what it looks like.  I understand that not everyone is like me and I don't want to seem like I don't appreciate it when things look nice.  I do.  And believe me, as you'll see, it looked pretty fucking bad.  I give credit to Megan for dealing with it as long as she did.

This post may be long and tedious, but I like seeing before & after shit, so maybe you do, too.

First, as a reference, here is a comparison of the floor plans.  I made them with Paint.  Sorry.
So, here we can see the main spacial problem:  the vanity is in a shitty location.  It is--believe it or not--only 18" from the tub.  Uncomfortable.  So we decided to have the plumbing moved so that the new vanity could be against the exterior wall and give things at least a little more openness.  Now, you may be asking a few things.  Are you putting a vanity under a window?  Where will the mirror be?  I'll talk about that later.  Isn't it bad to run plumbing through an exterior wall, especially in balls-ass cold Michigan.  Not to fear.  All plumbing comes up through the floor from the heated basement.  The toilet and tub stayed put.  Here are a few before pictures.  Holy shit is it bad!:
 The shitter.  She served us well. I liked to have the brush and plunger to either side of me so I could wield them like swords.
 The tub had this piece of shit plastic surround that was pulling away from the wall in spots.  Nasty.

This shot gives you a sense of how tight it was between the tub & vanity.
A couple of things to notice.  A big hole in the wall, revealing insulation (next to the blue towel).  There used to be a space heater there that was removed when I had a new furnace put in.  I just never covered up the hole.  There is also a very bad acoustical tile that had a bunch of holes in it, patched with duct tape.  We never could figure out what the cause was.  Rodents?  We never saw any.
By now you've probably noticed the super-awesome faux marble Masonite paneling with stunning gold fleckwork (Megan's favorite!).  It is amazing to me that--at some point in time--someone chose this material.  Someone thought this looked nice.  Surely there were other options.  Fuck, there was drywall underneath. They could've just used that.

As you can see, we have our work cut out for us.  This was a project that was supposed to be done last summer.  However, as with most building projects, the kitchen/dining/living space took longer than expected.  And there was a wedding.

So, the work begins.  If you notice things I fucked up along the way, I wouldn't be surprised.  I only ask that you keep them to yourselves:
 So, first we had to see what we were dealing with underneath the god-awful Masonite.  We knew there was drywall, but we didn't know what kind of shape it was in.  We have learned with this house that if there is ever any doubt, it's probably shitty.
 As you can see, it's pocked with rock-hard adhesive for the Masonite.  It is unsalvagable and must come down.

Because we only have one bathroom, I was forced to work in a way that would minimze our inconvenience.  I was daily removing the vanity, then putting it back so that we could still use it for as long as possible.

Because there was no vapor barrier along the exterior wall, a lot of the insulation was mildewy and useless.  More work.
 I love to demo.  Seriously.  There is a certain visceral pleasure in tearing something down.
 I was surprised there wasn't more moisture damage.  Anything that showed signs of mold was removed and replaced.
Now I'm drywalling.  The bathroom is exactly 8' long, so I could use a full 4 X 8 sheet without cutting it.  Somehow I got these two big sheets up myself.  I built a temporary ledge enough to get a couple screws in.
 I have also replaced insulation at this point and installed a 6 mil polyethylene vapor barrier.  This should prevent the new insulation from getting water-logged.

I had to wait on the plumber before I could drywall the wall between the shower and terlet. 
I temporarily put the old vanity where the new one would would go so Megan could have a better idea.
We are doing a tiled tub surround to replace the crappy-ass plastic one.  This required Durock substrate on which to tile.  I've also vapor-barriered the shower walls. 

You can see that the shower control has been moved to a normal position.  Before, it was just above the tub faucet.   
I skipped ahead a bit because I sense you're getting bored and because taping and mudding drywall is miserable.  At this point, all the exposed walls are painted
Still the old toilet. 
This is 1/4" Hardie Backer, substrate for the new tile floor.  The old toilet is now gone.  This is when we had to stay elsewhere, which I mentioned in my last post. 
Prepping for tile. 
This first-half of the wall went up awesome.  I got cocky. 
The rest was not as perfect, but once the grout was applied, a lot of the imperfections became less noticeable. 

Floor tile.  The tiles came in 12" x 12" sheets which made it a lot easier to install than the 4" x 4" shower tiles. 

Now that the shower is grouted, caulked, and sealed, and the new shower curtain rod is up, we can finally take normal showers again, without having to duct-tape up a sheet of plastic all the time.  It's amazing how much a shower curtain rod can make a difference.  The old one was adjustable, so there was a little lip where the shower curtain hooks would bind up and annoy.  Now it is one continuous piece and Megan bought these  ball-bearing-like curtain rings that glide like a fucking dream.
 The new shower fixtures. 
The new shitter!  This was fun.  We went to Lowes and went with their "economy" model.  Once the floor tile had set up, I put together the toilet which came as a kit and had all the parts.  After getting everything in place and triumphantly lowering the new throne onto its base, I could tell that the wax ring that creates a seal between the toilet and drain and ultimately keeps poop off your floor was not thick enough.  Another aggravating trip to Lowes.
Just a brief interlude from the work.  I saved the shower plumbing access panel made from the old Masonite. I am still trying to convince Megan that we should frame it and hang it somewhere in the house.  It's so pretty!
 Holy shit!  A fucking vanity (this went in today--a balmy 95 degree day).  I did most of the plumbing on this. I became familiar with Sharkbite copper fittings which allow a shmuck like me to add elbows and what-have-you without needing a torch and solder.  One of the compression connections on one of the stop valves was a pain my ass.  I must've made 20 trips to the basement to turn on and shut off the water main because of a leak I could not seem to remedy.  I finally got the bastard to cooperate and the thing works.  As for the mirror, we are going to devise some sort of flip-out mirror that has two sides that can fold out and be temporarily in front of the window.  Pics to follow...
This is one of two new light fixtures.  There will be another over the sink. 
So, there is still shit left to do.  I have to finish the rest of the base/door/window/ceiling trim and paint it.  The tub will eventually be re-surfaced white. The rest is stuff like towel bars, toilet paper holders, etc.  When the whole things done, I might post a pic or two.  

Damn, that was long.  If you are still reading this, you must like bathrooms as much as I do!