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The Long Delayed DragonCon Picture Post

It pays to have friends who are insanely talented. Case in point… I took a picture at this years DragonCon that I was really pleased with. The lighting hit just right and I got a great shot. My only problem was a few stray people in the shot. I posted it on FaceBook with a lament that I wish I could get rid of the people.

Enter the insanely talented Amanda McKenzie. She performed some kind of crazy magic and removed all of the people. Mad Skillz… She has them. Also possibly some kind of Dorian Grey thing going on…

The untouched original... Pre Amanda Magic

The untouched original… Pre Amanda Magic

People are gone... Magic.

People are gone… Magic.

And the rest of the photos….

MyPlay: Why customer experience matters

A good customer experience can be a heck of a great marketing tool, but a bad customer experience can be more toxic than a reality TV marathon. So let’s talk about MyPlay.com…

Tonight on The Turntable: American Football

A discussion of music that may have just gotten away from me a bit. It involves math-rock, taffy and living an heirloom experience, click the link and read on…

Old Habits II

What is it about vinyl? Skips and defects don’t seem to matter the way they did when CD’s first came out. CD’s were so amazing for the clarity, but I hated the smaller package. Not enough room for art, not the same physical experience. I could overlook it because a lot of my vinyl had been worn to a frazzle. Bad needles, multiple moves and play after play after play. There were days I could have sworn I was born in a set of headphones. The ability to disappear inside of music, not passively absorb it, not use it as background, but actually listen.

Old Habits

I restarted an old habit these past few weeks. Vinyl records.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I already have about 1000 vinyl albums. I got out of the habit when CD’s got big (about 500 of those) and I dropped CDs for the most part when audio streaming went mainstream.

I have a Spotify account and a Pandora account, but increasingly music has become a background thing; something to listen to while doing other things.This is probably the way most people listen to music.

However, there was a time for me when music was the thing.

Contractors II: Global Builders Restoration

funny-pictures-owls-twisted-headAfter the previous 2 months of crappy contractors, I had high hopes that things were going to be looking up. I decided to go back to Global Builders Restoration. They had put a roof on my house about 2 years ago and had done good work. They did good work once, they can do it again right?

Unfortunately, while I can say I found Global Builders Restoration to be in a class by themselves, it was the kind of class where the students eat quite a bit of paste and shouldn’t be given anything sharper than play-dough.

February 27th

The initial estimate for the kitchen was done by a young man named Brian. For the initial estimate, Brian arrived several hours later than originally expected. I was willing to chalk this up to not knowing where I live, but it soon proved to be a simple habit. He was very busy… Too busy to be on time… Too busy to return calls and too busy to remember previous conversations. The first big disappointment came on the day Brian was supposed to come by and help me choose cabinets. The original appointment was for noon and I stayed home from work to wait. He called at 11:30 to let me know “he was busy” and would not make it until 4 or later. Another lost work day. When he finally showed up, he didn’t have any of the cabinet materials with him and seemed perplexed when I asked him about it. He was under the impression that he was driving out to my house to see if I wanted to do the job.

Let’s test the logic here… Leaving aside the fact that I told you “yes” a week earlier… You thought I wanted you to drive 2 hours from your office to say “yes” or “no” to the job? They make these things called phones…

After a solid month of these kinds of episodes, I took him aside and talked about some time management ideas he might want to try. He seemed very receptive, but it never really took. If he said he would be there at 10am it would be 2pm when he finally showed. If he said it would be noon it would be 4pm or even 6pm. I finally stopped taking days off and made him come in the evenings or weekends whenever possible.

April 3rd

Tear out done. Maybe things will go smoothly... and possibly monkeys will fly out of my butt.

Tear out done. Maybe things will go smoothly… and possibly monkeys will fly out of my butt.

It’s the first week of April, we finally have cabinets stacked up in my garage and we are ready to roll. The plan is to tear out my kitchen on Thursday at noon and then install the new cabinets on Friday and Saturday (if needed). Surprise, surprise, he calls me and tells me he is not going to make it until 4pm. At this point I am over it and pretty bitchy when I talk with him. He manages to make it at 3:30 and gets the demo done around 6pm. As he leaves he tells me that he will be here bright and early tomorrow, maybe a little bit after the cabinet crew.

At 11am the next morning, he called to ask if the crew was there yet. They were not, and no one seemed to know where they were. At this point I pretty much lost my shit. I have no kitchen, no sink, no oven. My shop is full of cabinets so there is no room there to work. The walls of my kitchen look like hell and my blood pressure is going bonkers. I am so angry that I am having trouble sleeping but I am still exhausted. At this point every other phrase out of someone’s mouth begins with “I promise you…” both Brian and his office manager, Becky use this phrase over and over. It seems that earlier commitments were not, in fact promises.

Becky promises to call me back by the end of the day (she does not). Brian double-super-secret-pinky-swears he will come out on Saturday to prep the walls so everything goes smoothly on Monday when the cabinet installers finally do arrive. At 9:30am the Saturday morning, I text to make sure he is still coming out to do the drywall. This previous promise then changes to a promise to come out and at least remove the demolished cabinets from my driveway.

Then there is much discussion of the estimate not covering this and that… To which my response is, Huh? This is an insurance job. If you encounter things you did not expect, you revise the estimate and go back to the insurance company. The goal is not to screw the insurance company, but you want everyone to get paid for what they do, and you want it to be right. At this point, Brian goes back to the drawing board to produce yet another estimate and I am left to pray that my insurance company doesn’t think I am trying to scam them.

The cabinet installers finally show up on Monday and of course the drywall is not done… They start making noises about leaving until I raise hell with the office manager again. Finally, they agree to go to lunch while the drywall guy works. In the credit where credit is due department, David the drywall guy is a god among men. He does insanely smooth drywall without sanding and treats the job the way he would if it was his own house. Big kudos to David.

Finally we have cabinets. Now we just need a counter

Finally we have cabinets. Now we just need a counter

The cabinet guys return from lunch and put the cabinets in. They also manage to cut the line to the ice maker, but either don’t notice or don’t say. We won’t find this out until we reset the appliances a few days later. One of the doors under the kitchen sink is also attached improperly so that it drops to one side by about a half inch whenever it is opened. You have to kind of lever it back into place before you can close it. This is un-noticed by the cabinet guys who also leave without cleaning up anything (boxes, sawdust, etc). David pitches in to clean up and earns major points.

After a great deal of messaging back and forth, Brian schedules a day to have someone come out and put the appliances back in place. He sends David out by himself… so I get to be his helper (joy). I could have left it all to him, but I thought he was going to herniate himself trying to reset the cast iron sink. David works until 7pm getting stuff in and probably would have stayed later if I let him.

The sink reset is only temporary as we have not been able to order the countertop yet, despite two sets of measurements and telling Brian 3 times which counter-top I want. After about 2 weeks of no sink, I will take temporary. Additionally, I have noted to more than one person that the cabinets are parallel to the back wall, but not at a 45 degree angle to the side wall. In fairness, this is because the wall itself is not square to the back. However, no one seems to see this as a problem except me.

April 30th

At this point I actually get a counter top… sitting in my garage. Brian makes noises about coming out that week to put it in and finish everything up (including painting). Un huh… Any takers? So, after several messages during the week I finally get a response on Friday at 7:30 pm… Much apologies, blah blah… when would be good for me next week? I pick Monday. I spend the rest of my weekend, trying to figure out what to say to him when he eventually fails to show up.

May 5th

Sure as death and taxes, I get a message at 8:30 am on Monday. I know you are going to be mad… blah, blah… apologies, blah, blah. My response, rehearsed and refined over the course of the weekend: “You’re fired. I am done having my time wasted.” Phone calls and more empty apologies occur with the office manager… Another double-secret-super-pinky-swear that they will be there tomorrow at 9:30 am and as the worlds most gullible human, I agree. Anybody want in on this action? Bueller? Bueller?

May 6th

So after all of my screaming and complaining, it will surprise exactly no one that Brian calls to tell me that he is running late. Sorry… blah, blah… scheduling department… blah blah. \/\/hatever. David shows up at about 10:45am and Brian and his +1 are 30 minutes behind him. Becky has called and there has been much promising that it will all get knocked out today (no pinky swear so I don’t take this too seriously).

So is this a problem for you?

So is this a problem for you?

Despite the fact that Brian refers to him as “the countertop guy,” David admits that he has never installed a countertop before, so what could go wrong? I have him put up the smaller counter top section on the right hand side of the cabinets where I had noted the issue with the wall not being square.

Sure enough, it looks like this might be a problem, or a poorly hidden storage area for small items.

After much consultation, it is decided that the fix for this is to actually cut the sheet rock and bury the end of the countertop in the sheetrock… Which actually turns out to be fortunate as the countertop is so long that it barely fits, pushing the oven firmly up against the far wall. Hopefully that stove will never need to be replaced.

Now we get to the best part…  the  cabinet guys didn’t bother to level all the way across the top of the cabinets. This means that the countertop will not sit flat across the length of the cabinets. Additionally, they cannot make it out until Thursday so I am once again without a sink for two days.

Cue the office manager “Apology, apology… stars not aligned… blah, blah, blah.”

Ummm… Not to diss your astrologer, but hiring competent contractors might be a better bet. At this point, any apologies are just a lot of tonsil waving. If I am getting half-assed work, I do not expect to be paying full price. Show me the money and wave your tonsils at someone else.

And for the love of sweet baby Jesus, stop asking me when it will be convenient for you to come out next. You already know I am not getting my first choice (now or tomorrow). I am painfully aware that while you are perfectly comfortable canceling on me, god forbid you disappoint one of the Dunwoody housewives of Atlanta. Just tell me what the next day you want me to waste is and be done with it. Stop acting like I have a choice. As you may have guessed, by this point I am full of Grrrrr.

It’s about an hour after they leave when I discover one of my cats is missing.

Despite repeated attempts by me to stress that they can’t leave the doors open, the contractors have managed to let one of the cats out. After a 3 hour frantic search (and one incredibly bitchy phone call), I finally find the cat a few doors down and picking a fight with another cat. Finding my cat is a huge relief as my business partner Bryan (no relation) has repeatedly reminded me that Twelve Foot Guru does not provide bail money.

May 8th

Almost 4 months to the day since the original damage occurred, and it looks like I might finally have a real kitchen again. The cabinet guy comes in and takes one look at the counter top and says “Wow, I can’t believe we did that…” He also manages to trim and install the counter like a professional would, so we don’t have to cut into the wall again. The Global crew comes behind him, paints, puts up molding and cleans up after themselves. All in all, it is a very productive day.

After everything is installed, Brian casually mentions that the countertop ended up costing about $300 more than was estimated. Sigh. So despite the fact that he was asked repeatedly to let me know if there was a price difference, he just sorta forgot. Didn’t think to mention it over two weeks ago when it was ordered, or for the week that it sat in my garage. Nope, he drops this on me at the very end of the job when it’s already installed.

At this point, I think “Fine! \/\/hatever!” because I just want it to be over. They finish clean up and leave. If they are gone, they can’t do any more damage. My months long nightmare is over and I can finally relax.

An hour later, I realize that they have left the garden hose out back running full blast…

Sigh.

Update June 18th: So after three and a half months of dealing with Global Builders Restoration, I am finally rid of them today. This morning, they finally got things squared away with the insurance company (only 6 weeks and 9 phone calls after the job itself was completed). My grand reward for putting up with this nightmare? A whopping 3% off my bill of $9,194.13. I would also point out that this is $1495.55 over the original estimate, so just a hair off…

In summary, if you have several months to waste and find yourself in need of a contractor who will:

  • Cost you 12 days of lost work time (of which 6 are actually productive)
  • Forget to return phone calls until a week later
  • Be late to every single appointment without exception
  • Make numerous empty promises and excuses
  • Exhibit an almost mystical level of carelessness
  • Overrun the estimate by about $1500
  • Take 6 weeks to work out the insurance estimate
  • And finally offer you a pitiful 3% “sorry about that whole temporarily losing your cat thing” discount for your troubles

… then Global Builders Restoration is the company for you. My only hope is that by word of mouth I can give back to them some small portion of all the have given to me over the last three and half months.

 

Contractors

Dude! My berries are frozen!

Dude! My berries are frozen!

I have been kind of quiet here for the last few months, but with good reason. On Tuesday, it will be 6 months since my water pipes froze and burst during the first freeze of 2014. This two part post covers the last six months of my life as I attempt to recover from the freeze. I am writing this, not as a list of woes and worries, but to ask a simple question; what the hell is wrong with contractors?

January 8th

pipes1It’s the second night of the big freeze, Delta Plumbing responded quickly in the emergency, and while I might quibble with the pricing, given that fact that they were working round the clock to fix things and the fact that they came when they said they would (8pm on the first call), I will tip my hat to them and say thank you.

Soggy carpet and 4 industrial fans means 3 days in a hotel with 3 cats.

Soggy carpet and 4 industrial fans means 3 days in a hotel with 3 cats.

The man from Delta had recommended a contractor called Apex Mitigation services to handle the water removal. Like Delta, Apex came when they said they would and responded very quickly and efficiently. The only knock on them was that they managed to nick one of my alarm wires.

This was totally not their fault, as we didn’t know where the wires were run and since it was only a nick, I didn’t even know they had done it until over a week later when the alarm would start intermittently beeping at me for no reason. Not a big deal, I just had the alarm company come out and track down the break and fix it.

The electrician sent out by My Alarm Center had the old school habit of stripping the wires with his wire cutters. As a recovering electrician myself, I have done this in a pinch, but it always runs the risk of  creating a weak spot in the wires if you crimp to hard (much like the previous issue he was there to fix).

Sure enough, I was in line for the bank later in the day when I got a call from the alarm monitoring station that my alarm had gone off. I went home, discovered the bad splices and just re-did them myself. Irritating, but it could be worse. Yes… yes it could.

Apex had recommended a renovations contractor called AYS (At Your Service) to fix the kitchen and bedroom water damage. They came out and did the initial walk through with the insurance company and I talked through a number of potential issues with them. One thing I was very clear about was that we would not do the demolition of the kitchen until the new cabinets where actually in our hands. I had no urge to be weeks without a kitchen (ah the naiveté of youth).

February 20th

As the weeks passed I had a horrible time getting AYS (Assemble it Your Self?) to call me back when I left messages. No one could tell me, when the work was going to get done or even when they would come out again. They missed 3 appointments including two days when I stayed home from work to wait for them. The final straw was when they called weeks later to say they would be out to demolish the kitchen the next day… without even asking me what cabinets I wanted to order. Are You Serious? I have a 8 foot square of bare concrete in my bedroom and the kitchen counters are starting to sag. Nothing was started and the communication was awful. So AYS got fired.

March 5th

I did a bit of looking around and decided I would let Home Depot do the carpet in the bedroom. If they did a good job, I would get them to do the kitchen. Home Depot’s subcontractor is a company called Romanoff Renovations and they made me feel all kinds of stabby.

Basically, the carpet guys wanted to leave me with my bedroom in my kitchen

Basically, the carpet guys wanted to leave me with my bedroom in my kitchen

Having dealt with the alarm wires in great detail since the original damage, I knew exactly where each one came up near the wall. I took great pains to point each of these 3 places out to all of the guys working on the crew. You need to be careful here, here and here… They managed to cut Every… Single… One.

At first, they just wanted to continue putting in the carpet, then they started talking about just leaving and then, despite being told not to on multiple occasions by both myself and their own supervisors, they started trying to fix it themselves.

I was eventually able to get an alarm technician to come out on an emergency service call to fix things and check the system. After far too much aggravation, they were able to get the carpet finished. Romanoff agreed to reimburse the cost of the repair, which was the least they could do… and in fact, all they would do.

To add insult to injury, their check for the reimbursement came with a legal release statement which basically said that by signing the check I agreed never to ask them for anything else. I will state this as plainly as possibly, I would not hire Romanoff Renovations to build a birdhouse. If I was legally able to ask them for anything else, I would ask them to go fuck themselves. Home Depot should pick a better class of contractor.

By this point at least I had carpet, so all things considered, it could be worse… much worse in fact.

To find out just how much worse things could get, read Contractors II: Global Builders Restoration

Finally in it's new home at the foot of my bed.The traditional cat inspectionThe original Key table/box/thingyPlywood with a Poplar lift on the bottom.I actually just laid the lid on for this photo and attached it later in the bed room. It was just such a beast to move by myself.

A Simple Blanket Chest

I finally finished up a six board chest for the end of the bed. The top is from a project I made when I was about 19. It consists of a key collection, laid on a plywood back and sealed in acrylic resin. Throughout it’s life the top has been part of a coffee table, a box for books and now it becomes a chest for the end of the bed. it has some bumps and scrapes, much like it’s builder, but it seems to have held up okay.

The bottom of the new chest is cedar, so it smells nice inside. The rest of the chest is stained plywood. Traditionally, these are made out of pine or a common hard wood, but I had the plywood on hand, so I went with that.

The fun part was trying to match the original stain from the old top. After trying about 4 different types, I actually found one already on my supply shelf that was pretty close.

I think I may add a chain to keep the lid from flopping back too far, and possibly some handles (This thing is heavy). However, I will have to wait for the cat inspection to be completed.

Next I think I am going to add one more set of shelves to the closet… but first the celebratory Scotch.

Baby Stuff (Not mine – Don’t panic mom)

A baby rattle and the first of a set of blocks, for Elizabeth and Aaron Karp (or more specifically, for their baby girl). The handle gives it a bit of a royal septer look. However, since I am sort of assuming Aaron’s first child will be named “Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All” that should work out just fine.

The head of the rattle was my first chance to work with a hollowing tool. I need some more practice, but it was fun to fiddle with.

The cherry wood blocks will be part of a set of 10 counting blocks with a number stamped on 4 sides and a corresponding number of paw prints on the other two sides.

 

Missy inspects the new Closet workJust needs doors on the bottom

Closet mods part II

Added a new section to the closet modifications. One step closer to being rid of the evil white wire rack shelves. The bottom section will get doors put on it. Then I get to switch over to the other side of the closet.

This provides a good bit of space for king sized comforters and my oversized suitcase.

Glass jar optionCute plastic paint bucket from Michael'sWIne glass optionMade out of cedar so they smell nice.Valentines02Valentines04

A Valentines day project

I am generally of the opinion that we should be good to people all the time rather than only on certain celebrated days. However, this was one of those late night ideas that rattled around in my brain until I let it out last weekend. I am very pleased with the results.

These can be made with colorful scrap wood or leftover pen blanks (cedar is nice because of the smell). For those of you interested in how stuff gets made, a full project description is available over on lumberjocks.

closet1closet2closet3closet4

Closet Organizer

Built with a single sheet of 4 by 8 baltic Birch Plywood and a bit of poplar for banding the edges. Cat approved! This is the first step of the closet renovation to hopefully remove all of those white metal racks and replace them with some nice wood. I added some canvas drawers for color and they turned out very nicely.

A Ball jar full of balls... very metaOne of the only drawbacks to being a wood turning, is wrapping round presentsA cheese boardA small plate and an age test.A pair of cheese boardsHow many of my friends know what the design in the middle is?

Christmas Wood 2013

Some of the Santa output for 2013. Cheese boards, a small platter and a Ball jar full of balls (Hows that for meta?). I am curious to see how many people recognize the design in the middle of the smaller walnut platter.

balls_photo_bomb1Saturday2Saturday3Saturday4Saturday5Saturday6

Playing around with a sphere turning jig from the folks at ChefWare Kits. I like it a lot so far. There is a bit more play in it than I expected, but I think once I get used to the setup, I will be able to cut down on some of that.

The spheres are much more consistent. It’s not really quicker, but all things considered, I like it. I even tried my first spherical box. I have discovered that a friction fit lid on a spherical box is not really the best idea… it has to be pried loose.

Live and learn.

Next up, I need to try a saturn shaped box. :)

ShopChest Install1ShopChest1ShopChest2ShopChest3ShopChestFinal1ShopChestFinal2

Red Oak Tool Chest

This is a chest for tools and small pieces of wood, done in red oak and oak plywood. I was not terribly thrilled by the quality of the oak plywood. The veneer was very thin and tended to split along the edges.

However, all things considered, it’s not too shabby for shop furniture. It has me thinking I want to tackle something big like an armoire or a nice chest of drawers. Just need to remember better quality plywood for the case.

Spalted Maple Side 1Spalted Maple Side 2Little boxes in CherryThese are pretty tiny

Vase

Not sure I ever posted these. The vase is spalted maple. This stuff was wonderful to turn a polished up to a beautiful finish. I was very pleased and it made a lovely gift.

The tiny boxes are in leftover scraps of cherry wood. I have enough to make about a dozen more. Not sure what I will put in them, but they are fun to make.

Hmmm…

The look that says “Not sure where you are sleeping tonight buddy.”

Three cats in a king bed.

Three cats in a king bed.

In case you didn’t know…

This is my happy place.

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

Basic case built and assembled. Stained plywood with a walnut front. The white parts will never see daylight after the install.All installations must be approved by on site inspectorsThe blue tape on the wall on the right is marking the studs so I know where to mount the shelves.Glueing the front of the draw on. There is a recess on the underside of the front for pulling the drawer openThe antique lookTop in placeClose up of the assembled wood top. Really lovely grain.

Builtins Part 2

Finally got started on the right side builtin for the living room. I got the case together about two weeks ago and the top assembled the week after that. The install and glue up went pretty smoothly. Now I just need to add the shelves on the right side. Then I can finally get all of my glassware out of boxes. It’s been almost two years since I have seen some of it.

Then I think it is time to make beer and throw a party!

Bottom view of the bowl. Still attached to the latheTop view of the bowl with some amazing swirls and voidsOff the lathe. You can really see the amazing colors in this woodI was pleased that I managed to keep some of the natural edges to this one.A small bowl of tulip poplarInside the bowlClose up of all the grain colorsThis side is almost uniform, but still has some interesting patterns to the grain.

Recent Wood

I had forgotten to post these up recently. This is a small bowl in Tulip Poplar and a larger bowl in Cherry Burl (a gift to a friend).

I have a few more pieces of the burl and I really want to work some more with it.

sonicScrewdriver1sonicScrewdriver2sonicScrewdriver3

Sonic Screwdriver Prototype

Yes I am just a huge nerd… deal with it.

GlassesCase1GlassesCase2GlassesCase3GlassesCase4

First Attempt at a Turned Case for My Reading Glasses

It’s a nice first draft and I think it’s given me a few other ideas to play with. An idea generated from a discussion at the AAW conference about the lost wood process. It lets you turn an oval shaped object on the lathe which is pretty cool.

AAW Symposium

For those of you buried in soft peat for the last few days, I have been at the American Association of Woodturners symposium for the last few days. To call this experience eye opening would be a huge understatement. Lots of amazing work by talented people. I have a ton of new toys and new ideas. Very satisfying. Take a look at the gallery to see some of what I saw.

My two favorites where Michael Mode’s class on building a bowl from a single flat board and Keith Holt’s singing Spheres (they just look so dang happy)

LLP-Bowl1LLP-Bowl4LLP-Bowl5LLP-Bowl6

Long Leaf Pine Bowl

This one is still a work in progress. I like the rim, but I am not thrilled with the bottom of it. I think I will live with it for a few days and see what I think about it.

Living Room Shelves 1Living Room Shelves 2Living Room Shelves 3Last Import - 13Living Room Shelves 1Living Room Shelves 4Living Room Shelves 1Living Room Shelves 6

Shelves finished!

After about 3 months of trying to figure out exactly what I wanted, I finally got the shelves up above the entertainment cabinet. I went with a sort of floating shelf design to try and limit the amount of dark wood in the corner (trying to avoid creating a black hole in that corner). Each shelf is a torsion box, bolted into the wall studs with 4 inch bolts and a walnut front.