Sunday, July 29, 2012

Making a Splash

“If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash.” ~ Bruce Lee1

What we’ve discovered over the last couple of weeks is that water, when put into pipes behind a wall, can also be a stealthy, sneaky bastard. Recently, the townhouse we rent changed ownership (not a big deal - we still have the same point of contact; it was more an ‘on paper’ change of ownership I think). Anyhow, in the process of the Homeowners Association being notified of the change of ownership, the billing for the water got rather jumbled and we ended up with two different account numbers for the water bill, one in my name and one in the new owner’s name. When a bill in the owner’s name arrived in the mail last week for over $2,000 and showing over 200,000 gallons of water had been used, naturally, I freaked out a bit. This was right after the property manager had emailed me regarding a letter he had received from the HOA advising of “unusually high meter readings”. Unusually high? Holy shit, 200,000 gallons isn’t unusually high! It’s an indication of something severely wrong.

We had heard what sounded like running water since even before we moved in. We looked everywhere for evidence of a leak. The property manager looked everywhere. He had his inspector look everywhere. Nothing. No evidence of any leaks. No water marks in the walls or ceilings. No wet spots on the floor. Nothing. So, we figured it was just a quirk of the house being that the cut off valve in the closet had a good bit of the drywall around it cut away so we could actually get to it; like maybe because there wasn’t insulation and drywall surrounding it, we were just hearing the water coming into the house.

But when we got a bill showing 200,000 gallons of water being used in a very short amount of time, naturally that was proof of either a leak or a faulty meter. What kind of pisses me off a bit is that the HOA and the billing company seemed to have taken their sweet time to alert us to this. I mean, I looked at the meter after we found out about the amount of water loss, and it was spinning like the second hand on a clock (compared to the neighbor’s meter, which was barely moving). Just seems to me that the meter reader could’ve said something - it was pretty fucking obvious the meter shouldn’t be spinning that fast. Anyway, this is where the ‘water can be a stealthy, sneaky bastard’ part comes into play.

As it turns out, the leak (or should I say leaks) were in the hallway wall adjacent to where the hookup for the washing machine is, as well as under the kitchen sink. Some of the leaks being under the foundation slab, I can understand why we wouldn’t have spotted those, but the ones in the wall were the stealthiest, sneakiest bastards of all. You would think those would become very obvious and cause the wall to be wet. But they didn’t. Instead, the water ran down the pipes and into a drainage hole that sent the water under the house.

It’s finally fixed, with the plumbers being quite inventive by simply re-routing the water into new piping that they put inside the walls2 to avoid having to tear up the floor and cut into the concrete slab. The drywall guy was also especially good in reusing the pieces that the plumbers had cut away from the wall and ceiling to patch the holes. A little sanding and painting and you won’t even be able to tell that sections of the wall had to be cut away.

But let this serve as a warning - just because you don’t see the water doesn’t mean it’s not there because it’s a stealthy, sneaky bastard that can cause your bill to get ridiculous.3

~ JC


2. For Photos, go to my Picasa album -

3. Thankfully, it’s not my dime - the landlord will have to cover the repair costs and deal with the water company to try to get the bill adjusted. And even if they won’t adjust it, I can damn sure guarantee you that I’m not paying that shit :-P

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Is This The Real Life?

I couldn’t sleep last night. It wasn’t so much insomnia as much as I just wasn’t sleepy enough to go to bed at “bedtime”. So, I ended up staying up until 3:00am watching a short marathon of “Lizard Lick Towing” on TruTV. As entertaining as it can be, let’s just be honest folks. So called Reality TV is so full of shit. Don’t get me wrong. This blog isn’t going to be me trashing Lizard Lick Towing, or any other reality TV show in particular. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve never been a particularly big fan of reality TV, other than cooking shows. They do, however (and unfortunately), have a way of sucking you into watching them, especially when they're on late at night and you can’t sleep.

“Lizard Lick Towing” isn’t the only one that ends up being a guilty pleasure of mine to watch. I also get caught up watching “Hardcore Pawn” (also on TruTV) from time to time. It’s not hard to watch these shows and figure out that, at least some of it, is totally staged. Now, I can image that folks that work in the repossession profession do have people assault them, or even shoot at them. And having worked retail, I can see how the folks on “Hardcore Pawn” do have customers that want to show their ass and act a fool. But, here’s the thing; almost every episode of these shows make it look like that’s all that ever happens, that it’s a daily occurrence. I have to call bullshit on that. I also have to call bullshit on the “we’re broke, so I gotta do this” angle as well. Come on guys. We all know TruTV pays you for being on television. You can’t seriously tell me you’re that behind on your bills that you have no choice but to take a shady repo job for $20,000 cash money out of state.

On top of shows like the ones mentioned above, it seems like reality TV is taking over the airwaves. I blame MTV, frankly. They started this shit with “The Real World” back in 1992. Now we have craptastic shows like “Jersey Shore” and “The Real Housewives” that feature vapid wastes of oxygen starting fights and generally acting like an argument against evolution and making you really wonder about the validity of public education.

Yep, I think I’m glad I bought that Nook a few months ago. If the future of TV is “reality” programming, then I’m glad I really enjoy reading.

~ JC

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Great Book Debate

I love books; not just reading them but collecting them (1) as well. I’ve blogged recently about having purchased a Barnes & Noble Nook. I have several ebook apps on my Android phone including Nook for Android, Kindle for Android, and Aldiko (2). Part of the debate when deciding what to read next, for me, is whether or not to get it in ebook format or “dead tree” format. One the one hand, I love the feel and smell of real books, but with ebooks, I can carry several with me at one time without making my backpack weigh a ton. Of course, not everything is available in ebook format yet, so sometimes the point is moot.

I already own books that I have yet to read, both hard copy and electronic. I also have a growing list of books on my wish list in my Nook account. There are books by authors I have never read (or even heard of before) as well as ones by authors that I have considered amongst my favorites. The challenge here is, do I go with an author, and genre, I am familiar with and, based on experience, am fairly sure to enjoy, or do I take the gamble of reading something completely new?

To add to this conundrum of what to read, and in what format, is the option of audio books. I’ve not ever really used audio books before (3), although I do see the appeal of them. To a certain extent, I view audio books as sort of cheating. It’s not really reading; it’s listening to someone else read. One of the things about reading that I love is that it allows me to tune out for a bit. I typically try to find a quiet place to read, where there are few, if any, distractions. However, in our current society of “go, go, go”, finding time to do that isn’t always so easy. There are only so many hours in a day, and even when I get home from work, there are household responsibilities that have to be taken care of (laundry, taking out the trash, etc.). Even on the weekends when it would seem I have more “free” time, there are errands to run. These things lend themselves to wanting to give audio books a try.

Whatever the format, one thing is certain - with the declining quality of television, I really need to make more time to read.

~ JC

(1) Note: the collection I have listed on LibraryThing does not (yet) include all of the ebooks and various gaming materials I have in PDF.
(2) Aldiko is actually the first ebook reader I ever used. After attempting a few ebooks on my Android phones and determining that I liked the idea of ebooks, I bought a Nook in order to enjoy ebooks on a larger screen.
(3) The only time I can recall using an audio book was in college, when I had tons of required reading to do. I remember listening to the Old Testament on cassette to satisfy the reading requirements for my Old Testament Survey class while simultaneously reading various textbooks.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Game Is Afoot

Most people I know play games of some sort or another, be they online, table top RPGs, console video games, board games, card games, miniature war games, etc. We all feel the need to be entertained, or at least occupy our free time in some way, shape, or form. We have games on our cellphones and I can’t go a week without someone hitting me up with a game invite on Facebook. Quotes from games become memes (until they take an arrow to the knee, that is).

I’m no different. I’m a recent convert to the addiction known as “Angry Birds”. I build and paint little plastic army men from the distant future so that I can use them to play Warhammer 40,000. I used to play role playing games on the weekends until my gaming group folded. As much time as I feel I lost to playing WoW, sometimes I do miss it. It was a nice pastime, especially on weekends. And my addiction to “Angry Birds” causes me to have to charge my smartphone a lot more often than usual. Still, there is always that nagging feeling to play a game. Maybe it’s because I refuse to “grow up”. Maybe it’s because my mind likes all the colors and sounds and the stimulation of having solve puzzles or figure out what my opponent will do next.

Whatever the reason people play games, just remember this. It’s just a game. Try not to take it too seriously.


Sunday, July 01, 2012

Burnt Offerings

I’ll admit it; I love cooking shows. And while I profess to hate reality TV, I’ve gotten rather addicted to watching reality cooking shows. Kitchen Nightmares, Restaurant Impossible, Next Food Network Star, Hell’s Kitchen, Master Chef; yep, I like them all.

I do watch other food related shows as well. I loved ‘Good Eats’ and was a little sad when I found out that Alton Brown had decided to stop doing it. Watching actual cooking shows, where the host shares a recipe and technique is great. It gives me ideas for new things to try instead of just the same old standards all the time.

The “reality” shows, though, do provide entertainment. Each week trying to figure out out who gets cut from the competition, or can [insert celebrity chef here] turn around that restaurant and get it back on track or will it fail despite [celebrity chef]’s efforts?

The “reality” model seems to be seeping into cooking shows more and more. There’s already Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Kitchen Nightmares’ on BBC America. Not to be outdone, the Food Network has ‘Restaurant Impossible’ with Robert Irvine, which is, frankly, a ripoff of Ramsay’s show with the slight twist of a limited budget ($10k) and limited amount of time (only 2 days). I’ve also seen advertisements for a couple of new Food Network shows that follow the “save a struggling restaurant” model, one in which Bobby Flay has only three days to help a new restaurant prepare for opening night, and another one with Anne Burrell auditioning candidates to become the new head chef for an existing restaurant. Does that mean I won’t watch them? No. I’ll still probably watch them even if they aren’t completely original.

The problem with the reality cooking shows though is that they tend to get away from the cooking and focus too much, sometimes, on drama. Sure it’s fun to watch Gordon Ramsay or Robert Irvine get into an argument with the clueless head chef or restaurateur, but you find yourself asking, “what really happened?” Let’s be honest here; we don’t get to see everything that was filmed. These guys spend anywhere from two days to a week at a location helping them change things, but all we get to see is what’s been edited down to a one hour television program.

What would be really fun to watch, in my opinion, if we’re really going to keep running with the reality motif, would be to pit Gordon Ramsay vs. Robert Irvine in a ‘Kitchen Nightmares vs. Restaurant Impossible’ battle. Would be interesting anyway. But really, at some point, I just want to see good cooks sharing great recipes and cooking techniques or shows like ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ that feature great food from around the country. That’s what a cooking show should really be about - the food, not the drama.

~ JC