Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Everytime I swear off that place, because of the surly incompetent staff or the fact they never have what I need, I end up going back there because it's closer than Lowe's. This weekend was no exception.
I used to laugh at Charlie Brown because no matter how many times Lucy would pull the football out from under him, he was always convinced that this time, things would be different. Well, old Charlie has nothing on me. After previous trips to Home Depot where they have been out of such basic things as solder and teflon tape, I realllllly swore never again to subject myself to the Kafka-esque level of stupidity.
Ninja: What do you mean you don't have teflon tape?
Depot Moron: We're out of it.
Ninja: This is the plumbing section. How could you be out of it?
Depot Moron: Well, sometimes we run out of stuff. It's not like we don't have anything, we got plenty of pipes.
Ninja: What good are pipes without teflon? How are you supposed to join them, with Duct Tape?
(this is a simulation of how I feel whenever I leave Home Depot. I don't really look like this guy though. I am more ninja-esque).
So this weekend, because I needed to be punished, I went to try to get some plumbing pieces. Brass Bushings to be exact. I needed to re-connect a couple of radiators and I needed brass pieces to go from the copper pipes to steel pipes, because if you connect copper directly to galvinized pipes, they react chemically and leak eventually. I always use brass pipes to connect copper to galvinized because the other solution (a di-electric union) doesn't work. It's a big scam. And a waste of money. And ummmm, it probably causes cancer. There, I said it.
So back to Home Depot. I am looking around and I didn't see any brass fittings at all (except for the teeeny tiny compression ones you use for connecting air lines) . And they didn't even have steel bushings in the size I needed either, that I could've used instead. So, despite my better judgment, I asked one of their crack plumbing staff about it.
Ninja: Where are your brass plumbing fittings?
HDMoron: We don't carry them in this store.
NInja: Huh? Why not?
HDMoron: Uhh, well people buy brass just for the appearance, but we don't have a lot of room to stock it, so we carry galvinized fittings instead.
Ninja: What? Brass is not just for appearance...what if you need to join copper and galvinized pipes?
HDMoron: Well, you could use a di-electric union.
Ninja: *sigh* okay give me one of those.
HDMoron: We're out of them.
Unfreakingbelievable. This reminds me of that joke where the guy tells the waiter he wants an ice cream sundae, but with no walnuts, and the waiter says "I'm sorry, we're out of walnuts, would you like it without almonds instead?".
Sunday, February 26, 2006
I'll try to post a more-detailed post about the reasons why in a future post, but, yes, I do think we are in a housing bubble. Now, for the record:
- the bubble will not end when interest rates rise, the end will be from something completely unrelated that no one understands...except me and a few austro-libertarian economists (and possibly that guy outside Starbucks with the sign spouting various conspiracy theories);
- interest rates will not rise when Bernake (Greenspan's successor) raises interest rates (the inverted yield curve is proof of that). It will end when China, Japan and Korea stop buying US treasury bills and artificially subsidizing our idiot politicians who spend like drunken sailors in a Saigon whorehouse;
- the bubble will end, as predicted by the Mises/Hayek Austrian Business cycle theory when rising costs of capital goods make the return on investing in real estate untenable (just like it did for the dot-com and telecom bubbles);
- the cause of the bubble is not supply/demand or a housing shortage as real estate agents would like you to believe. It is because Greenspan, and now Bernake, have increased the money supply (M3) to unprecedented levels (like Weimar Germany did after WWI);
- Greenspan is an idiot, and Bernake is a bigger idiot. Paul Volker rulz!
Well, I think that because I bought a fixer-upper in an up-and-coming area of DC that I got it at a good enough price that I will still make money even if something happens to the housing market. Ditto for the house in Florida. My brother (a real-estate agent) found a house that was on a double-lot listed for, basically, a little more than the land was worth*. I bought a house with my dad in Florida a couple of years ago and despite him having to sell it because of a divorce (and overinvesting in improvements) we still did really well on it. So based on the past track record and knowing that their home-improvement skillz are way better than mine, I am pretty confident that things will turn out okay because, like in baseball, you have to wait for the good pitch and not just swing at everything you see. When I was telling people last year that they were crazy for bidding $50k over asking price, they would try to explain it to me...like I didn't understand real estate or something. Well, I understand that people who aren't on crack price things using a calculator and common sense, not your realtor's opinion, but what do I know? Or to use another analogy, you don't walk into a bar and start hitting on the first girl you see. You wait to see the one you want or wait until they are drunk enough that you become unbelievably handsome.
So I don't know what my point was with this, but I will try to post again about this (with charts and graphs) and explain it more detail when I am feeling extra geeky. I the mean time, just let me once again re-iterate who much I hate Home Depot. Everytime I swear I will never set foot there again, I do because it's way closer than Lowes or Harbor Freight, but this time I mean it...no, really!
*The agent had priced the house according to comparables on single lots in the area. If we had more time and money we would knock it down and build two houses for a lot more money, but I think it will be easier just to re-do the kitchen and turn the carport into another bedroom/bathroom to go from a 3 BR 1 BA to a 4BR 2BA, which should be worth a lot more.
Friday, February 24, 2006
So after I confronted them, I took a picture of their license plate and one of them got up in my grill. And wanted to know why I took a picture of his truck plate. There is something you should know about me. I am probably one of the most calm people you will ever meet. At work, I'm the one that they always make the irate people talk to because I never lose my cool. But there are certain things (like dumping garbage in my alley) that set me off. Among the things that sets me off is when someone tries to intimidate me.
I'm only 5'8" and I weigh 155 lbs, but I am freakishly strong and I fight better than any derivatives lawyer in this town. I know that's like saying I'm the toughest kid on the chess team, but I am really pretty good at it...partly from growing up in Brooklyn, but mostly from fighting my older brother who is bigger and meaner than me (my brother was the victim of seven attempted muggings in NY, and only once did anyone get any money off of him). I never actually beat him. My record is 499 loses, 0 wins and 1 draw, but the process toughened me up. My brother now claims he was doing me a favor by ramming my face against furniture to practice WWF wrestling moves. Because now if someone on the street attempts to get me into a Figure Four Leg Lock, I'll know how to get out it. That's what passes for logic in my immediate family.
So here I am in flip-flops and shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of winter in front of 2 people in a dark alley and I did the dumbest thing imaginable. I put the camera in my back pocket and said "I took a picture of it because I'm going to turn it over to the cops...what are you gonna' do about it?" Then there was more yelling back-and-forth. I think since I wasn't in the least intimidated by them--and was half-nekkid--they thought I was a nut, and they might be right.
In between the yelling they communicated that they were working for the sudanese guy. I said "yeah?" then I ran up the stairs and started banging on the back door. The 6 sudanese guys living that room, who probably thought I was from immigration, turned off the lights and pretended not to be home. I kept banging and yelling until one of them opened the door and he claimed not to know who those guys were...and he said that none of them lived there; they were all just visiting a friend.
So I told the Salvadorans that I was gonna talk to the sudanese guy and if he didn't know who they were, I was calling the cops. And that was that.
I still haven't talked to the sudanese guy. I think I'll take the sage advice of others and just report them to the city. My latin machismo feels like this is the cowardly way to do it (I would like to just get up in his grill and tell him that if it's not out by next friday I'm coming to kick his ass) but that is probably the dumbest thing possible. As a libertarian, I also feel weird about narc'ing on someone. I think people should solve their own problems without government interference, but I don't think I can be rational with this guy, so I better let the city handle it.
I was talking to my neighbor about it and he said I should call the city too. I told him why I hesitated calling them before, you know, because of the genocide and everything. It went something like this:
Neighbor: yeah, you shoulda' called the city a long time ago.
Ninja: you're right. But the guy is sudanese...what if he survived genocide and I narc on him? That's not cool.
Neighbor: Yeah, genocide is a bitch, man...but so is garbage in your alley.
So here is the plan: this weekend I'm removing anything from my yard that would result in a fine to me, and I'm calling the city. This has gone on for a year, so enough is enough. I fill you in on what happens afterwards.
(by the way, the ninja pic is from www.askaninja.blogspot.com))
Friday, February 17, 2006
I put off re-connecting them because it's freakin' cold outside, and I need to turn the heat off all day, drain about 20 gallons of water out of the system, carry the water in buckets up the stairs to throw it out, then do some serious soldering on the radiators and hope that it doesn't leak.
This 3 day weekend would be a good time to do it. It was 60 degrees today. If it stays like this, it will be the perfect time to do it, but it's supposed to drop back into the 30s tomorrow. I hope the weather man in wrong. I don't want to disconnect everything, then figure out that something is wrong (or leaking) and be without heat for a few days while I figure it out. I work well under pressure, but not when I'm freezing to death.
In other news, throwing sawdust on my steps to keep the mailman from slipping on the ice looks like it was a bad idea. I mean, there is no dead mailman on my steps, which is arguably a good thing, but wet sawdust looks like cat puke on my stairs.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Many lawmakers have donated his political contributions to charities,
Bush initially denied knowing him, then suppressed photos of himself with the criminal.
Some prominent Republicans have even introduced lobbying reform legislation to prove that they are no crooks.
Proving that he is more anti-corruption than the rest, Vice President Cheney recently shot a lobbyist in the face. That's right. He met one of the most powerful lobbyists in Texas and did what any upright american would do: he shot him in the face with a 12 gauge, then ducked the reporters and went into hiding to ummm, fight terrorism...and corruption. Ted Kennedy, eat your heart out.
"Never let it be said that I am soft on corruption" said Mr. Cheney.
In home-improvement related stuff. It snowed 10" in DC this weekend. I didn't want to shovel out my car and driveway to get some salt for the front of the fortress (because I am a lazy turd on the weekends). My metal stairs, however, are probably lethal to people who walk on them without a ninja's cat-like reflexes (like my mailman).
So what to do? I've seen old ladies use regular table salt in a pinch, but I don't have the cheap regular salt that old ladies use. I have the pretentious yuppie sea salt that costs like $12 for a little jar, so forget that idea.
Then I decided to use a bunch of the sawdust from my table saw in the basement. I threw it on my steps and I didn't see a dead mailman when I returned so I guess it worked. The wet sawdust looks kinda nasty, but It's biodegradable and it will probably blow away when it's dry, which will keep me from having to clean it up....sweeet.
(not my actual workshop...mine is a lot smaller and marginally cleaner, as far as you know).
Monday, February 13, 2006
Here are my thoughts, reduced to word form:
- There isn't a whole lotta' ninja news, so a regular feature might be difficult (although nothing is impossible for a shadow warrior);
- "regularly scheduled" ninja news is almost an oxymoron. Ninja's are by nature unpredictable. So for the news to be authentic it must be completely unexpected (like a valentines post the day before Valentines day...didn't see that one comin' did ya?);
- don't tell me how to run my site, dude. Seriously. Criticising my website, my plumbing, or leaving 20 cubic yards of dirt in my driveway for a year will really upset me;
- don't end your sentences with "man"...unless english isn't your first language, in which case, I'll cut you some slack.
Without further ado...the latest Ninja News:
Well, I came across fellow Shinobi who runs a blog called Ask A Ninja. In it, you can ask shadow-warrior related questions (you can still email me with questions about drywall, marble saddles, hardwood flooring and Feng Shui). In this episode, he addresses the issues of Ninjas and dating.
If you’ll recall, the issue of Ninja’s and blind dating were discussed in a
previous issue of Ninja News. Keep an eye out for the forthcoming film on the subject by this Indy filmmaker.
Neither of these two shorts address the issue of whether ninja’s celebrate Valentines day. Let me answer that one: Unless you want your girlfriend to rip your nuts off and shove them down your throat before she rips out your spleen and feeds it to her two cats (one of which already hates you)…then, yes, we do celebrate it…with Tapas.
Friday, February 10, 2006
This is a pic of the back of the house. Look at the landing on the stairs. A nice stiff breeze could knock that down.
Here's some background:
He has a bunch of sudanese people living there (like 3 or 4 to a room). Half the sudanese population of DC lives there, except for him, of course. His house has a crawlspace, not an actual basement. So he hired some contractor to dig until the 30" crawspace is 8" deep so that he can turn it into an apartment and (and use it to exploit some more of his countrymen by over-charging them on rent and threating to deport them when they complain).
So the contractor blocked part of my driveway with a dumpster, which made it harder for my dump-truck guy to get into my yard to get rid of my debris, and hired a bunch of day laborers to do the digging. Now "underpinning", where you dig below a house's foundation is dangerous because if you do it wrong, the place can collapse and you don't have a house anymore.
Besides being very dangerous, it requires people who really, really know what they are doing. Somehow I doubt such people can be found in the parking lot of Home Depot.
Here's where the problem starts:
After taking out about 5 dumpsters full of dirt, there was a couple of months of no activity whatsoever. But the dumpster was still blocking part of my driveway. I can still get around it easily, which is why I have been patient...you know, because of the genocide and everything. I later found out that Sudanese guy wasn't paying the contractor, so he stopped coming back. Well what about his dumpster? Funny you should ask. Eventually he came to pick up his dumptster and dumped all the remaining dirt right in Sudanese guy's yard. It has sat like this for months.
Every time I drive by that pile of dirt I get more upset. It;s hard to tell from that pic, but the dirt is like 6 feet high and twenty feet long.
Here is what it looks like from another angle. If anyone has actually been to the Sudan, you can confirm that this is what the place looks like.
Because that a-hole has junk in his yard, other people come by in the middle of the night and throuw out other junk (like old furniture and bathtubs) instead of paying to take them to the dump.
I decided to be a little more patient since I heard that he hired a new contractor.
But the new "contractor" has been adding to the pile. I assumed that he would eventually bring in a dumpster and take it out, but I saw him taking some shower doors out from his truck (from another job, probably) and throwing it onto the pile. So now, I not only have to deal with his crap, but someone elses? I went outside in my flip flops and shorts (in the winter) and confronted these jokers. Their really lucky I didn't ninja-kick them back to El Salvador! (atucally, only one guy was from El Salvador, the other guy never said anything so I would probably ninja-kick him to New Jersey...a fate worse than death!).
[Okay, this post is getting too long...I'll post the rest of it in a day or two]
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
This may not seem like an actual hobby, but it takes up more time and mental energy than the above-mentioned hobbies. I got this beauty for my birthday. It was a gift from the Toolbelt Diva. This was really surprising because I was on Insensitive Boyfriend Probation ("IBP") at the time and was half-expecting a kick in the nuts on that day, but I have to admit that I enjoy this gift much more. IPods are awesome. They are the antithesis of suck.
Maybe not as much as I would enjoy one of these, but then again, where the hell would keep something like that? Actually, I am only half-kidding about that one. My sister-in-law was upset that I was more interested in pics of the cement mixer that my brother bought than I was in looking at pics of their kids. In my defense, everyone I know has kids, but how many people have really awesome construction equipment in their yard? I rest my case.
I mentioned before that I am borderline-retarded when it comes to all things technical. I can lay marble tile like RainMan plays blackjack, and talk about asset bubbles like Alan Greenspan, but ask me how to attach a file to an email and I'll call tech support and ask for help using phrases like "paper-clip box thingy" and "scrolly wheel in the middle of the mouse device". Although this is uderstandable at work, where I have a PC, my failings are made more obvious when I tell you that at home I have an iMac. Yes, I have trouble working it sometimes...but that doesn't make me a bad person.
When the Diva assured me that I didn't need to read the directions, install a CD driver thingy, play with FTPs or WMV, JPGs or MSGs, I found that hard to fathom. But I did literally just plug it in, and the iMac did the rest. It imported every song I had illegally downloaded onto my iTunes and whenever I add my kosherly purchased CDs, it automatically updates my iPod to add the new songs and playlists. I wish I had a secretary that was half as smart as my iPod. Actually, my secretary is half as smart as my iPod, so don't get me started.
I didn't realize how many CDs I had until now. The beauty of it is that sooooon, I will delete all the sucky songs from my playlists (you know, the ones that you hit the "skip" button all the time for) and I will be left with the most wicked awesome playlist in the entire universe. Something like that would pro'lly sell for $6-8 bucks on the open market. But I won't sell it to anyone. I'll just keep it and tell complete strangers how awesome my play list is and how they can't have it, no matter what...mostly because I'm selfish, but partly because I like to freak people out on the metro. You know...by poking them with a stick and stuff like that.
Saturday, February 04, 2006
This is flattering, but not a good idea for several reasons:
- My house is only half-finished, so I shouldn't be taking time out from it to do side projects;
- I do home-improvement like I do law. No, that doesn't mean "incompetently". It means that I am a perfectionist and take my time to make sure everything is meticulously perfect. If I charged for home improvement by the hour it would be so expensive that it would be unjustifiable. If I charged what a contractor would charge, it would take me so long to do it, that when you figured out the hourly rate, it would be less than minimun wage;
- My boss has the ability to promote (or fire) me. When I unintentionally cause a flood at the ninja fortress, I can laugh about it afterwards, but I don't know if she will see the humor in such episodes;
- She lives in Bethesda, and the only place I am allowed to work on in Bethesda belongs to the Toolbelt Diva. Which reminds me, I need to take some pics of the "repairs" her ex did (with scotchtape!) before I fix them so that you readers can all tell her how much better skillz I have than her ex (you know, drywall skillz, nunchuck skillz, bow-hunting skillz).
Moreover, I enjoy home-improvement stuff because I do what I like when and how I like it. If I took money for it, I don't know if I would like it anymore. In fact, while I don't mind doing stuff for free for friends, the thought of taking money for it seems kind of odd. Especially, if you think about it in other contexts:
Boy: Hey, would you like to go on a date with me?
Girl: No thanks, I already have a boyfriend.
Boy: What if I pay you?
Girl: huh? What kinda girl do you think I am?
Boy: You know what kinda girl I think you are. I just wanna' know how much!
See...it's kinda weird, isn't it. Plus, if I took money for it, I think it would make me like a real contractor, which is not something I see myself as (I wasted too much money on all those degrees). Although my dad and grandpa (and a lot of my uncles) were contractors, and I have a lot of respect for it, my family didn't have the best of luck in that profession. My grandfather died on a construction site (in front of my dad), and my dad broke his back on a contsruction job (in front of me), and I almost died on a construction site. This would've been particularly tragic since I have no kids yet. I think it's pointless to die unless your passing can inflict irreparable trauma on one of your heirs. Sort of like a gift that keeps on giving. A kid can lose an inherited watch, but it will takes years of therapy to keep your gruesome death from haunting their memory. And if things are ever slow in the spirit realm you can always go visit and move furniture and make strange noises. You, know...because it's tradition. Ahhhhh, family...good times.
So basically, construction is really dangerous stuff. Statisically it's way more dangerous than being a doughnut-eating cop, which is only slightly more dangerous than being a baker...no, really, you can google it if you don't believe me. Plus doing construction is hard. And I'm used to sitting in an office all day. And not risking life-ending injuries.
Being a lawyer is not very dangerous. I guess divorce lawyers occassionally get shot by people they sue and criminal lawyers occassionally get killed by people they release from prison (in some sort of karmic justice), but being a derivatives lawyer is a pretty sweet gig. Besides the money, which is the best part, no one ever comes in with an AK-47 and guns down an office full of lawyers because they don't like the new revisions to the ISDA Master Agreement.
I think I enjoy my job. Although not as much as my friend, Viet-Mom, who told me yesterday that the only way she would ever leave her firm is if they carried her out...either in a pine box or a straight jacket. What devotion!
If I did ever decide not to be a lawyer, I don't think I would trade it for construction. I think maybe I would be a writer, a standup comedian, or maybe I would open up a restaurant. But not a big fancy one. I want the small intimate kind where I can throw people out if they don't like the way I cook the steak.
Waiter: Well, I took your steak back to the chef and told him you said it was undercooked. He wasn't too happy about it.
Customer: I don't care. I'm the customer, and I'm always right...right.
Waiter: Look...when I said he wasn't happy about it, I meant he went to his car to get his samurai sword to disembowel you with it. I think you better run away...now.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
A Ninja Pays Half My Rent
Of course, the benefits of living with a ninja are:
- pays rent on time with money from ninja-related activities;
- can get in through window if you have lost your key.
The downside is that he is a master of the shadow arts and assassination, so you might want to find out who he likes in the superbowl before you start disparaging the opposing team (some ninjas are really devoted to their hometeams).
and here is a fat kid ninja-dancing to techno music. This is probably not newsworthy, but fat-kids ninja-dancing will always have a special place in my heart and on my website.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
I wathced a feng shui video over the weekend and found out that the shape of my rowhouse is bad Feng Shui. I watched the video for the same reason that you get a physical or get tested for a venereal disease. Not because you think something is wrong, but because you want someone to confirm that everything is okay. But my setup is seriously bad mojo. Almost every rowhouse in the district has the same set up (door on the extreme right or left side of the front of the house). I guess that's why this city is so messed up. If that weren't bad enough, having my stairs in front of my doorway is also bad feng shui. My good chi energy can go down the stairs and escape out the door, apparently.
This isn't really my house, but my hallway/door set up is eerily similar. Man, you can just feel the good chi leaking out of there, can't you?
Here is an, ummm, artist's representation of what happens when chi (which is invisible) travels down stairs and out the door. Not good! I need all the good chi I can get.
My bedroom is also at the end of a long hallway, which directs the bad chi straight to my room. I need to deflect that bad chi by placing a windchime in front of my door. You might think having a windchime indoors, where there is no wind, is ridiculous, but then again you've probably never been hit in the face with some chi, my friend.
This is scary. A long narrow hallway is like a bad-chi tunnel directing bad mojo RIGHT at my bedroom. What were these architects thinking in 1910?
My bed is directly facing the door. That means the chi hits me right in the face when I'm laying there and makes it hard for me to sleep. Well, actually I usually have the opposite problem--staying awake--but who the hell wants to get hit in the face with some chi? I can fix that one, but now I gotta move the TV and worry about glare from the window. I don't know what's worse, having bad Feng Shui or not being able to watch Sqwuak Box on CNBC before I go to work.
Here is what I mean about my bed. My bed is set up like example number one. I got that bad chi travelling down the long chi tunnel and hitting me head on. Freakin' chi, man!
My bathroom is also in the upper left corner of the house (which governs prosperity), so my money/prosperity chi could be flushed down the toilet (literally) if I don't counteract it with a crystal or a plant. I think a crystal would be better. My friend Shamus McIrish is visiting next week from outta' town and if I got a plant there he might poop on it as a practical joke. But even the Irish know that it's bad luck to poop on a crystal.