Wednesday, November 30, 2005

When Good Bomb Threats Go Bad

So I finally figured out how to re-size the pics on my blog. The guy from told me I should fix them before I was added to their webring because some of them took up the whole screen and made it hard to read. The pics have been bothering me since I set up the blog, but I had no idea how to fix them (I can plumb much better than I can write code). I asked a couple of people last week about re-sizing them but most people I know had no clue how to do it.

So I decided to try to figure it out myself. When I said my computer skillz are not as good as my plumbing skillz, I wasn't kidding. Watching me try to figure out stuff on the computer is like watching a retarded kid try to figure out a magic trick. It's not pretty, and it's probably funny to everyone except the window licker.

But I got the pics sorted out, sorta. It looks a lot better, if I do say so myself.

The irony of the whole thing is that just when I got my website looking nice, we get an email saying that the police have closed off the street in front of my office window because there is a bomb threat and that hey said that we should stay inside. Needless to say, I wasn't inspidred with confidence to know that the only thing separating me from the force of an actual bomb was a 1/4" thick piece of polarized window glass.

Since the DC police is probably the most inept, corrupt and incompetent police force in the country, if they say to stay where you are, it's probably a good idea to do the exact opposite. So I went out the non-bomb side of the building. Luckily, the threat has passed. This begs the question: who would bomb the building accross the street from me: Here are my thoughts:
  1. the place is a public policy think-tank, so it could be a nut who is radically and violently opposed to one of their positions on internet access for the poor;
  2. It could be a demented plumber who read my blog and is upset that I maligned a fellow plumber...being a union plumber he is an idiot and got the address wrong;
  3. It could be one of my exes, who is willing to blow up a builiding accross the street from my window as a warning to me...about what? Yesssssss, that's the question, isn't it?
  4. It could be someone who called in a bomb threat so that they would all get to go home early. That's actually a pretty good idea. Since they work at a think tank, I'm sure the thought has occurred to them.

At any rate, I guess their should be a point or some kind of moral lesson that one can take away from my post. I don't think there is one, but if you need one, how about: Stay in School!...or maybe it's "Winners don't do drugs!". Yeah, that 's a better one.

Token Progress

Okay, so yesterday I planned to do some stuff around the house but vegetated in front of the TV again. I did nail about 5 hardwood floorboards in, just so that I don't feel guilty about doing absolutely nothing. In hindsight, this was probably not the best idea because I still feel guilty. If you're wondering what I feel guilty about, you should know that I was raised catholic so I don't need a reason to feel guilty. So instead of actual work I did what I normally do when I get home: I watched some home improvement shows. Watching these home-improvement shows, which are basically "house porn", I can at least rationalize as marginally productive. I may not be working, but at least I'm learning theory.

At any rate, I guess if I continue at this snails pace, even placing 5 boards a day during the week will mean that eventually I'll get finished. The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, as they say. Although you probably shouldn't be taking advice from people who walk a thousand miles because they are too cheap to buy an airline ticket. But I digress.

Maybe some token progress during the week and takling some bigger projects during the weekend is the way to go.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Plumbing by Trial and Error

Okay, this was the scene of my latest, and hopefully my last, flood. Some background: the contractor that I fired (Osni) had moved this radiator because the new jacuzzi tub was a couple of inches bigger than the old tub and the radiator, therefore, didn't fit anymore. The joker who moved the radiator used to work for the gas company, and if he can't connect water pipes without leaking, I shudder to think about the gas pipes he's placed in people's homes. But I digress.

This was leaking from that top of the elbow here. If you look closely, I don't really see any solder there, so it's kinda' obvious that it would leak. If you look closely, you'll see that I was using a butt-ugly green shirt to catch the dripping water. That's a shirt one of the contractor's workers left behind. When I saw that shirt I should've realized they were "mentally challenged".

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It's kinda hard to see, but what looks like solder is just the color of the fitting. There is no (visible) solder on top there. When I eventually got the fitting off, I think I figured out the "plumber's" mistake. The pipe looked kinda dirty. He should've cleaned it more thoroughly with sandpaper before trying to solder the new pipe to it. Even I know that, and I'm not even a plumber, I'm a lawyer...technically.

Look at all the solder dripping down the side of this fitting. Maybe if more of that had ended up on the topside of the fitting I wouldn't be having these problems.

This is me with "the persuader". Together we previously killed a 2" thick piece of black iron pope that defied our will (although we wore out three blades in the process). But that is a story for another day. I knew the copper pipe would be no match for us.

After I cut through the pipe, all hell broke loose. I caused another flood. Since this was on the top floor, howerver, this flooded several floors. It leaked down to my kitchen and soaked my overpriced dining set (which I had placed temporarily in the kitchen...6 months ago).

In hindsight, I should've drained the water out of the pipes FIRST. I figured since it was a small pipe on the top floor that there wouldn't be much water in it. I forgot that it was probably under pressure and--a flood later--I realized the error of my ways. Even though most fo the water was already on the floor, I still had to go the basement and drain about 10 gallons out of the system because my attempts at soldering were causing the remaining water in the pipes to boil and spill fun fun.

This picture doesn't really do the gusher justice. This is after the fountain died down to a mere trickle, but I thought that you blog fans might like a fleeting image of my nemesis.

This is what the thing looked like after I was done cutting through it. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have been using a plugged in power tool on a pipe that is gushing water everywhere. I read somewhere that electricity and water are not a good combination.

Okay, after I heated up the coupling and the 90 degree fitting enough to melt the old solder, I pulled the old connections off and was left with this.
Which I meticulously cleaned with sandpaper and a pipe tool, the added flux and soldered new fittings onto them.

Here is a picture of the heat shield. As you can see, it's actually touching the fitting and the wall (which is flammable) so it was difficult to get a torch in there to take the old piece off and put the new ones on.

Despite all the setbacks, I WAS able to weld the pieces together and it didn't leak (except for the minor leak caused by my forgetting to close the bleeder valve before testing it).

Okay, this is what the finished product looks like.

This was probably my most difficult weld to date because

1. it involved 3/4" pipe (instead of 1/2");

2. it was in a reaaaaaly tight space...near a lot of flammable materials;

3. I was asn't working with all new pipe (I had to remove a fitting, clean the connection and re-attach a new fitting to someone else's mistake; and

4. I had a yet another flood. But in true ninja fashion I overcame incredible odds using my guile, unconventional tools and cat-like reflexes and I got it done.

I Help the Toolbelt Diva

So because I have so much crap to do at the ninja fortress, I decided to take a break and do something plastering some walls at Tina's place. I like helping Tina out at her place because 1) the food is better in Bethesda and 2) she thinks I know what I am doing and appreciates the help. This is in sharp contrast to what it's like when I try to help my dad out, who is much more likely to say something like "ummm, [ninjaman], why don't you put down that propane torch and just get a broom or something."

Okay, it's probably difficult to tell from this picture, but you can see the screwholes and drywall seams in the walls here. So I thought I would fix it with some 90 minute sheetrock mud/plaster.
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Tina wanted to learn how to do it, so here is trying it. She is surprisingly good at it.

I think if Tina had her union card, she could probably do this for a living, but she wouldn't be using her doctorate, which would probably be a waste.

Okay, this is a terrible picture of me, but here I am feathering out the compound.

Here is the finished product. It's intentionally not in a perfectly rectangular box because I wanted to make sure that the lines wouldn't be noticeable after sanding/feathering the edges. No, really, I did it that way on purpose...I mean it...What?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Fun with Plumbing

Okay, so the radiators were disconnected by the contractor, and after I fired him, I installed hardwood floors and reconnected them. Of all my home-improvement skillz, plumbing was probably my least-well developed. Unlike tile or carpentry, I have only seen pipes being soldered, but never actually done them myself until now. Luckily I had my dad, the contractor, in Florida whom I could ask questions to. I must say, the results are pretty impressive. I was worried that my first attempts at soldering might leak, but they all held up during my test firing of the heating system. The only soldered leak was something that the fired contractor had done. This pictures confirm that I am not only smarter and better looking than him, but also a better plumber.

This is my first soldering attempt. For some reason, the supply pipes face away from the radiator, so I had to put in some interesting angles to get it to the radiator. In case you are wondering why I didn't just turn the pipe to face the radiator the reasons are:
1. That pipe is realllllly low to the ground so I couldn't get a monkey wrench on the pipe below the elbow. If I turned that elbow to face the radiator it might unscrew the pope that it's attaced to...beneath the floorboards. 2. I hate working with galvanized or black iron pipes (for reason's I'll explain in a subsequent post). So if I can leave it alone, I will.
3. Don't tell me how to plumb!

Also note the hardwood floors. I installed those myself, thankyouverymuch. Okay, okay, my brother helped me. This next one was also a really weird angle, but it came out okay methinks.

I placed the radiators on a piece of wood so the weight of the radiator doesn't cause it to eventually "sink" into the hardwood. Also, the floor will now be perfect and scratch free if the next owner wants to do away with radiators.

But if he even thinks about touching my hardwood floors or marble tile, I will kill him with my bare hands...unless he's bigger than me, in which case I'll write him a sternly-worded letter...anonymously.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Pre-Thanksgiving Thoughts

Hmmm, well I got nothing accomplished yesterday. I did work out with [Johnny Vegas]*, but I can't blame my lack of progress on that since most of the days that I accomplish nothing are the result of my watching movies or home-improvement shows. Here are good things about working out with Johnny Vegas*:

  1. Even though he's bigger than me, I can usually lift a little more than him, which makes me feel freakishly strong.
  2. He's a Marxist, so when I can lift more than him it confirms my belief that free-market capitalism will overcome marxism and other kinds of statism in all its forms.

I have decided that I will try to to accomplish some big projects this thanksgiving weekend. I took some pics that I'll try to upload showing before and after, but basically here is my to do list:
  1. fix the leak in the radiator in the bathroom (it turns out that nothing that I soldered leaks, but the idiot contractor that I fired had soldered this when he moved the pipe to make room for the jacuzzi tub and, of course, it leaks and the weather is getting cold, so I'd like to have a fully functioning heating system NOW).
  2. pull out a couple of rows of hardwood flooring in the living room to fix a slight dip in the floor. It's probably not that noticeable, but I know it's there. Once I do that, I'll level the dip (with roofing shingles, per a website I consulted) and re-lay the floor and try to get as much of the living room and dining room covered in HW as I can.
  3. fix a slight dip in the HW floor in the upstairs hallway, then finish laying the floor up there (all three BRs have flooring now (2HW and one with pergo) so if I finish laying the floor in the hallway, it will look like a normal person's house.
  4. try to fix the HUGE hole I cut in the HW floor to address a plumbing "issue" that the previous contractor had royally fcuked up. More on this, including a rant and photos in a later post.
  5. get organized.

Let' s hope the bloggers will keep me honest.

* I don't REALLY work with someone named Johnny Vegas, but he asked that I change his name on the blog so that he''s not identified on the internet as a marxist...or as someone who needs to work out more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Aloha! Since this is the first post, I should mention that I bought an old (1910) townhome in DC and am going through home improvement hell. I am thinking of starting a blog on it would be a good way to vent my frustations since breaking holes in my newly finished walls would cause more stress than it relieved. I was thinking of calling my blog “the Home Improvement Ninja”. Ninja doesn’t really refer to stealth, but more to the realization that I do my best work in the dead of night with tools that look deceptively simple but are deadly when I wield them…mostly due to my incompetence with them. I figure I could post pictures of my progress and interesting anecdotes about my numerous floods and the hilarity that ensues. Maybe I’ll throw in some pith too. Pith is key!

About the place. It's, I guess, described as a Victorian. It's got two upper floors, an english basement and a subbasement. (I'll describe what I'm currently working on in future posts.). Basically, the house has been gutted down to the studs and is being rebuilt from there by moi. THe previous owners lived there for 30 years and did almost nothing to improve the place. What little they did do seems to have mad the place worse. The fact that they liked the old-lady walpaper and rugs shows that they are either clueless, or that their taste was so poor in that in that area of DC that such things are not only acceptable, but actually chic. It looks like Frank Lloyd Wright and Kafka had a love child who went mad from watching too many Trading Spaces episodes episodes and had a breakdown in their living room. Luuuuuuuv that textured ceiling with the smoke stains.