Garage Break-in

I was just woken up by a MPLS police officer telling me that they had just caught someone breaking into my garage. YIKES.  The guys big haul?  About 4 dozen empty soda cans.  The police officers said that one of my neighbors called the police.  Thanks, whoever you are.

Which brings me to my next point: I am a heavy sleeper.  I would sleep right through someone breaking into my garage.  I probably would have slept right through the police officer ringing my doorbell and knocking loudly on the front door as well if my wife hadn’t woken me up.  I’d sleep through pretty much anything.  And that’s usually really nice.

I think that if I wasn’t sleeping through everything, I’d be a really great neighbor.  I’m totally into looking out for my neighbors, investigating strange noises, and calling 911 at the drop of a hat if I see something suspicious.  But I should probably let my neighbors know: you’re on your own, because I sleep through everything.

I’m still trying to figure out how the guy got into the garage.  He had somehow disengaged the automatic opener mechanism so that the overhead door would just manually lift open.  Usually, you disengage this by pulling a little cord from inside the garage.  So how’d he pull the cord if he wasn’t already in the garage?  Maybe he came in through the back door and pulled it (though there are no signs of entry on the back door…).  Or maybe he just sort of yanked up on the overhead door enough to yank the thing loose???  I dunno.  I tried yanking up on it and couldn’t get it to disengage, but I’m also not a burglar, so maybe I just don’t have the skillz.

Anyway, it’s too bad…. I love my neighborhood but it frustrates me sometimes.

New Light Fixture

OK, it’s been another action-filled Saturday around the Collins house again.  We accomplished a bunch of random small jobs, but I’m only gonna tell you about one of them.  We hung a new light fixture in our entry way. It took us quite a few hours.

Now, most of you are probably thinking, “Reuben, hanging a new light fixture is a 10 minute job!!! What took so long?”

“Our house is 100+ years old.  That’s what took so long.”  Since the house is so old, nothing is ever as easy as it’s supposed to be.  We knew this was going to be an awkward kludge of a job before we started, though.  I forgot to take a before picture, but here’s a photo of what we saw right after we took the old light down:

WTF is that?  OK, here’s what you’re looking at:  The house originally had gas lighting, so that threaded nub in the middle of the photo is an abandoned gas line.  The metal piece up in the ceiling is a retrofit piece that attaches to the gas line, and the armored electric cables attach to it.  The big problem with this setup is visible in the next photo:

This mess of wires and the abandoned pipe all extend below the ceiling.  In new construction, all the wires fit up into a box above the ceiling.  This is a problem since all new light fixtures are designed to fit flush against the ceiling.  The most common way around this problem is to install a new box that sits below the ceiling to contain this mess.  Here’s the one we took off:

Using a box like this works fine, except that it’s ugly and these boxes only come in a couple sizes – and none of the lighting fixtures designed to work with these boxes are very attractive.  To really do this project correctly, you’d have to cut out the gas line and install a box.  In this case, it would probably involve removing the entire ceiling in this portion of the house.  We’d have to chase the armored cable through the ceiling to replace it all.  You really don’t want to start disturbing old cloth covered wire unless you can replace it.  We weren’t up to the challenge this weekend.

So here’s the part where loyal readers like Inspector Reuben will begin shaking their heads in disgust.  Since they don’t make boxes the size we wanted, we just made our own, out of wood (shriek!!!):

I just took a chunk of wood about 3/4″ thick, cut a 6″ hole out of the middle, and screwed it into the ceiling.  The new light fixture sits snug against the wood and the hole in the middle provides enough room for that hot mess of wires.  Also, since the light fixture we wanted didn’t come with a pull cord, we had to install our own:

OK, here’s the finished product:

Ultimately, I’d give the project about 5 out of 10 stars.  The pull cord doesn’t pull as smoothly as we’d like, and the square is a little more awkward than we initially imagined (we thought about making it round, but I didn’t trust my ability to cut a smooth circle with a jigsaw…).

Anyway, since we’re creating fire hazards in our house and all, we also installed four new smoke detectors.  We used to have some, but they all got removed during our home renovations, so we’ve been without them for 6 months:

Anyway, that’s it for now.

What did you do this weekend?

Minneapolis Police Bicycle Auction

Peeps are always asking me where they can buy cheap bikes.

ANSWER: Minneapolis Police Auctions.

About once a month, the Minneapolis Police Department auctions 100 bikes.  Because I strive to provide y’all with useful content, I recorded the sale price of all 100 bikes auctioned this afternoon, and created the following histogram (click to enlarge) and descriptive statistics:

Sum = $6,590
Max = $550 (Bianchi Veloce, a rare find….)
Min = $5
Average = $67  ($62, not including the Bianchi, a statistical outlier)
Median = $50
Mode = $30

Nevermind my date error on the histogram, you perfectionists.  I transcend time.

So…. these are pretty cheap bikes!  All of them are “rideable,” although you should pretty much plan on anything you buy needing a full tune-up, so if you’re going to pay someone to do that, you’ll have to factor that into the cost.  Regardless of what you pay at the police auctions, I almost always feel like everyone gets a good deal.  If you’re looking for any old bicycle just to ride around town, the police auction is the pace to go – for sure.  Mechanically solid bikes (even if they need a little tune-up to reach their full potential) are routinely selling for $30-$70.

Note: The sample size is 98, rather than 100, because I missed one sale price (hey, it was loud in there, ok? gimme a break!) and because one of the auction items was a non-bicycle (it was a razor scooter that sold for $7).

Podcasts: What Are You Listening To?

A friend of mine over on dailymile asked me what podcasts I like to listen to while I run.  I listen to a lot of podcasts while running and cycling, and also every night while I fall asleep.  I thought I’d make a list here of the podcasts I listen to that are worth recommending.  I listen to a few that aren’t on this list as well, but they haven’t impressed me enough for me to recommend them yet.  Here’s the deal, though, ok?  If you read this list, you have to tell me what you’re listening to as well, ok? Deal?

Here are my favorites:
This American Life
Mormon Stories

You Look Nice Today

I’ve linked you to the podcast home pages, but really I just subscribe via itunes.  I’d never even been to most of these pages before.

so…. what are YOU listening to?

Old Shingles vs New Shingles

Ok, I just blew your minds with my fascia project yesterday.  I got some shingles on the thing this evening.  Let’s review what it looked like before:

Notice the nails directly through the top of the shingles (naughty, naughty).  Now here’s the new ones:

I tried to add a fancy piece of flashing, but it didn’t really work that well.  I couldn’t get the flashing up behind the siding without removing the siding, and couldn’t wrap it around the corners of the dormer the way I would have liked to, either.  So I just went with Plan B and squirted tons of caulk all over everything.  Oh well.  It’s better than it was when I started – there’s no more nails through the top of the shingles.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  The best part about owning an old, rotting house is that you can do some pretty mediocre handiwork and it still turns out better than when you started.  Next step: add some trim, prime, paint, drip edge, re-hang the gutters.

Then do it all over again on the other side.

Soffit and Fascia Project

It’s been a pretty busy but uneventful weekend around the Collins homestead.  We decided that we’d better get started working on a couple projects if we’re ever going to finish them and still have time to play around this summer.  I’m going to give you guys a photo documentary of what I spent all weekend working on.  Ready?  OK.  Let’s get started.

We’ve got some fascia and soffit problems, as I’ve documented before.  So I just jumped in head first.  Here’s a before picture:

A couple things to notice in the photo above – peeling paint, wire mesh keeping animals out, and the whole thing is sagging right off the side of the house.  You can’t tell from the photo, but since the whole thing is sagging, the gutters are sloped the wrong way, so they don’t do anything anyway.  Ok, so I just ripped the end off and here’s what I found:

Holy rotten wood!!!!  It’s not clear to me how whoever worked on this last expected this to drain.  the whole inside the eave was just a single 2×4!  This is clearly a problematic design (if the 2×4 is level it won’t drain, but if it’s sloped, then the soffit and fascia have to warp to match the slope.  The warping soffitis clearly demonstrated in the next photo:

Ok, so I started chopping out the rotten wood, and it was pretty much just crumbling in my hands.  Then I found this:

Clearly, somebody has been living in my soffits.  It looks like a bird nest.  Here’s a look at how warped the fascia was:

Next I ripped the soffit off and had my mind blown.  I knew things were going to be rotten in here, but it was worse than I expected.  It’s a little hard to tell what you’re looking at in this next photo, but some of y’all will agree that this is not a good situation:

The next step was to replace a chunk of the totally rotted wall sheathing:

Next, I screwed on a new chunk of wood (technical term) to level things out:

In the photo above, you’ll notice that there’s a good 4 inches of space below the 2×4 and where the vinyl siding starts that wasn’t there when I started the project… that’s just what happens when the vinyl siding is added after the thing was sagging off the house… now that it’s back up in place, there’s all sorts of space underneath I’ll have to fill somehow.  The next step involved putting up a couple new braces and then cut a piece of roof sheathing.  I needed the roof sheathing to be able to curve to match the rest of the roof, so I scored a flat piece of OSB.  I just cut a bunch of grooves about halfway through the thickness of the board so it would be a little bit bendy (technical term):

Now things are starting to come together:

Alert readers will notice that it’s still wonky and crooked.  That’s because I’m not very good at this stuff and don’t actually know what I’m doing.  Ok, well now the next photo looks like we’re actually making some progress!  Check out the new fascia:

That board was really hard to nail in place since I’ve only got one ladder.  Imagine Mel standing on the ground supporting one end of the thing with a 12′ extendo-board while I’m nailing the other end.  Awkward.  I think it looks pretty good, though.  Here I am checking out my skillz:

Here’s the side view of what we’ve got so far:

Yea, yea, yea… I know pocket-hole screws aren’t the right way to screw something like that in place, but I don’t know what the right way is, so I used pocket-hole screws.  There’s two more screws on the other side of that board too, in case you’re wondering.  I think it’s looking pretty good.  You’ll notice that instead of just a 2×4, I’m using a 2×4 and an awkward little wedge to make the roof curve.  OOH.  such a superior design!  Behold my superiority:

HA!  Next, I cut a new piece of fascia for that curved end:

Looks pretty good to me.  Then I put on the new soffits:

Next step, I need shingles & flashing:

OK, that’s it for now. I’m going to go eat sherbet.

Party Porch

Here’s what we’ve been up to lately:  we’re calling it party porch:

Mel made the name plaque on the wall, and we collaborated on hanging the lanterns.  Mel made the pillows.  The bench was a project that took us a few days to complete.  Mel liked the $250 Pottery Barn version, but she was pretty sure we could build the same thing for a lot less.  She found some plans for it at Knock-Off Wood and we got to work.  Mel and I worked together on this project, but she’s really the brains of these finish-carpentry jobs.  She’s the family staining and varnishing expert. Here’s what we came up with:

Frog Mosaic

A couple years ago, I wrote a pretty gushy post about why I like my wife so much.  It’s because she’s always building & creating things.  Here’s another example of how talented she is.  She finished this project last fall, but I never got around to posting about it because I’m lazy.  Here’s Mel with this totally sweet tile mosaic she made on top of this old concrete table in our backyard:

Isn’t it phenomenal? I think Mel is really the bees knees.  She transformed an ugly old table that we were just going to throw away into a totally sweet mosaic!!!!


Mel and I are nerds. Exhibit A:


Mel and I had a few spare hours of daylight left Friday evening, so we went over to Sibley Field Park to find our first geocache of the year.  It’s been a long time since we’ve been geocaching – I don’t think we went at all last summer.  I think we’d go more often if we weren’t using a GPS manufactured over a decade ago.  We feel like total dorks going geocaching, but it’s a great excuse to get out and about and explore new places you’ve never seen before.  Sibley Field Park is only about 10 blocks from our house, but we’ve never been before.

Also, we know that posting a photo of ourselves holding the cache and pointing to the hiding spot is frowned upon in the geocaching community.  Y’all nerds are just gonna have to get over it.

Ever been geocaching????

dailymile and the Principle of Validation

Some of you have probably noticed the dailymile widget over there on the right sidebar.  I’ve been using dailymile since January as a way to track my running mileage.  Dailymile is a web-based application that allows you to store your running info, and it also incorporates some social networking stuff, too.  When I signed up, I was only looking for the database capabilities and wasn’t interested in the social networking aspects of the site.

But then something funny happened…. Out of the blue, some lady from Bloomington named Renee B. left a comment on one of my runs that said something like “Hey, great run!  Nice pace!”

Who? Me?  Oh! Well thank you!  That’s so nice of you to say.

A couple hours later, her husband David B. left a similar comment.

Well thank you again!  That sure makes me feel good.

Every few days, these same two peeps would leave me a supportive comment that would buoy my spirits and tell me how awesome I am.  At first, I suspected they were swingers and that dailymile was actually a front for a bizarre partner-swap thing.  But then I decided that was very unlikely.  Then I thought that maybe they weren’t real, or that they were dailymile employees or something.

“You guys sure are supportive.  Do you guys work for dailymile or something?”  I asked them one day.

Turns out, y’all, they’re just nice people.  Who would have thought?  Not only did they not get offended at my question, they went out and recruited a half-dozen of their friends to also be my dailymile friends.  Now, a couple times a week, I’ll get a pleasant message from Renee, David, Jeni, Heidi, or Kristen telling me how awesome my training is coming along and giving me some encouragement to keep running.

Speaking of which, have y’all seen this video???  It’s about 10 minutes longer than it needs to be, but the message is fantastic.