Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Its no secret that I am an advocate for reducing, reusing, recycling, and reclaiming. I've shared articles and written about alternative fuel vehicles as well as household recycling. To me its fun and exciting.

One effort to reduce the amount of fuel we consume is to drive less. This doesn't mean you don't go where you need/want to go, but rather, it means thinking ahead and consolidating your trips. Just make one trip to the post office, grocery store, dry cleaners, and gas station, rather than a separate trip to each.

Another effort to reduce the amount of fuel we consume is to drive smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. Here's an example of one, the Smart Car.
Yes, that's Spouse standing next to the Smart Car, putting its size into perspective. Here's a Smart Car next to a Suburban.

But some have complained that Smart Cars are 'ugly'. Others would like Smart Cars that have a more 'sporty' look.
So, the makers of Smart Car are teaming up with some of the other auto manufacturers to introduce some alternative Smart models. Here's a look at some of them.

Here is the new Smartvette.

Here is the new Smardie A3 (AWD).

Here is the new Smartborghini.

Here is the new Smorche.

Here is the new Smerrari.

And likely the most fuel-efficient of all the new models is the new Smustang.

Which one will YOU choose?

Crush du Jour: Mark Lawson

Monday, June 29, 2009

Weekend highlights

Sat morning we drove back to VA and visited with Spouse's mom, sister, and her kids. Then we stocked up on some non-perishables at Trader Joe's (wish we had one here), then picked up my aunt and went to our friend George's 80th birthday party.

The weather cooperated nicely for indoor/outdoor party in George's honor. There were probably 75 people or so, which really necessitated the usage of the outdoors. Several of George's nieces and nephews came from NH and NY, as well as many local friends and neighbors. The food was yummy and everyone had a great time.

Sun morning we met our VA realtor Betsy at a condo in Arlington. When we sold our VA house last Sept we used 1/2 the proceeds to pay against our new mortgage, and saved the other 1/2 for the garage/bath/closet addition and buying another condo. For months we've been searching for a condo within our budget that we could update a little and then rent. There have been very few foreclosures in our low-end budget, so we were excited to see this one on Sun. It had been for sale for a few months but had just been reduced into our budget. We liked it a lot and feel it could be a 'winner'.

Then we met up with Spouse's mom, sister, brother-in-law, and their 3 kids for lunch at Ruby Tuesday (love their salad bar), followed by a nice visit at Spouse's mom's house. We tossed our overnight bag and Jordan into the car and headed to our former neighborhood to meet Betsy again. On our recommendation, our former next door neighbors Suzanne & George selected Betsy to list their house. Betsy was there for the open house, and had a contract for us to sign and initial 1,001 times. We did this so that after giving it sufficient thought, we can call Betsy and have her present the offer, saving us the hassle of having to receive the contract via fax and then fax it back to her. (Its many, many pages long.) Then we headed back to DE.

After feeding and walking Jordan, we went for a snack at Shag. I like that Shag has 'small plates' so if you're hungry you order two; if you just want a snack you order one. Shag is also fun because they play 70s and 80s music in their large, outdoor dining courtyard. Spouse had angus sliders and a soda. I had bouyardi (a crock of melted feta with herbs, tomatoes, and pita) and an Atomic Age cocktail, and we split a small order of sweet potato fries. It was the perfect amount of food for us, and the evening breezes complimented the 75 degree temperature, making for a delightful dining experience.

We went for a short walk on the boardwalk, then returned home and watched TV before bed.

Crush du Jour: Erik Brunten

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Addition update - week 2

Well, here we are at the end of week 2. There wasn't as much 'visible' progress this week, although I know there were many things going on in the background, such as ordering supplies, scheduling supplies for delivery, coordinating with subcontractors, etc. Here's a recap:

Week 2
No activity. I imagine they were working on another project elsewhere, as it is common practice for builders and crews to work on more than one project at a time.

Tues: The sidewalk connecting the driveway to porch is removed, to make way for the digging of the footers.
The footers were dug...
and steel rebar reinforcements were laid in the footers.
Concrete was poured into the footers.

Wed: No activity. The concrete footers needed time to dry or 'cure'.
Thurs: The cinder blocks were delivered for the foundation.

Fri: The foundation was built. From the side...
Front and side...
I spoke with the builder this afternoon and he gave me a 'heads up' about what will happen next week: building the garage walls and pouring the concrete floor. So next week there should be a lot more 'visible' progress in the photos.

Crush du Jour: Geovanny Govea

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday fragments

Welcome to Friday fragments, my weekly recap of topics too big to forget, yet too small to be their own post.

It was a bad week for celebrities. Ed McMahon died at the age of 86. Probably remembered by most as Johnny Carson's sidekick on the 'Tonight Show', I will always remember him as the host of 'Star Search'!

Farrah Fawcett
succumbed to cancer yesterday at the age of 62. Although she later became a serious actress in 'Extremities' and 'The Burning Bed', she will probably be remembered by most as Jill from 'Charlie's Angels', although she was only on the show for its first season. My uncle had this poster tacked to the back of the basement door of their house.As a joke, my aunt (his wife) took a black magic marker and blacked-out a few of Farrah's teeth!

Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, also died yesterday at the age of 50 from an apparent heart attack. Likely one of the most promising and successful performers ever (next to Elvis), I will remember Michael's brilliant
song and video for 'Thriller', which was truly ground-breaking when it was released.

SC Republican Governor Mark Sanford returned from vacation this week. Why is this news? Maybe because people didn't like that he left on this unscheduled vacation with no notice, without telling his wife or staff where he was going or how long he'd be gone, or that he left no one in charge during his absence. Hello! You're a Governor, not a rock star!! Oh yeah, and then there's the part about him being an outspoken opponent against same sex marriage, claiming it would 'degrade the sanctity of marriage', while he is having an extra-marital affair. What a hypocrite! My friend Jared sent me this funny cartoon:

My tiny state of DE took an important step toward equality this week. The Senate and House both approved SB121 which adds the term “sexual orientation” to the already-existing list of prohibited practices of discrimination, forbidding discrimination against a person on the basis of sexual orientation in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations, and insurance. I was so thrilled that I sent a short 'thank you' email to my Senators and Representatives who voted for it. Read the local news story

Speaking of equality and same sex marriage, my friend Jared sent me this fabulous chart to help explain the same sex marriage debate. Click to enlarge it.

I recently read that the CDC estimates that over 1/3 of adults in the US are 'obese'. Can that be true? Over 1/3? Really??? The BrylaneHome furniture company has decided to cash-in on America's obesity by launching a new line of plus-size furniture and home goods. Only in America.

Tomorrow there is a march to the White House to call on President Obama to show leadership on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Strangely I only saw this once, and am concerned it may be a flop due to poor marketing. The SLDN says that even if you're not near Washington DC, you can join this effort by telling your friends why 265 is disgraceful and why we've got to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell": Like those who drew a line in the sand 40 years ago at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, we're standing up to demand action. It's past time for these discriminatory discharges to end.

A friend sent me this hilarious photo of a Redneck fire alarm:
Spouse has doing very well on Weight Watchers! He has lost 19 lbs in 3 weeks. I'm very proud of him. An unintentional side effect of his weight loss has been a significant reduction in his snoring! Hurray!!!

And just in case you're having a little trouble 'getting into' Pride this month, get a load of
this! Thanks to joe*to*hell for this campy, tacky, delicious, and fabulous gem that is sure to put you in the Pride mood.

Tomorrow morning we are heading back to VA to attend the 80th birthday party for our friend George. His daughters are having a big, backyard BBQ in his honor and at last check there were almost 90 RSVPs.

Have a faublous weekend, everyone.

Crush du Jour: Remy Feniello

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Street reconstruction... AGAIN

You may recall in this post I mentioned the street reconstruction project (which took 3 months to complete) was not done correctly and that part of it would have to be redone. The top coat of asphalt was supposed to have an 'inverted crown' (higher on both sides, lower in the center) that would direct rain water to the center of the street and into the new storm drains. The 'inverted crown' works great on a nearby street, and it was pretty obvious that it had not been implemented correctly on our street. Rain water is puddling in places and running off the street into neighbors' yards in others.

My neighbor told me on Tues that the street crew would be out today to scrape off the top layer of asphalt "in the affected area", which I understood to be where the puddle forms and where the water runs off into people's yards, which is not directly in front of our house. However, today the crew showed up at 7:30 am and proceeded to take off the top layer of asphalt from the entire street.

I guess they decided that they would re-do the top layer on the entire street since the 'inverted crown' had not been implemented correctly. So the street is a mess, again. Hopefully they will lay the top layer and implement the 'inverted crown' tomorrow (Fri) so we don't have to go all weekend with the street being jacked-up.


In related news, in this post I mentioned that our dyed, stamped concrete driveway and sidewalk were both damaged by the pipe crew that installed the storm drains and related drainage pipes. In case you're not familiar with dyed, stamped concrete, this is what ours looks like. It comes in lots of patterns (stone patterns, slate patterns, other brick patterns, etc.) and can be dyed about any color you want. We did not choose this color or pattern; it was selected by the builder and was already here when we bought the house.

The foreman of the street crew promised to 'make it right' and has been trying ever since to find the stamp pattern to match what we have. To assist in this, I contacted the house builder and got the name and phone number of the concrete company that installed the driveway and sidewalk. Turns out the owner of the company retired and sold all his equipment to various people/companies and has no record of who bought the stamp used for our driveway and sidewalk. The foreman said he's tried everything, from calling all the local concrete contractors to Googling concrete stamp patterns on the internet, but could not locate the stamp to match.

Not only was the pattern needed to replace the damaged sections of the existing driveway and sidewalk, but our builder was going to need that stamp for the new driveway in front of the garage addition. Yeeeaaahhhh. That presents a bit of a problem. Plus, the color has faded a little from the sun so the foreman said there would be no possible way to match the color exactly.

So this is what I suggested to Spouse, the street foreman, and our addition builder: the entire driveway and side will be removed (not just the damaged areas) and replaced with regular old non-dyed, non-stamped concrete, at the street foreman's cost. The builder would then create the new driveway in front of the garage using regular old concrete so that it all matches. Everyone agreed this was the best approach.

Although the regular concrete does not have the 'custom' look of the dyed, stamped concrete, it will be much easier to repair or replace in the future if something happens to it. We could have chosen a different pattern and color, but I don't really care so much about it as long as it all matches. Plus, our builder said that going with the regular concrete for the new driveway in front of the garage will save us over $2,000. YES!!! And, if we wind up not liking the plain old concrete, it is very inexpensive to spray on a concrete stain.

So it appears 2009 will be our 'year of construction'; from the street project, to the addition, to the driveway and sidewalk replacement.

Crush du Jour: Luke Guldan

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cartoons for adults

Well folks, I don't really have anything interesting to say today, so I'm sharing these 'adult' cartoons for your enjoyment.

Crush du Jour: Yigal Azrouel

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

March on Washington Oct 10 & 11

"We Have The Permit, The March On Washington Is Definitely On"

Gay activist and friend of the late Harvey Milk, Cleve Jones confirmed that despite earlier reports that the National Mall was previously booked and unavailable, he does have a permit from the Parks Department for a Columbus Day weekend March On Washington.

"We put in a request for the West Lawn of the Capitol, where the Obama inauguration took place, and we got it. Nobody else had applied for it," said Jones.

Jones added, "We've been getting nothing but complete cooperation from all the authorities - the DC police, the mayor, the Parks Service. They told us, 'Go ahead, you've got it. Put the word out.' They are happy to work with us and are expecting a lot of people."

When asked about the cost of putting on the weekend, Jones stresses that the MOW will be a stripped down, no frills, purely activism-focused event. "This will not be a three day multi-media spectacular" he said. "Most of the hundreds of protests I've organized cost nothing. We will have a minimal stage, a sound system, and enough port-a-potties for the crowd. That's it. We won't be flying in celebrities and putting them up in fancy hotels. This will be a two hour march, then a two hour rally, and then sending everybody home to their congressional districts to organize for 2010."
Jones said that in addition to the march and rally on Sunday, Oct 11 on the West Lawn, he hopes to put together a candlelight HIV/AIDS vigil on Saturday night, Oct 10 at the Lincoln Memorial, but won't have confirmation of that item for a few days.

While opposition to a MOW in 2009 has been quite strong, Jones dismissed the naysayers. "Many of the the people opposing this march are the same people pushing for a repeal of Prop 8 in 2010."

Jones questioned the wisdom of continuing to fight local battles for LGBT rights, saying, "It's just an endless state by state, city by city, county by county battle could go on for decades at enormous cost. But if we could shift our focus and seize this historic moment and get federal legislation, get SCOTUS [on our side], we could end it all at the federal level. People in leadership seem so invested in an incredibly long, local level, deeply impermanent struggle."

Jones closed with "If you think you're going to get anything out of Obama in the second half of his term, you don't know anything about political history. In a year, he'll be in full re-election mode." Then, referring to the DOJ's recent support of DOMA, Jones said "It's so clear that Obama and the Democratic leadership are turning their backs on us. If we don't go for it now, we'll get nothing. It's beginning to smell a lot like Clinton."

Crush du Jour: Jameson Arasi

Monday, June 22, 2009

Weekend highlights

Despite the less-than-desirable weather, we had a very nice weekend.

Instead of our typical Fri night dinner at a restaurant with 'the usual suspects', we had a BBQ at one of the guy's house. John provided the burgers, brats, and dogs while everyone else brought the appetizers, side dishes, and dessert. I made Paula Deen's corn casserole, which is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. I take it to every potluck, cookout, and BBQ. I wonder if our friends will EVER get tired of this? I suspect not. The weather was nice and we had a good time.

Afterward we headed to the beach for a 'Bear Bash' party at Shag restaurant and club. We wanted to support our friend and local store owner Chris who teamed up with Shag owners Tim & Nick to create 'Bear Bash', a party for Bears and Bear lovers. They had a $3. drink special called 'Fuzzy Nipple', and a $5. food menu.
Although Spouse does not self-identify as a 'Bear', you'd have to be Helen Keller not to notice that he fits the 'Bear' stereotype, as least physically. We didn't eat since we had just come from the BBQ, but I did have a 'Fuzzy Nipple' and Spouse had a soda. We saw several friends, sat and talked for a while, and had a very nice time. It was fun to do something 'different' like that. Shag is a lot of fun because they play terrific 70s & 80s music.

Sat it basically rained all day. We decided it would be a great day to go the movies (to see 'Star Trek') but apparently so did all of the disappointed vacationers whose day at the beach was rained out. The theatre parking lot was absolutely jammed to the point that it created traffic problems out on the street, and there was a long line at the box office, so we scrapped the idea and went back home. We had an easy, relaxing day at home. I finally updated my blog list on this here blog; a long overdue task. Later that evening we met our buddies Doug & Jim for drinks and dinner at Rigby's, which recently opened in the space that used to be Partners Bistro. Fortunately the food at Rigby's is much better than their predecessor, and we had a nice time. Then we walked with Doug and Jim to Aqua, an outdoor gay bar, and hung out for a while.

Sun it rained or sprinkled off and on most of the day. Between showers we went to the grocery store and K-Mart. My $19.99 mp3 player quit working so I neatly returned it to its packaging so I could exchange it for another one. But store don't do 'exchanges' anymore. Instead they force you to stand in line at the returns desk (which is never staffed with more than 1 person) to get a refund for the item, then force you to stand in line again at the regular cash register to purchase the replacement item. (I miss the old days when you simply swapped a new one for the old one and there was no register transaction or writing down your name/address/phone number required. I know, I'm old.) Unfortunately, when the returns clerk tried to refund the $19.99 back onto my debit card, it wasn't a match. Apparently the day we purchased it Spouse had used his debit card (from the same bank account) to pay for it. So I had to go find him in the store, get his debit card, and stand in line all over again to complete the refund. Making it worse was the clerk's surly attitude. She didn't offer to bring me to the front of the line when she saw me come back with the other debit card, either. Then, as the refund was processing, she again told me in an elementary school Principal kind of way that she could only refund the price back to the card used for the original purpose. I wanted to scream in her face "Its the same f*cking joint bank account!!!", but decided it would likely be in vain. I opted NOT to go purchase a replacement mp3 player at that time, but instead, to just get the f*ck out of that store.

Later that evening Spouse & I had dinner, and since the weather had improved significantly, we went for a walk on the boardwalk. Along the way we stopped for a few minutes to listen to an a cappella group perform at the bandstand, which was fun. The weather was dreamy. The rain had stopped, the temperature rose, there was a great breeze, it was pretty close to perfect for our walk and convertible ride. We ended our weekend by watching some TV before going to bed.

As much as we enjoy having friends visit on weekends, its also kind of nice not to have company. We're not actively inviting anyone during the construction so we'll have several more such 'open' weekends this summer, unlike past summers when we had lots and lots of visitors. I like the variation.

Crush du Jour: Carlos Yabrudy

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Addition update - week 1

In order not to bore regular readers with constant addition updates all week long, I've decided to save them and post them once a week on Saturdays. As a reminder, the addition will be a 16' x 23' garage on the 1st level, and an expansion of our master bathroom and a new walk-in closet/dressing room on the 2nd level. So here we go!

In preparation for the addition project, the builder asked us to remove all of the landscaping from the affected area. Fortunately our yard guy Ray was able to do this for us, for a very reasonable price. No blisters on these hands! (Click to enlarge photos.)

From the side:
Front and side:

Work was scheduled to begin on June 8, but the builder was not able to get the permits. Several days later we learned that the regular permit guy was on vacation and that the fill-in permit guy was out sick with pneumonia! But on Fri, June 12 the permits were obtained and work was rescheduled to begin on Mon, June 15.

Day 1: On Mon, June 15 the builder Mike and two guys named Jay and Junior started the careful deconstruction of the porch. I use the term 'careful deconstruction' instead of 'demolition' because Mike had agreed to my request that we re-use as much of the existing materials as possible, and donate the materials we can't re-use.

From the side:
Front and side:
Re-using and recycling materials serves several purposes: its better for the environment not to fill up the landfill with building materials that still have some 'life' left in them, it reduces costs by re-using materials instead of buying all new materials, and the donated materials will 'live on' in someone else's building project. I really believe in this concept and Mike the builder agreed to it.

Day 2: Tues, June 16 the dumpster arrived.
Getting the dumpster into our driveway was a real trick! As I've mentioned before, we live on a narrow, one-way street with no sidewalk or curbs. The truck delivering the dumpster could barely get down the street, but then he had to back the dumpster into the driveway without hitting the neighbor's tree or fence. It took several attempts, but the driver finally succeeded.

Also on Tues the surveyors marked for the footings so we were sure to stay within our allowable building area, and the deconstruction of the porch continued with the removal of the HardiPlank siding on the 1st level.

From the side:
Front and side:

Day 3: Wed, June 17 the concrete slab/floor of the porch was jack-hammered and broken up. It was a very noisy process, but fortunately took less than 4 hours. The chunks were removed with a front-end loader and placed into the dumpster. The porch deconstruction is complete!
From the side:
Front and side:

Day 4: Thurs, June 18 it rained, sometimes hard, for most of the day. However, Mike and the guys had loaded up Mike's pick-up truck with the pieces of the porch roof that contained the decorative rafter tails.
According to Mike these decorative rafter tails are expensive to buy and time-consuming to cut/sand. In keeping with my desire for a 'green', cost-effective project, they removed the decorative rafter tails from the left-over pieces of porch roof inside Mike's garage while it rained. Later they deposited the waste material in the dumpster.

Day 4: Fri, June 19 the outline of the addition was spray-painted on the ground, indicating where excavation will be needed in order to set the cinder block footers.

Crush du Jour: Leo Giamani