Archive for the 'This and That' Category

Cop Car Ride, Front Seat

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Yes, it is true. I got to ride in the front seat of a Texas State Trooper’s squad car today.

I was on my way back from Austin after the launch party for “On the Road With iV, Season 2″ (more on that trip soon), and I ran into a bit of a problem. The weather has been really nasty, and I was driving in pretty heavy rain, and 41 degree temperatures. My car has a digital read-out that has all sorts of information including how many miles you can travel before you run out of gas. As I was driving, I was watching that read out and noticed at 48 miles, it switched to just telling me “Low Range”. This isn’t uncommon; it usually switches to say that around 40 miles or so. At the time, I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere between Hillsboro and Waxahachie, so I reset my trip milage so I could keep track of how far I could go. The next sign said Waxahachie 25 miles, so I knew I should be good to go with some room to spare. Well, I make it into Waxahachie and don’t see any gas stations on the service road. My GPS has a feature that tells where the next gas station is, and it was telling me I was about 3-4 miles away. No big deal (or so I thought) since I had plenty of range.

Well, at 27 miles on the trip, I notice my car is slowing down, and my gas pedal is doing absolutely nothing. Yup….I was out of gas, for the first time in my driving career. I pulled over onto the shoulder and got my hazards on. I could see what looked like might be a gas station down the road half a mile or more (hard to tell with the rain) and it looked like it might be an abandoned old Phillips 66 (and since my GPS said there wasn’t a station for a few miles, I thought it might be closed). So I pushed my On-Star and asked my advisor if they could tell if that was a real station or not. I have road side assistance, but if that was a gas station I thought I would just walk instead of waiting on the added embarrassment of help coming to give my 30 year old ass a gallon of gas. They confirmed that it was a gas station, and I got out of the car, and headed to my trunk to get out the rain coat I had in the back. FYI- Gore-Tex is the best thing ever. As I am putting on my coat in the cold rain, a black and white Texas State Trooper pulls up.

He rolled down his window, and I let him know that I was ok….just an idiot who ran out of gas, and I was about to walk down to that gas station. The trooper was nice enough to offer me a ride (in the front seat!) to the station. As I sat down in the car, I could hear some automated system in the car reading off my license plate number, saying my name, car type/ year/model and then “Status: clear”.
Jokingly I said “whoohooo I’m Clear!”
Trooper Friendly: “Actually, your registration is clear on your car, but I don’t know about you.”
Then his tone got a little bit more serious, “You don’t have any warrants out for your arrest do you?”
I told him that I didn’t have any, and offered my license to him. He actually said he didn’t need it, but I told him that if I were him, I would want to run my license and handed it over.

He drove me down to the gas station where I got bent over and had to buy a 19 dollar 2 gallon gas jug (can you say captive market?) and 2 gallons of gas. The Trooper offered to stay and take me back to my car, but I told him that I had Gore-Tex on, had been couped up in the car for the last 3 hours, and that the walk of shame would probably do me good. He chuckled a bit, and let me walk back to the car.

Moral of the story: When your GM car says that you are on Low Range….Even if it just told you that you had 50 miles to go…. FILL UP!!!!

:)

Infrared home theater project

One of my projects this weekend was to de-clutter the mess of tangled wires and boxes that was my home theater system. It has always driven me crazy that in order to have a nice TV set up, you always ended up with a huge mess of wires and boxes next to your TV. Below are the before pics:
Front view-
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Not so bad from the front, but from the side/behind… man what a mess. Even with everything zip tied it’s still a rat’s nest.
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The good news is that my TV backs up to my stairs, and like most homes with stairs I have closet space underneath the stairs directly behind the TV. Since my house is older and isn’t pre-wired for an infrared system, my plan was to move the boxes into the closet, run the wires through the wall, and use an IR repeater to get the remote controls to work. More on how those work in a second.

The process was pretty simple. I drilled two 1 inch holes through the plactic junction box behind the plate where my cable/fios line came out. I went through the box, an through the wall into the closet. I then also drilled holes in the face plate so I could fit more wires through.

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I ran everything through the wall, and set up my cable, DVD, and receiver in the closet. I bought these x10 IR repeaters to let me use the remote controls through the wall. Basically I have one of these little pyramids on top of my TV. It gets the signal (infrared) from the remote when I push a button. It broadcasts that signal via radio signal to the other pyramid in the closet. That pyramid then transmits the same signal in infrared instantly. You don’t have to program the pyramids, or enter any codes. It is just repeating whatever your remote you already have programed is sending out.

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Below is the finished project. As you can see I have a lot less clutter around the TV and speakers. Since there are so few wires behind the TV now, I was able to move it another 8 or 10 inches closer to the wall, and that really helped open up the room a little bit more. So far, the pyramids are working well, and seem to be well worth the 50 bucks.

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You can see how small the pyramid is next to the center speaker on top of the TV.

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From above looking down:

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Well worth the money so far!

Shed Post

A few folks have been asking for updates on the house and the projects I’ve been working on around the Casa De La Z (it just makes me feel better about my little house to act like it has a name like some famous castle or something….maybe the chicks will dig it? probably not…). I think Keni’s exact terms were to do a post about the many things i’ve been working on. Well, I’m not sure any of this stuff is really that manly, but hey, I have to listen to my reading audience!

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I guess I have been in the house for 5 or 6 months now, and I’ve had time to get settled in and work on a few projects. Once a week or so, I still find myself saying “holly sh*t, I can’t believe I bought a house.” It still doesn’t seem real, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it at some point. I’ve really enjoyed working on projects and doing things around the house. I forgot how much I really enjoyed working with wood and being handy in general.

As I remember, the Shed was specifically called for (cough*Kendra*cough), so I might as well start there right? RIGHT!!! That was a rhetorical question…freakn’ armatures….talking to yourself on a blog. Ghosh. Since I called my house the Casa De La Z before, I’m sure you had images of a 20,000 sq.ft. castle on the top of a great hill. Believe it or not, that is not the case. My house is pretty small, and doesn’t have a large garage. One of the first things that I thought would be a good way to really give me room in the garage would be to build a shed where I could keep all of the yard equipment and other things that don’t really need to be in my garage. I drew the pic below before I even moved in to the house (I think….). My idea was to have a shed that actually used the fence as 2 of the walls of the structure. I wanted the shed to mix in to the shed and not take up too much space in my little yard. You will also see the garden and pond/fountain in that drawing. These things should be in the works in the next month or so.

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Soon after I moved in I started working on the shed. I decided to over build the hell out of it and really make it strong. The posts are sunk 24 inches in the ground and set in concrete. The sub floor is all 2×6 pressure treated wood on 16 inch centers, lifted several inches off of the ground. The structure ended up being very strong and I’m happy with how it turned out. I hope to update the rest of the fence this summer with the same board on board style that you see as the front of the shed.

Below you can see the finished shed in the background of the pic actually taken for the deck project I worked on today.

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This post is all ready a lot longer than I thought it would be. I’ll try to be short winded (that usually is not a successfully venture). I was planning on doing some work on my deck. The deck is nice, was not water proof, and had some deep discoloration under my crape myrtle. I was thinking that I would need to rent a floor sander, and sand the hell out of the whole deck to get the sap and discoloration out of the wood before I stained/waterproofed it. Vivek has a pressure washer, and I thought it might be worth a shot to see if I could use it to clean the deck. To be honest, I did not think it would really work. To be honest, I was wrong.

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To satisfy the kid in me I had to start out with my Z…. Check out the difference! I was surprised how easy it was to clean the wood. Below you can see some spots where the clean wood is right next to the dirty wood.

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Here is a pic with everything cleaned.
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I stained it tonight also, but it’s too dark to get good pics. I’ll try to post those soon.

I was going to post pics and write about the Gallery Wall, but this thing is way too damn long already. I’ll wait until I get that project finished (about 80% right now) and post about that then. I will just say this much for now: See the orange /redish accent wall and the 1982 brass chandolere? They are no more.

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and my drawing of what I had in mind for that wall :

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the final project will have more pics than this (most will be smaller than they look in the pic. I’m thinking 11 x 14 and 8x 10’s)

OU Texas and House Warming

Zach and Gram

The weekend before last was a very busy, but also fantastic weekend for me. Saturday I went with my sister and Grandmother to the OU vs Texas game at the State Fair of Texas. Sunday we followed that up with my housewarming party with friends and family.

Gram

This is my third year to go with my grandmother to the OU vs. Texas game, and I’m really enjoying the tradition even though I am neither a Sooner or a Longhorn. My grandmother is about to turn 80, and she is one of the few women her age who have college degrees. She is a Sooner to the core, and also a huge sports fan. In fact, her sports knowledge and her capacity to follow sports on a daily basis puts me and most of the other sports fans I know to shame. So this game is a big deal for her, and we always get great seats from her nephew (I think that makes him my 2nd cousin once removed…either way THANKS AUBREY!!!!) and we always have a great time going to the Fair and then to the game. We completed all of the necessary traditions like getting a Fletcher’s hotdog, checking out the car show before the game.

Zach and Robin
me and my sis

The game was a great football game! If you follow this blog you know I bleed Red and Black from Texas Tech, but I also love Big 12 and college football in general. I usually root for UT in this game just because of state loyalty, but this time around I was pulling for OU. The game was a game that you could enjoy even if you were not a fan of either team. It was a high scoring game, but also a very close game. The spread was never more than 7 points as you watched to of the biggest rivals in college football history battle it out in front of 80,000 fans in a traditional game that my Dad watched as a young boy. If you have never been to this game, it is an event in and of itself. The stadium is always packed, and it is split right down the 50 yard line: red on one side, and burnt orange on the other. The crowd is loud, rowdy and something that you have to experience fully appreciate.

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The next day it was time for the housewarming party! I spent most of the morning getting the house and yard ready for the first big party in the new casa. I got a ton of food and booze (including a self service bar) and had the smoker packed with things that make you smile. We had a pretty good turn out and I would consider the first party a big success. After all, you can’t really call a house a home until you have had all your peeps over for food and drink right?
yum
Zach

Kinko’s Cares

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Well GOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNINNNNNG VIETNAM!
It’s 4 a.m and I’m at work on a Sat. morning. For the most part I can tell you this isn’t any fun, but I can also tell you that working weekends and off hours like this is really rare for me now (and wasn’t so rare a few years ago). So what better to do while trying to kill time in a small lab on the 20th floor at 4 a.m. than to blog about whatever comes to mind. So here we go!

Rowdy (Dallas Cowboys)

FedEx Kinkos impressed me last week. I love this company and have always thought highly of how it treats the Team Members, but when they say they are going to put on a big event, you can usually count on there being some ” Ra Ra!!!” as I call it, and a little bit of fun. The Ra Ra is the standard “we are the best, we are doing well” , or ” we are not the best but are on the way to doing well” pep talks given by Sr. management. At this event there was no BS and no RA RA to be heard, and that impressed me. They rented out Texas Stadium and had a huge event open to all the local workers and their families. They had games and events for the kids, and food and fun for the adults as well. They brought in 2 Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and also the Dallas Desperado Dancers (indoor football). The big wigs and execs got up on stage and gave a little speach but it was just to give away prizes (including a plasma tv) and to say thanks. They didn’t mention any numbers, metrics, goals….
They just said thanks, and that was impressive to me.

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As you might have guessed, I was lucky enough to be one of the photographers for the event. They don’t want me to share any pics of the people who work for the company at the event, but they said I could post the pics of the cheerleaders and dancers (I didn’t think you guys would have a problem with that :) ). I got some really nice pics (took 700!!!) and had a good time even though it was cold and I was too proud to wear a jacket. The poor Desperado dancers couldn’t wear their jackets, and stood there with goose bumps and a smile for about 3 hours. Those girls are tougher than I am for, there is no doubt about that.

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I guess the bottom line of this blog post is …. My company is better than your company!!! !NA NA NA NA!!!