Conner comes home... the projects continue

Conner’s arrival gave me a great reason to take some time off work. Thanks to my Mom’s help we were able to get settled in with Conner while she played with Alex and took care of the house. For anyone having a baby I highly recommend having my Mom come stay with you for a week or two. She Rocks! The arrival of Conner didn't slow down the house projects though. Here's the projects that happened in the days after Conner came home.

My Dad came to town and helped me install a kid's banister in our 1st floor stairwell. It took Alex a day to start using it and now he goes up and down the stairs all the time.

  • Vonage: I cut our phones over from Verizon to Vonage. I actually physically cut the external verison phone connection to the house so and now our phones work through a linksys router. Instead of getting a new wireless router I tried to save some money by getting a non wireless one and connecting my existing wireless to it. It caused all sorts of problems with VPN and double NAT-ing. I had to put the Vonage linksys at the edge of my network with my wireless router behind it in order to get QOS to work. If I had it to do again I would get just one wireless Vonage linksys router and call it a day. Anyway, if I hadn’t tried to be smart, it would have been up and running in 5 minutes. Vonage is way cheaper than a traditional phone and its got cool features like the ability to email my voicemails to me.

  • TV locks: replaced the locks on the TV cabinet my father built. Alex had put all sorts of stuff in them.

  • Plummer:Cleared clog in the master bath drain. Hey look at me I’m a plumber!

  • Garage shelves: This was the best. After all the help left, Alex said “Daddy I want to do a project. So we installed shelves in the garage and hung a bunch of stuff on the walls. It freed up a bunch of space on the garage floor, and no Alex knows all about ladders.


Happy Birthday Conner!

Conner Paul Russell has arrived! He was born 7 lb. 2.4oz. and 19 1/2 inches at 7:59 PM November 13th, 2005. His birth was the catalyst for the taking of some 16.2 million digital pictures. Here are 5 of them in chronological order:

Conner was welcomed into the world by his parents and the russellpour gang. Here is Christine with (left to right) Uncle Reza, Aunt Teresa, Aunt Sara and Uncle (they can't make a memory card big enough for my camera) John, watching Conner wrestle a nurse. Conner won by a 5-0 decision. The russellpour's have got this birth thing down. Instead of sitting in a waiting room for 14 hours like they did with Alex, they checked in by phone every once in a while. They did some shopping, went out to dinner and called for a status report about 90 seconds after Conner was born. Fortunately, a recording of that conversation exists:

Paul's Phone: Ring... Call from John

Paul: He was just born 90 seconds ago.

John: So this isn't a good time then?

This was taken November 13, 2005, 10:27:54 PM. Count them... 2 hours and 29 minutes after giving birth and Christine's totally cool and totally beautiful.

Later that night Conner and I had a talk about some of the things we will be doing together. I can't remember exactly which one we are discussing here. It's either playing the Saxophone or the physics of Play-Doh.

Alex & Nanna met Conner the next morning. Conner gave Alex this totally cool wooden tool set and Alex was pretty protective of his little brother. When Conner cried, Alex immediately went to Christine to help saying "Mama, Condor is sad."

And they lived happily ever after.

We brought Conner home from the hospital around 10 PM Monday, November 14th. Tom and Jerry, veterans of us bringing home a baby, gave Conner a quick sniff and approving purr and immediately jumped into Christine's lap. You can tell they missed her.

One last thing that should not be forgotten... I work with Uncle John & Aunt Sara. Here is the copy of the email John sent out at work announcing Conner's arrival.
From: John
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2005 9:45 AM
To: everyone we work with
Subject: The newest Russell has arrived

Conner Paul Russell finally graced us with his
presence at approx. 8pm on Sunday November 13th.
Yaaayyyyy. He is very cute... a bit wrinkly,
but really cute.

Both mother and baby are doing very well.

Paul is as crazy as ever.


Kitchen Speakers

A while back I installed a computer in our kitchen center island. The computer went in a cabinet and the monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers went on the center island. This did require me to drill a hole in the island counter top, and while most people flinch when they hear that I did that, everyone that sees the results thinks it’s a very cool idea. At least that’s what they tell me.

Since the kitchen is the main room of the house we listen to a lot of music/radio there. Prior to the computer, we had a stereo system with speakers subtly placed on top of the upper cabinets. When the computer was installed, the stereo left and we started using the computer speakers. There were 2 problems:

  1. The computer speakers were nice but didn’t sound very good in a big room

  2. If you were sitting at the computer the sound was always too loud, and if you weren’t, you couldn't hear much of anything

dialog sample
So I decided to hook my computer up to the stereo speakers via a 30+ year old amplifier (see pick to the right)that my father gave me. (Actually, I think the amp was his idea. Thanks Dad!) The cool thing about this amp (no pun intended) is it generates almost no heat. So here’s what I did:

  1. Connected the computer to the amplifier via the 8th inch to stereo RCA cable that came with my iPod.

  2. Fed stereo wire through an existing electrical wire hole in the bottom of the island into the basement.

  3. Fed stereo wire up through an existing hole in the kitchen floor behind the refrigerator. The hole is also used for a small water tube connecting to the fridge.

  4. Fed the stereo wire up from behind the fridge between a hidden gap in the back of the cabinets.

  5. Connected the speaker wires to the amp and the speakers.

  6. Plugged in the amp, turned it on, opened WinAmp and played Christmas music.

dialog sample

The result is that I'm fairly giddy at having finally finished a relatively simple project after talking
about it for 2 years. Music also sounds better in the kitchen... But mostly all you hear is me saying,
"Aren't the speakers great! It's finally done! Did you notice the speakers are off the counter?!" I
don't know why, but I'm really glad this projects finished. The pic at the right (click to enlarge) shows the island
sans computer speakers!
The working kitchen speakers are the black boxes on top of the cabinets.

Anyway, with all our music ripped to the hard drive, and most radio shows being streamed over the internet we now have the speakers, stereo and piles of CDs off the island, and we can still listen to it with a click of a mouse. The best part is that I was able to recycle parts from old systems so I didn’t have to buy anything!

The SoulShine Reunion Gig

SoulShine (name change imminent) is a Rock/Blues band John and Reza put together. I play bass. We've been playing for a few years, and have a strange history of having drummers leave the band to go back to graduate school or join the Secret Service. Our latest drummer has improved the coolness factor of the band 10 fold and we've been playing a few gigs. Over the summer we didn't get to play together because John was touring the world for work. Saturday October 22nd we had our first gig in 4 months at the Gael House in Clinton Mass. Best gig ever.

The new tunes

We had two rehearsals before the gig, relearned 30 songs and 4 new ones. A fifth new song to SoulShine “Pour Some Sugar on Me – Def Leppard” was a rehearsal train wreck three times. We decided the day of the gig that since we couldn't play through it in rehearsal we'd leave it out of the set list. So the gig started and we were playing great! Given our unprecedented amount of preparation for the gig, everyone was relaxed and having a good time. All the other new tunes came off really well... And then... at the end of the night, after a little over 3 hours of playing a girl requests “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. And John just starts singing it as if he wasn't there in rehearsal when we had to stop 3 times in a row because the song just fell apart. The drums kick in and Reza starts shouting cords at me between the group sining sections...

It was the by far biggest hit of the night. A large group of girls that had been on the other side of the bar came running over and started dancing like well choreographed... well... strippers. That in turn got the guys in the bar interested. And for that night, we were rock stars...

John keeps singing

Somehow we made it through without a train wreck, and then Reza lost his mind and started playing Hazy Shade of Winter in F. F is the key the Bangles (a band of all women) sing it in. Even people like Simon and Garfunkel think that's high... They sing it in D. That meant the last 5 songs of the gig all required John to sing loud and above his range. After a full night of singing he would have been perfectly justified to throw something at Reza, but he decided to sing. And he sounded good. It was an amazing night.

Pictures & Set List

The pics from the night fell victim to our greatness as rock starts. As soon as we started playing the only person with a still camera stopped taking pictures in order to listen/drink/dance. These are the few pics of us during warm up and sound check.

The Band: This is a rare picture. There are only 3 minutes during the entire gig where John isn't behind the keyboard. Somehow this was the only full band picture we got.

Me & Reza: This is me and Reza. Notice I'm sportin a beard. It started when I took a week off from work and forgot to shave... So far I haven't remembered. This picture isnt reflective of the amount of time I spend laughing at near Reza or pretending to sing backup... We'll have to work on getting a picture of that.

Reza is the second greatest guitar player and ever. I'd say the best but he's to modest, and wouldn't accept that. Most of the songs we play are designed to get Reza to a guitar solo. He's been known to use a beer bottle as a slide and there's no one better at building a solo slowly into a frenzy. His 5 minute solo in Whipping post is my favorite.

John: John can cover any style of music as long as he's got a keyboard. He plays awesome solos in Southbound (Allman Brothers) and Jump (Van Halen).

Milosh: Milosh is to cool for this band... Look at him... This is during a warm up tune! Once he gets going its best to give him room.

For posterity this is what I remember of the set list:
Set 1: (warm up set)                Set 4:
Couldn't Stand the Weather Wish You Were Here
Just What I Needed Blind My Eyes (Reza Original)
Margaritaville (didnt go over well)
Set 2: Me Julio Down by the Schoolyard
Crazy Little Thing Called Love (with guest co-drummer)
Hazy Shade of Winter (new) Impression that I get (new)
Sweet Emotion Centerfold
Piano Man Hard To Handle
Every Rose Has Its Thorn Pour Some Sugar on Me
Laid (new) Hazy Shade of Winter (again)
Sweet Home Jenny Says
Fat Bottom Girls Whipping Post
I'm A Believer

Set 3: Also in there somewhere:
Sample in a Jar I'm A Believer (I' pretty sure
Blvd of Broken Dreams (new: we played this twice)
John & Reza started Leave my Woman Alone (new Reza Original
singing Wonderwall over title may be wrong. We learned
milosh. Its basically the it that day, and I only know
same song. ) the chords so far.)
Comfortably Numb
You Shook Me All Night Long
Sweet Child 'o Mine
Summer of '69
Hard Days Night
Freebird to Heaven


Doorbell OFF switch

Have you ever spent 3 hours trying to sooth a crying baby to sleep, and just as you realize things are finally quiet, your neighbor rings the doorbell to return a beer you left in his fridge the previous year, thus waking the recently subdued baby and restarting the marathon baby crying session? No? OK, how about the one where the entire family has a cold, and their all finally sleeping peacefully, and an overzealous delivery guy rings the doorbell 52 times in 7 seconds, waking everyone from a tenuous nap, so he can get you to sign for a pair of socks you ordered online?I've got one of these stories for every day of the week. That's why I invented the doorbell kill switch.

The doorbell OFF switch is a simple switch that I wired into my doorbell. When its in the ON position the doorbell works normally. BUT... When switched to the off position it breaks any possibility of the doorbell circuit ever closing thus giving me the power to keep people from waking a family member from a much needed nap... Unless, of course, the visitor knows how to knock really, really, loud.

Before: A simple unassuming doorbell that can, with a push of a button turn your home from a peaceful comfortable refuge to something more reminiscent of the ninth concentric circle from Dante's Inferno.

During: Fitting the switch looked like it was going to be difficult. There want a lot of room for error. Fortunately Alex was around to say "I want to play Play-Doh!" and several unappealing hours with a compass and a high school geometry book were replaced with a much more practical solution. What your looking at is the inside of the doorbell cover after it was filled with Play-Doh and hung on the wall for a few seconds. The Play-Doh formed around the doorbell internals making it easy to position the switch.

After: It works! A picture doesn't really explain how cool this is. Set it to off, and they can push the doorbell button until their finger falls off... You dont hear a thing! Best of all, our doorbell button has a light in it. When you flip the switch to OFF, the light goes out!


A kid friendly Banister & Shelves

The latest home projects just finished up. I manage to sneak these in on a day off from work. Alex has become very helpful and was a big contributor to these projects. As the title of this entry suggests there were two major categories.

1) A kid friendly banister

This one was Christine's idea. A kid height banister in the garage. Alex did a lot of the work on this one. He kept all the supplies in order, extra screws on hand and even did some of the wood cutting. I was surprised to learn that our stairs descend at 42 degrees instead of the 45 I expected. The banister was cut to be flush with the wall at a 45 degree angle. Those 3 degrees really made the kid banister look silly next to the existing one, so Alex and I needed to do a lot of filing and sanding to get it right.

Before: A set of stairs so precarious, even the cat won't try them.

After: Safe, fun and easy to navigate at any height.

Just after that: Alex decides to give up banisters.

2) Shelves moving and adding

So we have these wire shelves in all our closets, and when you look at a closet with a wire shelf the first thing you think is "I need more of those!" At least that's what Christine thought. I'm glad I remembered the before pictures for these. The difference was suprising. I did

Laundry Closet Before: It's a bit cluttered and that shelf is just a little too high for storing big detergent bottles.

Laundry Closet After: Again, per Christine's suggestion, I lowered the bottom shelf about 6 inches and added a second shelf. Oddly the biggest improvement is that we can keep extra paper towel rolls here instead of the basement.

Hall Closet Before: It's actually pretty dumpy looking, but look at all that extra space neer the ceiling!

Hall Closet After: I added an extra shelf above the existing one. Now the games are out of the way of the day to day things. Unfortunately it looks like we're going to have to run out and get more stuff to fill that empty spot.

That's all for now... Though I see a lot more shelf installation in my future...