The End of SoulShine

Well, we knew it couldn't last forever. Our band is breaking up due to "internal arguments over groupie access, drug distribution, guitar solo length and suckiness of the name". This is how I'll remember the band.

A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr
A photo on Flickr

Reza asking me if I want to play bass in a band
Gigs in my NH basement
Eat The Rich should only be played by Aerosmith
Old bass & practice amp pushed to their limits

Drummer #1 moves to Chicago
Leo's Barn meets Leakyn Out - three barn band
Drummer #2 leaves for Washington Job

The long search for a drummer
Sweet Screamin Jehoshaphat, my next door neighbor is a drummer
First practice in my garage - too hot to breath too loud to open the doors
Whipping Post? maybe...
Stretch is awesome, joins the band

Winter practice in the basement
Space heaters & broken strings
Whipping Post? definitely.
Sweet festering Jehoshaphat our band name sucks
Leakyn Out -> Soulshine

New bass, bigger amp
Starting to sound like a bass player
New songs at every practice
Just What I Needed, Jump, King of Bedside Manor, Piano Man,
Hazy Shade of Winter, Summer of '69, Sweet Emotion
I'm a believer - Oy!

Leo's Barn, meet SoulShine
So cold, So much fun
Reza Originals: Blind My Eyes, Flower, Insanity

Stretch prefers Milosh
Can't seem to stop calling him Stretch

Legends & The Gael House,
Free beer!
John & Reza surprise duet Lullaby - Steve Lynch
Jenny Says, Fat Bottom Girls, Pour some Sugar on Me
College crowd going nuts, dancing girls and bar fights
Guest drummers on Me & Julio

Summer Parties
The Shrek Song
Reza agrees to play a Beatles tune

Song on the radio
"We should totally play that!"
Song on TV
"We should totally play that!"
Someone mentions a song
"We should totally play that!"
Song in a restaurant
"We should totally play that!"

Stretch's Basement
The Mackie; "The switch is in the back."
Take it from the guitar solo
Take it from the part right before the guitar solo
Stupid question: Why don't we ever take it from after the guitar solo?
Time to get ready for the storm

Legends Halloween gig - The girls dressed up
SoulShine Ti Die Banner
More than enough music for four sets
One fall down drunk guy at every gig
Out of work comic heckling. uggh

The Reza becomes Dr. Reza
Whipping Post meets "Doc"
Leave My Woman Alone - Reza Original

I find guest singer for Hotel California
Eddie Money guitar player sits in
Oh Bob, what we done?!?
Just get us to the guitar solo!
I'm no longer allowed to find guest singers

Band gets tight
Four new songs at every practice... easy
Learning a song for the first time at the gig. easy?
"What key are we playing this in?"
Shouting chords across the stage
Eye contact is worth a thousand words
John's piano solos on Southbound - bring down the house

No, Soulshine is not a Christian Rock Band
SoulShine -> Dr. Reza & the Razzletones
Life in the Fast Lane - Paul & John Harmony
Country Request: Amazed & Friends in Low Places
Compensating with Dominated Love Slave
Life in the Fast Lane Reprise (full song in 3:30)

Dr. Reza & the Razzletones -> SoulShine
Outside gig 102 degrees
Professional sound guys
Six foot woofers and speakers everywhere
Dancing, pouring water, debauchery

Reza's moving to Michigan
Damn Right I Got the Blues
Practice in my new basement - soundproofing works
Wish you Were Here
Legends one last try
Playing through all the music in my basement hours before the gig
Mackie, speakers, cables, monitors, guitars, drums, piano... in 2 cars
Stretch gets his big crowd
Sweet Child intro... finally
Guest drummer & Stretch is an awesome front man
Whipping Post (extended version)
Crowd screaming, shoulder to shoulder up against the monitors, encores
We were SoulShine

Reza and the Razzletones

Holiday Gift Giving Logistics

Each year we donate toys to Toy's for Tots. Christine and I started before the kids were born and its turned into an annual tradition. We keep alert for the Disney Stores 2 for 1 sale just before Christmas and then go on a Toy's For Tots Shopping spree. Its a lot of fun because we get to do the sort of gratuitous shopping that we'd never do for ourselves. Sort of an over-indulgence rush, but justified because its for needy kids.

In the past two years Alex has been especially helpful at showing us the right toys to pick out. Things we'd never thought to buy are his first choice. As Alex got older I thought it would become hard to get him to pick out toys for other kids without begging us to get toys for him as well. But so far he's been great! He gets excited about picking out the toys and then helps me bring them in to drop them off. This year he dutifully picked out toys (like a kid going crazy in a toy store), and as we were driving home he kept reminding me that "We need to bring the toys to the other kids."

This year a combination of the flu, colds and the Disney store holding out on their sale till the last minute caused us to miss the cutoff date for bringing toys to Toy's for Tots. Christine and I made a lot of calls but the bottom line was it was too late to give to Toys for Tots. We quickly started looking around for alternative places to donate. Christine found the Wheat Center which is providing toys for 750 kids, and I found a no kill cat shelter that was "desperately" in need of kitten food. So what seemed like a bunch of bad events turned out for the best. While Toy's for Tots is a great program, it was nice to be able to donate to specific local groups where we knew we were actually helping out people & kittens in our neighborhood.

An Inconvenient Truth

I've read a small sample of scientific literature and listened to several interviews of scientists that made it clear that global warming is a reality. The science didn't seem all that complicated and so I thought I got it: Global warming is a problem. We caused it and we need to do something about it. But boy did I have the scale of the problem wrong.

I just watched An Inconvenient Truth. In this documentary Al Gore takes the science of global warming and boils it down (no pun intended) into very simple presentation with only one terrifying conclusion. The scale of this problem is profound. It eclipses all of the problems we face today because left unchanged it will it be the genesis of such cataclysmic environment change as to create disease, famine and war like we have never known. It will reshape the land on which we live. And will happen very quickly. That was the part that surprised me. I could eat McDonald's once a week for the rest of my life and I'll likely live long enough to be killed by a side effect of global warming. Here's the Trailer...

I'm all for being skeptical, but the argument presented is very well structured and scientists (the ones that aren't paid by oil companies) are lining up to support the data and conclusions in this documentary. If your looking for a credible skeptic, check out this TED talk. Michael Shermer is a professionals debunker/skeptic who though global warming was a hoax until he saw a presentation of this material.

The documentary presents an apocalyptic outcome if we fail to act, but also describes the technology, that we already have, which is capable of fixing the problem. The thing that has been missing is the political will. The description on Google video said it best "The film is not a story of despair but rather a rallying cry." If your one of the 5 people that read my blog I strongly encourage you to see the movie (available on DVD) and then share it with someone else.

There are suggestions on how you can take action at and Over the next two months I'm going to look into ways to reduce my own carbon footprint and see how many I can actually make a reality. It should be fun. We'll see how far a some science and little creativity can go.

Moving Day

Alex Conner and Paul taking apart the guest bed When Christine and I asked Alex if he wanted to share a room with Conner he emphatically said yes. A little surprised we asked again and again over a few weeks, but Alex persisted. Both boys have a tendency to wake up at different times and we rarely go a full night without one of them waking up and to say that Conner is a light sleeper is to understate his sleep habits severely. The the idea of them waking each other had Christine and I hesitant to put them in the same room. But Alex was excited, and Conner always seems happy when Alex is around so we finally did it.

Last Saturday Alex moved in. Alex started by moving his toy house and then Alex, Conner and I moved the guest bed out and Alex's bed in. The bed time story chair quickly followed. That night we put the kids to bed in the same room at 7pm. Conner cried lightly for about a minute and then... quiet... The minutes ticked away... Christine and I just kept staring at each other in wonder. Surely Alex would roll over and wake Conner and then Conner would cry and wake Alex and we would spend the rest of the night putting them back to bed.

They slept for 12 hours. The next two nights were the same. I never would have believed it if we hadn't experienced it... They sleep better when they're in the same room.

Here's a Flickr Slideshow lite of the big move.

What do you want for Christmas?

Christmas is the season of giving, but the month leading up to Christmas is also the season of friends and family asking "What do you want for Christmas?" In the past few years I've struggled to come up with answers that satisfy because Smartwool Socks and Used Soundtracks don't seem to bring the right level of giving joy to my family. My answers tend to make them a little grumpy. All except for Reza because to him the absence of an answer means he can be creative and I'll probably end up wearing a pink bunny suit.

This year I'm asking for things from the these groups [store] - Ubuntu [store] - Firefox [store] - WikiPedia [store] - Audacity [store] - NPR [store]. All year long I've been getting thought provoking ideas, tools, hobbies, education and entertainment from these groups. When I think of things I want for Christmas they are the first things that come to mind.

It used to bug me that I couldn't really ask for them for Christmas since they are social movements, open source software and/or free. Then it occurred to me that I can support them by asking for and wearing some of the cool threads they sell on their website. All of a sudden there is no shortage of things I want for Christmas and I'm excited about asking for this stuff because supporting these groups makes me happy. Plus they have some cool logos.

So we'll see how it goes. I have a feeling I'm going to really enjoy opening presents this year. Of course I still have my fingers crossed for the socks.


Last week Christine and I went to Bermuda for a 5 days before Thanksgiving. Grandma and Grandpa came out and watched the kids while we had our 5th anniversary/Paul's almost graduated vacation. Flying out was supposed to take 2 hours, but half way there the pilot discovered the radio required to fly into international airspace was broken. Oddly Delta is unable to test such a radio until they actually get close to international space. Sounds to me like an excellent place for them to build some new test equipment. Anyway after 8 hours we arrived.


It turned out that we lasted about 24 hours before we started missing the kids a lot. On the way back we got delayed for a day which should be a warning to anyone we ask to watch our kids that acts of nature tend to cause our vacations to be extended regardless of our eagerness to get home.

While we were there we did learn a few things:

  • It is staggeringly expensive in Bermuda. $25 for an egg toast and small cup of coffee and about $1 per minute in a cab.
  • Bermuda has some of the most educated taxi drivers in the world. The one that drove us from the airport to the hotel was also the principal of one of their public grammar schools.
  • Native Bermudians are incapable of rushing.
  • Bermuda has an extremely diverse population. In the US its common to see people grouping themselves by class (low / middle / uber rich) and by race. There are exceptions and in my experience these exceptions are a good thing, but they are not common. In Bermuda the Uber rich were there but out of site. They have this sort of gated part of the island where Bill Gates and some famous movie stars have mansions. There is no poverty that I could determine.  So the middle class is all that's left, and no matter where we went on the island it was as common to see people of different races together as it was to see people same race groups. And everyone seemed to get along just fine. It was surprising and refreshing to see that at least somewhere people were getting past racial divides.
  • Bermuda has this great way of showing were you can park and where you can't. Instead of using street signs they paint double yellow lines on the street to show where you can not park. Its was a clear simple solution. Of course it relies on their complete lack of snow.
  • Delta's radio quality control sucks. We found out that the radio that broke on our way out there had broken a few days before and forced them to turn around that time as well.
  • You can get some
    great pictures out the window of a plain just before it flies into jaw dropping turbulence.
  • There's no place like home.

Trick or Treat

IMG_5241 For the past two weeks Alex has been asking the following question, "How many days is it until Halloween?"  Then he'd ask me to go over and count the days on the calendar we have hanging in the kitchen. This happened at least once a day. He was really excited to dress up as a pumpkin (his idea) and go Trick-or-Treating. When Halloween finally arrived we all got dressed up and went house to house. Alex would knock on the door and then hide off to the side of the door where people couldn't see him. When they came to the door he would jump out and surprise them. It was really funny to watch. He looked like someone from Mission Impossible knocking on the door and expertly pressing himself up against the house so as to disappear from view. Conner (aka Superman) and I hung back from the door and talked about Trick-or-Treat techniques and "Ba". Someday I'm hoping he'll tell me what "Ba" means.  At each house after getting candy and saying "thank you", Alex immediately turned to us and said, "Can we go trick-or-treat at another house?"  When we returned home Alex poured out his bag of candy and decided that he is a big fan of Nerds Candy and was happy to share with Christine.

Just before going to bed Alex asked me if we could go Trick-or-Treating again tomorrow. I explained that it only happens once a year, and he seemed OK with that. This morning he came into my room and woke me up with the question, "Daddy how many days is it to Christmas?"

Click Here for Our Halloween Picture Slideshow

Guest Speaking at Alex's School

IMG_5279 Each month Alex's class learns about a style of music. This month it's Jazz and I was invited to come into the class and talk to the class about some jazz instruments. On Wednesday 2006-10-19 I had the honor of being a guest speaker at Alex's School. I brought in a Soprano, Alto and Tenor Saxophone and a Trombone. I explained that jazz was a style and showed them how to play some familiar songs straight ad with a jazz feel. Christine suggested showing them playing a song slow and fast which went over very well. They clearly preferred fast as well as a little improvisation. Having played a for many types of audiences, I can comfortably say that the kids in Alex's class (3 to 5 year olds) were the best audience ever. As soon as I started improving or diverging from the melody they start cheering!

Alex was my assistant. He showed the other kids how to work the saxophone cases, and saved me from playing the soprano while it still had the pad saver in it. [Playing a sax that still has a pad saver is analogous to walking down stairs and getting to the bottom floor and then taking one more step as if you were still going down. ] He also requested I play Old McDonnald Had A Farm which was a big hit. After I talked about the saxes and played a few songs (Row Row Row your boat, Jingle Bells and a few others) I took out the trombone and let the kids (one at a time) work the slide while I provided the wind power. Alex showed the other kids how this worked and most of the 30 kids gave it a try. Friends and Family can see the pictures here if you're logged into flickr.

When the visit was done it was the usual gig breakdown of the equipment. The big difference was Alex was there to help. He helped take the instruments apart, put the pad saves back in and store them in the cases. It went a lot faster with his help.

It was a blast to visit Alex's class. I was blown away by how well behaved they were. Thirty kids sat in a circle for about 40 minutes. They listened, asked questions shared stories and seemed to have a lot of fun.

The Swing Set

For Alex and Conner's Birthday a bunch of relatives chipped in and we got them a swing set. It came in a bunch of boxes with pieces of wood, metal and plastic. Oh yeah, and about 1000 nuts, bolts and screws (weight ~ 30 lb). The instructions stated that it should take two adults approximately 6 hours. This is the tale of how the swingset was put together and how the instructions are a festering load of feted dingos kidneys!

The person that wrote the instructions is probably still laughing. Let's just do a little math. There are 21,600 seconds in 6 hours. That gives you 21.6 seconds to identify, line up and fasten each nut, bolt, washer, lock washer, screw and inset bolt [33 different types and sizes all delivered in one big bag. For clarity sake here are some example sizes of the screws: 1", 1 1/4", 1 1/2", 1 3/4", 2", 2 1/4" all the way up to 3 1/2"]. As you can imagine it's really easy to determine which is which at a quick glance. The 21.6 seconds assumes that there is something there to screw into or together and that you're not stopping to drink beer. There were something like 200 pieces of wood, metal and plastic that needed to be sorted, and assembled with the fasteners above. Here's what it looked like out of the box:



So unless you're part of an Indy 500 pit crew, 6 hours is a criminally negligent estimate. Reza and I started the swing set and were able to get two of the walls together in the first few hours. Within one week we had the swings up, just in time for Alex's birthday. I continued to plug away at the ladders, tower floor and walls intermittently over the next few weeks with help from John, Reza and Christine. One weekend I put the roof panels together. Thankfully, Pepere, Uncle Ron and Uncle Joe were in town and were able to help me persuade one of the roof panels into place. In this context persuade is equivalent to the way you move a house 2 inches to the left.


A few weeks passed and I put together the slide with Alex's help. The instructions said I needed to dig a 12" hole for the slide support post. Here's a picture of Alex in the hold I dug [~3 feet deep]. I ended up having to cut the support post with a hack saw because 3 feet was still too shallow. Again, they are probably still laughing.



Victory was achieved last weekend when Reza and I raised the roof and poured the cement for the slide. So 6 hours and 2 guys was closer to 7.5 weeks with 5 guys, one wife and a small but helpful child.


Alex and Conner love the swings and Alex can't get enough of the slide which makes it all worth it.

The Red Sox Game

On July 29th I went to a Red Sox game for Andy's (one of our former drummers) bachelor party. We sat in the stands and the sun blazed above us and slowly moved from just left of directly in front and above us to just right of there. The game went 11 innings, it was really hot and worth every minute when the Sox beat the Angels. We even made it on TV. The black dot indicated by the arrow is Andy. I was sitting three seats to his right.


Two weeks later a guy I work with named Chris took a picture at a night six game just a few rows behind where we were sitting. As you can see we had a really good view.

Fenway Sunset

Fenway at night

Google NavBar & Toggle Google

I just release an update to the Google NavBar & Toggle Google Homepage Module. This is the module that:

  • Lets you hide the search bar and save most of the real estate at the top of the personalized google homepage.
  • Let you selectively add useful links to the top of the homepage.

About two weeks ago the existing module stopped as a result of some updates google made to their personalized home page. Their changes were pretty cool and made it much easier to make the Google NavBar & Toggle Google Module work. While I was in the code updating it to work with the new hompage internal layout, I made some additional changes.

  • Added Docs & Spreadsheets and removed writely and spreadheets as individual links
  • Added the ability to configure the top right of the page so you can get rid of the Classic Home link that I never use.
  • Changed the name of the module from Toggle Google to Google NavBar & Toggle Google homepage module.
  • Note: you need to put in your google username if you want your email address to show up at the top of the page. I'm trying to find a way to make it automatic, but so far no luck.

Taking Home Movies on the Road: Converting Video for an ipod

I've been doing a lot of business travel lately and decided to take some of our home movies along with me on my video ipod. It wasn't as easy I had hoped. iTunes doesn't recognize .avi files, so they first need to be converted into mp4 files. Then once they're in iTunes, they need to be converted again in order to play on the ipod. The steps below explain how to convert a video. As tedious as it is, If you have to sit on a away from your family, there's nothing better than bringing some home movies of the kids along for the ride.

  1. Install Video Lan. Its an Open Source Video tool that does just about everything you could want to do to video.
  2. Put the following all on one line in a .bat file in the same directory as the source AVI. Either Rename the source AVI to SOURCEFILE.AVI or edit that name in the line below.
    "C:\Program Files\VideoLAN\VLC\vlc" "./SOURCEFILE.AVI" :sout="#transcode{vcodec=h264, vb=512, acodec=mp4a, ab=128, channel=2, audio-sync}:std{access=file, mux=mp4,url="./OUTPUTFILE.mp4"}" --sout-transcode-width=320 --sout-transcode-height=240 --aspect-ratio=width:height

  3. Run the bat file
  4. Import the resulting OUTPUTFILE.mp4 into iTunes
  5. In iTunes right click on OUTPUTFILE.mp4 and select "Convert Selection for iPod"
  6. Delete the original from itunes (use Right Click ->Get Info to determine which is which. keep the one in the iTunes directory)
  7. If updating your iPod from a playlist be sure to copy the new (converted) video into your playlist.

My First Bumper Sticker

Stewart Colbert 08 bumper sticker

Nothing says "I am ashamed of you my government" more than "Stewart/Colbert '08" - John Stewart 2006-10-08    Source

I put my first bumper sticker on my car today. It's funny and sad at the same time. I really hope there's someone worth voting for in '08. Google Home Page Module Update

I discovered a limitation in the JSON API that was causing my module to drop some of my older bookmarks. Basically it was only giving me the latest 100 tags, and apparently I now have more that 100 bookmarks. So I've upgraded the module to support up to 100 tags with 100 posts per tag using some background AJAX calls.

There are also a few usability changes:

  • When you click on a tag it will display the bookmarks for that tag. If you click on it again the bookmarks will be hidden. I've done away with the little -- link that used to hide the bookmarks.

  • You now have the option to display or not display images next to the bookmark links

  • You get to make a decision about saving something like 10kb from going over the Internet. This is for bit huggers (like tree huggers but much more silly) only. Leave it checked and the module will work faster.

More information and a link to install the module are available here

Meet Tweety

I came home from work today to find our pride of cats (currently Tom and Jerry) has grown by one. Meet Tweety! (pictures)

Update 2006-09-21: I forgot to mention that Alex picked Tweety out. He went with Christine and Conner, even looked at puppies, and then said "Lets go get your kitty mommy". Then he picked Tweety out of a group of kittens. We talked it over and Alex agreed that Tweety is his kitty. I wonder if this gets me out of cat litter duty...

Flickr Slideshow Lite Gets an Upgrade

While sitting in an airport with Mike Lepore we got to talking about how Flickr doesn't support RSS feeds for Photosets. They have RSS feeds for individual images, but we're much more interested in when our friends post sets. It only took a few minutes but Mike came up with a way to make an RSS feed for a user's Flickr Photosets using the existing FLickr API and some know how. He had it online a few days later and with his permission I've integrated it into Flickr SlideShow Lite. So now when you look up a users sets, not only do you get a list of the sets, but also an RSS link so you can incorporate the feed into your favorite RSS reader.

While I was at it I made a few other updates to Flickr Slideshow Lite:

  • Flickr Slideshow Lite has been moved to a new home that will persist when I graduate
  • Toggle Google has been updated to use the new server
  • The Thumbnail view now has forward and back navigation buttons
  • The lookup page clears as soon as you start looking something up instead of leaving the old results behind
  • And of course, Mike's RSS feeds are available on the lookup and slideshow page

Share and Enjoy!

Conner is the Travelling Man

When I left for work in the morning Conner was crawling around the kitchen. At 3pm Christine sent me a version of this video.

Aye, preparin' for Talk Like A Pirate Day

Aye, International Talk Like a Pirate Day 2006 is this commin' Tuesday September 19th. Each year this holday sneaks up me like a rat in the lower decks... Aye, so as not t' miss this holiday and the oportunity t' say ARRRRR again, I've decided t' prepare by watchin' this talk like a pirate 'ideo Gar, Where can I find a bottle o'rum?

Happy Birthday Emily Jane!

Emily Jane Russell was born on September 10th at 2:40pm making me an uncle and turning my brother into a giddy smiling nutter. And rightfully so...

John has a bunch of details and a video on his blog.

Open Mic at the Stage Coach Inn 2006-03-17

On March 17th 2006 I went to see Beth Favini & friends play at the Stage Coach Inn open mic in Groton, MA. Beth performed a bunch of covers as well as two

brilliant originals called "This Full Heart" and "Songs My Daddy Sang". Here are some video's & pictures from that night.

Beth Favini Live @ Stage Coach: Part 1

Are You To Me - Eastmountainsouth performed by (left to right) Beth Favini, Mary Carter, Ann Finch, John Russell (violin)

Beth Favini Live @ Stage Coach: Part 2

Find The Cost of Freedom - Crosby Stills Nash & Young performed by (left to right) Joe Favini (guitar), Beth Favini, Mary Carter

and Ann Finch

Beth Favini Live @ Stage Coach: Part 3

Come To Jesus - Mindy Smith performed by (left to right) Joe Favini (electric guitar), Beth Favini and Mary Carter

Beth Favini Live @ Stage Coach: Part 4

Helplessly hoping - Crosby Stills Nash & Young performed by (left to right) Beth Favini, Mary Carter and Ann Finch


Time Laps Beer The World Revolves Around John Paul and Christine

Reza & John Crash Beth's Open Mic

Kathy's Song and Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard - Simon & Garfunkel Reza was not originally scheduled to play, but he

slipped in at the last minute. John was his usual rock star self and per popular demand sat in for me and Julio.

Beth Favini Live @ Stage Coach: Part 5

Long Ride Home - Patty Griffin performed by Beth Favini and Leo Green

Beth Favini Live @ Stage Coach: Part 6

This is a recording of two originals she debuted that night This Full Heart and Songs My Daddy Sang.

Beth Favini Live @ Stage Coach: Part 7

Conversation and Cactus Tree by Joni Mitchell performed by Beth Favini

Beth Favini Live @ Stage Coach: Part 8

Sometimes - Jonathan Edwards performed by Beth Favini

Conner Takes a Walk

I came home from work to find Conner pushing this car around the kitchen. He went from crawling to a close impression of my lawn mowing style in just over a month. At this rate he should be able to fly by Thanksgiving.

Alex Critiques Conner's Evolving Dexterity

Alex, Conner and Christine are sitting at the table having lunch. Christine is holding Conner's sippy cup to his lips so he can take a drink. He grabs both handles and she lets go:

"Look Alex!" Christine says excitedly. "Conner's drinking from his cup all by himself.

Alex looks at Conner for a second then says, "Hey Conner, very impressive!"

iPod Smackdown

A few days ago, my iPod stopped working. It kept displaying a sad face icon and then shutting off. I tried the remedies suggested at and having no success with my resurrection attempts I started checking prices for a new iPod.

The next day I saw an article titled How To Fix an iPod with the Sad iPod Icon on It's a funny read that boils down to the following: If your iPod stops working and the steps suggested at don't work then give it a good smack and it will probably start working.

That night Christine, Alex and I were hanging out and I noticed my broken iPod lying lifelessly on the counter. A quick check confirmed it was still broken. So I gave it a smack...

Now it works, but I'm not sure how to explain why its OK for Daddy to hit his toys.

Alex and the Library Card

Last week I tried to request a book from the MA online library system and got an error message that said "There is a problem with your library record. Please see a librarian."

As I was driving by the library with Alex today I noticed that they would be open tomorrow. So I asked Alex if he wanted to go with me.

Me: Hey Alex. Would you like to go to the library with me tomorrow?

Alex: Why?

Me: Because there is something wrong with my library card and I have to ask the librarian what the problem is.

Alex: (after a pause) Maybe its bent.

4th of July Weekend 2006

Last weekend was a blast. In no particular order here are some of the major events.

conner starts crawling
Conner started Crawling!

lego ship
Alex and I put together a Lego Star Wars ship. He helped with all 194 pieces! We didn't get a picture of the actual putting it together because we were too deep in thought.

me conner and Paula Abdul
I had a brush with fame at an American Idol Karaoke competition! This is me with the Paula Abdul look alike!

karaoke reactions
The quality of the karaoke singing was difficult to describe in words. This picture sums it up.

Paul's Poker Face
On the 4th of July night I played Hokm. Given the current political climate, there was a strange irony playing an Iranian card game while there were 4th of July fireworks going off in the distance. Of course when I shared that with my grandmother she put it all in perspective saying "We're all immigrants." On a lighter note, here you can see I've been working on my poker face.

Flickr Slideshow lite (because my grandmother has dialup)






Flickr Slideshow lite is a lightweight web based Flickr slideshow viewer. (IMHO) It improves over the official Flickr flash based slideshow in a few important ways:

  • Works over dial up (Uses DHTML and AJAX instead of Flash)
  • Photo titles and captions are displayed under the pictures!
  • Large clickable thumbnails jump to photos!
  • Slideshow title page displays the main image, set title and description
  • Click on a photo to open its flickr photo page in a new window
  • Slideshows can be bookmarked & emailed as links!
  • Choose your own speed for variable speed slideshow
  • Useful context sensitive links: flickr's set page, set owners flickr page, other sets
  • Easily lookup slideshows by flickr username

Flickr Slideshow lite is currently hosted on my school server account but I'm not sure how long that will last as I'm getting close to graduating. That or they are going to throw me out of school for sticking around too long.

I did this project for my wife, my grandmother and as a final project for a class I'm was taking.
The code is all licensed under the CC-GNU LGPL. It involved a lot of standing on the shoulders of
giants and ideas and support from my family so it seemed right to make it available to everyone.
I offered the code to Flickr free of charge. They politely declined.
Gretuitous details of ever step of this project are available on the
Flickr Slideshow lite about page.

Share and enjoy!

Toggle Google Homepage Module

I completed a new module for the Personalized Google Homepage. This one allows you to recoup the space at the top of the screen by hiding the google search bar. It also lets you select from a bunch of predefined quick navigation links that you can have appear at the top of the page. The documentation and installer can be found on the Toggle Google Homepage Module homepage.

This module does not work in IE. I took a quick survey of likely users including myself and couldn't find one that used IE. Incidentally, 50% of those surveyed stated that IE users were communists. Perhaps McCarthy (that raving nutter) was right. Anyway, unless someone asks, this module will remain a Firefox only module.

Share and Enjoy

Prophet of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Appears on my Pancake

IMG_1700 The story of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has regularly been misinterpreted as the parable of a dinner time deity. But this can no longer be the case. On a recent Sunday morning, as my family sat down to eat home made pancakes, we witnessed the appearance of the Prophet of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (PotFSM) in pancake form. I knew immediately that it was the PotFSM because pursuant to the 7th "I'd Really Rather You Didn't" of the gospel of the FSM, I didn't hear any voices. Also I had a brief vision of a Pirate saying "Arrrrrrg".

I was immediately struck by two primitive conflicting urges: Hunger and Greed. On the one hand I could slather the PotFSM in syrup and satisfy a temporary desire for carbohydrates. On the other hand, I could sell the PotFSM on eBay and probably make a few grand. Just think:

This auction is to save the pancakieness of one 2 inch pancake bearing the resemblance of the Prophet of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. If my minimum bid of $10,000 is not met by noon Thursday I shall cover the PotFSM in faux maple syrup and feast on his likeness.

The PotFSM will remain in my freezer until one of these desires gets the better of me.

I Just Want To Sit On My Couch

The past few months have been really busy. A reunion band gig with new music, installing wide plank hardwood floors at Reza’s new house, finishing school XML & J2EE (not so hard, but lots of time), the Grant Thingy, finishing the office, prepping the other half of the basement for finishing over this weekend, and finally 3 days of construction on the basement. I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting some stuff.

Anyway... Monday, all my relatives had gone home and Christine and the kids were taking a nap. I was eager to sit back and relax for the first time in months. Unfortunately the handle to the lever that causes my couch to recline had been broken at some point in the past few months. So I went down to my new workshop, found the right tools, pulled apart the couch and fixed the recliner release.

Just as I was finishing Christine and the kids woke up and it was time to go to John’s Beer Can Chicken BBQ. When we got home I put Conner to bed, and Christine started Alex’s bedtime ritual. This was it! I was going to sit on my couch and relax for the first time in months! And there was goin to be no guilt about having something else I should be doing…

Then I remembered the garbage needed to be put at the curb. Just finish that and I can sit on the couch... So I went out to the garage put together 5 large bags of garbage. There was a lot extra from the construction. As I was putting the last bag down at the curb, something sticking out of the bag scraped the front of my right leg and I bled all over my new sneakers…

At this point I’m thinking... Crap... Now I need to find a way to sit on the couch without bleeding all over it. So I walked inside got some paper towels, and made myself confortable on the couch. Ahhhhhhh finally here I was sitting in my reclining couch!

About 15 minutes later Christine came down, saw the pile of bloody paper towels and yelled at me for not going to the doctor. I explained that it was just a scratch but she would have none of it, going as far as to call my neighbors to help ridicule me into going to the doctors. It’s a good thing I have a wife that loves me because there was no way I was getting of that couch of my own free will.

So I drove to the emergency room. The doctors & nurses were all very nice and happened to be the same group that was on duty during a previous visit to the ER for Conner. They gave me 6 stitches while I helped one of the nurses with a computer problem she was having (something about video codecs and windows XP).

I finally got home at ~11pm popped in the X-men 1 DVD and reclined on my couch. It was worth the wait.

Reza and the Razzletones

Reza and the Razzletones
The band formerly known as Soulshine reunited after a winter break to play a local birthday party gig. Since we hadn’t played much in the past few months we had a rehearsal before the gig. The intent was to play though our old tunes, and make sure we were solid. Instead we just kept starting new songs. This was mostly Reza’s fault as he kept starting new tunes instead of playing the old ones. Still. I have no complaints. The new tunes (save the country) are pretty cool. I even get to sing a little on the Eagles tune.

New Tunes

  • Sunshine of your Love
  • Life in the Fast Lane
  • Feel like Makin Love
  • Takin Care of Business
  • Amazed by Lonestar (That was a request from the people that hired us.)
  • Friends in low places (They like country)
  • Dominated Love Slave by Green Day (cause we don’t like country)

After much whining about how silly Soulshine is as a name I have decided that we shall hence forth be known as Reza and the Razzletones.

Alex and The Morning

Alex has been getting up in the morning and coming into our bedroom:

Tuesday, 6:13am: Alex climbs into my bed and asks me to bring him downstairs. Half awake I say "Sure, I'll help you down". He climbs down from the bed, walks around to my side and reaches his hand up to my face. "What are you doing?" I ask. "Helping you out of bed."

Wednesday (some ridiculously early hour): Alex sneaks into our room, stands right in front of my sleeping face and says (as if I were totally awake and responding to him, which I wasn't) "Daddy, let's go downstairs!" Slowly I wake, and in an effort to keep him from waking Christine, I strike a bargain with him. "Ok Alex, I'm going to hop in the shower and when I get out I'll take you downstairs. Can you go play in your room till I get out of the shower?" He replies "Sure!", makes his way down the hall to his room and closes the door. A few seconds later he opens his door and sees that I'm still in bed. He walks down the hall, gets right in front of my face again and says "Daddy, get in the shower."


Google Homepage Modules and Fame

Over the past few months I've put together a few Google Modules. A Flickr picture viewer, a bookmark display, and a 30 Boxes calendar viewer. I put a fair amount of time into them to make sure they were robust and full featured. These were basically for myself and my family, and there turned out to be some was modest interest from other people on the net.

When Google came out with their calendar my family quickly pushed to cut over from 30 boxes to Google's Calendar. They were like a force of nature sending invites every few minutes till I gave in. I think this is payback for all the tech I push on them. The thing is the 30 boxes module I wrote put all my calendar events on my Google home page where I would see them and it worked really well. But Google has yet to release a Calendar Home Page module.

I found that with some minor changes and the removal of a bunch of the cooler recurring event features I had added, the 30 boxes module could be converted to work for Google's Calendar. So I made the changes in about 15 minutes and threw it up on the web.

Unlike the other Modules I've written, the Google Calendar Module wasn't tested much and definitely wasn't robust. Based on the changes I made I knew it didn't work except in the most specific situations. It was meant as a stop gap so that I could move over from 30 Boxes to Google Calendar and share info with family before Google released a real calendar module. I'm sure
they will any minute now. There were a bunch of threads on talking about the lack of a calendar module, so I posted a link to the module homepage and told people they could use it as a short term stop gap...

So here I am, I've put a lot of time into writing some really robust modules, and the one I don't test and know doesn't work all that well gets posted to (not by me) and then makes the front page! 600 digg's and going... Pretty cool huh? My 5 minutes of internet fame ;) I guess branding helps. I called it the "Unofficial Google Calendar Homepage Module". Perhaps I should go into marketing?

A few days after it hit digg I started getting contacted by developers interested in getting it to work with recurring events. Oddly they started emailing me at my actual email address as opposed to the throwaway one I published on my module website. Privacy on the net is dead. I'm not sure it ever lived. Anyway, I traded ideas with one guy in particular and in a few days he was able to take the module and seems close to getting recurring events working. Here's a link to his version of the module

I like this open source development thing. You have an idea and other people build on it. You need something you can build on other peoples stuff. Its all very friendly and mutually supportive. Best of all I get my google calendar module and still have time to finish my homework.


Projects Lessons Learned: Advice From My Dad

My father gives great advice. Shortly after the basement raising he sent me this email. With no shortage of projects I'd probably be in the middle of all of them if not for this email.

From: My Dad

To: my brother & me

Date: Jan 3, 2006

Subject: Projects - Lessons Learned

Now that you have moved into the realm of "major" projects, you may
benefit from some of my lessons learned the hard way.

  1. Define the scope of the project very clearly before you begin. This
    will prevent scope creep and force you to finish.

  2. Always finish a project completely before you move on to another
    project. (See why rule 1 is important!) The most obvious aspect of a
    "do-it-yourself-project" is that it is always unfinished. Normally this
    is in some form of details (like a piece of molding or something). I
    have seen it get as bad as a floor or a ceiling. You will never go back
    to the project to finish it. You will never feel like you accomplished

  3. Always document infrastructure changes. This is particularly
    important for electrical and plumbing changes. Make detailed wiring
    diagrams of any changes and keep them. I use Home Architect. It works
    great. You can use anything. Visio is also good. Make the documentation
    part of step 1 scope statement. Trust me!

  4. The only real difference between a professional and a good
    do-it-yourselfer is speed and specialization. A do-it-yourselfer will
    take more time (researching how, finding parts etc and using standard
    rather than specialized tools). If you want to get good results, accept
    the fact that it will take you longer than a professional. Professionals
    sub out parts of jobs. Guys frame and guys sheetrock and guys tape but
    they are never the same guys. A do-it-yourselfer has to be able to do it
    all. It is not that hard. You just have to accept the fact that each
    skill is new and approach each one as an activity in and of itself. The
    benefit, in my experience, is that you actually get what you want and
    sometimes do it better than a standard pro.

  5. A new tool is not always the best answer. Some tools are best rented.
    Most are not necessary. If you are going to buy a tool, buy the best you
    can afford. Always buy a known brand. Make sure the commodities that
    make it go are readily available (nails, screws, oil etc). Sometimes the
    start of a project is a good time for a tool purchase if it will enable
    a faster or more professional job. I bought my detail nailer when we
    decided to re-do all the molding and install crown molding in our house.
    I completed three doors using the nail and hammer and concluded (1) a
    detail nailer is really better functionally than a hand hammer for
    molding (if you are going to do enough) and (2) unless I had a helper or
    a third hand, a detail nailer was essential. Volume normally dictates
    when a tool is required. There is nothing we did cutting the 2x4 that
    could not be done very easily with a hand saw (if you have a decent one
    and know how to use it) or a jig saw like John's. Most do-it-yourselfers
    will announce that they need a chop saw to do the job. [ Note from Paul: He is totally talking about me here. It took him a few weeks to talk me out of a chop saw. The table saw he convinced me to buy instead is one of the most useful tools I own. ] Although is
    possible to justify a chop saw for the task, unless you are going to do
    a lot of cut-off work over the years, the work can be easily
    accomplished with a circular saw and a template - or a Jig saw and a
    template or a hand saw and some know-how. In my opinion, a circular saw
    and a template is the most accurate approach and is only slightly more
    labor intensive than a chop saw (and I mean slightly).


Little Projects

Reader Notice: I started this blog so I could look back in a few years and see where all the time went. At some point a bunch of people started reading it. Some of you I know, and others of you are distant relatives of people I don't know. For those of you that are not me, be forewarned that this is one of those entries for me to look back on. You're welcome to keep reading, but really, if your not me, this isn't meant for you.

The past several weeks have been really busy with big and little projects:

  • Repaired Alex's chair: Alex has a kid sized table and chair set. One of the chairs was wobbly and needed to be tightened for the second time. We took it apart one morning. I held the chair and he unscrewed all the screws. Then we put goopy stuff ( a.k.a. glue) on the screws and tightened it back up. Alex did almost all the work. I like having a helper.

  • Backdoor Screen: Its warming up outside so I dug through the land fill that is the unfinished portion of my basement and found the backdoor sliding screen. It was a 2 second install. Reza actually helped. I think he was hurt that I had taken it down for the winter. I could have had something to do with his involvement in my induction into the screen spliners guild.

  • Basement Ceiling: John Reza and I installed a ceiling in my basement room. I had estimated the project at 3 hours. It took 15, and we worked fast.

  • Elliptical Machine: Conner and I picked up an elliptical machine form sears and stumbled on a place that was able to fix my watch. After finishing the ceiling Reza put it together. I'm not sure where he got the energy. I could barely move.

  • Seiko Watch Sizing: Christine gave me this really cool kinetic watch for Christmas. It has a metal band so I went out and got watch repair tools and learned how to size it. Unfortunately when I size it its either too tight or too loose. I called Seiko to ask them if they had a solution. Their answer was a bit odd. Before I had even finished explaining the situation, the Seiko rep (a very nice woman) finished my explanation of the problem and went on to explain that this has been a problem for as long as she has worked at Seiko. "Ten years ago they had this kit for sale that you could use to fix that, but they stopped selling it." The place Conner and I found was able to put a new clasp on the watch that allowed for more granular resizing.

  • Curtains: I put up curtains in our Family Room, Kitchen, and Living Room.

  • Replaced the printer and DVD player: Our printer and DVD player gave out the same time. Getting new ones was easy, but the DVD player we got required a different type of audio cable. I learned that co-axial cables can have RCA end connectors... Who knew??? The strange thing about the new printer is that when I try print a PDF it sometimes hangs and then a day or two later the PDF prints out. yesterday I went to print something and just before my PDF printed a list of games Cristine tried to print a few days earlier startred printing.

  • Recycling: We recycle about 3x as much stuff as we throw away. In our house that's a lot of stuff. One of my chores is to sort it all out and take it to the recycling center on weekends. The recycling center is maned by volunteers. When Alex and Conner get older I'd like to take them there to volunteer.

  • Fixed kitchen drawer that had come off its track

  • Spent a Saturday morning at the Car dealership having our car serviced. I brought a laptop with me, and while they didn't have an Internet connection, I still got a bunch done by reading ruby ri documentation

  • Mounted 3 dressers to the wall so that if the kids climb on them they wont fall over.

  • Rehung a door on my dresser

  • Cat litter. Just another chore.

  • Hung a chalk board for the kids

  • Oiled Conner's bedroom door

  • Cleaned out the garage: this was an 8 hour job. Over the winter the garage had become the dumping ground for all of the basement construction supplies and garbage. It became so cluttered I had to stop parking in it. Now I've got the entire thing back.


Wrapping the presents & sort of hiding them

When I arrived home from work I walked in the front door and the following conversation immediately ensued.

Alex: Daddy! We wrapped your presents!

Don't tell him where they are!
(to Alex, as fast as she could get it out)

Alex: We hid them in my closet!

Me: (picking him up) Hi Alex. Presents huh? Cool. I think that's supposed to be a secret... Do you know what a secret is?

Alex: Yes. Lets go upstairs and open your presents Daddy!



Conner's First Roll Over

On March 22nd, 2006 while the rest of us were eating dinner, Conner rolled over for the very first time.



30 Boxes Google Homepage Module

I ran into some bugs using an RSS feeds to put a 30 Boxes calendar on my google homepage. After a bit of debugging I determined that even the fix I suggested didn't really fix the problem*. I finally gave up on RSS for calendars and wrote a module for displaying 30 boxes calendar info on a homepage.

The module info and install instructions are available at the 30 Boxes Google Homepage Module webpage.

It's all being hosted on a google pages website. Free hosting. huh...I'm sure I'll look back and laugh, but it seems like a novelty at the moment.

* The problem is actually a nifty google feature. They are caching RSS feeds and displaying any changed item at the top of the list. So basically they reorder the RSS items so that you see the changed ones, even if they aren't in that order in the feed. The problem is that if you use an RSS feed and expect it to show up in the order of the feed, and then you change one of the later items, it bubbles to the top on the google hompage.



Reza & John Open Mic Video

Reza and John performed Simon & Garfunkel tunes at the open mic at the Stage Coach Inn in Groton MA on March 17th 2006. Reza Started off playing Kathy's Song and they finished out with a duet on Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard. Reza was not originally scheduled to play, but he slipped in at the last minute. John was his usual rock star self and per popular demand sat in with just about everyone there.

Christine and I got out for a rare parents night out. Thanks to Grandma for flying out to babysit! I captured the video on my new Canon Powershot S2 IS still shot camera. This camera is amazing. I did my best to compress the 900MB video into a web accessible size while retaining good sound quality. The version above doesn't do the original quality justice, but I'm just getting started with this audio video stuff so there's still hope for future productions. DVDs of the original recording are available to family on request.



Alexism      n.
  1. A statement made by Alex that is utterly unique to his perception of the world.

  2. Something Alex does that makes us laugh.

Uncle John's Corona Technique

2006-02-01 - per Christine - Alex just put his finger over the end of his straw, tipped his cup over, tipped it back, took a sip and said, "I'm drinking water like a beer."

Alex's Favorite Game

"You get me. I run." He announces this to anyone that will listen and then proceeds to run around the house expecting to be chased. We do a lot of running.

Who's Cute

While out for a walk Conner fell asleep in the carriage. I was carrying Alex who was tired of walking.

Alex: Conner is so cute.

Paul: He is! You know who else is cute?

Alex: ummm. Nanna!

Paul: Yeesss. and who else is cute?

Alex: Pepere!


He went on to name Mommy, Grandma, Grandpa, Pop, Memere, Aunt Sara and Aunt Teresa one at a time.


Paul: What about Uncle John and Uncle Reza.

Alex: Nooooo! That's not right.

Paul: They're not cute?

Alex: Nope!

Paul: Ok, but I'm still thinking of someone else who's cute...

Alex: hmmm... I don't know....

Paul: How about Alex?!

Alex: Yeah that's right! Now you got it now! I love you daddy.

Out of Bed

Alex recently switched form a crib to a toddler bed. The other night I was on the
phone with my dad about 20 minutes after I put Alex to bed. Christine and Conner
were out, so I was fairly surprised to hear doors opening and closing upstairs.
I hung up and went upstairs to investigate. Alex was standing in the bathroom.
When he saw me coming up the stairs he got a really guilty look and shut the
door. I knocked, entered and found him standing on his wooden steps in front
of the sink with his toothbrush in hand. I sat on the counter and did my best to sound
casual, as if I was just passing by and was wondering what was up...

Paul: Hi Alex... What are you doing?

Alex: No Daddy! I was being quiet!

Power Outage? Just add batteries.

We woke up Tuesday morning to the pleasant absence of ambient sound that you can only not hear when the power goes out. The power was, in fact, out. Alex's morning ritual as he will tell you is "I climb out of bed, turn on the lights, open the door and come see you!" So when he climbed into our bed Christine asked him about it...

Christine: Did you turn your lights on Alex?

Alex: But they were broken. I'll turn on your light.

Christine: My light is broken too. The power is out.

Alex: That's ok Mommy. I help you. I fix your light and Daddy will fix my lights... With new batteries!


30 Boxes Online Calendar & Google Homepage

In my search to put my computer related activities on the web I came across which is a slick online calendar system that lets me easily manage my own events, see my friends calendars, and even let Christine edit my calendar...

They recently opened up an API for development that lets developers build applications that access the 30 Boxes data, but there is no way to access buddy calendar info via the API due to security reasons. So for my purposes, making a Google Homepage Module, there is little value to using the API.

Alas, 30Boxes is still very cool, the best online calendar I've found cool and can be put on your Google Homepage with little effort and the following caveat.

You can only see your events. Buddy or Friends Calendars will not show up.

Workaround: If you want someone else to see an event such as "My dentist Appointment" because you need me to come home early to stay with the kids, you might find it useful (he says sheepishly) to invite me to that event so that it shows up on my Google Homepage.

To get your 30Boxes Calendar on your Google Homepage

  1. Log into your 30Boxes calendar
  2. Click on "Settings" at the top right
  3. Click on "Syndication" just under "Your Settings" in the center of the page
  4. Click on the RSS link next to "Shared View" (updated 2006-03-22 when I descovered that the Entire view RSS feed is sorted in the order you add things instead of the order they occur in time. very strange...)
  5. Copy the URL for that feed.
  6. Go to your Google homepage
  7. Click "Add Content" at the top right
  8. Click Create a Section, paste in the copied URL, and click go.

A list of your upcoming 30Boxes events should appear on your homepage.

This entry has been published as a one stop shopping answer for everyone that has been asking "How did you do that?" The history at the beginning is there so I can remember why I did it.


The Basement Project: phases alpha-epsilon

With Conner's arrival I have officially been evicted from my office/music studio
(AKA "The Spare Room") and our first floor has been fully transformed into a toy
obstacle course. Christine and I decided it was time to finish our basement.

My father offered to reprise his roll as Russell Home Improvement Project Foreman and
Teacher. We got started in the summer by planning how to use the space and decided on
a 3 room layout with an office (Paul's escape), a larger playroom and a small workshop.

Enough can't be said for knowing what you need ahead of time. My father, having
done this sort of project before, knew exactly what supplies we would need. The
supplies were all picked up before Christmas. That means we only made one extra
trip to Home Depot instead of the requisite 52 per day for one of my standard projects.

A Note about building supplies: We went to Coldwells
(a local lumber yard) to
get most of the wood supplies. That place rocks! Unlike Home Depot, all the 2x4s
there were straight and square... Home Depot 2x4s are more akin to modern art
than useful building materials.

Eagles, Eagles and more Eagles: Major construction began on 2005-12-26 and lasted 3 days. In deference to my dad
and Rick (my father-in-law) we listened to The Eagles in an endless
loop that one might mistake as proof of a perpetual motion machine. Even the Ipod never got
tired... I think I became an Eagles fan during day 2, but John started getting punchy on
day 3, after hearing Hotel California only 6 times before 11 am.

2006-01-30 011
Framing: We started with a relatively empty section of the basement and framed the room.
Framing (previously a mystery) is actually pretty simple. Basically you need to get a
2x4 sealed to the floor with glue and nailed into the ground with another 2x4 exactly
above it (attached to the ceiling). The secret to this "exactly above it" step is
a device called a Plum Bob. Making the walls square to each other is
another helpful tip but artistic license is an option at this step.
Thanks to my dad we went with all right angles except for an intentionally angled door.

Framing & Electrical: So once the floor and ceiling beams are in place, then you
need to cut 2x4s to the exact distance between them. John was in charge of the
wall made out of wood, the rest of us used metal studs. John and I have decided
that metal studs shall henceforth be banned from our homes because of the
frequency with which we had to use a complex set of levers and weights just
to get a screw to connect two of them together. My dad says we're nuts.
He says that a lot... As we framed, we wired the room with two 20amp circuits
(nice to have when the band practices) and a 15amp circuit for the 2 zone,
4 switch, dimmable recessed ceiling lights. Tim (the tool man) Taylor would be proud.

Insulation Moisture Barrier: Any homeowner will tell you that moisture is
bad, unless they are in the process of installing a whole house humidifier.
We went nuts with the moisture barrier. Recall that we sealed the base of the
walls when we installed them. Once the framing was done we put in the insulation
and taped all of the seams so that there was a complete seal. Then we took the
biggest piece of plastic I've ever seen (think slip and slide for 100 people),
and encased the room in it. For better or worse no moisture will ever pass in
or out of that room. Air circulation looks to be a problem as well.

Sheetrock: The sheetrock was stored in my garage. That meant 2 people
had to carry it over ice and snow and then navigate the bulkhead which gave
us a few inches clearance with each 4x8 board. While the rest of us took turns,
Rick (my father-in-law) carried every piece of sheetrock that came into the
basement. He is a man among men.

The last day was a rush to get the last sheetrock up and wire the circuits to
the electrical closet. When everyone left, the doors were hung, walls sheetrocked
(save one wall of a closet) and spackled (one coat), and the electricity was working.
Major construction was complete. My dad, Rick, John and I had built a room from scratch.

Epilogue: A few days later John and Reza returned to help put that last wall
in the closet. It turned out that while putting in the metal studs I left one out
of the back corner of the closet so I pulled the sheetrock off and installed an
additional stud while they hung the last wall. Since then I've been spackling.
It's very slow going because I only get an hour or two a week, but it's
getting very close. Laura, a friend from down the street, is an ex-professional
spackler. She also appears to be wired in a strange way because she likes to
spackle. So she is helping put the finishing touches on the walls.

Epilogue Part II: About a month after major construction Reza brought his Guitar
Amplifier case made of 2 inch solid walnut over and we resized it with a circular
saw. This is mentioned here because the lack of any workshop space in the basement
forced us to do this work in the mostly finished basement. And its kind of funny.
We started by not so methodically trying to cut through the 2 inch solid walnut
in one pass. Fortunately my dad was only a phone call away and explained that
the burning smell was not only toxic, but a sure sign that the saw motor was
burning out. He suggested a more tempered multi-cut approach and was kind
enough to mention that we might want to set up a guide instead of making the
cuts freehand. As you can see, it was hard work, and Reza employed some
interesting positioning to get the proper leverage.

There's still a lot of finish work to do on the office/music room including:

  • Rerouting a forced air tube
  • Painting

    2006-01-30 014

    A complete set of pictures
    of this project are

    online here.

  • Ceiling installation
  • Carpet installation
  • Baseboards
  • Closet shelves
  • One door knob
  • And the other two rooms...

Thanks and Credits

Without the help of my family it is estimated that the work we
did in 3 days would have taken me 17.62 years. Thank you all for saving me those years!

Specifically, thanks to Christine (Wife/Mom), my Mom (Nanna), Michelle (Grandma) and Alli (Aunt Alli) for taking care
of the kids, keeping us in food and beer, and letting the guys do manly stuff for three days.

Basement Phase 1 Construction Crew

James (a.k.a Pop)Foreman, Designer, Electrical & literally everything else
Rick (a.k.a Grandpa)Framing, Electrical & Sheetrock carrier extraordinaire
John (a.k.a Uncle John)Framing, Sheetrocking & ex-Eagle Fan
Reza (a.k.a Aunt Reza)Closet Wall Installation & Soundproof testing
Christine (a.k.a Mom)Electrical Closet Sheet Rock Specialist
Laura (a.k.a cool neighbor)Professional ex-spackler & wall flatness consultant


Harsh Critique results in new Google Flickr Picture Viewer

The announcement of my first Google IG Picture Viewer (using Flickr)
was met with a resounding thud by my brother.
I believe his exact words were "I'd use it if it were useful". It was probably a lot wittier than that. John always is...

Anyway, I went back and added some features that John deemed "useful" and a few he didn't but does agree are cool.
Anyway the end result is the new and improved Google Flickr Picture Viewer

The home page
explains how to install and use it as well as what it does.
I'm soliciting feedback from anyone who wants to give it.
Once people have used it a bit and all the kinks are worked out I'm going to submit it to Google's Module Directory.

Share and Enjoy!