Mar 29, 2008

AMC Pacers and Free TVs

Morley has had an American Express card for a long time. In fact, he opened his AmEx account back when Richard Nixon was in the White House and all the groovy people were listening to Dobie Grey on 8 track tape and cruising around in AMC Pacers (Pacers are cars that looked like a fish tank on wheels in case you didn't know).

And w
hile Morley was breaking in his new AmEx card, I was still in high school wearing cute cheerleader outfits and shaking my pompoms to the enlightening and socially relevant "My Dingaling" as performed by Mr. Chuck Berry.

(That last sentence has nothing whatsoever to do with the story I'm getting ready to tell but I never pass up the chance to mention what a young babe I am) (relatively speaking).

Anyway Morley, and subsequently the two of us, have taken lots of trips on that credit card and bought lots of household stuff with it, not to mention the bazillion gallons of gas we've purchased for our Mega SUV to do our part in polluting the air and warming the globe.

All that exercising of the plastic was building up reward points but we'd never given it any thought until we got the new AmEx rewards catalogue. As we flipped through to see all the nifty merchandise one could get by trading in points, we wondered if we'd accumulated enough points to trade in for something nifty. So we checked.
We had a LOT of points. Hundreds of thousands of points. To be specific, we had all the points.

Morley had never, ever cashed in a single reward point so we had every point he'd ever earned, going back to the days when Nixon ran the White House and Pacers ruled the roads. Well, that's probably going overboard on the Pacer, but you get my drift. We had decades' worth of points, baby, and we knew what to do with them.

And that's how it came to pass that American Express hooked us up with the free 32 inch HDTV that Federal Express delivered to the house this week. We decided to put it in our bedroom in place of our existing TV (the one that is so big you can watch it from space).

Here's a shot that shows the sleek, sexy, light-as-a-feather new TV compared to the gut busting, hernia-inducing old one (Note: I make that comparison from a position of authority since Heather and I are the ones who lifted the old television off the table and carried it as far as we could, which turned out to be approximately five inches from where we started):

But now--time for the real test: can I see the new TV over the top of my dainty Size 9's as I lay in bed at night watching all those weird sitcoms on the BBC?

Yup. We're good. We're real good.

Mar 28, 2008

My brother Bratley is a moron.

I am the office manager at work and recruiting is part of my job so I am constantly on the lookout for a candidate or two. As part of his job of being a nutcase, my brother Bradley is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to play a joke on me.

Here's a resume I received this morning in response to a posting on our website for a Senior AutoCAD technician. This is Bratley writing under his nom de plume "Anonomouse Kinfolk"

Anonomouse Kinfolk takes a spin around the facility
where he receives treatment for his, uh, "specialness"

To: HR at

I am not Mexican but I would be interested in the SeƱor AutoCAD position advertised on your home page. I can learn to speak Mexican if needed. I am unsure what AutoCAD is but I should be mostly qualified because a lot of people have told me I was a Cad.

I don’t need much more than a boat load of money. A fair sized dingy load might be within my minimum requirements just as long as there is some left over after my garnishments. My parole officer said she would approve a transfer to another officer in your area in a heartbeat. My medications are finally balanced so my past mental challenges are not worth mentioning. Some fellow named Johns Hopkins pays for all of my medications as part of what is called a case study.

Here is my resume

I was born
I received quiet a lot of correction
I was abused by my older sister
I went to school
I received even more correction
I went to work
I went on strike for more money
I went back to work for less money
I am now working
I don’t plan on ever going on strike again
I continue to be abused by my older sister

Furthermore I am quite talented at cut and paste to merge copies of two different images on high tech devices like copiers. I seem to have a natural ability towards that end and can use the enlarge and collate features. My current position causes me to navigate the various differences in many brands and models of copy and fax machines. I can use auto or hook dial with equal ease. To date I have never failed to figure one out unless you count the time I mistook a fancy high dollar printer for a copy machine. As proof of my integrity, I am currently making payments for the repairs myself. (this is not one of my garnishments)

Please let me know if you would like more information on any of the above periods in my resume. I yearn for a position that will challenge my mind and abilities. If that is not available at the current time, then I am open to discuss being an engineer or office manager, however I refuse to buy a boat to sit in an empty lake.


My brother Bradley was riding the Short Bus before riding the Short Bus was cool. It is cool these days, right?

Nah, I didn't think so.

Mar 27, 2008

If you would ask my sister Loretta the question "what is the worst part of having a housecat?", her immediate answer would be "there would be a CAT in your HOUSE". The correct answer, however, is "dookie".

Keeping the litter box clean is a real pain, a chore that must be performed diligently and with strict regularity lest your house take on the aroma of pussycat poo.

We currently use an electric litter box with a motion sensor that monitors when a cat has paid a visit, then waits ten minutes before automatically raking the litter and making a deposit into a little holding tank.

The litter box stays clean enough but every few days someone (read: me) has to empty the holding tank. Believe me when I say dumping a tank of kitty crap is a pleasant way to start your day, or to end your day, or to impact your day in any way for that matter. (Don't even think about it, honestly. You'll spend the rest of the day trying to get the image out of your mind).

Meet the miraculous Cat Genie, a self flushing, self cleaning cat toilet that not only scoops the litter but flushes it out of your house without you having to do a darn thing. Basically it is a two foot tall cat crapper that does the dirty work for you. How cool is that?

I have one of these babies ordered and Morley is going to install it in the laundry room (here's how it works). Once he gets it hooked up to the plumbing we will never have to deal with the litter box ever again or empty a holding tank full of kitty doodie. Our lives will be simple and good and odorless forever and we shall all live happily ever after. Thus sayeth the ads for Cat Genie.

I'll rock with that.

Mar 25, 2008

This is Muffin. He is miserable.

Muffin is back home and everything hurts--paws, bullet wound, naughty bits--but most of all his pride. The meds the Vet sent home with us are helping with everything except the injured pride.

This is Willow. She is keeping a low profile just in case we're cooking up plans for an Extreme Makeover for anyone else.

Mar 21, 2008

This is Willow. She is secure in her feminity.

A kitten show up at our house a couple of months ago. She was just tiny little bag of fur and bones mewing pitifully from under the bushes when I got home from work one afternoon. Of course when I saw how skinny she was I had to feed her, and then I felt compelled to pet her a little, but not enough to encourage her in any way of course, and then I told her to scram and not even think about hanging around since we were all full up on pets in this house. No vacancy. Or words to that effect.

And then she showed up again the next day. And the next day…you can see where this is heading…and before we knew it she was Number One Housecat..

We (okay, I) named her Muffin and I adore her because she reminds me of my beloved William who died two years ago. Muffin settled into life at our house, making fast friends with the other animals except Chong (none of the animals want to be friends with Chong). She and Shelby are BFF, and it is indescribably cute to watch Muffin and Willow playing together. She was quick to learn how cat doors work too, letting herself out for several hours every day for extended excursions trying to track down her birth family (maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part).

All was well until a couple of weeks ago when she returned home from attending to Urgent Cat Business of some sort, limping badly and dragging her front leg. When we took her to our Veterinarian the next morning we learned that someone (Morley suspects a kid) had shot her with a BB gun and a pellet had lodged in her shoulder where the leg's nerves and muscles are, damaging a nerve and paralyzing her front leg on the passenger side.

After $$$$ spent at the Vet’s office and a week's worth of care at home, the paralysis slowly went away and she regained the use of her leg. To speed her recovery along, Muffin cleverly devised her own physical therapy regime which involves pouncing from behind furniture and grabbing our feet whenever we walk by. Apparently putting people into cardiac arrest is very therapeutic for cats.

But on to the point of this story. We've never been sure how old Muffin is, but we figure she’s about six months old because last week she started letting us know she's ready to start dating if you know what I mean. And we're talking really, really ready for dating as in urgently ready. As in Must. Find. A. Man. NOW!!! (I've had that very same feeling myself but that's a story for another day) (and besides it was a really, really long time ago) (Hi, Morley!).

Anyway, we realized the time had come to get Muffin spayed quick-like before we found ourselves with a batch of muffins in the oven, so to speak. I called the vet who had treated her paralysis and made an appointment for “the works”—a spay job, front tires declawed, microchip injected, and remove the pellet from her chest which the vet didn’t want to remove earlier because she was so swollen (the cat, not the vet).

A couple of hours after I dropped her off at the animal clinic this morning I got a telephone call from a very sheepish, embarrased vet.

It turns out my sweet little Muffin is not a cute little girl after all. Muffin is a dude.

I had to ask the Vet to repeat the announcement a couple of times before it sank in. Apparently she had been a boy all along but nobody noticed until now, not even the vet who's been treating her, er him, for two weeks! It makes me wonder what else that cat has been hiding from me. And it also makes me wonder exactly how comprehensive the curriculum at that veteranarian school is.

Anyway, the good news is we saved a few bucks neutering a He cat instead of a She cat. The bad news is we need another name for our girly-man cat.
I ran “Stud Muffin” up the flagpole but Morley refused to salute it.

Mar 18, 2008

Cheap Ugly Furniture, Part III

When we last visited the saga of the cheap, ugly furniture, we were debating how best to solve the problem of the tiles being too big to fit into the inset where the fake leather used to be.

My suggestion was for Morley to use the router to widen the inset, a solution I considered to be fast, easy and good entertainment (for me). Morley's proposed solution was to slowly and methodically reduce the size of each tile with tile nippers, a solution I considered to be slow, methodical and painful (for me).

In the end, we chose a third solution: more power tools. Meet our new wet tile saw:

I'll grant you this saw really did make the job easier but it also added $125 to the cost of the project. And this is exactly why I try to keep Morley at least a half mile away from all home improvement stores at all times.

After a quick ten minute session with our nifty new wet saw, the tiles fit perfectly into their nice, cozy bed of thin set mortar:

And then we moseyed off to visit neighbors for an hour to two until the mortar set up, and then we commenced to add grout:

And then I disguised the tell-tale 1970's style legs with some sissal that reminded me of seagrass and the beach. But then almost anything reminds me of seagrass and the beach:

And then we performed a solemn engineering ritual (OCD much?): insure everything is absolutely, flawlessly level and even:

Yup, it's level. And so I present to you the finished guest room TV table:

A recap of the final cost of refinishing this cheap, ugly piece of furniture:

  • Cheap, ugly furniture purchased at yard sale: $ 18.01

  • Paint, polyurethene, rope trim: $ 45.00

  • Tiles, grout, quick set mortar, misc tools for working with tiles and mortar $120.00*

  • Wet saw for reducing size of tiles by a smidgeon $125.00*

  • Sisal, hot glue sticks for covering legs $ 3.00

    TOTAL COST: $311.01

* Indicates Morley present during trip to home improvement store. See earlier notes regarding acceptable distance between Morley and local home improvement stores.

Anyway, the (formerly) cheap and (formerly) ugly furniture is now sitting in the guestroom looking fabulous and holding the television just so for your viewing pleasure.

We are ready for your next visit.

Mar 17, 2008

You really have to read this article by Dave Barry about a woman tiling her floor to save $700. I laughed so hard that I almost...well, never you mind about what I almost did. Someday you'll be over 50 yourself, young whippersnapper, so right ahead and smirk now but don't come crying to me with your incontinence problems later. Just read the article. Thank you.

The Weather is Here, Wish You Were Fine

(Thanks to Jimmy Buffett for that catchy title which I borrow here because I'm too lazy to think of anything original).

The weather here in Atlanta was absolutely crazy the past few days. We had nothing but intense storms and heavy rain--lots and lots of heavy rain--and big winds since last Thursday.

In fact, our friend Steve made this photo of a big wind on Saturday:

This particular big wind was a tornado, and it is the same one Morley and I drove through Saturday morning when we tried to get to Tennessee to visit the 'fam and help Loretta celebrate her birthday.

We hadn't even gotten as far as Highway 411 before we had to turn around. The rain was so hard we could hardly see the road, and at one point there was no line between the sky and the ground--it was eerie looking. We decided it wasn't smart to be on the road in that weather so we turned around to head back home.

And that's when Bratley called to tell us we were in the middle of a tornado (he was also driving home to Tennessee and was a few miles ahead of us).

I bring your attention to the fact that, once again, SuperReporter Brad scooped the local media with the Big Story--the radio station we were listening to didn't broadcast their tornado warning until a few minutes after Brad had called. Yeah, yeah. Tornado. We're already on it. Again. That boy has a brilliant career in journalism ahead of him if this gig selling dental equipment doesn't work out.

Anyway, that very same tornado headed to Lake Lanier where our friend Steve took its picture as he abandoned ship to take cover in the marina's office:

Fortunately the tornado didn't mess with the marina but it did rearrange a few things on land. On the bright side, all the heavy rain is doing great things in getting the lake level back up.

So instead of visiting everyone this weekend Morley and I spent Saturday hanging out in the garage watching the sky and keeping track of tornado warnings that were issued one after another all day long.

We did make use of all that quality time in the garage to finish the Cheap Ugly Furniture project. I'll post pix of the finished product when I get a few minutes.

Mar 15, 2008

It's a Man, It's a Plane, It's SuperReporter!

By day brother Bratley is Clark Kent, mild mannered marketer of high priced dental equipment, but by night he's SuperReporter, man of steel capable of scooping in a single bound the Big Story away from international news organizations.

He's in Atlanta for a dental conference and is staying at a hotel downtown near the CNN tower and the Georgia Dome. Last night we had a storm--a really fierce storm--which out here in the 'burbs we knew was a very nasty one, but we had no idea there was a tornado until Brad called.

He was having dinner in the CNN tower when pieces of the ceiling started falling in and it started raining inside the building. He took cover by a concrete pillar until the coast was clear and then he started calling in his news reports.

As a matter of fact, he broke the story several minutes before the local TV stations and CNN did--and that's saying something since CNN's own building was right in the thick of things. By the time they hit the airwaves with their special reports on a tornado downtown, the news was already old hat at our house. Yeah, yeah, tornado, we're already on it. Up next on CNN: Ford Pintos recalled due to faulty gas tanks.

Anyway, not only was SuperReporter quick with the live telephone reports, he was quick with the pix too. Here are some he took from the street outside his hotel:

I think the Bratmobile is somewhere in this parking deck:

There was lots of metal and broken glass in the streets too:

If you want to watch the local news story (including an interview with a guy who is in town attending the same conference as Bratley), watch this.

By the way, that thing about a tornado sounding just like a freight train? Brad says it's really true.

Mar 13, 2008

Cheap Ugly Furniture, Part II

or "What Would Norm Abrams Do?"

Houston, we have a problem.

Last night we resumed work on our (previously) cheap and (previously) ugly furniture, and as detailed earlier, we're down to (up to?) finishing the top by laying those luscious tiles in the newly deepened inset where fake leather used to be.

But now we are dealing with another problem:

The tiles are too wide to fit into the inset.

The overlap is just small enough that I can squeeze the tiles close together and moosh them in, but that wouldn't allow any room for grout to go between the tiles. Obviously something has to give, and that's where the debate begins.

Here's a closer shot that shows how much overlap we're dealing with--note where the tile is laying on top of the tape. Not much.

My suggestion is for Morley to dip into his deep stash of power tools and use his router to widen the inset just a little on each side. For a "get 'er done" person like me, this seems to be the perfect solution: quick, easy, and with an element of excitement and suspense that something might possibly go wrong, what with power tools and all. And somebody else--i.e. Morley--would do the risky deed and I would get to sit to the side watching the action while sipping wine and offering encouragement and advice.

Morley thinks that is a bad idea because there's a chance the router won't make a dead-level straight cut, thus the inset might end up being a micro millimeter crooked (we are dealing with an engineer here, and they know from what about micro millimeters) and then for all eternity our eyes would instantly be drawn to the flaw each time we cast our gaze upon the TV table. And we would never enjoy owning the TV table or be able to watch the TV sitting upon it because we would be staring at the flaw, forever and ever, amen.

His suggested solution is to buy tile nippers and delicately nip away tiny amounts--we're talking about working at the subatomic level here--until we've removed just enough material from each side of each tile until they fit perfectly. For a perfectionist like him this seems to be the perfect solution: slow, precise, methodical, and with a low risk of something going wrong. And if it does go wrong--a tile might crack!--we can recover from the disaster by buying another piece of tile. Plus somebody else--i.e. me--would help with the slow, painful, er...precise, methodical process.

And that's as far as we got with the debate last night because my brother Bratley pulled in the driveway right about then. He's in Atlanta for a few days for meetings and he stayed with us last night.

By the way, Bratley's suggested solution to the problem? Buy a bigger TV for the guestroom.

Mar 12, 2008

Cheap Ugly Furniture, Part I

As part of our recent furniture shuffling madness, the furniture from our master bedroom ended up in the guestroom, except for the table our TV sits on. I should mention our bedroom TV is big enough that you could watch it from space and thus nobody wanted to risk a hernia by moving it. And besides, it sorta matched the new furniture we moved in. And did I mention the TV is big enough that I can watch it over Morley's feet?

Since the TV furniture did not make the trip to the guestroom, we had nothing to hold the guestroom's (normal size) TV. As a temporary measure I used a small luggage rack, but clearly a more permanent solution was in order. What I needed was a piece of furniture of a certain size, a certain height, and a certain price (read: cheap). And where does one look for such a piece of furniture? Two words: yard sales.

Carol and I went hunting and gathering, and for a mere $18.01 (about that penny--I didn't ask and they didn't say) I bought this beauty that fits the requirements perfectly.

It was perfect except it was butt ugly, a piece of furniture only a cheap-skate mother like me could love. I knew all it needed was some paint and uhmmm...some decorating love, so I headed to Lowe's where I bought a little paint, a little polyurethane, and a little can of primer.

While I was at it I picked up two pieces of wood rope trim to add personality to my cheap, ugly furniture. This trip caused the total cost of the cheap, ugly piece of furniture to jump by $45.

Adding the rope trim required math and power tools, both of which happen to be the specialties of my Manly Man who never turns down the chance to use power tools. Or math. After he expertly measured, cut and attached the trim, he brought out his electric sander and sanded off the old finish so the primer would go on smoothly. And then he started brushing on the primer.

Apparently this had become a joint project.

Soon thereafter the first coat of paint went on--a soft, elegant sage green that makes me think of the beach, but then almost anything makes me think of the beach.

Note: although these photos seem to imply that Morley is doing all the work, do not be deceived for I am both working on the project and photographing the project.

Finally the paint was finished and I dry-brushed a subtle honey color over the rope trim to add a little dimension and some pizzaz. Morley attached the brushed pewter handles and we were done. Or "mostly done" to be more precise. We were in the home stretch anyway.

And this is what we had created thus far. Who would have guessed this beautiful thing had begun that very morning as a cheap, ugly piece of furniture?

And then we turned our attention to the question of what to do with the top. Originally there had been a fake leather inlay but we wanted to do something a little more contemporary and a lot more beachy. A trip to Lowe's for inspiration was in order, and I invited my Manly Man along even though I was worried about his ability to stick to my budget of "cheap". I was worried about this because his track record in this area is not so good.

When we walked thru Lowe's we came across this gorgeous, luscious, perfect tile:

This tile is perfect in almost every way: the perfect color palette, the perfect beachy design of seashell fossils, but not so perfect in price. Morley was struck by the sheer perfection of this tile and put
a box of it in our shopping cart. The price of my (previously) cheap and (previously) ugly furniture had just skyrocketed by another $85.

Back in the garage, alterations to the inset were needed since the tile was thicker than the fake leather it was replacing. I'm not sure what he did or how he did it, but he managed to deepen the inset by the necessary 1/4th inch and he used clamps and power tools to do it with. I am unclear as to the exact details of this process so I might have wandered off while this was taking place.

After the new deeper inset was installed we covered everything in plastic to protect the paint from the upcoming frenzy of tile adhesive and grout.

...and that's what we were doing when our neighbors dropped by for a visit. And they stayed for a very long time, and then it was time for dinner, and then we went to bed. And so we'll return to our project tomorrow and I'll tell you all about it.

More to follow.