Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Moving Sara

Saturday the 17th, a coworker, Sean, and I moved most of Sara's belongings from her downtown St. Paul apartment to my house in Cottage Grove. Luckily the snow of the past few days had stopped, though the high for the day wasn't likely to make it far into the double digits.

Renting the U-Haul took far longer than it should have (30 minutes or more), though because the rental place didn't have a chance to check in the U-Haul, I got the use of the moving blankets for free. Some of the blankets had been used to prevent slipping on the steel floor of the truck and were icy/sandy/yucky -- and while I wouldn't have ever thought to use a clean blanket for that purpose, we used the dirty ones to prevent us from sliding all the way down the truck.

Moving Sara's stuff wasn't too bad, she had (thankfully) gotten most of it boxed up and she only had a few large items. She was, however, on the second floor and even in single digit weather I worked up enough of a sweat to justify wearing only a T-shirt.

The real fun came when we were done and wanted to leave. The back driveway, that the trash man uses, has some broken concrete, and I thought that the multiple inches of compacted snow (about 8 inches had fallen that week) would even out the lip in the driveway from the broken/sunken concrete, but apparently it didn't and that lip (and the snow/ice) seemed to be all it took to prevent the U-Haul from backing out of the driveway.

I gave it more gas, hoping that I could burn through the ice. After a while I got a lot of smoke from the passenger side tires, but no movement. I tried rocking the truck back and forth. It got going a little bit after a while, but never made it over that lip. I tried turning the front wheels, but that only works on front wheel drive cars.

At that point I looked over at Sean and asked if I should go forward down the driveway in hopes of getting up some speed, or would I just get stuck farther down the driveway. Sean pointed out that the tow trucks just use a winch with a long cable, so it doesn't matter how far down we get stuck. Right-o, down the driveway we go.

I went down about 15 feet and tried from there but the truck wouldn't back up. Uh-oh. Well, let's go farther down the driveway (about half way, say 50 feet). Whew, the truck would back up from there. I tried to get a running start, but it wasn't enough. Though the speedometer read close to 40mph, the truck was only going about 2mph and that wasn't enough to get us over the lip. I did this many times. One time I almost made it out, but the truck slid sideways and started to take out the recycling cans (large 64 gallon trash cans) on the side of the driveway and I had to stop.

This went on and on for over 15 minutes. I was surprised with all the tire squealing/smoke and engine revving noise that no one ever came down to watch (or point and laugh) or complain. Eventually the snow/ice was worn down enough so that when I gunned the truck from about 65 feet down the driveway, and kept the rear wheels spinning at 40mph the whole way, I got enough momentum/traction to get over the lip and out of the driveway. Whew. No need to call road side assistance, but I was sure that I put on at least two miles (at $0.99 a mile) in that driveway.

After that, it was pretty standard unloading the truck kind of stuff, though everything in the truck was at about 5 degrees F, which required us to wear gloves to be able to handle any of it. Thankfully I'm not a professional. It's hard work.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Snow, and where to put it

This has been a snowy week. It started snowing Tuesday night, leaving about 5 inches over night, and continued to snow a few more inches Wednesday day and night, with an inch or less Thursday day just to top things off.

All of this wouldn't be a problem, or even really worth mentioning, were it not for the snow plow driver Wednesday morning.

I've only been through one other MN winter, and by watching what other people did, and talking to friends in the office, it appeared that thing to do was to throw your snow into the street. Presumably the plows and cars deal with it and that's that.

For the most part I throw the snow in the direction of the wind, which puts most of it onto my lawn. However, for the sidewalk and driveway apron, this puts a lot of it on the street. I don't really see this as an issue since the city's plows put a lot of the snow from the street onto my driveway's apron. It's a winter game of cat and mouse.

Apparently the guy driving the plow sees things differently. As I was out throwing the two foot tall and three foot wide wall of compacted snow that he left on my driveway's apron, he came back to plow the other side of the street. I saw him gesturing at the snow I had put on the street and I waved back to him, blissfully ignorant of his anger. However, it was pretty clear that he wasn't waving at me when he came back and re-plowed my side of the street, much closer and much faster than the first time. Since most of the snow from my apron was thrown past my driveway, this did nothing but put a thin film of snow onto my apron. However, he came back with so much speed that snow was thrown up and over onto the sidewalk. Clearly he was pissed.

Later, I watched my neighbors, all of whom came out after the plow had gone by. Most of them threw their snow into the street, unless they were shoveling, in which case they put it beside their driveway in a large mound (some of the mounds are at least 5' tall). I decided that I should really check with the city of Cottage Grove to see what the "official" rules are.

Cottage Grove has their code searchable from their website and I was able to find section 7-1-3, Prohibited Snow and Ice Deposits. Section A seems to the most applicable:

A. Unless approved by the director of public works of the city, it shall be unlawful to deposit snow removed from private property on public property, including boulevard areas; except, that snow removed from boulevard areas of driveways and sidewalks may be placed on adjacent boulevard areas.

Except this says that the boulevard (which is from the property line to the street, including the sidewalk and the grass between it and the street) is public property. This would mean that I'm just moving snow from one part of public property to another part of public property (the street), which isn't disallowed.

Section C also seems to be interesting:

C. Removal operations shall in no manner interfere with the use of public streets, nor shall snow be accumulated or deposited by motor-driven equipment in such a manner as to interfere with visibility at intersections or curves of public streets of the city. (1971 Code § 22-5)

One could argue that putting a bunch of snow on the street interferes with its use, but the snow distributed evenly over the street was less than an inch thick, so that seems unlikely (though I'm sure someone would argue the point). I generally try to stop my throwing activity when a car drives by, so I'm good on that point. Though, on the other hand, I'm clearly free to shovel all the snow I want to onto the street.

But, anyway, I decided that I didn't need to get the city's plow drivers pissed at me, so I'd better figure out what to do.

A little more checking into the definition of things shows that the boulevard was expressly made for the purpose of "snow storage":

BOULEVARD: The portion of the public street right of way between the back curb line and the property line for uses such as snow storage, sidewalk, utilities, street light and traffic or other signage and potential widening of roadways.

So, now the game becomes how to do I get as much snow as I can from the sidewalks and apron onto the boulevard without getting too much onto the street? Well, if the wind cooperates, it's not too hard, though I still need to use the shovel a bit to fully clear the apron, the sidewalk's snow isn't too hard to get onto the boulevard.

The real bummer in all of this is that I used to clear the whole sidewalk on my block (it's a short block), throwing all the snow into the street. However, since that's not an option, and section B of 7-1-3 says:

B. Snow removed from private property may not be deposited upon other private property without the consent of the owner thereof. (1971 Code § 22-4; amd. 2000 Code)

I never talk to my neighbors so I won't be asking their permission to throw the snow onto their lawns any time soon. I'm just going to stop cleaning everyone's sidewalk. Oh well. The law of unintended consequences strikes again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

South Dakota road trip

This weekend was a long one. Sara and I left for South Dakota Friday evening after work. I left work a little early and we got on the road at about 5:30pm for our 400 mile drive to Lesterville, where her family has their farm.

Traffic was a little stop and go getting out of the city, but then it was just a 70mph drone to South Dakota where the speed limit changes to 75mph. Yea! It was rather windy, as it's apt to be in South Dakota and southern Minnesota. Snow was blowing across the road way and the reflection in the headlights made me think of ghosts or spooky movies.

We got to Yankton, which is close to Lesterville, but actually has hotels, a little after 11pm and searched for the Best Western that no longer exists. Once we were convinced that the Best Western must have been plowed under, we turned around and made our way to the Holiday Inn that looked new and shiny. It looked like they were close to full, but we were able to get a room for two nights.

We went back to the car to unload our gear, and it was at that point I asked the question "Sara, where's my bag?" Instead of giving me my bag, Sara gave me a blank stare.

Luckily hotels are prepared for such bonehead maneuvers as driving nearly 400 miles without your luggage. They were able to offer me all the things I needed to be appropriately groomed and clean and sweet smelling for when I met Sara's folks at their house. The local JCPenney was able to equip me with everything else.

Hanging out with the entire Dummer clan was nice. A couple of cousins came over, a brother from the West Coast that I had not yet met came with his wife, and we got to me a sister's boyfriend we'd never seen before. It was a very full house (small farmhouse and all).

We had a nice "Christmas" lunch, waited for the food coma to pass, and then started opening presents, which probably took more than an hour. There were a lot of people, and a lot of presents to hand out. I was shocked when I got a bunch of gifts from Sara's parents, including her grandparents. I felt bad since I hadn't gotten them anywhere near as many presents.

After all of the present openings, Sara wanted to play the game that I had gotten her, a guess-who-said-what kind of game where you read a weird question from a card (like how much would someone have to pay you to stick your hand in a polluted toilet) and then everyone writes down their answer, which are then read out loud, and one person has to guess who said what, getting a point for each correct guess. I fell asleep, much to Sara's dismay. Everyone else was laughing quite a bit, so I think they all enjoyed it.

The drive back to MN on Sunday afternoon was uneventful. The wind had lessened and there was hardly any traffic. For miles we were the only car going our direction that I could see. And in South Dakota, you can see for quite a distance.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Christmas lights!

Saw this cool link from to a WMV (Windows Media) of a guy that apparently hooked up his Christmas lights to a sequencer so that they flash in time to music. It's one heck of a display.

Busy week

This week has been a very busy week for me at work and at home. Work is work, nothing new there, but it's been stressful lately because I'm responsible for things that are out of my control, and that always gets me wound up.

At home every night I've been working in the basement and I've made decent progress. I got all but 10 (of the original 240) DRIcore panels installed. The main area of the basement is covered, as is the bit under the stairs and alongside the stairs. I stopped before wrapping around the stairs with the panels, mainly because that looks like it will require some intricate cuts and I'm not sure where the bathroom will end, and I don't want to put the panels in the bathroom. It will sit like this until I figure out what I'm doing regarding the shower in the basement (doing a plain shower, or something more interesting, like a steam shower).

Having all the panels in the basement seems to have raised the temperature by about 2 degrees, not the 6 that were promised (that I never really believed anyway). I imagine that adding more ducts to the basement will help to keep it warmer (there are only two for 900+ square feet), but it's going to require a large quantity of return ducting. Adding that amount of return ducting will be a hassle that I'm not looking forward to. I might be better served by calling a pro to calculate heating requiements, check my furnace, and do whatever ducting is required.

On Thursday and Saturday I put in the last of the lights in the basement. Two lights in the hall beside the stairs, wired with three way switches, so that you can walk through the basement without walking in the dark, or having to backtrack to turn off lights. Yea! I also put in four lights in the back section of the basement where the wet bar (and maybe a pinball table and dart board) will go. It's now very well down there, and that's a "good thing."

The remaining things to be done are to box up the main ducting with soffits, put in a few outlets and boxes for wall sconces and rope lights (to be put behind crown molding to provide "mood" lighting), a few more ducts (and the associated return air ducts), the external vent for the bathroom (I put in the ducting for it on Thursday, but haven't cut the side of the house for the vent), and then drywall.

After the drywall I'll be down to just the finish materials, flooring, cabinets, painting. The exciting bits. But, first I have to finish the drywall, and that's got me worried. I'm seriously considering hiring out the drywall. It's heavy, dusty, and a lot of work (even though it's not complicated work, it is hard work). There's just so much to do that I'm not sure I want to spend the time doing it. Well, I've got plenty more work to do before I get to that point, so maybe when that time comes around I'll feel more up to the task.