Archive for February, 2011


Sunday, February 20th, 2011



Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Remodeling by photo

The domestic upgrade continues, and I have learned a few things that seem worth sharing. Things had slowed down recently, in part because a stove decision was impeding progress. We knew we wanted to convert to gas, but couldn’t decide whether to simply replace the cooktop, or rip out all the old cooking gear, including two big ovens, and replace it all with a free-standing range. (Then we could presumably cook free-range chicken on a free-standing range. Unless we were chicken.) The decision was finally resolved by two events. First, our daughter-in-law soundly endorsed the idea of opening up the space. Then, bolstered by her endorsement, I combined and edited a couple of photos to show a simulated before-and-after, and that tipped the scale. Here are the photos.


Cook area - before


Cook area - design

The bagster

So that die has now been cast, and I’ve been moving stuff out of the way so I can extend the den bamboo into the newly-liberated kitchen space. But before I could demolish anything, I had to get rid of the old flooring I had previously ripped out, and which was occupying an unacceptably large percentage of the back deck. The normal way to get rid of construction debris is to rent a big, steel roll-off dumpster, which they place in your driveway until you call them to come pick it up. (The last time I rented one, they picked it up at 5:00 am, and it is not a quiet proposition.)

In addition to the potential early wake-up call, there were two other problems. I didn’t think I had enough trash to warrant even the smallest unit. They normally come in 20, 40, and 60 cubic yard sizes, but you can find a 10 yard one if you look carefully, for about the same price as a 20. Plus, my demolition occurs in at least two phases, the den and hall floor, which I’ve done, and now the kitchen. Those two were separated by many weeks, including the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends. That’s not a good time to be storing a big metal dumpster in the driveway.


Bagged bagster

Rejoice! I found a solution whilst browsing the aisles of Lowe’s. Waste Management, Inc., sells a product called The Bagster, in a package about the size of a small tarp. It’s light green with a couple of large yellow “handles.” When you are ready to dispose of your trash, you unfold it into its 4-foot by 8-foot by 2-and-a-half-foot size, and fill it up. It holds about 3 cubic yards, or 3,300 pounds. When you finish filling it up, you contact WM by phone or on-line and schedule a pick-up. In a few days, they send out a truck with a boom crane to pick it up.

Full bagster

Full bagster

The bag is $30, and the pick-up charge is $99, with a discount if you schedule more than one pickup at the same location and time. That works out to a little more per cubic yard than the big steel bins, but it seemed to make sense for my needs on this particular job.

Waste disposal and its greener sibling, recycling, have been topics of interest for me for many decades. I think this is a novel approach. They have a not-too-cheesy video at

By the way, I also found an appliance store in Lawrenceville that took my ovens and cooktop for no charge if I dropped them off. I called an appliance store, then had the ovens examined by a trained expert (see photo) to make sure they had no market value (too old), then hauled them up there. Good riddance!

Trained expert

Trained expert

Bending Nails

While I was taking apart the oven cabinet, I analyzed it like an archaeologist, and determined that I had apparently done repair work on it sometime in the past. It was no wonder. The double oven weighs more than 150 pounds, and is supposed to rest on sturdy runners. In our case, the oven was held in place only by the front screws, which are not intended for support, but just to keep it from falling out. And they were attached to thin, 1×2-inch cabinet wood, with no structural strength.

I vaguely remember the outside paneling starting to buckle not long after we moved in, and apparently I added some bracing, including a couple of 2x4s from floor to ceiling. I could tell because the bracing was installed using sheet rock screws instead of NAILS.

Which finally brings me to the point of this section. About the only thing nails had going for them is that they were cheap and fast to install. Nowadays, cordless drills and self-tapping screws have leveled the playing field pretty significantly. Screws hold better, and they are easier to remove. Nail guns are fast, and they do leave a smaller surface hole, but other than that advantage, screws are the winner.

But I still wind up having to deal with nails. Leaving them sticking out is unsafe, and it tears up whatever I put them in for disposal. The bagster is tough, but nails poke right through it.

On the other hand, removing them takes a lot of time. Flattening them out with a hammer helps, but they still snag and scratch. And you have to whack them, which doesn’t work very well on small or thin pieces.

Bent nail

Bent nail

This time I stuck a pair of needle-nose pliers in my pocket, and whenever I saw a nail, I bent it into a u-shape, with the tip poking into the wood slightly. Quick. Quiet. Safe. I highly recommend it.


In the midst of work I took a break to pick up some guest cat supplies, and crossed the railroad track on the way. There was a truck named Big Wilbur parked on the track, and three guys with a carbide saw, a welding machine, and a grinder. They were repairing a section of rail. They cut out a couple of two-foot sections, welded new sections in place, and ground them to shape. Impressive work.

Not Big Wilbur

Not Big Wilbur, but I thought this section needed a photo.

Even more impressive was the scene when I returned from my errand. A full-length train was slowing to a stop just ahead of the crossing. A man jumped down from the train and walked up the track to make sure the repairs were completed. It takes a long time and a lot of distance to stop a train, and a long time and a lot of distance to get it back up to speed.

But that trouble is nothing compared to the trouble they would have had if the track repair wasn’t complete, and they had just come barreling through anyway. It was clearly the right choice.

There’s a lesson for us all there, methinks.


Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Back in December I scanned a couple of cat cartoons and e-mailed them to my kids. As I told them, neither would have normally made my “distribution threshold”, but since they occurred on the same day and adjacent to each other, I couldn’t resist.

My previously-described trip to Palo Alto coincided with a new project emphasis at work which is sucking all of my weekday thinking allotment. Wedding plans and the need to finish flooring have sucked the rest of my thinking allotment. But I did take a few minutes to go over the local newspapers I missed while I was in California, and there were four dog-related cartoons.

So, for today I present two pet scans (not related to the CATscan joke I made in a previous post) for your mild amusement.

As usual. you may click on the images for a larger version.