House Progress – Living Room

It’s been a while since I wrote anything and I took some progress photos a while back and thought I’d post an update for the house. This time, the living room and entry way.



I didn’t have a great photo of the entry but I did determine that the wall was perfect for a gallery-style displaying of my artwork. As with the entire upper level, the walls were re-painted so they were not so “pink”.





The major changes here were primarily just paint and furniture / decor. My leather furniture fit pretty well in the space and the entertainment unit with the 53″ TV also worked out pretty well. If you look close at the shelves, you can see the style of decor I like … I have an old style typewriter in behind the glass, an old sewing machine, a clay saki set, some pottery, etc. Not much else needed to be worked on here for a while.



Here you can get a preview of the Dining Room changes as well, but that’s another post. ;)

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House Progress – Master Bath

I thought I would finally post some updates to the house since we’ve been working on them periodically since we moved in. The first is the master bathroom.



The first obvious change was the wall color. We chose a blue color that was actually in my old bathroom … we liked it that much. There was quite a bit that was removed and updated, with still plenty to go. The major upgrades we made were:

  • Painted all the walls
  • Put up a shower curtain (they actually took the curtain!)
  • Replaced the shower head (was an old hand-held that hit the back of the shower)
  • Took out the ceramic toilet paper holder and towel rack, patched the wall and installed a new polished silver set
  • Took down the mirror and replaced it with a Menards special
  • Added some new towels, decorations and under-cabinet storage bins
  • Changed out the light switches and outlet



In time, there will be some even bigger projects:

  • Replace the pink tub
  • Replace the shower knob
  • Tile the floor
  • Change out the vanity and sink
  • Replace the faucet
  • New lighting
  • Replace the toilet
  • Add another outlet by the sink
  • … basically everything

The joys of home ownership … always something to work on! :)

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Online Forms and Logic

As I was making an online payment for my auto insurance, I noticed an all-to-frequent issue with online forms: button placement.

Logic would tell you that to go forward or to the next step, you would click on the button to the right, and to go back you would click the button on the left. Apparently the person setting up this form decided to take logic out of the equation. It makes me wonder how many people have clicked on the “previous” button by accident when intending to click “next”.

I have actually seen this many times over when it comes to online forms. The worst scenario is a long form with 2 buttons on the bottom: submit and clear. First of all, I don’t see the need for a “clear” button on many forms. Who fills out a form and then decides they need to completely start over? But for some reason, they still show up at the bottom of many online forms. So in these cases, the logic of where to put the submit button is even more critical. If you place the “clear” button to the right of “submit”, you will have the occasional user clicking on it by accident.

If you have an online form (survey, order form, etc) that seems to be light on submissions, you may want to double check your form logic as well. You may have numerous people filling out your form once … but after clearing it accidentally, decide not to fill it out a second time.

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Finally, My Own Cornhole!

My own cornhole set that is!

After getting addicted to the game at a friend’s bonfire, I’ve wanted to build my own for quite a while. Depending on others to bring a set or trying to borrow them for an event gets to be quite a pain. This past weekend I decided to give it a go and build my own set (featuring my alma mater, the MSU dragon).

There are variations of the boards and regulations to go by, but given that I’m used to the “tailgate” sizes (24″x36″) instead of “regulation” (24″x48″) I went with the smaller. Plus they fit in a trunk easier! For the rest of the specs though, I went with what the official sizes were (hole size, pitch, height, etc). To make it a little more sturdy, I also opted for the 3/4″ thick OSB board on top and 2×3″ lumber for the frame … gives it a little less bounce.

After picking up supplies it took me probably a couple hours of actual work to construct the boxes. I decided to go a little nicer and miter the corners instead of the butt-joints … also had to add some flare with the painting … can’t just paint them one solid color! Given my girlfriend liked the dragon logo as well, we went with the alternating color scheme … one black, one white. I drew the logo in Illustrator and printed it out, used a charcoal pencil to trace around it and then onto the board. From there it was just paint and poly!

As for the bags … if you don’t know how to sew (which I don’t) definitely rely on someone who does. My only knowledge is to use duck cloth and heavy-duty thread to make sure it holds. They will get beaten and you don’t want one breaking open! As for filler, they say to use feed corn, but even going to Fleet Farm I couldn’t find any bags of it so we opted for some of the crushed corn. It seems to work pretty well so far.

There are already a couple other board ideas in the works (gotta have enough in case of a tournament). ;) My ultimate goal is to create a nice oak set, multi-stained wood for that natural feel … but I have to work out a few kinks first.

Anyone else build a set for themselves? Or anyone want me to build them one … for a price? :P

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Lays and Helvetica Neue?

As I was stocking up on some groceries (since the house was about as bare as the Jelly Belly factory after a Reagan visit) I stopped in the chip aisle to pick up some snacks for my lunches. That’s when I saw them …

The new packaging for Lays potato chips. The design wasn’t what caught my attention, instead it was the font! Helvetica Neue for Lays potato chips, really? I’m not sure if they were going for a cleaner, more sophisticated look or if the print house didn’t notice the “missing font” alert and by default selected Helvetica. Specifically I noticed some of the bags utilizing darker colors (like barbecue) would have black text on a dark red bag … not very good for legibility. Was this a universal decision that everyone agreed with in the boardroom? Did they actually get other opinions or did they hire the intern at the 2-year tech college to design it for 2 credits?

Now I will say that I’m not against the use of Helvetica in a design, when used properly it can be a very nice font. Lays, however, didn’t succeed in my opinion. Time for another re-design.

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iPhone Price Drop a Surprise?

For all of those angry iPhone owners who sat in line and shelled out $600 for the very first iPhone, is it really a shock that they have now dropped in price?

Every “new” technology comes out of the gate at a premium price, specifically to capitalize on the eagerness of buyers to have what’s new. Anyone remember the iPod’s, the XBox and PS2/PS3 pattern? They had the same price-drop strategy as well. It’s all part of marketing. If you are still not aware of the patterns, it’s your own fault.

For those who just bought an iPhone, it is nice to see that you can get the $200 price difference back (if purchased within the 14 day window), while others are only eligible for $100. Personally, I don’t believe Apple owes anything to those original iPhone customers. They set the price and people paid.

Technology changes, productivity increases, prices drop … it’s how things go. If you haven’t noticed that pattern yet, read that sentence again. They say you remember things better if you repeat it 3 times … for all you technophiles out there, repeat it 12 times just to make sure. I don’t want to hear you complaining about how your [insert new innovative product here] just dropped in price after 2 months and you think it’s unfair.

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Evidently Air is No Longer Free

At gas stations that is.

I noticed this morning that my front tire was a little low on air so I drove over to one of the gas stations along the way to work. My first stop was SuperAmerica and pulled up to the pump only to see a sign notifying me of the $.75 charge for air? Given that all the gas stations around my previous home were free, I decided to drive a block down to the Holiday station to check that out. Sure enough, air wasn’t free there either, but at least cheaper at $.50.

Since I didn’t want to drive that distance with a low tire nor did I want to be late to work, I dug through my change compartment to find two quarters to buy some air. I’m pretty sure this isn’t “premium” air or anything … just a way for the stations to make some extra money off their customer’s misfortune.

Personally I find it a bit sad to charge for air … and up to $.75 at that. What’s next? Charging for the use of the window squeegee?

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“Flip” Shows: Deter or Encourage?

Looking at the television show selection these days you would never guess that we are currently in one of the worst housing markets in years. TLC and A&E pack their line-up with shows like: Property Ladder, Flip This House and Flip That House which follow a single flipper during their quest for “quick cash” in the housing market. They buy a cheap (read run-down, outdated and falling apart) house, set a budget to renovate and give themselves a timeline to finish it all before putting it on the market to sell for a huge profit! Sounds like a great idea right?

Not in this slouching housing market!

Yet these shows are abundant and apparently people are believing they can follow in the same footsteps (even though many of those footsteps are headed over a very tall cliff). Many of the flippers are “new” to house flipping and find out the hard way that budgets, contractors and knowing your audience are vital for success. These flaws make for great TV, but surely can’t be encouraging the wanna-be-flipper to try it for themselves, would it?

I’m actually starting to wonder.

When you watch these cocky flippers on TV, making mistake after mistake, you start to think how differently you would handle it. You would surely get a home inspection before buying the property. No way you would leave your contractors on the job site by themselves while you went to play golf. And you surely wouldn’t budget $300 for an entirely new set of kitchen cabinets! You’re smarter than all of these flippers … and that’s the problem.

These shows don’t glorify house flipping to make you believe it’s a quick and easy path to riches, instead they rely on reverse psychology to draw you in. The hosts will tell you that there are major risks and that flipping is not for everyone, but at the same time show you a successful transaction for the last person in the world that should be flipping a house. If that dolt can do it … why can’t I?

Being the handyman that I am, I’ve considered being one of those dolts in the past … but now that I have my own house to work on, those urges to renovate will be better spent on fixing up my own home. Not to flip mind you, but to live in and enjoy. The housing market has no control over those results. ;)

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I-35W Bridge Tragedy

Since it made national news (and even had the President fly out) I’m sure everyone has heard about the I-35W bridge collapse over the Mississippi River on August 1st. Being a Minnesotan it obviously hit close to home.

Given that I was in the process of moving into my new house (in the south of the cities, not the north) I was oblivious to what was going on. It was only when my friend John (who was helping me move) received a phone call from his family making sure he wasn’t crossing the bridge at the time. All of my family is located on the south or east side except for my sister (who was at home at the time, so wasn’t affected). Given that I was just moving in, there was no TV that I could flip on to see what was going on. At first I thought it was just a section that fell, but after driving to my parents house, I was able to see the actual chaos.

The urge (for me at least) was to drive out there and see if I could help, but even outside police / fire personel were being turned away at the scene because they had enough help from the surrounding communities. My other urge was to pack up my camera and take some photos of the scene, but I wouldn’t want to interfere with the on-going recovery operation either.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the families affected and those who lost loved ones in the I-35W tragedy.

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Looking for Phone Service? Enter your phone number …

As I have been researching and setting up all new services for my move, I’ve noticed a serious lack of thought in some of the websites out there. In particular was Frontier, a phone / internet / tv provider.

Since I am moving to a new area with a new zip code, I am in need of a new phone number. However, when trying to get pricing on the Frontier website I am constantly asked for my phone number to provide pricing? I don’t have a phone number yet, that’s what I’m trying to sign up for. What ever happened to entering your address, city or zip code to check pricing?

I ended up looking up the city online and found a random phone number for my neighborhood so I could at least get past their initial screening. I’m sure I’m not the only one who would rather see pricing online instead of calling a phone number, so having such a hindered method to view prices will surely harm their credibility (and thus number of sign-ups).

Just goes to show you how important outside input is in a website design. The programmer may have worked everything out perfectly, but unless you put yourself in the shoes of every type of visitor, you could be losing valuable visitors.

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