Well, here it is, January 2nd, 2003. What happened to last year, anyway? Danna and I have been “off the map” for quite some time, it seems. No fancy vacations, no updates to the web site. For us, 2002 ended in a bash at our house, the pictures of which are available here. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Since I’ve actually found the time to sit down and write something, I might as well provide a review of 2002 from our perspective.

House n’ Stuff

We bought a house in December, 2001 and it has consumed most of our lives. I think I shall call it House, with a capital “H”, just like people do for their deity. We pray to House to be kind to us, and not to extort more time and money than we actually have. So far House has been anything but benevolent. Here is a summary of the various tests of faith House has bestowed upon us over the last twelve months:

House Leaks

House has a leak somewhere. House is on the top of a hill and gets a lot of wind and rain coming off the Puget Sound. This causes House to be more susceptible to leaks than most other houses. When the rain comes down hard, the baseboards in our media room get wet and warp. If enough rain comes down, it leaks into our bedroom downstairs.

We’ve tried to appease House in several ways. After contacting several “experts” we arrived at the conclusion that the entire home building industry consists of people who do not possess the skill to have a real job with real responsibility. So, we took matters into our own hands and had the windows re-calked and a section of the roof replaced. We had high hopes, but now that winter is here House is again leaking, so we will have to try something new.

House Transmits

House lives a few blocks from a major TV station. As such, House receives very strong radio frequency emissions. So strong, that I can actually measure an AC voltage out of the air. This causes trouble with the myriad electronic devices we have inside of House. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • Cordless phones click and pop
  • TV’s either sound like they are being played through a pipe, or have diagonal lines all over their screen
  • Subwoofer plays NPR even when it is off
  • Lights turn themselves on when we’re not home
  • AV remote control that only works in one three foot section of one room

I’ve spent most of my weekends trying to improve the behavior of these devices. I looked into having a company come in and put heavy RF shielding in the walls of the house. This is usually done in hospitals where the MRI machines are located. Anything with the terms “MRI” and “hospital” in the same sentence usually means insanely expensive. While House would be happy with the extra cost, I was afraid to even ask, so I quickly dropped that idea. Rather than shield House, I’ve chosen to shield each device itself. For a reasonable price you can buy special copper mesh that can be used to shield electronics from radio signals. For an even more reasonable price you can go to Lowe’s and buy metal window screening, which does the same thing.

The metal screening worked great for the remote and for the subwoofer, as those items are small and accessible so I could hide the shielding inside their cabinets. But, that left the TV. The only way I could “fix” the TV was to wrap it in window screening. This quickly became known as the “chicken wire solution”, and nagged at me continuously. Finally, four days ago, I came across the final solution. I took the TV apart and found a single bundle of wires that was unshielded. These wires connect the TV’s electronics to the LCD panels that drive the screen. After wrapping these in grounded foil and putting them through a ferrite core, I’m happy to say that, finally, our TV has no lines. This exercise has taught me to be wary of any electronic device I buy, and has also provided me a safe “out” against ever having kids: House would probably turn them into two-headed freaks.

House Has Varmints

A few months ago Danna and I were standing in the kitchen when we heard an odd scratching sound coming from the cupboards. I thought it was the cat, but the cat was nowhere to be found. The scratching was coming from under the floorboards. Yes, House has invited some varmints to live in the crawl space. Some day I will get the courage to visit the crawl space. For now, I have just tossed in some “varmint candy” I bought at the hardware store.

Of course, no good deity can survive without a few animal sacrifices. Therefore, we have taken every opportunity to appease House. Here are some of the ways we’ve tried to satisfy House:

Painting

Danna and I painted nearly every interior surface of House. I have personally slathered over ten gallons of paint in the living room and kitchen alone. For Christmas I painted the bedroom for Danna: three colors in what was supposed to be one marathon day. We slept on the couch for the next two days while I finished the job. Whups.

Craning

Our house is very tall and skinny. When we moved in, all of our furniture was on the ground floor. But we had lofty aspirations of some day being able to inhabit the other floors of House. Too bad none of the furniture would go up the stairs. It took a crane and three burly young fellows to haul our junk to the correct floors.

Filming

Our house gets a lot of light. We’ve always been afraid of our furniture fading. Last month we had all of our windows treated with a UV coating so nothing should fade. It’s a little odd, because now things that have had the sun shining on them are cool to the touch instead of hot.

Wiring

There’s a hole in our pantry that is covered with a plastic cover. Inside the hole is a large bundle of wires. Every phone and cable line in the house ends up in this hole, and everything is knotted together in one huge mess. During one of my adventures digging around in this hole I also found out that the entire house is wired for high speed networking; I just needed to hook up the ends of all the wires. So, a couple of months ago I did just that: Danna was spending the night at a friend’s house so I made my move. I installed an outlet inside the wall, replaced the hole with a wiring cabinet, and re-wired the tangle of wires. I also installed networking throughout the house, and a wireless network for notebooks. Starting time: 9:00 PM. Ending time: 4:30 the next afternoon. And then it took me another three days to fix all the bugs I introduced.

Wining

We buy a lot of wine. We drink most of it, but there is a substantial portion our livers won’t let us get to quite yet. So, we’ve just installed a wine cellar in a basement closet. Now we’ve got room for some 250 bottles of wine. That should keep our livers happy for a while.

Playtime

While House did demand a large portion of our time, we still had a bit of free time. I spent most of my free time dinking around with the lines on my TV and playing Xbox, but Danna actually did some fun things. I did go to London, but that was for work so it really doesn’t count.

Avon Breast Cancer Walk

Danna spent quite a bit of free time training for theAvon Breast Cancer Three Day Walk. This was a sixty mile walk, and she learned a lot about taking care of blisters.

Skydiving

Danna also met one of her goals this year. She’s always wanted to go skydiving, and finally did a tandem jump in June. I stayed safely on the ground and took pictures. I see no reason to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

Wine is Fine

We spent probably a bit too much time in musty cellars this year. We took a wine tasting trip to Yakima, and another to Sonoma. While in Sonoma we actually picked grapes to make our own wine. We will go back this spring and bottle it.

Worktime

We worked a lot this year. Danna even managed to put in the extra hours this time. That probably put the biggest damper on my vacation plans, because Danna acts as my official travel agent.

Danna had a change of vocation. She’s still working for the evil empire, but now she’s a product manager working on the HR resume tracking software. She’s learning about all sorts of fun things like bug tracking databases and never, ever trust marketing.

I finally shipped the .NET Framework. I’ve only been working on it for four stinkin’ years, so it’s about time. Now I’m working on the next version and the next next version because the thing’s so complicated we’ve got to plan several versions ahead.

Party Time

What end of year review would be complete without a few words about New Years Eve? House has a lovely view of the space needle, and they shoot fireworks off of the needle for New Years, so it makes perfect sense to invite a bunch of people, pump them full of liquor and cheese, and welcome them into the New Year.