Pane in the Glass

I bought my house back in early 1999. Two years later, in August of 2001, someone broke in. This has, of course, already been chronicled elsewhere. The intruder or intruders (I never found out which) broke the window on my basement door, undid the deadbolt, and let themselves in.
That very same day, I had a locksmith replace the lock with one that couldn’t be opened without a key. That way, even if someone breaks the window again, they still won’t be able to get in without making a lot more noise as they break out the metal framework that holds the window in place. As for the glass itself, I decided to be somewhat “creative” with the replacement.
The original window consisted of two sheets of tempered safety glass with a one-eighth inch spacer and vacuum in between. When the glass was broken, it made a mess of tiny cubes on the floor, but there were no large shards (a happy situation for me since I wasn’t wearing shoes when I discovered it). Rather than replace it with more glass and possibly have the same experience, I instead went out and bought two sheets of Lexan.
If you’ve never heard of it, Lexan is a special type of plastic (a polycarbonate actually) that is exceptionally durable. The display at Home Depot has a square of it in a window frame with a baseball hanging in front of it that people can throw as hard as they want to try and break the “window.” Nobody ever succeeds. I’ve also seen it used to make plates and cutlery for camping and any variety of other things you want to be durable but lightweight. The only way I’ve ever succeeded in breaking a piece of Lexan was to cut it with a saw or else fold it in half, lean on it with my full weight, and bounce several times. (This stuff is tough!) Installed in a window frame, I figured it would be nearly unbreakable. And that was the general idea. 🙂
One of the neighborhood kids broke into our house when I was growing up. He didn’t take anything, just made a mess, strewing toys all over the place. My reaction to that break in was the same as my reaction to this one – I was extremely annoyed that I had to clean up the mess. As I said, Lexan is extremely tough, so if someone was going to try breaking into my house again then by golly, I wanted the pleasure of finding the guilty party laying unconscious on the deck after the rock bounced off the window and hit them in the head!

That was probably the cleverest mistake I’ve ever made. Replacing breakable glass with something that’s hard to break makes a lot of sense. I’m proud of that part of the decision. But perhaps you’re wondering by now, if Lexan is so tough, why don’t they use it instead of glass? The price is about the same, but it turns out that Lexan isn’t a very good insulator (particularly the way I’d installed it without a vacuum seal between the two sheets). Over the past winter or two, I’ve noticed a pretty strong draft by that door. At first I thought it was the weatherstripping, but over time, I realized that the cold air was coming in around the window. (No doubt there was a similar loss of cool air during the summer months.)
Coming into December of 2005, I had nearly three weeks of unused vacation time. Since we have a “use it or lose it” vacation policy at work, I decided to spend the time working on various projects around the house. Item one was to measure the glass in the door and order a replacement window. A couple quick measurements and like a flash, I was off to the glass company. Turns out that glass for doors is a special order and it’ll take about three weeks to arrive. No problem. Installing the glass will be the last thing I do before going back to work.
Remember I mentioned that there were two sheets of glass in the window? It turns out that not only is there no standard height and width for the window in a door, there’s no standard thickness either. So much for ordering the glass that day! And by the time I did manage to disassemble the window and measure the spacer, it was already the end of December.
All of this practice taking the window apart and putting it back together again paid off though. When I called to order the window, I learned that it was going to cost nearly $200 for the glass company to come out and install it. By picking it up in person and installing it myself, I was able to bring the price down to less than$100. (Note to self: If this programming gig turns out to just be a fad, there’s big money to be made installing windows in basement doors!)
I picked up the new piece of glass during my lunch break on Monday. There were a few other things going on that evening, so I left the glass sitting in the living room and said a silent prayer that Wylie would refrain from knocking it over.
After dinner this evening I went down to the basement and disassembled the window for what I sincerely hope will be the last time. The new glass is installed in the door, the Lexan is leaning up against the wall, waiting to be used in some other project, and I’m hopefully doing a bit less to heat the outdoors.
The project’s done, and you know what? It wasn’t too “paneful” after all!

Breaking the ice

While taking care of some grocery shopping (the cupboards were getting rather bare), I wandered through the "Seasonal" aisle. This occasionally doubles as the "clearance" aisle and is a great place to find candy marked down the day after Christmas, Easter and (to a lesser degree) Halloween. So, on the off chance that there was a candy holiday I’d overlooked, I wandered through.
There wasn’t any candy, but I did notice a rather strange pairing of products. On one set of shelves there were three kinds of rock salt for folks who might need to de-ice their sidewalks if any happened to form during the 60-degree weather we’ve been having. I briefly considered buying a bag for use with the ice cream maker I got for Christmas, but decided I might already have some. On the shelves to the immediate right of the salt, there was a display with three brands of charcoal and two brands of charcoal lighter fluid.
My first thought was "Who the heck is going to have a cook-out in January?" (True, I once went on a picnic in March with eight inches of snow on the ground, but I suspect I’m unique in that regard.) After thinking about it for a moment, I realized that, when applied correctly, either rock salt or charcoal (particularly with lighter fluid) could be used to melt ice.
So perhaps it makes sense after all.

Now that's impressive!

It seems there were people in Europe making cheese all the way back in the stone age.
I suppose that’s a really ground-breaking discovery, but that’s not what impresses me about it.
No, what impresses me is how they discovered it. They did this by examining dirty cooking pots from 8,000 years ago. Isn’t that cool? There’s some guy out there (and it must have been a guy, a woman would never do this) who every night for the past 8,000 years has been saying, “I’ll do the dishes tomorrow.”

Setting the record straight

Mom and Dad visited this weekend and while we were having lunch with friends of theirs, someone mentioned my first meeting with their minister.
Reverend Macaleer came to their church a year or so after the retirement of the minister who’d been there while I was growing up. It wasn’t planned that way, but I happened to be home for a visit the same weekend that the church had a party to welcome the new minister. Mom and Dad were planning to attend, so they invited me along.
I should have seen it coming. When Reverend Macaleer saw me, he walked up to introduce himself and said, “You must be Ellie’s son. You look just like her.” All my life, my facial features have been similar to Mom’s, but growing up that’s not something I enjoyed being told. But as a grown up, I’ve learned to respond with humor.
Mom says she’ll never forget the look on Reverend Macaleer’s face when I responded, “I’m adopted.”
Now the problem with this statement is, it’s not true. It was all in fun, but the bottom line is, I lied to a minister! That’s just not a good thing to do. So to set the record straight once and for all, I’m most definitely not adopted and even though I give them a hard time, I love Mom and Dad very much.
But I am from Dad’s first marriage.

They're just doing what they were told

There’s been a problem at my office with people putting all manner of things down the drain in the kitchenette. There is a garbage disposal, but there are limits to what it can handle. (Coffee grounds and coffee stirrers are high on the list of things the disposal can’t handle.) The result is that the drain has been clogged on several occasions and the plumbing bills have been significant.
In an effort to put an end to the problem, the facilities management group put up a sign asking people to “Please Do Not throw coffee grounds and/or stirrers into the garbage disposal.”
This didn’t solve the problem. If anything, the problem of coffee stirrers being thrown into the disposal actually became more frequent. That’s when a couple of us noticed something funny about the sign.
It turns out that the woman who put the sign up put it eye level. She’s also five feet tall. Most of the rest of us are taller, so our eye level is a bit higher than hers.
Oops!  The sign's just a little too high...
My theory is that the people who’ve been throwing coffee stirrers into the garbage disposal are just following directions. At least, that’s how they see it.

Finding Serenity

For one of the conventions I’m involved in, my role is to act as the organization’s liaison to the various fan groups who attend each year.
Initially, this mainly entailed keeping track of who had contacted us and assigning them table space on a first-come basis. Over time though, the position has evolved somewhat and I now find myself seeking groups out and inviting them to attend. (In some ways, this is very much about publicizing the event.)
One of the past year’s big movies from a fan perspective (for some, this was bigger than the final Star Wars) was a rather imaginative film called “Serenity.”
Part science-fiction and part cowboy movie, Serenity is a follow-on to the short-lived TV series Firefly and continues the story of a spaceship crew living “out on the raggedy edge.” Several members of Serenity’s crew are Browncoats – veterans from the losing side of a war between The Alliance (the oppressive central government) and the Independents (the worlds that didn’t want to become part of The Alliance).
Fans of the show and the movie have adopted the “Browncoat” label to describe themselves and their desire to keep the show alive after a series of questionable programming decisions by the Fox network caused Firefly to be cancelled after just 12 of its 14 episodes had aired. (Among Fox’s questionable judgments are decisions to show the episodes out of sequence and worse, not airing the pilot episode – where all the series’ groundwork is laid – until the last.)
The browncoat fan base has been so strong in fact that Universal Pictures made the decision to “greenlight” Serenity despite the poor ratings the Firefly series had received. Because of this, a few months ago, one of the committee members commented that “Wouldn’t it be great if we had the Browncoats there?”
So, I started out to find the browncoats. This was more challenging than you might suspect though, I’m only involved in one or two clubs myself and now I was setting out to make contact with a new one. Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to find any browncoat clubs. Eventually I realized what was going on — they’re just like their counterparts in the movie! The Browncoats don’t join alliances! They’re all a bunch of independents!

Higher Education

Back in the 1980s, Lisa Whelchel played the role of Blair Warner on the sitcom "The Facts of Life." As one might suspect, the show’s popularity led to a lot of confusion about the name "Blair."
I’d really like to meet Lisa one day so I can finally thank her for that time back in college when I was mistakenly assigned to the girls’ dorm.
That weekend had potential to be quite educational. 🙂

Where's the camera?

There’s been a trend in the media lately to refer to well-known people by their last name only, without any titles or honorifics. This can be downright fun at times. 🙂 For example:
Back in May of last year, The Washington Post announced that I had been elected as the British Prime Minister!
More recently, C|Net published an article about an upcoming documentary from the British Government which includes, "documentary-style footage of Blair on the job".
Wow. I never even noticed the film crew!

Cruel names to give a child

There are some cruel parents out there.
It’s been upwards of ten years since an acquaintance who worked for the company first mentioned to me that the founder of Leer Jet had given his daughter the name "Shanda".
My curiosity got the better of me today and I went out to Yahoo People Search to do some investigation. Yahoo has listings for 13 people whose names are some variation on "Candace Barr" and one more whose parents gave her the name "Minnie Barr."
So far, none of the Barr families have any children named Granola.