Chirp 2.0

It was late by the time I got home from work. According to the original plan, I was still supposed to be in New Bastille, but sometimes plans have to change. Wylie was very happy to see me and started barking and once he gets started, it’s not long before Terry joins in with an accusatory chorus of The Abandoned Parrot’s Lament.
With all that commotion, I didn’t notice the chirp at first, or if I did, it was quickly dismissed as a particularly shrill note from Terry. But just as I attached Wylie’s leash the chirp came again. I was at the bottom of the stairs just then, and I knew what that meant — the upstairs smoke detector must need a new battery. So I took it down and put the battery where I would see it and not forget to replace it.
When Wylie and I returned from our walk, I put the leash away and headed toward the kitchen to get us both some dinner. Just as I was passing the stairs again, it happened:
Upon hearing that fateful sound, only one thought went through my mind: Oh no, not again.
I decided not to panic. Not yet anyhow. There is another smoke detector in the house after all, this one at the top of the basement stairs. So I opened the basement door, took down the smoke detector, and replaced the batterries.
Warning! Carbon Monoxide.
Oh. It does that every time you replace the batteries. Nothing to worry about.
Huh? That’s never happened before. Maybe it just needs a little more time before whatever internal system came up to the proper voltage and then the chirper will turn itself off.
So I put the detector back in place at the top of the basement stairs.
OK, now I’m starting to worry. Maybe the replacement batteries are bad too?
So I took the detector down again. Took the batteries out, put in another set.
Warning! Carbon Monoxide.
OK, normal so far…
Uh oh.
Hey, what’s it say on the back here?
WARNING: Carbon Monoxide cannot be seen or smelled but can kill you. If alarm sounds: 1) Operate reset/silence button. 2) Call your emergency services (fire department or 911). 3) Immediately move to fresh air – outdoors or by an open door/window.
Hey, what’s this?
Alarm Quick Reference Guide

  • Three long “beeps” followed by “FIRE! FIRE!” Indication of fire hazard. (Or maybe the Klingons are in phaser range?)
  • Four short “beeps” followed by “WARNING! CARBON MONOXIDE.” Indication of CO hazard.
  • One “chirp” every 60 seconds, followed by “LOW BATTERY.” Indication of low battery.
  • Eight “chirps” after operating test button. Indication of previous levels of CO exceeding 100 ppm.
  • One “chirp” every 30 seconds. Indication of alarm malfunction.

Indication of alarm malfunction.“????
So I timed the chirps. Sure enough, it’s every 30 seconds.
I don’t plan to repeat that experience any time soon. This time, the malfunctioning detector goes in the trash for certain.
In the meantime, I’ve already removed the batteries.

Prime Real Estate

As they say, the three most important things in real estate are: Location, Location, Location.
About a year ago, my officemate and I were moved to a new office at the other end of the hall. The old office had previously been dedicated to just one person, so the new digs were a definite improvement in terms of being able to move around.
The downside to the new office is that it’s right next to the kitchen. A wide variety of smells drift in at lunch time: some are quite tantalizing; others are quite the opposite.
MC took a new job back in the Spring. Six months later, I have a new office mate and he’s been making the making the same discoveries about the lunch smells. Today however he discovered one of the points that make this a prime location: This afternoon, we were the first to find out about the chocolate chip cookies. 🙂

Notes from this Weekend

I spent this past weekend at a Maryland Jaycees convention up in Timonium. One of the more memorable moments of the weekend was a presentation my friend Angela gave on Saturday evening. She was kind enough to share a copy and I thought the folks who regularly read this site might find it interesting.

Hi everyone, this person is your typical Militia honoree: they’ve chaired or co-chaired projects from small to large, held many board positions at both the local level and the state level, they’ve crisscrossed the state to assist other chapters, recruited new members, participated in state programs such as speak-up, write-up, and degrees. Most importantly, her chapter has witnessed her growth from the shy person who sat quietly in the back of the room to someone well known, liked, and respected across the state.
This person was nominated for many reasons, but one thing stands out above all others: her ability to successfully mentor chapter members and Jaycees all across the state. She coaches new project chairs through the project planning process and teaches them the fundamentals. She understands the importance of guiding and teaching them how to plan the project, rather than doing the work for them. In the nominee’s own words, “…sometimes people ask for advice, and then they follow-up by asking questions. That’s when you get to be a mentor. And that’s kind of cool. You don’t run the project for them: you answer questions, you give advice, and you help out. But you don’t take over. (It’s gotta be rough for momma bird when the baby bird takes that first step off the branch!)”
Many of you are familiar with quite a few of her…uh, HIS mischief and mayhem. That’s right, he is known around the state for taking the Special Olympics turkey plunge quite literally. Two of our members had recently gotten engaged (they decided to “take the plunge”) so he secretly raised funds to get them to jump in the frigid water, but he took it a step further by making turkey wings out of brown paper bags to go with the turkey plunge theme. They looked stunning! He’s also responsible for our chapter’s largest turnout of speak up and write up competitors at a quarterly convention simply because he challenged the chapter president that he could get a high turnout. Unfortunately for the president, this person won the challenge and the president took a pie in the face!
One of my own foolish moments has paid off in dividends for all of us. After his first year in the Jaycees, he hemmed and hawed about renewing his membership so I made a silly comment about what I would do if he didn’t renew (something about bunnies — you’ll have to ask him). Somehow, he turned it into a practical joke on me, but he’s been around ever since. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lastly, I am so very pleased to be the person presenting this award because I greatly value his friendship. We became friends long ago when we served on the chapter’s board and our friendship has grown throughout the years. When I became chapter president, I frequently sought his advice (usually over lunch or ice cream!). His ability to see things I could not were as invaluable to me then as they are now.
His greatest strength is his compassion and caring. He’s known for being quite the practical joker, but last year with great planning and care, he turned the long-time practical joke of bunny ears into Operation Bunny Foo Foo to lift my spirits during my illness. Compassion and caring — that’s him.
But tonight it is not about me — it’s about him. At this point, will the members of the Gaithersburg/Germantown Jaycees please don your ears and escort the newest Militia Major, Blair Learn to the podium.

And then A BUNCH OF MY FRIENDS PUT ON BUNNY EARS and led me to the front of the room where I was presented with a plaque, hat, and other accouterments recognizing me as a member of the Maryland Jaycees Militia. (A Militia Membership is the highest honor you can achieve in the Maryland Jaycees.) The Gaithersburg/Germantown chapter sets a pretty high standard in order to consider someone for a Militia membership and given the caliber of people who had been honored in the past, I figured it was a pretty safe bet I wouldn’t be one of them.
I’m still a little blown away.

A Feeling of Accomplishment

At the end of May, I had new floors installed in my house. For a month before that, the house was a whirlwind of moving EVERYTHING into the basement, culminating in about two weeks of painting.
The living room and half of the kitchen (the half involving the wall behind the fridge — there was some strategy involved) were painted before the floors were installed on the theory that it was better to drip paint on the carpets that were being removed than on the new floors. Time ran out however and most of the painting was done with a great deal of caution so as to avoid any spills.
By mid-June, the entire house had been painted except for some touch up work in two of the bedrooms and the upstairs hallway, and that pesky other half of the kitchen. That’s when the procrastination set in. Fast forward through June, July, August, September, October and the first week of November.
This past weekend, I decided to stay home on Saturday and did all the touch up painting. The upstairs bedrooms and hallway are painted, and I even put an area rug in the master bedroom. Sunday evening, I put the curtains back up for the first time since May. (This is about as “domestic” as I get.)
All that remained to be done was to finish painting the darn kitchen.
Tuesday was Veterans Day and I had the day off from work. Here’s how the kitchen looked by mid-afternoon. Everything off the counter, painters tape on all the edges.
The kitchen, all ready to be painted.
The paint had dried by Wednesday evening, so I took down all the tape and put up the curtains. This evening I put the various wallplates back on the outlets and switches. Here’s how the kitchen looks now.
The kitchen, all ready to be painted.
I still have stuff to do — it’s a house after all, so the TODO list never ends — but at this point, I’m ready to declare this particular project complete.

Trekkies Will Buy Anything that says Star Trek…

I forget where I first heard that rather cynical sentiment, but looking at the vast array of Officially Sanctioned Star Trek™ merchandise available in even fairly mainstream stores (e.g. Target), it’s sometimes difficult to dispute the claim, and even more maddening to find myself falling into that stereotype. (On the other hand, I’ve thus far avoided any temptation to remodel my house to look like the Enterprise™. The existing renovation project was daunting enough on its own.)
Tonight though, I ran across a particularly egregious example of that apparent belief: Think Geek is selling a light switchplate for $17.99 that you can make yourself for less than $5.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Think Geek and do shop there on occasion. (After all, who doesn’t need an Annoyatron or two from time to time?) I’m also well aware that when you buy from a boutique like that which caters to a particular audience (in this case, geeks like me), you’re going to pay a little more than if you bought the same product elsewhere. The two-to-three hundred percent mark up just seems a bit outrageous is all.
I’ll admit to being curious how many people will buy this product, but I won’t be one of them. (I bought mine 15 years ago and paid considerably less.)
(More on this at the Blah, Blah, Blog.)

Foot Warmer

In the past month or so, I’ve discovered that one of the downsides to the wooden floors is that as the temperatures drop, wood isn’t nearly as warm as carpet. This makes getting out of bed just that much more difficult. (Wylie’s perspective is that because it’s more slippery, wood floors make it more difficult to launch yourself onto the bed. He gets stuck halfway about once a week.)
Last night, instead of dancing, I stayed home, and after some minor prep work, touched up the paint in two of the bedrooms. (When I took down the masking tape a few months ago, some of the new paint came with it.)
This afternoon, with the paint dry, I put the furniture back, and at long last put down my first area rug.
The new area rug
I think it looks pretty darn good, but now I’ll have to find a new excuse for oversleeping.