Thursday, January 30, 2014

ManCave Update: Primer on the Screen...

On Wednesday evening I decided to put the primer coat on our screen and do a little electrical work.  It was pretty obvious with the first coat that the drywall was sucking it right up.
In the end, I went ahead and used the entire quart.  I can see I'll need to sand out a few little blemishes, but by this afternoon, I was pretty pleased with how it all dried (it looks much better than this 4th photo shows).  More pictures on the next update when I paint it with the special screen paint I bought from Sherman-Williams.

This weekend I intend to finish the electrical, mount the projector, and mount the speakers in the walls.  Of course, I still need to purchase a sub-woofer and a center channel speaker, but we'll see.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Something Just Ain't Right...

I'm used to rain and cold messing with my DSL, but we've had seriously degraded Internet for the past several days, even when it is sunny outside.
This is my speed test results this morning.  I did look into getting Internet America which is a service that puts a huge mast in your yard and gets a signal from a water tower a few miles away.  But when they sent me back a quote, the start up costs (installation and the purchase of equipment) combined with the monthly fee for not much more of a speed than what I'm supposed to get with DSL made me skip that idea.  I will just say that what they show on their web page is not what they offered me.

I often see these commercials for HughesNet but to be honest, it seems like everyone I talk to who has had it was unhappy.  Regardless, I may call them and see what they can offer.

Of course, all of this is one of the cons about moving out of the city.  I love Internet and would love to waste hours at a time clicking on YouTube videos, but it is a minor irritant compared to the traffic and other nonsense we no longer have to deal with. 
I am predicting that within the next decade, AT&T or Time Warner will find us out here and we can get UVerse or Roadrunner.  Until then, I'm open to suggestions.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Eva nudged me at 5 this morning to deal with Little Kitty.  She spent the night indoors last night due to the extreme Arctic temps, and by about 5AM, she was done with people living.  It was kind of funny to see her sitting quietly in the doorway of the bedroom, choosing not to pass from the tile floor in the hallway onto the carpet of the bedroom.  I picked up and walked outside with her.  I'm sure the neighbors would have been impressed with me standing in my underwear pulling up the weather app on my phone to see the temp.  26 degrees in Natalia.
This is what Little Kitty looks like when she explores the office.
This is what Gracie looks like when she knows the cat is in the house.  That is her, "What the hell is the cat doing in the house" pout.
And this is what it looked like a few hours later.  Funny, when I stand out on the back porch (in my underwear) I get the weather for Natalia, but 30 feet away in the office, it gives me the weather for Lytle.  In case you are wondering, yes, those are little symbols depicting a 40% chance of snow.  I doubt we'll get that, but I do predict a big chance of lots of wrecks on the icy roads.  In my office, we are all reporting to work late so as to reduce the number of jerks on the roads all at once, but if everyone else does the same thing and the roads are still icy, well, you know.
Last night I noticed that our Internet really sucks.  I downloaded the latest update to the tax software.  Yes, one of the benefits of living in San Antonio is that you can get UVerse or Roadrunner.  Out here, I am lucky to have DSL from AT&T.  When it rains, the Internet slows down to a crawl.  With ice, it is even worse.   I feel like I am back in 1996 with our spiffy new 28K dial up modem.  
The Tape, Float and Texture guy finished yesterday.  I'll provide an update later, but when I took pictures yesterday afternoon, it was all still pretty wet on the seams.  We think he did a fantastic job and if all works out, we just may do some painting this weekend.  Eva asked him to just leave everything taped up so we could get in and paint without having to worry about covering the garage door and such.  Instead of the larger orange peel texture (that I would have shot if I was doing it), Eva asked him to do the small.  You can't tell with these pictures but it really was the better choice and it came out looking really, really good.

Stay warm out there.  And just remember - nobody gets to complain when the fireball comes out and we start having those 100 degree afternoons.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

ManCave Update: So Glad I Didn't Try This...

Our Tape & Float guy showed up Wednesday morning and got started early, working most of the day.  This guy is really good and I'll be glad to provide his contact information to anyone in the area needing his help. 
What I learned very quickly is, if you are doing more than a small project like patching up a closet nobody will ever see, leave this for the professionals.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't a skill that the average homeowner can't learn, but there is an art to it, and you don't really want to learn on the walls you are going to be looking at for the next decade or so.
This morning, he'll touch up the rough areas and finish today with the texture.  His two days of work easily saved us a week or more - just in sanding time.

Monday, January 20, 2014

ManCave Update: Framed...

Just a quick look at the frame around the projection screen as we wait for the tape & float guy.
 The frame is a simple 1 X 4 and I ran it through the router to round over the outside edges.  You can see some 1 X 2s laying on the floor.  I bought the 1 X 4s but then thought they might be too big to fit the speakers between the projector screen and the stud closest to it on either side, so I picked up the 1 X 2s.  But yesterday, my son and I pulled out the speakers and measured - sure enough, the 1 X 4 trim will work nicely.  Oh well, I can always use 1 x 2's for something.

Our debate right now is, do we paint the frame the same color as the back wall (Mouse Ear Black) or do we paint it some other color so as to make it stand out?  I guess we'll get to that when it is time to start painting.  Can't paint till we get the tape & float and texture done.
On a side note, Sunday was such a beautiful day we spent a lot of time outside between checking in on the games in the house.  Eva found an idea on Pinterest that caused me to drill some random holes in the fence near our grill area.  I guess the idea is for the morning sun to shine through the colored rocks glued to the holes and make sparkly designs on the other side.  We'll see how that goes.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Daily Deer...

We were headed out somewhere on Saturday and while Eva waited in the truck I ran out to pop my SD card into the deer camera and toss some corn out.  I heard the snap of a stick and looked up to see a deer staring at me. 
Of course, I whipped out my handy Nikon and took a few pictures. 

When we got home later in the afternoon, Eva was sitting on the patio with our granddaughter when they noticed 6 deer peeking back over the fence at them.  We all quietly watched until Gracie felt the need to make her presence known.  With all that action, I knew the camera had to have picked it up.
Because it was still light, I was hoping we had some good pictures on the camera, but alas, all we got was me!  There has to be some setting that is messed up on the camera, or maybe I need to give it a good cleaning - maybe the sensor is blocked by dirt or dust.
The deer later in the evening were in the same place that the six had been, and the camera worked just fine.  It's a mystery.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

ManCave Update: Ready to Tape and Float...

So not a whole lot of action this week.  After we finished with the sheet rock I went ahead and put up the projection screen. 
As you can see, the screen is simply more sheet rock.  The plan is to from it with some nice 1 X 2, and when we paint, use a special mixture that will transform the sheet rock into a high quality screen.  It measures 8' by 4'6" which gives us a 110 inch (diagonal) screen.  I got the instructions from the Home Theater Forum, and the results I have seen online look great. (The blocks of wood are just temporary).

I was given the name of a local sheet rock guy by someone out here and he came by to give us an estimate.  He asked me which company did the work and I was happy to tell him it was me, my son and son-in-law.  Though he did mention the obvious mistake we made regarding the staggered seams (we screwed up the first two sheets we installed), he said the job looked as professional as most of the work he sees.  Not bad for a bunch of amateurs.

We came up with a fair price and he'll come out Monday or Tuesday and get us all taped, floated, and textured.  Things are coming right along.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

ManCave Update: We Have Walls!

The kids came over on Saturday and we took advantage of the beautiful weather to work on two projects simultaneously.  Eva and Roxanne had a girls project which was to expand our grilling area with the left over rock from the patio we made at Tyler and Roxanne's house.  Us boys, me, Taz and Tyler commenced with the sheet rock on the walls of the Man Cave.
As a quick follow-up to the post last week about the ceiling:  I got a nice e-mail from a regular reader and former neighbor, Bill, who noted that I needed to add some additional screws to the ceiling or we'd be in for some problems later.  Bill is an expert craftsman, and his advice was well taken, so before we could start with the walls, I put up another pound of screws to make sure the ceiling wouldn't sag on us later.  Thanks, Bill!
First, the grill area.  When I got home from work Friday afternoon (with a truck load of sheet rock), Eva had been busy digging out the grass from the existing edge of the patio to the fence.  The total area is probably 8 x 12.  I've never really thought of this area as a functional patio - just a place to park the grills.  But by extending things, it really opened up the area for something we could use.  That's Roxanne working while Panda inspects the work.
While the guys worked our magic in the garage, the girls leveled and placed the new patio pieces.
When it was all laid out, we realized we were a few pieces short, but unfortunately, the materials place in Lytle was already closed for the weekend.  On Monday I'll pick up a few pieces of rock just to finish things out.
And proud of their work, Eva and Roxanne took a well deserved break.  Now there is enough space for a picnic table and some chairs  - perfect for cooking out.
Onto the ManCave.  Whereas last week, Tyler and I had the assistance of a sheet rock lift to help raise the roof (so to speak), on Saturday, we had my son Taz to help us out.  This really saved my knees and I think we were able to work much more efficiently with the two boys cutting and carrying the rock, and me drilling in the screws.
Things went along fairly smoothly with only a few minor glitches, but I think we were all happy with the progress.
When it was all over, we were about a piece or two short of sheet rock.  We could have pieced things together with the scraps, but I'll just pick up some more sheet rock today and finish off the closet.

All in all, a great day of work in the beautiful weather, though admittedly, we were all completely exhausted and sore. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

ManCave Update: Ceiling is up...

On Friday afternoon, we went to Home Depot to grab the insulation we would need for the attic.  When we got to the register, I whipped out my military ID card for the usual discount both Lowe's and Home Depot give and the cashier told me that for building materials, they no longer offer the discount.  Of course, Eva was out of hearing distance from this little conversation or she would have immediately said, F@&* this S*@% and cancelled the transaction.  I'm a little more level headed.  I said to the lady, You realize that your competitor is right next door, right?   She smiled and said I would probably want to fill out the survey included with the receipt.  I let Eva do the survey, I on the other hand just go to Lowe's henceforth.
 These are the big bundles of insulation I got at Home Depot.
My day wasn't over yet though.  I went back into San Antonio to the Lowe's and grabbed enough sheet rock to do the ceiling.
On Saturday, I drove into Lytle to the True Value and rented a sheet rock lift.  One thing I've learned over the years - never even think about doing the ceiling without a lift.  If you are a pro working with a crew, fine, but if you are the amateur homeowner, pay the $25 and rent one of these.  Your back will thank you later.

Oh, little side note.  On the way back home, I stopped at the Bill Miller's in Lytle to grab some breakfast tacos.  Eva wanted a sausage with bean and cheese and I wanted sausage with egg and cheese.  Plus, I ordered a large coffee.  I was the only one in line so there was no rush or any distractions but it took the girl three tries to understand my order.  This was not an issue of language - we both spoke English - but for some reason she was just having an off morning.  Anyway, she rings me up, I pay, then another lady comes in and she starts to take her order.  I stopped her and asked about my coffee.  Oh, you wanted coffee?  I should have taken that as my hint for what was about to come.  After ringing up my coffee, I wait a few minutes for my order.

When I got home, Eva opens the bag and starts looking at the tacos.  They were all egg and cheese (no sausage) and one of the eggs & cheese tacos had beans.  I look at the receipt, and the order is exactly correct.  The people in the back put in our bag exactly what was on the ticket, it's just that the girl at the register didn't type in any of what I said.

I usually would just let it go but Eva was threatening to go back, so I thought I better do it. I go back and show her the receipt and explain that the order wasn't right.  She looks at the receipt and says, did they not give you eggs and cheese and beans, etc.?  I smiled and explained that the people in the kitchen got the order right, but she didn't enter what I wanted.

A few minutes later I was leaving with all the right food.  And yes, I checked before I pulled out of the parking lot.  You know, I know mistakes happen, but yikes!
So my son-in-law Tyler comes over and we commenced to put up the sheet rock. There is a real sense of accomplishment when you see the first piece go up.
 We did a little trick we saw on YouTube for marking the places we would have to cut out.  This is me with some red lipstick.   Don't I look pretty?
Actually, the lipstick goes on the box.  Next, you hoist up the sheet rock and press it in place...
And now you can see where you need to cut.  Maybe we needed better lipstick.  But it was close enough to cut.
Oh, and here is one thing to watch out for... This is typically how women catch their husbands being bad - the lipstick always gives it away. 
Another area we were sorta worried about was the garage door brackets.  In the end, we were both really please with how this worked out.  We just removed the brackets, installed the sheet rock then measured and cut from inside the attic.  Later, we'll dress the brackets up, either with paint or something fancy.  I've toyed with the idea of building a case of sorts around the garage door, but I'll worry about that later.
After several hours, we really made a lot of progress.  In between rows, we put in the insulation to cut down on having to climb around in the attic afterwords.
And speaking of the attic.  We left an opening that I'll trim out so we can have an attic portal.  It is located next to where the projector is going to be mounted so we can access the wires as needed.
As it was getting darker I put up some temporary light fixtures so we could continue to work.
Finally, with my knees screaming in pain, we finished up the last pieces and I have to say, we were really happy with how the job came out.    I'll wait until I am completely done with any additional wiring before I put the ceiling in the closet, but now we are ready to do the walls.  Not bad for a couple of amateurs.  The good news is, I am definitely going to hire a professional to tape and float so any minor screw ups we made can be covered over.