CapMetro here in Austin is testing out a new bike ‘parking product’ that shelters bikes from weather, theft, and vandalism. it is entirely stupid.
Let’s start with the positives:
- it is made of recycled plastic and steel (in what percentages? post-industrial or post-consumer?);
- it protects the bike from weather – something every other bike rack is sorely lacking;
- it acts as the bike lock and protects the entire bike, not just the frame and perhaps a single wheel
ok, great. now here’s why it’s stupid:
- look at the footprint. it takes up the same amount of space for one of these ‘parking’ spots as it does for at least 2, maybe 3 bikes.
- it is hideously ugly. it looks like a public restroom door partition.
- it’s cumbersome. basically that whole thing pivots on the steel frame at the bottom. so you, the user, will have to swing that thing up off your bike when you’re ready to go. now imagine a bunch of those next to each other – you’re going to have to space them out a bit. that means even less overall bike storage than the already low ‘parking product’ to standard bike rack ratio.
one good alternative already comes to mind – a pavilion. just like a bus stop, some sort of an overhanging roof is really all that is needed to protect from most weather. it keeps the sun and most of the rain off the bikes. you can pack more bike parking spots into the same amount of space w/ standard bike racks under a roof than you can w/ these upside down plastic bowls. standard locks and good lighting remain as theft deterrents. i mean, if the ‘parking product’ above is free to use, as CapMetro says it is, that means that you’re somehow locking it down w/ your own lock. that means that as a theft deterrent, all this thing does is physically cover your bike and secure it w/ the same lock you would already be using anyway.
i installed a doggie door this past weekend for none other than my doggie. it’s top of the line – the golden seal of perfection in doggie door land. this thing has an automatic locking mechanism so that other animals can’t get into your house – it is unlocked by an infrared tag worn around the dog’s collar. hoo ha. all of that was great until i actually tried to install the damn thing.
the instructions were simple: cut a hole 16-7/8″ x 11.5″ in the door. slip interior component of dog door through hole. mark off the six screw holes to be drilled. take dog door out, drill holes using 3/16″ drill bit. put dog door back in, slip exterior component of dog door on, slip bolts through interior component – drill holes – exterior component. screw nuts onto bolt and tighten. that’s pretty much how it should be – however these instructions provide zero tolerance – if you deviate at all (perhaps you didn’t cut a perfect 16-7/8 x 11.5 hole, or perhaps your drill holes weren’t spot on straight) then there is no way that this door is getting installed. let me explain to you about the 3/16″ hole: it’s tiny. when you’re talking about drilling through an insulated aluminum door that is 1.75″ thick, putting a perfectly straight 3/16″ hole through the door is like assuming Pres. Bush has a clue. it just doesn’t happen. the bolts themselves were about 1/8″ in diameter, and the holes in the doggy door through which they passed were probably about 1/64″ or so smaller. lining all of that up properly is not easy.
i started on saturday using the jigsaw attachment to my dremel to cut the hole. after about 10 minutes i had only cut a few inches. this obviously wasn’t working. after 2 more trips to home depot to try different blades and some lubricant, i realized that perhaps the dremel isn’t really the tool for this kind of job. i was very sad. i was much happier, though, when i returned from home depot 30 minutes later w/ a mega sawzall – sort of a super power jigsaw. w/ that in tow, i cut the hole out of the door in about a minute. but the edges weren’t perfectly straight, so the door – which is exactly 16-7/8 x 11.5 – didn’t fit very well. note to manufacturer: when you’re giving instructions to install something like this, add tolerance! about 1/4″ on all sides! that’s why the frame of this doggy door is so large – to cover up poor worksmanship! add to that the fun bit about the lining up the drill holes, and you’ll understand why i didn’t actually get the damn thing properly installed until sunday morning. and i’m a fairly handy guy around the house. i was so tired and frustrated w/ this thing that i didn’t end up going to see the detroit cobras at emo’s saturday night, which i had been looking forward to all week. and my dog is still scared of the doggy door.
haven’t really been posting since i started work, hope i can pick it up again soon. there’s been so much going on that i haven’t had much time to breathe, let alone blog. where to start?
last i wrote, i had just graduated and gone camping at canyonlands national park w/ my dad in utah. it was his first camping trip EVER, so we were really looking forward to it. the park was gorgeous – red, rocky, and desert. the area we hiked was the meeting point for three distinct areas of the park – one area that looked like the grand canyon, one that looked a bit like bryce cancyon, and another that was a bit like bulbous blobby rocks. my dad couldn’t handle more than 2 days of hiking tho – we couldn’t finish our first day’s 8 mile hike, but did ok on the 4 mile hike the following day. after camping we hit a hotel in moab and went rafting down the colorado – nothing serious, class 2 rapids at most. it was beautiful to coast down the river, though, and appreciate the scenery. this was my dad’s favorite part of the trip. i don’t think he’ll be camping again any time soon – or ever really. on the upside, the 6′ tall tent i got to make his camping easier will make future camping trips for my budding family quite comfortable. we never really do more than car camping anyway – park the tent at a campsite and go on day hikes.
about a week after i returned from utah, i started work. i’ve been here about 2 months now, and it’s been great. we’re in a major crunch and are trying to get our construction document set out in 2 weeks. it’s been a super fast paced project from the get go, but we’re in the home stretch. we’re renovating an existing classroom building from 1930 (2 story) and it’s 1980 addition (1 story). we completely demolished the interior, and are creating a 3 story atrium in the middle between the 2 buildings. the top story of the atrium will be a kalwall ‘box’, providing daylight to the atrium and surrounding hallways. the kalwall sits on a copper ‘sleeve’ – the move is if the copper and kalwall were fitted right into the center of the building. the atrium is divided in to 3 laboratory bays, separated by 8′ tall terra cotta walls – the rest of the wall from 8′ to the top of the kalwall is glass, so that the daylight can diffuse across all the bays. there are also 2 study pods that are going to hover in this space, sticking out from the second story of the existing building. these study pods are what i’m spending most of my time on right now. i’m covering them in reclaimed wood, and have been working on the size, patterning, spacing of the boards, and aligning the module with the structure. getting the spacing to line up with a 4′ module from the kalwall box and how the study pod protrudes through the existing wall and into the adjacent hallway has been really stimulating. here are some pics:
aside from work, we bought a house, and have been busy doing our renovations. this house was the right price in the right area, but was so ugly that i had real reservations about buying it. during our 3 visit to the house before going through with contract i finally started brainstorming renovation ideas that would not only make this house rock, but would also make us a hefty profit when we sell. i’m pretty sure that the house hadn’t been renovated since the first owner died or moved out. he lived in the house since it was built back in 1965. all of the walls were these dreadful shades of tan, peach, aqua, and sky blue. they were all lit by single incandescent bulb fixtures from the center of the room, which provided this shallow deathly pallor. i felt like we were moving into a slum when i walked down the narrow bedroom hallway. the killer was the living room – it has an 8′ wide sliding glass door w/ this amazing retro yellow/mustard curtain. it’s not really retro, tho, b/c it’s original. all of the walls were polyurethane coated wood panels, which bled into the kitchen where all of the cabinets were similarly finished. it was horrible. every room except of the kitchen and bathrooms was carpeted. here’s what happened:
we moved in, ripped out the carpet in every room, and got to painting. all paint was sherwin-williams harmony paint, which emits ZERO V.O.C.’s. indoor air quality is extremely important, and slowly people are getting more educated about the amount of chemicals we breathe on a daily basis. of course, that was to a degree all for naught b/c beneath the carpet in the living room, we found vinyl sheeting glued to the concrete slab. it took me 4 days of scraping to get that shit off. i rented a power scraper from home depot which got about half of it off, but i had to resort to using Jasco chemical crap to dissolve the glue, which had hardened over the last 50 years. i kept my pregger wife out of the house while i did most of that stuff. we painted the wood paneling in the living room white w/ a purpleish pink accent wall. it looks awesome w/ the retro curtain, which we kept. the front room, which had been set up as a dining room and formal living room when we looked at the house is now just the dining room. it’s too small to be both. it is now a bright white.
we laid hickory hardwood in the living and dining room using low V.O.C glue from Mapei. that glue is super strong – it took over a week for that stuff to come off of my hands. it was such a pain in the ass to lay hardwoods that i’m hiring somebody to lay the remaining 180sqft in the office and hallway. we should have hired somebody in the first place – it would have saved time and labor. it wasn’t really such a pain, but it’s definitely back breaking. we were originally going to go w/ bamboo, but the only bamboo in our price range was of low quality and therefore soft enough to easily dent and scratch. in terms of sustainability, then, our floor has the positive aspect of not being shipped halfway around the world, but not much else.
the baby’s room is now painted a soft cheery yellow w/ white trim, and will have carpet tiles in various shades of light green. we designed the room unisex, but cindy won the battle of finding out the sex, and we are now well aware that our baby is a she. i don’t like designing the room around a sex anyway. the hallway is now white instead of nasty tan, and it feels so much bigger and brighter. it’s amazing what white, or any coat of paint for that matter, can do to your perception of space. the master bedroom is still halfway primed – we’ll probably finish it in a month or so when everything else in our life settles down (hardwoods are completely installed, vacation is over). the bedroom will be mostly white w/ a khaki accent wall, which will go well w/ our natural beech wood furniture (it’s all ikea veneer, but that’s the color). we painted the office yesterday – white again. it had been some sorry shade of off-white – you didn’t realize how OFF-white it was until it was being repainted. a much cheerier room now. once the painting is complete, we’ll lay baseboards everywhere which will pretty much complete the current renovation. in about 2 years we’ll probably do a major renovation which will expand our square footage by 800-1000. the ideas are churning in my head – plenty of time for refinement.
anyway, we did most of that in about one week, and that had 8 of our best friends from college visit austin for a weekend. we packed just about everybody into the house which still had boxes and paint and hardwood everywhere. this trip had been planned long before we found the house or set the closing date. chaotic is the word. but we had a great time despite the incessant rain. it rained all summer in austin, and that weekend was no exception. as soon as they left, though, it stopped raining and we haven’t had a drop since.
so that’s about it. plenty in the span of 2 months, i feel. oh yeah – the reward program changed at the place where we had our registry, and we found out we’re eligible for the top prize – a 37″ flat screen sharp aquos lcd! i called up and the thing is already shipping – we should get it this week. super psyched to get something that rockin’ for free! it looks to be about a $1299 value. that’s a hardcore reward gift.
having completed my last paper for an incomplete class from last semester, i am now officially done with all coursework for my Master of Architecture with Specialization in Sustainable Design from the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. phew, that’s a lot of words. I’M FINALLY DONE!!!! HOORAY!!!!! GRADUATION THIS SATURDAY!!!
as i mentioned in my last post on the topic, it’s only a matter of time before other cities jump on the plastic bag banning bandwagon now that San Francisco has become the first US city to do so. a few weeks ago, Austin City Council announced that they are starting a 60 day study period before deciding whether or not to ban plastic grocery bags. i hope they do so – plastic bags are petroleum products; are typically single use; usually end up either in landfills or littering streets, parks, and rivers/lakes/oceans.
i’ve read comments online by people stating that using paper is just as bad as using plastic b/c of the energy required to recycle. perhaps not just as bad, but it’s true that paper is not the answer – reusable bags are. if everyone would simply bring their own reusable canvas or plastic bags to and from the grocery store, this would all be moot. it’s not like it’s so difficult – they fold up really easily and can be left in your car trunk when not in use. our local HEB grocery has already responded to the anticipated ban by selling reusable canvas bags at the checkout line and touting their environmental benefits. it would be nice if they’d drop the price from $3.50 to something like $2.00 considering that the bags aren’t that large, but it’s still good to see them actively promoting better behavior.
a good friend of mine got engaged last week, and as we chatted about it she asked me to be a bridesman. i laughed, we joked about dresses. then today she was chatting online w/ my wife and mentioned the bridesman thing. turns out it wasn’t a joke! i’m of course completely honored to be given that role in a friend’s wedding, so i’m very excited about being a bridesman – i just didn’t realize first time around that it was real. the wedding’s going to be in NY in september, so it’s a great chance for us to get up to see my family before the baby’s born in november. i have another friend getting married in NY at the end of september, but i may have to attend that one solo since that’s w/in the 6 week timeframe for the baby’s due date. i’m pretty sure somebody else is getting married around that time as well – i can’t remember who, but can only hope that it’s here in austin.
on a side note, all of my ATL buds are finally booking their tix for our annual throwdown. one of our friends is pregnant w/ her second baby, so she and cindy will be our designated drivers all weekend. sweet! another of our friends just settled on a house up in DC area, so that’s super great, too. that means next year our shindig will be up in the DC area w/ 4 of this 10 person crew living up there. we get around the country w/ our visits – ATL, Miami, Alabama, Austin, DC… that sums up everyone’s living location, so unless somebody moves, we’re either going to start doing repeats in 2009 or we’re going to have to start w/ destination weekends!
[UPDATE:] ah yes, that other wedding i couldn’t remember – that would be one of my best friends. i just received a save the date email last night, and the wedding is in NY the day after the baby’s due date. i’m so upset that i won’t be able to attend this wedding. i knew that it was going to be around the time of the baby’s due date, and let me friend know – but i also noted that he shouldn’t arrange his wedding around me when he made comment to that effect. i’ll have to be sure to make it to the bachelor party, which better not occur in the 6 weeks prior to delivery…