Sunday, March 15, 2009

Recent Projects

As the finishing touches are being put on the bathroom, I felt the need to give it a little color. If you can't already tell, putting color into everything is what I do a lot. We painted the bathroom bright white, and the only color in there was the yellow tones of the gold shower doors and wooden blinds and wooden toilet seat (do I sound like a Martha Stuart, or a gay interior designer?). Anyways, the doors to the linen closet were taken off in the process of painting, and we decided not to paint them white like the rest of the bathroom, but cover them in some fabric instead. So I documented the process, just so if anybody was interested in doing the same, they can see how to do it. I think it's a great way to change the look and feel of a room, and when you're done with it, you can always change the fabric or take it off entirely without showing any damage to the doors. Here is the process:

Fabric Door Panel
I used carpeting tacks/staples which I nailed into the wood to secure the fabric tightly on the door panel. You can get them at Home Depot.

Fabric Door Panel
Stretch and staple one dimension of fabric at a time, ie. parallel sides.

Fabric Door Panel
The back of a finished door panel.

Fabric Door Panel
The front of a finished door panel. I also put a door handle on.

Fabric Door Panel
The last thing was installing the hinges. I did this over the fabric, making small holes in the fabric for the screw to pass through and into the wood. Pre-drill your screw holes.

Fabric Door Panel
The door was installed and is now ready to use! Go ahead and open it!

We have also been working on organizing the garage and setting up all of Romy's tools. As you can see in the next few pictures, we put a peg board up, and got a metal work bench. The work bench came from an old autobody shop which was being torn down in the middle of downtown Oakland. The body shop guy was renting the shop and he got evicted. The owner of the body shop put many items on craigslist after he kicked the renter out. We saw the advertisement on craigslist, so we picked up a few items.

Our Garage
Romy welding on his new-to-us metal work bench.

Romy Welding
Hello, Romy.

Welding Gas Tank
The welding gas tank which we got a while ago from Sebastapol (see previous post).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sonoma County Hiking

This past weekend, we took a long hike around the coastal redwood forests in Sonoma County. We didn't plan on going, but Romy wanted to buy a gas tank for welding gas so that he could weld in the garage. He found a cheap tank (which still had some gas in it) on craigslist, but it was far away in Sebastopol, in Sonoma County. We figured that the guy was selling it for so cheap, that even paying for the gas (and time) to get there, it was still worth it. We priced it out after visiting the welding shops in Oakland and Berkeley.

Armstrong Redwoods Hiking
Romy hiking towards the summit of the hiking trail we were on in Armstrong Redwoods.

Sebastopol is a small town in the coastal redwood forest/ farm land. As we drove up north, we saw a lot of cow pastures, and other grazing lands. Since we weren't scheduled to come pick up the welding gas tank until after 3:00pm on Saturday, we decided to go out early and hike around Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve until it was time. The reserve was just north of Sebastopol, and along a beautiful scenic drive.

Hiking Lunch Break
Taking a lunch break after a steady hike uphill.

Armstrong Redwoods was set aside by a logger in the 1800s named Armstrong (surprise!) who decided to preserve some of the ancient redwood groves he was logging in the area. It was later expanded into the Austin Creek Recreational Area, and now its a huge park with a campground that is open year round, and also has 3 backcountry campgrounds which can only be hiked into. There are miles and miles of trails to hike, which we decided to get on. We had about four hours, so when we got there, we bought a map for $0.54, and picked a loop trail which was about 6 miles round trip.

Armstrong Redwoods Hiking
The view from the summit of the trail. You can see the surrounding coastal range.

It was a beautiful sunny clear day, and pretty warm. We hiked in pants and a t-shirt most of the way. A little more than half way through, we stopped for lunch on a bench which was placed on the summit of the trail we were on. We had views of all of the small mountains around us in almost all directions. Most of the pictures we took were on or near this summit, because deep in the redwood forest, it was really dark and not so great for taking pictures.

Armstrong Redwoods Hiking
Jenn hiking in Armstrong Redwoods.

Armstrong Redwoods Hiking
Both of us pausing for a picture.

The redwoods in California exist only in a thin band along the coast, and mostly in central and northern California. This is because the enormous trees need a lot of water. In the winter, during the rainy season, the redwoods get enough water due to precipitation. In the summer, when there is little or no rain fall, the redwoods still get enough water because of the fog from the ocean which brings moisture to the trees. This is why they can only exist in a narrow band along the coast in the mountains. Without the fog, the redwoods could not really survive. Fog condenses on the trees and in general mists the environment giving enough moisture to the redwoods for survival.

Sonoma Coast
This picture was taken at Sonoma Coast State Park. What a beautiful sunny day on the coast!

After we were done hiking, we called the guy with the welding gas tank, but there was no answer. We figured he was still out on a ride (he told us he was going to ride his motorcycle during the day) so we also went on a short ride (except we were in a Daewoo). We were so close to the coast, we decided to go to the beach. Armstrong Redwoods is right on the Russian River, which flows into the Pacific at Jenner, a small town on the cliffs where a lot of otters and seals live where the Russian River ends and flows into the ocean. We drove along the river until we got to Jenner. Then we headed south along the coast towards Bodega Bay. Along the way, we stopped to see the cliffs and rocky coast at Sonoma Coast State Park.

Sonoma Coast
A close up of a big rock in the ocean with a natural arch.

A little bit later, we got a call from the guy with the welding gas tank, so from Bodega Bay we went inland towards Sebastopol. It was a short but scenic drive, and we finally made it to his "mansion." I say mansion because he had a huge house on a couple acres of land, and a welding/garage shop that was almost as big as his house. Not to mention that to enter onto his property, we needed to buzz him at an iron gate which he remotely opened for us and then drive up a winding driveway!

Sonoma Coast
Romy and the Sonoma Coast.

Then we got to his welding shop, which he didn't operate anymore since he was retired (and that's why he was selling welding stuff). In addition to the tank, he sold us some sheet metal and muffler piping for scrap steel price ($0.50/lb) which was a great deal for us. After Romy perused his shop for about 45 minutes (!) we got going on our way back to San Fran.

Paraglider 2
We saw this paraglider take off from the ground. He stood at the edge of the cliff and ruffled his wing so that it would fill with air blowing off the ocean. Once it filled up with a lot of air, it swept him up, up, and away!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Thoughts about stuff (from Romy)

I have a spare bit of time to just write stuff, so I thought I'd put a little down here. It's entertaining to look back on this type of stuff in a few years anyhow.

There's one thing that keeps kind of annoying me (aside from people in CA not knowing how to drive). I keep getting these chain emails from people with various messages in them. I know that in one respect, it's the thought that counts; a way to say hello without saying hello. But I think that some of these chain mails are just stupid and that people should really think before sending stuff out.

The one that got me thinking about this was a petition email about not allowing illegal immigrants to collect social security. I did a quick search on this topic and (although I couldn't find very reputable sources) it appears this was an issue that came up in May of 2006 and was voted down. So it may have been a real issue. But the petition aspect was silly. What weight is carried by names of people who are not proven to exist? There's no contact info, no address, only a name.

And this just reminds me of another thing I've been noticing here in CA. People lack common courtesy here. I can't say I'm the best with common courtesy, I forget to return phone calls for instance, but when dealing with other people face to face I really can't understand the lack of it. I think it is partly a lack of situational awareness. It's not just at Berkeley either, where people may have a lot on their mind. It's all over this area. People don't hold doors, say thank you, understand right of way laws, or really have any clue of life around them.

Sorry for the rant.

To change the topic a bit, school is going along well enough. I'm TA-ing ME40 which is Thermodynamics, and it's really quite a bit of work. I think I enjoy the teaching aspect of it, although preparation for teaching takes up a large amount of time; that explains all the crappy profs I've had over the years.

You know, I thought I realized how large an impact weather and location has on mental health, but I really didn't until we moved here. There's never a really crappy day. It's never really cold enough to wear more than a light jacket, the sun usually shows up even on rainy days, and there are mountains, forests, and an ocean right next door. Yes, there are quite a lot of people in this area, but 5 minutes up from our apartment is a large and almost continuous park that runs the length of the east bay mountains. On weekends we can actually go cool places. It's just a nice feeling. When summer would come in Chicago, you had to seize the day essentially since there are so many days where you can't do outdoor things during the rest of the year.

Topic change. The bus is coming along slowly. The fuel injection in on, and has been on for over 3 months now, but I don't have too much time to get it working right. I believe I found one problem though, and that's the exhaust system. I took the catalytic converter off, and wha-la, it runs, although it won't idle. The idle issue may be due to the timing being off. It was difficult to set timing when the engine wouldn't run more than 4 seconds with the catalytic converter on. So I'll set the timing this weekend probably, and get some material to make a cat replacement pipe. I'm also thinking of getting a wideband O2 datalogger so that I can tune the idle and load air/fuel ratios. This too may be part of the problem. The bus fuel injection was designed to run with a much more conservative camshaft than what is in the engine currently. I think the duration and overlap may be affecting the fuel injection adversely too, hence my desire for the datalogger for tuning.

We'll see though. I may be able to get it running acceptably without it; I'll know soon enough.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

New Fabric Art Wall Hanging

I decided it was time to make another wall hanging. The bedroom needed some color, and I'd been meaning to make more of them to put around the apartment, sort of like a collection. Here are some pictures of the processes:

Carpenter Staples
I began by stapling the fabric to the back of a wooden frame.

Fabric Over Frame
I stapled all the way around the whole frame and pulled the fabric tight. When I was done I cut the extra fabric off.

Stretched Fabric
The fabric is really stretched tight around the frame so that it doesn't sag.

Fabric Wall Art
The finished panel is now hanging in our bedroom above the dresser. In this picture it looks off center, but it is really hanging centered above the dresser.