So, I guess that the dozens of times I’ve been at my local Home Depot and seen a “saw not working” sign on the panel saw, there’s an even-odds chance that the employees just didn’t want to be bothered to help their customers… fabulous.

I’ve got a few short takes today, to try to assuage my guilt for being a bit swamped these days (and also to get rid of a few of these tabs in my browser).

Remember the lawsuit Verizon filed against Vonage, threatening to bankrupt the upstart VOIP provider over technology the Baby Bell claimed was its own? It looks like Vonage might have finally rolled out workarounds to all the disputed tech, and also posted better-than-expected financials — which makes me pretty excited, being that I’ve been nothing but satisfied with our service from the company.

I’ve been slowly working my way through Jane Mayer’s amazing New Yorker piece on the CIA “black sites”, and it’s pretty clear that this is a must-read article for those who wish to learn how far our government has taken its torture of detainees in the all-important war on terror. The worst part of it is that at this point, there’s no question that what the public knows only scratches the surface, and that when tomorrow’s historians uncover the full details of this administration’s assaults on fundamental American liberties, we’ll either be aghast or will have long ago given up the right to express our outrage. (Let’s hope for the former.)

It’s amazing, but Apple really does look to be violating the license on every single page that’s generated by the .Mac photo gallery. Either that, or they’ve struck some licensing agreement with the tool’s author, Thomas Fuchs — but seeing as how is released under the extremely permissive MIT license, that’d seem unlikely for Apple to have done.

Cool — I hadn’t put two and two together, but Movable Type 4.0 is using Codepress to provide inline syntax highlighting in its template editors, and has extended the tool so that it recognizes all the Movable Type template tags. A long time ago, I bookmarked Codepress so that I’d remember to come back and take a look at it… looks like I don’t have to do that anymore. :)

Finally, this page might be dangerous for me. That is all.

This weekend, the small project of patching and painting some screw anchor damage in one of our walls turned into the much larger project of also painting the banister that runs along our the hallway on our second floor. It’s something we’ve wanted to do pretty much since we moved into this house, but the idea of painting each of the little balusters made us consider jumping off the roof instead. I’m not sure what got into us this weekend, but we decided to tackle it — and wow, what a difference it makes!

the banister, before the banister, after

(The original motivation — the wall repair and repainting — became a minor footnote in these photos; it’s the wall on the left of the pix.)

In the middle of all the Eastern Market-related activities this past weekend, one thing I did make time for was a little more woodworking — specifically, building the final set of shelves and another hanging shelf that make the basement workshop area complete (for now). You can see pix of the final setup here, including the totally, completely overengineered hanging shelf over my table saw. (I’m pretty sure that puppy will hold a couple of hundred pounds without blinking… so it should be fine for my drill and drill bits, a few battery chargers, and my laptop!)

a closeup of the radiator cover

Two weeks ago, while planning a few new projects, Shannon and I decided that a table saw might be a worthwhile addition to the tool collection and ended up deciding on a Bosch 10” contractor’s saw. Of course, it rained cats and dogs from the moment we got home with the saw through the end of the weekend, and then we were in Boston for the whole of last weekend, so yesterday was my first chance to break it out of the basement and give it a spin.

Like any good tool-obsessed woodworker, the first project was building accessories for the tools — a basement shelving unit — but after that we moved on to furniture. Some of our friends saw our perfectly-narrow antique bench and thought that something similar would work out well in their own entryway, so a few weeks ago we picked up some salvaged mahogany to use for the task. Today we sawed, sanded, drilled, nailed, and stained that wood, building a slightly simpler matching bench for their house and a cover for the radiator in our house that sits just in front of our original antique bench. All three projects were incredibly satisfying, and since we did it all on the sidewalk in front of our house, we got a lot of comments as people walked back and forth to Eastern Market!

Since Shannon and I found our antique bench back in mid-February, I’ve been spending a little time here and there hunting for good sources of salvaged and recycled wood in the DC metro area, but wasn’t having much success. This past Thursday, though, I stumbled on an EPA report from 1999 that had the following tease in it:

A significant development in the collection and distribution of salvaged materials in D.C. is the recent formation of Community Forklift, a non-profit organization that seeks to establish a permanent distribution center for salvaged building materials. Currently, Community Forklift is in the process of legally incorporating, attaining tax exempt status, and drawing up a business plan.

One Google search later, I found Community Forklift, saw that their warehouse was a scant seven miles from our house, and got insanely excited about waking up early this weekend and checking it out. And after having now been, I can now say that it’s easily one of my favorite finds since moving here — as an architectural and building material salvage warehouse, they’ve got tons and tons of old wood (mostly salvaged joists and beams, some dimensional lumber and plywood, and a bunch of other bits and pieces), bins of vintage hardware like doorknobs and hinges, about a million old doors, windows, cabinets, and countertops, a lot of tile, and aisles and aisles of all the other stuff that gets saved when old buildings get torn down to make way for new construction. We ended up getting a great variety of widths of beautiful mahogany boards that we’ll use to build a shelf for ourselves and a bench for a friend (and they even lent us a circular saw so I could cut the wood down so it’d fit in my car!). There’s no question in my mind that had I been there alone, I’d likely have stayed all day.

One other benefit of finding Community Forklift is that mentions of it on the web also led me to learn about a few other places I’m going to have to check out, like the two Habitat for Humanity ReStores and the HoH Renovation Station in the region (all of which look to be similar in their missions), and then the great granddaddy of the area, Baltimore’s Second Chance (holy crap, five warehouses full of salvaged materials?). I suspect that this has the potential to become an addiction…

New bookshelves!

For the past two weekends, Shannon and I have been busily building a set of bookshelves that we designed to fit along a wall in our guest room to replace a pair of store-bought shelves that just don’t give us the book storage we need. It’s been a hell of a fun project, involving a bunch of design iterations, a lot of problem-solving (like figuring out our not-so-plumb walls!), a small bit of frustration at a Home Depot lumber clerk who didn’t know the first thing about cutting plywood, and a huge dose of euphoria at discovering a phenomenal lumberyard less than a mile from my office. The shelves are exactly what we wanted them to be, and the project introduced a new tool into my workshop, a Paslode 16-gauge angled finish nailer that came highly-recommended from a friend. Honestly, I can’t say enough about the nail gun — it’s simple to operate, doesn’t require an air compressor, and made attaching all the facing a five-minute job rather than an hour-long job. (And I won’t lie… usinga spark and a controlled butane explosion to drive an inch and a half of steel into solid wood is a damn awe-inspiring feeling.)

Needless to say, I’m pleased with the outcome; now it’s time to do a little bit of research into pre-constructed cabinetry so that I can design a few built-ins for our dining room wall. There’s more fun to be had!

Our narrow new hallway bench

Hey, lookie there — our new hallway bench is on Apartment Therapy NYC! (The actual Flickr page for the photo they posted is here; I’m not sure why the folks at AT:NYC chose not to link to the photo page.)

Shannon and I found the bench when we randomly popped into an antique shop across the street from our favorite neighborhood hardware store; it was lining one of the walls behind the main display area, and we immediately asked if we could borrow a tape measure and check the dimensions. We trotted home afterwards, measured the hallway space, and knew that we’d probably never find as ideal a piece of furniture for that space again. The owner of the shop said that she found it during a renovation of another Capitol Hill home, along with a few shorter benches of the same narrow depth, all of which she had already sold. We both love how weathered this one is, and most importantly, how it doesn’t take any additional width from the hallway. The only thing I’ll really have to do is anchor the back legs down (since the floor joists are typical of 100+ year-old joists in that they bow up just slightly at the walls), and it’ll be perfect.

My first miter saw cut!

For anyone interested in what I might be planning to do with the miter saw I got from Shannon for our anniversary, I just posted about the built-in desk we built this weekend over at Doing it Ourselves.

The U.S. government might be engaged in a heated debate over the definition of torture, but here in Casa Queso, it’s pretty clear that the term includes such things as having to take a weekend trip to Chicago the day after this box arrived as my anniversary present from Shannon:

Happiness is a new miter saw

Seriously, I cannot wait to get that bad boy set up!

For those who don’t read the site regularly, I just posted a new bit over at Doing it Ourselves, describing my effort yesterday venting our clothes dryer. It’s a project I’ve been meaning to do for over a month now, and while I’m not sure I’ve ever been dirtier than I was by the end of yesterday, it feels great to finally have it done!

doing it ourselves

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working on a new weblog project that took root in Shannon and my decision to buy our first house. Being someone who likes to at least try to be self-sufficient at little tasks around the home, I figured that owning a house would give me the opportunity to try my hand at the whole do-it-yourself world — and being an unrepentant geek, I figured that a new weblog would be the perfect way to share my DIY attempts with the world, talking through problems and highlighting notable things I come across. Shannon loved the idea (of course!), as did a few other people who might become occasional contributors, so I put a little effort into a good name and a reasonable design. And with two weeks of tweaking now behind me, I feel like it’s time to unveil the site: Doing It Ourselves.

As part of burn-testing the new digs, I’ve already penned a few posts, including one about putting a new French door into our current apartment, two about the process of taping-off and painting our new house, one about a neat ladder that I want, and even one about setting up our new Vonage phone service. I aim to write a handful of posts a week, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll have a lot to talk about as we move down to DC and get settled into our new home. And as I imply above, while the site is all me me me right now, Shannon intends to put her two cents in here and there, and I have a few people already on-tap to contribute as they find time and energy, so I’m hoping that Doing It Ourselves morphs into less a chronicle of my DIY experiences and more a view of the DIY world through the eyes of a few people deep in the thick of it.