New Hardwood Floors – Before Day 1

Two days prior to the first day of work on the new Hardwood floors we began moving stuff out of the carpeted rooms.

The evening of the day before (this was a Monday so we were at work during the day) we finished most everything else and were ready. Here is what the rooms looked like:

Before - Main HallBefore - Michelle's OfficeBefore - Back hallBefore - GymBefore - TV RoomBefore - Guest BedroomBefore - Master BedroomBefore - Michelle's ClosetBefore - Back RoomBefore - Back Room Closet

Posted under On the Home Front

This post was written by Marc
on March 19, 2009 at 9:19 am

New Hardwood Floors – Prelude

Just before we moved into our home about 12 years ago, the sellers replaced all the flooring (except in the laundry room) with new carpeting. Some of it was replaced with tile when we renovated our Living area back in 2002.

Now, of our 2,500 square foot house, we are replacing about 1,500 square feet of carpeting with hardwood flooring. We got a couple of estimates and decided to go with Enhance Floor Trends located not too far from us here in Marietta.

We went with an engineered wood flooring that would be most suitable to gluing straight down on concrete. One of the estimates we received tried to have us use cork on our concrete slab to “improve the feel” of the flooring when you walked on it. I was unable to find any corroboration for that claim (most references to cork cited soundproofing as the reason to use this) so I became concerned that there was significant upselling going on which helped make the decision to go with Enhance easier.

We got a reasonable deal on the flooring itself as we chose one that is going out of production. So, in return for a limited warranty (and I dislike warranties anyway) we got the wood for 1/3 off the price.

So, for 1560 square feet:
– Bruce rockhampton Plank / Natural (3/8″ x 3″) installed (w/freight and tax) $8.85 / sq ft

– 1/3 off

– 2 T-Moldings (prefinished)

– Shoemolding (primed)

– Pull and dispose Carpet / Pad / Tackstrip

– Move basic furniture (we did most of the moving ourselves but some pieces were too big) (Master Bed, Armoire, Desk)

– Anticipated floor Prep (moderate) There was a range for additional cost should the floor be really bad.

There was also a 5% job discount available to us

Total was to be $9,798.72

Once the carpet had been pulled they were able to assess the floor. Our slab has all the flatness of a roller coaster. It turned out that the additional cost for the slab was to be about $1,100.00. Yech, but not surprising once you see the associated pictures.

So, actual total will be more like $12,000.00

Posted under On the Home Front

This post was written by Marc
on March 18, 2009 at 10:47 am

Offsite backup of my computer files

How important are the files on your computer to you?

Can you afford to lose any of them?  Maybe.

Can you afford to lose all of them? It probably wouldn’t kill you. It’s just data after all.

Are you *willing* to lose all of them? I know *I* am not. Pictures, videos, resumes, taxes, email. All of which I have spent time and effort collecting or creating over the years. Some of it irreplaceable, some of it extraordinarily difficult to reproduce. The tiny investment in time and thought required to secure that investment gives me tremendous peace of mind.

I keep a small external USB drive in a locked location at my office.
About once a quarter I bring this drive home and back up ALL the files that I care about on my computer to it. The drive is easily big enough to hold 50% more data than EVERYTHING on my hard drive now so I don’t need to be overly discriminating in what I choose to back up. Basically anything that is “data” gets backed up. That’s nearly everything in my user folder plus stuff that I’ve deliberately stored outside of that folder for ease of access for other computers on my network (music and a few other items).

Because I’m taking the drive out of my physical control, I use TrueCrypt to create a huge, encrypted volume with a strong password (and some other tricks) to secure the data. Don’t consider your office, or friend’s or parent’s place to be secure just because they are comfortable locations. Stuff can go missing from anywhere. I’d just as soon that the data be useless to whomever takes it should that ever happen.

Using SyncBackSE I already have a profile set up so I don’t have to re-think my backup selections when I do this. Although I will inspect the selections to ensure any new stuff is accommodated.

The backup this morning took just 13 minutes.

This is over and above nightly local backups that my system performs for me automatically to guard against casual mistakes or hard drive failure. An offsite backup’s raison d’etre is to guard against some catastrophic failure – a house fire, theft of your computer, a flood or other natural disaster. Things with a very low likelihood of happening, but with a terribly high cost if they should ever occur. Total cost for me is about 15 minutes every 3 months and about $100 for the drive.

This is cheap insurance.

Posted under Tech Stuff, Utils / Tools

This post was written by Marc
on March 14, 2009 at 9:15 am

Refinancing a mortgage with SunTrust – Denoument

To close this chapter on my refinance saga, I ended up leaving a voicemail and a final email (last Friday)with George Connolly. I heard back from him via email on the Monday indicating that the omitted funds would be credited to my Visa card in the next few days.
I am pleased to report that the credit *did* show up in my checking account this morning.

So, in the end and with a bit of fussing, the refinance was completed with the original terms intact. No doubt the appraisal fee / application fee issue was a miscommunication. An assumption that I would be familiar with what the mortgage industry considers normal even though I may associate with this world *maybe* twice a decade.

The overpayment on my original mortgage is still sitting in escrow. An email that I sent to the SunTrust customer care center on March 7 via their “Secure Mail” system associated with their mortgage system remains unanswered so I will need to follow up via phone.

I did receive a response regarding the overpayment of my Home Equity Line of Credit. Apparently the most effective way to get the cash back is to visit a branch and write a check for the balance and deposit into my account. Not sure why this can’t be done over the phone but it’s better than NOT being able to get the money back.

I chose to document these experiences partly as a reference for myself so that I can recall and refer to what transpired and partly as a resource for others who would research this topic on the Internet in preparation for their own refinance.

Is my experience typical? Should you do business with the people I have dealt with? My one experience would need to be considered in aggregate with others before making any decisions. You may not know my biases and my whole experience may be a fluke. All I can do is add my voice to the others out there and hope that I can contribute. It seems that this is the only recourse that the average Joe really has – the ability to share his story.

Even if you end up having the exact same experience, at least you can be steeled against it so that you know that you are not the only one for whom the experience goes this way.

If you have found this information useful, please feel free to leave a comment.

Posted under Opinions, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on March 13, 2009 at 7:48 am

My Affiliations and Causes to which I contribute materially

I was doing my taxes and realized that, aside from the zillions of sorry, sad causes that I’m forced to support through my tax dollars (bailouts of the irresponsible from Wall Street to Main Street, domestic spying, “wars” on everything from drugs to fatty foods) I am giving my support to more and more causes that seek to directly counter the above foolishness as well as those that I think need our support because they are a good idea.

If you know me, you may share some of my ideals and perhaps get some ideas for organizations that could use your support.

SIUE (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) Foundation – In support of the Astronomy Cast podcast. This is an EXCELLENT resource for people wanting to learn about astronomy.

Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) – Not anti-religious as some may claim but rather working to ensure that no single religion will become our “state” religion. There would be only one winner in that case and many, many losers.

Foster Kids – A positive way to expose kids to a less institutionalized, more stable home life.

Wikipedia – I think this is a worthwhile initiative and want to see it grow. I also use Wikipedia, the beneficiary of Wikimedia’s efforts, ALL THE TIME

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – In addition to challenging private nonsense in our technologically advancing world, the EFF serves to counter and watchdog some of the many abuses that our own government naturally engages in as it grows into new and uncharted territory

PBS (WABE) – Some of their content actually makes it to my podcasts (“Tech Nation” is a great example). Public broadcasting can both provide intelligent programming and demonstrate to our more cynical networks that there *is* demand for something other than friggin’ WWE, “Reality TV” and NASCAR.

Our Troops overseas – When we can we contribute items directly through friends who have relatives and loved ones overseas to ensure that they have some of the nice things you just can’t get in a 3rd world desert.

Conversations Network – They provide a LOT of content of consistent quality and on a reliable schedule that you simply cannot get anywhere else.

American Red Cross – They do a huge amount of good work directly both in our community and abroad. I’ve never needed their services but I want to be sure they’re there for us and for anybody else who needs them

United Way – Somewhat controversial, but there are so many worthwhile causes out there that I use the United Way to paint a very broad stroke to help charities that I may not have even heard of do their work. I support directly those that I have a direct desire to support and I have to have faith that the United Way will honestly and fairly distribute my donation to deserving institutions.

GoodWill – It’s good to know that my no longer needed, but perfectly good, items can continue to be productively used by others and help to support folks in need at the same time.

SETI Institute – I earnestly believe that you can learn just as much by finding out that there is NO ONE OUT THERE as you can by discovering we are not alone. The work being done by the SETI institute lifts the spirit and expands your mind in ways that no religion ever will.

James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF)
– Striving to be a beacon of rationality in a world filled with folks prone to superstition and other silliness, the JREF is becoming more and more the Skeptical (Sceptical for you canucks out there) center for organizing events to encourage grass roots activism and education across America.

Habitat for Humanity – A very grounded and hands-on way to help someone get back on their feet.

Aircraft Owners and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) – Advocating for issues of concern to general aviation, they provide a wealth of information and, through the ASF (Air Safety Foundation) work to educate pilots and make flying even safer.

Indian Hills Civic Association
– Because you have to take care of your own backyard too.

Posted under On the Home Front, Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on March 11, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Underwater view of a bird attack

A kick-butt perspective! Near the end all that was going through my mind was “Next up!”

This is almost creepier than anything you’d see on the Sci-Fi channel. You see the bird, distorted through the water / air layer for only an instant before he hits. How fast is he going?

Posted under Very Cool

This post was written by Marc
on March 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Panama City Beach – August 2008 pictures

Sunset with grassesI’ve fallen a bit behind on my processing of pictures from the summer but I’ve finally managed to post our Panama City Beach pictures.

Some highlights:

Capture the moment I've got it all under control Kids - Very Scary

Posted under Photos

This post was written by Marc
on March 5, 2009 at 7:20 am