Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday at Folklife

The weather made for a delightful Friday at Folklife. Friday is almost always my favorite day at the festival; the crowds are lighter, everyone is full of opening-day energy, and the merchants have the greatest variety of wares.

What's new this year at Folklife?
  • Dancehall shortage. The Exhibition Hall, which in the past has hosted Cajun, Zydeco, Country, Swing, and other non-contra participatory dancing, was claimed by another Seattle Center organization for the weekend. As a result, the Ex Hall participatory dancing events must now share the small Center House dance floor with the participatory ethnic dancing (including salsa and tango) and the large Fisher Pavilion Roadhouse dance hall with the contra dancing, square dancing, English dancing and waltzing. Saturday night there will not be any contra dancing in the Roadhouse until 10 p.m. The contra dancers will find this a unique opportunity to expand their horizons.
  • New look. Artis the Spoonman, who performed this afternoon with the perennially indignant protest songwriter Jim Page, has stopped shaving his head! I'd never seen him with hair. It looks very attractive...but you might not recognize him until he whips out his spoons and other percussion devices. (Interesting to note that Page, who pronounces the word "tech" the way most people pronounce the word "shit," has a fine website.)
  • New food. There are a few new food booths, including The Taste of Poland on the Key Roadway (Key Arena side of the Fisher Green). I haven't had the opportunity to try them yet; I had a very good, extremely spicy Jambalaya at the Southern Kitchen in the Kobe Bell plaza at the foot of the Fountain Lawn near Founders Court. Oddly, my favorite Folklife food is the superb baba ganouj and hummus at the Mediterranean restaurant in the Center House Food Court.
  • Crackers. The "freebies" at the festival are always interesting. Last year it was pomegranate juice; this year, Ritz crackers with no trans fats. (Report: They're good, but would be better with some chopped chicken liver on them.)
  • Cooked vs. raw. The clothing vendor Hartware (just off the Crafts Walkway by the upper Fountain) has wonderful painted shirts, including one of a jousting asparagus stalk versus a carrot. Trust me -- you have to see this one.
  • Order in the court. The Northwest Court area has a stage and a beer garden, as usual, but no crafts booths this year. This makes it an even more pleasant venue for simply focusing on the music. I caught the Nudie Suit Stardusters, a new vintage country group, there this evening.
  • Donation pricing. Suggested per-day donation for Folklife has gone up to $10 per day (but only $20 for a family group). Think $10 is a lot? It's less than a new CD, or a pizza. And a day at Folklife is much, much better than a CD or a pizza. Even a Snoose Junction pizza.
For those of you winding up to post a comment about how Folklife is just too loud and crowded for you, here's my suggestion for a quiet version of Folklife: Take a bus to lower Queen Anne and get off on 1st Avenue North. Enter the Seattle Center grounds from 1st Avenue North at Key Area, turn left and walk up the stairs to the Northwest Court. The outdoor stage, plus the indoor Rainier Room and Olympic Room, have great entertainment and you won't be driven crazy by drummers, food booths, or milling shoppers. Check out the day-by-day schedules for those venues on the festival website.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Webware 100

Be sure to cast your votes for the CNET Webware 100 awards. There are 10 categories, from Audio & Video to Widets and Desktop Enhancements. The Productivity apps category was rough...I had to choose between Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, and PayPal!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Take control of your technology

Own a Mac? Thinking of getting a digital TV? Setting up a wireless network in your home?

The succinct ebooks from Take Control Publishing give you step-by-step tips for dealing with all this technology — and they're all on sale (a whopping 50 percent off the usual $5 - $15 prices) through May 29.

Here's a partial list of Take Control titles, by category:

iPod & iTunes
Take Control of Your iPod: Beyond the Music
Macworld iPod and iTunes Superguide
Macworld Apple TV Superguide
Take Control of Digital TV
Digital Photography
Take Control of Buying a Digital Camera
Macworld Digital Photography Superguide
Take Control of Booking a Cheap Airline Ticket
Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner
AirPort & Wi-Fi Networking
Take Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Extreme Network
Take Control of Your AirPort Network
Take Control of Your Wi-Fi Security
Take Control of Your Domain Names
General Macintosh
Take Control of Mac OS X Backups
Take Control of Maintaining Your Mac
Macworld Mac Basics Superguide
Take Control of Buying a Mac
Take Control of Running Windows on a Mac
Take Control of Podcasting on the Mac
Take Control of Switching to the Mac
Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
Take Control of Passwords in Mac OS X
Take Control of Syncing in Tiger
Take Control of Fonts in Mac OS X
Take Control of Font Problems in Mac OS X
Take Control of Permissions in Mac OS X
Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger
Take Control of Customizing Tiger
Take Control of Users & Accounts in Tiger
Take Control of Sharing Files in Tiger
Apple Applications
Take Control of iWeb
Take Control of .Mac
iPhoto 6: Visual QuickStart Guide
Take Control of Apple Mail in Tiger
Take Control of Spam with Apple Mail
Take Control of Making Music with GarageBand
Take Control of Recording with GarageBand
Microsoft Office
Take Control of Customizing Microsoft Office
Take Control of What's New in Entourage 2004
Take Control of What's New in Word 2004
Take Control of What's New in Word 2004: Advanced
Other Applications
Take Control of Getting Started with Dreamweaver

Friday, May 18, 2007

Seattle City Council full of Zoo Doo

I read in the Seattle P-I today that the majority of the Seattle City Council members want the Woodland Park Zoo to scrap its plans for a garage because building a garage will encourage zoo patrons to drive those big, bad cars to the zoo.

Talk about political correctness trumping common sense! (And congrats to the one realist on the City Council, Dave Della, for supporting a garage.) I am willing to bet that the majority of City Council members have two or fewer kids (if any). This, of course, is in marked contrast to most zoo patrons, who, I have observed on my many trips to the zoo, have quite a few kids.

Last week I took care of a friend's energetic 4-year-old grandson. Part of the day involved walking him and his bike with training wheels to a nearby park, along a very busy street. This required keeping a grip on the child and the bike. It was three blocks each way and when we made it home I was ready for a Valium and a trip to the chiropractor.

As I read about the sanctimonious City Council members, I was trying to imagine some mom with two or three kids in tow trying to get them onto a bus, off a bus, onto a connecting bus, off that bus, and into the zoo -- along with a stroller that requires two hands to open and close -- without one of the kids darting away and into traffic. I got exhausted just thinking about it.

The fabulous thing about driving your kids around in the family van and parking in a parking lot or garage is that you can leave one or two of them strapped in the car seat while you arrange the other one in a stroller. You can then move from the relatively controlled environment of the lot or garage onto the zoo property without trying to get everyone across a busy intersection.

Quite frankly, other than a hospital, I can't think of a city institution that has a more rational need for plenty of car parking than the zoo.

But who said anything about rational? This is Seattle. We don't have the sort of sane public transportation systems you find in other major cities (monorails, subways, trains). We just pretend to be green and waggle our fingers at those evil people who want to destroy the environment by driving their cars full of children to the zoo.

Having trouble finding a parking place at the zoo? You can always hop Metro down to the City Council offices. I hear they have one hell of an exhibit full of ostriches.

Monday, May 14, 2007

How to caulk a tub / shower

This is the page where I maintain a periodically updated version of my Secrets of Tub Caulking post. The updated version is straightforward, skipping over the long story of how I became so frustrated with lousy caulk products and the "assume-nothing-ever-goes-wrong" school of instructions that I created and tested my own "how-to." (If you need a good laugh, and are amused by mildew, crumbling grout, and someone trying to answer the phone using their wrists, you should read the original story.)

The Secrets of Tub Caulking - 2007 Update (plus 2011, 2014, 2016 revisions)

What you need:

  • A four-day period during which people in your household can use a different shower. (The clock starts when you use the cleaning product on the mildew; you can apply grout and caulk 12 - 24 hours later, and then it needs 72 hours to dry.)
  • A plastic scraper with a hooked side for peeling off the old caulk — also, either a metal dental pick or a metal shish kebab skewer will work if the plastic scraper doesn't.
  • A little razor blade with a handle (the type you use to get excess dried paint off windows).
  • A preparation product called the Good Stuff Tile and Grout Cleaner Restorer. Available from your better tile stores. NOTE: This is no longer true; The Good Stuff has been banned by the state of California and even stores outside California have stopped carrying it. Instead use the following three cleaning products, in that order:
  • Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • White vinegar
  • Oxiclean (not chlorine) bleach or bleach spray. You'll find it in the laundry products section at the store.
  • A medium (neither too soft nor too stiff) scrub brush for applying Dawn and using it to scrub the tile and grout.
  • Rubber gloves and old clothes to protect yourself while you work with the cleaners.
  • Painter's masking tape (blue is good) in both wide and narrow versions. Plenty of it.
  • Siliconized acryllic latex caulk, in off-white or another shade that coordinates with the existing tile grout in your tub / shower. One tube should be more than sufficient to go around the tub. A good brand is Color Caulk Premium Tile and Fixture Caulk, and a nice off-white is #11 Snow White. Do not get the ghastly "bright white" silicon caulk favored by plumbers who never have to see your bathroom again and choose their products accordingly. (One of the blog's readers noted that he found a sanded silicon caulk in the tile section of his local home improvement store -- and it was so cheap, he bought three tubes in slightly different shades to test out.)
  • A caulk gun. They're cheap. Don't even think about trying to apply this type of caulk without one; it requires a fair amount of strength even with one.
  • A box of thin, clear, cheap vinyl gloves from your local drugstore. They come 50 to a box, and you'll need about half of that. Be sure the gloves fit your fingertips snugly — loose fingers on the gloves will result in jagged lines when you try to smooth the caulk.
  • Three large, sturdy paper grocery bags or paper shopping bags — line all three with plastic garbage bags.

DAY 1: Cleaning and prep steps

  • Strip the old, mildewed rope of caulk from around the tub using the plastic scraper and metal pick or skewer. Remove any and all clinging caulk or film of caulk using the razor blade. Be thorough, because your new caulk won't adhere where there's old caulk, and if it won't adhere, then water will get through. And be careful, because the razor blade can gouge the finish on a non-porcelain tub.
  • Check the grout that was underneath the old caulk. Remove any extremely loose, crumbling grout from between wall and tub, particularly if it is severely mildewed. [Note that if the space between the tub and the wall, revealed when you remove the old caulk, is much more than 1/8", you may not be able to fill/cover it effectively with the new caulk. If so stop what you are doing, go to the tile shop or tile section of your home improvements store, and get some grout — the plain, non-acryllic stuff that you mix with water is easiest to deal with. Add a half day to your schedule, so after you have finished all the cleaning steps, you can apply the grout and let it dry before you start caulking.]
  • Dress in old clothes and put on rubber gloves. 
  • Use the Good Stuff Dawn dishwashing liquid to clean all mildew from tub walls, tile grout, and any gaping areas between the shower wall and the tub. This takes about 20 minutes, and includes scrubbing with the brush, letting the cleaner set, and rinsing the cleaner off. After this is rinsed, the dark mildew stains should disappear, or at least fade to a pale gray. If this loosens more mildewed old grout, remove that, too.
  • If you still have dark stains in the grout, use vinegar. Apply soak wads of paper towels in vinegar and use blue painters tape to tape them to the tile around the grout. Make sure the paper towels stay soaked in vinegar. After 2 hours, remove the paper towels and rinse with water.
  • If you still have mildew stains on the grout, use Oxyclean. Repeat the paper towels treatment, this time using Oxiclean (not chlorine) bleach. After 2 hours, remove and rinse area thorough.
  • Now, allow the area to be caulked to dry thoroughly. This may involve running the bathroom fan overnight. Drying time depends on your climate conditions, but plan on 12 to 24 hours. If you have pets, lock them out of the bathroom so they won't try to lick tile that has been cleaned using various chemicals.
  • [Optional grouting step] If you have gaps in the old grout that need to be filled with new grout, prepare by taping some plastic sheeting over the tub so you won't accidentally get grout on the tub. (Do not skip this step.) Then mix up about two cups of grout, following the manufacturers' directions, to create a thick grout paste. Use a paint spatula or popsicle sticks to pack grout into the gaps and smooth it down until it matches the adjoining grout. It should be slightly recessed below the level of the tile. Clean any grout off the tile or tub with a paper towel soaked in vinegar. Remove the plastic sheeting or other tub protection.
    Taped tub

  • While you are waiting for the grout to cure (at least 12 hours), you can tape the area to be caulked, leaving 1/8" of tub rim exposed and 1/8" - 1/4" of the tile wall exposed. I use 1" blue masking tape on the tub and wider blue masking tape on the tile wall. See photo. (Note that I've also taped about six inches up each corner of the tub.)

Caulk gun, loaded

DAY 2: Step-by-step caulking:

  • Make sure you have an uninterrupted 30 minutes to do the caulking. Once you start, you can't pause in the middle. If you do stop, the caulk will firm up while unsmoothed and the tub/wall seam will not be adequately sealed against moisture -- and you'll have to strip it off and start all over again.
  • Place beside the tub: The box of vinyl gloves, the grocery bag lined with a trash bag, and a small plastic container or very small bucket containing water with a little liquid dish detergent mixed in.
  • Apply the caulk bead using the caulk gun. (I found that sitting cross-legged in the tub helped me apply the caulk evenly.)
  • Apply the caulk sparingly. I tend to apply too large a bead. Something that reminds you of a clothesline cord is about right. If it starts to look like a rope, it's too much. You may also want to caulk a few inches up the inner corner (or corners) of the shower walls.
  • Once the caulk in is place, you are ready to smooth it. 
  • Using a series of vinyl gloves and dipping your fingers in soapy water, begin smoothing the caulk bead. Use a light touch. If the glove gets gunky with caulk, put on a new glove. Otherwise, your gunky glove will start sticking to the caulk and you risk pulling caulk away from the tub. Keeping peeling off sticky gloves into grocery bag and using new ones.
  • As soon as the the bead is smoothed and concave, remove the blue tape from the tub side of the caulk line and dump the tape into the grocery bag. There will now be a bit of a raised edge on the caulk where the tape was removed. Get out a glove, dip it in the soap, and start smoothing that border flat. You can use a firm touch, but don't squish the center of the bead that you already smoothed. Then remove the tape from the wall side of the caulk, and smooth that border.
  • Get out of the tub, recap your tube of caulk using plastic wrap and tape. Dump the bag of trash.

DAYS 3 AND 4: Drying

To ensure that the caulk cures completely, wait 72 hours before showering or otherwise allowing the caulk to get wet. (I've been known to sneak in a bath during the drying period, but use your own judgment. Washing the dog, for instance, is a bad idea.)

Enjoy. Save these directions for when you need to replace the caulk again — probably about two years from now.
Finished caulking

Sunday, May 13, 2007

In search of the perfect cupcake

I can't get that worked up about comparative cupcakes, but Patricia Jane at Metroblogging Seattle can. She did an excellent review of the cupcakes from New York Cupcakes, Cupcake Royale, and Trophy Cupcakes; you get a good objective sense of each product, as well as her opinion.

Patricia Jane noted that the servers at New York Cupcakes smooshed two cupcakes into a box intended for one, despite her protests. This reminded me of the lovely one-cupcake carrying box I saw on Amazon the other day. It preserves the cupcake's frosting even if you turn it upside down!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Zafu. Bless you.

A few months ago I read about Zafu, a website that helps women find the perfect fit in jeans. Though I was initially skeptical, I was impressed when it matched me up with my favorite jeans source, Eddie Bauer. However, Zafu was suggesting a different style of their jeans; I ordered them, and they were perfect!

If you are a fashionista who must have jeans that are both stylish AND suited to your body, this is definitely the site for you. In addition to the jeans analysis tool, the site is full of great articles about jeans...and bodies, including a fit dictionary. Yes, "whale tail" is as bad as it sounds.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Somewhere in here is an idea for the mechanism that will sense the presence of the raccoon near the outdoor fountain and catapult the beast out of the yard. Somewhere...

(Thanks to John Hedtke at Don't Ask Me; I'm Making This Up As I Go Along for pointing this out.)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Car chase scene

It's been a weird week, all the way through. And last night Zorg's PowerMac G5 dropped dead, apparently from a power supply problem. He booked an appointment at the Apple Store for this morning to have it fixed.

Sheba, the deaf white cat, was out in the yard this morning when Zorg was loading the computer into the car. If we're both leaving, we always put her in the house, but I had agreed to take over the supervision of her morning outing when Zorg left.

Sheba saw Zorg's Subaru pull out of the driveway and she began chasing it down the street! Zorg stopped the car, snagged Sheba, and carried her up the stairs and put her in the livingroom. He then drove off, and she rocketed around the first floor for a few minutes like something from the stock car races.

Many years ago, I had an orange cat named Bosco who was as insanely attached to me as Sheba is to Zorg. He went through a phase of chasing my car in the morning when I headed off to work. For a few mornings, I had to just drive off and hope he didn't follow me more than a couple of blocks. Fortunately, he gave up and went home. Sheba has the kind of personality (and physical power) that would allow her to follow a car on residential streets for a mile or so -- not a safe thing for any cat, and definitely not for a deaf one.

I wonder where they think we're going when we drive off?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Pain in the...

For all of my fellow back pain sufferers, a post on Collision Detection on why you have to watch out not merely when lifting, but when pushing and pulling as well.

Misc. notes

I wasn't going to blog about today's rain followed by sun followed by hail followed by bright sun -- until a second hailstorm let loose at 3:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, in a penny-ante version of the San Francisco highway collapse, the south end of the University Bridge has apparently been endangered by a water main break that led to a sinkhole that swallowed up two parked cars. Can you imagine heading back to your car after work and finding it...15 feet underground?

I wanted to note that this week is the kittens' birthday. They are three. Of course, it's not possible to "celebrate" their birthday in any way that would be significant to them because they already get everything they want.