Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tropical Storm Arthur

We have our first tropical storm--Alma was a Pacific storm--but it's down in the Yucatan and should miss us.  We will probably stay hot and dry for a while longer.

Update: 6-2-08: Arthur is mostly rain now, and it might help our rain chances this weekend, but the rainy season is beginning to kick in, though we haven't gotten any yet.  And we had the second driest May on record.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Water heaters (link)

"... What is the difference between a tankless water heater and a standard tank style water heater?  ...

A: ...  Standard tank-style water heaters are usually sized in thirty, forty, fifty and even seventy-five gallon tanks for standard residential use. A modest power source such as gas, oil or electric will slowly heat the water and store the hot water in the tank ...

A tankless water heater does not store a large volume of water. Instead it relies on powerful gas or oil burners or electric coils to heat the water instantly ..."

Link: Ed Del Grande: Ask Ed -- Tank, Tankless... What's the Difference?  (

[I've read that tankless water heaters don't work as well in a home that uses lots of hot water.]

More home ideas

There's an interesting idea in the June 2008 issue of Better Homes & Gardens about using slightly unstacked nesting tables as a bedside or sofa side table or in the sunroom.  There's quite a selection of nesting tables pictured.
Vibrant colors, especially canary yellow, are in fashion now, says David Bromstad, host of Color Splash on HGTV.  (I watched him win his hosting job on Design Star.  The new season with a new batch of contestants starts June 8.)  Yellow paint colors include Lemon Fresh, Creamy Butter, Golden Glow, Morning Sunshine, and Mellow Yellow 
Fun suggestion: Keep a flat-bottom tote (I love a big flat-bottom tote) packed with a tablecloth, plastic plates and cups, utensils, and packaged drinks and snacks so you're ready for an impromptu picnic.  Great idea, though I'd have said paper plates and cups.  And you can use a round-bottom tote, with a plastic tray, to hide a potted plant in.
I came across some lovely pink embroidered pillow cases (Martha Stewart Collection Trousseau bedding) in a Macy's ad in that issue.  You don't come across trousseau very often nowadays.  They called it blossom colored, btw...
Now here's an idea I've come across before, and I still think it's silly.  Some people shelve their books with the pages facing out for "a less cluttered look."  Pfui!
For a different bathroom look, use a big old kitchen sink with drainboard.  You can use the drainboard as a dressing table...  (page 42)  To make your coffee table look like a scrap book, you can place photos, post cards, etc. on top of colored paper under glass.  Use your scrapbooking scissors for a fun look.  There are other decorating ideas in the issue, along with some enticing recipes and gardening hints.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oasis 21

Oasis is a literary science fiction convention that takes place in Orlando on Memorial Day weekend every year, and I just spent a fun weekend there, dividing my time between various panels, the video room, the con suite, and hanging out in the halls visiting and browsing the freebie table, with side trips to the dealers room and the art show.  The panels included blogging and one of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett.  In the video room I saw old and new Dr. Who episodes, Japanese live action TV series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, Quark, and a Primeval episode--that I hope makes it to the US soon.  In the con suite I enjoyed tasting and voting for the hottest and best chile (Friday), followed by dessert night (Saturday), and a varying selection of snacks, sandwiches, drinks, and more.  The more also included movies, video games, and lots of conversation. 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Home ideas

Here's a useful idea, though I'd rather have a Shoji screen.  I came across it in the June 2008 issue of Home magazine (the Remodeling & Design Resource): Graber's panel accents sliding shades; they can also be hung from an aluminum track to make a room divider.  There are 52 choices.  And I found textured bamboo furniture ( and a different-looking flueless fireplace from EcoSmart. 
If you want to disguise your TV set, you can hide it behind a two-way mirror or art reproductions; or you can make it go up and down into a cabinet.  Wallpaper designs are internationally inspired now.  Okay, there have Oriental-inspired wallcoverings for centuries, as I recall.
I saw a beautiful retro range ('30s) in a Heartland Appliances ad in that issue too.  For a selection of deck materials showing pros, cons, care, and cost, see page 44.  There are a several home makeover articles, along with new construction articles and photos.  In one of the remodel pieces, I saw a photo of a lovely vintage Wedgewood range.  There is something modern and classic about those old stoves!
And I saw a mention of a blog that's morphing into a website/online magazine:  I'm about to check that out.  Link: Remodelista: Home design and remodeling resource
And from a Kohler e-newsletter:
An ideal combination of form and function, the Fountainhead VibrAcoustic™ bath introduces a revolution in bathing. Sound vibration, chromatherapy and music are choreographed in four pre-set compositions that guide you to profound relaxation. Drawing on the science of sound therapy, the Fountainhead VibrAcoustic bath helps to slow your breathing and heart rate, gently resounding throughout your body. Forever changing the way you think about bathing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Improved smoke alarm (link)

"Kidde Debuts Its First Designer Smoke Alarm
Source: BuildingOnline's eUpdate
Wed, 14 May 2008

MEBANE, NC -- Kidde is rolling out its new Silhouette low-profile smoke alarm with a sleek, modern design and maintenance-free battery.

Targeted to the residential construction and home renovation markets, Silhouette's low profile protrudes about half an inch from the ceiling, allowing it to blend in with its surroundings."

Link: News : Materials : Kidde Debuts Its First Designer Smoke Alarm :


Drain cleaner problem (link)

"Last week, a plumber poured sulfuric acid (Clobber, maybe) down our kitchen sink to unclog it. A few hours later, my wife smelled fumes and said smoke came out of the cabinet underneath the sink when she opened it. The next day, we had a different plumber come by and he said that we should throw out all food, toaster, and coffee pot and not move back into our house until that is done. He also said we need to wipe down all furniture and objects in the house.  ..."

Link: sulfuric acid question - Topic Powered by eve community  (

Now that is scary.  Be sure to read the follow-up posts.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Atlantic Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook

From the National Weather Service National Hurricane Center:

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) launched a new experimental graphical Tropical Weather Outlook (GTWO) product during the 2007 hurricane season. The GTWO is a web-based graphic that highlights the locations of areas of disturbed weather discussed in the text-only TWO by encircling the areas on the most recently available geostationary satellite imagery. The GTWO is intended to be a visual companion to the operational text-only tropical weather outlook.

As part of the testing and evaluation process NHC requested user feedback during the 2007 hurricane season. Users provided several suggestions for possible improvements, and NHC will be evaluating those and other possible enhancements to the GTWO over the next several months. If you would like to submit feedback to the NHC regarding the GTWO, please feel free to use the links provided below.

Via Web Survey:

Via Email:

Read full GTWO Product Description:

[Thanks, Lloyd!]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dawn, and Sunset, and the Colours of the Earth

I just learned from Michael Flynn's blog that Dawn, and Sunset, and the Colours of the Earth (his novelette that I had a small walk-on role in) has been nominated for the Seiun Award.  (Translated by Kazuko Onoda, Hayakawa S-F Magazine 2007/7)

Link: Science Fiction Awards Watch » Blog Archive » Seiun Nominees

Solar water heaters (link)

"Hawaii is first to mandate solar.

The last state to join the Union, (did you know Hawaii wasn't a star on the flag until 1959?) is the first to mandate solar water heaters on all new construction, and sends a strong message to the land-locked rest of us to catch-up or miss the big wave. The law goes into effect in 2010, giving builders, buyers, and designers plenty of time to coordinate the fine details."

Link: Andrew & Stacy: The Green Team -- Surf's up! Hawaii is first to mandate solar.  (

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Home ideas

I came across a nifty idea for your front porch in Lowe's Creative Ideas (May/June 2008 issue).  If you have seating on your porch, paint your house number on a cushion(s), and you can paint Welcome on a cushion too. 
Old House Journal (June 2008) has an interesting article on the now historical ranch style homes.  This includes the atomic ranch, "a mid-century style characterized by modernist details, walls of glass and an open floor plan."  There are also articles on shingle styles, stucco, clay roof tiles, and Humrich homes.  (Homes designed by architect Edward Humrich.)
In House & Garden (February 2007/Renovation issue), I learned that cork is now being used in upholstery.  It's supple, yet durable.  And I loved the bathtub made from a wine vat bought in Paris; you do need a stool to get into it.  That whole bathroom is rustic, btw, including a chair made from a big piece of tree trunk.  And there was a fun article about a porcelain collector who commissioned a 144-piece porcelain dinner set that is decorated with hand-painted portraits of hippos from zoos around the world.  What a great variety of hippo images!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Publication news

Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook is still on this Barnes & Noble top ten list: Barnes & Books - Architecture, Domestic->Amateurs' manuals

There's an excerpt available at: Free Book Excerpts : Building a Cool House for Hot Times without Scorching the Pocketbook by Joy Smith

There's also an excerpt available for my children's picture book, Why Won't Anyone Play with Me? : Free Book Excerpts : Why Won’t Anyone Play with Me? by Joy Smith

Sugar Time, my audiobook with three time travel tales, is available from: Hadrosaur Audio Odysseys

And here's a link to one of my online stories: The Trees of Home ; I love the artwork with this story!  

For more of my stories, see my short story collection, Aliens, Animals, and Adventure, in the Anthology Builder library at: AnthologyBuilder: create your ideal anthology

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Architecture of the imagination

"Edwin and Lucy's cottage consisted of two rooms downstairs, which had partly been knocked into one, with a modern bathroom tacked on at the back.  The stairs, which were hidden behind a latched door, led up to three rooms where one had to inch around the beds , bending one's head so as not to knock it on the eaves.  Laura Ashley wallpaper everywhere covered uneven old plaster, and rag rugs provided warmth underfoot.  Lucy's books were stacked in columns along one wall in the sitting room, having overflowed the bookcases, and in the kitchen there were wooden bowls, pestles and mortar, dried herbs hanging.
Lucy's home was unselfconscious, not folksy."
From Hot Money by Dick Francis

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Small green homes (link)


"In mid-October, I attended an annual conference put on by the Energy & Environmental Building Association (EEBA). It was a fun event with a spectacular mix of great folks: ...

The keynote speaker was particularly interesting: Sarah Susanka, architect and author of the Not So Big House series ...

Another fascinating presentation was one on ultra-low energy, green homes being built by two builders following the Passive House standards.  ... "

Link: Eric Helton: Building Science -- Smaller, Low-Energy Green Homes  (

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

New Ruralism

I read about the "New Ruralism" in the Spring 2008 issue of New Old House recently.  It's "a way of creating new communities located in rural areas to help preserve this country's agrarian history while offering homeowners smalltown living adjacent to farms, wildlife habitat, and open space."  See the article on page 10.  New Urbanism is still alive; see the article on Little Rabbit (page 60). 
There're also articles on salvaged flooring, past craftsmen's techniques, beautiful and interesting new old homes, and gardening
They're making faux terrazo, I learned, in a piece on green flooring in this issue; and in a catalog I saw faux stainless steel, which comes on rolls of self-adhesive PVC vinyl.