2011 News Archives

This page contains the news updates from 2011, in order to keep the Welcome page from getting too big as I continue to add updates to the renovation project and web site on that page.

click to enlarge
A before and after of the major project of 2011 (2 photos).

2011 Projects
The House: 2011 interior projects moved from the kitchen to the bathroom tile installation in early Winter. We also finally got a standby power generator, and finished altering the service panel wiring to accommodate the generator. As soon as the weather warmed and the snow melted, my focus returned to the exterior projects with construction of the engawa & tsukimi-dai  decks in the back yard. Between the site work and deck construction outside, and working on bathroom tile inside on rainy days, those projects pretty much carried us through most of 2011.
The Site: The KesterHouse site received a major code upgrade in late 2011 in order to accommodate smart phone and tablet browsing, including a complete re-working of the image viewing code. I spent more time than I should have tweaking things, but I believe the results were worth the effort (although many of the changes probably aren't very noticeable). We also decided to upgrade all the home computers 2011, but didn't actually spend the time or money until after the 2011 holidays.

2008 News Archives.
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2010 News Archives.
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2017 News Archives.
2018-21 News Archives.
2022 News Archives.

Old News Updates

The House: Engawa decking has been installed and the tsukimi-dai  decking is under way. Taking a little break to publish this update and prep for a visit from my brother and his family for Thanksgiving next week.
The Site: Added the Installation of the Engawa Decking section to the Engawa & Tsukimi-dai  page, as well as a section regarding Low-voltage Lighting Wiring. As usual, I've also updated the search index and Project Timeline page to reflect the current status.

The House: It's still here. Got a snow storm on October 30th, which was interesting. No work on the decks since the last update, although I did spend time in the shop doing some restoration work on a load of vintage light fixtures for one of my brother's clients.
The Site: As promised, I've done a pretty major site overhaul. Mostly because the lovely bride's been bringing home iPads, iPhones and Androids from work to fiddle with as they work on new mobile apps and interface designs, and partly because Google's code blew up the site for Internet Explorer users. OK, so after playing with those smart phones and touch pads a bit, I can see the attraction (but I'm still not going to get a mobile phone). The iPhone and Android are too tiny for my mitts to deal with, but that iPad is very handy and enjoyable to use. So, despite my earlier rant about not re-designing for mobile devices, I've re-designed the site for use with mobile devices...sort of.
I didn't go so far as re-styling everything specifically for mobile users, but I found that my old "lightbox" image viewing stuff just didn't work on a mobile device. When a mobile user opened an image, it still opened in a lightbox - but the lightbox opened at the very top of the page so they probably didn't know it had opened. If they did manage to scroll up and spot it, the navigation controls were too tiny to use with a touch pad, so they couldn't get at more than a single image. After spending a few days looking at new jQuery lightbox style image viewers (and there are many), I found that ALL of them opened the image at the top of the page. I guess if you want it done right, you gotta do it yourself.
I started by upgrading the pre-built lightbox image viewer to ShadowBox v3.0.3, which I still found to be the best lightbox style viewer available (I used v2.0 when I launched the site). However, having learned a bit more about Javascript over the last couple years, I had a go at tweaking the code to deal with the overlay location for mobile users. I'm proud and pleased to report that I managed it! iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android users may now enjoy proper lightbox overlay image viewing of all photos on the site. I didn't address Blackberry or the dozens of other mobile devices and smart phones out there (because I don't have any of those to test on), but I'm mostly concerned about iPad and Android anyway, so that's fine with me. I also made the navigation controls a bit bigger so they're easier to get at on those tiny screens. Additionally, I added a button on each photo that opens the photo in a new window with a tap, which makes it easier to zoom or bookmark individual photos. I also did a little tweaking of the entire layout a bit so my pages re-size themselves better on mobile devices (Android seems a lot happier if you double-tap the page when you scroll down, then it behaves properly). I even managed to get most of this stuff to work for those of you still using Internet Explorer v6.
In addition to the mobile device layout changes and lightbox overlay, I addressed another issue that the Google Analytics code was causing for Internet Explorer v6 users. All pages are now updated with the new code tidbits and image viewer, although you may still need to refresh the pages to get all the new goodies loaded. I do have a couple content updates to add to the Engawa page, but with the weather cooperating, I'm going to try and make some more progress on actual construction work, rather than just writing about it.

The House: Finished the low-voltage wiring for the Engawa, although I'm still doing a lot of work on a pretty major site update (coming soon).
I have CDO. It's like OCD, but with the letters in alphabetical order - like they're supposed to be.
The Site: Yep, I'm getting loopy after working on code for over a week... Last night Google did something to their +1 script that stopped all the JavaScript from running on any web page viewed with Internet Explorer. Basically they broke the internet for millions of users (and haven't fixed it yet). Well done. I uploaded a temporary fix for it to all my pages last night, but found it was still pretty wonky this morning. I've now added some code that checks to see if you're using Internet Explorer, and if you are, it prevents the Google +1 code from running. Other site updates are in the works, and should be ready in a few days.

The House: Still tinkering with decking boards while waiting for the rain to go away. Got a little side-tracked with some site update stuffs...
The Site: So I was looking over my pages the other day and checking out my Google analyticslink opens a new window to see if anyone ever actually reads all the blather I write (they don't, but I still keep writing it). Anyway, I started reading about the Google +1 buttonlink opens a new window, Canonicalizationlink opens a new window, Schema microdatalink opens a new window, and so on. Never a good idea for a geek like me, but there it is. I like the +1 button and what Canonicalization does, so of course I had to update all the pages on the site to include them. The microdata stuff is impressive as well, although it completly blows W3C validity out of the water, and I'm not going to revert all my pages from strict XHTML 1.1 back to transitional HTML 4 in order to add microdata tags. Hopefully Schema.org will work with the W3C and get it figured out. I uploaded the latest version of JQuery (v1.6.4) while I was at it too. I'm also giving some thought to re-coding the image slide shows to help mobile users, even though I've said in the past I wouldn't alter the site for easier "finger driven" navigation. We'll see.
This all led to another issue I stumbled across while playing with search engines, which is that there's another Kester House out there on the web. It's a Bed & Breakfast in Sussex, England. In an effort to try and clarify search results, I decided to simply change all my page titles from "The Kester House" to "The Kester House & Garden" (I had to edit every page anyway in order to get the +1 code in there, so why not). It will probably take a while for the new titles to show up, but it should help when they do. As long as I was editting everything on the site, I also added a Twitter button to rest of the social networking buttons (along with the new +1 button). All these changes will likely go completely unnoticed (since you'll have to refresh the page to get them to show up), but if you're of a mind to recommend the site, I've tried to make it a little easier. Any tweets, likes, or +1's are certainly appreciated, of course. Now back to carpentry work!

The House: Getting started on decking installation, but wanted to get the site updated with the landscaping stuffs before I got too far along.
The Site: Added the Tsukimi-dai  Landscaping section to the Engawa & Tsukimi-dai  page. Also updated the search index and Project Timeline page to reflect the current status.

The House: Still mostly working on the engawa and tsukimi-dai,  having completed the landscaping around that area and now doing some fiddling with the low-voltage lighting fixtures. The decking material has been air-drying for over a month now and it's time to start installing it.
Some other big news is that my brother and his partners, who've been designing high-end restaurants all over the world for years, after much planning have launched their own foray into the bar and restaurant game with "The Elevens". They've designed a business model wherein the customers actually own the bar as "Seatholders" and enjoy a substantial lifetime discount as well as other benefits as owners. The idea is to microfinance the start-up through crowdsourcing by becoming a seatholder through their web site. The whole concept is well explained in an early review at the Tribeca Citizenlink opens a new window restaurant guide. I think it's a fantastic concept and really hope it works.
The Site: I added an update to the Engawa & Tsukimi-dai  page with a new section about the Engawa Trim & Detail Work and the Copper gutter installation.

The House: Work has been continuing steadily on the engawa and tsukimi-dai,  with a roof finished over the engawa and all the framing finished. The Building Inspector had a look at the framing as well, and said I could continue without any problems. All the decking material was purchased a couple weeks ago, and I'm busying myself with other back yard projects while I give that wet stuff a chance to dry out a bit. Currently I'm working on making some progress on the landscaping around the new decks since Fall planting time is here.
The Site: I've done a fairly large update to the Engawa & Tsukimi-dai  page with few new sections, including the Engawa Soffit Work, Roof Work, Tsukimi-dai  & Engawa Framing, and finally a rather lengthy section regarding Dealing with Pressure Treated Decking. Other recent updates include adding the new plantings of Japanese Iris and Hakone Grass around the tsukimi-dai  to the Plant Lists section of the Garden Design page, and as usual, I added a couple more photos to the Hand Plane Gallery section of the Vintage Tools page. Lastly, I've updated the search index, as well as the Project Timeline page to reflect the current status.

The House: We seem to be getting our missing early Summer rain all at once these days, so I haven't been able to make too much progress on the engawa. I did manage to get some of the fussy stuff done that needed to get finished while the rafters were still open (some wiring for recessed lights and flood lights, the tubing for the misters, etc.), but now I need to wait for the pouring rain to stop before finishing up the roof work.
The Site: I updated the Engawa & Tsukimi-dai  page with a section detailing the Engawa Roof Rafters installation while waiting for the rain to go away.

The House: Work on the engawa & tsukimi-dai  has been moving right along, with the grading done and the posts & beams installed. The roof rafters for the engawa are also competed, and I'm working on some of the detail work for the lighting and the cooling misters since it's easier to get at that stuff before the roof sheathing and soffits are installed.
The Site: The Building the Engawa & Tsukimi-dai   information has been added to the Engawa page of the Exterior section, and is pretty much up to date with where things are as of earlier this week. The site's search index was also refreshed.

The House: It's been a busy couple of months so far this Summer, with plenty of good weather for outdoor work (although a bit more rain and some cooler temperatures would be welcome). Project work shifted from finishing the bathroom to working outside on the engawa & tsukimi-dai  as long as the weather has been right. On very hot days, I stay inside and fiddle with completing the bathroom tile - which is finally finished. Work is progressing well on the engawa as well, but now I'm in to the fussy bits so it's time for a small break to get an update taken care of.
The Site: The Bathroom page in the Interior section has been updated to include the information regarding the completion of the Bathroom Tile Floor project, which is also partly to blame for the long delay in a site update: I wanted to get that section taken care of before going into the engawa & tsukimi-dai  construction updates, but needed to wait until I had the last few photos available to put it to bed. With that done at last, I'm now getting the deck work photos in order and should have an update for that section soon. I've also updated the search index, as well as the Project Timeline page to reflect the current status.

The House: Constant rain outside, although my back finally seems to be working again. I don't even want to think about how far behind I am on the yard work. Tile baseboard work has been progressing ever so slowly.
The Site: Updated the Bathroom page with a new Toilet Installation section, since I'd managed to get that installed before my back went out. The site's search index was refreshed and I added a couple more photos to the Hand Plane Gallery section of the Vintage Tools page.

The House: Spring might actually be here at last, with the Plum and Cherry trees in full blossom. I've been keeping busy with lots of fussy tile baseboard installation in the bathroom. Unfortunately, I somehow tweaked my back again last week, and haven't been able to get at any of the yardwork the garden so desperately needs. Hopefully I'll be able to get outside in the next few days and get started on garden clean-up and pruning.
The Site: Added a lot more information and photos to the expanded Tile Installation section of the Bathroom page now that the floor tile is pretty much finished. The site's search index was also refreshed.

The House: Okay, so I was wrong about the weather getting warmer. What a miserably chilly Spring we've had so far. I've gotten nothing done in the yard, but have made decent progress on the bathroom tile project. Getting into the nit-picky work now of building my angled tile floor trim for the bathroom, so things are slowing a bit but I think the outcome will be worth the effort. Got the 2010 taxes done at the end of March as well (and even remembered to get the credit for the A/C unit we installed last year).
The Site: Although I haven't updated the Tile Installation section since last time, I did manage to throw many hours of coding into the site to make a few changes that will likely go completely un-noticed. Yep, that's me - wrapped up in a project for days just so I know it's been done right.
Changes include updating JQuery to version 1.5.2, and I found the Pandora link at the bottom of each page was hosed since Comcast ended their deal with Pandora that gave you an ad-free Pandora window. The Pandora link still opens to my radio station if you're looking for something to listen to while browsing. I also went through all the pages and checked the print output to see how things would look if printed, which led to a few changes to most of the pages to help with page breaks and printed readability (although I hope you're not printing all this stuff to read it). I also tweaked the tables a bit to get them to show up a little better in IE6... even though it's no longer supported, I know some of you are still using it (yes, I got the Google Analytics code installed too). If you're using IE9, good luck. I don't have a Windows 7 machine, so I've got no way to verify that the site works in IE9 - sorry.
The only other geek update is concerning mobile devices... or perhaps I should say, my lack of concern for mobile devices. Not gonna go there. I've thought about authoring a separate style sheet to reformat the pages so they'll look wonderful on your little 3 by 4 inch screen, and after reading through the W3C "best practices" recommendation for mobile device web design, I've determined that I really just don't care. If you want the weather, or the score of the ball game, or a map to the restaurant, great. Knock yourself out and use your phone to surf away. If you want to read about Japanese style house & garden design and creation, or how to make a textured plaster wall, or hand plane restoration, then sit in a comfy chair and read my site on a large computer screen, or at least crack open the laptop. There's nothing on this site that will do you any good if you try and read it sitting at a red light, or while waiting at a crosswalk, so I'm not going to bother re-designing the site so you can look at it on your phone.
As for actual content updates this time around, all I managed to do was add still more information to the Hand Plane Data section of the Hand Tools page, including a Type Study for Stanley Handyman bench planes, and a bit of eye candy from a turn-of-the-century Stanley tools catalog. There's also a handful of new images of recent purchases. I've been snapping photos of bathroom tile progress, and will update that page soon.

The House: The weather finally seems to be getting warmer... in the upper 60's today, so I'm going to see if I can get the bathroom tile done before I need to head out for spring yard work. It's still pretty wet out there, but it's warm enough to run the wet saw for tile work. Spent the last couple of days doing the tile prep work in the bathroom so next week should see some tile installation. Still haven't done the 2010 taxes yet.
The Site: Added a new Tile Installation section to the Bathroom page, along with a few photos. Still messin' about with Hand Plane Data section of the Hand Tools page, and added a bit of information about the iron and transitional bench planes since I seem to be getting lucky on picking up a few more transitionals this year.

The House: Finished the installation of the kitchen stove vent duct work in the attic - which means all the kitchen projects are officially completed, sort of... the plumber still needs to stop by to install the "real" kitchen sink trap (I've just got a cheap-o flexible plastic thing under there for now) then schedule the final kitchen plumbing inspection. The good news is I  don't have to do anything else in there. I also installed the Reliance Controls PowerBACK™ power monitor on the electrical service panel so we can tell when the utility power returns during an outage. Of course, the power went out yet again while I was installing it. At least I got to test it and make sure it works. Time to get serious about doing the 2010 taxes now.
The Site: Touched up the final bits of the Completed Kitchen Renovation section of the Kitchen page and added a few photos of the duct installation. I also added a photo of the PowerBACK™ unit to the end of the Standby Power System section of the Wiring page. The information regarding Stanley Block Planes in the Hand Plane Data section of the Hand Tools page got a re-write too. Since I'm going through the Spring ritual of picking up a few more hand planes for the collection, I needed to make sense of the confusing Stanley numbering system for block planes to make it easier to figure out which ones I'm missing. I couldn't find a concise guide to their block planes on the web, so I made one myself. No idea if anyone else will find it useful, but there it is.

The House: Still fiddling around in the attic and thinking more about getting that bathroom tile under way. Should spend a day or two wrapping up the 2010 taxes first though. Enjoyed a nice visit from a couple of the lovely bride's relatives from Hawaii who were in Boston for a medical conference.
The Site: Nothing too exciting, but it had to be done... moved all the 2010 News Updates off of this page to a new 2010 News Archive page to help keep this page tidy.

The House: Hooray, another 6 inches of snow this weekend. Getting it moved was as usual, with one minor exception: My AO Safety prescription glasses, A.K.A. my "Mythbusters" glasses (which I use whenever working on the house so I don't destroy my "good" glass), got pretty fogged up so I tossed 'em in my hoody pocket while running the snow thrower. When I finished the job, I went for my glasses... which were gone. I re-walked that area I'd cleared, and found a temple layin in the path. Uh-oh. Today (after it rained all day and knocked down the new snow banks a bit), I found the the rest of the glasses on a snow bank. Those things have held up really well, but they can't survive going through a snow thrower, apparantly (almost - but one lens was gone). Oh well - guess it's time for some new safety glasses.
The Site: Finished up and posted the new Standby Power System section of the Wiring page. Couple more tweaks to the Hand Plane Data section of the Hand Tools page. Refreshed the search index too. That is all.

The House: The condition of the attic had been bothering me for a while, so I've spent a good amount of time up there going through boxes of stuff and re-organizing it. I'm tossing a lot of stuff I just don't know why I've been keeping (like boxes of old computer parts, cables, drives, etc.), and re-packing the stuff I'm keeping into big plastic totes. The totes stack and slide around easily, to it should make upcoming projects that require attic work a little less of a pain in the rear. This all started so I could get at the kitchen over-the-stove vent outlet and finally connect that to the roof cap. That's right - that's the only thing left to do for the kitchen to be finished. Since I'll need to turn my attention to the living room ceiling pretty soon, I don't mind taking the time to get the attic in order first.

The Site: Other than crawling around in the attic, I've mostly been sitting at the computer trying to get the site current again. It sure is simple to keep the site updated when I do it on a regular basis... this blowing it off for months is just silly. Anyway, I've gotten the Kitchen page finished, starting where I left off last Summer with the Backsplash Installation section, followed by lots of new photos and text covering the rest of the backsplash work, window trim, and the laminate counter top. Also I must apologize - some of those window trim and counter top photos are pretty blurry, but I had to put something up with all that text, so there it is. The final photos of the completed kitchen turned out pretty nicely, so the monopod really helps.
In addition to nearly doubling the size of the Kitchen page, I've also updated the Project Timeline page with all the kitchen project information (and that takes care of 2010 too). Removing snow from the driveway every 3 days was not included as a 2011 Winter project, although perhaps it should have been. Yeesh. I also picked up a couple more hand planes in the last couple weeks (starting to pick up those Stanley Transitionals), so I've added their information to the Hand Plane Data section of the Hand Tools page.
Finally, I updated to the Standard Edition of WrenSoft's Zoom Search software. The free edition works great, but it's limited to pages of 100k size or less. With all my rambling on about this or that, a few of the pages are getting bigger than 100k so they weren't getting indexed for searching. All pages should now be indexed with the standard edition to provide more accurate searching (perhaps I'm the only one that searches my site, so I'm glad to know that's working again at any rate). Okay, maybe I need to get out more.

The House: Some times things just work out right... The wind started howling last evening, so I thought I'd put the motor oil and a little fuel in the new generator, then fire the thing up just to be sure it worked. While putting in the oil, the power went out! The generator performed perfectly, and the power was back on within a few hours so I didn't even have to shut the thing down to re-fuel (although I did take a trip to the service station to get an extra 10 gallons of fuel just in case).
The Site: Lots of little updates today, but nothing major (and no new project updates). I tried out the new camera monopod to snap some pics today (for the standby power update I'm working on) and it really helped the photos come out much better then other recent attempts. I added some more photos to the Hand Plane Gallery that I hadn't been keeping current with purchases over the last few months. I also added the book information for some recent purchases (and a wonderful Katsura book my brother gave us for Christmas) to the appropriate reference sections on the Inspiration and Garden pages.

click to enlarge Winter 2011 (8 photos).

The House: It's been far too long since I documented anything regarding the house here, but work has been progressing steadily on the old homestead all Winter. It seems this Winter I've spent more time moving snow than I ever did in the past (glad we got that snow thrower a couple seasons ago), although I did manage to get a few things done inside the place as well. The kitchen is pretty much finished now, and I also got our standby power systems squared away since the need for a generator got put on the top of the list with all the Winter storms we had this season. I've got one project to finish for the kitchen (the duct work for the over-the-stove vent), then it's time for bathroom tile work.
The Site: The only site update today is a quick note to say I've moved the Hand Planes section off of the Et Cetera page and on to a new page dedicated to the subject in the Specifications section. The Hand Planes stuff was getting to be a lot of information, so it needed its own page. I also added a new section called Hand Plane, Scraper & Spoke Shave Data, which is a long list of all the vintage tools I currently own. Yes, I've come to terms with the fact that I'm a Stanley hand plane collector, so I created a way to quickly determine which tools I already own when something nice shows up on E-Bay. Because of the new Hand Plane page, I've had to re-load all the site pages to include the new menu item. That means you'll likely have to refresh any pages you may have cached in order to get the new menu item to appear correctly (it's listed under Specifications, and Tools has been re-named Power Tools too).
Other site updates under way include finishing up the Kitchen section, and adding some information regarding the standby power generator to the Mechanical section.
Oh, and part of the lengthy delay with updates has been the new camera... I've found the new camera is much nicer than the old point-and-shoot, although it also requires a bit of skill and a steady hand (and when working on something I tend to concentrate on the project rather than being a photographer). So, many of the photos taken over the past few weeks turned out to be blurry messes (and not suitable for posting, unfortunately). I've finally addressed the problem with the purchase of a mono pod, which should allow much more clear shots and provide fuel for regular updates again.