Jan 28, 2011


These don't count as part of the 365, because they have essentially zero artistic merit. Not that all my 365 pictures will, but I am making some effort there.

I mentioned recently that I had to replace a valve in the bathroom. Anyone who is a homeowner knows precisely how projects tend to snowball and then avalanche. I'll lay out a rough timeline on this one...

Early December 2010: notice that the toilet supply shut-off valve has a drop of water on it. Wipe it up, think nothing of it. A few days later there is another drip. Put it on the mental to-do list. I was winding down my year of night shift, and doing anything house-related was pretty far down my list of priorities.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. Step into the bathroom to do a load of laundry, and my feet get wet. Initial presumption is that the damn cats have pushed their water dish around again. Further checking reveals that no, the water bowl has no more spilled out than normal (Boris loves to dip his paw in the water and then shake it off) and the source of my wet feet is water coming up between the tiles.

Fie and doom.

I figured out what pieces I'd need and went downstairs to shut off the bathroom water. Revelation: no one installed isolation shut-offs for each room. In order to replace the toilet valve I had to shut off water to the whole house, and drain the plumbing. Since things had to get drained down that far, I decided to install a shutoff in the bathroom supply line as well.

Drive to Lowe's. Get all appropriate pieces. Return home. Replace supply valve and line on toilet. Take a deep breath, cut into supply line in cellar. Sweat on one side of the valve. Second side won't sweat properly. After several tries I gave in and called Dad for help. He showed up, figured out where the issue was, and in the process of trying to get the core out - tore the gasket. Back to Lowe's for a new valve.

Successfully sweated that in, turned on the water, and had a functional and non-leaking toilet. Of course, the tiles were now peeling up from the bathroom floor...

MrsZ and I spent some time at Lowe's looking at flooring options, and decided on vinyl tile. With some prompting, she picked a pattern we could both live with. Since we had to tear out everything in there to redo the floor, we decided to buy a gallon of paint and cover over the dark-blue walls at the same time. On top of that, since everything will be out of the way, we decided to replace the washing machine that has been of questionable reliability. (It gets the clothes clean but makes some awfully funny noises in the process.)

We bought tile and paint the other night, along with the glue and grout that we'll need, and ordered our new washing machine from Home Depot. Last night we got home and removed all the fixtures from the walls (sundry cabinet, medicine cabinet, towel bar, TP roll, and all the wall plates), shut off the water, pulled out the sink, vanity, and toilet, and I ripped up two thirds of the underlayment (which was starting to delaminate where it got wet) and pulled those nails.

We went from this (during our structural inspection):

To this, as of last night:

Tonight, I'll be pulling out the washer and dryer, and stripping out the remaining underlayment, prying up the nails, mopping with dilute bleach, and hopefully getting the walls sanded in preparation for priming.

Being a homeowner is FUN.

Jan 25, 2011

When I add someone to the 'roll, I tend to skim back through their posts to see what other gems I've missed. In doing that with Adaptive Curmudgeon, I found the Ford Earthfucker ... actually ... well ... Earthfucking (scroll down a bit).

Folks, that's the kind of thing you don't often see in the wild.

Jan 24, 2011

Handy, man.

Adaptive Curmudgeon is starting what sounds to be a pretty good tale of furnace woes. I can understand; even relate.

Reading that, combined with my own ongoing de-/re-construction efforts, I have reached the following conclusion: Everything is easier with the right tools - and even more so if you know how to use them.

I don't think everyone needs a fully-equipped machine- and wood-shop in their basement or garage. Goodness knows it would keep the ER's and Ambulance Drivers busy. I do, however, think that every single home should have a minimum of essential tools, and at least one person that knows how to use them. If you live alone, you are nominated by default.

None of these need to be expensive. In fact, I'll bet that you can acquire the vast majority of this list for under $200 total - and that's buying quality tools, not from the $0.99 bin at Walmart.

First bit of advice: spend the extra money for better tools. Craftsman (Sears) has a no-questions-asked lifetime warranty on their hand tools. Break it, they replace it. Period. It's worth the extra few bucks to get that warranty. Kobalt (Lowes) also makes pretty solid hand tools. If you're feeling wealthy, I suppose you can look to Snap-On or Mac, but there's really no need. Power tools? I fall squarely in the Dewalt camp. They take a heck of a beating; there's a reason you see yellow tools on construction sites.

So. Bare minimum you need to have:
- a set of screwdrivers. Flat and phillips, a couple different sizes. Buying a pre-compiled set for $10-15 is worth it.
- a hammer. A plain old 16oz claw hammer. Bet it costs you $8, maybe $10.
- a slip-joint pliers. Nothing fancy here.
- two crescent wrenches. One 6" and one 8".
- a 12' tape measure
- a drill/driver of some kind. Cordless are convenient but only if you remember to keep the battery charged. Corded are less convenient but cheaper and never have dead batteries.
- a set of drill bits
- a 24" spirit level
- duct tape

That's it. That's the bare minimum. You can do 90% of home projects with those tools. I'd strongly suggest adding to the list, though.

- a set of allen (hex) wrenches
- a socket set, with SAE and metric sockets
- needle-nose pliers
- water-pump pliers
- wirecutters (dikes and/or lineman's pliers)
- another 6" crescent wrench, and a 10" crescent wrench
- a 16" cross-cut saw
- a hacksaw
- a drywall saw
- a chalk line
- a combi-square
- a set of box or combination wrenches (SAE and metric)
- electrical tape

Now that wasn't so bad, was it? Only one power tool in the bunch! If you want to start adding power tools, I'd hold off until you have a project in mind that actually needs them. My most-used power tools are my drill and my circular saw, with the jigsaw being a distant third, and the nailers way down the list.

Of course, even if you have spent the money for "one of everything, please", that doesn't mean a damn if you can't USE what you have. Learn to use things properly and safely. Use the right tool for the job. Eye and ear protection is critical, and gloves aren't a bad idea.

Once you've got all that ... dig in. Don't be afraid to screw up. I've ended up chucking plenty of materials by making mistakes. It's not the end of the world, so long as you learn from what you're doing. I get cranky when I screw up. It costs money and time. But I don't make the same mistake again, either.

Of course, there will be times when it's time to call in a pro. In my case, 90% of the time, that means calling my father. I learned the vast majority of what I know by watching and working with him, and I can't ever thank him enough for letting me "help" as a kid.

Last week I had to replace a valve in our bathroom, which should have been a relatively simple project. Since I had to shut off water for the house anyways, I decided to add in a shutoff for just that room while things were down. I ended up not being able to get the joint to sweat properly, and after I tried several times, I gave in and called Dad.

He came over, looked over what I'd done, figured out the problem, and was also unable to correct it with what we had on-hand. One trip down to Lowes later, we had the parts we needed, and things were back together. I learned where my mistake was and what to do in the future, and got to spend a bit more time with my father. Win-win-win.

Be a handyman. Be willing to take on your own problems. And be willing to admit when a problem is over your head.

Writer's blockbuster

"Eateries that operate within the designated square downstairs count as food court. Anything outside, of said designated sqaure, counts as an autonomous unit for mid-mall snacking."

-- Mallrats, 1995


Jan 23, 2011

Manly Men

h/t to Borepatch for this one.

A few weeks ago I read The 75 Things Men Should Be Able To Do. (Warning! All men who read it may will suffer brain damage from the dissonance between truth and horse shit. Any woman who knows men will also find it uncomfortable.) Esquire puts the bar low and then dives under it. It’s a tragedy I have to live on the same planet with that level of weakness.
Hie thee forth, and read the whole thing.

(Hint: Esquire's bar is awful low. I can't do several of the things on their list (like scoring a ballgame) and don't feel the need to tear a corner off my man card. Perhaps they should retitle it to "75 Things Males Should Be Able To Do If They Care What Other Males Think About Them". I can do most of the things listed by Adaptive Curmudgeon and feel pretty comfortable with that list.)

AC, welcome to the 'roll.

Jan 22, 2011


I'm behind by several days on 365. I know. I'll work on it. Maybe. :-)

Meantime, I blame Carteach0 for this:

One each done with raspberry vodka, dark rum, and brandy. And cherry wine.

Jan 21, 2011

This one's for you, Wing

Wing is restoring her plane and making some great progress.

First Amendment

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We love to say that the Second Amendment protects the First. And to a certain extent, that's true... but it goes both ways.

The First Amendment isn't needed to protect uncontroversial thoughts. No one finds offense in a Yankees sign. (Well, except maybe BoSox fans.) No, the First Amendment is to protect the things that make us uncomfortable. Things we don't necessarily want to see or hear. And truth be told, we don't have to listen to them, or look at them - but the government can't stop their being said or printed.

The First Amendment won't protect someone from getting the tar beat out of them by an angry bystander, either. It only protects you from the government.

There is a long litany of court cases covering First Amendment decisions. Some of them are fairly common knowledge: Schenk, Brandenburg, Flynt, Skokie... these are all cases where speech that could be considered inflammatory, indecent, or discomfiting has been protected by the courts.

TJIC has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He has not been arrested. That pretty clearly does not pass the sniff test as written by Justice Holmes in Schenk v. United States (1919).

"The question is whether the words are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has the right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree."

"I read some guy on the internet wrote '1 down 534 to go', so I thought it'd be a good idea to start poppin' Congresscritters." That's going to earn you a padded cell with a suicide watch and a regular dose of Vitamin H and some other happy pills. TJIC's statement, while arguably in bad taste, is highly unlikely to present a clear and present danger, or as written in Brandenburg v. Ohio, "is [not] directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action, and is [not] likely to incite or produce such action."

"Imminent". "Clear and present danger".

Words have meaning. TJIC's words do not present a clear and present danger.

Thoughts and ideas; those are the things truly dangerous to a repressive state. Certainly, guns have their place, but if you believe that an armed rebellion similar to the 18th century is plausible, you are deluding yourself. Soap box, ballot box, jury box. Oh, the cartridge box still exists - always will - but the odds are decidedly stacked against you.

(Edit to add: Roberta says it far more eloquently than I did.)

Jan 19, 2011

NRA 2011

Hotel is reserved.

I'll be at the Embassy Inn - Airport. They still had rooms available for about $112/night when I checked after reserving mine.

Complimentary breakfast and manager's reception each evening, king suites. Looks decent. It's a bit out of the city center, but if there are multiple bloggers staying there, carpooling in is a real possibility.

h/t Newbius for the lead.

Jan 18, 2011

Pulled Pork

Pulled pork, done right, is a damn fine meal.

Done wrong, it's a travesty.

Good thing is, it's pretty tough to really screw it up.

Start with a few onions. Skin 'em, cut in half, and then slice along the parallels. Toss 'em on the bottom of the crockpot. You want enough to make a thin layer.

Mince a couple cloves of garlic and toss that in too.

Add a cup or so of cider vinegar, or cider, and a tablespoon or two of brown sugar.


Get you a nice big hunk of pig. This one is about eleven pounds, and too big for the crockpot, so I cut it in half. Boneless butt is a good choice and is generally inexpensive.


Slap that bad boy into the crockpot, fat layer up if it has one.


Slather the top with the spice rub of your choice. (I'm a big fan of Dinosaur BBQ's "Cajun Foreplay".)


Put the cover on, and turn the crockpot on LOW. If you can do the ten-hour cook, by all means, do it!


When it's done, use a couple fork to pull it apart. Pick out the chunks of fat that come up. Pour on your sauce of choice. Be generous! Cover it up and let it simmer on low for another half hour.

Serve however you see fit. I love a pulled pork sandwich with a healthy spoonful of cole slaw on top!





Jan 17, 2011

Writer's blockbuster

Need some inspiration? Just bored?

"When and why did you start drinking coffee? Corollary: How do you take your coffee?"

Reply here, or write your own post and link in comments!


Some time ago, I loaned a friend a small bag of ammunition to use as props while he was putting together an insert for his new CD. He wasn't sure what would look best, and had gotten suggestions from .45ACP to .7000LoudenBoomer. I didn't know the scale of what he was doing, so I pulled out five or ten of every caliber I own and put them in baggies for him. (Side note: this results in a package about the size of Nerf football.)

I happened to be thinking about it last week and dropped him a note asking if I could retrieve my ammo and put it back where it belongs - and by the way, buy a copy of his new CD while I was at it?

I picked up the bag of ammo ("Here's your bullets!" says he.) and chatted for a few minutes. Apparently the model (who had to hold the ammo) and the photographer were terrified of the cartridges. As in, "I don't want to be in the room with them, but this is a paying job so I guess I have to." My friend tried to explain to them that (A) they're pretty stable all by themself, and (B) they are beyond useless without a gun to make them go bang... but was apparently quite unsuccessful.

Some people can't be reached...

I'll ask him for permission to post the final photo result up here, but in the meantime, feel free to check out his page and buy his works. "Solitaire" and "Stripped Down Notions" are his earlier recordings, and are solo works; Alan and his guitar. The latest, "American Hands" is recorded with a group of younger local/student musicians and is absolutely wonderful. Twelve-string acoustic guitar with a wonderful backing horn section...

Jan 15, 2011

Tool Geek

Like most guys (and some gals), I have a deep-seated fascination with all things mechanical. Particularly things that require electricity and/or some type of combustible to run, can be held in my hands, and have the potential for serious injury or death. Chainsaws are a perennial favorite for obvious reasons, but all power tools are good.

We sided our garage in the summer of '09 (Has it been that long already? Time flies!) and I managed to use that as an excuse to buy a few tools, but couldn't quite convince the CFO that I needed a compressor. Since then, I've been keeping half an eye on classifieds and adverts.

Last week, Amazon put up a gold-box deal for a Dewalt compressor kit. (It was about $60 less than the current price.) I sent the link to MrsZ, who hemmed and hawed and decided that it didn't really fit in our budget right now, since a compressor wasn't really critical to our needs.

We got home from work Wednesday afternoon and it was sitting on the front porch. Sneaky minx!

I didn't get a chance to play with it until Thursday evening, and my initial impression is that it'll be just fine for the vast majority of my needs. The 2-gallon on-board tank is small, though: five or ten seconds of using a blower nozzle drops the pressure below the cut-in (120psi) and the compressor kicks on. So, the easy and obvious answer? Expand the storage!

I'll be looking for a five- or ten-gallon portable tank, replacing the single outlet with a T, and putting a female quick-connect on each side. One side will be regulated, the other will not. I can fill from the unregulated side, and then either take the tank with me (to fill tires or whatnot), or leave it connected to have an instant 500% increase in stored capacity.

I know the compressor isn't designed to run things like impact wrenches or air drills. That's fine, I don't need those tools on anything resembling a regular basis. What this will do is allow the compressor to have fewer on-off cycles for the number of nails driven, etc - and hopefully make running a tool like a framing nailer no problem at all. If I do need to run an impact wrench, it should at least make it possible if not a best-case scenario. (An impact wrench needs about 4.5cfm; this compressor makes 2.0cfm. 12gal of storage is about 1.8cf. If nothing else, it'll loosen a lugnut so I can finish it with hand tools.)

I am most pleased. Hooray for wifes. :-)


A few years old, with my old pocket camera. A good taste of what turkey hunting can look like: not much. :-)


Jan 14, 2011

The National Anthem

It was as she was hitting the high notes when the sound fell away and a confused look flitted across her face. [...] [W]ithin seconds, as if scripted for the closing scene of a Hollywood film, the crowd in the 12,600-seat arena rose as one to join in.

Full story here.

First of all, why is this being reported in a British paper instead of the US press? Oh. Right. Patriotism is passe. Gauche.

Second, and this is a pet peeve: the National Anthem should be sung as a group. Everyone together. None of this "stand because the announcer says to, and stare at our feet, and shuffle a little bit, and then cheer when some jamoke says, 'PLAY BALL!' or, 'Gentlemen, start your engines!'"


I'm sure you'll notice a common theme or trend in many of my pictures. Go figure.

If I could find my old pipe (tobacco, thankyouverymuch) or a good cigar, I'd be hitting three out of four...


Jan 13, 2011

Stocks For Sale

For you S&W-aholics...

Stocks (grips) for sale. Take-offs from my 28-2; I don't care for the hand-feel of targets and have replaced them with correct Magnas.

N-square "football targets", silver washers, with screw. One ding in the left grip panel at the back edge of the checkering from some nitwit banging a 1911 into it in the safe. (Pictured below. It's not quite as bad as the shadows make it look, but it's there.)

$85 shipped in the US.







I'm still pulling from the archives; new content soon I hope.


Jan 12, 2011


In a half-assed effort to get back into photography, I'm going to try to keep up with the "project 365" folks. Since I'm twelve days late, this post will be a big one. After that, I'll try for one a day. I'll try.








house 183



dragoon 011

house 139

Jan 9, 2011

I have found a line

During conversation in the #GBC channel the other day, Robb was explaining how things are going to run when he is Supreme Grand Exalted Pantsless Poobah of Everything He Surveys.

Among his planks: disenfranchisement of government employees - at any level of government - as they have a vested interest in the continuation of their employment and would obviously vote to continue that employment. (Conflict of interest, in other words.)

I admit, I was not able to put together a rational response, as I was too busy sputtering.

But I will say this: Robb, you have just clearly demarcated one of my lines in the sand. It's provided some interesting thoughts since.

Jan 8, 2011

Ad graphics

I continue to be amused by what passes for advertising these days.

Kahr Arms is a perpetual favorite with their "thin is sexy" shots. Sell me the gun, please, not the girl holding it. I realize that "chicks with guns" sells. But it sells calendars and, "First DVD free, $19.99 per month thereafter!"

Working through my blogroll this morning, I came across this gem on Uncle's sidebar:


Let's have some fun!

We'll start with the obvious: tank tops are not appropriate shooting attire, particularly for someone trying to shoplift a couple of cantelopes.

Looks like an EoTech on the whatever in her right hand. Both guns have some kind of side-folder stock, suggesting an AK-ish setup... but there's four shotgun shells on the gunbelt.

What else can you find? Go!

Jan 6, 2011


The big excitement around the blog world the past few days has been KelTec's latest whiz-bang bullpup pumpgun. And I freely admit, it looks pretty neat, and if it's legal in New York I will likely obtain one at some point. And put a bayonet on it.

But in the meantime, the NAA Ranger has me completely kerfuffled.

Five shots.
Standard NAA Noisy-Cricket sizing.

Top-break reloading.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

I wonder what I can sell to make funds for this become available?

Jan 3, 2011

2010 Gun Roundup

I had to check my lists to see what had changed in my safe this past year. It's signifcantly more than I'd realized! A bit of horsetrading here and there (a rifle for a pistol, a pistol for a pistol, selling one to buy another, etc), but still ... I wonder. If I turned out the light in the safe at night, would it start rocking, and would I find an NAA Mini in the morning? :-)

I got rid of three handguns, one rifle, and a shotgun.

I acquired seven handguns, two rifles, and four shotguns.

(Note: NY has no "one gun a month" laws. Good thing; I'd have been unable to purchase all these. Laws only inhibit the law-abiding.)

Net change: +8 to firepower.

Overall, that's a big win!

The last gun of 2010

Friday, Dec 31, 2010. I drove up to $LakeShoreCity in the early afternoon in order to look at and probably purchase a Remington 572. (And perhaps a shotgun as well, more on that later.)

I had originally told the seller that I would try to make it up Thursday - but that didn't pan out due to my wanting a bit of sleep. I emailed him Thursday evening and apologized and told him I'd be up Friday if it was convenient for him. He agreed, gave me his phone number, and suggested I call before leaving to get directions and to give him a rough time frame.

I did so, and headed out... TomTom and I had a bit of a disagreement on how best to get there; the highlight of that was a "Go straight on" direction ... past a "DEAD END" sign. I instead chose to take the turn on to the "SEASONAL ROAD NO MAINTENANCE DEC 1 - APR 1" road. It was, indeed, unmaintained, but passable. Fifteen minutes and several miles of 4wd later, I was back on normal roads and heading the right direction.

The gentleman selling the 572 had listed several guns, and on the way up I had resolved that if he still had one of them (a VERY nice Ithaca Model 37 16ga) I would pick up that one as well.

I arrived right when I'd estimated, shook hands, and was introduced to the seller's "good friend who I haven't seen in five or six years". I looked over the 572, which showed a bit of its age and needed a thorough scrubbing, but was otherwise in good shape. The seller let me try a couple rounds through it just to make sure it fed properly and would go bang.

I handed over the money, and said, "By the way, you also had an Ithaca 16ga listed... any chance you still have that?"

He smiled and said, "Yep. I HAD it listed. JimBob here (indicating the friend) just cleaned me out of most everything I had. I only saved the .22 because you asked about it, figured you'd get first dibs on that one."

The friend is apparently giving that Ithaca to his grandson for a 14th birthday present. I hope the young man knows what a fine shotgun he is getting and treats it accordingly; cynicism and memory of myself at 14 suggests that by the time this young man is old enough to vote the Ithaca will have been neglected and abused.

I also have a bit of a sour taste on an "old friend" who's been off the radar until there are good prices on some very nice guns... but such is the life of being a day late, I suppose.

I brought the 572 home, figured out how to disassemble it, cleaned it thoroughly, and have put just a couple rounds through to double-check function. The barrel - which is essentially free-floating - has a tiny wobble to it, and I'm debating how best to address that. A "shim" of some sort is the best idea I have, but I'm not sure what material would work best. I'm guessing it needs to be only a few thousandths of an inch thick...

In any case, on with the pictures!

The scope came with the rifle; it's a Weaver Marksman fixed 4x scope with absolutely crystal clear glass.


The rifle is pre-1968, as it has no serial number. The only evidence of age is the date code stamped in the barrel. Using this page, I figured the barrel to have been manufactured in October 1959. The rifle is now entered in my C&R book...


One of the wonderful things about the 572 is its ability to feed essentially ANY .22 round (non-magnum). Short, long, long rifle, shotshells - all work fine. A .22 CB Short in this - often known as a "gallery round" is a wonderful thing. If you're teaching a youngster to shoot and they're flinching from the snap of a HV .22LR, drop a few rounds of .22 short in this and have at it! They're so quiet that you can often hear the firing pin drop; they're really no louder than an air gun. I expect I'll be stocking up on shorts soon...


It's been light here...

Not a lot of blogging the past few days. I've been enjoying some quiet time at home while MrsZ and I both had a few days off. A few larger chores got done. I got a new gun (more on that later). I caught up on sleep.

I haven't kept up on blogs. I'll make a token effort to read back a few days on my regular reads, but probably not everything.

All that said, BobS has a thought-provoking post up. Hie thee forth, read, and respond if you can.

Hint: Weer'd knocks it out of the park in comments. A fragment:

Bigotry and hatred not only need no rational[e], but they also don’t hold up well to questioning.

Back to regular blogging in the next day or three.

Jan 2, 2011

Spa Night

One of the presents I gave MrsZ for Christmas was a gift certificate for a night at a local-ish resort; it included a 50-minute couple's massage and breakfast at the on-site bistro the next morning.

Short form: wonderful time. Would happily do it again.

Long form:
The resort we stayed at is La Tourelle. It's a medium-sized facility - their web site says 54 guest rooms. Check-in was prompt and pleasant; the lobby is clean, tastefully lit and decorated, and the staff friendly and professional. After check-in the desk attendant took us up to the room and gave us a quick rundown of "need to know".

I had reserved the "upper tower" room, which is described as:

Looking for the ultimate romantic getaway? Then, the Tower Room is perfect for your Finger Lakes visit. The distinctive tower shape is reminiscent of a European palace turret. The sunken 7-foot circular bed, mirrored ceilings and step-up Jacuzzi conjure up images of romantic encounters. You’ll also enjoy the privacy of being separate from the main resort building. A skylight will give you a sunny morning wake-up and natural light throughout the day.

Yes, I knew all that when I reserved it. It was intentional; I wanted something different from a standard square hotel room, and ... well, it was different! When the clerk opened the door and showed us in, I actually burst out laughing. I expect I'm not the only person to have done so, as she quickly asked if we'd prefer a different room. I left the choice up to MrsZ, and she decided we'd stay put. I'm glad we did.

The room is, as described, circular. There's an outside staircase that winds around the tower to get to the door. The room is perhaps 18 feet in diameter, and they make the best use of space possible. The 7-foot round bed is directly in the center, the step-in jacuzzi is at the head (?) of the bed, and there is a water closet on one side the door with the sink in a second closet on the other side. A small coat closet hides a minifridge and coffeepot, as well as the DVD player for the flat-screen TV. The far side of the bed has the steps up to the tile-surrounded tub, there's a small settee, and that's about it.

The ceiling is, indeed, mirrored - but it's not a flat ceiling! It's a cathedral ceiling with a round skylight in the center, and mirrored all the way 'round. I laughed my ass off at first, but it's actually kind of neat - for all the reasons you're imagining, and just because it IS different.


I have to say this, though: the room strikes me as "faded". It was clean, make no mistake, but small things caught my eye. The plaster on some of the wall was crumbling (near the shower, no doubt it's gotten wet). A few tiles in the same area were gapped away from the wall. The lattice over the w/c ceiling (on the outside, as it were) seemed an afterthought; better to turn that space into a small trinket display. The remote for the DVD player had dead batteries - minor frustration. A candleholder by the jacuzzi held the stubs of three candles - burned almost to nothing - and no matches or lighter. The heater (standard hotel-room block-on-wall style) was a bit noisy so didn't get much use.

On our room tour, the clerk had mentioned a few things. First: a daily wine reception in the lobby at 5pm, and if we wanted to take a bottle from the reception back to our room, feel free. The office had DVDs available to borrow. Coffee and tea were always available in the lobby as well.

We settled in to the room to eat a light meal before our massage. After eating, MrsZ went down to the desk to ask about a bottle of wine, since our massage was scheduled for 5 and we'd miss the reception. She came back with two movies and a bottle of Thirsty Owl dry riesling.

On to the massage... August Moon Spa is part of the main building, and can be accessed either from an outside entrance or through the lobby. The spa reception room is warmly lit, has soft music, etc. We each filled out a one-page health questionnaire, were given a brief tour (these are the relaxation rooms, these are the locker/sauna/steam/shower rooms), then given light cotton bathrobes and sandals and sent off to change.

We went from changing to the relaxation room. Essentially, it's a lounge for eight to ten people, with tea and water. Dim lighting, soft music, fireplace, soft chairs. We sat and relaxed while waiting for our masseuses to collect us. After five or ten minutes in there, we were collected and taken to our treatment room, where we were asked to disrobe and lie facedown on the tables under the cover. No problem.

The masseuses came back in shortly and made minor adjustments to the tables and us as needed, then ... massage. (Full disclosure: this is the first time I've had a massage in a spa. I've dated three different LMTs over the years, and a PT student who occasionally practiced on me, so I guess I can't say I've never had a massage.) Maybe it's just me, but I actually had trouble really relaxing during the massage. It felt good - and she definitely found and worked out a few of my knots - but I kept finding my shoulders tensing up and had to consciously relax them. Strange situation, new person, I don't know.

After the massage, they left us with instructions to, "Lie and breathe for a minute, stretch out, and when you're ready we'll be waiting outside with water." We did just that, and they were. We took our water back to the relaxation room to sit by the fire and unwind for a few... and had a few chuckles while we were there.

MrsZ questioned what the room would look like in full light, and I looked again with a more critical eye... the carpet in front of the gas log was filthy. The walls had several stains and rub marks from the chairs. The cushions were all stained from countless people soaked in massage oil sitting on them. Way to ruin a mood, MrsZ! :-)

We went back to our separate locker rooms, intending to use the steam room and/or sauna for a bit before meeting the reception area and going back up to our room. Unfortunately, the steam rooms were both out of service, and the men's sauna was occupied by a rather corpulent and extremely naked gentleman. I opted for a long hot-as-I-can-take-it shower instead. (Minor notes on the locker room: clean, well-provisioned, towels were huge and fluffy, lockers were well-sized and had electronic locks built in. Quibbles: paper towels had run out, and the laundry hamper - for used towels and robes - was full beyond overflowing, leaving a pile of damp towels on the floor.)

After getting dressed and collecting MrsZ, we headed back up to our room, where we opened our wine and got out the crackers and cheese we'd brought for dinner. We put in a movie (Pirates of the Caribbean:somethingorother) and MrsZ started filling the jacuzzi.


I fell asleep quickly - the round bed was a weird experience but quite comfortable and more than large enough even for someone of my height. The room was a bit brighter than I'm used to; we woke up around 3am and I would have sworn it was dawn. (Side note: listened to the rain on the roof for a bit. On January 2. In New York. Rain. Hrmph.) Back to sleep, woke up again around 7:30. We dawdled in bed for a while, then got up, showered, packed, and checked out before having breakfast.

Breakfast was at Simply Red Bistro, also a part of the main building. It's a prix fixe menu. We were seated promptly, and the waitress took our drink orders (coffee, please, soon!). The coffee arrived promptly with a basket of pastries, and we ordered our meal. Breakfast included either a fruit cup or yogurt parfait; we both had the parfait, and I chose the omelet while MrsZ had the waffle with fruit.

The food was, overall, very good. MrsZ had a wonky strawberry on her waffle, but for something flown from the other end of the world that's not bad. The yogurt in the parfait was not the type of yogurt I'm used to; it was a thicker consistency, almost a custard, and a bit bland - but it complemented the granola nicely (side note: MrsZ found a bit of walnut shell in her granola). The pastries were excellent - some of the best I've had in a long time. My omelet was wonderful - full of ingredients and perfectly done. The house potatoes turned out to be oven-roasted with roast garlic and were very good. MrsZ said her waffle was very good. The coffee was by Ithaca Coffee Company, and while I don't know which roast, it was a tad darker than I normally like. Not bad, by any means, just not my preference.

All that said, I have two gripes about breakfast. The first is minor: the coffee cups were emblazoned with the bistro name and logo on one side, and the spa name and logo on the other. It struck me as a needlessly discordant intrusion on an otherwise beautiful table. I expect logos on the coffee mugs at McDonalds and Starbucks and Waffle House, not a local bistro self-described as "casually elegant".

The second gripe is more critical, in my opinion. We felt rushed. The restaurant was not full to capacity, so it's not as if they were trying to flip a table and get another seating in. As mentioned, the waitress brought our pastry with the coffee. We had each picked one after fixing our coffees to taste, and had barely had two bites (in other words, half; they're small pastries) before our parfaits arrived. We were both about half-done with our parfait when the main course arrived.

Pacing a meal is critical to a good experience in a restaurant. Most of the chain restaurants have this down to a science (I've seen it posted, it's a rule of sevens or nines or somesuch) and do a good job with it. A good diner may not have it according to corporate guidelines, but have it down to an art. A fine restaurant won't pace the meal at all; they'll let you set your own pace. Unfortunately, we felt like they were setting the pace for us, and it was far faster than we'd have liked.

Will we go back? Probably. I'd like to try them again to see if things are different, and as I said, the food was very good. If it's a second poor experience ... well, cross that bridge when we come to it.

So, as a package, the whole experience? A wonderful relaxation, a nice getaway, and a chance to unwind. Is it worth the $425 price tag they hang on it? Questionable. According to the flat retail price, yes. Massage: $180. Room: $225+. Breakfast: $25. As a question of value ... borderline. Actually, for me, it's not worth anywhere near the list price. However, I got this for MrsZ as a gift certificate through a discount site, and paid half the list price. For $212, this was a steal of a night and I'd gladly do it again. (Gratuities were not included. Please remember to tip your massage therapist and waitress!)