Archives » February, 2006

February 28, 2006

Amazing Race 9 (with Bittorrent)

This is an archived page dealing with The Amazing Race 9. These trackers are most likely dead, but maybe you’ll get lucky. For The Amazing Race 10, currently airing in the US, look here. Season 6, Season 7 (which is also on DVD, so go buy it), and Season 8 are also available.

Yes, it’s Amazing Race time again. This reality show that always seemed to be on the verge of being cancelled has made it to Season #9, which starts tonight at 9pm in the U.S. After hitting a pothole, tripping, and falling flat on its face last year when it aired the craptastic “Family Edition”, it’s trying to regain it’s momentum this year by, and I quote the CBS website here, “return[ing] to its international format.” Looks like even CBS realized how much Season 8 sucked, and is apologizing accordingly.

Tonight’s first stop is Sao Paolo, Brazil, which is a far cry from last season’s premiere in which teams had to drive across Manhattan and buy sleeping bags. Check out Phil’s travel diary from the first leg at

And along with the return to the “international format”, we’re also getting a return to teams of two, meaning that they’ll be able to ride in normal-size taxis again, as well as sparing We The Audience the mindbending horror of having to learn 40 people’s names like last year. And I usually don’t try to prejudge the teams based on nothing but their bios, because anything like that ends up way off base. But there are a couple of blonde bartenders that I hate instantly, and a pair of hippies (no, wait, “bohemians”—even worse) that better be really likeable and funny, because otherwise their whole Berkeley schtick is just going to piss me off. The rest of the contestants are just a sea of faces to me right now. And so they shall remain until tonight.

As always, if you want the best and most in-depth, scene-by-scene analysis of the show, don’t look here, head over to read Miss Alli’s recaps at Television Without Pity. But if you missed an episode, or just want to download them for your collection, do look here, because I’ll be posting Bittorrent links for each episode for the 4th season in a row.

Episode 1, “Here We Go, Baby, Off to Win A Million Dollars”, aired 2006-02-28

Episode 2, “I’m Filthy And I Love It”, aired 2006-03-07

Episode 3, “I Am In Russia Playing With The Dolls”, aired 2006-03-14

Episode 4, “It’s Not Over Until Phil Sings”, aired 2006-03-21

Episode 5, “Good Thing I Took That Human Anatomy Class”, aired 2006-03-28

Episode 6, “Sleep Deprivation is Really Starting to Irritate Me”, aired 2006-04-05

Episode 7, “Herculean Effort for Some Herculean Dudes”, aired 2006-04-12

Episode 8, “Here Comes The Bedouin”, aired 2006-04-19

Episode 9, “Do You Know How Much Running I Did Today, Phil?”, aired 2006-04-26

Episode 10, “Man They Should Have Used Their Fake Names”, aired 2006-05-03

Episode 11, “I Think This Monkey Likes Me”, aired 2006-05-10

Episode 12, “5 Continents…10 Countries…And More Than 59 Thousand Miles”, aired 2006-05-17

The world is waiting…go!

February 24, 2006

Appliance Repair For Geeks

Sometimes it’s good to be more than just a geek. Sometimes it helps to be a handyman too, like when the washing machine stops agitating and spinning and leaves all your clothes coming out in one big, soggy, dripping mess. So that’s when it’s good to know how to handle a screwdriver and a wrench and rip the thing open to find out what’s going on.

A naked washing machine.

Of course, I guess a handyman is just another kind of geek. Whether you’re good at fixing computers or good at fixing appliances, it’s still special knowledge and skills that not a lot of people seem to have. I guess the main difference is that the Maytag repairman isn’t staying up until 2am playing World of Warcraft.

The “transmission” exposed.

So maybe I’m lucky to be a geek that is also handy. Or maybe it’s common, I don’t know. I don’t know a lot of other geeks in my real life. But there are similarities in the work. Cracking open a washing machine and removing the motor to get at the drive coupler isn’t too much different than cracking open a tower case and removing the fan to get at the processor. It just takes up more space, and the washer motor hurts a little more when you drop it on your foot.

The washer motor, exposed to sunlight for the first time in years.

But the result of all this careful disassembly was to find that the drive coupling, the part of the washer that links the motor to the transmission, was shredded. You’d think that such an important part, buried deep in the bowels of the machine, and without which the washer just plain doesn’t work, would be made of something more than plastic and rubber. But it’s not. And plastic and rubber both have a way of becoming brittle over time, and failing in interesting ways. Like leaving a pile of black shavings behind on the floor as they’re slowly worn down over the years.

Old and busted.

But at least I was able to find out what the problem was, and it turns out it’s a pretty common one. Imagine that. Did Whirlpool maybe design it to keep the repairman industry in business? But no professional repairman is getting any of my pocket change this time. A quick trip to the parts store, and $19 later, and I have a new coupling that’s ready to be installed. Another half hour of work (or hour – putting things back together is always harder than tearing them apart) and we’ll be back in business, and I can tackle that pile of stinky socks that’s been building up in the corner.

New hotness.

And if this whole computer thing turns out to be just a fad, at least I know I’ll have a career to fall back on. Appliance repairmen charge the same hourly rates as computer techs!

February 15, 2006

Tear It Down?

Presbyterian Church

At Around Carson: The Battle for the Presbyterian Church. The story of the historic church in Carson City, 140+ years old, where the congregation wants to tear it down but the City and State want it saved.

February 14, 2006

Finally The Windows Are In

It’s literally been two months since we first walked into the Home Depot and told them we wanted new windows and doors installed. In that time there have been billing mixups, warehouse delays, ordering screwups, delivery confusion, vacations, bad weather, crooked walls, toxic mold, and family emergencies. Half of the job was finished two weeks ago, but the carpenter had to leave town. So we sat here, feeling incomplete, and staring at the few lonely windows that were still sitting in the garage. But finally, after the carpenter got back into town, and the weather cooperated with us for once, the job was finished yesterday. Now all of our new doors and windows are in place.

Ugly house, pretty windows.

We opted to get rid of the sliding glass doors that we had in the dining room and master bedroom, and go with french doors instead. After 25 years, the sliding doors were impossible to open. And even when you did open them, only one of the panes slid open. So it was impossible to get furniture in the house through that tiny opening. Now with the french doors, there is one side that has a handle and opens easily to walk through, but with just the slide of a little lock, the other side opens as well. So we can fling both the doors wide open and bring whatever furniture we want in and out.

Master Bedroom After
We haven’t been able to go outside from the master bedroom for years.

Not that we ever buy new furniture, but you know. It’s nice to know we could.

In the kitchen we decided to do away with the basic sliding window that had been there forever, and put in a garden window instead. This not only adds a couple of cubic feet to the size of the kitchen (which actually makes a huge difference, believe it or not), but it also gives us plenty of room to put our plants, rather than having them perched precariously on the window sill.

Kitchen After
Full sun for the plants.

Plus, now we can actually install a shade in the kitchen window, and not only will we not knock the plants over with it, but they’ll still be getting sun while the kitchen is in the dark! What a country!

Dining Room After
It’s so much nicer this way.

So, in all, it’s a pretty exciting time around the Schrantz Ranch. I put up a Flickr photo set showing all the progress all over the house. Check it out. But of course, in the game of renovation dominos you’re never really finished. Now that all the new windows and brand new trim are up, we have caulk smears, bare wood, and nail holes all over the place. So now we need to paint. Great.

But first, the roofers are coming on Friday to put new shingles on the roof. And I know I said that before, but this time I mean it!

Unless it snows!

February 13, 2006

Carson City Freeway

Normally you’re not allowed to walk on the freeway. Probably two exceptions are if your car has broken down, or if you’re wearing an orange vest and picking up trash.

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Freeway entrance.

But last weekend hundreds of people got a chance to walk on the freeway. Luckily there was no traffic, and that’s because the freeway wasn’t open yet. This was the public open house of the new Carson City freeway, a project that has been in the planning stages seriously for fifty years. Opening day of the freeway is Thursday, February 16, and to gather excitement for the big day NDOT opened the four-mile stretch to pedestrians and bicycles for three hours only on Saturday.

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A long line of people…

And there was really an excellent turnout. I’d say over a thousand people showed up just to walk and run along the twin ribbons of asphalt. The northbound Hwy 50 on ramp was the starting point, and from there you could walk all the way to Lakeview Hill at the far end of town if you felt like it. Personally, I only walked as far as College Parkway before turning around. But it gave us a good chance to look the freeway over while it was still sparkling clean, before it gets attacked by dirt and oil and rubber.

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…that never has an end.

A lot of the freeway is surrounded by sound walls, so when we were walking we couldn’t get much of a view or a sense of where we were. We were just walking through a long, wide concrete canyon, with a hint of the mountains in the background. But once we got near College Parkway, out in the swamp off of Lompa Lane, the sound walls fell away and we could see the view. From the top of the College Parkway overpass we could look down on the cars passing by below, cars that were probably jealous that we could use the freeway and they couldn’t. We were able to gaze across at the new Wal*Mart. We were able to see the Hot Springs. We actually, for the first time, could see the town from something other than ground level.

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A Wal*Mart in the distance.

But even on Saturday, a few days before opening, the work wasn’t finished. A couple of laborers were raking rocks and putting final details on the on ramp landscaping. And workmen were sanding the concrete on the Hwy 50 bridge. But for the most part, the freeway is ready. Soon 15,000 cars a day (estimated) will be zipping back and forth between Scolari’s and the hospital, and soon crews will be getting to work on the next phase of the freeway, extending the road from Hwy 50 to Fairview Drive.

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Off ramp to Dayton.

But for now, I put up 34 pictures from the day into a Flickr photo gallery, so you can go check those out. And in just three more days, we’ll all be able to drive on a real, live freeway, right here in Carson City.

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I never thought it would happen.

February 8, 2006

Renovation, Interrupted

We were supposed to have all the big renovations on our house finished by now. The carpenter was out all last week installing windows, and he only had the garden window in the kitchen and the two sets of french doors left to get to. And the roofers were scheduled to come on Friday, to remove those few shingles that haven’t blown off yet and give our house a brand new hat. But it wasn’t to be. The weather was too windy last week for the carpenter to finish his job, and then he had to leave town on Sunday for a family emergency. And the roofers’ truck broke down, so they had to reschedule all their jobs, pushing our house back two weeks. So here we are, with everything half finished, wondering if our house will ever really be done.

I guess these are just the kinds of delays you have to get used to when you’re having work done on your house. We arranged all of this work back in December, and it’s all finally happening now. So we’ve already been sitting around for two months wondering when we’d ever see any workmen. And the carpenter, when he was installing the windows, found water damage and mold in the bathroom walls. The bathroom walls I just installed two years ago. So I guess that proves that no matter how much caulk you throw at a problem, water always finds a way.

So now on top of the half-finished window job and the forever-delayed roof job, I now have to tear apart the bathroom again and start over. I think I’ll put up tile this time. There’s got to be a way to stop that water from leaking through.

February 6, 2006

Northern Nevada Then And Now

Okay, I’ve had this idea kicking around inside my head like forever, and so this weekend I decided to finally get off my keister and throw it together. I’ve been collecting all these historic photos of the Carson area, from newspaper clippings, and books, and postcards, and online photo galleries, and I’ve always wanted to go out with my camera and take pictures of what the same place looks like today. You know, a “Then and Now” comparison. This has been done a hundred times before, in books and websites, and I even wrote a blog post about it. But, except for a few pages I did on Virginia City last year, nothing like this has ever been done for Reno or Carson City. So this is where there’s a perfect little niche for me to squeeze into, and get it done.

So starting today, there’s a new section of Around Carson, Northern Nevada Then And Now. It’s devoted to rephotographing these historic snaps from the past, and putting the new side by side with the old. The site launches with two articles, one of which is a rehashing of one of my Virginia City pages. But I’m hoping I can add a couple of these a week and grow the site out pretty quickly. At least, that is, if the old procrastinating bug doesn’t bite me.

It should be pretty exciting to watch the site develop. I’ve had the desire to do this building up inside me for a long time now, I just didn’t have the framework to put it all into. But now, after a few hours of work, I’ve got a little mini CMS built, so I can just plug in pictures and text, and the site does all the heavy lifting of assembling the HTML and updating the index page. That saves so much time, and now I don’t have an excuse to procrastinate on writing the articles anymore.

And, I’m always looking for more pictures, so if you have anything black and white and historic of Carson City, Reno, Dayton, Lake Tahoe, Douglas County, or anywhere else around here, send it my way and I’ll see what I can do with it.

February 3, 2006

The Tall Girl

Being a tall guy (6’4”) isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s kind of nice, the occassional small doorway or low-hanging branch notwithstanding. But what gets old is when people everywhere feel compelled to comment on how tall you are, either by asking your height, or just by stating, “Gee, you’re tall.” Thanks, I hadn’t noticed. And then, inevitably, comes the question about playing basketball. Which is kind of a touchy subject, because I can play basketball about as well as I can breathe underwater, except with more flailing.

But if my stature as a tall guy gathers a lot of attention, what must it be like to be a tall girl? That’s the question answered in Don’t Harass the Tall Girl, an awesome new Reno-based blog that I just discovered. In it we are introduced to the daily adventures of Cladeedah as she tries to live life at 6’5”, and the comments she must endure from such great heights. She has taken to documenting every time someone comments on her height, either individually or together with her 6’6” husband. The result is a months-long account of serial harrassment, as every checkout girl, small child, grandmother, and random bystander off the street has to ask how tall she is, and how well she plays basketball. She’s up to 204 incidents, or “scenes”, as she calls them, but looking through her archives I feel cheated because scenes 75-175 happened on her honeymoon and she just lumped them all together into one post.

So don’t worry, I won’t harrass the tall girl if I ever meet her. I and my neck will just be relieved that I can finally look up at someone instead of looking down all day.

February 2, 2006

New Window Thursday

The contractor has been out here for a few days this week to replace all our windows. The old aluminum-frame windows from 1979 that had no problem letting large quanities of cold air into the house are going away, and being replaced by low-e glass that’s actually caulked and sealed all the way around. Imagine!

Living Room Before
Our old living room window

The idea behind low-e glass is that there is a microscopic layer of metal on the glass itself, thin enough that you can still see through it but thick enough to block heat and other kinds of radiation. The intent is to keep the heat in during the winter and out during the summer, as well as to make sure the cats don’t get cooked when they’re laying in a nice patch of August sun. It’s still a double-pane window, but it holds in the heat better than triple- or quraduple-panes.

The carpenter prepping the drywall for the new window frame

Plus it helps to have windows that were sealed properly. Our old living room window had come detached sometime in the last 25 years, so you could push on the glass and the frame would move away from the wall about half an inch. Having something that’s firmly attached to the wall does wonders for keeping your house warm. And, on top of that, some of the windows were cracked, or rusting in the corners, and all together they were a motley crew that just had to be let go.

Living Room After
The new window from the outside.

So they’re gone, all piled in a heap in our front yard and waiting for the clean-up crew to haul them away. In their place are nice vinyl-frame windows, with a grille of dividers to give our house a country charm that it doesn’t really deserve. Hopefully by the time these need to be replaced, we’ll be long gone.

I’ve put a bunch of pictures together into a gallery showing before and after shots from around the house. Now we just have to wait for the next heating bill to see if all this makes any difference!

Tomorrow? The roofers are coming. Which is a separate joy all by itself.