Woman Finds Finger in Chili at San Jose Wendy’s

Chili cookA woman bit into a severed finger while digging into her bowl of chili at Wendy’s yesterday:

The restaurant at 1405 Monterey Highway was temporarily closed Tuesday night to allow health officials to impound the remaining chili, which was prepared on site, using a variety of ingredients. Health officials also seized all of the restaurant’s remaining stock of ingredients, which will be inspected, and traced back to their manufacturer.

Since all of the workers at the restaurant were in possession “of all 10 of their fingers,” health inspectors assume the finger likely entered the food chain as a result of the manufacturing process, according to county Environmental Resources Director Ben Gale.

How does a severed finger slip through the QA process at food processing plant? If the finger belongs to one of the workers at the plant, somebody must have known about it. Presumably the person who lost the finger knew about it. If there was reason to believe that the finger made it into the food, why didn’t they scrap the entire batch? Did they think nobody would notice?

Of all the fast food chains, Wendy’s is the only one that I like. I still plan to visit there occasionally, but I’m going to avoid the chili from now on.

Water Softener Breakdown

DrainI’m not sure how long it has been out, but our water softener is not working. I noticed on Tuesday that our water no longer had the slimy feeling of softened water that it did when we moved into the house. I took a sample into Crystal Clear after work yesterday to have it tested. The softener is having no affect on the hardness of the water. The consultant from Crystal Clear offered to drop by our place for a courtesy call. I’m expecting him this afternoon.

Basement Renovation: Purchasing Lumber

Stacked lumberI ordered the lumber for the basement renovation tonight. I ordered it from Fairway Lumber, the only retailer in Waterloo that I know of that offers delivery (and free, no less), though my search was far from broad.

It should arrive tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, I’ll start marking out wall locations.

Solution to SICP Exercise 1.11

Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

Solution to Exercise 1.11:

A recursive process:

(define (fr n)
(cond ((< n 3) n)
(else (+ (fr (- n 1))
(* 2 (fr (- n 2)))
(* 3 (fr (- n 3)))))))

An iterative one:

(define (fi n)
(define (f-iter i f-i-1 f-i-2 f-i-3)
(if (> i n)
(f-iter (+ i 1)
(+ f-i-1 (* 2 f-i-2) (* 3 f-i-3))
(if (< n 3)
(f-iter 3 2 1 0)))

Paul Graham Briefly on Writing

Paul Graham has written a brief essay on writing essays:

I think it’s far more important to write well than most people realize. Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don’t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated.

Every time I read one of Paul’s essays I feel inspired to write one myself. It’s a pity I have the attention span of a gold fish.

Basement Renovation: Getting A Permit

I heard back from city hall about the permit:

A building permit is required to finish a basement when you are creating a bedroom, doing any plumbing work (including a rough-in or bar sink) or making any structural changes (including new exterior openings, moving posts/beams etc.). A permit is not required if you are installing fixtures on an existing rough-in. Electrical permits are done through the electrical safety authority, you can contact them at 746-3040.

No bedrooms. No plumbing. No structural changes. No permit required.

Global Warming Could Trigger Ant Invasions

Insect invaderAccording to a New Scientist story, global warming could trigger ant invasions:

The study of 665 ant colonies in environments ranging from tropical rainforests to frozen tundra suggests that in warmer environments the ants’ body size shrinks, on average, while the number of individuals in the colony booms.

Global warming might shrink ant workers by as much as a third, says Michael Kaspari at the University of Oklahoma, US, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, who carried out the study: “And since ant species with small workers appear to be particularly successful at invading, ant invasions – already destructive – may become more common in a warming world.”

I’m looking forward to reading the inevitable query letter.

Basement Renovation: Getting Started

A few weeks ago Mandy and I decided to start renovating part of our basement. Our 30,000ft plan is to transform about a third of the basement into a rec room, into which we’ll move the big screen. The family room, which currently houses the TV, will become a reading room/office, a more appropriate function considering all the built-in oak cabinetry.

Chicago Basement Remodeling

I like to think of myself as a fairly handy guy, so I’m planning to do most of the work myself. From what I’ve read, doing it myself should cut the cost of the reno in half. I don’t have much direct experience in many aspects of a basement reno — I’ve never framed a wall, added new wiring, or hung drywall before, for example — so I expect I will have a lot to learn in the process.

My first adventure in renovation education was a trip to our local Rona store in early February. They had advertised a session on framing a basement for the Saturday morning, and a related session on wiring in the afternoon. I showed up for the morning session only to find, after waiting for an hour, that the instructor was not able to attend. While I waited a took a look around the store and jotted down some prices for materials and browsed through their book section, which clued me into the idea that an instructed session was a waste of time. I should just order a book on basement renovations that teaches me what I need to know.

When I got home, I surfed Amazon until I found Remodeling a Basement: Expert Advice from Start to Finish, which seemed to have the most favourable reviews, and ordered it. It arrived a few days later. For the next few weeks I didn’t make any noticeable progress on the basement. I was just reading through the book.

The next step was drawing up a plan for the basement. This turned out to be more work than I expected, especially considering how simple our plans are — basically just closing in an open space. I found one very helpful tip in the book for this step. Make a scale drawing of the existing layout on a piece of grid paper first. Photocopy it. Then draw your design in pencil on the copy. With the existing layout in permanent ink, it is easy to try different ideas and erase the duds without having to redraw everything.

With a plan in hand, I finally got started on some actual work last weekend: demolition! This was almost entirely brain-dead grunt work, something I’ve discovered to quite enjoy. I lifted some tired old carpet, dismantled a wall removed a bunch of drywall around the stairway.

On my day off last Friday, I rerouted some central vac conduit. I had to go to a local vacuum store to pick up the necessary fittings; Canadian Tire does not carry them because, according to a salesperson there, they vary in size from brand to brand.

Now I’m all ready to start framing. Well… almost ready. I don’t have a building permit yet, and I’m not sure that I need one. I emailed city hall yesterday and unsurprisingly haven’t heard back from them yet.

I’m hoping to get some quotes and place an order for the lumber this week. Trying to price this stuff online is hopeless. Home Depot doesn’t even acknowledge that they sell lumber on their website.

If I can get the permit and lumber lined up by Wednesday, I can start working on Thursday, which I’ll be taking off. I’ll try to keep track my progress here more regularly in the future.