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Stepping it up

28 Jul

As you saw in a recent post we are working on the third set of stairs for our deck. Now that the concrete has cured we were ready to move on to the building portion of the project. Due to the mitered corners we chose to do on the treads we chose to do some unconventional framing. Essentially we built a set of stairs to put the treads on instead of counting on the treads to span the stringers, this allows us to screw in the treads wherever it makes sense instead of hoping you hit something or compromising where you screw in. We made “sub-treads” out of 2×10 and risers out of 2×8 which then were ripped down on the table saw to the exact size we needed. When all was said and done we had a very solid base on which to lay our stair treads.

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The Iron-y

18 Feb

Any time I go to iron a shirt is usually about five minutes before we are supposed to be leaving to go somewhere, and the search for the iron and ironing board usually results in me just wearing a different shirt instead; it’s gotten shuffled around a lot. A few weeks ago Corinne was at the store and picked up a solution for our rogue ironing board situation, and this weekend we got a chance to install it.

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Falling Behind

29 Jun

Two weeks ago I made a post entitled Friday Head Start, where I boasted of our progress and how we were ready to go the next morning and pick up some more wood from the fresh pallet of wood at Nassau Suffolk. As planned, I showed up there at around 9:30 am and headed to the yard to ask the guy to dig out the pallet we had been shown the night before. The guy in the yard wasn’t exactly pleased that he had to do this, but it was more that he wished he had been informed in advance, he said “I wish there was a note when I got here this morning telling me there was a customer coming so I could pull the order in advance instead while you stand here waiting”. The pallet was buried behind 2 rows of pallets so it was a real effort to dig it out, it really took the guy about half an hour by the time all was said and done. When we finally got to the pallet we needed he asked me to see my list and he was a little hesitant to give me exactly what I was asking for, stating again that it was sold in random lengths. He decided it would be best to pass the list by the manager because he was afraid we would load the whole order and then the manager would refuse to release it anyway, so we went into the sales office. The manager, who remembered me from the night before, was not ready to play ball. After a few minutes of discussing and trying to see if I could get him to compromise I could see that he was not willing to make any concession to us and help us out at all. Finally I gave up and said something along the lines of “I guess you’re not gonna help me out at all so I’m leaving with nothing.” I actually went back to the yard and apologized to the guy for doing all that work for nothing. He was very understanding and apologetic, and sympathized with me, despite having no power to do anything about it.

It was a little (a lot) disappointing to be treated this way at a place where you’ve already spent thousands of dollars and are about to drop another thousand or so. It may be small potatoes compared to what some contractors spend there on a regular basis, but how do they know we don’t have a big project coming up where we’d be spending tens or hundreds of thousands? I know if we do, we won’t be spending it there anymore.

This decking is sold as random lengths, and I get that if you buy all the 16, 18, and 20 footers that the next guy will be left with only short lengths, but I made it clear that I just needed a few specific lengths, including some on the shorter side and that I would be willing to buy some 6 footers as well to offset some of the longer ones, since we could use those for steps and stuff. This guy was absolutely unwilling to make any compromise and almost seemed to take pleasure in denying my request, and certainly didn’t seem to value me as a customer. It’s really sad when you try to support a local business and it backfires on you.

That morning I spent the next 3 or 4 hours running around to 5 different lumber yard to try find some more decking. Unfortunately, anyone who was willing to accommodate us did not have the stock to do so, and therefor I came back at around 1PM with an empty trailer, thereby negating any head start we had gotten from working Friday evening. We decided to soldier on with the shorter lengths we had remaining but the going was slow, as each joint adds about a half hour to the process, so if there are three joints, as opposed to one, that’s a good hour extra per row of decking. We worked hard that weekend, but the progress was slow going and heat was a factor as well. Those last few feet are looking more like a few miles at this point.

We took last weekend off to help my brother and his wife move, and to spend some time in Province and Newport in the process. We want to make sure we don’t spend every weekend this summer  just working, so this was a very welcome respite.

Hopefully Corinne will make a nice post with some pictures from our trip!

Forecast for tomorrow is 97 degrees. Yikes.

New choppers for Chompley

21 Jun

A few weeks ago I pushed it a little too far on the edge of the lawn trying to mow back some weeds and I hit a little tree stump that bent one of the blades on the lawn tractor pretty badly. It stopped the tractor dead in its tracks and I had to lift it off the stump. When I ran the mower again it was vibrating quite strongly and cutting very unevenly.

I opened up my .pdf of the owner’s manual and figured out what the part number of the blades was and found a set online and ordered them. They came in about a week and I found today, when it was 90 degrees out, an appropriate time to attempt the big blade change over. Thanks to the floor jack I was able to avoid the step of having to remove the cutting deck and flipping it over to do the installation.

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I was able to access the blades and the bolts from underneath without actually going under the machine, but I still put jack stands under the front axle, following proper auto shop protocol, just for an extra measure of safety. The nuts that hold the blades on require a 15/16″ wrench, but, as expected, the bolts did not want to come loose with a simple hand tool, and I didn’t want to go nuts and bust a knuckle, so I took the next natural step and broke out the CO2 tank and the impact wrench to get the nuts backed off easily. Once I found the right socket and hooked up the CO2 tank to the impact wrench I made short work of backing the nuts off.

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After I got the old blades off I was able to use the impact wrench again to tighten the nuts down once they were spun on by hand to make sure the threads were engaged properly. I put the tools away and put the tractor on the ground and took a spin. I mowed the front lawn and the cutting came out nice and even, so I guess the repair was a success.

Dewalt DCF885 Impact Driver update

8 Jun

After a few days using the new “20volt” DeWalt impact driver I’m able to report some feedback on it. I do believe that the new driver is stronger and faster, and, appropriately, it is louder, as well. I’m not sure if the reduction in weight is noticeable or if it’s balanced differently but it does feel lighter.

When I first got the original lithium ion impact driver it was surprising that when the battery would run down that it would suddenly stop dead completely, without ever slowing down, and without warning. This seemed very strange and could be annoying when you just wanted to finish driving that one last screw. As it turns out I had gotten used to that feature and now, the new gun doesn’t do that, it slowly loses power as the battery runs down. I wonder if people had complained about it and that’s why they changed it. Having used both now I think I prefer the full power and then dead stop without warning. As the battery runs down now, if you don’t realize it, it starts slowing down and getting weaker. Eventually it won’t be strong enough to drive a screw in. Even if you don’t wait ’til it runs all the way down, the difference can be startling when you switch to a freshly charged battery. I think in my ideal world there would some indication that the battery had gotten to whatever threshold it used to shut off at, say a beep or a blinking LED, but you could still use the remaining juice if you needed to. At least that way you’d know when you were below peak power but not be dead in the water right in the middle of doing something.

The new bit holder is certainly an improvement over the previous version, and you really can load or eject a bit with one hand because you don’t have to release the chuck to install it and if there is a bit installed it will pop out if you pull and release the collar.

In general I’m quite happy with the new DCF885 but it will take a little change of habit to get used to the “old style” of battery run down again.

Just Chillin’

1 Jun

Since we got our new kegerator back in January there has been one main problem with it… FOAM!

Every time you would pour the first beer it would be more than half foam, the second pour would be fine, but if you waited more than 5-10 minutes you’d be back to foam. A little research supported what I felt might be the problem; the tower is  not refrigerated. More technically the tower and faucet were pretty much reaching close to room temperature, and therefor the beer in the line to the faucet was quickly warming up. Once keg beer gets above 42 degrees or so the CO2 can begin to separate from the liquid, and indeed, you could watch the bubbles forming if you looked at the tubing, naturally the bubbles would rise to the highest point, and that’s why the first pour would be nearly all foam. If the beer is held at warmer temperatures for a long time other nasty stuff can happen like secondary fermentation, which is why we had a glycol-cooled trunk line for our dual remote keg system at our old house. So far we have resisted going that nuts, but I wouldn’t say I’d never do it again.

It turns out that this is actually a well known issue for this kind of “home use” kegerator and therefor there are a few well documented home brew (excuse the pun) solutions to the problem. The afore-mentioned glycol system is a liquid cooled system, this time we are using an air-cooled system because the distance from fridge to faucet is only about 16 inches, so liquid cooling would be unnecessarily complicated (did those words just come from my keyboard?) There is a well known modification appropriately dubbed the “PC fan mod” where a 12volt computer fan is used to build a blower that forces cold air into the draft tower. The Danby/ Vissani/ Magic Chef etc. kegerators and any other sub $1000 keg fridges can usually benefit from the addition of a tower cooler. The page I followed most closely was this one, as I already had a few of the parts  available. My total cost was probably about $25 because the key components, the fan and the power supply were destined for the garbage at work. All I had to buy was the tubing, a couple electrical connectors and I had the project box, which is normally about $5 at radio shack.

The first step was to find a fan, I found several in the pile of junk computers at work. I chose the one that was smallest and had the more powerful feel to it, I believe it was from a Pentium 4 processor, plus it had a cool name. It was time to cut a hole for the fan to draw air in through so I got out a hole saw and drilled a hole in the box.

Next I got my hands on some 7/8″ outside diameter tubing, and inserted a block of wood I cut to fit tightly in the the end of the box, and drilled a 7/8″ hole through the side of the box and the wood block. I then stuck the end of the hose through the hole and siliconed the whole thing in place. As it turned out the silicone really didn’t do much for holding the tube in place so I wound up slitting the tubing and driving a small screw through it into the block of wood so it wouldn’t pull out.

Once the silicone was all dry I bolted the fan into the box and put the aluminum cover on the open side of the box. They provide both a plastic and aluminum cover, but I figured aluminum would be better since it is a conductor or cold while plastic is an insulator, and the cover would be right against the cooling plate in the fridge. The fan pulls the cold air from the bottom of the fridge and pushes it into the tube which runs up into the top of the tower to cool it down.

I found an old power supply from a long gone netgear router that would provide the needed 12volt DC power for the fan. 12volt power supplies are a little hard to come by, as 5Volt supplies seem to be much more common. This one is a bit on the large side, and it has about 3 times the capacity that the fan requires, so it is pretty heavy as well, but it is certainly up to the task. I cut off its plug and fed it through the hole that the CO2 line comes in through on the back of the fridge.

My initial plan to mount the cooling box was to use rare-earth magnets to stick it to the back of the fridge, but when I tested out how strong they were it turned out the cooling plate must be aluminum, and therefor magnet proof so I used a little double stick foam tape instead. It almost stays in place on its own, but the hose is a little stiff so the tape helps anchor it against the back wall better. I also made the electrical connections and zip tied them up so they wouldn’t get caught on anything.

Getting the tub into the tower was actually quite a battle, as it has a lot of grip and it barely fit in the hole. After I had it all through I realized that it had pulled about 18 inches of beer line into the tower with it, and that was all coiled around inside and kinked up so I had to pull it out again and start all over. It was also tricky not to push the insulation of tower up while pushing the hose up. Finally, though, I got it into position and cut the top of the tube at an angle. The little space left around the beer tube and the cooling tube is enough for the airflow to return to the main compartment of the fridge.

So, the real question is, did it work?

When I got home today there was a good bit of condensation beading up on the cap of the tower, a good sign for sure, but even a 50 degree tower might form condensation, so further tests were in order. I got out the instant read thermometer and stuck it in the tower and sealed it up with a dish towel, after about 30 seconds it was down well below the crucial 40 degree range all the way to 33.5, that’s cold, baby!

Now the true test. My theory was that the cause of the foam was the warm tower, so therefor a cold tower, which we clearly have now, should eliminate the foam. The faucet had sat unused for at least 18 hours, and when I poured a glass it came out as nice clean liquid beer, not the glass full of foam that we have become accustomed to! Success! Now we can enjoy our new keg of Blue Point Summer Ale in style!

I will probably add a little insulation to the top of lid of the tower to try to reduce the condensation because, even though it’s nice to see it and know that it’s cold, it will actually start dripping down and cause a puddle around the base of the tower, which could be a whole new problem. For now I am pretty happy with our kegerator tower cooling modification, and I think it will help us stop pouring foam down the drain and drinking beer that isn’t as cold as it should be. Plus, it’s just uncivilized to have our guests witness a sub-par pour!

For anyone who has come to this page trying to deal with issues concerning these kegerators, I am posting this link to a .pdf from Home Depot, which I think is made for service technicians because it repeatedly says stuff like “tell the customer”. The .pdf has all kinds of solutions to common issues with these fridges that the manual doesn’t necessarily address. Certainly worth a look if you’re having trouble with your Danby, Vissani or Magic Chef kegerator.

So long, Bandit

24 Apr

Bandit - Germany

Today was a sad day at Titus Road, because the garage no longer houses “Bandit”, our 2008 BMW 135i.

He’s moved on to a new owner, and he will be sorely missed, but the memories (soon to be chronicled in an EXTENSIVE post I’m working on) will live on. This car, despite the precious few miles we put on it, was a big part of our life and it probably hurts more than it should to have to let him go, I can attest that I may have been more than a little misty this morning after Corinne and I took one last spin. He really has been part of so many great memories for us, and the source of lots of joy, so we’ll miss him… a lot. We had a little German dinner tonight in his honor, just like we did the day we picked him up.
For someone who does not make seven figures, this really is one of the ultimate cars you can get from a performance and fun-to-drive perspective, but he really was so much more to us than a fast car, and I realized on the drive to his new home that as much as I will miss the car, it’s really the memories I have such strong feelings for, and they’re ours to keep and they will live on in our hearts, and in our photo albums and stories forever.

Bandit - Montauk

Stay tuned for the history of “Bandit”

Inspection #2

19 Apr

We finally have our second deck inspection scheduled for tomorrow. This is the structural inspection that looks at how the structure is built and how it is tied in to the house. Once that is approved we can proceed with the actual decking. The next inspection after that would be the final inspection after the deck, stairs and railings are all complete. And then when that is approved we should receive our Certificate of Occupancy. I’ve been running around tying up lose ends so there’s nothing to catch the inspectors attention about anything unrelated to the deck. Hopefully everything will be OK and we can proceed with purchasing the decking material and get to laying it all down.

Ticketmaster Sucks

27 Jan

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Doesn’t it?

We tried to get tickets to a show this morning, both of us on separate computers, and of course the tickets are instantly unavailable. Why? Because tickets have become a commodity to be bought and sold for profit. So when you try to buy tickets to see your favorite bands you are competing with hundreds of people who have probably never heard of your favorite band, but know they can make a quick buck off desperate people like you.

Here’s how it works: these people buy the tickets, then they go on StubHub or TicketsNow, which are essentially legalized online forums for ticket scalping, and sell them for about double the price. Case in point, when we couldn’t find tickets we checked StubHub and of course there were over 500 tickets available for double the face value and higher. This was within a half hour of tickets going on sale. These are not people that planned to the show go and had a last minute change of plans and need to unload the tickets, this is strict profiteering, and Ticketmaster gets a piece of the action (at least on TicketsNow, not sure about StubHub, which is owned by ebay.) Ticketmaster, artists and venues should be actively working to prevent this behavior instead of allowing it and even promoting it. The ticket racket has been going on for some time now, but with the easy and approved online scalping, vs. a couple guys outside the venue, the abuse is rampant.

They can not be stopped, the best hope for a change was Ticket Web and I believe that was quickly bought by Ticketmaster and dissolved. There is a big class action lawsuit over the fees and if successful, a couple lawyers will make a few million dollars and Ticketmaster customers that have been repeatedly overcharged can get a $1.50 credit on a future purchase.
Wow, sign me up!

Sorry if you read this earlier and it has changed. I had to update due to some factual errors, which took a lot of the steam out of my rant.

Stop SOPA and PIPA!

18 Jan

Google has gone black today in support of, or in opposition of, rather, the SOPA and PIPA bills being voted on by the government.

Essentially, what it means to me is that once again the RIAA, MPAA, etc (big movie and music businesses) are essentially trying to gain legal control over the internet under the guise of protecting themselves from piracy, including overseas-based piracy. They are trying to pass laws that will require companies to censor access to sites they deem inappropriate or in violation of their copyright. The big problem is that the laws are very vague and give governmental power to these handful of companies that want to protect their profit margins. The end result is that they will be able to put any company, website, blog, individual, etc. out of business by suing or simply threatening law suits. Even if they win the law suits the targets of the suits will be wiped out from the legal fees and the process, and will no longer be a problem to these companies, which is what they want in the first place. They will either have to cease and desist or they will be dragged into court by a team of corporately funded lawyers and watch all their money disappear as they try to fight for what they believe in.

If I write any more you probably won’t read it so, please, click the image at the top of this post and sign the petition.

Take a look at this video for a better explanation.