My day off… and basic septic plumbing

If you can identify the subject of the photo then you can probably appreciate the unpleasant job I got to spend my day off dealing with.

Replacement pump is now installed and working along with an alarm which will hopefully help me head off any future problems before I have standing water in the basement. Smelly water at that.


it makes me a jolly good fellow

I have a new hobby. I’ve been talking about doing this for about fifteen years or more and I just recently passed the spouse-approval test! I wasted no time and immediately went out and spent about $250 to get the equipment and supplies needed to brew beer.

Yep, that’s right.  I said brew beer.  Beer.  It’s that great place where science, history and, of course, alcohol blend together.  As I get older I don’t drink as much beer.  It’s nice to know that I can have a really tasty one when it suits me, right from my own home.  And that’s what homebrewing is all about.  Making something that tastes good with your own hands.

Here’s the first batch:

May not look like much in this picture, but this is what I ended up with after six weeks:

In the Glass

It’s kind of a crappy picture. And the “Hard Rock Cafe” glass probably isn’t the right kind of glassware to serve this in, but it represents a victory for me!  The beer tastes good and is very drinkable.   (How do you like the festive garland in the background?)

As I am often guilty of doing, I have gone pretty hog wild with this.  At one point, I have had five different things fermenting at the same time.  Not all of those have turned out, but so far I think I’m doing pretty good.  I’ve also gotten good feedback from those who have had a chance to try it.

I’m fortunate to be able to go to two different homebrew stores within reasonable driving distance, including the Northern Brewer retail store.  This first batch was an Irish Red Ale from a kit produced by Northern Brewer.

My next batch should be ready around the first week of January.  Hopefully the Irish Red holds out…


I wrote awhile ago about fixing my dryer.  I have to admit that I felt pretty good about that and when my washer quit spinning, I figured “no problem.  I’ll have this one licked by sundown.”

I tore the machine apart and determined what the problem was: a broken plastic part that coupled the motor and the transmission.  One trip to Sears and twelve bucks later it was back in business, spinning and agitating away.

One thing I did notice after replacing that part was a loud squeal and the occasional smell of burnt electrical wiring.  Being the extremely capable handyman that I am, I figured that was bad.

Tore it apart again and found out the motor was toast, and had now seized up completely.

I admitted defeat, and after I was sure the washer had heard the lamentation of the women, I went back to Sears and bought a new one.  The old one was recycled out of respect for its years of service to two families.

I still haven’t gotten that frivolous thing I talked about last time.  Barnacles.

two awesome days

Father’s day got me a special treat – I got to take the family to the Crystal Airport for it’s annual open house.  Warbirds, homebuilts, helicopters and hot dogs.  Couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday.

Just one week later we went to the Field of Dreams Airport in Hinckley for an airshow.  We missed the first one, which was a comedy show by Greg Koontz and crew, but did get to see CC in her Extra 300.  Koontz also did some low-speed aerobatics in his red Super Decathalon, including cutting a ribbon with the tail over the runway (inverted, of course).  He finished and landed just in time for the rain to start.

A quick trip to Tobies for some caramel rolls finished out the trip.


going to sears isn’t always fun

A loud squealing and rattling sound from the laundry room on Friday changed my weekend. Instead of hanging out with the kids and working on cleaning out the garage in anticipation of spring, I got to learn all sorts of things about our dryer.

Turns out that it’s a relatively simple machine and that there is one primary threat to it: lint. Specifically too much lint where you would expect to find it, or lint in places where the design of the machine should prevent it from getting to. I really don’t know how old the dryer is, but it had an impressive amount of lint in those areas.

So, a good rule of thumb is to first fix that which is cheapest among the choices you have. I did. That cheapest choice was to replace the belt and support bearings for the drum.

One 40-mile round trip and $30.49 later I began the two-hour process of disassembly, cleaning, replacing and reassembly. Turned it on. Worked like a charm.


Until later that evening when I tried out a load of towels and it crapped out again. Now to the expensive fix.

Second 40-mile round trip and $106.64 later I redid that whole process, now adding the removal and replacement of the motor. Turned it on. Worked like a charm.

Success! Part two! For real this time…

Next trip to Sears I’m buying something really expensive and only moderately useful to make up for this.

new ways to watch too much tv

I love my TiVo. The convenience of being able to watch what I want, when I want, how I want is really incredible. And for someone who has surely helped to increase the average number of American viewing hours, that really means something.

I have always watched a lot of television. Most of it was garbage. I didn’t really care, a typical show wasn’t so bad that I wanted to vomit and it would still keep boredom away on a rainy day, so who was I to complain. And commercials are entertaining, too. Right?

So now I have a list of shows that I know I like just waiting for me whenever I have the inclination to watch them. I can skip through the commercials if I want and come back to a show where I left off if I need to replenish the snack/beverage supply. But recently TiVo added some functionality that is probably going to turn me into a mushy an even mushier couch potato.

Having the TiVo connected to the interweb now means I can rent or buy TV shows and movies from Amazon. I’ve already watched a couple of movies I was waiting to get through Netflix. They occasionally run specials to rent movies for $0.99 and that’s about the only right price for me to get the Amazon stuff, but there’s also a bunch of free content.

Some of the free stuff is stuff I already watch, like I’m just starting to really look at all the things that are out there, so I’m sure I’ll have even less time to actually accomplish anything worthwhile.

I’ve got to go get some more chips…

dance, money. dance like you never danced before

I’ve found a solution to one of the Windows problems I mentioned. I’ve now replaced Quicken with a cross-platform solution called Moneydance. Moneydance uses Java, so it runs on Windows, Mac and Linux boxen with all the same features.

One of the things in Quicken that I really would have missed was the debt reduction planner. This is a tool that takes all your existing debt (mortgage, car loans, credit cards, etc.) and puts them together in an organized fashion so that you can maximize the effectiveness of your payments and reduce your overall interest cost. Using this, I was able to put a plan together so we could pay off our house in eleven years without having to live on ramen noodles and tap water.

Turns out that Moneydance has a plugin that does the same thing! Since there is an api, there are several plugins for specific needs such as: stock price updates, exchange rates, and credit card payoff calculators.

Moneydance isn’t free (either as in speech or beer) but it is cheap at $29.99 and well worth the money.

I’ve actually been running it on both Windows and Kubuntu Linux (version 7.04 “feisty”) and it’s been working great, and the time I spent working to make a logical transition (about six hours) made it easy to get running with it.

One down.

bar none

Ever since we moved and I started my new job, coworkers who knew we used to live in Northfield have been very resourceful in finding news articles that seem to point out the absurd situations and people related to that community. Occasionally, I find some on my own. Like this one from the Locally Grown blog.

City of Northfield earns “Friend of the Bar” award from MSBA

Seems the fine citizens of Northfield are spending a great deal of their public and private money to keep the pockets of several capable attorneys well-lined. Maybe I should seriously consider that law school idea…