Yearly Archives: 2008

Let it snow!

After waking up to 8″ of snow this morning, I wasn’t looking forward to hours of back breaking labor clearing the driveway.  so, I looked around at snowblowers at Home Depot, Loews, and Sears websites for any good deals.  Ugh, we don’t happen to have a spare $600 laying around (not interested in an electric piece of crap or a single stage gas cheapo.)

So, on a whim I checked out craigslist.  Found someone selling a used (but freshly tuned up) Ariens.  He was asking $250, I said I’d give him $225 cash and $10 for gas to deliver and he said deal.  So, he dropped it off a little while ago.  Its a little rusty, but it works pretty good (made short work of the 8″ in the driveway.)  The seller rebuilds old blowers on the side, and gave me a run down of recent work done on the machine and quick driver’s lesson.  On the way out, he was even kind enough to plow out the end of the driveway.

Guess I gotta go find me some warmer gloves.  19 degrees + wind + vibration from snowblower = Reynaud’s hell.

The Joys of Home Ownership

Part 1 – Garage Door Opener

Finally finished up the garage door opener project.   My buddy Cha graciously gave up a good chuck of his last Saturday morning rewriting the garage to add a new outlet to the ceiling.  This Saturday, the garage door guy showed up.  He quickly surveyed the situation and said everything was a go, but I’d need the extra $60 add on for some bracing for the flimsy aluminum door.

About an hour later, I checked up on them and they were just wrapping up and doing final adjustments.  Unsurprisingly, he said that the door was a pretty much on its last legs;  its bent in a few places and brackets for the rollers lack some key adjustments that would make the door work better o the tracks.  He went on to say, its probably got another year or so in it.  The tracks are also a train wreck; on the left, the tracks are too close to front wall of the garage; on the right, there’s no bracket within 3 feet of the floor.

After a year of putting the door up and down manually, I’m all about just hitting a button.  Sandy’s also ecstatic and about not having to clear off her car constantly as the snow begins to fly.

I thought this gonna be an inexpensive project, ha!  Here’s the breakout and grand total:

Opener: $149
Installation: $129
Extra Part Needed for Installation: $60
Electrical Stuff: $120
Lunch of Electrical Helper: $20
Total: $478

I’m not wasting money, I’m increasing equity.  Yeah, that’s it.

Part 2 – Brrr, doh.

So, Sandy and I were watching a nice movie on the mac in bed.  It was about 9:15 and we were both kinda spent and starting to get ready for bed.  Sandy said, “hmm, that’s strange, the heat light is on on the thermostat, but the furnace isn’t running.”  Well, that is curious.

I left it at that for a little while.  I thought I remembered previous occasions where the thermostat and the furnace lose sync with each other;  I’ve never had to do anything the past, they just eventually pick up where they left off.

15 minutes later, no dice.  Hmm, I remember the furnace guy telling me that if I ever have a problem with the furnace to check both the breaker at the circuit box and that there’s another inline circuit breaker or fuse right next to the furnace.  I figured if it was a fuse and it was shot, I’d have a chance to be able to score a replacement fuse at Home Depot and not be without heat all night.  Upon closer inspection, its not a fuse or a circuit breaker, its just a switch.

I crawled around to the business side of the furnace.  No flames shooting out or sparks, that’s a good sign.    Interesting, the controller has a status light and its blinking out a code.  Oh, how handy right next to the light is a legend for the code.  Hmm, its error #31.  Something about a bad inducer or inducer switch.

Not knowing where to go next, I called up my heating contractor.  Left a message on the service and they called me back in about 10 minutes.  Pretty impressive.  I told him the situation and he asked if I could read him the status code text.  He said that might just be some dirt fowling up a sensor.  He wanted me to start poking around in the there and jingling wires and the like.  I leveled with him and said that I was already far beyond my furnace servicing skill set.

He suggested rebooting the controller by toggling the power to the furnace.  Gave that a shot and no dice; status light reported all clear, than went back to the same error when the thermostat called for heat.  Sorry dude, I need you need you to send some one out.  Are you sure, its gonna be overtime rates?  I told him, I need the heat so it’ll be what it’ll be.  $130 for the first half hour, then $130/hour after that.  Well, crap, I’m in the wrong business, I guess.

About 45 minutes later, the guy showed up.  He was surprisingly courteous and friendly for the time of day (now after 11pm on a Saturday night.)  I showed him to the crawlspace, and got the equivalent of “oh goodie, another freaking crawlspace.”  He said something like, “at least this one has a light.”  He got right to work with DMM probing around.  I asked if he’d like me to call for heat from the thermometer, so I crawled out and dinked the temperature up a few degrees.

I was just crawling back into the crawlspace, when I heard an emphatic, “whoa, well that’s a problem, sparks!”  Hmm, unexpected sparks in vicinity of natural gas, that’s probably not good.  The tech said he took his flash light off the panel to write something on his clipboard and as the furnace kicked it was sparks galore.

Turns out it was a broken crimp connector on the wire to inducer.  He quickly cut off the failed connector and crimped on a new one.  He speculated that was the whole problem.  The inducer sits on the mechanical equivalent of a daughterboard that’s held to furnace chassis with some rubber bushings.  The bushings are getting old and kinda spongy, so the whole inducer mount moves about 1/8.”   This movement happens every time the furnace starts up, so I’m guessing the failed connector was everyday wire fatigue.  The tech checked a bunch of other specs and said everything else looks good.  Total elapsed time from him getting out of his truck to now?  6 minutes.

He said while he’s there, he’ll clean the flame sensor, as its another sensor that when fowled can cause similar no-fire problems.  I said sure, I’m paying for the whole first half hour, so fix anything you like in there.  He giggled politely.

Another 10 minutes later, he was done and everything was buttoned up again.  He wrote up the bill for $146.35.  He was sorry that it wasn’t really any real parts that were broken, and that I didn’t happen to stumble on that wire on my own (suspecting that I probably could have fixed myself.)

All in all, even though it was a bunch of money, I was very satisfied with the service.  Their timeliness and professionalism are much appreciated.  Hats off to Hills Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning.


So, if you’re not a homeowner already, why not run out and get yourself a house so can enjoy all the fun!

Flying Cats?

Well, nearly.  Friday morning, I thought I heard a crash around 3:45 am.  Its a pretty common occurrence with our 2 kitties.  At 4:40 the alarm went off as usual and after shaking out some cobwebs, I heard the distinctive sound of cat having way too much with a toy.  I figured they’d snuck one of their toys out of the lower level and were gleefully smacking it around on the hardwood floor in the living room.

I race out of the bedroom and flipped on the hall light to try to catch the perpetrator in the act.  Sure enough, there’s Dexter putting distance between him and a little black tube.  What is that?  No wait, it can’t be.  Oh @#$% it is.  Its the top to a nail polish bottle.  Stay cool don’t lose it yet.

I made it into the kitchen and flipped the light on.  Ok, then I lost it.

Smashed across our nice ceramic tile floor was the remains of one nearly full fire engine red nail polish bottle.  Much cursing was then had.  I wheeled around the living room and began to look for a blood like trail.

Surprisingly, there was none to be found.  Damn, good thing too.  If there was, I probably would have thrown Dexter straight out the front door, slamming the door behind him soon after.

Surmising that is probably nearly impossible to effectively clean nail polish while its still wet, we flipped some rubber made containers on top of the puddles and duct taped them down to keep the cats from tracking it all over the house.  I knew the polish would come off the tiles themselves without too much hassle.  But, was guessing that the grout would just drink it up.  Prayed a bit that when everything was dry, we could just peel it up in one big sheet.

A day a later, razor blade in hand, I tried to lift a corner of one of the puddles.  At first, it seems plausible.  But, then I realized that the ceramic tile is just porous enough that razor blade skims across the surface and leaves a lot of polish stuck in all the pores.  Yuck, the grout will be even worse.  So, I scraped all I could and cleaned up the remnants with nail polish remover.

After getting most of the polish off the grout with the razor, I followed up with a wire brush.  I helped a little bit, but you can still see the red pretty easy.  Crud.    Maybe some nice fresh dirt ground into the grout will cover it up eventually.  For now, I guess we’re stuck with the painful reminders for now.

At this point, I’m guessing we won’t be leaving anything out on any horizontal surfaces that are kitty accessible.

VW Eco Performance CC Concept

Interesting, VW is making pondering a new performance version of the CC (via).  The enhancement is via a new 3 stage turbo that lets you dial in your fuel economy versus performance; nifty idea.  On the low end, Eco Mode gives you 222Hp at 33/27 MPG.  On the high end, Full Power Mode, gets you 313Hp (they didn’t list MPG though; guessing its not so great.)

The interesting part is that the engine itself is still the venerable 2.0L 4 cylinder that I’m totally enjoying in my ’08 Passat.  For me, 200Hp is more than enough for daily driving; probably too much, actually (I’ve accidentally squawked the tires a few times!)  but, I’d love to see what Full Power Mode feels like.

Legal Music on the Cheap

I always said I’d buy a lot more music if it were priced more reasonably.  Well, I just put my money where my mouth is.  Recently I stumbled on the fact that Amazon MP3 announces super duper deals on their Twitter feed.

I’ve been meaning to try them out for a while, but today’s $1.99 deal was a 22 track Patsy Cline collection that I just couldn’t resist.  Everything was a go until I noticed that you need the Amazon MP3 Downloader to buy an album at a time (I think you can only buy a track at a time without it.)  Sitting at my work desk, I said geez, gonna have to wait until later ’cause there’s no way they have a Linux version.  But, hey now!  They do!

A quick deb package download later and I was ready to click the One-Click Checkout button.  Well, it was a few more clicks for me (because my credit card on file was expired), but it wasn’t anything too mind bending.  Pretty smooth.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for more good deals on the Twitter feed.

IM Spam of the Day

Nothing I enjoy more than nonsense spam text.  Good see that its spread to the IM world.  Here’s today’s giggle inducer:

PersonalTrout: Listen, this is going to sound very weird, but how in the world does one remove an angry spider monkey from one’s…sensitive areas?

Probably time to turn off that protocol (Yahoo) in Pidgin.  Oh well…

Vonage account cancellation, ugh.

Finally pulled the plug on my Vonage line.  We’re getting by just fine with the cell phones these days.   The only folks that call the old number are telemarketers.  Man, the cancellation process was almost comical in the lengths that the account manager will go to get you keep the line.

I spent a good 30 minutes on between hold and listening to the non-native english speaker (reading a script) giving me all the reasons I should keep the line (as an emergency backup for my cell phone), transferring it to someone else (saving them an activation fee),  and the deals that they’ll give me to stay signed up (3 months free, an unadvertised plan of $9.99/mo for 100 min); all the time I was telling them over and over that I just wanted the line disconnected.

I know its their job to keep me as a customer, but this seemed a little rediculous.  Wish there was a “no really, I just want to cancel” option that short circuits all the bs.

29 Degees, A Breeze, Some Hills, 3″ of Snow =?

A surprisingly good time.

Bright sunshine beating down on my me while I sat in my office at home this morning was enough to lure me out for a run. I’ve been trying to get motivated for the last week or so, but I could never get into the mood.

So, I suited up with my normal winter gear: tights, a running shirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, my trusty windbreaker, my old navy jimmy cap, and gloves. As I shut the door and headed over to my car, I had another one of those what the hell am I doing moments. I’m leaving a perfectly warm (well, warm enough anyway) house to go run outside. Something strange about clearing your car off to go running. Anyway, the feeling quickly passed and I was on my way over to Green Lakes. I’m happy to report my new commute to the Manlius Center Erie Canal Trail parking lot is about 7 minutes.

Not so surprising, there were only 2 other cars in the lot. I dumped out my pockets, retied my shoes, and got out of the car to stretch a little. Caught a bit of the breeze, and figured that was quite enough stretching and started off.

Everything started off good. Actually, really good, considering its only the second time that I’ve run in ’08. Rt. 290 is clear. I make the turn off the road at the trailhead onto 3″ inches of snow from the night before. I’m a little worried about the ascent. I’m very familiar with the ruts on the hill up to start of the loops. I soon find that if I keep my stride short, its not too slippery. About 3/4 of the way of up, I can feel my lungs starting to burn because of the cool headwind.

Soon enough, I’m at the top and plodding down the trails I love (and hate) so much. Sounds corny, but everything does look radically different in the winter and snow. Basically, everywhere normally waist high in brush is flat to the ground. I was worried it would be hard to stay on course, but there were about 10 sets of prints under the new snow and few sets from earlier today.

Geez, jumping right back into Green Lakes loops probably ain’t the smartest thing to do. My legs felt like lead after the second hill. I enjoyed skipping down the little hill into the first open field. Everything was going great. Until I caught that chilling wind in my face again.

Before, I knew it I was the hell hill (all the 1st Marathon folks know which one I’m talking about.)  I remember the first few times I ascended it way back in June last year, and feeling like someone jumping on my chest when I made it to the top. I took it pretty easy; about 3/4 of the way up, all those months off caught up with me. I trudged onward and upward, but I was panting pretty good at the top.

The big decision was to go straight ahead and stick to the short loop, or go for the full loop around the Serengeti. Go big, or go home, I thought as I rounded the turn to head out for more punishment. I was happy to be on the relative flat plains, but not so happy with the wind ripping across the wide open.

Not sure if its my imagination, but the snow seems to be getting deeper.  Taking a quick peek at my feet, I’m pretty surprised that they’re not really snowed over yet; and even more surprising is that my feet aren’t even cold.  I just passed the power lines and started down the hill to the Vista Trail. I was little nervous when I saw some of the foot prints from previous runners start to get elongated. Yep, there’s a bunch of ice under all that snow. Weeee!

I was a little too paranoid to enjoy the vistas of the Vista trail, trying to remember where all those craters were. A couple spots I remembered being slippery when wet were just as tough in the snow. I began the descent into the gorge that marks the middle of the trail. Wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The ascent back up the other side was as tough as I remembered; maybe just a little more. A few more turns and I was ready to bomb down the hill to the start of the loop and down to the trailhead.

Oh the fond memories, of more than once meeting up with a very stubborn skunk on this part of the trail. He managed to park himself right in the middle of the trail and he was the gate keeper, no letting anyone past. No amount of screaming, arm flailing, or rock flinging seemed to encourage him to move on.

Flashing back to the present, I feel gravity starting to speed me up regardless of the relatively cautious pace that I’m trying to stick to. There seemed to be just about enough snow to even out those annoying ruts that bothered my knees so much the first runs out here. Wow, I can finally get a better view of that abandoned car I’m always meaning to check out.

I’m up to a pretty good clip now. Right as I duck back into the treed section, I see a big splat mark in the snow. Looks like someone found some ice. Thankfully, it wasn’t me.

Another fast right, and I was none-too-soon headed back down to the trailhead and paved road. Again, found memories of stumbling down this hill after spending hours and hours running around on the loops. Hard to believe that I’ve run the same hill when its over 90 degrees and now when its less that 30 degrees.

I clicked the stop on my watch as I returned to my car. 1:01:49, I think that’s pretty good considering how little I’ve run lately. I’m actually pretty impressed that I didn’t bag out somewhere in the middle. I think now that I’ve got a decent run under my belt, I may be a little more motivated try to get back into more regular running. Now, all I just have to hope that the weather will cooperate.

Ready to Ramble

A while back (years ago, in fact) I stumbled on Hayseed Dixie (probably via KPIG, the home of all things good.) They’re a bluegrass band that covers all sorts of rock music, including AC/DC (their namesake), KISS, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and many others. Good stuff!

The other day, I was messing around on the Live Music Archive (if you haven’t been over there lately, you can now stream most shows; no more downloading, woo-hoo!) and saw that they had a some shows up. Oh man, I was on ’em like white on rice. As usual, the live stuff is way better than the album. Bonus! the front man shares some hilarious stories in between the songs.

At the moment, I’m listening to 2007-05-25. The story about someone parking in a handicapped parking space that opens in the show is a riot.

Update: the Hayseed Dixie profile page on has some entertaining videos.