Category Archives: Personal

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Yee

From last night’s tornado in Dexter, Michigan, this amazing tidbit buried in a AnnArbor.com story.

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Yee was the first officer on the scene in Dexter.

Yee approached one destroyed home Thursday, and saw a hand sticking out of the rubble. He pulled out an elderly man, who was shaken but walked away.

“That’s the best part,” Yee said. “Every place I went to, I would have thought I would have found somebody laying there — deceased or whatever. But, knock on wood, everybody was OK.”

Great to see the community coming together and the cleanup starting in earnest so quickly.

http://www.annarbor.com/news/dexter-tornado-damage-aftermath-schools/

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Kony 2012: a viral mess – Boing Boing

If by some reason you HAVEN’T yet seen the very well made and heart-wrenching campaign from Invisible Children highlighting the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, here’s some responses tempering the movement with the complexities surrounding the situation.

Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s something.

Kony 2012: a viral mess – Boing Boing.

How Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret Fixed My Procrastination Problem

This actually might be worth a try. Set up some small daily goals and then “don’t break the chain”.

How Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret Fixed My Procrastination Problem. (via lifehacker)

A Curious Custom

There’s a curious custom we have as humans; we invite other species into our homes, whether they be fish, gecko, hamster, cat or the noble dog, and we ask them to be a part of our families.

It is a curious custom because these friends oftentimes do not have the lifespan that we do. They live long enough to become a part of our family, and are too soon lost just at the point where you cannot remember life without their companionship. And while the loss of a pet pales in comparison with the loss of a human loved one, it has its own cruel shape of sting that injects into your life. Why do we do it? Why do we invite them in, only to watch them go?

Perhaps it’s an aspect of God, the Maker, within us that we want to mirror, that we care for those creatures who possess less power than we do. We extend our hand and provide food, drink, and shelter for these friends who could not do so otherwise. But they reward us with something more than just gratitude for our generosity: they become for us, and in the case of the dog in particular, the physical embodiment of unconditional love. There is no shame, no guilt, no jealousy, none of the other human attributes that too often we have to navigate in our daily lives. There is only love.

We lost our Dixie this week, after being a part of our lives for almost 16 years. She was smart, loyal, and loving, and we will never forget her. She was the first addition to the family, joining my wife less than a year before I met her. She was with us as our family grew with more additions: another dog, a boy, another boy, and a girl. While she could run and jump and swim and fetch with the best of them for the longest time, her body had been slowing down for the last couple of years. She could no longer hear the call for dinner. She could no longer bound up the stairs. She knew it was her time to go, so she left us on her own, while my wife held her in her arms, just the two of them.

Now she can run and run and run. She was a good dog. Always.

Dixie

1994 – 2010

Fiskars Momentum Mower: Initial Impressions

I still am having a hard time believing I did this. My old gas-powered mower suffered an untimely demise a couple of weeks ago, and when I posted about it on Facebook (what? Facebook? Yeah, I know) someone threw a link up to the Fiskars Momentum reel mower.

Fiskars new Momentum™, the world’s most advanced reel mower™, provides solutions to the problems inherent in traditional reel mowers.

The Fiskars Momentum™ mower combines patent pending technology with Fiskars exclusive ergonomics to deliver a reel mower with best in class cutting performance for a superior mowing experience.

Compared with traditional reel mowers, the Momentum™ mower is easier to push, has more cutting power, StaySharp™ blades, a greater cut range, closer side edging, superior ergonomics, easier adjustment, & a better warranty. In fact, the Momentum™ mower beats all other reel mowers in every one of these important areas.

So many technological advances, never needs gas, and even Martha Stewart likes it! Look at all those ™s! How could I not try it?

After searching online a bit I found that while it isn’t stocked anywhere locally, the best price by a long shot turned out to be on Lowes.com (with free shipping to boot). So I took a deep breath and decided to go for it.

After 3-5 business days, it showed up on my doorstep today, and I gave it a spin on the rapidly growing front yard. Here’s some initial thoughts:

  • Assembly was relatively easy, mostly getting the handle pieces together with some bolts. I had a problem with one piece where the plastic lining the inside of the tube had partially covered the hole that the bolt was supposed to go through, but a little “persuasion” with a screwdriver opened it up enough to get the bolt through. The main wheel and blade mechanism was fully assembled and ready to go.
  • Initial Adjustment turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. The blades are precision adjusted at the time of manufacturing to just barely not touch as the reel spins. But this spacing can change in transport, so the instructions say to test the cutting performance by sliding a small slip of white paper to see if it cuts. Mine didn’t, so I spent an extra 20 minutes fiddling with bolts and dials, and I think I ended up with it worse than when I started. The blades just barely do touch now. I think I’ll try tweaking it again, but I’m not sure whether I can get it any better than the factory setting.
  • Pushing it through the grass was surprisingly easy. It’s sufficiently light, has good big wheels in the back with good traction, and the handle is comfortable. Even though I’ve never used a reel mower before, I was able to get lined up and edge around the different obstacles in the yard. Very satisfying to give a little extra push and see a big spray of clippings shoot out in front of you. The chain drive works well to let the reel keep spinning even if you’ve slowed or stopped moving.
  • Cutting performance was decent, but there’s a threshold on how tall the grass can be and make contact with the blades. If it’s too tall, it gets pushed over by the front bar and doesn’t pop up behind it until the blade has passed. Every so often a lonely tall blade of grass would stand defiant in the middle of a pass I had just made. I figure the remedy for that is to try to mow more often.

Overall, I’d have to say I’m very optimistic about the proposition. It didn’t seem to take that much more time or effort than a regular mower. Then again, I still need to tackle the backyard, which will test my endurance. Once I get through that, I’ll know better whether this is a real long term solution.

Operation Basement Cleanup: Final

Basement Desk Area

It’s done. A long week of cleaning and organizing has transformed a literal dumping ground of random materials into part living space, part storage, part work area in the coolest part of the house. The biggest change of the day was the moving of a desk area into the east side of the basement, near the stairway door. All three file cabinets and a large dresser with office supplies have been assembled in a mighty array of desk work goodness. The rest of that area now has rugs, toys on shelves, and an assortment of chairs. We even found a decent spot for the Thomas the Train set. The rest of the basement is now at least consolidated, if not purged. All like-typed objects are now in the same general vicinity. So, overall, this week was not a really cleaning, but a huge organizing to put ourselves in a good position.

Here’s the remaining projects at this point, which will be a nice excuse to head down into the coolness of the basement as the weather warms up:

Boxes and packing materials:

We have sooo many boxes stacked up right now. Some night I’ll have to break them all down and keep about one out of every five. If that. Also, several large bags of styrofoam peanuts.

Clothes:

We still have a bunch of kids’ clothes in boxes that should really be gone through and organized. We all have way too many clothes.

80’s Toys:

My son had a blast when he found my old G. I. Joes and Tranformers in the basement, but now I have the GenX first world dilemma: Do I let my son play with my first gen Optimus Prime or try to sell it on eBay?

Papers:

We have a TON of papers that were just thrown unto boxes and hauled into the basement to get them out of the way. I imagine that this project will take the longest to finish.

But enough of the work left to do, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the space we have now. We had the whole family down there this evening playing and it felt just great. Here’s the pictures showing the transformations of the week.

Operation Basement Cleanup: Day 4

or Strong off the Bench

No surprises today, and nothing spectacular; I just worked on the workbench today. It had accumulated a fairly deep pile of random tools and hardware. I grabbed the stack of clementine boxes I had saved and started sorting. It took all day (and a couple of extra hours in the night), but I got the benches cleared and moved into the back corner of the basement. That gave me just enough room to get the rug down. Huzzah!

Tomorrow is the last official day, and it will be spent getting the play/living area set up and trying to get the rest of the items in storage in a configuration where they can be worked upon. We still have a TON of empty boxes, a TON of clothes to go through and a TON of unfiled papers in boxes. But those will have to wait as regular cleanup jobs, perhaps as a way to enjoy the cool air over the summer months.

Operation Basement Cleanup: Day 3

Sidequest discovered! Press Credit Card to start the “Repair Broken Sump Pump” quest…

Replacing the Sump Pump

Today started off much the same as the last two: getting up and out the door for school, returning home, grabbing an extra cup of coffee and heading into the basement. I got through the remainder of the East Side room boxes and had stacked the toys to the side, as they are planned to remain in this area. I started cleaning and vacuuming up the last remaining corner of the area and decided to take a closer look at the sump pump, which hadn’t been working right recently. I took the cover off and noticed some oil floating on the surface of the almost full sump, which obviously wasn’t a good sign. I disconnected the pump from the pipe and tried running it by itself. The motor hummed, but no water moved. I took the bottom cover off and tried to spin the propeller of the pump: it was locked up. Broken sump pump = basement cleanup project delayed.

This had happened before, and we called in a plumber to do the work because the original pump had been installed before they poured the floor and the sump cover was partially blocked by cement. He chipped it out, put in a 1/3 HP pump and charged us $420.00. That old pump had a one-year warranty, and lasted all of three years. But today, I was emboldened by getting the old pump out so easily so I headed to the local Lowe’s to try to fix it myself. We found a very friendly, knowledgeable and helpful associate named Colleen right next to the sump pumps. She recommended a 1/2 HP cast iron/stainless steel beauty with a lifetime warranty, for a bargain price of $165.00. She also explained exactly how I could take the PVC pipe that was screwed into the old pump and reuse it on the new one without having to cut a new pipe.

When we got home, we called the county water resources office to see if there was anything special we should do with the small amount of oil in the sump. They explained that as long as it was poured out on earth, the soil would filter everything out before it hit the water table, similar to if your lawn mower had a small oil drip. In other words, nothing to be worried about.

I unscrewed the PVC pipe from the old pump and it fit perfectly in the new one. I dropped it in the sump, quickly tightened the hose clamp on the top of the pipe and plugged it in. It whirred to life and I saw a nice giant puddle of water spreading into the side yard. Success!

So, not much to show on the cleanup side of things, but a bit more clear on the East side of the basement near the bottom of the stairs. Tomorrow, I hope to really get that rug down, unless something else breaks.

Operation Basement Cleanup: Day 2

Made some serious progress today. In addition to more consolidation, we moved the wardrobes out from near the bottom of the stairs to a location further back in the basement. The Wife was able to come down and help for a good part of the day, for which I was grateful. We filled up three boxes of kids’ shoes and she took photos and listed them on Craigslist. Also filled more of the garbage bags and recycle bags. The “East Room”, where you enter the basement, is the planned living space, and it’s almost entirely cleared out. We found a lot of boxes of interesting things that had been brought down the stairs and set down in the first open space. We even found a few board books that had been missing for a long time. Tomorrow I hope to move the work benches out of the East Room and put down some carpet rolls there.

Operation Basement Cleanup: Day 1

aka The Great Sorting Ceremony

The bulk of today’s effort was spent clearing some space in the back of the basement, which will be used for long-term storage. But before I can store anything there, I need to get things consolidated. So a lot of today was putting the clothes boxes with the clothes boxes, the papers with the papers, the electronics with the electronics, etc. The one real bit of progress was to get the dog crates, the rabbit hutch, a few Habitrails and the fish tanks all in the same place in the back of the room. I’m anxious to get some more things into place tomorrow. It’s hard putting in so much work and not having much to show for it yet.

Nothing really to show with pictures as everything is still pretty much as crowded as before, it’s just sorted. But I will show this, from a box of G.I. Joes that my son found and we had a blast playing with. It’s “me” as a G.I. Joe. They had a special send-in promotion where you could order a custom figure with your own information sheet. My codename was “Tornado”.