Friday, February 22, 2008

It's all about change

The 2008 US presidential election...seems like the hype started way back in 2007. It's all we ever hear about. But the candidates always seem to sing the same old song: each one of them promises to deliver change. As soon as one of them gets elected, someone ought to splice together a YouTube clip with The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again!"—meet the new boss, same as the old boss!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No solder required

This is the pipe joint that caused all the trouble. See that bright, silver ring nut? That's the slip joint that I just put on to hopefully stop the leak (too late to test tonight, I'll test it tomorrow). As I was twisting the pipe around last night I busted the series of PVC segments that connect to that hanging brass pipe. I decided to rebuild the entire "PVC stack" that connects to the near-horizontal 2 inch drain line. Maybe it's just as well—it seems that a lot of the original plumbers' work can be done a bit better even though I am not a plumber. Mainly they just seemed to cheap out on some of the materials. In some places they used schedule 10 PVC (on the main water line!) instead of schedule 40. In some places it looks like they didn't prep with the purple cleaner stuff or just didn't use enough PVC cement. Same thing with the copper lines. When we first moved in there were about 3 or 4 leaks in the copper joints. So redoing the "PVC stack" may end being a good thing, if only I can manage to glue it all up correctly.

So first a little bit of PVC sawing, sanding, and dry fitting. Dry PVC is actually kinda hard to twist and turn. I wish there was a temporary lubricant that one could use to dry fit the pipe, then wipe it off prior to prepping the pipe for gluing. In an effort to avoid botching the job (as I'm sometimes prone to do by rushing), I thought I'd try something I once saw somewhere. The idea is to line up the joints and then to draw marker lines at the joints so that you can line them up again later when gluing. Well, it almost worked...of course I rushed this and confused myself which marks lined up with which. There were a lot of pieces put together and I messed up the two 45° elbows. Ended up having to cut one off after gluing and regluing. Good thing I bought a couple of extra pieces last night.

And here's the finished assembly. You can still see some of the joint marks that are lined up. So they do help, so long as you remember which ones go with which. Next time I have to do something like this I think I'll try a trick from my days of writing flowcharts: use arrows and circled labels. That should disambiguate the lines. I almost started doing this but I did it symbolically. For some marks I used double lines instead of just one. Alphanumeric labels of course would have been clearer. Tomorrow I'll test this and see if there are any leaks. I'm not quite sure about that top PVC to brass connection...seems a bit flimsy.

What a Waste

Tub waste that is...the tub waste line is the current plumbing fix I'm working on. Something entirely different (and new) for me as well. A couple of months ago Corey heard something leaking (yeah, it takes me a while to get mobilized on some of these projects, and in my own defense, we don't use the tub that often, so it took me a while to get going). After peeling back the subfloor insulation I found water leaking at a joint connection in this waste line. The tubing looked like copper to me so my first attempt was soldering the connection. Turns out that was the wrong thing to do. All that black stuff duct taped to the floor are heat shields. Those turned out to be quite useful, but as I learned yesterday at the Home Depot, these connections don't need to be soldered at all!

The tubing is actually brass, not copper. Now apparently it may be possible to solder, but these connecctions are meant to be connected via a slip joint. I didn't know what that was until the Home Depot guy showed me how it worked. It's quite simple—just a threaded nut that goes on to a threaded ring present on the brass T-coupling (not shown in the pics—I have that disassembled, it's sitting in the garage). The key is a rubber gasket that slips on to the pipe that the threaded nut tightens against the ring. And it doesn't need to be all that tight apparently. Start by hand-tightening, then if it leaks, try maybe 1/4 turns with a wrench to stop the leak.

Last night I bought all the parts that I think I'll need to fix this after work today. The brass pipe is supposed to drop in to the PVC pipe sticking up vertically. Last night I couldn't get it to fit properly and by reefing on the PVC pipe I cracked the 90°elbow sitting atop the trap in the lower pic, oops! So now I have to rebuild the whole PVC assembly. That's ok though; I don't mind working with PVC, it should be easier than trying to solder brass!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ready for Spring

This weekend we stayed at home and did a few things around the house. I'm working on fixing the leaking bathtub in the master bath (this will probably take me several tries since the leak is at a large copper/brass joint that I'm having trouble soldering). I also cleaned the gutters of the gunk accumulated last fall. Meanwhile Corey started some herbs (basil among others) and veggies (tomatoes I think) in the greenhouse. I think she means to make her favorite sandwiches from scratch. She says she has a recipe for making baguettes and today on TV she heard someone making their own mozerella so she's looking that up on the net (more complicated than it sounds I think she's found). She also painted the adirondack chairs that we got from her aunt and uncle a couple of years ago. We had them out on our bedroom deck that's protected from the elements. We were keeping them there because the sun can be brutal on our main outside deck. Our old store-bought adirondacks finally fell apart so to replace them Corey painted the new cedar chairs. They're way more comfortable than the old things and I'm looking forward to sitting in them in warmer temps that are surely coming in the next few months. Thanks Uncle Don!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Taxing Weekend

Beautiful day outside (Corey's out there doing yardwork of course), but I decided today was the day to do our taxes. They've got to get done some time, why not today. Next month is going to be a busy travel month, so I might as well get them done today. I was also hoping to get a nice fat refund check but that doesn't look likely. This year's refund is going to be rather paltry I'm afraid. I'm almost done but TurboTax is taking forever to install updates...what's up with that? Maybe I installed it too late? Or too early? Or is it just buggy? Maybe they screwed something up this year...

Maybe deciding to do taxes had something to do with the movie we watched last night: The Life of Others (Das Leben der Anderen). An excellent depiction of life under socialist rule in GDR (East Germany) before the wall came down. (Doing taxes is like dealing with the state, right?) The film focuses on how one high profile couple is bugged by the Stasi. The film is basically something of a tragedy, but there is one bright spot that cracked me up. It's a joke as told by one of the younger "functionaries" at lunch about Honecker greeting the sun. Well, see for yourself...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Snappin' Cradle

As one of the first accessories for the beamer I decided to purchase and install a snap-in cradle for my cell phone. The cradle isn't technically needed—the phone will pair to the car via Bluetooth without it and will charge when plugged in to the USB port via a USB-mini connector. All that's well and good (Bluetooth kills the battery so the phone must be plugged in otherwise it'll die in no time). But...of course that isn't convenient enough. One had to fumble with the cable, the phone would slide around loose—the snap-in cradle presented a much more elegant solution, albeit at the slight expense of three separate parts (base plate frame, base plate, and the snap-in adapter for the specific phone type) and the loss of some storage space.

Now I just push to flip up the cradle, slide the phone in to dock with the USB connector sticking out, and press in. I made one of my phone's soft keys a shortcut to the Bluetooth setup so now connecting the phone is much easier. The cradle charges (leaving the other USB port open for an mp3 player) and (supposedly) boosts the antenna signal. This latter bit I'm not quite convinced off. The back of the phone does have a little antenna connector, but the cradle has no little jack to plug in to the phone's antenna receptacle. Speculation on the web has it that the signal boost is made by induction. Yes, there is indeed a wire loop underneath the part of the cradle that hinges up, and that loop appears to be connected to the coax wire that connects to the cradle's base plate, which, in turn, sends out a wire that I had to attach to a Fakra antenna connector nestled underneath the manual brake lever. So I think the connection to the "shark fin" antenna is being made, but I'm not seeing a whopping boost in signal. I may need to recheck that Fakra connection again...

Anyway, the only place I don't get good cellular signal is at home. I was hoping that with the signal boost I might be able to use the car as a type of cellular phone booth while in the garage (sort of like Get Smart's cone of silence). But, I still only get 1 bar and that's only at the top of the driveway. Anywhere else where I do get a good signal, the integrated phone works quite well. Above is a shot of what the phone interface looks like. The phone syncs its address book with the car, and then you just scroll to find who you want to can also use the car's voice activation and say "dial home" to be totally hands-free. I especially like how the audio is fed through the stereo speakers and the microphone (embedded in the ceiling light console) picks up your voice as you talk normally.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Notes from the weekend

Last Friday the Hounds played another gig at 356. Due to some band politics we lost our bass and slide guitar duo late last year so this was our first gig with a new bassist. I miss the slide guitar but the bassist was excellent. I think we sounded pretty good and I think my drumming is improving. I love the sound of that Peavey snare I bought some time ago (last year I think it was). I experimented a bit with new brushes that I bought before the gig and the drum's dual snare tensioners. The brushes are pretty quiet, but they give a nice sound, especially on cymbals. Our band tends to be a bit loud so I'm not sure how often I'll use the brushes during a gig. The snare's dual tensioners produce two distinct sounds. With one tensioned the other loose, the snare sounds a bit "boxy". With both tensioned I get more of a crack out of it. It sounds good both ways and is fun to play. The crowd got going around 10:30-11:00pm and the place was hopping all the way till 2am. I didn't get home till 3am as usual.

On Saturday we did a few things around the house, walked the cats, made home-made pizza (Corey tried her favorite sandwich toppings on pizza; I think she liked it), and for movie night we watched "1408" (a Stephen King thriller). It wasn't that good (I fell asleep :) Afterwards we watched both DVDs of the Johnny Cash TV shows. The first disc I think is much better—the show's new and Cash seemed more focused on the music. The second disc documented how the program degenerated into this goofy variety show that was more about skits than music. It still had a few bright spots (Derek and the Dominos for example), but the rest was a bit of a waste. Anyway, my favorite bit from both discs is a young Waylon Jennings doing Brown Eyed Handsome Man. I found it on YouTube, I'll embed it below. He does the song last so you have to watch the whole thing to get to the good stuff. We stayed up till 3am so it was two late nights in a row.