Archive for February, 2017


Thursday, February 16th, 2017

Wonderspark is running short on runway. The new app is getting a pretty decent anecdotal response, but it’s still a few days from having any kind of tangible data. So hard to say where we’re at. If the data looks good, we can figure out how to extend the runway. I’m less worried about that, and more worried that for whatever reason, we haven’t moved the needle.

Other things were pretty demoralizing today. Months of effort on the personal side were carelessly discarded by someone, which was … frustrating. Then an inadvertent conversation gouged open old wounds I thought had healed better than they had.

Still, gotta focus. Not much time left, and much too much that needs to be done.

Kids are good. As always. Sometimes things need correcting, and that’s part of the process. Nothing’s perfect. I hear myself, sometimes, in J as he talks to K, and I realize that I have work to do, because I don’t like how it sounds. And it’s not just about telling J to not do that – it’s about me being a better role model.

Reading time is among the best time.

I guess snack time is still right up there.

Recently got the front trim re-painted, because it had faded pretty dramatically over the last seven years. Shortly after this, we also had the front & side fences rebuilt, because the side fence had totally collapsed. In the process, we had the front fence & hedges cut down to 3′, rather than 6′, because Mobi isn’t gonna jump over a 3′ fence, much less a 6′ one – and that was the reason we’d originally had it built that way. Leaves the house feeling much more open.

One of these days, will need to do something about the stairs, retaining wall, front walkway, and side walkway to the rear.

But the back yard? Ooh. That’s in the works now. It’s gonna be awesome.

Also got a new-to-us grill off of Craigslist, because the old grill, which served us faithfully and often over the last … something like 13 years, finally kicked the bucket. The grill is dead. Long live the grill.


Organizing Closets

Monday, February 13th, 2017

This weekend, I organized our downstairs closet of boardgames-and-random shit, and then later organized one of the closets in the kids’ room.

There’s something really satisfying about cleaning out spots of in-home entropy – places where stuff’s gotten lost for a few years due to business & oversight. One thing I’ve found is that we’re very much an “out of sight, out of mind” family, where one of the reasons things are out all over the place is that when they get put away, they vanish for a long period of time.

I wonder if that is, in part, because when we moved in, we were constantly moving things around from room to room as construction happened, and so it took 10 years before things finally started settling down into “their place” – whereas if you move in and can plan things out from the start, those things get placed according to some better-conceived plan than the chaos of “wherever whatever now”.

It also feels satisfying to do some organization because so much is out of my control right now. We’re still looking for a house for my parents. Every day something in the news is misery. Doing something to clean up around the house feels like being able to organize my mind and exert some influence on my day to day life at a time when I feel like I have less control than usual.

Kitchen Nightmares

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

Mid-last week, our dishwasher’s latch got stuck in the “closed” position, even though it was open. We cracked open the dishwasher (which has had its fair share of gremlins – I wouldn’t recommend a Jenn-Aire dishwasher) and checked it out. Seemed like a simple fix – the latch somehow got closed, and we just needed to pop it open.

Replaced the latch, screwed everything shut. After closing things up, the dishwasher refused to respond to button presses… about 3/4 of the time. Opened everything up, reseated various connections, same thing. Great. Ordered a new control panel for the dishwasher.

Sometime late last week, there was a sale on a small under-sink water heater. I thought, “Hey, that’d be great for our kitchen,” because our kitchen is all the way across the house from the tankless heater, which means that one specific faucet takes forever to heat up. And so for the dishwasher, or for washing up or whatever, you’d always end up wasting a ton of water waiting for it to warm up.

So I got the small water heater. When it arrived, I went to install it, and as I was pulling thing out from under the sink, I realized things were wet. That wasn’t great. Fortunately, the wood bottom of the cabinet hadn’t warped, which meant we must have caught the problem at the exact right time (well, close to it).

I looked under the sink, and lo and behold – a cracked fitting on the disposal drain pipe. Went to Ace, got some connectors for the water heater and a replacement drain pipe. Got home, realized I’d made a mistake on the sizing of the connectors. Also realized… there was stuff still dripping from somewhere.

I reached up to rotate the disposal, since its drain pipe was in the way of the water valve, and realized my right hand was gunky – that wasn’t right. Turned out the disposal casing had cracked at some point, and it was also leaking. Great.

Back to Ace for new fittings, and a new disposal. Installed the disposal (really, really easy as long as you’ve got the drain flange installed already), replaced the drain pipes, and secured that all so it wasn’t leaking. Great!

Then hooked up the heater. Realized I’d bought the wrong kind of cap for one of the pipes I was capping off, and that the splitter I needed to put on the heater (faucet & dishwasher) was leaking. Great. Back to Ace. Found the right cap, and realized the kind of pipe thread needed teflon tape. Got home, put the cap on, taped the thread, and … still leaking everywhere. The cap was leaking like crazy.

Turns out, if you have a compression fit connection, and you have a compression fit cap, you *still* need a brass ferrule under the cap or it won’t seal. Fortunately, I had one. Cap problem solved. The other one was an NPT connection that needed the teflon tape. Turns out that just needed to be cranked down until it stopped leaking, which it finally did.

So four and a half hours later, and something like five trips to Ace (I think I missed one or two in the description), I finally had it all together.

The next day, I realized I’d put the dishwasher and heater on a cheap power strip, and I couldn’t run one without tripping the breaker on the strip. And the dishwasher leaked on the kitchen floor, because I’d failed to attach the door exactly right.

So finally, almost a whole weekend of kitchen fixing came to a close. We’ve now got a new disposal, a new water heater, and well-functioning plumbing. Hooray!

Also last week, I tried grilling a steak. When I turned on the gas, FWOOSH – huge fireball. Why, I wondered. The flames were totally irregular. After letting it cool off, I popped off the grates & realized that the grill was just toast. The burners had all rusted through, which is why the gas was coming out in a fireball. I’d done some previous part replacement on the grill, but I knew it was wearing out. Turns out, a.) the burners rusted through, b.) the “flame protector” holders had rusted through, c.) the burner attachment points were rusted through, and d.) the edges of the firebox were completely rusted all the way through.

We kept the grill covered, mostly, during the rainy season, but I never really gave it a good solid internal cleaning, which is probably what it really needed. Still, the Char-Broil did a solid job, giving us something like 10 years of wonderful service. But it was dead. Repairing it would have cost as much or more than a replacement of similar quality.

I started looking into grills, and boy – grills are like bicycles. You can really go down the rabbit hole & spend tons of $. And like bikes, options that you start out not caring about suddenly feel necessary as you’re shopping.

I decided that I’d stick with something on the low end. The Char-Broil had been great, and I’d never used a different grill that I thought was so much better. I realized I should check Craigslist. There’s probably someone who bought a grill thinking they’d use it & never did, and if so, they’d probably be among the nicer grills, right?

Sure enough. Found a nice Weber Genesis S320. Used to retail for about a grand. Got it for $300. It’s a lot beefier than the previous grill in almost every respect. Things that were folded sheetmetal on the Char-Broil were cast pieces on the Weber. The frame was square welded tubestock. The charbroil was folded sheetmetal.

The igniter on the Weber was busted (the seller was totally up front about it, so it wasn’t a surprise), so I poked around to see if I could fix it. I took off the button, and realized even if I put a battery in the igniter, there was only one side contacting anything. Huh? I looked up images of the button online, and sure enough, there was a metal bit that went on the underside of the button that wasn’t there. Folded up a piece of aluminum foil, shoved it in where the previous clip would have been, and voila. Works great.

So aside from some minor cosmetic blemishes (a discolored top side burner plate) and obvious previous use, it’s perfect. Fired it up today with the tiny tiny bit of propane that was left post-giant-fireball, and it worked like a champ.

So a weekend spent on fixing, repairing, and replacing various kitchen-related things. End product? Huge success! The process sucked, but compared to having to hire professionals or buy new stuff, it was way cheaper and way more satisfying.

Your Friends

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

I think in the future, one of the criteria I’ll have for a person in power is, “Who are your friends?” If your friends are uniformly rich businesspeople, focused on getting ever richer, then you see regulations, unions, etc. as a problem because they want to do X to increase their wealth, and are frustrated by it. If they’re your friends, you empathize with their frustration, and trying to fix those frustrations makes sense.

On the other hand, if your friends are working class people, whose problems are paying the bills on a day-to-day basis – who work hard and barely get by, who strive and strive and the door of opportunity is repeatedly slammed in their face, then you empathize with those problems and want to fix them.

When I see the current power players going for deregulation, undermining labor and environmental laws, etc. – on a personal level, I suppose I get it. Your friends don’t like those things. They don’t live in the environment they’re poisoning. They aren’t being exploited by management , etc. You see the effects of these things through the lens of their lives, and they’re not a problem. The people who are choking on smog, who are working 16+ hour days to survive – you don’t know any of them, even if you’re employing hundreds of them. And it seems evil. But I get it. It’s invisible. Your friends are what you’re worried about first and foremost. That’s true of everyone, to varying degrees.

So if you want a position of power, show me who your friends are. You may be a great person, but if the only people you know are millionaires and billionaires, I can say with certainty that in my eyes, you’re not qualified for the job, because you can’t understand what the job is.

If you’re in public service, you have to know what pain the public feels. You have to be friends with at least something like a representative sample of the public.


Monday, February 6th, 2017

I dunno what it is, but there are times when some small thing just sucks the wind out of your sails. It’s something that’s clearly not important, but still… sometimes a small detail just takes a day that was going fine & turns it all around.