Thursday, March 26, 2020

Make It Rain

Got my federal tax return deposited. Aww yea! Now I just need to wait for the state return.

And no, I don't expect I'll be getting a covid-stimulus payment.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

How Not to Prune

I don't know what possesses people to "prune" a tree by just hacking the top off half way through the trunk. And yet, everywhere I look, I see trees butchered this way.

This is not how you grow a healthy tree, at all, ever.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that this tree is in the way of where I want to rebuild the back yard shed, so it doesn't really need to live much longer. All the same, I wanted to make it look a bit better in the mean time, so I got rid of the mangled half-trunks.

Looks a bit nicer now at least.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Holding Back the Flood

Fixed the leaky fuel lines on Orthrus this weekend and edited together a little video of the fun.

All in all the job went pretty smoothly. I wasn't able to get out and test ride it though, partly due to the weather and partly due to the world ending. Ah well, there will be time.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Sweating in my Undies

So with the unsuccessful bike commute behind me, I decided to bite the bullet and get a trainer.

The mechanical kind, that is. It's a smart trainer that pairs with a laptop or tablet and allows you to program in different levels of resistance that changes as you go along, which is really nice, and tracks how much power you're sweating out etc.

I've got it set up in front of the TV so I can keep myself entertained while I spin away going nowhere.

I might rearrange things a bit later, but for now this is pretty good.

Anyway, with a few months of riding this I should be able to build up my long ride endurance to the point where bike commuting will be much more realistic to do with my own legs. I was looking at this model on Amazon since it's a bit older and has dropped in price by quite a bit, but I managed to find a coworker selling one for half price so that was a no-brainer.

I still might get an e-bike but we'll see how I do.

A Measured Risk

The danger with cleaning something on the garage floor is that you risk cleaning the garage floor.

Could be worse.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

A Base 10 Milestone

Also lots of pollen.

Rabbit Season now only has 989930 miles to go before it hits an interesting milestone.

Scooty-Puff is actually lagging behind a bit, and is about 200 miles short of the 10k mark. I expect that to roll over in the next month or two depending on the weather.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Self-propelling To Work

Biking to work went great. It took some time and a fair bit of energy but I made it ok.

Biking from work went not so great. Despite chowing down at lunch to try to refill my legs, they really gave out on me about 5 miles in, and the ride home was a struggle, to the point where I almost couldn't stand when I got off the bike to take a rest.

So regular bicycle commuting isn't going to be a thing on my own power any time soon. I'm still pondering the e-bike question, but I don't expect to make a decision quickly.

The Age of Enlightenment

The thing about having black bookcases is that they're, well, black. Stuff inside tends to disappear into an inky void and not show itself off well.

But the good news is that we have technology. In particular, cheap LED self-adhesive strips.

I'd say that's a nice improvement. There's one strip down each side, then a third strip up the middle behind the left-hand door. I still need to do the matching bookcase, though I might need a slightly longer power cord for it as the outlet is on the opposite side of the bookcase.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Rearranging Things

So back when I moved in I was mulling over whether I wanted to buy a microwave (I didn't) or put my toaster oven in the microwave shelf (I didn't get around to it). Given that today is a lazy day, I decided to finally get around to the latter.

The first step was to widen the cord hole so I could feed the slightly larger toaster oven plug up to reach the outlet in the cabinet above. This all went pretty smoothly. Then I put the toaster oven in place and...

Right, LCDs have viewing angles, don't they. If I were a few inches taller it would look more like this.

Though the photo washes it out a little. Ok, plan B: toaster oven goes in the corner and stuff that doesn't have a viewing angle goes in the microwave nook.

It's so nice to have a kitchen equipped with a kettle nook.

Dealing With Vermin

So after perforating a few squirrels I've finally worked up the confidence to try planting some plants behind the retaining wall again. We'll see how many survive being dug up and mangled.

And on the subject of vermin I also took the time today to finally deal with the rat hole in the corner of the roof where the addition meets the original house. It wasn't a huge issue but occasionally I'd hear some gnawing and scratching in the ceiling so I figured I should do something about it before it became a major problem. The tough part was where the hole was located. (This is technically the 'after' pic)

Basically it's under the soffits at the far end of some shitty sun-baked corrugated fiberglass. I couldn't exactly climb on top of the fiberglass because I'd get covered in fiberglass splinters and also fall through to my untimely death. Then I realized that there's a simple solution.

Yeah, just cut a hole. I still needed to extend the spray-foam applicator with some duct tape and a soda straw, but I managed to foam up the rat hole. I'm not sure if the foam will stop the rats, but at least it'll be obvious if they chew their way through it, and I have a nice convenient viewing port to keep an eye on things.

For the record I do have plans to replace this shitty awning at some point.

Since spray-foam cans are single use, I also went around the house and foamed up a few other spots that I'd been meaning to plug, mostly to keep bees and wasps from starting a nest. I'll go back around next week probably to trim off the ooze-out once it's nice and hard, and maybe splatter some paint over top of it to hide it.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Go Towards the Light

This weekend was a home improvement weekend. I decided to stop dawdling and finally install the pot light in the shower (though for some reason they don't call them pot lights around here, go fig), and install the motion light on the driveway apron.

First up was a trip down to the Home Despot for some supplies. I needed to actually buy a pot light first off, as well as pick up some miscellaneous bits and bobs. I poked around the lighting section a bit and found that I could buy an individual LED insert for around $25 that I'd have to install into a pot light can, or I could spend $27 to get one that I wouldn't need the can for, which would save me $10. Or, I could buy a 4-pack of LED inserts for $24.99. I'd still have to buy the can, but given I wanted to replace the other insert in the bathroom (it was a daylight color temp one and I wasn't feeling it with the cool light) it made sense to get the 4-pack for less money and have some inserts left over.

The master bathroom has 3 switches that have been there since I moved in. One switch controls a single pot light above the sink, one switch has a combo control for the fan/nightlight/light, and one switch does nothing at all. I planned to use that third switch for the new light in the shower. Up in the attic I'd spotted a wire just laying about disconnected that had a piece of tape with "SPARE BATH" written on it, so obviously that would be wired up to the third switch, right?

Except, upon closer examination, it was coming out of the wrong part of the ceiling, a good 8 feet away from the bathroom switch. Not only that, but the switch itself wasn't connected to anything, and there were only 3 romex coming out of the top of the wall (one power-in, one to the light, one to the fan combo). The mystery doesn't end there, as there was 4 romex that came in the top of the electrical box, one of which was disconnected and tucked into the back of the box, so I'm guessing that one of them just goes to fucking Narnia or something.

I decided not to think about it too hard, and instead just fish up a new line to run the light.

I drilled a fresh hole in the top of the wall and fed the fish tape up into the wall from a knockout in the back of the electrical box. After about 5 minutes of poking around I finally got the fish tape to wiggle its way into the attic...

Well, that's not quite what I intended but I wasn't gonna shove it back down and try again. Luckily the hole was big enough to fit one more romex through it.

Next up was cutting a hole above the shower for the new can. There was a bit of framing to work around but I found a relatively centered spot that wouldn't involve chopping out anything load bearing. I had picked up an adjustable hole saw for the task, and chucked it up in my drill to give it a whirl. NB: this product is crap, do not buy it. The saw "works" by way of slicing into the drywall with two knife-shaped cutters, but the cutters are only knife shaped, so they slice into the wall board, but there's no hook shaped tooth to actually scrape the drywall away and leave clearance for the blade to progress inwards. It just tries to slowly rub the drywall away with the tapered side of the blade. Pure garbage. About the only good thing I can say is that it was cheap and made a convenient circular mark on the drywall that I could follow with my stab-saw. I may later re-grind the knives to add in a scraping tooth so it's actually useful, but I definitely won't be trying to use it as-is again.

Once I had manually cut the hole for the pot light, I wired up the can, stuffed it into place, struggled with the spring clips a bit, and then popped the LED insert in and it was done!

Well, except for the clean-up.

Mmm, soggy insulation. There was more before I took the pic, but I scooped it up and tossed it back in the attic.

Since this light took way longer to install than I thought it would, I left light number 2 for the following day, and then it was onward and outward!

Installing the box and conduit elbow proved to be pretty simple, with the only minor inconvenience being that I had to use longer screws with the wall anchors to get past the air gap behind the vinyl siding. The conduit elbow needed a bit of massaging with the heat gun to get it sitting just right but it wasn't difficult to do.

Since this spot is right up under the eaves there wasn't much hope of crawling out to the edge of the attic to pull the wire from the inside, but luckily the 12/2 romex was stiff enough that I could just shove it through from the outside and it ended up well within reach in the attic.

Up in the attic I started making another hole in the top of yet another wall. This had been a struggle with the spade bit and my trusty-but-rusty 12v drill, and the alternative of using the auger bit with my rotary hammer was stymied by the fact that my rotary hammer isn't cordless and there's no outlets in the attic, or even outside of the attic, within range of the extension cords I own. After struggling through a few inches of wood I decided that I needed to step up my cordless game and I bit the bullet and dragged myself back to the Home Despot to pick up a drill with a little more chooch. Interestingly the kit comes with two batteries as standard, and I hadn't even noticed that you actually get a free third battery as part of a promotion too which made it a pretty reasonable deal. I also picked up a regular (non-SDS+) auger bit and with their powers combined I made a hole.

This time, the fish tape came up the correct hole.

Also seen in this picture is a magnet on the end of a dowel that I lowered into the hole in hopes that it might help guide the fish tape. In the end I have no idea if it worked or not, but the job got done and that's all that matters.

From here things were a piece of cake, wiring up the switch and the motion light.

And a few hours later I verified that it was a job well done.

Monday, February 17, 2020

$50 Sandwich

It's Paso Robles time again, this time with Tyler in tow.

The weather was nothing short of perfect and the roads were almost completely empty. As usual the pavement wasn't the smoothest in the world but I'll take it.

Lunch was delightful, I had a bbq roast beef sammy and Tyler had a turkey club.

Unlike other years where I bailed to head back on 101 (booooring) or took a detour up 1 through Big Sur (so much traffic!), we instead headed back the same way we came, up 25. I think this is the preferable route.

We briefly met another group of bikers who were half way lost trying to find nacimiento fergusson road, and they seemed amazed that we would drive 3 hours to get lunch, just to turn around and drive 3 hours back. Personally I'd pity a person who wouldn't.

It's just so easy to forget that the rest of the world exists when riding on these roads.

Sunday, February 9, 2020


Rode around Lake Chatbot with Eevee this weekend to put some miles on my legs. It's been a while with how cold this winter has been.

I've actually been feeling a bit down about my fitness since the last ride I did up Kennedy and Montevina. Blowing up half way up Montevina and barely cranking it over to the top with an aching back kinda sucked the joy out of me for a bit. I was honestly starting to wonder if I had passed my peak and was just going to have to settle for the slow decline into old age.

But no, I still feel as good as ever. I mean, as good as I expect to feel after being off the bike for a few months and after putting in so few miles in 2019.

One other thing I discovered was that the little goodie bag I strapped to the downtube of Blackbirb does a great job of trapping dirt between it and the frame, which results in the frame getting scuffed. Luckily a quick polish took away most of the damage, and a layer of helicopter tape carefully applied will keep the problem from reoccurring.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Finishing Before I Start

I've got a small woodwork project underway, and I wanted to figure out a finish that would blend in with the rest of my furniture, which is mostly off-black. I'm still putting the project together but figured I'd slap some finish on a test piece to see how it might turn out.

The wood in the background is the Ikea drop-front desk I'm using as a rough target, and the piece on top is the wood I'm using for the project under one coat of ebony stain and three coats of water-based satin poly.


1: The base colour of the wood I'm using is a lot redder than whatever Ikea used in their furniture. Or maybe the ebony stain has some red tints in it that soak into the winter rings a bit more, idk. It's close enough that I don't really care.

2: One coat of stain isn't really as dark as I want it, so two coats will probably look better.

3: It's dumb-easy to blow through the finish while sanding before the final coat. 220 is probably not the right grit to have used, even though the package was sitting literally right there just when I needed a piece of sandpaper. I'll use 400 next time, even if that means going into the other room to get it. I guess. Anyway, that's why there's a few bald spots on this piece.

4: The water-based poly is pretty easy to apply but does require paying just a little bit of attention. It seems like if some areas are left a bit too thick it'll still dry nice and level without thick brush marks or drips, but the finish there will be noticeably more matte.

5: Probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. Maybe something about the finish not curing very well in the cold, humid garage overnight. I'm sure I'll remember later.

Anyway, I think this project should turn out pretty nice.

Better Living Through Chemistry

The grass coming up through the mulch in the front yard did not die forever over the summer as I had hoped in vain it might. With the return of the winter rains, it too sprang up once more to look ugly and unkempt. Pulling it up would take a lot of dirt and most of the mulch along with it, so instead I took a trip down to the Home Despot and picked up some roundup. Just sprayed on an application this morning as well as hitting some weeds here and there, and with any luck it should be able to knock down the grass for good. I hope. It'll probably need a few more applications before the problem is completely resolved.

Speaking of grass, I also spread a bit more seed on the back 40 since I wasn't really thrilled with the tiny amount that the spreader deposited. I sprinkled this by hand this time, concentrating on the most bald spots, and we'll see in a few weeks if that perks things up.

And on the subject of the back yard, I upgraded my air pistol with a steel breech kit and a red dot sight. It seems to be working pretty well as I managed to nail a squirrel with the first shot after I installed it. Of course the squirrel fell off the fence into the neighbour's yard (and a different neighbour this time, two down and three to go I guess).

Getting tempted to do another refi as rates are down again. Could save another ~$100/mo, or more likely spend $0/mo on another new motorcycle. Hmm!

Sunday, January 26, 2020


This weekend saw a bit of yard work being done, and it all started with my R65 leaking gas all over the place.

So it's Thursday morning and I decide to ride Orthrus, my R65, in to work, since the weather is finally half decent and I haven't stretched its legs in a while. I turn on the petcock, start it up, and it's definitely in mosquito fogging mode. I give it a quick look over and I see that the carbs on both sides of the bike are leaking gas out of the overflow, indicating that the floats are stuck. I start giving the float bowls a bit of percussive maintenance to try to free them up, and notice that the bike seems to be wet with fuel above the carbs too, and that's when I spot a pinhole in the fuel line.

I didn't ride Orthrus to work on Thursday. I shut off the gas, pushed it back to its parking spot, and rode Rabbit Season instead.

Fast forward to Saturday and I head out on Scooty-Puff Sr to drop by San Jose BMW to schedule an oil change for Scooty and pick up some new fuel line for Orthrus. Things go well and I get that half of things done. I have lunch, and then decide to skip the second trip of the day to pick up some carb cleaner (since I'm fresh out), and put that off until Sunday. Instead I spent some time replanting some yarrow that the squirrels had destroyed.

Sunday rolls around and I roll out in the PedoVan. I was going to stop off at AutoZone or something to get some carb cleaner and a fresh can of brake cleaner, but I noticed that it was available at Home Despot, so I combined two stops into one and picked up the cleaner along with some grass fertilizer, grass seed, perimeter insecticide, and some misc stuff like satin white interior paint and some fresh brushes (I'm progressing well with amassing my collection of every single variety of white paint).

The grass in the back yard was looking a bit thin after the grubs chewed up the roots last fall, so I did some overseeding and spread some fertilizer. I might take a second pass at overseeding though, as the spreader I was using was getting a bit clogged up on the large grass seeds and not really depositing at the rate I was expecting.

I haven't had any problems with insects or termites in the house, but the perimeter insecticide is pretty cheap and supposedly lasts for a whole year, so I figured I'd give it a try. It even comes with a little battery powered sprayer wand, which was... mildly effective. I made sure to take the batteries out when I was done, though, as I'm sure they would have exploded and leaked all over the inside of the spray wand had I left them in there in anticipation of doing another application next year with the remaining half of the insecticide.

In all I didn't get as much done this weekend as I might have intended, but it was still productive and fulfilling.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Oddly Satisfying

Watching cold brew do its brewy thing is oddly satisfying.

Old School Kaizen Foam

Not that long ago I bought a cheap set of spade bits. They came in a nice big blister pack that looks great on the shelf and lets you see all the sizes you'll get in the package. This blister pack was not great for storing them, though, as it was quite a bit larger than necessary and somewhat difficult to get the bits in and out of.

Given I have some old shelf boards laying around, I decided to put some of it to use as a reasonably nice bit holder for this set of bits.

I grabbed a short section from the pile and noticed it was split in a few places, so I snapped it the rest of the way through so I could get some glue in to it and assemble a reasonably sized piece of solid wood out of it. Once the glue dried I decided that actually that was a bit pointless as I have other pieces of shelf board that aren't split that I should use instead, and so swapped to using one of those.

I arranged the bits in a reasonable pattern, figured out some dimensions, and plowed out some wood with my router using the 3/8" bit I got a while back. I probably could have saved some space using a 1/4" bit but I didn't have one and it worked out fine in the end so whatever. I cleaned things up with a chisel and sawed the completed piece free from the board.

And it fell into two pieces, because it was split too.

Ok, glued it back together and did a bit more cleaning up with a chisel, softened the edges and smoothed the surface with some sandpaper, and...

Well that ain't half bad. You might notice that the slot for the 9/16" bit went a little off course. Let's just say it wouldn't be a router project if I didn't at some point forget I was following a fence and end up a little ways into the weeds. It's fine though, it adds character.

Speaking of cleaning things up with the chisel, I did learn during this project how helpful it is to have a strop block on the bench while using one. Whenever I found myself trying to shove the blade uncooperatively through the wood fibers I just gave it a few quick rubs on the strop and next thing I knew the chisel was just slicing through the grain with no more force than mere gravity pulling it down. The fact that I needed to do that fairly regularly might say something about the quality of chisel I was using; if you told me they forgot to harden it at the factory I might not go to any great lengths to try to disprove that assertion, but it got the job done so whatever.

Speaking of getting the job done, a little more sanding and chisel-massaging later, plus a coat of wiping varnish, yielded quite a handsome end result if I do say so myself.

Not half bad for literal garbage wood. But if it was nicer wood it'd probably feel weird to use it to hold a cheap home-gamer set of stamped spade bits.

If I did this project over again I might made the dividers in the center a little shorter so that the bits overlapped a bit more, and save a bit of overall length. I was concerned that there might not be much meat left if I used a maximal overlap though, and this leaves a bit more room to get my fingers in and pluck out a bit when I need one.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Finishing that thing I started 5 years ago

So last week I went out to my van to go drop by Trader Joes to fill up on Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Cocaine or whatever it is I usually buy there. I turned the key and nothing happened. Unfortunate, but perhaps not unexpected.

You see, I'd spent the past few months not actually driving the van basically anywhere, ever, and in the past few weeks only made a few short trips here and there, mostly to Home Despot to collect supplies for all the projects I was doing. So the idea that the battery was perhaps not fully charged was the first thing on my mind.

So I grabbed my jumper pack, hooked it up, and the van started no problem. Off to Trader Joes I go.

Somewhat concerningly the van also didn't start in the TJ's parking lot, though I had the jumper pack with me and the few extra pixies did the trick to get things moving.

Now I do have a solar panel installed in the van which should in theory keep the battery topped up, but it just so happens that it's winter and my van is parked on the north side of my car hole, so it's not necessarily collecting a lot of deadly lazer rays. The solution, I figured, was to augment this with a plug-in battery tender.

A few days of Amazon Prime cooling off period later and...

I perhaps should have purchased an extension cord to go along with it. Perhaps.

Oddly enough the battery wasn't particularly low, and it only took maybe 30 minutes before the tender indicated that the system was back to full charge, so now I'm thinking that the non-starting might be due to a different issue. Like perhaps me being an impatient dork and not waiting for the glow plugs to start glowing when it's fucking cold outside. Because it's never fucking cold in California so I forget that things like glow plugs exist. Maybe. Further experimentation is warranted.

Anyway, since installing the battery tender leads is best done with the battery disconnected, and since replacing the steering wheel requires temporarily removing the airbag which is also best done with the battery disconnected, I took the opportunity to finally replace my steering wheel.

Ooh, shiny. Much better than the old, sun-baked one.

This is the project I started 5-odd years ago. I had intended to replace the wheel at the same time I replaced the sun-baked wheel switches, only to be stymied by a recalcitrant steering wheel bolt that I was unable to coax into cooperation with hand tools. I had, shortly thereafter, purchased a battery powered impact wrench, but never actually got around to actually doing the thing. This is partly because I was worried I might have to obtain a steering wheel puller, and partly because I just had more interesting things to do. As it turns out, Mercedes steering wheels can be removed without using a puller. Good to know.

Anyway, that wraps up the last project of the winter break. Back to work tomorrow!

Only 3.6 roentgen

Not great, not terrible.

Went on a little adventure up in the attic to run the ethernet into the car hole so I could feed them into my security cameras. Went quite well, the tyvek suit was really nice. I'm glad I did it in the winter and not the summer though, as even with the cool air up there I still got a bit sweaty.

Since the door camera was already mounted up it was a pretty simple matter to just plug it in.

The second camera still needed installation though, so I painted up a block of wood to give me enough surface area under the eave to screw in the base and got it taken care of nicely.

The view is maybe just a tiny bit low but easily covers everything I actually need to see. I didn't want to mount the camera too far down so that it wouldn't stick out and be too conspicuous/ugly/distracting.

The hose in the lower left is usually wound up in the hose reel but I left it out last night because I was using the pressure washer to clean off the shelf boards I've been removing.

Speaking of those shelf boards, the last of the shelving on the house side of the car hole has been successfully removed, leaving only the section above the car hole door remaining. I decided that discarding the wood was both kind of a pain in the ass and also kind of wasteful so I've been, as mentioned above, pressure washing the crap off of it and saving it for scrap wood to use in projects later. We'll see if I come to regret this decision.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The Light of My Life

So today I finally got around to installing the motion light on the east side of my car hole (known to the fancy-pants amongst us as a "garage"). I picked up the lights from Le Amazon shortly after I moved in, but I've had other projects keeping me busy in the mean time.

Step one, mount the box.

Ok, so far so good. Step two, run the wire.

Right. Apparently the coil of 12/2 I'd been slowly chipping away at has finally wired its last. Off to the Home Despot it is. Thankfully they were open today.

It's worth mentioning that another section of hantavirus shelving came down this morning so I could better access this side of the wall, leaving only two sections left, this one adjacent to the house, and another section over the car hole door.

The end is in sight. Anyway, with the wire acquired I finished tying things together and got the light mounted up and ready to go.

It does a great job of illuminating the side yard by the trash bins. And yes I still need to dispose of the old broken water softener. One thing at a time.

Speaking of not doing one thing at a time, I figured that since today was an electrical day I'd also swap out the ugly fixture in my front door entry cavern. It was an ugly, shitty lamp before,

Which I would never remember to turn on, and occasionally forget to turn off. Its replacement has a dust-to-dawn function and looks much, much nicer.

Of course it also has no view whatsoever of the sky so it may be permanently stuck in dusk. It's a good thing LED fixtures don't draw much power.

Also I cleaned my mailbox.