What's davintosh? Mostly just the random ramblings of a hopelessly distractible… Hey, what's that?

A Tardis Murphy Bed

Filed under: Fun!,Geek,The House — Tags: , , , — dave @ 5:00 pm 2015/01/04

What a great idea; a Murphy bed dressed up to look like a Tardis! The Murphy bed has been around for a long time, but this is just a neat adaptation of that concept.


Although it doesn’t look bigger on the inside than on the outside, it does make the room it’s in feel bigger when it’s tucked away.


It’s kinda cool reading through her build and seeing the photos; she mentions building it for her “house”, but it looks like she could very well have done the work in an apartment or condo; right there in the living space. No workshop, no garage, just a power saw on a patio (and complaints from her HOA!) and sawhorses in the living room. I often wish for more space in my garage or my workshop to build furniture, but here is someone who brought an idea for a furniture piece to life without even the luxuries of space that I have and complain about being too little. I’ve considered building a Murphy bed in the past, but one of the things that kept me from doing it was thinking I’d need one of the expensive hardware kits to make it work; she did without it, and I’m sure it works just fine. More than a little humbling to see this!

Hat tip to Neatorama

Something New In Garage Doors

Filed under: The House — dave @ 1:50 am 2015/01/01

Here’s something I hadn’t seen before; a garage door without tracks: 

The whole system — doors, lift mechanism, folding mechanism –is pretty ingenious. The biggest difference between this system and a traditional garage door is that you don’t have the track rails extending into the garage space, and that only half the height of the door ends up above the open doorway; very handy if you have storage up above. The doors are built by Amarr and sold by a number of retailers and overhead door installers. I’ve never heard of them before, but it looks like they produce some quality stuff. I’m sure it’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Reviving My Chamberlain Garage Door Opener

Filed under: The House — Tags: , , — dave @ 1:08 pm 2014/12/29

Over the weekend I resurrected my trusty old garage door opener. It’s an older Chamberlain door opener, nothing fancy at all, but it stopped after lifting the door about 8″ on Friday morning as I went to take my wife to work*. When it stopped, I hit the button a couple more times; it moved a little, and I could hear the motor turning, but it obviously wasn’t going up. So I gave the emergency cord a yank, backed out, got her to work on time, then popped the cover off when I got home; this is the sight that greeted me.

Yup, that main gear was shot. There were white shavings all over inside the thing.

My first thought was that it’s time to replace the opener; I had no idea how old it was — it was in the house when we bought the place 15 years ago — plus I had no idea what it took to replace that gear or what else might be worn out. Later in the morning Caleb & I went shopping, and I was ready to plunk down ~$200 for a new one, when I noticed a generic-looking bag on the shelf that had a nylon gear that looked a lot like the worn one in my opener, plus a new worm gear and a bunch of other hardware for about $25. The package said it was for Chamberlain (and a few other brands) door openers, so I rolled the dice & brought it home. I did a Google search for replacing the gears; it turns out this is a pretty common failure mode, and replacing the bad gear is pretty straightforward. Most of the time it’s only the large gear that needs to be replaced; the worm gear is fine, as are all the associated hardware bits. I also found you can buy just the gear for a lot less than the ~$25 I spent, but would probably have to order it; I wanted to get it fixed that day, so I just tore into it.

I followed the steps in one of the videos to pull the gear and its shaft out the top, then pounded out the pin keeping the gear in place. I was planning on just replacing the gear, but then noticed a little wobble in the shaft; the bearing at the top was worn to a bit of an oval; there was a fresh bearing in the kit, so I just replaced it. After reassembling it all I put the shaft with the new gear back in place and bolted it back up. I plugged it back in to test everything and got a loud POP! and a flash. Crap. A closer look showed that one of the screws holding the gear & shaft in place had pinched an orange wire; that was the wire for the light. Crap. It looked like the only thing that had happened was the wire itself had acted like a fuse and burned about 1/4″ of the conductor, so I put a splice in there and tried it again. It worked! Cool!

But… when I put the drive chain back on the sprocket on top I found that it would only spin a few revolutions in either direction before stopping and flash the light bulb a few times like there was something breaking the electric eye at the door. There wasn’t anything in the way, and the sensor showed a green LED, so that wasn’t it. I also noticed a green LED on the back of the unit would flash five times, pause, then flash five more times… Trouble code. I did a Google search on that; others had had the same problem, and had cured it by resoldering some cold joints on the controller board. I pulled the board out, resoldered a half-dozen joints, put it back together, and it worked! I’m not sure if the shorted wire had caused the solder joint problem or was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, but either way I’m glad that fixed it.

Almost like earning $175 for my troubles. 😉

* I don’t always take my wife to work, but was planning on changing the oil in her car that day. She was glad that she wasn’t driving when the garage door failed like that, because she had no idea how to open the door without the opener. She knows now. I wonder how many other wives — or guys — aren’t aware of that…

Bushy-Tailed Tree Rats

Filed under: Cars!,The House — dave @ 8:29 am 2013/09/20

We only have a single-car garage, which typically doesn’t have room for even a single car, so parking a car or three on the street is pretty much normal at our house. Just down the street from our property there is a walnut tree between the curb and the sidewalk, not far from where the 528e is usually parked.

A couple of days ago I saw a squirrel run out from under that car, and something made me think that he hopped down from the underside of it… I didn’t give it much thought it at the time, but this morning, while driving that car to work, I heard a little ‘thump’ as I was slowing for a stoplight, then saw a green walnut go rolling along the curb into the intersection. Great.

Looks like I need to do some inspecting and see how many more nuts that bushy-tailed tree rat has squirreled away in my car. And how much damage he’s caused in the process.

Define Curb-To-Curb Plowing

Filed under: Just Stuff,The House — Tags: , , — dave @ 10:11 am 2011/01/21

I glanced at the Argus Leader in the break room at work yesterday, and the letter to the editor on the front page of the Voices page jumped out at me; it literally warmed my heart!

Snow accumulating along curbs

Could someone define curb-to-curb snow removal?

The snow in our neighborhood is 5 feet or more from the curb and not because cars were on the streets when they were plowed as we are diligent about moving them before the plows arrived.

Get it wrong the first time, and the snow gets farther from the curb with each new snowfall that requires plowing.

If I put the extra snow back in the street, all along my property line, could I call the street department and request someone to come get the leftover snow, or will the city put it back in my driveway because it had a do-over?

Or, could I call a private plow operator and send the bill to the city?

Mail is not being delivered to our curbside mailboxes because the mail trucks can’t get close enough. Why should homeowners be required to move the snow that shouldn’t have been left there in the first place? Maybe Mayor Mike Huether could pick up our mail at the post office and deliver it to us on his way to Whisk & Chop to discuss the events center.

When the city plowed the emergency snow route at the end of our block, twice, it left the extra snow at the end of the street. That made it pretty tough to get through, and the snow turns to concrete as we have to drive on it until we are blessed with a snowplow.

Does anyone at City Hall really listen when concerns are called in? What are we paying taxes for?

The work is half-baked at best.

I’ve been singing that tune ever since I became a homeowner and have had to park a vehicle on the street. At our house — with it’s narrow, short driveway and an attached single-car garage that rarely has room to fit a single car — four of the five vehicles we have are relegated to park on the street. Several of our neighbors also park on the street, so when the street narrows because of snow accumulation, we really notice it.

When the snowplows come by our house they typically have the edge of the blade a good foot or so from the curb. When they are pushing a good amount of snow, a lot of the snow falls back behind where the edge was, so the snow ends up even further from the curb. And when they’re not being especially careful about where they have the blade they can start out a good two feet from the curb, and then the lost space really starts to add up.

At our house we’ve resorted to going out after the snowplows have been by and digging the snow by hand right up to the curb. We pile the snow between the street and sidewalk, but that has its limits; right now the peak of the snow pile is a good five feet tall, and throwing more on it just lands it on the sidewalk. The photos above are from a year ago, but it looks the same this year; you can hardly see the roof of my 735 from the front window of the house, and the Hondas just disappear behind the pile. It’s a little ridiculous. It also makes clearing frost & snow from the windows interesting because there’s so little room between the car and vertical snowbank. And forget about opening the passenger-side door; just ain’t happening.

On the side streets the distance between the snow pile and the curb is one thing, but there are a couple of places near home — on 22nd and 26th Streets, near the VA Hospital and Children’s Care Center &mash; where the same street-narrowing thing happens, and many employees continue to choose to park their cars there anyway. With heavy traffic flowing in both directions through those areas, it gets a little dicey driving past those spots.

I can understand that the plow drivers need to keep their distance from the curb a bit to avoid damaging the curbs and their equipment, but it’s pretty annoying for them to keep moving further and further from the curb each time. Even though we go the extra step in clearing the snow right up to the curb for them, they still maintain their distance when passing our house, but even if they did push the snow up against the curb in front of our house, the snow would have nowhere to go anyway, so…

It’s there that I run out of steam on my rant. Beaten again by overthinking the issue.

Caveat Emptor

Filed under: Home Life,Just Stuff,The World — dave @ 11:22 am 2010/10/29

The other day I noticed a couple of light bulbs in the family room light fixtures had burnt out and we were short on replacement 40W bulbs, so yesterday afternoon I stopped by the Menards store to pick some up. I usually just get the Sylvania packs of 4 bulbs; they work fine, give off good light, have a decent lifespan, and they’re relatively cheap. As I walked in the door I spotted a display that had 3 x 4-packs of Sylvania bulbs for $5.96, so I grabbed one. I also needed a couple of bulbs for the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, so I went to the bulb aisle & happened to spot the single 4-pack Sylvania bulbs for 99¢. What the…???

Then I noticed the packages on the shelf right next to the 99¢ 4-packs; a 2 x 4-pack for $3.94 and a 6 x 4-pack for $9.98.

4-pack — 25¢ apiece
8-pack — 49.25¢ apiece
12-pack — 49.67¢ apiece
24-pack — 41.58¢ apiece (but it comes in a really nice corrugated paper box)

Either someone wasn’t thinking when they set the prices, or they were thinking & counting on customers to not think when they pick up light bulbs; counting on people making the false assumption that buying larger quantities automatically is a better deal. Menards is a pretty successful chain of stores, so I doubt they’d make a mistake like that by accident. Thinking about it kinda torques me off, because it’s not the first time I’ve seen that sort of shenanigans at Menards; when I was building a shed at our old house, I needed a 5lb box of nails. While shopping at Menards at the time, a 5lb box was priced at $11.99, while a 1lb box was 99¢.

These two examples are pretty obvious, but it makes me wonder how many other not-so-obvious but similar scams are hiding on the shelves at Menards, and every other big-box store. Yvonne really hates shopping, and is one who doesn’t pay much attention to price tags; if she needs it, she gets it. The problem is that I know some of the Sam’s Club “bulk deals” are only deals for Sam’s Coffers. Buyer beware.

The Cicada Killer Wasp

Filed under: Home Life,Just Stuff,Personal Growth,The Deep,The Kids,The World — Tags: , , , , — dave @ 11:01 pm 2009/08/20

For the last few summers we’ve had some scary looking bugs in our yard. Thankfully, they’re just scary looking, and nothing to really be afraid of, provided you’re not a cicada.

A female cicada killer wasp in flight, approaching a prospective nest site.

The lifecycle of the cicada killer wasp sounds like something out of a Ridley Scott movie… The female cicada killer wasp hunts down a cicada and stings it to paralyze it. When the cicada is safely immobilized, the wasp carries the cicada back to its burrow — a hole dug in loose soil. The cicada is placed in a dead-end chamber of the burrow; the female then lays a single egg (sometimes two) on the still paralyzed but very much alive cicada, and seals up the chamber. When the egg hatches, the larva gnaws through the exoskeleton of the cicada and feeds on its internal organs, saving the nervous system for last so as to maximize the length of time that the cicada remains alive. Gruesome, no?

The same female digging in the loose dirt for a new nest site.

The female cicada wasp killers are very large; up to 2 inches long. I’ve had them buzz by my head a few times and the sound is pretty unnerving if you’re not expecting it. The males are supposedly much smaller, but I can’t say that I’ve seen any.

Very scary looking, but very cool. It’s this kind of thing that makes me really question the theory of evolution. The evolution of physical body parts is only part of the equation; what about complex behaviors like this? So the larvae that just happened to leave the nervous system for last gained an evolutionary advantage over the others? And how did that “just happened” get passed on to the progeny of those lucky larvae? Nah; not buying it. I wouldn’t need to believe in an omnipotent, omniscient Creator to know that something like that doesn’t happen by chance.

God makes some cool stuff!

Compact Fluorescents Suck

Filed under: Home Life,The House — Tags: , , — dave @ 9:49 pm 2009/07/16

I hate compact fluorescent light bulbs. I really do. I like the fact that they use less electricity than a standard incandescent bulb, but aside from that there is absolutely no up-side to using them.

We’ve got CFL’s installed in various places around the house, and I discovered one of them was out this morning. I went to replace it, and it had this brown gunk oozing from the base. When I first opened the fixture — an old recessed ceiling fixture that holds the bulb horizontally — I could see a drip of the brown at a seam in the base and some splatters on the inside of the fixture’s glass; great. When I unscrewed the bulb, the drip travelled around the base; wonderful.

Then once I got the bulb out of the fixture, I caught a whiff of the thing, and even now, more than an hour and two hand-washings later, I can still smell it. And I can feel a headache brewing too. It was most likely a failure of the starter circuit’s componentry, which in most cheaper bulbs is the weak link.

I still had one 23W CFL in the cabinet downstairs, so that’s what went in to replace it. It’s a higher-quality bulb than what it replaced (made by GE), but I’m pretty sure the dead one was supposed to last five years. I didn’t date it when it was installed, but I’m reasonably sure it was within the last two years. I marked the new one with today’s date, and I will be hanging onto the warranty card; it’s guaranteed to last five years, and by golly, if it gives out before then, they’ll hear from me.

Aside from the nastiness that comes from them when the electronics fails, you’ve got the mercury in them to deal with if the glass breaks. But I hate them most when they’re “working”; you flip a switch on, and the things take up to a minute to warm up & give full light. And that’s considered normal. I sure don’t think of it as normal. I flip a switch on & I want light now, not when the bulb gets around to it. And you can forget about using a

I think today’s will be the last CFL I install. To me, the leaking crap that comes out of them the disposal hazards and the operational goofiness and the crappy cool white light they give off make them completely not worth the bother. Unfortunately, our wonderful Congress passed a law a while back that sunsets the use of incandescent bulbs, so that may not be an option for much longer. Might start stockpiling now. That or look into LED’s, which may not be much better than CFL’s. Bother.

Countdown to Canaries!

Filed under: Favorite Things,Fun!,Home Life — dave @ 3:59 pm 2009/05/15

A while back (two years ago!) I wrote a blurb about our then-new pet, Pippin, a male canary. We’ve enjoyed Pippin and his singing ever since, but I somehow neglected to mention that we brought home a girlfriend for Pippin a year ago. Pippin was a birthday gift for Yvonne two years ago, then last year’s birthday brought Melody into the family.

Like Pippin, Melody is a color-bred bird, but has a little more yellow than orange, which is Pippin’s primary coloration. Female canaries don’t sing like the males do, it’s more just peeps, chirps and squawks, but Melody has plenty of character all her own. The two of them get along pretty well, but we keep them in separate cages most of the time, mainly because (being a male) Pippin always thinks it’s mating time. If they’re in the same cage, he’ll start in on a song, strutting about with his throat feathers all puffed out and his wings slightly extended. Next thing you know he’s flying all around the cage in hot pursuit of Melody, who is doing her best to keep ahead of him. He usually catches her and pins her to the floor for a little, umm, roughhousing. Melody isn’t very appreciative of those little sessions, and when it’s done will chase him off, wings spread out, beak wide open; “Don’t you mess with me, buddy!” So, yeah; we keep them separated, for Melody’s sake. But nothing seems to faze Pippin; he’s totally twitterpated, and dotes over Melody terribly. He tears up paper from under the cage floor and carries it around, trying to give it to her as a present. He actually shows more interest in the nest and fitting it for eggs than she does.

This spring was a little different though. For the first time since we brought her home, Melody started to show some interest in the nest cup & started filling it with torn up newspaper, yarn, paper toweling, and whatever else she could get up there. It seemed mostly like a game to her as she’d carry something to the cup and goof around trying to put it in. After she’d get a bunch of it in there she’d pull it all out and start again. Either she’s frustrated that she can’t get it just right, or maybe she’s just not very serious after all.

Then on Monday, there was an egg in there! I was a little concerned because there was hardly any nesting material in the cup — the egg was sitting on bare plastic. Yvonne put some extra fluffy stuff in the cage, and Melody managed to pack the cup pretty well, but the egg was still underneath all the stuffing and she wasn’t spending much time on the nest. I pulled the nest out, rearranged some of the stuffing and got the egg on top, but she still wouldn’t spend much time on it. I didn’t have much hope for that egg that day.

But then Tuesday morning brought another egg, as did Wednesday. And Thursday. So now she has four eggs in the nest and is sitting on it pretty steadily. She’ll get up to have a bite to eat and drink, and to have an occasional splash in the water dish, but it’s right back to the nest without any playing. She’s turning out to be a great Mom!

Since all this started, Pippin hasn’t quite been himself; he still dotes over Melody like the lovesick thing he’s been since she came into his life, but he doesn’t sing much. He spends a lot of time flitting around chirping, and is pretty good about feeding Melody so she can stay in the nest longer, which makes me think he knows the score and that he needs to pitch in.

So now it’s a waiting game; keep them fed and see what happens. The incubation period for canaries is about two weeks, so that sets the ETH (Estimated Time of Hatching) at about May 25… Can’t. Wait.

The Monkey Bars

Filed under: Family,Favorite Things,Fun!,Home Life,Old Things — Tags: , , , — dave @ 11:21 am 2009/04/07

How’s this for obscure… On one of the rare occasions I sat down & watched an old, old re-run of the original Knight Rider (starring David Hasselhoff and the talking early-’80’s Trans Am with the funky strobe light), I happened to spot a set of monkey bars identical to the ones we’ve got in the back yard! That is the only time I have ever seen another set like that. Ever.

Our set is a little more weather-worn than the one in the TV show, which isn’t surprising considering they’ve been sitting out in the weather for about 50 years. The bars were purchased by my parents and have been part of growing up since before I can remember. I recall hearing from someone that they were bought when my eldest sister was little, but I doubt that’s true, as that would make them 60 years old, and counting. When Mom & Dad moved from the house on Walts in 1977 I think the monkey bars went to Dick & Dawn’s house, where they stayed until Yvonne & I bought our house on Norton in 1991 or so. We’ve had them ever since, and they’ve been a fixture in our kids’ backyard playtime.

That’s Caleb, at about 18 months old, after having climbed to the top of the monkey bars. That horizontal bar near the top of his head is about 8 feet off the ground. Enough to make any mom a little nervous.

Yes, 50-plus years does a number on the paint covering the bars, and on the metal underneath. The leg ends get rustier every year, and two have broken loose. I’ve been planning to replace some metal and repaint the bars for years — I even went so far as to buy a few rattle-cans of Rustoleum for the job — but it’s the colors that have delayed me for these many years. The bars were originally painted red, yellow and green, but with the years of fading plus the coat of white paint that Dick applied over everything at some point, I’m just not sure which bar was painted what color.

And then I saw this show, Knight Rider, Season 1, Episode 6, broacast on RTN. My first thought was, “YES! I can finally nail down the colors and get it painted!” Problem was that the set was only seen in one short transition shot in the show, spanning maybe three seconds in the frame, and not very clear. I dug around online looking for the video without much luck. I finally tracked down a copy through Google Video last night; the video is actually hosted by a Japanese YouTube knock-off called YouKu.com, and even has Japanese subtitles! Too cool! (link)

But even after looking through the video frame by frame, the colors aren’t clear enough to make any solid determination. So I guess, to paint the thing accurately I’ll have to go back to my original plan to do some judicious sanding in obscure areas that have maybe been spared the fading effects of the sun & hopefully see what the original colors were. Maybe it’ll get done before it ends up as a heap of iron oxide bits in the grass. Maybe…

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