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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Pipe Dreams

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

My Joint Ventures are Faring Poorly

Unbelievably, I had to re-re-redo the PVC pipes on my pool pump. I’m starting to think PVC is cursed.

I fixed it last month, and then I waited for the pump shed to dry out. I figured I could continue cleaning and improving once the water was gone. I went out there a couple of days ago to check on things, and the floor was still wet.

Worse, the accumulation of dirt and leaves covering the floor was still wet.

Here in South Florida, all pool guys are English-deaf. You can’t tell them anything. And if you do, it doesn’t matter, because they won’t do it, or they will be replaced in three weeks by new people who didn’t get el memo. I figured the persistent water problem was caused by the pool guy’s continuing failure to tighten the pump lid down, and by my continuing failure to check it whenever he left the property.

Yesterday I took a closer look, and water was dripping from my new pipe system. Incredible.

The crud on the floor was there because all landscape guys in this area are English-deaf. They are also unable to use rakes. They use leaf blowers for everything. You can’t tell them not to use leaf blowers, and the blowers blow dirt and leaves into every opening available. Over the years, it adds up.

I got a shovel, a hoe, and a shop-vac, and I removed a tremendous amount of dirt and plant matter. I actually saw the concrete floor; it’s not just a myth. It’s really there.

Before I got into this mess, I hated slip joints. A slip joint is a place where a pipe slides into a fitting. It has no threads. You have to cement it together, and after that, you can’t take it apart. I hated them because I thought they were a copout, and because they turn repairable systems into replaceable systems. If you have one bad fitting in a big conglomeration of parts that are cemented together, there is a good chance you’ll have to throw everything out and start over. I liked threaded joints, which can be taken apart.

I now think slip joints rock, and I hate threaded joints.

When I examined my pipes, I found that the cemented joints were fine, and at least two threaded joints were leaking, giving me a threaded-joint failure rate of about 67%.

I had to get out the sawzall (which I don’t capitalize because it’s not a Milwaukee) and cut the pipes off the pump.

I got on the web and looked around, trying to find out what I should do. Are threaded joints just plain bad? Were my joints too tight? Were they too loose? Should I have used tape instead of dope?

Here is what I found out: dope is better than tape (yay), and doped joints have to be tightened as hard as humanly possible.

My leaking joints were very tight, but they leaked anyway. I didn’t tighten them as much as I could have, because I was afraid the fittings would split. Now my feeling is, tighten away, and if the fittings split, get new fittings. Buy extra fittings before you build your joints just in case.

This time, I took the offending structure out of the pump shed and put it in my bench vise. I tightened the joints way, way, way down, and I reinstalled everything. I had to replace one threaded joint, so I used a 24″ pipe wrench to tighten it. I used a ton of dope. I was not going to tolerate a too-dry fit that prevented the male end from bottoming, and I was not going to put up with water leaks caused by gaps in the dope.

Is this the correct way to do it? I do not know. I know that the common sense way didn’t work, so now I’m using the brute-force moron approach, and so far, I have no leaks.

I used a huge amount of cement on the new slip joints. Cement melts PVC, so presumably, if you use a lot, you end up with lots of fused plastic to prevent leaks. That is my hope.

I guarantee you, there is no one within 30 miles who would have come here and done this job correctly in exchange for money. This county is the doofus capital of the universe. Even though I’ve done it wrong twice, I still feel like I’m way ahead of the game. I only spent like a hundred bucks, and I didn’t have to yell at anyone or threaten to sue.

It’s a shame I can’t fix roofs. Don’t even get me started on that nightmare.

Here is my advice: if you have to do PVC plumbing, only use threaded fittings when you have a compelling reason. Tighten the crap out of everything, use dope instead of tape, and use lots of cement on slip joints. Buy a sawzall, too. It will cut any PVC joint ever made in under ten seconds.

Make sure you tighten your threaded joints as early as possible in the process to get them into their final form. See to it that you leave slip joints for last, because they can be wiggled and adjusted before you add the glue, helping you to get things aligned. If you move a threaded joint, you risk creating a leak.

Now watch the pipes start leaking, proving everything I just wrote is wrong.

I hate swimming pools. Biggest con since time shares.

Flop Gear

Monday, June 20th, 2016

More Bomb Than Bombshell

I have something important to write about today. The new Top Gear is really bad.

I got in the habit of recording TV shows because it gave me something to do when I took the birds out of their cages. Sometimes they interact with me a lot, but Maynard really likes standing on my ankle and staring into space, so his out time is not always exciting. Top Gear became a favorite. I don’t care all that much about cars, but I love good comedy, especially when it’s politically conservative.

Jeremy Clarkson was the soul of the show. He turned it into the biggest TV franchise on the planet, and on his watch, they brought in James May and Richard Hammond, two of the funniest TV hosts in existence.

If the BBC suits had had their way (I am guessing without proof), the show probably would have been about hideous practical cars actual people could afford, and it would have been full of boring information about mileage and reliability. Instead, it’s about ridiculous supercars that cost seven figures, and they spend a lot of time crushing stuff and blowing things up.

Clarkson had a lot of problems. Sometimes he offended hippies in ways no one cares about, but he had a few incidents that appeared to reveal racist tendencies. For example, he and Richard Hammond looked at a wobbly bridge in the Burma, just as an Asian man walked onto it, and Clarkson said there was “a slope on it.”

I don’t know why Hammond didn’t get in trouble, since he was part of the joke.

Clarkson kept offending, and he was put on double-secret probation. Then he flipped out and punched a Top Gear employee. Something about not being able to get a steak.

The Beeb finally had to give principle more weight than greed, and Clarkson was “sacked,” as the British like to say. It conjures images of limp bodies of former employees being carried out of their workplaces in burlap bags.

I agree with their decision. You can’t let employees hit each other. It was cute when he punched Piers Morgan, but that was on his own time, and it was a public service for which he should have received a knighthood. Punching a subordinate is not acceptable.

Fans lost their minds, as though a frivolous TV show were essential to the survival of the universe. They cluttered the show’s cringing, defensive, groveling Facebook posts with comments reading, “Bring back Clarkson, Hammond, and May!”

Hammond and May joined in, refusing to work on the show without Clarkson. Maybe they’re loyal, or maybe they understand what a huge talent he is, and they want the money to keep pouring in. The merry trio departed the BBC and signed up for a show on Amazon Prime, which is apparently a network. If you’ve never heard of it, join the club. To me, “Amazon Prime” means a sucker deal where Amazon charges you a hundred bucks a year to bring your packages on time. Maybe people in England watch Amazon TV, but I have never felt like tuning in.

In the meantime, the BBC has made a lot of horrible errors.

1. They started 2016 with a whole bunch of reruns featuring the old cast, reminding people how great they were and that they would be impossible to replace. They’re still doing this, even though the new hosts are in place.

2. They hired Chris Evans, a squeaky-voiced Celt (perhaps I repeat myself) who collects supercars, to replace the boys. I don’t even know what to say about this. Evans is the opposite of funny. He is incapable of ad-libbing, he has no delivery, he is lacking even the rudiments of car-aficionado masculinity, and he throws up during fast laps. The man THROWS UP.

He seems like a nice guy, but he’s so boring I fast-forward through his segments. That’s how bad it is. He makes me feel sorry for him. I never felt bad for the others. Not even when they were driving through India in the summer and Hammond and May fixed Clarkson’s car so the heat couldn’t be turned off.

3. After they hired Chris Evans and made him look like a big deal, they faltered and hired Matt LeBlanc, the American comic actor and holder of the fastest Top Gear celebrity lap time. There are a number of problems with this.

First, LeBlanc is a riot. He is highly, highly talented. He knows cars. He has magnificent comic timing, and he is likeable. He even looks good and appears to produce testosterone. You can picture him with a wrench in his hand. He is everything Chris Evans is not. The contrast makes things awkward.

Second, they didn’t hire the hosts at the same time. When the BBC brought LeBlanc in, it looked like they realized how bad Chris Evans was and decided to undermine him, and this is probably exactly what happened. It makes Evans look threatened, which he clearly is. More awkwardness.

Third, they never came up with a third host. England is packed with funny performers, and they couldn’t find one. So now instead of a versatile three-man dynamic, they have two guys who look like they’re trying to cut each other’s throats. More accurately, it looks like Chris Evans has already had his throat cut, and they’re just waiting for him to admit it.

4. They hired two lesser hosts who don’t appear during the main show. I forget their names. They have zero stage presence. They are not funny. They are not entertaining in any way. They have no chemistry with the audience or each other. And their presence makes it look like the BBC is waiting for Evans to get fed up and leave so one of them can move into his place. This is probably true.

5. They made the show an hour longer. LeBlanc and Evans host the first hour, and the two young guys drag us through the second. When you’re struggling for ideas and content, why would you increase production demand by a factor of two?

They need to can Evans (cans are sturdier than sacks) and find someone else. It’s a shame Jason Statham is too big for the job. He’d be perfect.

I would love to watch the new Clarkson show, which is called The Grand Tour, but how do you get it without sitting in front of the computer and paying for it? I get Top Gear with basic cable, so it feels like it’s free. I’m not going to shell out for a computer service and watch it on a 24″ monitor. Forget that.

If there’s one good thing about the 2016 season it is this: Maynard can’t tell the difference. He is happy to sit on my leg and watch anything I watch.

I hope Amazon finds some way to get the new show inserted into a cable channel real human beings will actually watch. Warts and all, Clarkson is giant surrounded by midgets.

Trapped Near the Inner Circle of Fault

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

People Who Live in the Real World Wouldn’t Understand

I had to clean bird cages today, so now I’m in the mood for anything other than bird cage cleaning. I will write again.

Yesterday I was reminded of one of the big paradoxes of the Internet: being able to shop for things from the convenience of your home results in giant delays instead of time savings.

That’s kind of a distortion, but here’s what I mean: when you try to buy anything on the Internet–even paper clips–you will learn so much about the choices you have that you will spend more time studying and searching than buying.

Yesterday I had to solder something, and I saw that I was out of good solder. I still had bad solder; the kind that never seems to work right. I needed the good kind.

Two years ago, I would have driven to Radio Shack and bought whatever I saw. I would have been finished in 20 minutes. This time, it took me something like three hours. I learned things about solder while I was shopping, and I fell through the Internet-shopping looking glass, where you find out that the thousand things you believed before breakfast are, sadly, impossible.

There are lots of different kinds of solder. I did not know this. I knew about two types: lead-free, which sounded unwholesome, deluded, and leftist, and leaded, which, I figured, had to be the best, because, hey…lead. Anything that contains ingredients hippies hate will always turn out to be the best kind available.

I am not even a little scared of lead. I used to chew lead split shots because I liked the taste, and while I may be strange, I never got stupid or incontinent or whatever. Based on what I’ve read, I think the government keeps adjusting lead standards to silly levels in order to keep EPA bureaucrats employed. If lead was that big a deal, I’d be in an institution. I’m sure it’s toxic, but lots of stuff is toxic, and most of us manage to survive.

I started rooting around on the web, and I learned that there are lots of solder types. When it comes to electronics, the three main types are plain old rosin-cored, RMA (rosin mildly activated), and RA (rosin activated). Also, there are different leaded alloys. Two of the popular ones are 63% lead/37% tin and 60% lead/40% tin. I think. Maybe the tin goes first. On top of this, cored solder can contain 1.1%, 2.2%, or 3.3% flux. The word “flux” refers to the rosin, which is a substance that eats oxidation when it gets hot. Again: I think. Basically it cleans the joint.

Let’s see. There’s more. Solder comes in lots of diameters. You can get 0.015″, 0.020″, 0.025″, 0.031″, and up. If solder is too big, it tends to go all over the place when you solder little things. If it’s too small, it takes forever to fill a joint.

It gets worse. Chinese solder is not reliable. Big shock there. So you have to look for quality brands.

You have to wonder how bad Chinese solder is, since most of our electronic devices are full of it.

I also found out you’re supposed to clean solder joints. I had never heard of that. When you solder, you may unintentionally (or in my case, intentionally) leave melted flux on your joints. It’s ugly, and if I understand things correctly (doubtful), some types of flux can cause corrosion.

I went nuts researching this stuff. I looked at all sorts of nerd forums. I wanted to spend $20-$30 on a pound roll of solder, and I did not want to get the wrong thing.

By the time my eyes had gone buggy from scrolling, I had determined that what I wanted, probably, was 63/37 0.025″ 2.2% RMA solder, from Kester, AIM, Alpha Metals, or Multicore. And it’s impossible to find.

I’m sitting here thinking about the guitar amps I’ve built. Are they going to explode because I used the wrong solder?

I learned that it’s really hard to find the solder I specified above without paying a ton. I had to compromise and get 3.3% flux, which some people say is better anyway.

Now I have to wonder: was I better off when I simply drove to Radio Shack and bought the wrong thing?

The bad solder I already had came from Home Depot. I took a look at it and saw that it was Bernzomatic brand solder. It’s for electrical connections, but it’s not the right thing for electronics. I threw it out. Then I thought maybe I would need it for something, so I took it out of the trash. Then I thought about throwing it out again. Then I put it on the desk and stared at it.

I should also admit that I solder incorrectly a lot of all the time. When you solder, you are not supposed to heat the new solder directly and melt it onto the tip. You’re supposed to heat the wire and apply the solder to it, so the wire melts the solder.

Yeah, right. Try that some time. Your insulation will drip off or go up in smoke, unless it’s Teflon. In real life, you do whatever you have to. I plan to try to solder better, but I’m not going to melt components and insulation.

As for cleaning the joints, I don’t even know how. I think you use a Q-Tip with alcohol on it. I have never had a joint go bad, but maybe I need to try to do things right.

I read that rosin fumes cause asthma. Geez. What am I supposed to do? Solder in the front yard when the wind is blowing? Wear a sweaty respirator? But then I think about the hundreds of guys I know who’ve developed serious asthma from soldering. The ones who didn’t die first from lead poisoning.

I jest.

As I researched, I learned more stuff. You have to try to set your soldering iron so the heat is right. Different solders melt at different temperatures, and some electronic parts can be damaged by excess heat. I sort of knew that. My iron goes to 5, and I have been known to operate it at 4 because it seemed to be hard on PCB’s. But there are irons that actually display the temperature with digital meters. I’m not going that far. That’s just crazy.

Arrgh. I’ll probably go that far. Some day.

It’s frustrating when you splurge for what you think is the best tool available, and then you find out it’s second-rate. I feel like a guy who bought a Bose stereo and showed it off for his friends before learning the awful, humiliating truth.

I’m not sure what my advice is. I’m tempted to tell people to pretend they never read this.

The solder I finally ended up with is Kester 24-6337-9718. If it’s horrible, I’ll tell you. I fully expect to be unable to tell the difference between this stuff and Radio Shack Random Idiot Solder.

If you’re still going to real stores and buying wrong stuff, you should probably keep it up. You will never know the difference, and you will save lots of time. I love the Internet, but sometimes you just want toothpicks; you don’t need the best OSHA-approved, fair trade, organic, North American hardwood toothpicks.

If you use rosin-cored solder and you get asthma, leave me alone. If I told you to jump off the Empire State Building, would you do that, too?

Let me Shower You With Wisdom

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Soap Scum and Ancient History

I have all sorts of fascinating wisdom and knowledge to impart, so gather around.

I know all five of my readers are wondering how things went with my homemade daily shower spray. I am finally ready to pronounce it a success.

I probably should have told you to sit down before reading that.

The recipe is dishwasher rinse agent, dishwashing liquid, scrub-free bath and shower cleaner, and water. I already posted it, but anyway:


6 ounces no-scrub shower and tub cleaner
1 tbsp. dishwashing liquid
1 tbsp. dishwasher rinse agent, like Jet-Dry (exactly like Jet-Dry, since that’s what I use)

Put it in a 1-quart spray bottle, fill with water, and use. If you start with a Tilex Daily Shower spray bottle, you will be glad you did, because they suck from the bottom of the bottle, so you won’t have a spray that quits when you still have a pint of stuff left. Tilex molds a suction tube into the bottle itself, and it goes all the way down.

The shower is magnificent. Even the Florida-limestone scale is coming off of things over time. I use the spray on even-numbered days, and it lasts maybe ten days. Cheap and effective.

The bathroom is now a cinch to maintain. I never, ever scrub the shower now, so three-fourths of the work of cleaning the bathroom is gone. A couple of times a week I mop the floor and toilet with water, bleach, and dishwashing liquid, I use toilet cleaner inside the toilet, and I clean the counter with various things. I wipe everything down so I don’t get water spots and so on, and I’m done.

Except for the hairs. I seem to shed about a pound a day. I got a stick vacuum. It helps, but I never get ahead of the game.

Note to self: in future, buy flooring materials the same color as my hair.

Another major improvement: I finally got decent bathroom rugs.

I guess that will not impress female readers, but I am a man, so I don’t think in terms of luxury all that much. To me, it’s a big change. If the bathroom floor is clean, I’m happy. I had a crummy old cotton rug, and I thought it was swell, but it started to give out, so I went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and got some fluffy synthetic rugs that look and feel like sheepskins. You can bleach them, because the fuzz is basically plastic.

Now whenever I go in the bathroom with bare feet, the pleasure of the sensation of the rug against my soles reminds me how stupid I was all my life. I should have gotten these rugs sooner.

Thank God for blogs. Without them, the world would be deprived of paradigm-changing posts like this one.

I finished The Odyssey. I’m very happy about that. It was a lot shorter than The Iliad, but it still took a long time. I read much faster than most people, and I still took days to get it done. It makes me wonder how college students survive, with their relatively tight deadlines.

More than ever, I feel certain I didn’t read it in college. Mr. Cliff, you are a foul temptress. You stole my education. Like glancing-eyed Circe, you drugged me and robbed me of my ambition, and I found myself dwelling among the lotus-eaters.

My verdict: The Odyssey is much, much better than The Iliad, and not just because it’s shorter, although that would suffice. The Odyssey has a plot. It has a limited number of characters. It has structure. It’s like a real book, whereas The Iliad is like a dull blogger live-blogging a dull war.

I still say every character in both books is a jerk. Odysseus is a murderer, pirate, thief, human trafficker, and Zeus knows what else. He deserves to suffer and die, and he deserves to lose his wife and his kingdom. But Homer is so full of utterly vile characters, you find yourself rooting for the merely despicable, so it works.

I don’t have a lot of boring deep insights about the book. Odysseus takes twenty years to come home from Troy, and on the way he kills all sorts of people, and then he gets home and kills even more people. That about sums it up.

It’s a lot like a Steven Seagal movie, now that I think about it. Steven Seagal is an enlightened semi-Buddhist pacifist cop who has also dedicated his life to learning how to murder and maim people. He has a partner/wife/dad/war buddy who gets killed, or someone puts him in a coma, or someone kidnaps his family or something. He spends roughly 80 minutes plotting against the people who wronged him, and then he exacts his unbelievably vicious, sadistic, gory Buddhist pacifist revenge.

I can see the trailer now. “Odysseus IS…MARKED for DEATH.”

I guess scholars will fume and fuss if they read this. Yes, okay, Homer is important. I read it, so leave me alone.

Today I started the next reading, which is the first 140 pages of Herodotus.

The book started out with a surprise. I probably knew this already, but I tend to forget boring things: Paris and Helen were real people, and so was Priam. The sacking of Troy actually happened. If Herodotus and his sources are right.

Reading Homer sets you up to read about the Persian Wars by telling the story of the woman-stealing that started them. Paris (AKA Alexander) was part of it. A bunch of Arabs stole a Greek princess, and the Greeks reciprocated, and eventually things got so bad, Alexander figured wife-stealing was acceptable behavior, so he stole Helen.

There is a certain amount of dispute as to whether “stealing” is the right term, since it is not unheard of for women to be sluts. It may be that some of the women actually ran off (one may have done so in order to cover her pregnancy) and then blamed their “abductors.”

No, that could never happen. A woman would never sleaze around and then claim she was forced. Women never blame men for their sexual indiscretions. Oh, no. Impossible!

Maybe Tawana Brawley or a Duke Lacrosse player will leave a comment here.

The funny thing about Herodotus is that he says the Persians, who were caught up in this mess, would not have started the wars themselves. It had to be the Greeks. The reason? The Persians didn’t think it was a big deal if a woman was stolen. Apparently they felt it was like having your dog kidnapped. Annoying, but you don’t go to war over it. You buy a new dog.

Don’t get mad at me. This is the Persians talking.

I guess the profs at Columbia University thought about all this when they put the Lit. Hum. syllabus together. They thought about the way Homer connected with Herodotus. In their off time from burning American flags, blaming Islamic aggression on Israel, and vilifying capitalism while occupying chairs endowed by capitalists.

For a few brief moments I thought about this stuff today, and I thought about the Hellenizing influence of reading all this Greek nonsense. I thought about the tension between Hellenism and the followers of Yahweh. It seemed to me that even today, the Western world is fundamentally Greek and Jewish.

If you walk down any street in any American city, what do you see? Roman architecture and Roman letters. Modern people use eagles as the symbols of their nation, just as the Romans did. Roman culture is all around us.

If we’re surrounded by Roman culture, why mention the Greeks? Because Roman culture is Greek culture (which may be Egyptian culture). The Romans stole Greek ideas. Roman temples look like Greek temples, and all over the US, we have buildings with ridiculous bits of Roman temple architecture tacked onto them. Ayn Rand made fun of it in The Fountainhead.

We have republics, just like the Romans. We have civil rights codified in law, just like the Romans. We have a moronic, idolatrous obsession with sports, just like the Romans. We even have their dangerous welfare system!

Opposing all this, we have Jewish religion. Jews don’t like to hear it, but Christianity is fundamentally Jewish. It’s not the same, and we have filled it with pagan ideas, but the God of our religion is Jewish. Our Messiah is Jewish. The underlying concepts are Jewish. We believe the Jewish Bible is true. Jews don’t like Christianity, but let’s face it. It entered the world as an entirely Jewish sect, founded by a Jew and spread by Jews, and centuries later, the connection can’t be erased.

Christianity is more Jewish than Islam. Jews think otherwise, but it’s true. Islam is cruel and silly. It’s carnal and juvenile. It denies the truth of the Jewish Tanakh. The Jewish and Christian notions of the afterlife are much more alike than the Jewish and Islamic notions.

So many centuries after the deaths of Jesus and Homer, westerners still have tension between Jewish thought and Greek thought. We are like the Jews of Greek-occupied Israel, who renounced the dietary laws and tried to undo their circumcisions. The Greek-influenced world pulls at us all the time, and we give in. Every day we cede more territory. This is why America is lost. We ceded too much.

Interesting stuff. But Homer is still boring.

I feel another Steven Seagal trailer coming on. “Paul IS…ABOVE the LAW.”

That’s all I have time for today. I have to go to Toys R Us and buy a drone. I’m going to my godson’s birthday party later.

Okay, I am trying to con you. My godson is two, so he can’t use a drone. I want one for myself.

As part of my online scuffling about the worthlessness of cordless tools, I Googled around and learned about drone batteries, and somehow I found out that you can get drones for thirty bucks. I didn’t know they were that cheap. I would like to get one and see what all the fuss is about.

I don’t plan to use it to film my neighbors naked, however. This is where I part company with most drone users. I just want to fiddle around with it and learn a bit about RC technology. “RC” means “radio-controlled,” although it also means a fine brand of cola which Pepsi and Coke have destroyed through predatory marketing practices.

Here’s how I see it. I know I’m going to spend the rest of my life shaking my cane at young punks and criticizing them and their technology. That’s a given. So I might as well learn a little bit about their technology, if only to insult them in a more insightful and scathing way.

Enjoy your Saturday. Even if it is named after Saturn.

You’ll Get a Charge Out of This

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Tools Renewed

A few days back, on a hobby machining forum, I made an offhand remark about cordless tools. I said the more I used them, the less I liked them.

People adore their cordless tools, so my statement provoked a torrent of emotional argument, as though I had said people’s kids were ugly. I didn’t say cordless tools were bad, or that no one should use them. I just said my own infatuation with them was wearing thin, and I can back that up.

I believe the first two cordless tools I had experience with were screwdrivers. One, which was really primitive, was from Brookstone. The other, which came later, was a Black & Decker. They were nice to have, but the batteries didn’t last long, either short-term or long-term. They didn’t run very long on one charge, and they gave up the ghost completely after relatively short lives.

After that, I believe my next tool was a Panasonic impact driver. It came with a drill, which was silly, because once you have an impact driver, you don’t need a drill. You need a HAMMER drill, sure, but not a DRILL drill. The impact driver does everything the drill can do, better, while using less energy. Impact drivers run longer on a single charge, because of the way they generate torque.

I think I used the drill one time. I only bought it because the combination of the drill and impact driver was cheaper than the impact driver by itself.

The impact driver used NiMH batteries, which stands for, “Lame and Destined to Die Real Soon.” Okay, it doesn’t. Clearly. But it should. NiMH batteries don’t last long, and they have a memory effect, which means that if you top them off, you can end up with a situation in which the batteries will only hold a partial charge. Something like that. Look it up, because I’m on a roll right now.

I thought the impact driver was the greatest tool in existence. It magically turned fasteners without imparting the torque back to my wrist (drills can’t do that). It applied more torque than a drill. It gave much better control, so I didn’t have problems driving screws too far into things. It was much harder to strip screw heads with the impact driver. It ran longer than a drill. It had pretty LED’s.

I would have felt differently had I known the batteries were going to conk out while I was still getting to know the tool.

Before too long, the tool would only run a short time after a charge. I looked up the price of new batteries. I believe they are still sold, and they run about $85.

I also got a hammer drill. It was an 18-volt Bosch. I loved it. I used it to drive a 5/8″ bit through 12″ of aged concrete (concrete gets harder with time) without stopping. It was wonderful.

The drill had Nicad batteries. Like NiMH batteries, Nicads have serious issues. They die young, and they also discharge quickly when you’re not using them.

My love affair with the drill ended when the batteries stopped holding a useful charge. I can still use it for brief periods, but the batteries are not well at all.

Since then I have bought other cordless items. I got a top-rated hand vacuum for kitchen messes. It runs maybe four minutes, so you really need to have your sweeping planned out when you pick it up. I have a leaf blower. It runs long enough to blow crap off the porch, and then you’re done. It’s pretty weak, so when you use it, you have to choose your battles.

I got a screwdriver and a Jobmax as well. I also got a corded Jobmax. I don’t think I would have gotten the cordless one had I thought about the corded one sooner.

My newer tools have lithium-ion batteries, which are better than NiMH and Nicad, but they will still die and need replacement.

With this experience behind me, I will explain why I don’t love cordless tools.

1. They cost three times as much as real tools, and that doesn’t include replacement batteries.

The drill cost about $275. When I replaced it with a very good Bosch corded hammer drill, I paid about $90. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t really know what hammer drills cost when I got the cordless one. The Panasonic combo cost me about the same amount as the Bosch drill. I replaced it with an infinitely superior corded Makita for less than half the price.

2. Real tools are often better than cordless.

The Makita impact driver I bought is a lot stronger than the Panasonic it replaced. It doesn’t have as many toys on it, but then they’re not actually useful. You pull the trigger, and it turns. The corded hammer drill I bought has a real chuck, unlike the cordless one, with a real key. I paid less and got more.

3. In order to make cordless tools useful, you have to become a battery nursemaid.

You are things you can do to screw up tool batteries. You have to be careful. If you want to be safe, you have to make sure they never discharge too much. Also, you can’t tell how much time a charge has left on it by looking at the battery. You have to guess. A dead battery looks like a fresh one. So if you forget to charge a battery, it’s easy to get ambushed. You have to make sure you charge the batteries all the time, but not too much, because too much cycling wears them out.

If you screw up, you can find yourself holding a tool that insists on a 30-minute nap, right when you need it to finish a job.

The solution to this is to buy more batteries. That’s not cheap, and they’re heavy.

4. Tools use batteries that are incompatible with each other, so you have to have lots of batteries and chargers.

If you’re really confident that every one of a single company’s cordless tools are what you want, you can buy a huge combination kit that comes with two batteries. They won’t be the company’s best batteries, but let’s pretend that’s not true. You can get six tools, two batteries, and a charger for a grand or so. What if the kit comes with tools you don’t want? Tough. You take what they offer. What if you want the super-duper high-capacity batteries? You have to buy them separately, so instead of a grand, think about $1400.

If, like most people, you want a grinder from this company and a drill from that company, you will be stuck with incompatible batteries and multiple chargers. You won’t be able to prepare for a day of work by charging all four of your Milwaukee batteries. You’ll have to charge three Milwaukees, two Dewalts, a Ridgid, and four Bosches. You will have to keep all the chargers plugged in, and they will suck up room.

5. The need to buy new batteries will never, ever go away. Ever. Even if you break it down over time, it doesn’t feel good, paying $25 per year in perpetuity to use a tool worth $90.

Here is how corded tools work:

1. They are always, always, always ready to work, even if you just spent the last week in jail and could not get home to charge them.

2. They do not stop working because you forgot to feed them.

3. They almost never become obsolete.

4. You will never, ever have to worry about not being able to get new batteries or support from the manufacturers.

5. They generally work better.

6. They are lighter.

7. They cost a third as much. Not 75% as much. A third.

Does that mean I hate cordless tools? No. It just means I don’t need them badly enough to put up with the crap.

If I had to work far from electricity several times a week, I would get cordless tools. If I were a professional construction worker, I would get cordless tools. If I could deduct the prices of the tools and the never-ending cost of replacing batteries on my taxes, I might get cordless tools. None of those criteria apply to me. I do everything well within reach of electrical sockets, preferably with the air conditioning on and the stereo playing.

So anyway, I got the cordless guys going, and they seemed to feel like I was saying all cordless tools are evil and that no one should ever have one. Nuance. You know how that goes.

I will probably buy another cordless screwdriver if the one I have dies, and I do like the Jobmax, but I’m not in a hurry to get anything else.

With all that said, listening to the pro-cordless crowd got me thinking, and I decided to poke around on the web and look into cost-effective ways to save the drill and impact driver. I knew there were ways to get around the high cost of new batteries, so I Googled.

I saw some interesting options, so I got out the charger for the hammer drill and plugged it in. Nothing happened. So right away, I was off on a detour.

The charger is a Bosch BC130. I believe it’s the second one I’ve bought. They have a tendency to drop dead for no reason. There was no way in hell I was going to put down fifty or seventy bucks or whatever for a charger for a drill that doesn’t work, so I tried to find out what was wrong with it. I will relay that information here in case anyone else has the same problem in the future.

The BC130 has a resistor between the big main caps on the circuit board. It burns up. It’s said to be a 1/2-watt 180K resistor, and the solution is a 1-watt (minimum) resistor.

I’ll tell you what you need to know to get it fixed.

First, the case is held on by five Phillips screws. Take them out. Now you will find that the case sticks at one corner when you try to open it. Relax. There is a smaller circuit board that holds the charging prongs, and it’s attached to the upper part of the case. It is held in place by three black 20-gauge wires that are way too short.

You can pry the small board down out of its place. It’s held there by two plastic pins, and friction is the only thing that keeps it from coming off. Just pry carefully.

Don’t touch anything until you discharge the capacitors on the main circuit board. They hold lots of charge, and they can hang onto it for quite some time. The only sure way I saw to discharge them was to short their leads with a wire.

To get access to their leads, you need to get at the underside of the board. There are two plastic tabs you have to push back with a screwdriver, and they will release the board from the case bottom. The big problem here is that when you do this, you may short the caps with your fingers, so try not to do that, because you will die.

If your resistor is fried, you will probably see charring and so on when you examine it. To release it, you can attach a hemostat to one of the resistor’s leads and pull on it from above the board while you heat the soldered connection underneath the board. The lead will come out, and then you can do the other one. Don’t use too much heat, because the foil traces under the board are easy to melt loose.

Now all you have to do is stick a new resistor in there.

Unbelievably, I did not have a 2-watt 180K resistor, so I made an assembly using two 150K’s and a 470K. It comes out to almost exactly 180K, and because there are three resistors instead of one, the heat is spread out more. Hopefully it won’t fry like the resistor Bosch put in there. It was bigger than the old resistor, so I let it stand up on the leads in the space between the caps. I was thinking this might allow it to give off heat better, since it won’t be against the circuit board.

You might want to increase the lengths of the 3 black leads that go from the main board to the secondary board, to make reassembly easier. I didn’t have to.

That’s it. Hopefully your charger will work.

I did this today, and I charged up the old drill batteries. It may still be useful for short jobs.

I also looked around and found a Youtuber who has a video on replacing the guts of Nicad batteries with lithium. I may try that, just for fun. If I can have new batteries for $20 each instead of $100 each, I may want to keep the drill.

I don’t know much about lithium batteries, but supposedly they die permanently if you let them discharge too far. You can prevent this by monitoring the voltage while you use them. The Youtube guy found little meters that cost a few bucks each, and he stuck them in his modified batteries. Pretty cool. I suppose it would be bad if he dropped the tool and broke a meter; you probably lose some of the original battery’s toughness.

If you have the same batteries I have (Bosch BAT181), you may find them hard to open. The nice damen und herren at Bosch have decided that opening the case is VERBOTEN and NICHT for das konsumer. Because, hey, if you can open it, you can fix it, and then they can’t charge you a könig’s ransom for new batteries.

Bosch closes the battery case with five Torx screws (so intimidating, *yawn*). They try to make it look worse than it is by covering one screw with a piece of plastic that looks like metal. If you drill a small hole in the center of it, you can insert a sharp tool and yank it out. Then you can get at the Torx screw.

Good luck.

One more thing. I found out that Nicads often lose capacity due to whiskering. Because the green lunatics have gone way overboard in ridding the world of lead (one of the world’s most useful metals), electronic devices tend to grow metal whiskers on their soldered connections. These whiskers create shorts and do bad stuff.

Some brave people de-whisker their batteries using high currents. You find yourself a decent current supply at a fairly high voltage, and you apply it to your battery’s terminals. There may be stuff you have to bypass; I’m not sure. Anyway, if you have whiskers and you get rid of them by running jolts of current through them, you may find your batteries work again. You don’t want to leave the current on for a long time. You just want to whack the batteries briefly. Just pop them.

Speaking of “pop,” the down side is that sometimes the batteries explode. So you could die or be blinded or horribly disfigured. Things to think about.

I may try this on my batteries, after hiding behind a garage door.

You never know what I’ll do when I get bored.

Maybe this will be useful to someone. It kept me amused for a couple of hours.

As for cordless tools, yes, they have their place. But I’m glad I’m not sitting here trusting my work to a cordless compu

I’ll Have the Sparkling Water

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Rum Wears Out its Welcome

I had a lot of fun fooling around with tiki drinks this week, but I think I’m done for a while. I’m starting to think there is something poisonous in rum.

When I was in college, I thought drunkenness was a good thing, and I worked at it. It was very unusual for me to get sick, but I managed it a few times. I also got sick once after I graduated from law school. The two worst hangovers I ever had were from dark rum. It won’t just make you sick the day you drink it; it will make you sick for half of the following day.

I had some Jamaican friends when I was in law school, and one of them told me they don’t drink dark rum. She said it was for the tourists. I guess the Jamaicans know something.

Anyway, I had maybe four rum drinks this week, which is not exactly binge drinking, and today I feel sort of off. I really think there is something in that stuff, apart from alcohol, which the body does not like.

I didn’t use dark rum; I used Flor de Cana golden rum, which is about the color of brandy.


I had a few days of nostalgia, and I really enjoyed cooling off after working on plumbing and so on, but I would not want to drink this stuff every week.

A lot of Christians are very worked up about alcohol. I don’t worry about it. Every once in a while, I have a drink. On rare occasions, I have two. I think I’ll be okay. I would not encourage anyone else to drink, if it’s a problem.

Some people rewrite history. They claim Jesus was a teetotaler who drank fresh grape juice and called it wine. Yeah, okay. And for five bucks I’ll sell you a keychain made from a fragment of the cross.

I used to brew my own beer, and it was wonderful, but I don’t do it any more. When you barely drink, what do you do with five-gallon kegs of beer? They sit and go to waste. The extra fridge takes up space.

The down side of giving up brewing is that it’s nearly impossible for me to get a really good beer. There are a few beers that are good; I like Flying Dog Snake Dog ale and Dogfish 60 Minute IPA. But it’s nothing like having four or five utterly magnificent beers on tap.

It’s not a big sacrifice. I don’t care much about it.

I did a lot more work on the house yesterday. I removed a lot of useless PVC from the pool pump, and I replumbed it. I broke down and bought a reciprocating saw, like a Sawzall. I got a DeWalt. They get good reviews. It did a wonderful job of hacking pipes out so they could be thrown on the trash heap.

I’m still bummed out that I can’t find anyone competent to take my money. I would be satisfied with work that is merely good. It doesn’t have to be fantastic. Good is too much to ask in Miami. Everything is done to the Latin American standard, which is very low. There is a reason why BMWs are made in Germany instead of Honduras.

Call me a racist if you want. Cultural differences are not imaginary. Defending your stupid culture is a sure path to loserhood. Admitting its faults is the beginning of improvement. If you want to hear some heavy criticism, ask me about the backward, defeat-oriented culture I came from.

Yesterday one of my Cuban friends used vile language in a text message to tell me how much he hates Miami. He has plans for bookshelves, and he can’t find anyone who can build them. Ridiculous.

I’m trying to figure out what to do about the pumphouse’s electrical ground. There is a bar hammered into the ground outside the pumphouse, and there’s a big wire next to it. It’s not connected. Is that because some idiot knocked the clamp off, or is it because it’s bad for the pumphouse to have its own ground? I’m trying to find out. I’m tempted to call an electrician, but then I think about all the potentially deadly electrician errors I’ve found and fixed.

As far as I know, there are only two wires connecting the house and the pumphouse, and neither is a ground.

I am Googling around, and it looks like the ground rod should be connected. I think I’ll hook it up and see if anything explodes. I would rather have grounding than no grounding, even if it causes some comparatively minor issue with the electrical service. When I say “comparatively minor,” I am using “instant death on the pumphouse floor” as a reference.

The plumbing is not right. The pipes are generally on the floor or close to it, inviting breakage. People step on things. Also, the pipes are not supported. I looked it up, and PVC at 100 degrees has to be supported every five feet. I’m going to figure out how to do that. Whatever I do may not be the recommended method, but it will work, and it will be better than nothing.

Things keep going well in my prayer life and personal development. God keeps moving me to higher levels.

I’ve started to get a better feel for the degree of brainwashing mankind has experienced. We feel self-conscious about God. Why is that? Why don’t we think God is cool? He creates galaxies. He confers invulnerability and power. He is in charge, and if you’re aligned with him, you’re in charge, too. Why do we think that’s something to be ashamed of?

Being right is cool. Being powerful is cool. Not wasting your life is cool.

Our perceptions are completely warped. But with time, prayer, and submission, it changes.

The longer I live, the more I realize the people around me are idiots. I suppose that doesn’t sound Christlike. Look at this place, though. We run around in circles, doing things that don’t matter. We devote our lives to things God is eventually going to burn. We love man’s temporary, cobbled-together solutions to problems. We hate God’s solutions, which are perfect and come without regret. This place is horrible. It’s like Sodom. We can’t do anything right. We hate the very notion of doing things right.

I can’t respect humanity. It’s too much to ask. I was a mistake to try. It was a rabbit trail. People have a lot of knowledge, and you shouldn’t ignore all of it, but it’s stupid to put human beings on pedestals. As far as we know, Buddha is in hell. Alexander the Great is in hell. Albert Einstein. Aristotle. All sorts of human beings we think of as superhuman. You can push respect way too far.

We ruin everything down here. The worst part about it is that we destroy human beings.

I thought about that this morning while I was watching a show about technology. They were talking about a special ship that upends itself and turns into a research platform. It reminded me of an experience I had when I was a kid. Don’t ask me why.

My dad represented the Alcoa aluminum company. They had a special aluminum ship which was built for research. It was docked in the Bahamas or somewhere–I forget–and they invited my dad to bring me to see it. They took us on board and gave us a tour.

Today I thought about how little I got out of that experience, which should have been very rich.

When I was a kid, I was afraid of everyone. I had no self-confidence. I could not talk to people. I had been raised in a house of abuse, and my response was to wilt and hide.

Some kids are not like that. They choose to be as aggressive as their abusers. I believe Freud called this “aggressor identification.” You could also call it a generational curse or a cycle of abuse. Kids decide it’s better to be the abuser than the abused, so that’s the path they take. My sister went that way.

I couldn’t cope with life. Mainly, I wanted to be left alone. I was so used to losing, I was highly motivated to avoid trying. A lot of my encounters with my dad consisted of him verbally abusing me until I gave up and left him alone, which was what he wanted, so you can imagine how I felt about approaching people. He actively, deliberately worked to make me back down, feel bad about myself, and leave in fear.

I think this is why I love tools so much. Tools represent power and success. They counter feelings of being unable to cope.

Parents are supposed to prevent kids from growing up to be as I was. When a kid falters, his parents are supposed to notice it and take him aside and teach him how to stand up and respond to life’s challenges. I was afraid of my dad, and my mother was not much better off than I was, so I just sat back and decayed. When I was in my twenties, I started trying to compensate, but change was extremely gradual. The chains we put inside ourselves are heavy, and it takes a lot of time to cut them and push them out.

My dad didn’t seem to realize he was supposed to do anything to help me or my sister in life. As long as food was on the table, he felt like his job was done and that everyone should be grateful and obedient. It’s strange, because his own father was not like that.

I wonder if the men on the ship noticed the destruction in me. I notice it when I meet kids who can’t engage. I wonder if they tried to interest me in the ship and the research and then pulled back, realizing I had been ruined.

I don’t think shyness is normal. I think it’s a flag that exposes abuse. No matter how much you pretend in public, if your kids are shy, there has to be a reason, and you’re probably it.

You can have sympathy for other people’s kids, but usually, your ability to help them is limited. If you want to help, you have to look for opportunities to do or say something effective. Vigilance is important.

We ruin our children. We don’t submit to God. We put our flesh in charge. Our flesh puts Satan in charge. The result is that we become poisonous to people we are supposed to help.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot today. I can’t undo my childhood. I have been able to help a few younger people, though. Maybe that’s an acceptable exchange. Satan screwed up my youth, so I am being used to screw up his plans and help several other people. His evil is being multiplied back to him.

Interesting stuff.

I should have done better, but here I am, as I am, so I work with what I have.

Today I plan to make some adjustments to the pool pipes and put a clamp out the pumphouse ground. After that, I think I’ll relax and knock off some more of The Odyssey.

I have to say, I’m disgusted with mythology and the characters of Greek literature. People like Odysseus and Achilles were the scum of the earth. They were pirates, and “pirate” is not a flattering term. They were murderers, rapists, thieves, and slave masters. They were sadistic. They were greedy. They thought nothing of pitching babies off of city walls. It’s strange that we see them in a positive light. If there is a significant difference between these characters and the drug gangs in Mexico, I am hard-pressed to see it. The more I read, the more I root for them to lose.

I hope you’re enjoying your Saturday. Go easy on demon rum.

You Can’t Beat That Salvadoran Craftsmanship

Friday, May 6th, 2016

No Wonder They Want to Get Away From It

The saga of the sprinkler pump continues, much like the decade-long siege of Troy.

It’s interesting to examine the gargantuan sprinkler/irrigation apparatus in the shed, and to note its many revolting flaws.

The whole thing is situated about two and a half feet below the water level of the pool. That means water is always trying to get into the shed, even when everything is turned off. Whenever a valve or a joint has a problem, water starts dribbling out.

The sprinkler pump is connnected to the pool system so the pool can be filled from a well instead of the tap, and so the irrigation pump can be used to drain the pool. The sad result of this is that if the valve going from the sprinkler pump to the pool-fill outlet leaks (it does), water leaks from the pool into the sprinkler pump. You never see it. The water level in the pool keeps dropping, for no apparent reason.

I doubt there is such a thing as a completely reliable valve. Maybe old-style metal gate valves are good enough to shut down the drips, but the valve that goes to the pool-fill outlet is in a section of the system that’s all PVC, so the valve is a crappy plastic ball valve.

The pool pump is also under constant pressure from the pool water, so water escapes from the plumbing and goes on the floor. The pool service people are absolutely inept. They can’t do anything about it. They can’t figure out how to fill the pool; they just leave notes for me. They can’t seat the skimmer basket lid correctly so it doesn’t leak. When the return pipe developed leaks, they couldn’t fix it.

I don’t know if they realize people pay them to do this stuff. People don’t want to be their own pool guys. If I wanted to be a pool guy, I’d get a crappy Japanese pickup and fill the back with hoses and go to work.

They’re fired, as of next week.

Today I went out and replaced several feet of PVC above the pool pump. Water was coming out through two joints. Instead of replacing those joints and the pipe between them, they put in two crummy repair joints (one of which leaked), and in the process, it looks like they loosened another joint. I spent 45 minutes working on it, and now it’s fine. And I’m just winging it. I’m not trained. Shouldn’t they be able to do this?

The sprinkler pump was connected to a wall box using flex conduit. The ground wire from the motor went into the box, where it led to…a cap. There was a second green ground wire in the box, screwed to the back of the box, leading to…another cap. Some genius disconnected the ground AND took the time to cap the disconnected ends. Explain that. In a sane world, that would be considered attempted murder.

I got some 12-gauge extension cord, a 30-amp plug, and a 30-amp receptacle, and I made a cord for the new pump. The cord goes into the motor housing through a strain relief fitting. The other end goes the new plug, which I wired. I replaced the ridiculous flex conduit with another length of cord and the 30-amp receptacle. Now if I ever have to move the pump again, I can just unplug it. And it’s grounded! What a novel concept.

I still have to fasten the pump to the floor and finish the pipe on the suction end. The floor under the pump is always wet, and that makes it hard to mark the floor and put holes in it. The floor is wet because the pool-fill valve leaks through the sprinkler pump.

The wet floor makes it hard to finish fixing the pump, and the fact that the pump isn’t fixed keeps the floor wet. It’s some catch, that catch 22.

I know this is boring. I don’t care. I have to release some pressure. If you don’t like it, go look at Gawker. Before Hulk Hogan eats it.

I’m about one hour away from finishing up the sprinkler mess. After that, I have to find a company that can come out and fix the pipes under the yard and the sprinkler heads. That, I refuse to do. Everyone has a limits. Nothing is worse than working on sprinklers.

Eventually I will have to confront the problem with the grade. The driveway is too high, so water runs into the pool and sprinkler areas. I’m going to have to chalk this up to the total incompetence of South Florida tradesmen, just like my other problems. It should be obvious that you can’t raise a driveway an inch every time you resurface it. Whoever fixed the driveway last time didn’t get the memo.

I need to put some kind of barrier on the doorway thresholds, to keep the water from running into the pump areas. The thresholds are concrete, and I don’t know of anything that sticks to concrete well. I’m thinking I may go get some aluminum channel and attach it with screws, filling the underside with gunk to seal it. Wood will rot, even if it’s pressure-treated. Steel will rust. Masonry won’t seal against the concrete under it. At least I think it won’t.

Tomorrow I expect to be done with this crap. Then I guess I’ll have to fix something else another person failed to do correctly.

Spreadsheets are not Where I Excel

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

Bring in the Dart-Throwing Chimp

What joy I’m having today. I wish everyone reading this could share it with me. I mean it. All four of you.

Maybe it’s more than four. I finally decided to find out what Feedly is, and it looks like I have 39 subscribers. Hey, it’s your time. If you really think this is a good way to spend it, I guess I don’t mind enabling you.

I’ve spent a good part of the day learning to use a spreadsheet program. I mainly use my garage computer these days, and because I’m too cheap to pay for Microsoft Office, I put Open Office on it, and it includes a spreadsheet. That’s what I used.

I was comparing homeowner’s insurance quotes. Yes, you may shoot me if you are in the area.

If insurance brokers actually wanted you to understand what you’re buying, they would use a standard quote form. I can state with confidence, but without research, that by 2016, this thought has occurred to someone in the industry. Instead, everyone makes up a form, and comparing them is nearly (and intentionally) impossible.

Here is my primitive understanding of spreadsheets. They allow you to make huge tables of things you want to compare or analyze, and you can do bulk math on the stuff in the boxes. I think that’s correct. I haven’t done any of the bulk math stuff.

I made three lists for three quotes, and I tried to line up corresponding costs so I could compare them. After I was done, I found out I actually had two quotes that looked like three. Or something. I still haven’t figured it out.

I’m only a lawyer. I shouldn’t be expected to understand insurance quotes directed at the ignorant masses.

The quote I like is the one that appears to try least hard to hide things from me.

The main thing I’ve learned is that hurricane windows are probably a good idea. I guess that was helpful. Hurricane windows cut insurance costs by almost two thirds.

I found some people to give me window quotes. I wonder if I’ll be able to understand them.

I also found tech specs for the sprinkler pump I ordered, so I should be able to get the crap I need to install it and turn it into a plug-and-play job by the time the pump arrives.


I’m a riot.

No, what will actually happen is that I will scout out the correct parts and prepare them as well as possible, and then a bunch of unforeseeable stuff will happen, and I’ll end up in the pump shed, covered with filth, using the wrong tools to do a bad job fixing problems I don’t really understand.

This is not my first rodeo.

I can predict in advance that I will do a much better job of installing the pump than anyone I could hire. That’s a certainty. I guess the pros keep getting their parole revoked before they can get really good.

I’ve never been in a penitentiary (let’s hope my luck holds), but they must have really wonderful roofs, sprinklers, and landscaping. Practically everyone in there who isn’t a lawyer is in one of those fields.

I don’t know how Feedly works, because I do not read blogs. My fear (not a big one) is that subscribers get the first version of anything I write. If so, I feel for them, because I never proofread until I’ve published the first version. I feel especially bad for anyone who comes and posts an angry comment based on a typo or something I deleted during proofreading. Like I’ll type something like, “I like women who have a lot of class” and forget to type the “cl.”

I have been somewhat productive today, and I have suffered tremendously, so I feel like I can allow myself to get back to The Iliad and knock off a few dozen pages. Yesterday I did something like 130 pages. This is like reading 3000 pages of a normal book while someone sprays soapy water in your eyes. I was determined to get it behind me, so I made the sacrifice.

Just a normal sacrifice. Not a hecatomb, complete with bulls and boars and bird entrails.

It looks like Hektor is not long for this world. When I exited Scrib’d, he was talking smack to Achilleus.

Greek heroes are a great deal like WWE stars. They can’t just kill you. They have to stand in front of a crowd and give a juvenile speech first. It’s sad, really. Both guys will talk about how bad they are and how they’re going to send the other guy to hell in several shipments blah blah blah, and then one sentence later Homer is telling you how the head of one’s spear is going in the other’s ear and out through his tongue, separating his teeth from his jaws and causing his eyeballs to pop out and roll in the dust.

I guess the Greeks never heard the expression, “I ain’t going out like that.” They DO go out like that. Over and over.

After a Greek hero kills you, he strips you naked and takes your armor (lot of good it did you), and then he either leaves you there for the dogs to eat, or he cuts up your dead body for fun. And then leaves you there for the dogs to eat.

So your Greek buddies are still running around having a gay old time, jabbing each other with lances, and there you are, naked, several yards from your eyeballs. And the guy who did it is probably giving another speech and laughing his butt off.

I fail to see the appeal.

Dogs, worms, and crows seem to do well in these stories.

I may actually finish this book today. I certainly hope so.

Not Pumped

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

Mexican Electrics, Unbelievably, Fail the Endurance Test

The sprinkler pump adventure is not over yet.

My old pump is supposed to have 1.5″ plumbing, minimum, and the motor should be 1.5 HP. When I cut the old PVC off, I found that the pipe had narrowed to 1.25″ or less, and it was globbed up with plastic. The walls weren’t smooth and straight. It was like the inside of a cave. The pump (a Mexican replacement for the original) was 2 HP, so I was paying for electricity I didn’t need.

For some reason, I thought irrigation pumps were expensive. I just assumed. The one I had was heavy cast iron, and it was made in America, so I figured it cost a ton. When I saw a replacement motor for $165, I thought it was a deal, so I bought it.

Today I got the motor out of the shed, which was not fun at all, and I carried it to my bench. That’s about fifty yards, and it probably weighs 75 awkward pounds. I took the motor apart in pieces and then found I was going to have a hard time getting the shaft out of the impeller. The shaft should have been stainless, but it was very rusty, and there was no way to access the impeller without taking the pump apart. The pump was pretty much a unit, with the halves welded together by rust caused by the installer’s decision to leave the iron base sitting just off the ground surrounded by wet leaves.

I decided to derust the pump. I put it in a shop vac tub with water and soda, and I connected a battery charger.

After all this work, I went on the web and started researching pumps, and I found out a new one is only $300. That’s not chicken feed, but I was thinking $600 or something, based on what the sprinkler guys were saying. They are just as hopeless as the pump.

Now I have a new pump on the way, and I’m trying to cancel the new motor. I’m hoping they didn’t ship it yet. I ordered it late on a Friday. I don’t care. They are welcome to the return shipping fee.

After all this misery, I have learned some important things. I already mentioned the bad installation and the screwed-up pipes. I also learned that the motor I just trashed wasn’t grounded. Somebody could have been killed working on it. The person who installed it deliberately left it that way. I believe that would be the same company that just came out here and failed in almost every regard. Now I know not to call them again.

I’m going to install the new pump myself because NO ONE IN SOUTH FLORIDA CAN BE TRUSTED TO CONNECT THREE WIRES AND DO ONE FOOT OF PLUMBING. I would love to pay someone, but apparently that would be like going to the vet for a vasectomy.

Once it’s in, I’ll find a reputable sprinkler company on Angie’s List and kiss the old outfit goodbye forever.

I don’t know what to use for a pump base. Wood will rot. Even pressure-treated wood rots eventually. I should go get some aluminum channel. It will outlast the sun. It will get pretty crusty in the damp shed, but it won’t disappear like wood, and it won’t petrify with thick rust.

Tradesmen are getting really stupid. At least it seems that way. I know virtually nothing about irrigation or electrical work, but I am miles ahead of the professionals who have worked here.


Saturday, April 30th, 2016

ASUS Deserves a Kick in the Butt

In 2012, I got myself an ASUS Transformer Prime tablet. The reviews said it was the greatest thing that had ever happened to the world.

I wanted to be able to read ebooks. That was all I cared about. I could have gotten a Kindle or some other dedicated reader, but I figured I might as well get something versatile in case I wanted apps or whatever. The Transformer seemed like the right move.

After I did all my research and got the tablet home, I discovered that it had major wifi and GPS problems. The case on the tablet is aluminum, not the usual plastic, and it (DUH) interferes with radio waves. The antennas are inside the box, and they do not communicate very well with…anything.

On top of that, the little card holding the antennas connects to the tablet using pogo pins. These are little nipply pins that hold circuit boards in place. My understanding is that they’re not intended to be used as connectors, but they’re metallic, so ASUS figured what the hell.

When you close the ASUS case, two pogo pins on one side push against two copper strips on the antenna card, and you have contact. Or not. If something isn’t aligned right, or if the contacts are dirty (mine were), you get squat.

The pogo problem is so stupid it can sometimes be fixed by squeezing the tablet while you use it. This pushes the pins into the copper and improves conduction.

That’s not a great solution. You don’t want to sit in Starbucks squeezing your tablet with one hand and holding your $7 latte in the other while you try to look at Scrib’d.

By the way, some applications are useless when your Wifi is bad, even if they claim you can use them offline. Scrib’d is a prime (pun or whatever not intended) example. It won’t save your place in books. It takes forever to open books you have supposedly saved to your device. It’s horrible.

I’m not sure what to do about GPS, and I’m not sure I care, but I can tell you want to do about the Wifi. First, install a free app called Wifi Analyzer and check your reception. Don’t rely on those stupid bars.

The Transformer opens very easily. No, seriously. You can find sites online that show you how to do it. Basically, you pull two rubber stoppers out of the side where the USB hole is, and inside you find two latches. You push them to the left using the tip of a tiny Phillips screwdriver, and that releases the case from the screen.

The screen has a gaskety thing under it, against the aluminum case, and it’s sticky. You separate it by shoving a guitar pick (only the tip) in the gap and sliding it around the case perimeter. It will try to close up behind the pick, so as you go, put shims in there to hold it open.

Eventually, the case opens. You open the USB side first, and the other side acts sort of like a hinge. Don’t rely on my instructions. Find pictures online.

Don’t use metal tools. You’ll gouge everything.

Once you’re inside, you’ll see the antenna card stuck to the underside of the screen side of the tablet. On the outside edge of the case, you’ll see two copper tabs labeled GPS and WLAN (Wifi) or something like that. I don’t have it in front of me.

On the other half of the tablet, opposite the card, you’ll see two gold pogo pins that touch the card when the case is closed.

I took a burnishing tool and polished the pins and the copper foil contacts on the card. A burnishing tool is a little stick with a very fine abrasive on it. You can probably use 2000-grit sandpaper if you have a light touch. Maybe this is a mistake, though, because it’s possible that the crap I removed from my foil was actually some sort of grease intended to prevent oxidation. We’ll see. You can always grease it again.

To fix the Wifi problem, cut a piece of insulated stranded (not solid) wire 2.75″ long. You want very thin wire. Expose about 1/4″. Yank the exposed portion so the other end of the wire sinks slightly into the insulation. This will hide it so it doesn’t touch anything conductive.

Flatten the exposed part of the wire. Then rest it on the WLAN foil and close the case. You want the metal to be pinched between the case halves. This holds the wire in place. Don’t let the insulation come between the halves, because it’s thick, and it will obstruct them when you close the case. I suppose this could crack the glass. If you’re a real man, take a diamond burr or a file and make a little notch in the aluminum side of the case so the insulation will have a place to go, and then close it. I did not find this necessary, because the case holds the metal strands very tightly.

You want the wire to be slightly over 2.5″ long, because that’s a good length for wifi. The length affects the reception. The wavelength is 4.92″, so you want a nice even fraction, like ~2.5″ or ~1.25″. I am not an EE, so I may be wrong.

If you’re getting good contact, you should see a gigantic reception improvement when you turn on Wifi Analyzer. If not, maybe the pogo pin is too short, and you need to put a wad of foil or soldering braid between it and the antenna card.

I considered soldering a wire directly to the pogo pin, which would be the really manly move, but I decided to try the other way first, because it was easy to do and easy to reverse.

If you solder a wire to your pogo pin, you might lose the ability to remove the card (if you’re bad at removing solder), but come on. Do you plan to remove it?

Now you have a wire sticking out of your tablet. How will you live? It shouldn’t be a problem. Unless you’re crazy, you have a protective case on your tablet, and the wire will be easy to conceal.

Look, do you want wifi or not?

I used a 22-gauge black Teflon wire. It’s very thin and hard to see. I would guess that a thinner wire would work about as well.

The tablet works now. Very exciting.

I assume this will also work for GPS, but I haven’t tried it. I don’t know what the wavelength is or how long the wire should be. ASUS supplies a worthless attachment for improving the GPS performance. Everyone hates it, so I’m not trying it. They actually had a class-action suit and gave people a free attachment (“dongle”) and $17. I read that the dongle obstructs the USB port, so you can’t connect a charger. Yeah, that’s what you want. Power-sucking GPS and no DC supply.

I may to back in later and solder the wire to the pogo pin, but I probably won’t unless something blows up.

Enjoy your now-working tablet.

Over Here, we Have the Horse’s Mouth

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

And on the Other End…

I have to put in some Iliad time today. That book is like a prison. I feel like I can’t read anything else until I finish it. I cheat, but not much.

Yesterday was obliterated by the sprinkler pump debacle. When it was done, and I was finished stooping in a filthy place, running a vibrating tool that nearly blistered my palms, the last thing I felt like doing was wading through more turgid simile soup. I could have killed 40 more pages had I not underestimated the stubbornness of the bolts holding the pump on.

After 40 or 50 pages, my mind shuts down, as though to punish me. Or maybe it’s a warning, like the gag reflex kicking in after you drink a tumbler of straight vodka.

Last time I looked, Patroklos was about to meet Jesus. Of course, he didn’t expect Jesus. He expected Charon. But heathens are wrong about the afterlife. Boy, was he in for a surprise. Anyway, Hektor (the Lattimore spelling) was getting ready to turn Patroklos into a kebab, and then, judging from the movie, Achilles (not the Lattimore spelling) would stop pouting, join the battle, and die.

The lesson is that it pays to pout.

I wonder how much the ancient Greeks knew about economics. I wonder if they realized it was a bad idea to take all the successful men in the world and have them hack each other to death with bronze swords. Imagine what would happen if we did that today. The productive, helpful 1% would be gone, and the ignorant Bern-feeling rabble would be picking through the ruins, destroying anything good that had been left behind.

In short, it would be a lot like 2020. Or Detroit.

A good friend got me a couple of books which I would rather be reading than The Iliad. A preacher named Rick Renner wrote them. They’re about the early church. I think. Thanks to Homer, I’m only about 15 pages in.

Renner studies history, and he looks at the original texts of the Bible. He seems to get revelation. He’s a lot like Perry Stone. He connects dots. He corrects our understanding of things in the Bible, and he shows us that things that seem trivial actually have meaning.

I enjoy that kind of stuff, but I don’t want to dedicate my life to studying it. If you spend a lot of time in prayer, God tells you things directly, and if you wander off and bury yourself in things other people have written, you can end up robbing God to pay Perry Stone.

John said we didn’t need men to teach us. He said the Holy Spirit would do it. That sounds radical and rebellious, and it could be dangerous in the hands of someone who isn’t ready, but it’s in the Bible, so what does that make it?


Learning is great, but if you know God personally, it’s a mistake to regress and go back to depending on human beings for your understanding. Most people need human beings to introduce them to God, but after that, it should be a direct connection. Human beings should drop back and assume a minor role.

You never know who will fall, or who will make a bad mistake. If you’re following a man instead of the Holy Spirit, you’re taking a big chance. Well, that’s not true. It’s not a chance. That implies that you might succeed. If you trust a man, you have assured that you will have serious problems.

Once you start hearing from God, you don’t go to other people for instruction all that much. You go for confirmation of what you’ve already heard. If you haven’t heard anything, you’re not doing your homework, and homework, not the lectures, is the actual course.

It’s not good to be ignorant, but you have a limited amount of time here, and if you spend too much of it on man’s hit-or-miss teaching, you will neglect the pure and correct teaching of God.

I can’t remember the last time I made a point of listening to a preacher. They’re so disappointing. They’ll say a few things I know to be true, and then out will pop something like, “And it’s so important to TITHE.” Then I’ll realize I’m listening to a hack who sees preaching as a job.

I decided to quote John here, and I thought I would just quote the verse about how we don’t need men to teach us, but I looked at the context and realized it was important to quote more of the book.

Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.

These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

What is he saying here? He’s saying the world is full of false preachers who came out of the church. These men went out on their own, in human knowledge and effort, without the Holy Spirit. They fell into error, and they teach garbage that actually comes from Satan.

He’s saying that if you hear from God directly, you won’t have to worry about believing lies. If you know the truth, you’ll stay on the path, and when Jesus returns you won’t be ashamed.

It’s exactly what I’m experiencing. It’s what I was trying to say, above.

Many of the people who are misleading us are mostly right. They teach a lot of good things. But they’re wrong about enough things to derail the train. The devil loves to bake a beautiful cake and put a tiny chunk of poo deep in the middle of it; people only see the good 99%, and they swallow the poo whole. The Holy Spirit isn’t like that. His product is pure.

Here’s how I feel about it: I’ll start relying on men again when God starts refusing to tell me anything. I’ll let you know when that happens. Don’t hold your breath.

It reminds me of what my great uncle said when someone asked him why he didn’t give money to the Lord. He said he couldn’t find anyone he could trust to take it to him. There are a lot of people out there wearing God’s uniform and playing for the other team, and without the Holy Spirit, you’re not smart enough to pick them out.

These people are going to fool you, just as they’ve fooled me. Don’t flatter yourself. I don’t care how many ancient authors you’ve studied, and I don’t care if you’ve explored the ruins at Ephesus so many times the clerk at the Motel 6 sends you birthday cards. Any, ANY man can be fooled. Only the Spirit knows what you should believe.

I know a lot of people who think T.D. Jakes is great. He’s a big, chubby, fatherly figure, and he yells a lot, so he seems like he’s correcting people. But he teaches the prosperity gospel, which is a black hole where faith dies. He pals around with the slime of the earth; either he can’t tell the wolves from the sheep, or he thinks it’s okay to hang out with wolves.

A lot of people love Joel Osteen. Unfortunately, the man teaches self-confidence, which is evil, and he doesn’t correct people. He doesn’t teach people to be Spirit-led. Like Jakes, he associates with rich preachers who rob people who want to know God.

Salvation alone will not enable you to pick out the losers, and neither will the advice of other people.

When you move toward God, you go through a succession of preachers. The first ones you encounter know a little bit about God, and it impresses you. Then you start to see their errors. You move on to better preachers, and eventually, you see they’ve dropped the ball, too. As you get closer to God, you will pass people who are closer to God than the people you knew before them. You will PASS them. Don’t be disturbed by that. Embrace it. If it’s not happening, something is wrong.

It reminds me of my experience with Scotch. When I was about 22, someone introduced me to Scotch, and I loved it. I enjoyed every glass of Scotch anyone put in front of me, no matter how cheap it was. Then I started not liking the cheap stuff. Within a year, I could only drink good Scotch. Now, if it’s not at least 12 years old, don’t even bother serving it to me. I can tell the difference. I even know 16-year-old Macallan 16 is better than 18-year-old Macallan.

Discernment increases with time, and the things you reject later on look much better than the things you rejected at the start.

I’m not recommending anyone drink Scotch. It’s just an analogy.

As you spend time with the Holy Spirit, you will find you want better and better things. Joel Osteen may seem fine today, but six months from now, you might want to slam the door if he showed up at your house.

I used to subscribe to Perry Stone’s monthly CD’s. They were very informative. I eventually quit. Jentezen Franklin, the prosperity preacher, is one of his best buddies. Stone endorses Joyce Meyer. He’s angry all the time. He loves to argue. If I want to learn why the poles in the tabernacle were made of cedar wood (or whatever), he’s the guy to ask, but if you only develop as much as he has, you will regret it. You need all the growth you can get.

I used to listen to Andrew Wommack, but he’s tight with the wolves, too. I can’t read his mind, but he seems proud. That’s a very fundamental problem; it’s the worst fault you can have. If he can’t show you how to overcome that, he’s not that useful.

You don’t need these people. You don’t need me. You can even survive without the Bible, if you have to. But you do need the Holy Spirit.

So I look forward to reading Rick Renner’s books, but I am too busy to study his teaching. Like I said, I have another source which takes priority. I have the tailor; I’m not going to buy off-the-rack at Macy’s.

It’s not pride. It’s just fear of stepping off the path and onto a landmine. I’ve done that many times in the past. Think of the fools I trusted.

Forget that. Never again. Never.

Jesus didn’t die so I could have a secondhand relationship with God.

What a tangent. Even for me, that was pretty bad. I thought I was writing about boring books about dimwitted sword-swingers.

I have to get that sprinkler pump loose from the wall. I don’t think I can procrastinate any longer.

Maybe I can. If I try.

After all, the feel-good preachers say I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.

I hope this stuff is useful to you, especially if you’re reading this in the future and you have no Christians you can talk to. It will still work. You are still important.

Somebody, Please, Take my Money

Friday, April 29th, 2016

The People who Want $15 per Hour are Robbing us at $8

Today I had a painful reminder of a paradoxical truth about tools: the more you buy, the more jobs you will run into which do not yield to them.

I came up against a sprinkler pump that tried to kill me.

The yard looked bad, so I called the pros. They sent out some nice guys who–I am not trying to be mean here–had that look you see when you go to businesses where they hire a lot of ex-cons. They said the motor was cooked, and when I started asking fairly basic questions, they got confused.

I was afraid they were going to charge me $500 and put in a Chinese motor. I love Asian tools, but motors are not where the Chinese shine their brightest. I wanted a Baldor or some other American motor.

The existing motor, which looks sort of Chinese, is probably under ten years old. The original motor probably lasted 40 years.

The motor was held on by four bolts. Child’s play.

I took a few wrenches out to the shed and started working. The upper bolts popped off instantly with a 9/16″ Gearwrench. When I went after the lower bolts, the wrench wouldn’t grab them.

I still don’t know what’s going on. Maybe rust deformed the bolt heads. Maybe the installers used weird bolts with funny heads. But nothing wants to grab them.

There’s more to it than that. The bolts are situated so they’re hard to reach, and you don’t get much swing on the wrench. If you could turn the bolts ten degrees at a pop, you’d be doing great.

It gets worse. A bolt head has to be a certain height before a Gearwrench will engage it. These bolts are too low. That means you need an open-end wrench. Because of the geometry of bolts, a wrench has to be in one of twelve exact angular positions in order to engage. Think about it. If you can’t get your wrench into one of those positions, youre…well, you’re where I was this afternoon.

The answer was a socket wrench, right? Wrong. The bolts were in a small space between a motor and pump. A socket wrench is thick, and sockets take up space. I was barely able to get a socket on one bolt, and when I started loosening it, it drove the wrench into the motor as it rose. Now the wrench was stuck in the pump.

I decided to take the pump apart and take off the motor and half of the pump. Then I could rotate the motor and get at the bolts. I removed the bolts and pried at the pump, and it would not budge.

Next move: a rotary tool. I got out the Proxxon and the big cutting disk (now small), and I started cutting into the motor to sever the bolt inside the aluminum end cap. The disk wore down pretty fast, and I’m still not sure I got through.

I remembered I had a Fein Multimaster. I stuck a saw blade on it and went to work. After maybe half an hour, I probably got 3/4 of the way through the bolts. I eventually decided I would die if I continued to the end, so I decided to cut the PVC pipes attaching the pump to the sprinker system.

Now I had a disembodied pump attached to a circuit breaker box with a rusty pigtail. Which I could not detach. The hardware was so corroded I couldn’t get it to come off.

Right now the whole apparatus is lying on the floor of the shed. Some time tomorrow I plan to take dynamite out there and remove the pigtail so I can bring the pump into the garage and remove the motor. After that, I’m going to beat it with a blacksmith’s hammer.

I found an old Baldor jet pump motor on Ebay, and it should fit.

The original motor on the pump (a Goulds XSH) was a rebranded A.O. Smith made somewhere in ‘Murica. I found a NOS job on Ebay, but it said “pool,” not “irrigation,” so it spooked me. I was afraid it was inferior.

Now instead of writing a check while lying in the shade under an AC vent, I have to put feet on the pump (someone had installed it so the PVC held it in midair), and then I have to connect the new motor. It looks like the old motor has a carbon steel shaft, not stainless, because there is a lot of rust. I strongly suspect the rusty threaded shaft will stick to the impeller, and then I’ll have to open the *#^@*@% pump up and replace it.

I also have to fix the PVC, which will take maybe four hours, including shopping.

I think I’m doing the right thing, because the old pump is very well made, and the new motor is top-notch, so I should be dead (with any luck) the next time it craps out. If I get a new pump, I think it will die in five years.

Wait. I’m not planning to be here in five years.

Man, I wish I had thought of that.

Okay, that was stupid. But at least I’ll be done with it.

It’s a shame you can’t write people checks and have them fix things correctly. I would love to give someone money to do this for me, but I can’t find anyone.

People complain about the job market. Maybe it would be better if they could DO SOMETHING.

Just a thought.

Tonight’s Question

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Someone Has Been Running the Milling Machine Again

Why is it that a tiny metal splinter in your finger can cause you incredible pain, yet taking tweezers and yanking out the clump of flesh surrounding the splinter–completely destroying an amount of flesh much larger than the spinter–relieves the pain?

Extremism in the Pursuit of Manliness is no Vise

Monday, April 18th, 2016

Apologies to Whomever

I’ve been fiddling around with the Moxon-style vise I made for my workbench.

A Moxon vise is, of course, named after Mr. Moxon, and it’s just a board with two holes, two threaded rods, and two handwheels. The rods go through the board, the wheels go on the rods outside the board, and when you tighten them on the rods, the board squeezes stuff against your workbench.

The photo will make it obvious.

You can buy a kit to make a Moxon vise, but that would be lame, so I had to make one from scratch. That meant buying rod with Acme threads on it, and it meant putting inside threads on a couple of cast-iron wheels. I blogged about that already.

I was not all that happy with the threading. I made my own tool to do it, and it worked, but I was learning, so I did not do a great job. The wheels functioned, but not like they should have. I resolved to do it over, and I got new wheels.

One day I saw a good deal on an Acme 3/4-6 tap on Ebay, and I got weak and bought it. Tapping is much easier than single-point threading. Instead of using a lathe to do a million spiral cuts inside your work, you drill a big bore and tighten the tap into it. Threads done.

I got the tap and bored it out to about 0.590″, which–I cannot stress this enough–is the bore size I got after looking in numerous places.

Later I found out the correct figure is 0.610″, unless my current sources are also wrong. This would explain why my first two wheels weren’t right. I was starting with a bore that was too small, so even if the raised threads were right, the valleys between them would not want to go through the wheels.

But to get back to the tap, I stuck the wheel on the lathe and turned everything by hand, and it was a horror. The tap just did not want to turn. It was horrendous labor.

I got it partway in and decided to move the work to the drill press, and I rigged it up so I could turn the tap with two wrenches.

When I was finally done, I pulled the tap out and found that I had created a really big bore with no threading inside it.

Here is the funny part. The Ebay ad said the tap was a “stub Acme” tap. I figured, “Okay, that means it’s not a long tap.”

The 0.001% of my readers who know what stub Acme means are laughing really hard right now. The rest will Google the term and pretend they knew. Stub Acme is a type of thread used on hollow tubes. The threads are shallow. That means you have to start with a way-bigger hole. If not…smooth bore.

There is one nice thing about stub Acme. A stub Acme internal thread will work okay with a regular Acme external thread. You can thread a stub Acme nut on an Acme screw. Just don’t apply too much pressure, because there isn’t a whole lot of contact.

It works okay for a Moxon vise, so I was able to do another wheel and combine it with the better of my single-point wheels and come up with a vise that works. My plan for the future is to get two more wheels, bore them to 0.610″, and single-point thread them. But that can wait.

My vise is a little weird. Typically, a Moxon vise doesn’t open far, and the rods are fixed in place. Because they don’t go in and out of the bench, you don’t want them to stick out too far. They get in your way. I thought that was silly, so I fixed my screws so they could be screwed in and out of the bench. That means I can get an object maybe a foot wide into the vise, and when I’m done, the screws go back in.

The big problem with this is that turning the oily screws in and out by hand is not fun.

Today I fixed that. My original plan was to mill hex ends on the screws and use wrenches to turn them, but I decided to try something easier. I drilled two holes in the ends of the screws, perpendicular to their axes. Now when I want to move the screws in or out, I pop an Allen wrench in the holes and use it as a tommy bar. Simple and relatively cool.

If you really want a superior wood vise, get a Record or something similar. For a hundred-odd bucks you can get something really nice. But the Moxon is fun, and it has a very long jaw, which can be a plus.

I will put up a photo of the vise so you can see what I did.

04 18 16 moxon vise screw with hole for tommy bar reduced

One day I will get out of denial and do another project: a woodworking bench with a welded metal base. Woodworkers love wooden benches, but the reality is that metal is better. It’s way lighter. You can put a wooden top on a metal frame and save tons of work and weight.

My current bench probably weighs 300 pounds with the mechanic’s vise removed. It has a pleasantly solid feel, but hey, there’s a reason mankind started building things out of steel. If I make a steel base, it will be easy to put wheels on it. There will be more room under it to store stuff. I can simply replace the wooden top whenever it falls apart.

Woodworkers will excommunicate me. You know how people are.

Here’s a video of a surprisingly calm and likable Jamie Hyneman making the case for metal. He seems less irritable without his partner. That makes sense. I can see how dealing with Adam Savage would be like having a live squirrel turned loose inside your clothes.

I am Not Completely Stupid

Monday, April 18th, 2016

“Completely,” I Said

I am waiting for a guy to give me an estimate on fixing the garage door on the rental house. My general contractor wanted about $1800. I’m guessing a reasonable price would be more like $100.

The door has a big dent in one lower corner, and some of the support stuff behind it is bent. I don’t see $1800 there. The door does not have to be replaced. It just has to be repaired. Even if it were replaced, I believe the cost of a new door would be more like $800, based on Internet research.

When we agreed to hire the contractor, he assured me orally that the house would be completely ready to move in, once the things in his proposal were done. Little things like the $1800 garage door and the $1200 shower enclosure must not have appeared essential to him. He isn’t even including shower rods.

I refused to tell the garage people the price the contractor quoted me. I said I didn’t want to tell them it was ten dollars and have them come back with $9.50. Common sense.

I don’t like it when workers ask what other people bid. It’s an open admission that they’re trying to stick it to me. I know you’re trying to cheat me; be tactful about it. Or you could be totally forthright. You could say, “Are you stupid?” I could then say, “Not completely.” And you could bill me appropriately.

The contractor’s people are working on the house now. I assume they will be there when I show up to parade the new garage guy through. Will the contractor be upset? Ask me about something I care about. It’s not my job to give “safe spaces” to tradesmen who charge me money and deal with me at arm’s length.

This is how competitive bidding works. It’s not about feelings. I have to get that door fixed, and instead of including the job in the contract, the contractor surprised me with a bid. He started the bidding process, so he should not be offended to see it play out.

You makes the rules; you lives by the rules.

Now I have to fill the time until the garage guy contacts me.

The contractor also tried to charge $400 for a new toilet in the mother-in-law room. I went over to see what was wrong with it, and it worked perfectly. I sent the contractor’s girl an email asking what the exact problem was, and she said their plumber had unclogged it, but that it was still slow to fill. And of course, I care a lot about how long a tenant has to wait for a toilet tank to fill up. That toilet has been slow since 1945. Its performance will not shock anyone, and what’s time to poop?

Do I even have to say that this is bad customer relations?

If something isn’t broken, you don’t ask for money to fix it. If you think something is broken, and you ask for money to fix it, and then you fix it for nothing in two minutes, you tell the customer instead of hoping he goes ahead and pays you.

I could never give this guy a reference.

In other news, I have a big achievement to report. I have concocted my own daily shower spray. No, it’s not for me. Would that it were. It’s like Clean Shower, except it doesn’t cost three dollars per bottle.

I had been using soap scum remover and a sponge mop. It worked great, but it was a pain. I tended to get water and soap scum remover on my clothes, and it was just not a quality experience. I decided to get some daily shower spray and see what happened.

If you’re not familiar with this stuff, I will explain. You spray your shower every day (the manufacturer hopes), and the spray dissolves soap scum before it can form. Your shower never gets dirty enough to need scrubbing. In reality, you can spray less often and still win.

It worked great, but a bottle lasts three days. Even with laziness and missed days factored in, that’s $250 per year. Seems like a lot of money for shower spray. Also, the fragrance in some of these products is overpowering, and it fills your house. It’s like being hugged by 50 elderly aunts at once. You know those flowery perfumes older women love.

I found some online recipes. The problem is that recipes for substitutes for household cleaners are generally thrown together by people who are not chemists. They just guess. Sometimes they guess wrong, or they put superfluous stuff in their recipes.

I tried a recipe that had vinegar in it. I don’t recall whether it worked, but it made the house smell like salad, a thing I scorn. Fail.

I found another recipe. It contained dishwashing liquid, dishwasher rinse agent, alcohol, and hydrogen peroxide. It seemed to affect the scum, but it wasn’t as good as the real thing, and I wondered about those ingredients.

Hydrogen peroxide, in particular, looked dubious to me. Maybe it eats soap; I don’t know. But it struck me as the kind of thing a person would throw in there on a whim.

I also figured the alcohol was unnecessary. It’s just a solvent, and I have no reason to believe it works particularly well on soap.

I made a new batch when the first one ran out. I left the alcohol in, just because I like spraying things with alcohol. I removed the peroxide. I doubled the dishwashing liquid, and I kept the rinse aid. I also added six ounces of Zep no-scrub soap scum remover. The whole purpose is to dissolve soap scum, right? Why not use what works?

You’re on the edges of your seats, right? And you’re not even paying for this.

This stuff appears to work as well as the real thing, and I believe it’s pretty cheap. It will be cheaper still when I remove the alcohol. I use it every other day, and I have not had to scrub the shower in quite some time.

Here it is:

6 ounces no-scrub soap scum remover
1 tablespoon dishwashing liquid
1 tablespoon dishwasher rinse aid

Put this in a one-quart spray bottle and fill the empty space with water. That’s it. You just spray the shower walls and floor after you get out. The dishwashing liquid costs nearly nothing, and the soap scum stuff costs 20% of the price of a full bottle of same, or maybe 50 cents. The rinse aid is also cheap. So I guess this puts you at a total of around 75 cents. That puts your cost for spraying one big shower at what? About sixty bucks per year? ACCEPTABLE.

It’s not like scrubbing your shower is free. You have to use products for that. They don’t fall from the sky. If you can avoid scrubbing by paying sixty bucks, you have scored, my friend.

If I knew what was in soap scum remover, maybe I could bring the price down more. It seems to be diluted lye. Maybe I should use a small amount of oven cleaner instead of soap scum remover!

I suppose I could read the label.

Does it really matter if I pay $250 to keep the shower clean? Of course not, but you know how it is. I feel better about spending a thousand dollars and getting a good deal than spending two dollars and getting ripped off.

This is why I quit going to Five Guys. They charged me $16.34 for a burger, fries, and drink. I can afford that, but I can’t enjoy my food when I feel like a moron.

DISCLAIMER! DISCLAIMER! DISCLAIMER! I promise nothing. This spray may blind you and cause severe birth defects such as red hair, outies, and “fivehead.” I have no idea.

You will want to start with a clean shower, because this spray probably won’t have much effect on caked-on soap.

Now if I could just find a way to prevent my body from ejecting 5000 hairs onto the white tile floor every day.

I guess that guy will get here eventually.


The gigantic garage inquiry is over. The results are not exactly surprising.

The door does not need to be replaced. It has some mashed-up bits on the inside, where an idiot backed into it, but it’s not visible from the street. The lower part of the door can be screwed together to work correctly. Cost: 0.

There are some little problems with the opening system. It’s ancient, and the remotes have disappeared. The wall switch is gone, and so is the wiring. Cost to fix: $215. Cost for a whole new opener with remotes and switch: $300.

So, yeah, $1800 is a little high for a door for a one-car garage.

The city may get on its high horse (I think it’s glued there) and insist on a newer door that meets hurricane standards, but then again, it may not. If it does, it’s another $900. It may sound crazy, but my thinking is that it’s better to let the inspector have a look at the old door before assuming he’s going to condemn it. Either way, the worst-case scenario is a $1200 expenditure, not $1800. I realize contractors have to mark things up, but 50% does not seem reasonable.