Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's All The Hubbub, Bub?

I've been thinking about all the folks shouting other people down at the health care reform townhall meetings this summer, and the stink some people bizarrely raised about President Obama addressing school children to tell them to take responsibility for their education.

It got me wondering - where was the outrage from these people when AOL gave its users internet and newsgroup access?

Oh... wait... nevermind.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Yep. There it is.


Monday, August 10, 2009

World's Cleanest Dime?

This has to be the sixth time this dime has run through the wash. I keep finding it in the washer, putting it in my otherwise empty pocket, and forgetting it's there, so it ends up going along for the ride in the next load the pants I'm wearing are in. Is this destined to go on forever?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Accidental Coke Nail

I clipped my nails the other day. I must have gotten distracted somehow, though. Today I noticed I have a "coke nail". :P

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fixing the Dryer

I fixed the dryer last week. For quite a while it had been squeaking a bit in the beginning of cycles with heavy loads, with the squeaking lessening or stopping altogether as the load dried. Recently, though, it started rumbling loudly. The squeaking pretty much stopped then, or at least wasn't audible.

After poking around at it without opening the thing up (I wasn't sure I wanted to do that initially) I saw that the drum was separating from the back panel at the bottom. After a bit of research I figured it was probably a problem with the drum support rollers.

So I flipped off the circuit breaker, unplugged it, and opened it up.

At this point I'll mention that this is a Kenmore dryer, model 110.86672100 electric dryer. I mention this because I was able to find very little on this dryer in my searches and want to make this available for folks looking for help with this problem. The guide I used was an old copy of the Reader's Digest "New Fix-It-Yourself Manual", dated 1996. It was a housewarming gift from around 11 years ago. It's very visual, which helps, but sometimes sketchy and encyclopedic.

So, like I said, I opened it up. I didn't do it with a putty knife like all the dryer opening how-to guides out there tell you. That just didn't work for me. I was able to see the clips, though, and choose more capable tools: large and small flat-head screwdrivers. I pushed the large one into the slot to separate the top from the front panel a bit, the pushed in the center tab of the clip with the small one to release it. Repeat on each side. Oh, and I removed the lint trap and the screws under its cover first. Don't forget that step.

Let me interrupt here to mention that we have a magnetic vent cover we put on top of the lint trap handle. It's designed for heat & air vents, but does help if you get a bit of dust from your lint trap. Anyway, I put that on top of the water heater which is next to the dryer and it made a handy place to put removed screws.

After removing the top I removed the front panel with a box wrench. Then, after a good vacuuming, following the instructions in the book I removed the belt and drum. That's when I finally got a look at the guts.

These machines are pretty darn simple. Other than the heater, blower, and ductwork behind the back panel, and the electronics in the console, it's pretty much a motor, belt, drum, a couple wheels, and a belt tensioner.

There's a fabric ring around the back of the drum that meets up with the back panel to form a seal. Before tackling this I had described what was happening to my brother who then told me about his ring needing to be replaced when it started rumbling. The ring looked fine in ours, though, so I kept looking for the problem. (It's a good thing too, because I think replacing the ring would be a messier and longer job, with the glue involved.)

I poked around and discovered that the lower support roller was worn down so as to be visibly smaller than the right side roller, and it rocked on its shaft while the right side roller turned solidly and smoothly. So we went to the local appliance parts place to pick up a roller replacement kit. The kit included two rollers and four plastic triangular clips. When I took off the old parts, though, the bad roller had only one clip, but places for two. (I suspect the transition to rumbling may have happened when the missing clip finally broke off, and that it was picked up by the vacuum.)

Here you can see the old roller and the three remaining clips. You can see how much the one roller was worn, inside and out. The inside was worn more on one side than the other, and asymmetrically there. It was clearly the source of the rumbling, and the loss of support for the drum which caused it to drop away from the back panel. I suspect the lessening support also caused a loss of tension in the belt over time, which caused the squeaking. After I replaced the rollers the squeaking was gone too.

Here are the two new rollers in place around the back panel and motor. You can see the belt tensioner in front of the motor. I believe the motor also drives the blower behind the back panel. You can also see the wrench I used to remove the front panel and the bottom roller's support bracket, and the point of the small screwdriver. I also used that to pry the old clips off and to gently pry the new clips on. The roller clips fit into grooves around the shafts. The right roller clips are positioned farther apart, allowing the roller to move a bit as you remove and replace the drum. I suppose it gives it a bit of leeway in operation too. The bottom roller is fixed in one position, though, presumably to help hold the drum against the back panel.

And here is a closeup of the bottom roller. You can see where the plastic clip goes. There's one on the other side as well, which of course had to be put on before the roller. The bracket has a metal clip as well, which was also included in the kit. I put that back on by positioning the closed box wrench head over it and rapping it with the butt of the larger screwdriver handle.

After that I put back the drum and belt. A small box under the front of the drum was handy while putting the belt back on the tensioner and motor pully. Then I put the front panel back on. Opening the front door made it easier to support the drum while doing this. It probably would have been less awkward if I had some help, but it really wasn't all that bad.

Before closing the top I turned the drum a bit to make sure everything was fitting together. The fabric seal had gotten folded inside the drum around part of it, but that was easily fixed by pushing it back into place with a screwdriver from the inside of the drum.

I closed the lid, replaced the lint trap screws and the trap, plugged it in and closed the circuit breaker. I tested it and man did it run smooth! It hasn't rumbled since, and I think it's actually doing a better job. I suspect there have been gaps forming between the drum and pack panel that let cool air get in, reducing the drying power. Anyway, there you have it. I hope these illustrations help someone along the way. If you find yourself with the same repair to do and have any questions, feel free to post a comment. Most days I'll be alerted by email within the day, but I can only guarantee an honest answer, not an informed, accurate, timely, or useful one.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's Not A Swing - It's A Centrifuge!

Our now three-week-old baby has had two blow-outs over the weekend. Both were in his swing. It's the one from the Fisher Price Precious Planet collection. It looks harmless, but evidently the action of the swinging gives a little extra impetus to the poops. At least it does for our kid.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

One Lucky Shot

We were out for a walk Thursday afternoon. While waiting to cross the street I decided to take a shot of the Don't Walk sign against the backdrop of the tree. (There's a Complementary Colors themed competition at the Online Professional Visual Artists forum and I thought the red and green might work.)

As I pressed the shutter release I could see the "Don't Walk" part of the sign lit. The mirror flipped up for the shot, blocking my view, and when it flipped back down the "Walk" part was lit.

Curious, I took a look at the recorded image. What you see here is what I saw (with a little rotation and white balance adjustment.) Both parts of the sign were lit. The exposure was just 1/125 second. That was some close timing.

Of course I had to run with this for the competition. I cropped the image down to the sign and post. Since the green part of the sign was faded with age to the point of being basically pink, I recolored that part to a nice green. Will it win, place, or show? Who knows? I have other entries in, as do many very talented artists.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

My Photography - Bookstore Conversation

I haven't posted any of my photography lately. I've been considering creating a separate blog dedicated to it, but haven't really had the time so I guess I'll toss in this latest one.

We were on our usual walk around town and stopped into this used book store. It has a lot of character and I love taking pictures there.

I was on a raised area toward the read of the store and was taking a shot of the stairs. Then I noticed the conversation going on among the folks at the front desk and shifted the shot to include them. I think it better captures the atmosphere of the place.

Prints and other items featuring this photo are available for purchase.
Bookstore Conversation Custom Framed Prints and Greeting Cards at
Bookstore Conversation Prints and Greeting Cards at

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


That's my boy!

Got the word - today's the day!

Got the word - today's the day! He's scheduled to be delivered at 1:30 this afternoon. More later if I'm coherent. :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

A Bad Move By

Cafepress has announce that they are about to make a really bad move.

If you don't know who Cafepress is, it is a web site where people can upload images to be printed on t-shirts and other items. You can simply order items printed with your designs. Or you can make them available for other people to buy, with some of the sale price going to you.

Currently their business model is to charge customers a fixed base price for any given item, plus a markup determined by and paid to the designer (shopkeeper) of the image printed on it (less a percentage fee for very high markups to cover credit card processing fees.) In order to bring ih sales, they provide free storefronts for designers, with limited capacity and customizability. They also provide paid storefronts with less limited capacity and customizability. In addition, any designer can opt a store's contents into the marketplace, which is the design search for customers.

What's changing? Starting June 1 cafepress will be setting the sale price and markup for items sold in the marketplace, paying Designers a fixed 10% of the sale price of said items. They will also be choosing what goes into the marketplace, or screening it anway. The latter is something many shopkeepers have been hoping for to combat the scads of repetitive designs some submit with the only variation being names, pet breeds, state names, city names, etc. The former, however, is a huge departure from their basic business model.

Looked at from the perspective of Cafepress it may actually make some sense. The manufacturer gets their base price, the designer gets a percentage royalty, and whoever's running the store where it's bought sets the final sale price and gets the rest. Sounds fair, right?

The thing is, they haven't thought it through completely. There are many designers producing really good designs that fetch a high price. Under the announced plan they would get much less per sale through the marketplace, and have their shop prices undercut. So many of them have already announced in the Cafepress forum that they plan to pull their designs from the marketplace and even from Cafepress altogether as they move to other sites, like fast-growing (This is what I plan to do - see my links below at the bottom of the page.)

The effects have begun to show. Thursday the marketplace said there were 9,080,000 designs. Today it is 9,080,000. So people are pulling out already, though many say they will stick it out through the end of May to get what they can under the current model. (I'm among them. I'm hoping Cafepress will reconsider this plan, but seeing as how they've already put out a press release announcing it, I doubt it.) It is also reported that the rate of new designs being added has dropped by a good 2/3, many are already shifting their efforts elsewhere.

The net effect of all this is that many good designs will be gone from the marketplace, and some will be gone from Cafepress altogether.

I have to wonder if they perhaps predicted this would happen, and and maybe even brought this about intentionally in an effort to switch from user-provided content to licensing designs from name brand sources. We shall see.

My own plan is to begin building up my presence on, building galleries for my various brands, starting with what's currently selling and historically sold well on Cafepress. At the end of May I'll pull everything from the Cafepress marketplace that I've migrated so far, and maybe take it off entirely. Then, since there's no way I can finish it all with the baby coming (due May 15!) I'll continue to migrate the rest, removing it from Cafepress as I go.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Cruise Report Part 1: Leaving Home and Day 1

I was hoping to post about the cruise before now, but we've been a bit busy since we got back. We had a little down time so I started on it, but then we got busy again and it had to wait. But, finally, here it is. I've decided to split it into an entry for each day. Hopefully there won't be too much delay between entries.

The Cruise

In case I didn't mention this before this was a Disney cruise. It was a four-day (kinda), three-night cruise to Nassau and Disney's private island Castaway Cay (pronounced "key"), with the home port at Port Canaveral Florida. My travel agent sister-in-law told us it was a four-day cruise, but it was more like two and a half. The ship started boarding around mid-day on the first day, and we got off the ship on the morning of the fourth day. On each day it left port around sundown, arriving at the next port the following morning.

Leaving Home

As seen in my post on that day, the car was frosty on the morning we left. Our plan was to drive as far as we could the first day without staying up too late, then drive the rest the next morning. We ended up stopping in Saint Augustine, Florida, just a couple hours away from the port. As it turns out the hotel clerk recently moved there from our town. Small world.

Cruise Day One

Disney Cruise terminal Christmas decorationsWe had the typical free breakfast at the hotel, then drove to the port next morning. We apparently got there earlier than most. The lines were very short and fast and we spent an hour or two sitting in the terminal and looking at the Christmas decorations and the model of the ship. (As it turns out there are two ships, more or less identical except for "art deco" vs "art nouveau" decor, and the model was of the other ship.) We also talked to my wife's folks on the phone. None of her family arrived until after we had boarded.

We boarded the ship and as we entered the main lobby we were asked our names and announced. After that we went to the buffet for lunch, then walked around the deck to kill some time until our cabin was ready. Along the way we happened upon a couple ping-pong tables and decided to play a bit. We didn't keep score, just played for fun. It was just as well the way the ball kept rolling away. Fortunately the portion of the deck with the ping-pong tables had plexiglass covering the view over the side.

Sunset as we leave port in FloridaWe talked to my mother in law on the phone and were told that my sister in law and her family were checking in. We went back inside to the boarding area and waited on a balcony above where we were announced in hopes of getting a shot of them coming on, but after about 15 or 20 minutes of waiting we gave up. After a bit more wandering around, and finally meeting up with the family, we watched a bit of the show they put on on the middle pool deck. Then the ship left port as the sun set.

The cabin was nice. We got an interior cabin to save money. It was near the stern. (That's the rear of the ship to you land-lubbers.) It was comparable to a small but nice motel room. The only problem was the outer metal part of the hose to the shower head was broken and the rubber hose inside tended to kink. We didn't mention it to the cabin steward, figuring they probably couldn't fix it until they got back to port anyway. The cabin was, of course, decorated in a nautical Disney theme.

There were shows each night, and scheduled dinners at three restaurants. The shows and dinners were scheduled so that there were two shows a night, and two dinners at each restaurant. Passengers are scheduled in groups so that each night you eat in a different restaurant and get the same serving crew each night. As it happened, our group was scheduled for the late dinners. The first night we ate in the Animator's Palette restaurant. The whole room is in black and white, as are the staff uniforms, but some of the walls are painted screens with the same scenes in color behind them. Over the course of the meal the scenes are lit up so they appear in color, and the staff changes in to colorful vests. The food was pretty good. It was fairly fancy, as I recall, but I don't remember what I had.

Our cabin with towel bunnyIt was late after that so we called it a day and went back to the cabin. There was a towel sculpture of a bunny on the bed, along with a couple chocolates, a schedule for the next day's events and activities, and a card congratulating us on our wedding anniversary which was that month. After such a long and active (for us) day we were ready for bed. As we passed through the Florida straits, as we would later learn, the seas were a little more rough. Since we were near the stern the effect was more than it would have been amidships. For me it was nice. I kind of rocked me to sleep, though I was awakened in the night by the coat hangers swaying and clattering in the closet. They were quiet after I shoved them to one side (which I recommend as a bedtime routine if you ever take a cruise.) I don't think my wife liked it as much. We were told later by our restaurant servers that the seas were less calm than usual for our cruise, but the previous cruise was much worse due to the weather. In fact, we had not boarded by the normal entry due to the gangway being damaged by the motion of the ship in port.

That's it for the first day. More later.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

For The Time Being

I get weird ideas sometimes. Like this one: The Time Being.

I guess the Time Being would be a sci-fi or comic book character. Maybe something quasi-evil, or just alien with its own agenda. It would have some sort of command of time, or maybe a mission to keep history on track or something, hence the name.

It would also be able to compel people to do things on its behalf. Keeping timelines maintained is a big job, after all! They wouldn't hide the fact that they were working for him/her/it. In fact, if someone asked them why they were doing something strange, they would answer: "Oh, I'm just doing this for the Time Being."


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ambulance Chasers

When I heard about the crash ("water landing", I'd say) of US Airways flight 1549 I did a google for it to see what other news was available. I'm as curious as the next guy and it sounded like it landed about as safely as one could expect - I was hoping someone had posted pictures, or even videos of the plane landing in the water.

There wasn't really anything new yet, so I went about my business. Later, A bit less than two hours after the crash/water landing/epic save, I refreshed the search results. This is what came up...

Click on it for a clearer view if you want, but it's pretty clear to me. This is what they call an ambulance chaser. Nice job guys. Real tasteful.