December 2013 Archives

This Old House


So I love the idea of owning an old house, and I look forward to the things that I'll be able to do with it: convert it back into a single family house, create a large entertaining room upstairs, remove the upstairs kitchen and turn it into a wet bar, update the downstairs kitchen, install new flooring, replace the plaster and lathe with drywall, install central air, replace the garage... all in good time.

What I don't love is fixing things that previous contractors/owners have goofed-up. Take the rewiring of the house, for example. The previous home owner hired a contractor to do some wiring work on the house a while back. Unfortunately, the work was so poor, I had to redo it, which is time consuming, wasteful, and was potentially dangerous - whomever performed the wiring work didn't understand the very basics...

And then there was the upstairs bathroom. The hard plumbing lines are all exposed. There's an original lead hot water supply line that runs to the vanity and shower, and it's in decent condition. The cold water line, however, appears to have been "updated" some time ago. Unfortunately, whoever did the work was a complete ogre.

They didn't apparently have a tubing bender, nor did they have a tubing cutter. It looks like they bought a 15-foot length of 1/2" copper and just hand bent it into place. It was absolutely terrible. If you don't have smooth bends in copper, you'll end up damaging the copper, and it'll leak. When that happens, it looks like this:


I was so nervous about the line bursting that I decided to replace it. Instead of messing with copper, I chose to go with a synthetic material known as "Pex." Pex is easier to work with, inexpensive, and is an ideal candidate for a job like this.

Before I ripped out the old stuff, I snapped one more photo of the quality installation job as done by the previous person. The copper line is the one on top, with all of the kinks and uneven bends.


I spent $40 for 15-feet of Pex, a Pex line cutter, two 90-degree radius guides, and two "Sharkbite" connectors. The hardest part of the job was taking out the old copper. There weren't any shut-off valves upstairs, so I had to turn off the main water and hot water heater valves. Once those were off, I used a torch to loosen the old connections and then pulled everything out.

I measured my new Pex, cut it to length, ran it appropriately, made my connections, and gave it a test. 100% success.

Looks a little better, and now I can sleep at night without worry of flooding the house thanks to a burst water line.


Cutting the Cable

I haven't had cable television for at least 5-years, and to be honest, I don't miss it one little bit. Well, that's not entirely true - I do miss having a DVR and channel guide; I didn't think I'd ever have such an option to me and my primitive antenna system.

That all changed when I was surfing the web the other day and discovered that TiVo works with antennas. They have a device known as the "Roamio" that allows you to record up to four different HD channels at once while watching whatever you want to. The device supports 1080i HD picture, Dolby surround sound, and is compatible with wireless networks. Score.

I purchased a Roamio, brought it home, set it up (a process that took forever thanks to what I imagine is a very primitive TiVo infrastructure; a software update for the device took more than an hour to download and install, which is ridiculous), and before long, was enjoying a full channel guide, a full featured DVR, and a universal remote that controls all of my components.

I'm in love with this thing.


Baby it's cold outside...


"Well, hellloooooo Wisconsin!" said that frigid b-word, Mother Nature.

What the heck just happened with our weather? When I woke-up to go to work this morning, my car's thermometer showed an impressive -1F. Wowser. While my car wasn't too pleased with the cold weather, I was nice and balmy warm, thanks to a few recent purchases.

Before I get too far along, you'll probably recall that I purchased a Columbia OmniTech jacket from the Columbia factory outlet store some time ago (around 4-5 years ago). It was a nice jacket, but... I felt like the Michelin Man every time I wore the danged thing.

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To make matters worse, it didn't fit me very well; it was a bit too short on my torso, and too puffy through the torso. It was also tan and brown. Every time I wore it, I felt like I was about to go on a quail hunt. But to quote Macklemore, "It was $99, yo."

Because I'm such a fashionista, I couldn't bring myself to break out the psuedo-hunting duds. Even as the mercury dipped into the single digits, I vowed to leave the thing packed away. So, I layered other garments under my trusty North Face Apex jacket. Unfortunately, I couldn't layer enough to stay warm... so, I ventured over to my local Erehwon store and directed the sales guy to find me the warmest coat in the store.

What he showed me was a neon/lime green super puffy jacket that cost $650. I tried it on, and while it felt great, the thought of walking around town wearing a glowing green jacket didn't exactly inspire a ton of desire. I inquired about other color options - there were none.

"Ok, so how about your second warmest jacket?" I asked.

He pointed me to a Mountain Hardware rack, filled with tan jackets. Ugh! He encouraged me to try-on the jacket. Reluctantly, I did. And wow. The jacket was very lightweight, athletically-cut, perfect length (in both the torso and arms), and it felt warm.

We talked details: the jacket was windproof, waterproof, featured a "Dry.Q" shell and "Thermal.Q" insulation. It had tons of pockets, welded zipper seams, and nice details such as forearm key pockets and an interior phone/mp3 pocket with headphone cord pass-through.

I was sold. Except for that tan color. "No worries," said my bearded buddy, "we have it in black."

SCORE. I bought it.

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I also inquired about some warm gloves, as I was sick of having my fingers feel like they were about to fall off within 15 minutes of being outside. I've spent in excess of $500 on gloves, and every pair has fell well short of expectations.

The salesman showed me a set of Outdoor Research mittens that he guaranteed would keep my hands balmy hot. So hot, in fact, that he recommended a set of glove liners to help prevent my fingers from sweating.

I scoffed at him. "I won't be needing those liners - my hands never get too warm in gloves," I said.

I bought the mittens, and as my coworker said, "Dude, they look like boxing gloves."

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So, how does all of the stuff work?

In a word: perfectly.

The jacket is simply phenomenal. It's almost too warm, even on days like today, when the temperature hung out in the low single-digits for most of the morning. I easily cleaned my car's windows and waited for it to warm-up without feeling the slightest hint of a chill. I took a little outdoor stroll, and actually got too warm... I had to open the "pit zips" (vents under the armpits) to cool off a bit. I think it's a winner!

The gloves were equally great. My hands were super toasty - no sign of chilliness, even when scraping windows and walking around outside for nearly 30 minutes. In fact, my hands were too warm...

I returned to Erehwon tonight and bought some glove liners.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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