Tag Archives: maintenance

On The Side

Today I learned something.  While working from home, one of the cats was being stupid as usual and batted something off the kitchen counter onto the floor.  Naturally, I went to go clean it up and when I picked up the mess, I was surprised to see water on the floor.

"Where did this water come from?"  I opened up the lower cabinets and immediately suspected the coffee maker that’s been sitting under there for months.  But that didn’t make any sense, surely I would have drained the water tank before I put it away and even if I didn’t, why would something start leaking now?

I started pulling things out of the cabinets, which prompted the cats to get in the cabinets… ugh.  And what I found to be the source of the wetness was a 12-pack of 7-UP.  I pulled the box out and went to the sink and started removing cans.  One can was noticeable hissing.  Its seal had broken.  And there was a second can that was deflated as well.  What the fuck!

I cleaned up the drained sugar water from inside the cabinet and went to pull out the other 12-packs I had in storage under there.  Oh no.  This has happened before, and somehow, I never noticed it.  Two cardboard boxes were absolutely covered in black mold.  Excising the contents showed that two of the cans had broken seals, who knows how long ago.

I got out the Lysol and removed all the mold from the inside of the cabinets.  Unfortunately, the soda never drained out onto the floor where I could see it, so that means it all went under the cabinets.  Someone’s going to be in for a surprise when they remodel that kitchen.

But here’s the lesson.  The 12-packs, also called fridge packs, like this:

This is not how they get stored.  You have to turn them onto their sides, so the cans remain upright.  Maybe the soda ate through the seal opening (I wouldn’t be surprised), or maybe the seal just failed from age or poor quality.  In either case, had the can been upright, the carbonation would have just escaped and the can would be depressurized.  But, with the can on its side, as pictured, well, that liquid is going to go somewhere.  And I found out the hard way.

Some Digital Housekeeping

Today’s random project is de-duplicating a set of files from a 2008 backup.  This is an old archive of five ZIP files built from five old DVD backups of my files from my computer back in 2008.  And what these ZIP files contained were personal files and work files and programming projects from all my jobs up to that point.  Some files go back to 1993, back when floppies were the primary storage medium.  The starting point for the effort is:  20.6 GB in 40,286 files in 4,072 folders.

That sounds like a pretty daunting task.  And it’s not the first time I’ve considered cleaning it up.  I know it needs it because these ZIP files have ZIP files inside of them which have even more ZIPs inside of them.  It’s a Russian doll of redundancy.

Step one is to expand the first zip files into one folder.  Then, I will use the freeware tool SMF (Search My Files) to find duplicates.  Eliminate the dupes, which hopefully includes some ZIP files, then expand the next level of ZIP files inside the folders and repeat.

The first run, it found 28k potential dupes – I assume that’s based on filename.  In 7 mins it created hashes for all those file, then quickly identified 16k dupes.  I worked my way through the biggest files, getting down to 1.5MB files and after that first trim, the cleanup folder was: 19.6 GB in 40,105 files in 4072 folders

So that effort saved me about a gig of space.  Worth the effort?  Probably not.  Am I going to work through the other 15k files?  Absolutely not.  What I discovered I needed was a duplicate folder finder, which would check to see if all the files in two different folders were the same.  That would involve creating a checksum at the folder level as well as at the file level.  By deleting some files from one folder and not others, I was not helping the duplication problem and actually making it worse by now having two folders, each with incomplete file contents.

Ok.  That was a total bust.  The more I dug into ZIPs, the worse things got.  That was about 90 minutes of effort for no good results.  So I deleted it all and extracted the original ZIP files again.  This time, I’m going to break out the files into the different sources.  I have 2 or 3 different work archives, plus my personal stuff.  One of the problems this may solve is when I copied work files to home and now I had two archives of the same stuff.  Then at some point, I’ll have to resolve archives of different time periods.  I would probably want to keep the newest version.

An hour or so into the organization process, I’m feeling pretty good about this attempt.  I manually identify some dupes and immediately wipe them out.  Then I use the dupe checker utility to look at smaller folders, so I don’t get hit with tens of thousands of dupes.  The result of this effort?  19.3 GB.

At this point, I’m pretty satisfied with where the archive is at.  Moreso, most of the files have been unearthed from their nested ZIPs, so I can find the dupes and delete them.  So this was more of a cleaning exercise than anything.  There’s some talk on the internet about being a hoarder of digital data and how easy it is to do that because it seems so lightweight.  But if you open up your “archive” folder and immediately close it because it’s too overwhelming, that should be a warning sign.  Physical or digital, stuff serves no purpose if it can’t be found and accessed with minimal effort.  That’s been the biggest satisfaction for me from this task, that at least things are a little more in order, even if they’re not perfect yet.

I’ve Been Ghosted. It Sucks.

It’s one of those things that’s always been done, you know.  It just has a slick name now, so people can say, “Aw man, I got ghosted.”  Or they can use a simple emoji to express what happened.  And with or without an emoji, I got it happening to me. 

I sent a text.  The next day I called and ended up in VM.  So I waited a more-than-reasonable time of a full week.  Then I tried calling again and this time left a message.  “Everything OK?  Haven’t seen you in a couple of weeks.  Let me know what’s up.  Talk to you then.”  No reply.  I could keep trying, holding on, waiting for a reply that may never come.  Or, just suck it up and move on.

My biggest worry is how much this change might cost.  Having your pool maintenance guy just up and disappear, leaving your pool growing algae really sucks.  I’m terrible at keeping my pool clean and since finding a company that would handle it for me – at a great price – has been a godsend.  Not only have I been able to enjoy my pool, it’s been very valuable in preserving the value of the pool.  I mean, my method of letting the pool turn into a swamp, then bombarding it with chemicals to bring it back over and over was doing nothing for the longevity of the mechanicals, filter, and surface.

My secondary, although more immediate, concern was getting the pool back to operational order.  Since the resurfacing and professional oversight, the pool has never had an algae outbreak.  Although I’ve restored my pool in the past from my own negligence, I have never been entirely sure it was right.  And the pool has never looked as good as when it was maintained by someone other than me.  But now, I had yellow algae on the walls and steps.  It’s not a bloom, but it’s very, very close to exploding.  I really shouldn’t have even waited that extra week.

My salt water chlorinator was telling me it wanted salt.  Craved salt.  Needed salt.  62 pounds of salt, please.  Is that a lot?  Fuck if I know, I’ve never had to do this before.  So I bought a 40lb bag of salt from the pool place and threw it all in.  I’ll have to see how it likes that and re-evaluate.  I brushed the walls and floor as I remembered doing in the past.  I threw in some algae shock.  …And that’s about the extent of my knowledge.  Well, tomorrow I can hose off the filter.  That’s about it.

Sometime this week I’m going to need to contact at least one pool company and get a new maintenance quote.  And that’s when it’s going to start sucking.  Starting over always sucks.

You Shall Be Known By Your Stars

A while ago, I had read a post online by a music collector where he had just completed a goal of listening to and rating every song in his library.  It only took him five years to do it.  Bravo for that level of effort.  The consideration of doing something similar for myself led me to attempt to define what a rating system would look like for me.

The “for me” thing is the most important part.  Ratings are entirely subjective, and still at the same time, they must be well-defined and rigid.  That feels weird to me, “this is precisely how it must be… for me.”  But weird or not, in order to begin rating my albums (and/or songs), I need to have a stick to measure with.

In my consideration of rating my music, I determined that there’s two levels of ratings, at the song level and at the higher album level.  These two ratings more or less correspond with the way I would listen to the music, either absorbing an entire album at a time, for example, playing a CD while driving, or, listening to a playlist while sitting at a computer or through the Plex server.  So, having the two different types of ratings is moderately important.

A 5-star rating applied to a song is pretty straightforward.  How much do I like the song?  That’s an important question because the question is not, how good is the song? That open-ended question carries with it every sub-question imaginable, summed up as, how good is it by what metric?  So, every song would start at 3 stars, being neutral, and the likelihood I’d want to hear it again adds or subtracts one or two stars.  But, I don’t plan on rating every one of my songs in any near future, so I don’t feel concerned with this scheme.

Albums, though, would get rated on a totally different scale and I thought hard on this.  The answer lies in the composition of the songs on the album.  My scale is as such:

5 – A top-notch album.  Any song could be played individually in a playlist and the album would be enjoyed played beginning to end.

4 – An excellent album. Most songs could be included in playlists, but the album is stronger than the individual tracks.

3 – A good album.  Some songs could be included in playlists, and the album could be played beginning to end without feeling the need to skip any tracks.

2 – An album with some good songs.  A few songs could be included in playlists and some songs would be skipped when playing as an album.

1 – Few to no good songs.  Very unlikely the album would be played except to hear the good songs (if any).  It might be a curiosity or kept for completist reasons.

Here’s the problem with rating things.  People want to love things more than they really do.  They tend to ignore the flaws and focus on the good.  That’s great in the world of human relations (although it’s just as unsustainable as in any other application).  So, in rating my music, it was important to have a clearly-defined way to avoid excessive 5-star ratings.  Once it was absolutely clear that 5 stars was highly-rarified territory, and that it wasn’t through any fault of the artist, the pressure of saying an album is “the best of the best” subsides.

To explain, consider an album that has some segue between songs, presented as another track.  It’s unlikely you would include the short 30 second clip in a playlist, thus – excluded.  4-star max.  Or you have an album like Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick, which has two 20-some minute tracks.  It’s not likely you want your playlist to be stalled for 20 minutes.  Same for Rush’s 2112.  Alternately, maybe a long song is chopped up into multiple tracks.  The song would make no sense played on shuffle in a playlist.  These examples explain the emphasis on “album” for the 4-star rating.  The album is designed as a linear experience, and there should be no shame that it is capped at 4 stars.

The interesting aspect about that rating system is that mediocre albums can be 5-star.  If there’s an album – I can think of a couple of jazzy instrumental albums – where every song stands on its own and could be played individually, but it’s not an album that particularly excites me.  So all the songs would be rated as 3 stars, but the album itself would be 5 stars.  These would be cases where I would add an entire album to a playlist instead of individual songs.

Along with the stress of wanting to rate albums higher than they belong is the admission that an album is not strong as you want it to be.  Tastes change, so that shouldn’t be an issue, but you know, I used to play that album all the time!  I am curious to see how many low-rated albums I really have.  I would guess it’s probably higher than I would expect, because I have been branching out into lots of different artists simply because it’s so cheap to buy CDs.

But the bottom line is, the baseline rating is 3 stars.  Would I put the CD in the car and listen to it all the way through?  If I would skip tracks, it drops to 2 stars.  I probably wouldn’t even take a 1-star album in the car. *cough* Spin Doctors *cough*

How’s It Going Down There?

If you haven’t noticed, it’s cold.  Fucking cold.  In fact, it’s so cold, we need a song for it.

Oh, the weather outside is bullshit
Too crappy for even a fire pit
And going outside is on hold
It’s fucking cold, fucking cold, fucking cold

So where I’m at, we’re going to have lows in the 30’s and highs only in the 50’s.  That is totally unacceptable.  I chose to leave the wasteland to come here and I don’t need the weather following me.  I’m just a little bit sensitive to this whole temperature thing right now and I think I have a good reason.

There is no heat in my goddamn house.

Yup, the HVAC unit that failed on me a few times this year and let me broil (I guess bake is a more appropriate cooking metaphor) in my house over the summer has now fucked me from the other direction.  And being a guy, that’s an undesirable situation.  Uh, a straight guy, I guess I need to clarify.

So, if you hadn’t guessed, it’s cold in here.  Not as cold as it is out there, but it’s in the mid 60’s.  Let me check… Current temp 66 degrees, feels like 40 degrees.  So, similar to how I went into emergency mode when the cooling went out, I’ve done the same for my heating crisis.  I closed all the rooms off and I’m heating the bedroom with a tiny little space heater.


This exact one, from the 80’s, shown almost actual size.

So my plan tonight is to not get hypothermia, put every blanket I have on the bed, and call the A/C people tomorrow.  Will it be a $50 fuse or a $5000 replacement?  Who knows?  Can’t wait to find out.

Nickeled And Dimed

My car is seven years old.  It was purchased in May, 2010 with 10 miles on the odometer.  Now, my car has 253,000 miles on the odometer.  It’s been a long, fun trip.  And now it’s time to pay up.

The shocks on the car really need replaced.  Really.  The car bottoms out on many bumps, which is hard to bear.  So, in my research of replacement shocks, I was entirely overwhelmed with options.  Since my car is a sports car, you have the basic replacement option, then you have somewhere on the order of a thousand “performance” options.  There’s another issue as well.  One that I know because it’s not the first time I’ve had shocks changed on a car. 

The first time I had the shocks changed on a previous car, I was wowed for a couple of days.  The car rode like brand new!  But then, it faded and the ride became just ok.  So the next car, which was a beater, I had the springs and the shocks replaced at the same time.  It’s kind of dumb to put almost 50% of the purchase price of the car into an upgrade, right?  The new car sensation lasted a bit longer, but eventually faded again.  Maybe I wasn’t buying high-quality parts, I don’t know.  But it’s not something you can just experiment with.  It’s fucking expensive.

So, in my research, it looks like I can spend about $600 for front and rear shocks that should be the same as OEM, or I can go wild with an adjustable $1500 system.  Regardless, $600 plus installation isn’t penny change.  I’m undecided as to whether to attempt the installation myself or utilize my neighbor or go to a shop.

Along with that issue, I have a headlight burned out right now.  That doesn’t sound like a big deal, right?  Go to AutoZone and they’ll install it for you?  You don’t know my car.  To change a headlight, you have to take the wheels off and remove the wheel well liner to access the headlight mount.  It’s a multi-hour process.  It is something I can do myself and I hate doing it every single time.  I’ve changed headlights at least 3 times.

When you’re taking out the fender liner, there are plastic fasteners that hold the liner in place.  These plastic pieces naturally become brittle over time and crack and fail.  I purchased a bunch of similar pieces and have used them in the past, but they’re not exactly like the originals and don’t fit very well.  And they crack even easier.  So I should buy new ones.  Those fasteners aren’t cheap either.  They’re over $1 each and I’ll probably need a couple dozen.  That and the light bulbs.

But that’s not all.  The headlight lenses are completely fogged over.  This condition started after the car was flooded many years ago.  And unlike the condition all the self-polishing kits attempt to remedy, my fogging is in the inside of the lenses, where it can’t be polished out.  So what’s the recourse?  Replacement.  When I did some research on replacements, I was floored by the prices.  Almost $1200 to replace both (in just parts).  And you know replacement would involve removing the entire bumper, which I might be able to do myself.  A later search revealed I was looking at the HID headlight lenses, which I don’t have.  That brought my parts cost down to about $800.  That’s still a hard pill to swallow, but more manageable.

So let’s tally up the whole renovation.  $600 for new shocks, maybe $50 for lights and fasteners, and $800 for headlight lenses.  Let’s just say $1500 in parts.  If I really wanted to make the car like-new, I’d need it repainted.  I’m not going to even entertain that right now.  The car itself has a blue book value of probably $4000, and with a flood on its history, it’s probably less.  So, I’m looking at spending almost half the car’s value to get it back up to standard usability.  That’s dumb, right?  But, to put the cost in perspective, I haven’t had a car payment in many, many, many months.  And this large expense is really only a few months of car payments, so I’m actually ahead of the game.

Renewed Vigor

I’ve had my car, a Mazda MX-5, for almost six years now.  In that time, I’ve raced it in autocrosses, driven it in rallies, and destroyed the engine in a flooded street.  Since that flooding event, I’ve given up on the hard-driving autocrosses, but it hasn’t slowed down much at all.  I still put about 30k miles a year on it.  The body and transmission have 174k miles.  The engine, a little less at 100k.

Lately, it seems like I’ve been having to work harder at keeping the system running well.  I was having a problem with cold starts on cooler mornings.  This was cleared up by cleaning the IAC valve – the Idle Air Control valve.  It’s a simple procedure involving unscrewing something and dousing it with cleaning fluid.  You should do it each time you change the air filter, but I seemed to have to do it more frequently than that.

Then I started having problems with the engine bogging down when I decelerate to a stop.  This was solved by cleaning the throttle body.  That’s a slightly more involved procedure involving unbolting a part and dousing it with cleaning fluid, then wiping off the carbon buildup.  I had to do it twice because I wasn’t thorough enough the first time.

Lately, things just didn’t feel quite right.  I knew I needed some critical safety maintenance, like brakes and tires, so I got both of those taken care of.  That made the ride much more smooth and quiet, but something was still off.  The engine seemed like it was struggling and the shifting was rough.  So I planned on doing some internal cleaning.

I stopped at AutoZone and picked up some Seafoam.  I’ve used Seafoam on my cars for a while and each time I do, I am surprised by the results.  There is a great argument as to whether it really does anything at all or whether it’s all in your head, but I am a believer.

I added a full can to my half-tank of gas yesterday when I got home.  When I started the car up and drove it this morning, it was immediately noticeable that something was better.  The engine was smoother, the acceleration was better, the shifts weren’t clunky anymore.

The weirdest thing was the accelerator.  My car is drive-by-wire, so there’s no cable literally pulling on the throttle body.  Yet somehow, the pedal was more responsive.  I didn’t have the previous sensation of one position having too little power and with a slight pressure change, suddenly having too much power.  That was causing me to surge in my driving, and I would spend a lot of time speeding up and slowing down.  Now, I could hold a position exactly where I wanted.

When I noticed that the car was running smoother, I reset my MPG sensor.  From almost six years of ownership, I know that my highway drive to work after resetting the computer would show about 34 MPG, and then it would drop as my city driving would factor in.  Getting to work today, the MPG read 36.8.  That has to account for something, right?

But I’m still not done.  I’ll also be adding Seafoam to the intake line this weekend.  Then I should be caught up on that level of maintenance.  Cheap and easy fixes are the best.