Friday, May 29, 2015

Neuton Mowers CE6 Battery - Replacement UB12100-S Universal Sealed Lead Acid Battery

I like my Neuton CE6 mower, but I do not like spending $100+ each time I need to replace the batteries.  I found these at and just replaced the 3 12v cells inside my Neuton case. It took me 15 minutes. A small torx driver is needed to remove the 2 screws that hold the case on.  Replacing the cells was less than 1/2 the cost of buying a new battery pack from Neuton.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

LSP P-06399 Hammer Arrester silences water hammer from LG washing machine

We have an LG front loading washing machine that works great except for some pretty noisy water hammer (apparently this is a common issue with appliances with fast closing valves).  After trying a Sioux Chief unit and much more expensive unit from Watts, we finally tried this water hammer arrester from LSP:

It screws right into the back of the washing machine. I used a wrench and vise grips. No soldering or teflon tape is needed.

The LSP arrester is a little bigger than the Sioux Chief arrester.  For us it seems to work a lot better.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3

So the carpets were dirty - but there was too much clutter to bring in a carpet cleaner. What to do? I looked into renting a Rug Doctor from the supermarket, but the nice young man helping me pick one kept gagging from the stench that emanated from said rental units.

I bought a Rug Doctor Mighty Pro X3

(I got mine from Costco, but you can get them from Amazon too).

It worked pretty well. No setup to speak of, just get it out of the box, put mix up some hot water and their OxySteam cleaner in a bucket and get working. I did not use their directions to do a single pass. Instead I did one pass with detergent/water, one pass with water to rinse, and then one pass dry to suck up the excess water. It paid for itself in one use. I ran the ceiling fans and the heat/ac (alternating) to help speed up the drying.

Here is some dirty water after a few passes (gross - all that dirt in the carpet!)

Here is a sorbet stain (raspberry) on the carpet:


The Rug Doctor got it all:

Overall I was pretty happy with my Rug Doctor. It's nice not to have to drop a bunch of cash and stay home for the cleaners just to do some spot cleaning.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Haven't watered Habiturf lawn in over a month ...

So I just realized I have not watered my Habiturf lawn in over a month. The soaking rains in July combined with the occasional rain in August has been enough to keep it pretty green. It's all grown back since the July mowing and there are new seed heads (I may mow again after either a heavy rain or the return of cool weather). A few spots have got a little brown - otherwise it looks good.  It is definitely not a turf lawn (the long grass does can irritate bare ankles) and if we were using the lawn a lot I would probably keep it mowed shorter.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mowing Habiturf lawn for first time at 4 months

In between heavy rains it seemed like as good a time as any to mow my Habiturf lawn. This was the first time this lawn has been mowed - it is about 4 months old now.  It was pretty easy to mow (I used my Neuton CE 6.2 battery powered mower for this). This mower's highest cut is 3" - I would have preferred to leave it a little longer.  However with all the expected rain (and we got several inches of rain a few hours later) I was not too worried about stressing out the grass. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Watering a Habiturf Lawn

During the recent dry periods I have been watering the Habiturf lawn every 2 weeks per the guidelines published by the instructions at the wildflower center. With the recent soaking rains this weekend's scheduled watering will be skipped - the lawn will not be watered till the last weekend in July (if we keep getting soaking rains this too might be postponed).  It's nice to have a lawn that will stay green and also allow me to comply with the watering restrictions currently in effect.  No excessive watering. No mowing yet. No fertilizer. The grass does not need this and it will just encourage weeds.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Austin Habiturf lawn at 8 weeks

Below are some pictures of the Habiturf lawn at 8 weeks. The grass is mature enough now to be on an every 2 weeks watering schedule. In the areas that get full sun the grass has put out seed heads that are about 15" tall or so. The rest of the grass is 6" or so.

 This area gets less sun but it has still filled in nicely:

No mowing yet - it has been so dry that I don't want to stress the turf too much. If we ever get a good soaking rain a regular mowing schedule may begin. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Habiturf Lawn at 5 weeks

It's rained a lot the last few days here - to the point where there are mushrooms growing in the part shade areas of the lawn.  A lot of hand weeding has been required - mostly for purslane. The lawn seems to be getting established enough to out compete the weeds now. The areas that are part shade are growing - but slowly.

 The true full sun areas have quite a bit of turf. It is patchy but over the next few days the grass should start sending out runners to fill in the bare areas.
On a slight slope (not shown) the heavy rains seem to have washed a lot of the grass away, there are enough plants and sun that given time and weed control it should fill in.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Habiturf lawn at 28 days

This is a pic of the Habiturf lawn at 28 days.  It's looking more like a lawn now and I can walk out on it when it is dry and pull weeds.  Still no runners from the turf plants - hopefully they show up in a few days and start filling in the bare spots.  One disadvantage of using a contractor was that they did the whole job in one day - probably it would have been better to do a few cycles of watering and tilling to really suppress any weed seed in the soil or compost that was added.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Habiturf lawn day 14

Just hit the 2 week mark on my Habiturf lawn. A lot more grass has sprouted but none of the grass has gotten very tall yet.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Habiturf Lawn day 5

5 days after my habiturf lawn was installed some small green sprouts were visible in the yard.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Habiturf lawn for Austin TX

After the drought of 2011 destroyed almost all the St. Augustine grass in the backyard, we decided to have a Habiturf lawn. Habiturf is a mixture of native grasses, and is supposed to require much less watering and mowing than conventional turf grasses. Our landscaper is scheduled for early April (I'm hoping this is not too late to seed in TX). Right now we are keeping the existing weeds and scraps of grass mowed short and digging up any visible weeds before they go to seed. It's supposed to rain tonight which should help trigger germination for any weed seeds which have found their way into the yard. More to come ...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

They told me if I voted for McCain ...

They told me if I voted McCain that the government would trample over our civil rights ... and they were right!

"One of two Texas court cases that sought to expand handgun rights to 18- to 20-year-olds has been thrown out by a federal judge in Lubbock."

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thin panel solar company gets private funds ...

BTW Heliovolt (a thin panel solar company in Austin) just got $85 million in private money.

I don't know if Heliovolt will succeed or not - but thin panel makers can raise money from private sources. So Solyndra got money why???

“service-level insolvency” in California

Michael Lewis has the rundown in Vanity Fair.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Giant snails invade Florida (includes recipe)

Giant snails have apparently invaded Florida.  In other news, these same snails are apparently called "The caviar of escargot". Mmmm. Snails.

The Rich (in West Lake Hills) are different than you and me ...

They don't cut brush even though we are in the midst of a historic and wildfire plagued drought. Wow. Meanwhile crews clear massive numbers of burned trees in nearby Bastrop County. Geesh.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm will be in Texas ...

The first U.S. offshore wind farm will be in Texas.

"Offshore wind has undoubtedly benefited from the state's distinctive business environment. With stable, long-term policies, and its own transmission network, Texas offers unrivaled business opportunities for the offshore wind industry."

Perry is not 100% responsible for the business climate in TX, but he has helped make Texas a place that is "open for business".

Friday, August 19, 2011

WSJ on hunting feral hogs ...

Interesting article in today's WSJ on hunting feral hogs. For me this is the money quote:

"Many states classify wild hogs as an invasive species and thus set no limits on how many a hunter or landowner can kill in a day. Some, such as Nebraska and Kansas, allow only wildlife officers to kill feral hogs. Then there are states like Texas and Georgia, which allow hunters to kill any number of hogs by any legal means."

The Texas/Georgia approach seems a lot cheaper and effective (folks even pay guides to go on these hunts).  The not so subtle point here is that the cost of government is elastic and it is not necessarily proportional to the quantity/quality of services received. (I'm thinking about going on one of these guided hunts though - anything to help the environment!).

Schoolhouse Naturals ABC blocks from Maple Landmark

We picked up these nifty ABC blocks from All Things Kids in Georgetown. They are solid maple and really well made. They come on a solidly made maple box.  Our little guy loves them. There is no paint or other finishes and the blocks are made to very tight tolerances - they stack really well. Recommended.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Texas to have first US offshore wind farm

The first offshore wind farm in the US will be in Texas.

The money quote:

"Offshore wind has undoubtedly benefited from the state's distinctive business environment. With stable, long-term policies, and its own transmission network, Texas offers unrivaled business opportunities for the offshore wind industry."

Greens for Perry anyone?

Awesome deep pocketed cargo shorts from Columbia

These. Cargo. Shorts. Are. Awesome. (the Coulmbia Men's Cliff Lakes Cargo Short).

Very comfortable and pockets are deep enough to hold smart phone, wallet, keys, wife's smart phone etc. without any fear of things slipping out. One discussion board claims the big pockets are large enough to conveniently conceal a firearm - but I have not confirmed this.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Unhinged Rick Perry hit piece of the day ...

Paul Krugman of the NYtimes gets my nod for unhinged Rick Perry hit piece of the day ("The Texas Unmiracle").  As a former resident of a blue northeast state all I can say is that Texas is great. My cost of living is lower. Government services are delivered efficiently and with high quality. My local public schools are terrific.  Health care is terrific (at least 3 emergency rooms within a 10 minute drive of my house).  There is no income tax and I make about what I made in the Northeast.  Texas works. I only wish I had moved here sooner.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Market carnage may just be the beginning ...

The prescient  Jeremy Grantham is looking even more prescient these days. The link is dated but the advice is still sound. He claims fair value on the S&P 500 is about 900 - so we could still have a ways to fall. (register at his company's website to see comentary and forecasts for free).

So stocks are cheaper these days, but not cheap.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

NYTimes: Garbage for dinner!

The NYTimes food section says "it's ok to eat trash". A reflection on the Obama economy?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Insinkerator cover control review

I got this nifty Insinkerator garbage disposal via Amazon Prime. The price was great and my plumber had no problems replacing the old 1/3 HP builder model garbage disposal with this new one. A homeowner could probably do the installation themselves, but I prefer just to have a pro get it done.

The "cover control" feature means the disposal can't run unless the cover is in place - this is a great safety feature - especially for those of us with little ones around.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

BOB Revolution Stroller Review

We have had our BOB Revolution stroller for about six months now and it is great. There is a newer 2011 model available through amazon (the SE?) that has a few more bells and whistles. The suspension and pneumatic tires eat up bad sidewalks and dirt paths. Our little guy likes it just fine. The accessory tray with cupholders is an extr $19.00 and I have one on order - it will let me keep 2 hands on the stroller and still have some water or coffee nearby. The stroller is a little pricey, but it works so well and we use it so much that it was well worth the extra money.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Detroit pension fund turns $30 million into $1 million ...

A public pension fund for the city of Detroit has made a $30 million dollar investment in a property that is now worth $1 million. So not only are pension promises to public employees overgenerous, the funds themselves appear to be run by a bunch of dopes. They would have been better off just burning the money - at least it would have kept some folks warm.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Goodman central AC review

The new Goodman central air conditioner and furnace we put in last summer is working out well. Davis Service Company of Austin did the install. The crew was professional and did very neat and professional work. The 2.5 ton unit is 16 SEER making it much more efficient than the 21 year old 10 SEER Trane unit it replaced. The compressor (the box outside) is also the same size as my old one (about 29" square) so the existing concrete pad could be reused. It's hard to quantify energy savings since heating loads vary so much season to season, but my summer electric bill seems a lot lower. The new furnace is 80% efficient vs. the 60% efficiency of the old furnace (no more standing pilot light) so heating bills will be lower too. It's also a lot easier to change the filter and I got a 10 year parts/labor warranty to boot.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

GE 7.0 CF Freezer Chest Review

We got this GE 7.0 CF freezer chest to store frozen baby milk and it has worked great. Home Depot offered free shipping - the delivery guys were very professional and set the freezer up exactly where we wanted it. The price was great - it was cheaper than the mini fridge we bought on Amazon (even with the sales tax). The freezer gets cold - between -10 and 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Our refrigerator freezer was not big enough to store all the milk we had, and it gets opened/closed a lot so I was concerned about it getting too warm in there for long term milk storage.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another bazillionaire disses the tax cuts

Larry David disses the tax cut extension in a very unfunny op-ed in the NYT. If Larry really feels this way he can pay extra the next two years to make up for the tax cuts - the US Treasury does take donations.

Sunpentown 3.2 Cubic Foot Fridge/Freezer

So we've been pretty happy with this Sunpentown 3.2 CF mini fridge/freezer. The separate freezer gets cold - I have seen it between 0-10 degrees Fahrenheit. It's great for freezing/thawing/storing small amounts of baby milk and saves us long walk downstairs in the middle of the night.

Unfortunately it is no longer available via Amazon Prime like it was when I bought it. Our cars were too small to easily get this home from a Lowes or Home Depot so it was easier (and cheaper) just have Amazon Prime do the delivery.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mimijumi baby bottle review

The Mimijumi baby bottle is the probably last refuge for parents of bottle refusing babies. It works - perhaps because it is the most anatomically correct bottle out on the market. It's still a battle of wills getting my little guy to eat from one of these, but he does actually eat. Not cheap at $18/each (maybe Mimijumi means "$18 baby bottle" in some foreign language?) But it's still a good deal when the alternative is a baby who will flat out not take a bottle. It even fits (barely) in my Dr. Brown's bottle warmer.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Worx GT 151.5 Lithium Review

This Worx GT 151.5 Lithium string trimmer from Assembly involved one screw (for the plastic guard for the trimmer head), but it was still pretty tricky to figure out how to get it put together. It worked great for my smallish yard, and the edger feature was powerful enough to keep some unruly St. Augustine's grass off the driveway. It's great not to have to mess with gas, and the lithium battery should be less finicky to manage than a nickel hydride one.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Detroit a "Bright Spot" according to NYT ...

The NYT claims that Detroit is a "Bright Spot". A statement like this has more spin than an Iranian centrifuge. Clearly they are carrying water for Obama and his GM and Chrysler bailouts.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Austin mandatory energy audit benefits ... energy auditors. Sigh.

Austin's mandatory energy audit program turns out to mostly benefit (wait for it ... wait for it ...) energy auditors! Folks on the left were all too eager to get the government out of the bedroom when it involved traditional sodomy. However they are also eager to get the government into our bedrooms, attics, and other parts of our houses, requiring a mandatory energy audit before a poor taxpayer can sell. This seems to me another variant on sodomy - the one where taxpayers get screwed (again) by their governments.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The little engine that couldn't and our incompetent elites

Austin's new commuter rail line is failing to carry a substantial number of passengers (but is succeeding in carrying massive amounts of money away from taxpayers). In America's Ruling Class it is helpfully pointed out that our incompetent elites are not restricted to Austin, but are a truly national phenomenon. From coast to coast we are overrun by self styled "experts" whose chief qualification is believing the "right" kind of things (like the wonders of commuter rail). I wonder if the recent commuter line derailment is a metaphor for the larger fate of our out of touch ruling class.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Austin's Forumla One Follies

The City of Austin is continuing our efforts to find new and creative ways to blow our hard earned tax money. The latest is Formula One racing. The latest efforts of our hapless solons reminds of the old poker quote:

"There's always a patsy at the poker table. If you've been at the poker table for 30 minutes and you don't know who the patsy is, you're the patsy." 

(Hey, at least we know what Lee L's middle name is now!).

"Life is harder when you're stupid (and have $100k of student loans)"

At least that would have been my title for this this NYTimes article.  Earth to young people: If you are going to get a "degree in women's and religious studies" then do not, I repeat DO NOT take out $100k in student loans. Geesh.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More garbage bag insanity in Austin

Environmental pressure groups are again trying to ban plastic shopping bags in Austin. I wonder if all those pro-choice folks out there believe I have a right to chose what kind of shopping bag I want to use? And it's disturbing that the City of Austin takes a loony tunes UN mandate for zero landfill waste by 2040 more seriously than enforcing the immigration laws of the United States.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Williamson County to start checking IDs (for indigent health care)

Williamson County has decided to start checking IDs for indigent health care.  Though this is provoking howls of usual suspects, it is a bow to reality. County Judge Dan Gattis delivers the money quote (literally):  "We are running out of money".

LA wants to stop fixing sidewalks (but keep paying pensions)

The city of LA wants to stop fixing sidewalks (but will presumably continue to pay outrageous pensions). Thus once again we are reminded of the tendency of public bureaucracies to serve themselves and abandon their nominal customers.

Friday, April 30, 2010

City of Austin may cut ties to Arizona ...

The Statesman reports the City of Austin may cut ties to Arizona. While on the surface this is seems like another example of council induced insanity, it will  at least put a halt to ridiculous junkets like the recent Austin City Council Arizona homeless reality tour.  We just need to get the council to get all self righteous and preachy towards other states, and at least we can cut the city's bloated travel budget.  Hey - let's boycott California because of prop 8! Let's boycott NJ because Governor Christie is fat and is cutting spending! (only 46 more states to go).

Monday, April 26, 2010

Make money from home by cleaning your electric oven at night ...

Seriously.  Surplus wind power in Germany, Texas (sigh) and other places occasionally results in negative electric rates at night. 

"Negative electricity prices happen when supply outstrips demand and we literally don't know where to put it," Peter Smits, head of central Europe at Swiss power-equipment maker ABB Ltd., said in an interview on April 20 in Hanover. "We will see this happen more often in the future."

Wonderful. Space heaters for everybody!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Economist mag accuses AZ of 'hysterical nativism'

The Economist magazine recently accused Arizona of 'hysterical nativism' for trying to make illegal immigration, well, illegal.  It's too bad that the Federal Government has abdicated its constitutional responsibility to protect our borders (apparently tasks like regulating how much water our toilets use and determining prevailing wages for caulkers take priority).  

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

City of Austin is broke but just keeps on spending ...

The City of Austin is facing an $11 million budget gap even if it raises property taxes. In other news the city voted to spend $130,000 it does not have in an effort to increase the "diversity" of the fire department.  In other other news the city's main pension fund is still broke (and will be sucking taxpayers' cash for years into the future). It's time for some diversity on the City Council - how about at least a token fiscal conservative?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Meanwhile, back in MA


"Health insurers stop writing policies for some"

“Most Massachusetts health insurers have temporarily halted writing new policies for individuals and small businesses through a state-sponsored broker, according to a notice posted today on the website of the Massachusetts Health Connector.

The agency, which was set up after the state passed its universal health care law in 2006, acts as a marketing channel to connect formerly uninsured residents with plans offered by nonprofit carriers that sell insurance through a program called Commonwealth Choice. The plans are part of the so-called small group market, and pool individual and small business policies.”


Mayor Villaraigosa Wants To Shut Down L.A. City Services Two Days A Week ...

The mayor of LA wants to  shut down LA city services 2 days per week as LA is broke. Much as I dislike layoffs (having been lucky to survive many in the dreaded private sector) at some point leaders need to read the writing on the wall, bite the bullet, and start downsizing government to fit available revenue.  Mayor Villaraigosa is in denial as are many civic leaders around the country.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

City of Austin solar rebate program runs out of our money

The City of Austin solar rebate program has run out of our money (again!). I have nothing for or against solar panels - but folks like me should not have to pay for the beautiful people in Hyde Parkistan to have solar panels installed on their homes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

City of Austin's Unsustainable 7.75% Pension Assumption

The City of Austin assumes its pension fund will have a long term return of 7.75%. As Warren Buffet and others have pointed out this is not sustainable. The big chunk of money that must be held in bonds or cash act as an anchor on returns. If long term high quality bonds are yielding 4.5% or so (and cash next to nothing) equity investments must do quite a bit better than the 7.75% hurdle rate for the fund to keep even. A 6% rate would be more achievable over the long term. While the 1.75% difference between 6% and 7.75% does not sound like much, on a pension find with $1.5 billion of assets this is an $26 million gap this year alone. And every year the gulf between what the pension fund is projected to have and what it actually has will get bigger and bigger. No wonder the unfunded liability is over $600 million right now.

(In fact the city's fund over the last 10 years has returned a compounded 3.3% on market value over the last 10 years, so perhaps even the 6% suggestion is too generous).

For a city that makes such a fetish over sustainability Austin takes a pretty casual approach to its pension finances.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mcdep: XTO/XOM merger on track for Q2

McDep indicates that the XTO/XOM merger is on track for closure in Q2. Buying XTO now is a way to buy XOM at a slight discount. It's disappointing to see XTO get taken out, but XOM will be a more stable if less dynamic investment.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Schwinn 231 Recumbent Bike Review

I've had a Schwinn 231 recumbent bike for about 9 months now. It's pretty good - it comes with a built in heart rate monitor and it is pretty smooth to use. It was a lot cheaper than a lifecycle (although not as easy to adjust the seat). The 231 is not available any more through amazon, but 240 (which also has great reviews and more features) is available. It was worth signing up for Amazon Prime shipping just for this one item

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Technology Review: Turning gas flares into fuel

Great article in Technology Review on new technology to turn gas flares into fuel. When oil is extracted from remote sites natural gas must be burned off as there is no economic way to bring the gas to market (no gas pipelines etc). These small scale GTL or gas to liquids plants are pretty interesting, especially in light of the massive and growing shale gas reserves in the US. While some have called for running our trucking fleet on natural gas, low cost small scale GTL would allow the US to turn its glut of gas into liquid fuel.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fluke 220 Carbon Monoxide Meter Review

I picked up this nifty carbon monoxide detector at amazon a few months ago (standard CO detectors typically don't detect below 50 or even 100 ppm or so). This handheld detector can pick up CO at levels of just 2 PPM according to the manufacturer. I tried it in my house - and it kept reading 0 PPM. I tried it in the garage just after my wife started her car and left though, and bam! 40 PPM, trending down to 30 PPM over a few minutes. This is a pretty nifty gadget and was well worth the price for me for the peace of mind.

City of Austin Employee Retirement System - Unsustainable?

Barron's highlighted the crisis of massively overgenerous and underfunded public employee pensions in this great article here. Closer to home we find our very own City of Austin Employees Retirement System has serious problems of its own. In the Dec. 2009 Actuarial Valuation Report the following politely worded conclusion is reached:

We recommend the Board continue to be proactive with the City in discussions about restoring the System to a benefit structure that can be supported by the contributions
* This means either a substantial increase in contributions from the City and or employees’
* Benefit modifications for employees,
* Or both

In other words the current 8% employee contribution and 12% city contribution is not enough make the system sustainable long term (the problem is actually far worse - the fund assumes a long term return of 7.75% - this rate of return is unlikely to be realized by funds given the large amounts of bonds and cash they hold). My advice? For starters the retirement age for new hires could be raised to say, the same age as folks have to be to collect Social Security. Unfortunately our City Council is incapable of taking even this timid step towards sustainable pensions. The political reality is that taxpayers will be called upon to shovel more and more money to bail out a poorly designed retirement plan that lets workers "retire" after 23 years of service. Ugh!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bloombert - Overweight preteens morel likely to eat school lunches

Bloomberg reports that kids who eat government provided school lunches are more likely to be overweight than kids who bring lunches from home. Hey! Let's put these same schmoes in charge of health care.

Toro 38361 Power Shovel Review

I bought this nifty Toro 38361 Power Shovel for an older relative who still lives in the northeast. After a winter of use it gets positive reviews. It's light, electric (so no smelly gas to fuss with). Clearing the path is like "vacuuming the snow". I used Amazon Prime and it got there in time for Christmas. Recommended for those who still live far enough north to need this kind of thing.

Winegard SS-3000 Amplified Indoor UHF/VHF Antenna: Fox-less no more

After our local Austin Fox affiliate upgraded their transmitter we could no longer get their signal. With the beginning of football season the situation was untenable. Fortunately the Winegard SS-3000 Amplified Indoor UHF/VHF Antenna seems to have solved the problem. It was pretty easy to put together. There was an hour or so of trial and error placement of the antenna to find the "sweet spot" where we could pull in the Fox signal. We are also getting the Pentagon channel in Killeen and a news station in Waco now ...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Boston Globe: "Unions safeguard health benefits"

"Unions safeguard health benefits" reads the headline from the Boston Globe. I suggest the alternate headline "Unions screw over taxpayers". I am glad I have fled to Texas.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Vermont plays Jenga with its power supply ...

The Vermont state senate has voted overwhelmingly to deny a new operating license to the Vermony Yankee power plant. They have not voted on how they are going to replace the 33% or so of Vermont's power that comes from this plant. Like our local political elite here in Austin they are playing Jenga with our power supply (Jenga is that fun game where you pull out blocks that are supporing a tower and hope the whole thing doesn't come crashing down).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

ING Direct's amazing shrinking yields ...

Savings yields over at ING Direct continue to dwindle. Rates have dropped from a recent 1.30% to 1.15% (and this is down from 1.50% or so over the summer). Ally and American Express both offer better yields now.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review - Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance

A friend asked to buy a copy of Dr. Stuart McGill's Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance and it was so interesting I decided to buy a copy for my self. (If you don't mind using PayPal it's a lot cheaper to purchase the book through Dr. McGill's website). Some of the information in the book is summarized in this NY Times article and video. The book provides a lot of background as well as examples of exercises to avoid. After a few weeks of doing the movements he suggests my own back pain is gone. The "stirring the pot" exercise is an especially intense, but easy on the spine. Well worth the money.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Silver Lining to Weatherization Delays ...

Recent coverage has highlighted the delays in Obama's vaunted weatherization program. There is a silver lining here. Weatherization can be pretty unhealthy if done improperly. A drafty house may also be a well ventilated house. If done properly weatherization sounds great - but force feeding $5 billion of taxpayer money into a small industry doesn't sound like a recipe for high standards to me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New York fires 3 bad teachers ...

The city of New York has fired 3 bad teachers. Apparently this merits a story in the times (I supposed it happens infrequently enough to be newsworthy). Much more here in the New Yorker. Now that the teacher's unions have lost the New Yorker and are losing the Times just who the heck do they have left?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Grand Canyon during winter

The NYTimes has a travel piece on the Grand Canyon. Visiting off peak as they suggest is a great deal for hikers - the cool/cold weather is perfect for hiking, and the park is relatively traffic free. We only went as far as Indian Village (3000 feet down or so), but hope to return and spend a night at Phantom Ranch.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cancelling Vonage the easy way

I have heard horror stories about how hard it is to cancel Vonage - most recently first hand from a good friend. I have not been using my Vonage phone at all and I get mostly spam calls from telemarketers. I decided to cancel. It only took 2 min or so to get through to a rep. When asked why I was cancelling I told them I was joining the Peace Corps and would be in a remote part of Ecuador for the next 2 years. My only communication with the outside world would be via infrequent post cards and letters. In preparation I told them I was selling my worldly possessions, letting my lease on my apartment expire, and generally getting ready to leave the world behind. Service cancelled in less than 8 minutes.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Coyote sighting in Belmont, MA

It was 5:00 AM and I was parked on a residential street just off Trapelo Road in Belmont waiting to pick someone up on the way to the airport. Something that looked like a Siberian Husky trotted nonchalantly through the intersection. It was holding something fluffy in its mouth. Maybe a cat, toy dog, or some other prey. We were less than a mile from Cambridge. Pretty suprising to see a coyote cutting through such a densely populated neighborhood.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

17% Homeowner's discount for class 4 roof

In Austin we are eligible for a 17% discount on homeowner's insurance for installing an impact resistant class 4 roof. I upgraded to a class 4 roof after the hailstorm in march. I will recoup the extra cost for the roof in about 8 years using a simple payback. If we get hailed on and the roof survives the savings on my deductible will more than pay for the cost of the heavy duty roof.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Unplugging Grandma Austin Style

Turns out seniors in Austin won't have to worry about Obamacare. That's because a combination of expensive "green" power and brutal summer heat will probably kill them first. I liked the "Green Choice" program better when one actually had a choice between regular and green power. Now the "Green Choice" will be whether to run the AC in 100 degree heat, or buy food and medicine. I guess liberals are only pro-choice when it comes to letting teen age girls get abortions without parental consent. Seniors struggling to pay the bills don't seem to get much in the way of choices.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Energy Savings with Polaralum

Just had my first electric bill since the Polaralum heat barrier was installed. I also had a ridge vent installed and I used slightly lighter colored shingles. Electric consumption went down from 1772 KWH in July to 1472 KWH in August (17% less power). It's true there were fewer cooling degree days in the August period (743 vs 774), but even correcting for that power consumption was a lot lower. It's more impressive when one considers the new roof was on for 6 days in the July billing period - without the Polaralum the July electric bill would have been even higher. The heat barrier helps extend the life of my AC units as well - they don't run as much now.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thoughts on District 9 (Spoiler Alert).

District 9 Spoiler Alert - do not read if you want to go in fresh!

In District 9 Charles Johnson (the alien) is outraged at the aliens being used for medical experiments. So much so that he reneges on his promise to Wikus. But Johnson shrugs when Nigerian gangsters are cracking open aliens like a bunch of Alaskan king crabs in an Old Milwaukee beer commercial. Johnson also did not do much to help rescue his fellow aliens at the beginning when they were starving and the humans cut open the ship and rescued them. Giant plot holes. Huge. Could drive a truck through them. Kind of wrecked the movie for me.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Greg Nickels (Seattle Mayor) loses primary

Greg Nickels has lost his primary.

These two nuggets jump out:
"Mr. Nickels, a Democrat and the current president of the United States Conference of Mayors, has led a national effort to have cities reduce their carbon emissions."
"The city’s poor response to a record snowstorm in December left many residents stranded on unplowed streets and angry with the mayor’s initial lack of contrition."

When a mayor cares more about global warming than getting the snow off the streets, it is indeed time to get a new mayor. As I get older I realize more and more that the key benefit of democracy is not good government. No, the key advantage of democracy is that allows folks to get rid of really bad and incompetent government.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hey Hey Barack Hussein!

How much debt did you add today!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Another Anti ObamaCare Rally in Austin

Sunday, 9 August 2009. This was supposed to be a pro-Obamacare rally at the statehouse, but I only saw 6 or so pro Obama people there. Everyone else was against ObamaCare. The counter demonstrators were out in force. It was pretty peacefull and civil. My sign said "Dude, Where'e my HSA?" It was frustrating that there were so few pro ObamaCare supporters to talk to and try to persuade.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rally Against ObamaCare

While state senator Kirk Watson and US Rep. Lloyd Doggett talked to folks inside the AFL-CIO hall a bunch of us gathered outside on Lavaca and protested. The photo above is of the mostly red shirted opponents of ObamaCare. My sign said "Read the Bill" and there were lots of other good signs. The crowd supporting ObamaCare stood accross the street from us on Lavca outside the union hall. Travis County Sheriffs made sure we did not block the street.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama and the Gates imbroglio ...

Obama believes he can run the financial system, the auto industry, and take over the giant health care industry. Why are we not surprised that he is trying to do the job of the Cambridge Police Internal Affairs Department. Geez.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Polaralum eligible for 30% energy tax credit

Via email Heat Barrier Systems informs me that the material costs for the polaralum heat barrier are eligible for the 30% energy tax credit. This is probably not a lot of $$$, but still worth claiming.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The "Jaws the Revenge" Presidency

Some have seen the Obama Presidency as a sort of third Bush term, what with the holdover of Bush's defense secretary and the non closing of Guantanamo. I think this is way to generous. To use movie analogies, the Obama Presidency is not like "Jaws 3" - it is more like "Jaws the Revenge", a pathetic effort not worthy of a well regarded franchise.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Unlicensed driver destroys my car (part 3)

Turns out the car will not be totaled. Damage is about 65% of NADA blue book and they will fix the car. Hopefully there are no nagging mechanical problems (transmission etc).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Unlicensed driver destroys my car (part 2)

The unlicensed driver who smashed into my car was cited, and the Austin Municipal Court was nice enough to mail me a copy. This gave me the driver's DOB which let me search for his priors online. Turns out in his 4 year driving career, Jose (his real name) has been cited twice for the trifecta of running a red light, no insurance, and no driver's license. His first offense was in 2005, but he did not pay till 2007 (how's that for an easy payment plan?) He's paid a total of $879 in fines, and driven around for 4 years. What a bargain! I pay a lot more to be legal. Geez.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Roof replaced after Texas hailstorm

The roofers came last week and redid the roof. The damage from the hailstorm last March in NW Austin did not produce any visible damage, but an inspection by my insurer revealed the roof was totaled (apparently the granules on the shingles can be dislodged by hail - this exposes the heart of the shingle to the Texas sun and photo degradation). I went ahead and had a full length ridge vent installed, as well as polaralum heat barrier made by Heat Barrier Systems. It was all topped off by Class IV impact resistant shingles from Malarkey roofing products. I used the lightest color shingle they had. On a sunny day with my old roof, the attic floor typically would be at least 30 degrees hotter than the shaded north side of the house (I used a nifty LaCrosse thermometer with multiple sensors to tell me this). Now the difference is less than 20 degrees. Today it was 97 outside, and only a max of 113 in the attic. This is pretty cool, as AC ducts in houses are typically run in the attic. Even though the ducts are insulated they still absorb some heat - a cooler attic can only help my geriatric AC unit. The impact resistant shingles will qualify me for a 17% discount on my homeowners policy (the discount varies by region - in some parts of TX it is lot higher).
The payback on these two items will be long, at least 7-10 years. If we have another hailstorm and my roof survives though, the class 4 shingles will have paid for themselves by helping avoid an insurance claim and deductible.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Save the Squid - enviros go off the deep end.

The image of Californians trying to return beached Humboldt squid to the ocean sums up how unhinged the environmental movement has become. The squid are not endangered. Unlike marine mammals they reproduce at a rapid rate. They are also voracious predators and pretty much eat anything (even each other).

"Growing up to seven feet long and occasionally bigger—possibly much bigger—these carnivores seize their prey with two lightning-fast, hook-laden tentacle clubs, draw it into a squirming nest of eight arms and proceed to tear chunks of flesh from its body with a disproportionately large, razor-sharp, parrot-like beak."

I can just see it now - a celebrity studded benefit concert. Kracken-Aid!

California: Tax pot to raise money

There's a proposal to tax pot to raise revenue. How about legalizing offshore drilling and taxing that?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Unlicensed driver destroys my car ...

He was just totaling a car that Americans wouldn't total. So that makes it ok?

Unlicensed driver destroys my car ...

It does make me glad I live in Williamson County though. Unfortunately the accident happened in Travis county. How best to describe Austin and Travis county? It's like they signed up to be franchisees for San Francisco style political insanity.

Monday, July 13, 2009

An unlicensed driver crashes into my car

There is an old saying that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. Or a conservative is a liberal who has been to an emergency room. I can add one more - a conservative is a liberal whose car gets totaled by an unlicensed driver. I was already conservative, but this afternoon when a young gentleman crashed into me head on, while I was stopped, on my side of the road, well, it's just made me even more conservative (If that was possible). The nice police officers who responded assured me that the other driver had an insurance policy. Fortunately one of the nice police offices was bilingual, which was fortunate since I speak no spanish and the youth appeared not to know any english. In my shaken state I neglected to ask if the youth had a driver's license. Alas, no. Now I don't really mind if folks drive without a license. But if you drive without a license please drive carefully. Don't barrel round corners on the wrong side of the road text messaging some amigo or senorita. Geez. I don't know if the young man was here legally (our city fathers and mothers in their wisdom pay supreme attention to the dictum of unelected UN mandarins that landfill waste be reduced to zero by 2040, and chose to ignore the immigration laws of United States, and the dangerous drivers of our city). I do know the young man doesn't have a license, he doesn't know how to drive, and our local political establishment just doesn't care. I'm just glad it's my poor Honda that bought the farm, and not me, or the little kids playing in the neighborhood where the accident happened. He got a ticket. That's all. He's still driving. He may be coming to a street near you soon.

Austin finds few takers for green power

The City of Austin can't sell its green power. The "Green Choice" program used to let folks who wanted to pay more for wind or solar power to do so. Now in an Orwellian twist everybody will get green power, since the city has sold only 1% of its green power in the last 7 months. I guess the "choice" will be whether to turn the lights on, or just sit in the dark.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

T proposes 20 percent fare hike ...

Back in my home state the state transportaion agency has proposed a 20 percent fare hike. Someone has to pay for T employees to "retire" after 23 years on the job. Rather than tighten up out of control pension costs, the T takes the easy way out and socks it to riders. I'm glad I don't live in MA anymore.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fiesta Market has Kinder Chocolate

Was pleasantly surprised to find that Fiesta Market on the I-35 Frontage road near downtown stocks Kinder Chocolates. Grapevine used to carry these, and Spec's may have them in Houston, but not in Austin.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Water Treatment Plant

Water treatment plant Lady Bird Lake Austin, TX.

NYTimes takes sides (again)

Tax Bill Appeals Take Rising Toll on Governments (or so says our paper of record). Loads of sympathy for strapped local governments. Sympathy for schmoes like me? Not so much.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Turtle in Lady Bird Lake Austin.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Turk's Cap

Turk's Cap growing wild along Lady Bird lake.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Stevie Ray Vaughn Statue

Statue of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn along Lady Bird Lake.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mowing Flood Control Structure

Mowing flood control structure along highway 183 in Austin.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Massive Live Oak

Massive Live Oak near Wells Fargo on 183.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Giant Mushrooms

Giant mushrooms along the shore of Lady Bird lake ...