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Jul. 1st, 2017


After spending an hour or two matching samples to pictures online, I think I've identified the weeds in my lawn...

In order, from the ones that bother me the most, are...

  1. Virginia Buttonweed

  2. Prostrate spurge

  3. Goosegrass

I may have some prostrate knotweed and purslane too.

Now I need to figure out how to get rid of them.

May. 23rd, 2016

Replacing (Canister) Purge Valve Solenoid

After my check engine light came on again, I took my car into the mechanic.  I explained what I had done.  He suggested I replace the Purge Valve.  He showed me where it was on my car.  It was up near the engine.  He said if it sucked air (when the hose was disconnected) when the car started, then it was bad.  Sure enough, that was the case.  He cleared my codes and suggested I just replace the purge valve solenoid myself and then see if the check engine light comes on again.  It hasn't been 100 miles yet, so I'm still waiting.

From the AutoZone details (on part PV424)...

How It Works:  Regulates the flow of stored fuel vapors from teh charcoal canister to the intake manifold.  It also prevents fuel vapors from the the fuel tank and carburetor fuel bowl from escaping into the atmosphere.

When It Doesn't Work:  A failed purge valve can allow the engine to draw in raw fuel resulting in a rich fuel mixture, black smoke from the exhaust, and increased fueld consumption.

Nov. 20th, 2015

Replacing (Canister) Vent Valve Solenoid

The check engine light came on in my vehicle a few months ago.  There were a couple random times where the car wouldn't start.  I took it to AutoZone. They verified there were no issues with the battery or starter.  They did a code check and it came back with P0442 and P0449.  I knew the issue wasn't a defective or loose fuel cap.  I looked up a few videos on YouTube about a failed evap vent solenoid (P0449).

I bought the PV485 Duralast (for $27.05 with tax) and replaced my existing purge valve solenoid.  The original had two hoses connected to it.  The one I purchased only had one.  One of the comments for the videos indicated that this was because they incorporated the filter into the solenoid.  I left the extra hose just hanging.  It would have been more work to remove it from being bundled up with the other hoses.  After removing the positive battery cable for a bit, I started the car and the check engine light went away.

It took me longer to drop the spare from underneath the car than to actually change the solenoid.  Also, I had to take the car in about something else in the interim and they wanted to charge me $388.88 for parts and labor to fix this.  That is more than 10x what it took for me to fix.

Sep. 26th, 2015

Hadoop and Hive

Well, I installed Hadoop and Hive.

I installed the latest version of Debian Linux (server) on a fresh install of VirtualBox on an old host machine running the new Windows 10.  It probably took three to five hours to get all the infrastructure set up. Whew.

The biggest hurdle was getting the networking working so I could access the Linux guest OS from another (non-host) machine on my network.  For some reason, I can SSH to my virtual Linux server from my non-host Windows computer but not from my host Windows machine.  Strange.

The Hadoop (single-node cluster) Namenode is on port 50070 and the Administration is on 8088.

I was able to create, insert, and query a sample Hive database and verify its location on HDFS.  That's good for now.
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Oct. 28th, 2012

Fixing My Washer

Having a broken appliance is never convenient.  When my washer full of clothes and water stopped mid-cycle on Friday, I initially envisioned hours of fruitless labor being rewarded with several hundred dollars of expenses on parts (and labor if I couldn't figure it out).  

However, I dug in and went to the Internet.  I came across one site that said 95% of the time a (Maytag) washer didn't start due to the lid switch.  I found a great video that showed how to use a multimeter to check the lid switch.  I confirmed it wasn't working, went to my local Maytag store and talked them down a few dollars to get a reasonably priced lid switch, came home, and installed the lid switch.  

It  worked!  It ended up taking less than two hours and costing less than $30.  My increased confidence in fixing my washer... priceless.

Sep. 4th, 2012

The Top 2 Things Great Bloggers Say in Their Post Titles

With most of the emails I receive that contain links to articles, blogs, etc., it is usually fairly easy to resist clicking on the links.  Even if I do follow a link, it is usually easy to give up reading after the first sentence or two.  However, I can't stop clicking and reading the links in the LinkedIn emails I receive.  I'm hooked!

I was thinking about what makes their links so compelling.  This may be common knowledge for the (Internet) marketer but it seems that the combination of 1) the number and 2) the person/event in the title works magic, at least on me.  The number makes the topic seem quantifiable, defined, easy to digest, and possible to replicate/achieve.  Then it is followed up by the knock out punch of adding relevancy and context by indirectly relating back to me or an event (e.g. my day).  I click and read.

Check out these samples...
Do you find yourself compelled to click on any of these?  How many?

Aug. 27th, 2012

Saving $30/month on Cable Bill

A few months ago I took the plunge and dropped cable TV and signed up for Netflix streaming.  Apparently, there are throngs of other people who have also cut the cord (see Cord Cutting is Real:  1 Million TV Subscribers Lost to Streaming Services).

Ultimately, this resulted in me saving about $30 a month (or $360 a year).  By cutting cable completely, the Internet bundling benefit was lost, so my monthly Internet costs went up a little (but still not enough to want to keep cable TV).  I found out that my Roku device (that I bought to use for Netflix streaming) only uses an average streaming video bitrate of 1.6Mbps-3.2Mbps for (H.264) HD video.  Knowing this, I downgraded my Internet to the "lite" version (~6Mbps) to shave off a few more dollars of my bill.

I have no regrets.  There is not the same variety with (Netflix) streaming as cable TV but the reality is we weren't using (and even didn't want) much of the delivered cable content.  With the streaming option we have more control over when and even relevant suggestions for what to watch.  We can watch on multiple devices.  I was able to justify paying for a new device, the Roku 2 XD, from my savings. 

In short, I have more money and more flexibility with virtually no loss in viewing capabilities from what I had before.  Where else can I do this?

Apr. 11th, 2012

Selling My Car (on craigslists for more than I asked)

It has been a few weeks now, but the head gasket blew on my old car.  It still ran, just overheated quickly.  However, after sitting in my garage for a few weeks it also stopped running.  The mechanic I'd been seeing offered to buy it but he never showed up, so I turned to the internet/craigslist.

I took four pictures and posted about two sentences on craigslist.  I mentioned the miles and that it was NOT running.  I came back after getting a drink and already had about 15 new emails in my inbox.  After about an hour and a half I had to delete the post because I had about 80 emails (some were duplicates) by this point.

The person I sold it to was one of the first people to respond and actually offered a higher price than what I was asking.  The person used multiple email addresses (with the same phone number) and included the offer in the subject.  This was surprisingly effective.  My eyes were drawn to the higher offer, which actually increased a few more times.  Having the (increasing) offers in the subject made the email show up as unique in my inbox.  Also, since multiple email accounts were used, these showed up as unique.  All this worked because it got my attention.  

I ended up selling my (non-running) car for three times the asking price in about five hours from the initial post.  The power of the internet!
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Mar. 15th, 2012

Gas Struts for Car

The liftgate on the rear of our car lost its "spring" and quickly collapsed whenever it was opened.  Besides being dangerous, it was inconvenient.  Try holding up a heavy door above you with your hand and/or head while trying to put stuff in your trunk with the other hand.  Imagine having to break your hold quick enough to dodge the claw of a door forcefully coming down.

I thought I remember getting a recall letter from the manufacturer about this but when I searched online I could only find a reference to the power liftgate version (Recall ID # 71934).  I went to a local dealership and found out that replacement gas struts cost $208.08 each (68905-AE011).  My thought was that if these were such high quality, then why did they stop working within five years, so I better try my luck somewhere else.  

The person at AutoZone said he could get replacement parts but would have to order and didn't seem sure he could get the right ones.  I asked Advance Auto Parts but they didn't have a substitute part.  However, the guy referred me to the local xlparts.com, where I was able to get two Monroe MaxLift gas charged lift supports (901533) for $29.94 each.  (It is possible to get online for a few dollars cheaper.)  

Taking out the old gas struts and replacing with the new ones took less than 10 minutes.  I just needed a flathead screwdriver and something/someone to help me prop open the door.  Plus, I ended up spending about 10 times less than I would have spent at the dealership.
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Oct. 3rd, 2011

Water/Solar Products

While on the plane the other day, I decided to pick up a SkyMall magazine.  I think I was predisposed by the book I just read to a few products relating to emergency preparedness.  Let me say that I don't own these and the reality of me buying them is small.However, it made me think I need to crunch the numbers to see if (or when) these things pay for themselves.

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