I left work a little early today to get ready for trick or treaters. Though I had bought a pumpkin, I hadn’t carved it yet. It was kind of small, so I was thinking about just putting an eye on it, like the Eye of Sauron. Then I thought maybe two eyes. Then I thought I could make them look angry by adding eyebrows. As I was standing at the kitchen counter carving the pumpkin, Austin was very interested. But he’s always interested when I’m in the kitchen. The cutouts from the eyes were kind of ear shaped so I used some matchsticks to hold them onto the side of the pumpkin and drilled 9/16″ earholes. Eventually I added a triangle nose. It turned out okay. The ears made it a lot more interesting.


Then I went outside to sweep off my walkway. When I came back, one of the ears was gone. At first I thought it must have fallen off and the matchstick was left sticking out of the pumpkin. But then I found it half-eaten in my dining room (where else?). I bent down to pick it up and Austin sped in to get it just before me. I wound up getting it back and sticking it on the pumpkin.

Then I got the nose cutout to see if Austin really likes pumpkin or if he was just playing around. He liked it! He also ate an eyebrow and then I decided he had had enough pumpkin. I should have named him Peter.

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Tankless Water Heater

Since I moved in 10 years ago my water heater has been old (it was made in 1980). And yet it continues to last and get older. For a while I considered a solar water heater. I have a south-facing roof right above where the water heater is. But solar systems are very expensive and complicated. Years ago I priced out a system that was $2000 including two solar panels, pump, and a heat exchanger to heat water using hot antifreeze from the solar collector (you can heat the water directly but have to remember to drain the solar collectors any night it will go below freezing). You also need an 80-gallon water tank, which was not included. That would never pay for itself and, on top of that, there was no guarantee you would always have hot water. And the time you really need it, in the morning, is the time you have the least of it. So you still end up buying a backup system.

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New Fridge

Yesterday I went to Sears to check out the refrigerators I had been researching all week. I had narrowed my choices down substantially by picking 1. Energy Star 2. Top Freezer 3. Icemaker 4. 18 cubic feet and 5. White. Sears narrowed my choices down substantially further by offering something that fit all of those criteria and selling it for only $500 with free delivery. Nobody else could come close. Lowes had a Whirlpool, which I would have rather gotten, but it was a hundred dollars more and they would have charged for delivery.

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799 Refrigerators

I have been thinking about replacing my old brown refrigerator for a long time. But, because it works fine (even the icemaker), I haven’t been in a hurry. I read something about refrigerators using more electricity than anything else in the kitchen and I knew that the era of brown refrigerators couldn’t have been that interested in efficiency. I found a website run by Energy Star that can calculate what your old refrigerator really costs you compared to a current Energy Star model. Mine is so old that I didn’t think they would have my model, and they didn’t (at first), so I entered the cubic feet and guessed at the year as being before 1980. It said I could save $250 a year. That didn’t seem possible. Later when I entered the model of my refrigerator without hypens, I found some similar sounding refrigerators made by GE from 1980 to 1984 and guessed I could save more like $100 per year. Still, not bad. (Follow up: I wound up saving almost a third of my electricity, at least $200 a year).

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Movie Review Database

I had thought about converting my movie reviews, currently a bunch of HTML web pages, to a database using MySQL and php. Then I thought I could just use Microsoft Access which I’m pretty familiar with to create HTML pages. I had done something similar at work where we had a database of companies and I was able to create an index page and then separate pages for each company. Then we would move the pages generated to our website. That site has since been replaced by a dynamic web-based application under a (very expensive) contract.

Right now I have an archive of every movie review by the year the movie was released. I am also using frames to navigate by using two frames: one with a drop down list of years and another frame with a list of movies for that year. To make it easy, I just have a separate HTML file for each year that consists of a drop-down list and is loaded when a year is selected. One other thing I do at the end of each year is generate a ranked list of all the movies I saw that year. That’s easy in HTML, but the tricky part is that I break ties and sometimes rank independently of whatever grade I originally gave the movie (so I might have a B- ahead of a B movie once I think about it). On that ranking page I give a short summary of my review for each movie. Using an ordered list, it is easy for me to insert a movie, since I am not coming up with the ranking numbers, but letting the HTML do it based on where the movie falls in the list. The HTML assigns the numbers, not me. This makes it really easy to add a movie to the list or change places of a movie.

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Amazon MP3 Service

I have bought 194 songs from iTunes now. I thought Apple did a great thing in providing a simple pricing scheme and software that made it easy and fun. They also offer a very good selection of songs. And now they have video, movies, and TV shows. The only downside was that the songs could only be played using iTunes on the computer or on an iPod. amazon-mp3.gif However you could still burn the songs to a CD and play them wherever you wanted. Governments in Europe have insisted that Apple stop selling a proprietary format, wanting to avoid another Microsoft type of monopoly. Some music labels now sell high quality songs (MP3’s are generally have less sound quality than CD’s) on iTunes without any restrictions on how the songs are played (and charge an extra 30 cents). Other music companies have said they will stop partnering with Apple altogether because they do not like Apple’s terms.

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Water Use Down by One Third

With the bathroom renovations complete I was able to eliminate leaky faucets and toilets. Also the new toilets are low flow (2 gallons compared to probably 5) and the new showerhead is also lower flow (I used to have a great showerhead, so good that when I had to stop using the one shower due to leaks, I moved the showerhead to the other bathroom; I forgot to ask for it back during the makeover).

Anyway, my water consumption dropped from a 3-year average of 1650 gallons per month to only 1050 gallons per month on my last statement. I wasn’t sure if that would hold up over time, but I got my new statement today and it was 1150 gallons, so the savings seem to be holding up. However, that only amounts to about $5 per month in savings.

FOPAB Q4 Update

I think my e-mail system blocked this when I sent it to John on September 23 and I didn’t make it in to FOPAB. But here is what I wrote:

After many years of telling Susan “I wish you could be here” when we went on family vacations, she finally got to go. She found a house sitter to take care of all her animals, plus my Katie while we were gone. Austin (who doesn’t get along with Susan’s cats) stayed with a friend who pampers him beyond belief (scrambled eggs and cheese for breakfast and her two sons take him for walks almost all day long). The trip was a lot of fun and it was great spending time with everyone in the house, at the beach, and by the pool. Susan and I went to Busch Gardens and enjoyed the roller coasters there despite our first try being rained out. Susan even said she’d be willing to vacation with us again!

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Wearing a nano

One of the first problems I noticed when I started using my new nano was when I put it in my pocket or take it out, it is likely to change the volume or skip forwards or backwards as the buttons are accidentally pushed. There is a switch on the bottom that locks the controls, but that means if you want to skip a song, you have to unswitch, skip, and switch again. Not terrible. Kind of inconvenient though, plus I usually already have stuff in my pockets.

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