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Days of restaurants past...

September 11, 2009 9:15 AM 9/11/09

So I’m eating brunch at a different restaurant today. Feels strange.

I’m planning on visiting the one restaurant I’ve gone to lunch at for the last 5 years or so.just to say goodbye to the staff there. All of them are very cool and in my mind deserve an explanation for my disappearance. They were very kind to me over the years.

I was going to just drop off my iPhone charger at my previous place of employment but my gut is telling me to never set foot on property owned by that company again. And I’m listening to it this time. Better to just mail the stuff back.

Just paid up all the bills today so that means there’s another bill in the mail. Go figure.

Started moving on stuff around the house so at least there is some movement forward. I should be able to get most of it cleaned up this coming week without too much problem. Need to buy a new tank for the one toilet so it doesn’t leak into the bowl. (Cracked seat that has a hairline all the way into the bowl mount.) Also will likely buy an attic fan replacement as ventilation helps both in the winter and summer. I also need to buy the pieces for the fence today or tomorrow so I can get it done by the permit deadline. (This whole unemployment thing is where not having the garden running is kicking my ass.)

Still pending are the massive scrubbing of the entire house, the steam cleaning of the carpets, and the diaspora of the third bedroom. Among other things. ;-)

I really don’t want another I/T job but I’m going to take the time to look into Cisco certification anyway as that training is something I’ve always wanted under my belt. I can do a lot of self training but in the case of Cisco it would be good to have a formal training thing under my belt. And supposedly I don’t have to certify my unemployment all the time if I’m attending class.

So maybe...for a short time...I get to go back to school. Wow. Didn’t think that would ever be a possibility. My wife is gonna kill me if I do that because it’s one of the things she really wants to get back to since I interrupted her life more than 15 years ago.

In other endeavors I got the scroll saw all set up and made sure it was completely functional. Interestingly enough in my recent cleaning I found a piece of plexiglass that I’d marked to be cut when I had a working scroll saw so now that it’s working I’ve got an immediate project for it.

Speaking of projects I need to build a “can keeper” set of shelves for the back hallway. I got the idea from a boot rack we bought years ago. It’s basically a slanted set of shelves with a front stop board and you put the cans in it horizontally. Much better organization than our stacking method we’re using under the one cupboard currently.

Other projects include piece of steel flashing carefully cut and wrapped onto a piece of plywood that I can hang on the one wall in the back hallway. Add to this a bunch of metal tins and some magnets and you have a wonderfully efficient spice rack courtesy of Kidney Stone TV...er...all the Alton Brown episodes I watched for a week while home with “kidney issues”. Better still by doing it this way the rack can be moved to wherever it will be able to be hung. Very cool.

Spices aren’t the hardest thing to find a place to store properly. In addition to the 2000+ books we have on shelves I have another few hundred science fiction/fantasy paperbacks. I want them out where I can display them and re-read them so I have to figure out some sort of shelving. A lot of them are on the crown shelves in the third bedroom but they won’t all fit there. I may fill those anyway just to make storing the others easier.

Speaking of stories I’ll likely begin writing on The Unlicensed as soon as I get everything organized to where I can write again. I think I’ll move the electronics table in the garage onto the white workbench and devote the other to just computer stuff. Since the cheap 15“ LCD I got off E-Bay works just fine I can easily hang one of those on the back wall and separate the iMac from all the rest of the systems so that there’s no more keyboard confusion. I wonder if I can afford a Bluetooth module for that or if it’s even available since it’s a first-gen G5 iMac. Have to check on that that.

I’m really trying not to spend money but there are so many things that need to be repaired or settled. For instance I spent $75 or so today getting the final parts to put together an Asterix server that will allow me to do several things such as sort incoming calls via caller ID and put a software VOIP phone out in the garage. That’ll rock because we’ll end up with the functions of a business phone system AND the ability to have voicemails forwarded to our e-mail boxes. On top of that this allows me to implement the ”Screaming Monkey Protocol“ for known telemarketing numbers. (The SCP is where a number is identified as a known telemarketer/bad number and the server plays back an extremely loud track of screaming monkeys in their ear. ;-) Well worth the effort in my opinion.) The card and modules cost about $75/$80 not counting shipping and the server can be any computer almost so I can use free ones I’ve got at home.

I’ll have to talk to my wife because there’s still some promises I haven’t kept that the current fundage allows me to keep but I want her to be on the same page and be okay with the situation.

My wife’s really stressing about all this and while I can’t blame her she needs to calm down. I’m not going to let her be ground into dust by not getting a job. I’m never going to let us starve or the lights be turned off or any other utility for that matter. And with the coming 401k cash-out that will take care of any creditors that might call us provided we’re not stupid enough to buy anything on credit again except ginormous purchases like cars or something in the future.

I looked a little more into getting a hardship removal of the PMI on our mortgage but it looks like there’s about the same chance of that as of being hit by space debris or winning the lottery so I don’t think I’m going to invest much time in that. And especially since our home loan is now owned by BOA who are known far and wide for screwing things up. (Those were the guys that sent my friends motorcycle loan to his father even though he was never on the loan in any way shape or form. They did this for almost six months. He paid his father while his father paid the loan until they could get it sorted out. Bizarre.)

I told my wife the price for me spending less money would be spending more time in the workshop. I know she also wants more time spent with her and our daughter but after having everything in my work life stripped away the last eight months I need to attend to the only space that is truly mine. I worked out there for a while last night and there are a ton of spider webs everywhere out there that I need to clean out. I also need to enclose the loft area out there with at least foam insulation panels so it’s not so expensive to heat in the winter.

And that’s yet another thing I need to do - make my super-duper daytime solar window heating units.

(Disclaimer! I take no responsibility for you burning your house down and all this is for instructional/entertainment purposes only!)

Here’s one for you free to the public domain...


1 - 8.5”x11“ fresnel magnifier.
1 - 10”x10“x1/8” flat steel square.
1 - right-angle piece of ductwork like for floor vents. (Must have at least an 9“ x 11” square opening.)
1 - straight piece of ductwork like for floor vents. (Same as above.)
1 - 12v solar panel or whatever will run
1 - 4“ brushless DC muffin fan
1 - piece of plywood the width of the window. (Better yet something fireproof.)
1 - roll of metal heating duct tape
1 - Internal adjustable vent cover that fits the square portion of the straight ductwork piece
Several of the small right-angle brackets

You can see where this is going right?

1) Place the solar pane at the bottom of the ductwork piece meant to be outside and run the wires to the muffin fan.

2) In the square opening of the right-angle piece of ductwork mount the fresnel magnifier flat. DO THIS INSIDE AWAY FROM THE LIGHT! Solar burns hurt just as much as any other ones so please be careful! I suggest mounting it with hinges for cleaning and access to the internal space.

3) Using oven mitts or similar protection take the right-angle assembly outside. Temporarily open the top of the assembly and place the 10” x 10“ metal sheet inside. Holding the ductwork in one hand and using proper protection reach inside the round end of the duct and adjust the distance of the focal point from the fresnel lense until it _almost_ reaches a point. What we want here is heat not OMG FIRE! ;-) Mark the mounting locations for the metal sheet on the outside of the ductwork.

4) Take the unit out of the sun and let it cool then use the small angle brackets to secure the metal sheet inside the ductwork. Make sure that the solar cells are mounted to one side and above the metal sheet. Don’t worry they should still get enough sunlight to function.

5) Mount the muffin fan in the round end of the duct between the right-angle piece of ductwork and the straight piece of ductwork.

6) Cut the piece of plywood to fit a space within the window allowing for the ductwork and cut a round hole to allow the ductwork to go directly through the center without touching the window frame. Please note that it is _VERY_ important to put the fresnel lense as far away from the the plywood as possible both to allow for maximum sunlight and to reduce heat on the plywood. Depending on your sunlight you might want to substitute something fireproof in place of the plywood.

7) Use the right-angle brackets to secure the ductwork to the plywood and seal with metal tape.

8) Open up a sunny window and place it inside the same way you would mount a window A/C unit. Make sure to seal for drafts around the window.

9) Attach vent cover to inside facing piece of ductwork. Open and close as needed.

This unit is obviously only daytime supplemental heating but if done properly it should help reduce the heating bill a little depending on how many are installed and what kind of sunlight you have. The big thing with these is proper protection against the ductwork overheating and continued function of the fans.


That said I fully intend to make one or two of these for the garage before winter hits and hopefully reduce the amount of fuel needed to heat that place. (It cost me a bundle on paper last year and the only reason it didn’t hit our wallets was because we’re on the ”budget plan“ and it averages out. I intend to make sure it never becomes an issue.

Fun stuff! :-)

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 11th, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
I strongly suggest that if you mail anything back to the company you make certain it has to be signed for- you don't need the hassle of them later claiming they never got it. *hugs*

Keeping busy is good! I find that if you can afford to do nothing else, just cleaning and organizing things makes you more cheerful. Dirt and disorder are depressing.
Sep. 11th, 2009 06:25 pm (UTC)
Yeah I'm going to box it up today and get it out tomorrow. It's just an iPhone charger and cable but I don't want it around and definitely don't want to set foot back on their property. (Once again - listening to those instincts I ignored before.)

As for keeping busy I have a ton of stuff to do. I found out today that it's almost impossible to match the tank off the old toilet without dragging it into the store so I'm likely spending for a full toilet replacement. Thankfully it's a simple white flush model that can be replaced cheap. (I just hate dealing with the mounting though. Icky.)

That and the "honey do" list has started with a bang - I have to transport a medium sized palm tree when I pick up my daughter today. Why the person in question can't pick it up on their own I don't know but I'm not going to argue about it.

The big thing though is I'm starting to get moving again. That's the hardest part for me because if I'm tired or depressed I tend to dissolved into this spineless lump that sits on the couch in front of the TV and the computer.
Sep. 11th, 2009 06:34 pm (UTC)
*nods* Momentum is the big thing! If you keep moving, things WILL be accomplished and you will feel better about yourself. It's good to make up a list of tiny jobs for those days when you don't feel up to tackling the big stuff.
Sep. 12th, 2009 08:41 am (UTC)
I bought a USB Bluetooth adapter "dongle", hoping to be able to create my own ringtones for my cell phone and use Bluetooth to transfer the files from the computer to the phone. Alas, my phone's software doesn't seem to like the idea. But the Bluetooth dongle works just fine. It's a Kensington device, and it cost me around $25 - I honestly don't even remember where I bought it, but it was some relatively major store that sells computers and accessories. *rummages for the paperwork* It even says it'll work on a Mac.

That heating device does sound dangerous... Fresnel lenses are not for the faint of heart...
Sep. 12th, 2009 08:54 am (UTC)
It looks like the Bluetooth was a factory option for my one iMac:


I laugh at the note saying it's not user installable. ;-)

( Edit: And it would be the damn $56 one on top of it - http://shorterlink.org/5896 )

As for the fresnel heater well...nothing exciting is ever truly safe. I think it was Burt Rutan who said of space travel "If we're not killing people we're not pushing hard enough." While it sounds harsh it's very very true. This society has become entirely too hidebound.

As long as you take some basic precautions though I think the heater design can be made safely enough. I was thinking that it could be combined with copper tubing and an antifreeze sump to provide some thermal retention but I really want a design with as few moving parts as possible.

If only there was a rock that soaked up heat like a sponge and released it slowly over time. (There probably is such a material but I don't recall hearing about it.)

Edited at 2009-09-12 08:58 am (UTC)
Sep. 15th, 2009 05:46 am (UTC)
This is what I've got. And here is a list of places you can buy it. Note that Kensington wants $29.99 for it, but the prices at various retailers range from $19.99 to $34.99 (!). (It's still cheaper than the Bluetooth card for the computer.)

According to this article, plain old water has the highest "thermal mass" of any commonly available material.

Sep. 12th, 2009 09:00 am (UTC)
And if Fresnel lenses are not for the faint of heart why do they sell them in the office section of most stores? *poke* ;-P
Sep. 15th, 2009 05:52 am (UTC)
The "page magnifiers" they sell in office-supply stores don't seem to be very strong - maybe 3X magnification? I don't think you can do much damage with them...
Sep. 15th, 2009 10:53 am (UTC)
They're strong enough to start wood on fire - I just tested it yesterday - that means that they're strong enough to heat up a piece of metal which is all that is needed for the main source of heat for windows.

The trick here is the 1024 chicken principle of Seymour Cray. "Which would you rather have to plow a field? Two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?"

Enough small sources and you get the equivalent of one large source.
Sep. 15th, 2009 12:01 pm (UTC)
Wow. They certainly don't look that strong when you use them for their intended purpose - as page magnifiers, they seem to mostly do a terrific job of distorting the print. If I can get one cheap enough, I'll play around with it.

(I remember taking the biggest, strongest magnifying glass I could get my hands on, and trying to use it to set paper on fire. It took upwards of five minutes, trying to hold my hand steady so that the light stayed perfectly focused, before it finally burst into flame. I wasn't always able to make it work.)
Sep. 15th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
I had a 1/4" stick in flames in less than a minute. Inch for inch Fresnel lenses are a lot more powerful than most other designs.

The issue of course is getting the focus just right which in this case doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot to me because I want steady heat not a pinpoint to start fires with.

Also setting them up "defocused" allows for more heat no matter where the sun is otherwise you'd only get heat when it was spot on in the right place.
Sep. 15th, 2009 07:35 pm (UTC)
I immediately thought of this (better instructions here), or a similar solar-cooker design... instead of just a clear plastic top, you could use one or more of those page-size fresnels. But I think i'd build the shell out of something a bit more flame-resistant than recycled cardboard.

Pity it's so much easier to make things hot than it is to make things cold...
Sep. 12th, 2009 09:17 am (UTC)
The Fresnel heater idea could even be scaled up.

For instance take a lense this size:


and build it into what would basically be a large metal rabbit hutch with a round duct output on the end. Put a large 1/2" bar of steel with a heat sink on the end just inside the focal point of the lense. Then put an electric fan on the heat sink to circulate the warm air into a set of ducts running into a building.

I'm betting with the right amount of these and thermal switches/vents you could keep any small to medium sized building heated during the day provided there was sunlight available.
Sep. 15th, 2009 05:55 am (UTC)
Now that looks scary...
Sep. 12th, 2009 11:25 am (UTC)
solar heating
Wouldn't a solar chimney on the side of your house be simpler and more cost efficient? It would consist of a sheet of plexi or glass, installed into a box that is built on the outside of your building, with convection openings at the top and bottom that can be adjusted for warm air flow or shut when it is not needed. If you paint the siding under the box, then you are able to absorb more sunlight.
Sep. 12th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)
Re: solar heating
While a solar chimney would work it's not easily able to be retrofit to existing buildings. Not everybody owns the property they live in but almost everybody is able to put something in their window to help heat or cool.
Sep. 16th, 2009 04:07 am (UTC)
Okay, I know I said it before...
But the thought of your warning, "...COULD POTENTIALLY SET FIRE TO THINGS..." always brings to mind THE car. Though, I am sure your skills have gotten stronger young padawan.

I will remember to bring my nomex outfit when visiting.
Sep. 16th, 2009 04:15 am (UTC)
Re: Okay, I know I said it before...
*makes note to self to go buy chickens tomorrow*
Sep. 16th, 2009 12:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Okay, I know I said it before...
mmmm...chicken :)

Almost as good as PIe.
Sep. 17th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
Re: Okay, I know I said it before...
Or in your case 1/2E10PI. ;-)
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )



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