Bamboo Closure (with Pics!)

November 7, 2015 1:21am
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I wrote about my ongoing battles with bamboo in this week’s humor column, but for a bit of added closure I wanted to share some photos that I took throughout the process. You know what they say, a picture’s worth a thousand stalks of bamboo… 😛

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All in all I think I spent between 6 -8 hours across about 4 days gutting this crap out of my backyard – you can see in the first picture how it was so bad when I started that you literally couldn’t get around the corner unless you were a koala or perhaps one of the tiny lizards that we see scurrying about here in Florida!

Apparently whenever you plant bamboo, you’re supposed to put in some sort of barrier to make sure that it stays within the area that you want it … and even then I guess a lot of the time it just manages to poke right on through anyways. 

If I had a backyard that was bigger than, oh say, a sidewalk, it’s actually a pretty neat plant and would be neat to see grow into a natural privacy wall over the course of a couple of years, but when you can literally stand in between my pool cage and the fence and touch both of them at the same time, it’s just too small for such an invasive, wild plant to grow.

Also, would you believe that months earlier I first actually tried my hand at cutting this stuff down with a regular hand saw?!?!?!

This stuff is crazy, and the next time I see it coming up underneath my side of the fence, I’m poisoning the entire thing. Sorry, neighbor, but know what in the hell you’re getting into before you plant such an insane plant/tree/shrub/grass right next to your neighbor’s fence… 🙁

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Recycling has always been something that I’ve felt is pretty important, and it frustrates me how inconsistent we are about it as a society across the board.

People who are the most adamant about recycling like to make you think that it’s this simple thing that everyone can do to help the environment, but the truth is for a lot of people it’s actually anything but. Take my community, for example, which has a recycling program sponsored by our county. They just recently made a change to how they’re going to pick up – we used to just leave everything out in blue plastic bags and that was that, but now they’ve decided that the bags are too much of a hassle so we have to use a separate trash can specifically for recycling.

Many places, such as where I grew up in Michigan, give you a bin to leave out by the curb with your garbage each week, but here you’re required to buy your own as part of their new Choose and Use Your Own Container program.

Except for blue bags, if those were you’re particular container of choice… 😛

But I think what frustrates me more about our local program is when you peel back the layers and see just what they actually do and don’t take. I’ll even admit that I knew they wouldn’t take certain items for a while, but I’ve always snuck them in the bags anyways … hopefully as a gentle reminder that we’d like our local recycling program to be all inclusive! Now with the bags gone and my goods just loose in the container, however, I’ve taken to sorting everything out just to ensure that I don’t look out to see a pile of stuff that they won’t take laying in my yard after the garbage people come by… 🙁

Here’s what they won’t take:

  • newspapers (who doesn’t recycle newspapers?!)
  • paper or cardboard
  • styrofoam (see bullet #1 – isn’t this like one of the most common things to recycling?!?!)
  • plastic film or bags of any kind (including the 8 billion shopping bags you leave Walmart with every visit)
  • plastic utensils, plastic toys

Admittedly I don’t really care about the newspapers for me personally because we haven’t gotten a physical newspaper in ages, but cardboard … we get a ton of stuff from Amazon, so I’m always leaving out piles of broken down boxes for the trash – it would be nice. And styrofoam I just think is ridiculous … I’ve never heard of a recycling program not taking egg cartons, for god’s sake!

As for what they do take:

  • aluminum and metal food cans
  • glass containers
  • plastic containers (#1 – 5, #7)

And frankly, the last one is a perfect example of what I’m talking about when I say that it’s not easy enough because never before have I had to sort through my recycling to look for the little stamps on each plastic container – which aren’t always uniform and sometimes don’t exist altogether – to figure out which ones go in the trash and which ones are ok to recycle. It’s crazy! Mind you, I spent a few minutes and did it anyways because it’s personally important to me, but there are a lot of people out there who really don’t care one way or the other, and yet the only way that a recycling program is effective is if the vast majority of the population participates in it.

I know it may seem petty, but expecting people to sort out their plastics is an extra barrier to entry. Expecting them to take their newspapers and styrofoam somewhere else because curbside pickup won’t take them is an extra barrier. Hell, to an extent even requiring a separate garbage can is an extra step that I’m sure some people are just going to say, “Screw it – all this does is cost me time and money. Why should I bother?”

As it is, not everybody thinks kindly of recycling … as crazy of a notion as that might be to anyone who cares about our environment. Here’s an interesting set of five short interviews with people who don’t recycle and it’s mostly a mixture of not caring, not getting an incentive to care, or it seeming like too much of a hassle … these are the kind of people you’re up against when you add another rule or limitation to what your local recycling program will cover, and as you can see, it doesn’t take much to make somebody just throw in the towel and send it all to the dump when they’re not really invested in the cause to begin with…

For me, I think the most vivid justification for why I recycle is the memory of the couple of times that I’ve actually been to the dump myself. It’s always been to dispose of some bigger items that the garbage won’t pick up when we’re moving, and if driving up a giant pile of garbage to throw away your trash doesn’t make you see the need to recycle, I really don’t know what else will!

Just so much garbage – as far as the eye can see – with random bulldozers and heavy equipment trying to shuffle it around as best they can. I remember once being worried that my car was going to get stuck as I backed in to drop off an old table that Goodwill didn’t want, only to then watch a garbage truck buzz in and add another pile of junk to the sea of garbage like it was just another day’s work. Which it really was, because he’s a garbage man, and hauling away the crap we no longer want is what they do.

So I do like to pride myself for doing the best I can to recycle, and I’m happy to say that if you were to count the number of garbage vs. recycling bags that our household puts out each month, the recycling probably outnumbers the trash … which is a good start. And as much of a hassle as it is to sort my recycling and use a special bin and make special trips to recycle the stuff that I can’t get rid of at the curb, I’ll probably be one to take the extra time to do all of that, too, because environmental science and putting less into our local landfill is important to me.

That said, I don’t live in a bubble, so it’s really just as important to me that my neighbors recycle, too, and if right now it seems like it’s too difficult or complicated or time consuming to make it worth the hassle for them, then recycling needs to be made easier so that they’ll want to care more about it, too.

The next generation of recyclers - playing in our new recycling bin...

The next generation of recyclers – playing in our new recycling bin…

When it rains, it rains REALLY REALLY hard…

September 6, 2013 5:30pm
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So this has been a less than stellar week:

  • Paid a bunch of money to finally get the HOA off my back by getting our front yard re-sodded.
  • Discovered that the lawn guys didn’t do a stellar job because the sprinkler system wasn’t working/was half working by the time they finished (admittedly 1 zone was failing when they started).
  • Worried that expensive, new lawn was going to die because sprinklers weren’t working reliably.
  • Spent several hours rooting around the yard to try and figure it out on my own … realized that they couldn’t find some of the sprinkler heads and just laid the new sod down over them anyways instead of telling me.
  • Paid a sprinkler repair guy a bunch of money to come out and fix the sprinkler mess … in two hours, fixed the broken zone, replaced a few broken heads, and in total found 9 sprinkler heads that had been buried under the new sod.
  • Worried about future workings with lawn guys because they’re still supposed to re-plant our garden, plus they mow our grass every week.
  • On a completely unrelated note, went to get in my car for the first time in three weeks … and it won’t start!

😥

Pool Thermometer vs. Pool Thermometer

April 8, 2013 2:22pm
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Who knew that it was so hard to be super lazy at telling how warm the water in one’s pool is?!

I’ve been meaning to pickup a pool thermometer for a while now because eventually we’d like to add a solar heater to our pool and before we can figure out how much it will cost, we kind of need to know where we are now and where we’d like to get to temperature-wise. Plus, it’d be nice to have a better way to tell just how warm the water is besides the classic dip a toe in, which historically hasn’t proven to be super accurate when I’ve wanted to take a midnight dip!

So after procrastinating long enough, I eventually ordered this one from Amazon because it appeared to have the best features and wasn’t too expensive, though I was admittedly a little nervous about all of the negative reviews that it had received over the years. Still, online reviews can be tricky because I’m sure a lot more people log on to rant about how terrible a product is than those who wish to sing its praise, so I gave it a try and after a couple of weeks demoing, I can safely say … all of the negative reviews were absolutely spot-on.

Which was a bummer, too, because aside from it not actually working, I really liked the design of the first one that I picked – it had an air thermometer as well as the one that went in the water, so I could see both side by side, as well as some other random weather stuff and also a clock because hey, who doesn’t like a nice clock?!

But still, almost right out of the box we started having problems – within maybe an hour of putting the sensor in the pool, I noticed that it had dropped signal … so I’d go out, fish the thing out of the water and reset it, and it’d work for a while longer until dying once again. After doing a little more thorough reading of the reviews, I came to find that a common problem is that the batteries aren’t seated firmly inside the sensor, meaning that whenever it bumped up against the side of the pool … as something floating in water is bound to do eventually … the batteries would shift and lose connection for a split second, thus resetting the device.

Fortunately, this issue was solved fairly easily by taking a small piece of aluminum foil, folding it into a tiny rectangle, and inserting it across the connection points in the sensor to help maintain a more stable connection as the inevitable bouncing occurred.

That kept it working for a couple more hours, and then it lost signal again.

I tried just letting it sit for a while, but a big problem with the design of this thing is that it doesn’t sync on its own – you have to have the sensor and receiver side by side and press a button – meaning whenever signal gets lost, you’re going fishing to pull the stupid sensor out of the pool. And ultimately this became the final straw for me because it got really inconvenient to walk by the receiver and see that it almost never had a signal. And distance to the was no excuse because it was literally on the other side of a glass door maybe 15 feet from the pool … a far cry from the 100 feet that the packaging bragged.

For most of the time that we kept it, we left the sensor in the hot tub and just looked at the display on top to see when it was warm enough to jump in … but that’s not really the lazy reason that I bought it for! 🙁

So anyways, I ended up mailing the thing back to Amazon as defective and instead of choosing the other model that they carry, on a whim over the weekend I tried this one from Home Depot and after about 3 days I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I haven’t had to reset the damn thing once! Granted, it doesn’t tell me air temperature or anything – it’s pretty much a one-trick pony, but at least the pony doesn’t just wander off and forget that it’s even a pony until you chase after it and club it over the head with a carrot!

Also, I’m a little disappointed that the sensor is considerably bigger than the last one, but then again it seems to be a lot more durable, too.

Plus, the nice thing is that if it does happen to float out of range and lose signal, it just picks it back up automatically when it comes back into range. I noticed that right out of the package – no buttons to sync, just put the batteries in both and BAM!

Also also, the little graph showing historical temperatures over time is kinda neat, too.

Here’s hoping that this one continues to serve its purpose because not for nothing but there are only a couple of companies that even make wireless versions of these things, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to walk out and look at a regular thermometer floating in the water like a chump when everything else that I interact with in this house is wireless! 😉

I should be clear in saying that it didn’t start tonight, but it certainly finally ended tonight!

We’ve had a problem since we moved into our new house back in August that the pressure in the kitchen faucet wasn’t what it should be. It was even noted on our inspection before we bought the house, and all the while we’ve kept our fingers crossed that it was just something busted in the faucet itself and not a bigger problem that would require a plumber with big bills and an even bigger butt crack to resolve. Well, over the weekend while we were out and about we finally found a new faucet that both looked nice and also didn’t cost $200, so we broke down and bought it, and frankly have been having problems ever since…

The faucet we bought is basically this one by Glacier Bay, except ours is white, and honestly everything works great except for the pull down sprayer. You see, our last faucet had the sprayer separate off to the side, whereas this one has it built right into the neck, and the (first) problem that presented was that instead of having one hose for each of the four holes in our sink, this faucet has all four hoses going down the exact same hole. And the problem that this presented was that upon installation, the sprayer wouldn’t entirely retract back up into the neck of the faucet, presumably because its hose was snagging on all of the other hoses crammed into one tiny, little hole!

So I went to Lowe’s and spent more time than I had ever planned to talking to people about sinks, and how apparently I couldn’t just buy a Dremel tool to sand away part of the hole and make it bigger out of fear that I might end up cracking the sink … which admittedly sounded even worse than my whole faucet problem! Another part of the problem was, I just bought the place, so I really have no idea what material the sink is even made of to begin with – this made it very difficult to answer their questions to avoid giving me a solution that in fact would end up shattering my kitchen sink into a million pieces…

After two days of research, we were finally able to nail down the type of sink – it’s just a “composite” sink, nothing fancy or anything – and I was told that a simple file would do the trick as long as I was careful about what I was doing. And so that’s what part 1 of my re-installation evening looked like – pulling the brand new faucet back out of the sink, keeping my wife awake past her bedtime by filing the hole with a tool I bought at Lowe’s for about five bucks, and then re-installing the whole mess yet again, only to find … the sprayer STILL wouldn’t retract all of the way!!!

The instructions said to take note of where the counterweight was attached to the sprayer hose, and I actually went so far as to measure the distance to make sure that I had it perfect, but still no dice – it would retract most of the way, but still stick out of the faucet by about an inch, which just looked kinda tacky to me. Taking to the Internet, I finally found that apparently lots of these types of faucets have the same problem and one of the main differences between the model we bought and the $200 models is that the more expensive ones usually have a magnet in the head of the sprayer to help guide it up to its resting place.

Crap.

I also read that I could try adding more weight to the counterweight, though at 11:30pm my options were getting quite limited. After some brainstorming, I went out to the garage and dug one of my old SCUBA diving weights out of my all but abandoned dive bag. The weight was about 5 pounds and even had a convenient handle, and that ended up being more than enough … but not by much! I tried emptying some out because it just seemed like way too much weight to be hanging on the thing, but had to play around with it until I settled on I’m guessing about 3.5 pounds plus the weight of the original counterweight.

It’s not an elegant solution and you need to use a little more elbow grease to use the sprayer than you probably should, but at least the weight is hidden under the sink so it’s fine for the time being. I’ll probably stop into the store later on this week to see what my other options are – one problem with using the dive weight is that it’s basically just a sack of lead shot hanging off the hose and if there’s anything underneath for it to rest on, it won’t really do its job, so maybe I can just buy a second counterweight that at least actually wraps around the hose or something. I read online somebody talking about buying washers to add above the hose, but for the amount of weight that this thing seems to demand, I think the entire hose would be nothing but washers to get the thing to work!

So there you have it – how my 1/2 hour job tonight turned into a 3 hour job, on top of another 2 hours from the weekend that should’ve been enough to begin with. Being a homeowner is fun.

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What I Learned About How Toilets Work Tonight…

November 14, 2012 10:37pm
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So the toilet in our master bathroom has been clogged up for over a week now. I tried just about everything I could think of – tons of plunger-ing (obviously), makeshift coat-hanger auger, actual bought it at Home Depot auger, Internet-suggested baking soda and vinegar chemical method to breakdown the alleged blockage…

Yes, the Internet told me to turn my toilet into a baking soda & vinegar volcano, and I did it because I was really running out of options at that point!

All of this ended up being in vain, however, because it wasn’t until a couple of hours ago that I was faced with a startling revelation – the toilet was never actually clogged to begin with.

For you see, apparently two things are needed for a toilet to properly flush:

  1. a clear pipe leading out of the toilet into the unknown sewers below <— this is what I thought the problem was
  2. an adequate volume of water with which to carry anything in the bowl out of your life and into said sewers <— BINGO!!!

What I discovered after watching random toilet repair videos on YouTube (…yeah…) was that the tank of my toilet wasn’t actually filling up all the way because the guts inside of it are old and leaky, so when you’d go to flush the toilet you were really only getting about half a tank’s worth of water to push all of the yucky stuff out of the bowl. This explains why when I was dumping literally gallons of vinegar and warm water into the toilet as part of my volcano experiment, the bowl cleared perfectly fine because there was plenty of water weight working in its favor … but on its own, not so much.

It looks like in the meantime we can just keep an eye on the tank and if it isn’t full all the way at the time its service is required, just hold down on the little arm inside to fill it a bit more before flushing and then it works fine. This weekend I’ll have to spring the $8 to buy a new floaty thing, which isn’t hard to change because I’ve done it before, but I’m still not particularly looking forward to the task, either.

Anyways, the real takeaway behind tonight’s post is that just because your toilet isn’t flushing doesn’t mean that it’s actually clogged.

This has been your Educational Toilet Moment … I’m Scott Sevener … happy flushing! 😉

Home Maintenance Headaches

April 16, 2012 10:27pm
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I don’t want to go off on too much of a rant here because I certainly don’t want to alienate things with our landlord should he happen to wander across this here bloggy post, but I’ve kinda been getting a little frustrated with the state of affairs around our house lately…

We moved into the new rental house that we currently call home just about a year ago, and obviously as things normally are when they’re new to you, everything was pretty much awesome. We found a few minor problems and just assumed that they’d get taken care of shortly, so we didn’t really make a big deal about them. The biggest one was a leak where the lanai meets our house that drips water into the living room when it rains really hard – it probably sounds worse than it has been, but it was typically only noticeable during hurricane season when it rains every single day to the point where we didn’t dare unpacking anything underneath the window in question where the water falleth through.

That said, our list started slowly growing … and growing … to the point where today I’ve literally got a full page, double-spaced list of items around our house that need to get repaired. And they’re not likely cheap, simple fixes, either – like recently we discovered a hole in our pool filter, or for the longest time we’ve had one of the jets in our hot tub that’s been broken. And admittedly a lot of them are more creature comforts, as opposed to more serious concerns like the leaks that risk damage to the house itself, or in the case of the pool filter, just jack up our water bill and waste a ton of water.

But at the same time, our rent isn’t exactly cheap and we do kind of have an expectation for what we should actually get out of the house that we’re renting. It’s not really very fair to us to sign a lease with a certain level of expectations, only later to find that X isn’t working or Y doesn’t quite work the way you might expect.

I guess that’s kind of the problem that you have to battle when you rent – the landlord may technically be responsible for maintaining the house, but the likelihood of him just having an open checkbook to fix every issue the moment it comes up may not necessarily be so good. I’ve had to struggle with previous landlords over repairs before and it’s never fun – you would think that in addition to my rent paying their mortgage, they’d set aside some money each month as a reserve to cover the same kinds of repairs and maintenance that you’d do to take care of your own house, but I think instead they tend to get disconnected from the property itself because they’re never actually there themselves and thus as a result they tend to replace more things altogether than actually maintain them along the way to prolong their lifespan.

On one hand, I can certainly understand – the reason why we don’t own a house of our own today is because we’re simply not in the right place financially right now and if we did, all of this kind of crap would be ours to take care of and it’s definitely very expensive, but on the other hand, it’s still not fair to rent us a shiny, red apple, only to later discover that parts of that Delicious Red more closely share resemblance to a lemon…  😥

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