Monday, March 28, 2016

Spare Sprinklers

After an initial adjustment to our front yard sprinklers, I haven't given them much thought.  Even when the portion of lawn that gets shaded by our house was always a little too damp, I didn't mess with them.  I was finally forced into action when two cheap little sprinkler heads started falling apart.  My first thought was to replace them with similar units, then I realized they might not be necessary at all.  I eventually reconfigured five different sprinklers.

This first sprinkler had a piece break off so it was spraying straight up into the air.  It turns out it sprayed an area that was covered by other sprinklers, so I capped it off.
This second sprinkler kept popping its top off, making another geyser.  It was also spraying an already covered area; the area that has been a little swampy in the past.  Capping it off should improve that and save water.
This sprinkler wasn't actually spraying for some reason and it would be totally blocked by a rose bush, so I decided to eliminate it and re-purpose the riser pipe.
This sprinkler was getting mostly blocked by some larger bushes we planted, so I raised it about a foot.
The final sprinkler I changed was right by the front door.  It was getting blocked by our agapanthus, so I raised it a few inches too.
In summary, I removed three sprinklers and raised two, creating a much more efficient irrigation system.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Inspiration 14

Cool bike. Same color scheme mine was originally, and may be again.

I like this seat.

Very unique bike.

Cool BMW.  Stole my battery idea.

Cool bike.  Interesting exhaust.

Very clean BMW.  Simple seat looks like it could fit a passenger.

Racing BMW R100 by Unique Custom Cycles of Sweden.
Nice BMW with a clean exhaust and my wheels.

A Moto Guzzi Le Mans with V11 power from Kaffeemaschine
Very clean bike.

This is a beautiful motorcycle.

This is a really nice looking bike.  Love all the raw metal.  Colored stripe on the wheel is fun.

Cool BMW with lots of nice details.  I was considering an exhaust like this.

I like the lower fairing on this bike.

The Australian workshop PopBang Classics has just built one of the best custom Honda CX500s ever seen.
This is a very nice bike.

This is a very cool little bike.  The canilevered seat looks great.

This is one of the most beautiful bikes I think I've ever seen.  Everything just flows.

Neat BMW.  Converted to a mono-shock in the rear.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

California Maternity Benefits Explained

One of the most stressful parts of the pregnancy for me (Andy) was trying to figure out what benefits Chrissy and I were entitled to from the government.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to find clear information on this subject.  It was so annoying, Chrissy suggested we might not want to bother, but I figure we've paid a lot of taxes, so we deserve to get back every cent we can.

After extensive research, here's what we discovered.
In California there are several different types of leave that can be utilized:
  • Disability
  • Paid Family Leave
  • Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)
Some companies also offer maternity/paternity leave, however neither of our companies do, so we had to rely on the government programs.

Disability covers the mother giving birth and pays 55% of your salary.  You are allowed to start your leave at 36 weeks and get six weeks after a vaginal birth or eight weeks after a C-section.  That means if your pregnancy goes to 40 weeks and you have a C-section, you get 12 weeks of benefits.

Paid Family Leave allows both parents to take up to six weeks off to bond with a new baby while collecting 55% pay.  This benefit can be spread over the baby's first year.  Many employers require you to use up vacation before starting Paid Family Leave.

Combining these two programs gives mothers a pretty decent amount of leave at 55% pay.  The example I gave above gives 12 weeks of disability which can be followed by six weeks of Paid Family Leave, giving 18 weeks of payments, which is pretty good.

Last is FMLA.  This program only applies to companies with more than 50 employees, which excludes a lot of people, like Chrissy.  Luckily this program isn't that great.  All it does is guarantee you won't loose your job if you take up to 12 weeks of leave.  Note, this leave is UNPAID.

I hope all that made sense.  Future parents--make sure you get what you deserve.
There are obviously many more details and requirements for these programs, so go to the appropriate websites for the nitty gritty.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Pipes, the Pipes are Calling

I've been thinking about exhaust for a long time.  I never liked the big stock mufflers on my BMW.  That may be why many of my "Inspiration" posts have been about intriguing exhaust setups.

During the disassembly, I mentioned how the handlebar mounts (above) were my inspiration for everything, so you can probably understand why the Triumph exhaust below piqued my interest.  It has the exact same shape I love from the handlebar mount.
Triumph exhaust
I found a set on Craigslist and my brother happened to be near them so he picked them up for me.  He even negotiated the priced down to $45.  I believe they are original parts from a late 60s bike and they are made of heavy gauge steel. They are also in shockingly good shape.
These mufflers don't look like they're going to do much muffling.
The most amazing part about the mufflers is that they slide right onto my stock header pipes!  I don't know if most motorcycles use the same diameter pipes, but these two did, making my life a lot easier.
BMW/Triumph exhaust
There will definitely be some customization to this setup, but I'm not exactly sure what the final product will look like, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Silky Screens

The rollers on our screen doors were just as bad as on the glass ones, so my Dad helped me refurbish them on a recent visit.
The first challenge was getting the rollers out.  After some head scratching, we figured out the correct 43 step process to get them out safely.  After removing them, reinstallation was easy.  We actually reused the old rollers, but we flipped them.  The top rollers switched to the bottom and the bottom went to the top.
The rustier roller was on the bottom.
Before reinstalling the rollers, I repacked all the bearings with fresh grease.  This made even the rusty bottom rollers spin like new.

Once everything was back in place, the doors slid like new.  Another very satisfying project.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Frigid Furnace

Hope was cold. It was 1am on the coldest night of the winter.  The furnace blower wouldn't turn on.  Shit.
I futzed with it until 2am and gave up.  It was time to bundle up.
I'm not an expert on furnaces, least of all the electricals that drive the motor, but I figured I should give the repair a shot.  Once again, my lack of trust of repairman was haunting me.  I did some research during daylight hours and many online comments pointed to the capacitor.  It was a $10 part so it wouldn't be a big deal to just try it, but I prefer to definitively diagnose problems before throwing parts at them.  I got out my trusty voltage detector and it seemed to indicate the capacitor was not working correctly.  Only one of its wires was showing a voltage.  I assumed this was the input, so the output wasn't working.  I had my smoking gun.
I will also point out the absurd filter wedged in the furnace in the photo above.  I don't know when that was done, but I feel lucky the house hasn't burned down.  This filter is completely unnecessary, considering it is trying to filter incoming air that just passed through the standard filter, which I have replaced twice now.

After receiving the new capacitor I installed it and wanted to test it.  In order to test with easy access, I needed to keep the access panel safety switch pressed.  You can see my safe setup below.

Shockingly (literally), the furnace fired up and the blower spun to life. SUCCESS.  Then I tried to reinstall the capacitor in the bracket and shocked the crap out of myself.  Almost made it without an injury; maybe next time.

I am curious what would have happened if I had called a furnace repairman.  I suspect I might be paying for a new furnace instead of a $10 capacitor.  I'm almost tempted to put the old one back in and have a few people take a look at it to see how honest/competent they are.  Maybe next time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Delayed Dish Dryer

For some reason, I resisted getting a real dish rack.  We were using the grey mat you can see in the picture and our counter always looked messy with dishes piled about.  I finally realized we should get a dish rack, and it was a great decision.  It nicely complements the cute one we got for Hope's little things, and it makes drying dishes much easier and more organized.
Selecting which rack to get required one of my most involved Amazon searches ever, but we settled on a reasonably priced stainless steel unit. You have to be careful to actually get stainless, as opposed to some cheap chrome or "brushed" finish.  Those will rust and you will be sad.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Maternity Leave = Craft Leave!

Editor's note:  These projects were completed before Hope arrived.  Since she was born we have accomplished nothing.

Want to know about all the stuff I've gotten done since being on leave? OK! Check out my projects:

The first thing I tackled was a "pouf" footstool for the nursery to go along with my vintage rocking chair. I searched everywhere for a reasonably priced one (<$40) in a fabric I liked for the nursery. I had zero luck; every time I'd find something I was OK with and it would be over $100. Why? It's a footstool! Luckily, I have a completely legit sewing machine (thanks Hubs and in-laws!) and I have an awesome designer friend who gifted me some luxe upholstery fabric. It is white but it seems incredibly stain resistant, and has a beautiful texture and some reflective bits. Plus it matched my nursery very well. I also needed the pouf to be Hope resistant. As in, I imagined a toddler running full speed at it and throwing herself onto it. It needed to be soft and sturdy! My solution--I sewed two oval pieces (top and bottom) to a big rectangle piece (center) and filled it up with bean bag filling. I packed it densely so it wouldn't be a mushy mess and then crammed some batting on top of that to ensure it was packed really full. The end result is a sturdy but soft and beautiful footstool. Total cost was the cost of the bean bag filling $12.
Completed Pouf
So pretty Right?!?!!
Since I had plenty of that "pouf" fabric left, I thought I would whip up a headband stand. A cute way to display the fun headbands Hope was gifted at the shower. I used an empty oatmeal container, spray adhesive, hot glue and BOOM: Done. This project took very little time. I cut the fabric to size (done scientifically by rolling the empty container over the fabric) and used spray adhesive on the back to press it against the oatmeal container. I hot glued the edges into and under the container then (because my fabric is thick) I glued the lid on top. My final touch was to glue a ribbon (from a gift from the shower) to the top. Total cost: Free.
Headband stand!
Ribbon from Sam's gift, I had to use it. It's so pretty.
Speaking of using gift wrapping from the shower, I received several bags that were too cute to simply re-gift later, so I picked out a few I liked the most to hang as art in the nursery. I have only framed one so far. The frame with the little bird that says "Hello Little One" was perfect in so many ways to adorn the nursery shelves so a little snip, toss it in the frame, and done. The adorable framed "you are our greatest adventure" was a gift from my bestie who also hosted the shower for me.  Cost: Free

I had some old clay pots laying around, I believe from the previous home owners. They looked sad, so I added some pretty metallic paint to freshen them up and tossed in some cute indoor plants. Cost: $9 for the plants.

My final project (as of now) was a photo album (or four). I make a photo album every year, usually just one, but in 2014 we had an epic and lengthy trip to Europe and I thought it justified its own album. However, I never had the free time to sort through the hundreds and hundreds of photos we took. So, with the peace and serenity of maternity leave I set out to complete the book. First, I decided that not every photo was going to be perfect, or included. So I just started loading the pictures that caught my eye into a single folder. I uploaded those, organized them by day of the trip/location and filled the pages. Then, I spent an absurd amount of time curating the photos and adding captions and cute decals (I had double the number of standard pages). I took advantage of a great 40% off sale, threw in a $20 off coupon and had that puppy shipped over! Cost: blood, sweat, tears and about $40. The other books in the queue for ordering: 2015 Album, Pregnancy Album, and Hope's baby book. The 2015 album is still being worked on (not too crazy since it is only January), the pregnancy album is done through today (I just need a final bump picture, a delivery story, and Hope's first picture), and the final book, Hope's baby book, will span over a year. Instead of handwriting in details to an already printed book I've opted to be completely digital, update it monthly and print it on her first birthday (whenever that will be!). I'll let you know how that ends up working out with a newborn in the house. I'm not too concerned because, well, you guys know me pretty well and you know when I want to do something, I do it.