Friday, November 21, 2008

I've Moved

All of my posts are now going here.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Black Coffee Mugs

With my Mr. Coffee going out I resorted to the plastic drip apparatus that fits over the coffee mug. It worked pretty well and fit snugly on most of the coffee mugs but one, which was my favorite mug. Oh well, it had to go. I also decided to sort through the other 12 mugs sitting on top of my desk. As I took them to the office kitchen for cleaning and recycling I noticed I couldn't tell whether the black coffee mug was clean at the bottom. As I at times leave a little coffee in the bottom of the mug and not wash it out if I'm in a hurry I had a brain fart! You can't tell if there's old coffee residue in the bottom of a black coffee mug. Coffee mugs should never be black or dark brown or any dark color on the bottom of the inside. Period!


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Long Time No Post, Washing Machine Broken Atoms

I took quite a break on this blog. That's normal as it happened once before between 2000 and 2004. Why write if my heart's not into it and I hate to just throw up some drivel so that I can say that my blog is current? Nope. But maybe it's because I just drank short of 6 ounces shy of a pot of coffee or maybe my aura is glowing a blogger's rainbow, it's time for another post. Heaven forbid it's because I have something to say.

Today's diatribe deals with the washing machine's atoms or any appliance atoms that need to be fixed. Of all the appliance's we take for granted, the washing machine is really the only appliance we can't live without. It's the appliance that if it's on the fritz, our schedule will get discombobulated having to wash clothes elsewhere at a friend's house or worse, at the laundromat.

It started when I got word that the spinner wouldn't spin which also meant the drainer wouldn't drain. I can handle the spinner not spinning better than I can handle the drainer not draining as I have to cup-by-cup by hand drain the tub. A proper analysis of a broken machine always starts with the easiest fix possible as if you're talking with a relative trying to use a computer. "Is it plugged in?" It really could be that easy but usually isn't. I started with the knobs and tried see if the spin cycle was somehow confined to having the knob in just the right spot on the dial. Each time I did this more water would rush into the tub which meant more hand-to-hand-cup-to-cup draining. Argh! I looked and the lid-switch would depress but not normally. I should have investigated this further and saved my self a lot of time and hassle. At that point I gave up the diagnosis and retreated to form a plan.

Google has an answer for everything. Everything that is everything has been discussed and is now indexed through Google. Somebody out there has talked about a Series 80 model Kenmore washer that has failed to drain and spin. Sure enough, roughly 2,000 bites on this Kenmore chatter. I opened up the first three and they provided more useful information than the service manual. While it could have been any number of things wrong with the machine, I now had a list of steps to do to take the washer apart and do a proper diagnosis. Nah, too much work.

"So and so used a guy that charges $35.00 an hour and he's honest." Great. Looking at the Sears phone number for service and a $65.00 charge that could be credited towards a new washer if the repairs proved to be prohibitive. Meanwhile, loads went out of the house and hours later loads came back in the house folded in neat stacks as the broken appliance sat pulled from the wall inoperable with a half tub of water getting stinkier by the day.

Somehow I mustered up enough motivation on Saturday morning to take a stab at the dead appliance. Long-story-short of it was the back panel came off with difficulty and cussing the fact I could've reached the same hardware by tipping the thing backwards. The panel went back on with half the parts, difficulty and cussing. I tipped the washer and removed the pump which in turn dumped it's contents all over my fresh shirt. The pump was clean and working properly as were the lines. The agitator was fine. I reassembled everything and tilted the beast back down.

I took a break and went back to the computer. I pulled up the Sears Web site and noticed they had an appliance sale. Don't they always have an appliance sale? A meeting with the head of the Laundry Department suggested a front loader and red would be a good replacement. Argh! $650.00 to $1,000.00. That was enough of a motivator to get back at the beast. I started again with the lid switch. I took out the two screws and noticed the problem right away. Cracked plastic. Two dabs of super glue and it was fixed. I was both happy, overcome with joy and pissed at the same time. I did have to eat a mouthful of tub water but then again I didn't have to eat $1,000.00 for a replacement as well as remove the old one and store it until big trash day. I think the Laundry department was a little disappointed as well as a new red, front loader wouldn't be arriving for some time in the future, but joy that underneath and behind the washer was now clean (one of the foulest places on earth).

I wonder how many washers are tossed because of that switch. It probably has a higher failure rate than the other mechanical parts of the washer and many are tossed instead of applying two dabs of glue. How many people have the time to really get to know the washer and find the problem? How many get taken because they chose to call a repair person who said it was the motor and in reality, it was a switch that could be fixed with two dabs of glue.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fabricating Aero Cycling Bars

One of the worst decisions I ever made was to sell my Trek road bike in a garage sale for $40. I thought I'd never ride it again, as I was interested in off road cycling at the time. Now, I'm riding more roads than trails and wish I could have that bike back. It had the clips, the aero bars and everything that I want today.

I recently sold my heavy (45 lbs.) mountain bike on Craig's List to a UT student. In it's place I bought a light, 27-pound Bianchi and starting to change it's soul from a mountain bike to more of a hybrid with road accessories. Last weekend at Frankenbike, I purchased some used cycling shoes for $20 and a pair of clipless pedals for $15. By the way, the recumbent made an appearance at Frankenbike and got it's picture taken. Take a look at Frankenbike #3.

The next thing I wanted for the bike were some aero bars. A friend had passed along a Nash Bar catalog and they still seemed expensive for a couple of pieces of tubing, bolts and padding. Some getting upwards around $140. REI's sale brought them down to the $110 range. I thought I could build something for far less money, after all, it's bars, tubing and padding.

I took a stroll through Home Depot last weekend and found a lightweight broom handle to start with. Moving over to the plumbing section I looked through the PVC section and stumbled across everything I needed, or thought I needed. Connecting pieces together like a Lego model, I came up with a design that resembled most of the aero bar concepts.

Three days later and the aero bars are on the bike. I tried them out last night, after I had glued the bars into place and put new grips onto the other bar and tightened everything down. I won't be able to put any weight on them but who does anyway. They're light and the placement of the shifters works fine. All of the weight is placed on the padding and transferred down to the main sterring bar. The flex but allow me to steer in either direction. Total cost for the aero bar parts came to $8.45.

Sometimes atoms are too expensive, based on the brand or other market factors. It seems everything related to bicycles is expensive. Browsing through the local bike shop I saw bikes for $1,400, shoes for $120, handle bars for $75. This may seem like no big deal to others but I find the stuff extremely expensive for a bicycle and accessories. But then again, I lean towards function over design or brand in most cases.

Maybe I've watched too many episodes of Biker Build Off or American Chopper, where they tend to fabricate many of the things they put on their motorcycles, excluding the engine and tires. Fabrication of parts doesn't have to include welding. It can be PVC if it stands up to the stress of the purpose it's used for. And fabrication doesn't have to only include bike parts, motorcycle or bicycle. So many things can be fabricated form found parts in the hardware store.

My recumbent bike is testament to fabrication. It works, it functions, and it was a joy to build.

Main Entry: fab·ri·cate
Pronunciation: 'fa-bri-"kAt
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): -cat·ed; -cat·ing
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin fabricatus, past participle of fabricari, from fabrica
1 a : INVENT, CREATE b : to make up for the purpose of deception
2 : CONSTRUCT, MANUFACTURE; specifically : to construct from diverse and usually standardized parts
- fab·ri·ca·tor /'fa-bri-"kA-t&r/ noun

Friday, June 24, 2005

Atoms - Flavored Water

Yesterday, I purchased a bottle of water at the grocery store. I usually fill a bottle with filtered tap water but having none in hand, I piced up a bottle to go with my sandwich. One bottle stood out from the rest. A bottle that you would use after all of the product is consumed, just to have a cool bottle design filled with filtered tap water. The bottler is MetroMint.

After drinking a few sips I paused. I've tasted this before. Hmmmmm. This tastes like mouthwash.

I've filled the bottle with filtered tap water now for three days and the mint still permeates the plastic as the water has a hint of mint.

Next up is the new Trek sports drink. I bet you tastes like Tang. It does come with an attached carabiner for $1.99.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Atoms - Imagined Apple products

Business 2.0 Magazine hired former Apple designer Robert Brunner to speculate with some future Apple designs. Sweet!

Now put the display from the iPod watch into the Apple Shuffle.

Music bits - A reader emailed yesterday asking what I'm listening to as I don't put that information in my blog. Some blogs post weather, mood and music choices. I think that's a little too much information but here ya go. I'm listening to, a German version of what use to be before they sold it and it bcame commercialized. yesterday I was listening to the electronic ambient selections. Today, it's the jazz artists listed on the charts.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Atoms - Frozen Fish Sticks

Grocery store layout is somewhat like Web information architecture. You categorize products and their proximity to other products based on relationships much like content is categorized and placed into various info buckets.

Recently I ventured to a grocery store, starts with an "R" and went to the frozen foods section to pick up a box of fish sticks. Another woman, with three sugar-soaked kids were looking for the same thing. Thinking I just couldn't see the fish sticks, I walked the three-frozen food isles at least four times. If men don't ask driving directions, do they also not ask where frozen fish sticks are? I eventually did ask and the manager said he'd show me.

By the direction he took off for, I knew they were in an entirely different area of the store. As we passed the lady and her kids, I told her to follow as the manager was showing me where they were. We walked to the northeast corner of the store, next to the meat counter where the fresh fish counter is. Next to this counter is a small frozen food display, where frozen fish sticks and a couple of other fish products are available. I asked the manager what the hell they were doing way over here. Using this methodology, I may also want chicken strips and does that mean I need to go to the butcher counter? Or maybe I want vegetarian hamburgers, made with black beans so I need to go to the produce section? He and I could both tell I was being a smart-ass but still, he thought frozen fish sticks should be next to fresh fish and not in the frozen food isle.

He soon left and the woman and her three kids walked up. She was confused but glad to finally find the fish sticks, although her kids had changed their minds and now wanted chicken strips.

This is what makes designing Web sites tough. For the vast majority, one option will work. But for the few that can cut themselves with a bar of soap in the morning, fish sticks are with fish, chicken strips are in frozen foods, frozen pizzas are next to frozen bagels.

I've seen this a few other times. During Christmas, certain products are pulled from the location in the store and placed at the end of the isle for promotional purposes. Most stores have the product in both locations, so if you want to pick it up from where you normally associate the product you can do so, or at the promotion spot. Every once in awhile, they pull the entire product and just put it at the promotion site at the end of the isle. I then have to check the end of each isle.

Now if the store wants me to walk each isle and every isle, that's just plain mean. As the customer, I want to get in and out fast and the store that helps me do that is the one that's going to get my business. Whether it's online or in-person it makes no difference.

A PDA download of the grocery store layout would make all of this a mute point. I could download it into the Palm when I enter and then query the frozen fish stick isle. The recent SXSW conference did this for me with all the keynotes, panels and featured speakers. It proved to be a very useful tool. However, I realize conferences are different than retail or food marketing. Grocery stores want me to walk to the very back of the store for the gallon of milk, just so I can pass all the other stuff that doesn't sell as well or that we really don't need.