Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fixing the Fit

We've had this ongoing problem with the Fit that's been around for a few years, if not more. Now I (incorrectly) attributed it to some bodywork that we had done several years back, when our mechanic RM was closing the back hatch and being the massively strong guy that he is, put a major dent in the door. He took full responsibility and referred us to a guy who does bodywork. I felt bad because it wasn't completely his fault, but again, he took responsibility and offered to pay, so we went and had it fixed.

Shortly thereafter the latch on the back hatch started having problems, and it became stiff and difficult to move. The spring action on it was gone, and over time it became very hard to use. If you didn't go to great lengths to make sure the latch was back into place (since the spring action was gone), the hatch wouldn't shut properly, thus risking it flying open while we were driving. You literally had to push hard to get it back into place. I tried using WD40 with no luck. I figured it would be really expensive to fix so I lived with this for a couple of years and while it was a complete pain, it was manageable. One of the major drawbacks of the problem, however, was when we locked the doors, the hatch would lock and then it would not unlock. It took a lot of fiddling with the key, sometimes applying a bit of force to get it to work. I was afraid of breaking the key in the lock, so as you can imagine, it was far from ideal.

Finally I decided to deal with the problem and took it to Meunier, figuring it would cost a bundle to fix because they were going to have to dismantle the entire back side to get to it. Well, as it turns out, it wasn't a problem with the internal mechanism but rather with the hatch itself. It had rusted out so the spring action was gone and eventually it stopped working altogether. They replaced it and lo and behold, the thing works beautifully. It still cost me about $100, but not only can we use the hatch with ease, but I'm not concerned about locking the doors anymore. Thanks a bunch to Meunier, my heroes. Apparently this is a common problem because the dealer sells a fair number of these latches on a regular basis. Go figure.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Revistadelmotor for the pic.

Squirrel War II

Just when I was feeling all smug and satisfied with myself in dealing with the squirrels, Mother Nature gives me a healthy dose of humility. I had this crazy notion that I was in control of the squirrels and the bird feeder, but it quickly became apparent to me that they were able to circumvent my barriers with absolutely no problem and devour all of the seeds. It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't such greedy little buggers, they clean the seeds up in a very short time.

Not being one to give up once my OCD kicks in, I'm thinking I may have to elaborate on my initial plan, but am not sure what my new course of action will be. I noticed that the squirrel can still get to the feeder either by reaching down from the branch or jumping from the tree trunk. I have seen him jump from the feeder back to the tree and it seems to be no problem whatsoever for him, which I guess makes sense; he's a squirrel, after all. This could be a good place to start.

We'll see if my new plan has any effect. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Doug Brown for the pic.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Squirrel War I

I was feeling all happy and self-satisfied with myself about feeding the birds and bringing them back to our neck of the woods when the squirrels came out of the woodworks and have invaded the feeders. The question is, is that such a big deal? Well, sort of. I don't mind squirrel and chipmunks when I see them in another context, like in a tree or foraging for nuts and seeds in the woods. However, when I see them sitting on the bird feeder eating all the goodies, suddenly they're not as cute, and I have the urge to take them out forcibly. Mind you, I don't want to kill them because it's not that big of a deal, but they are a nuisance because they have voracious appetites and prevent the birds from getting anything. It might not be so bad if they weren't so greedy.

I decided to try to do something about it, and we'll see how it goes. Something tells me that this isn't going to be easy. First off, I put up a barrier on the branch to impede the squirrel's progress. I also noticed that one of the ways he gets to the feeder is by hanging down with his back claws locked onto the branch, whereby he just drops in on the feeder. So I put a 2 inch PVC pipe over the branch thinking that it would not only prevent him from getting a grip, but might also rotate if he stands on it, thus stopping him from making it over the feeder in the first place.

My final option was to unleash the wrath of our cats, Dusty and Misty, who would take that squirrel out in a matter of minutes. Then again, they'd take out a few birds, as well, so I'll hold off on that one.

We'll see how my plan works out. It's sort of fun in a nerdy way, Man vs. Nature, where Nature almost always wins out.


Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Birds Are Back In Town

We used to have bird feeders in our yard but stopped when we realized that we were leading them to their deaths with our cats prowling around. While the cats cannot reach the actual feeders, the seeds inevitably end up on the ground and the birds naturally fly down to them and eat them up. Meanwhile, our cats simply lay in wait and pick them off one by one. Like lambs to the slaughter. Consequently, we got rid of the feeders, which is a bummer because we all like birds.

Now that our cats are indoor cats, I thought it would be nice to put the bird feeders up again. We got two of them, and surprisingly they were fairly cheap, i.e., less than $10 each. One of them hangs from a branch while the other has suction cups that you stick to a window. The hanging one works fine, but the suction cups kept failing us, so I asked N, our resident engineer, to modify it and make it a hanging feeder, which he did in about 5 minutes. Granted, it wasn't reinventing the wheel, but it's still cool that he's willing to work on it and get the job done.

It took several days before the birds returned, and I was continually looking out the window for any signs of life. At first a nuthatch or two showed up (one of my favorite birds), and then a bluejay. After a few days the chickadees came, and then it was pretty much a avian party. Now that the birds are back, I'm stoked to see them frolicking about. I'm guessing our cats are just itching to get out there, but that's not going to happen any time soon. We just have to be extra vigilant about keeping them in, not to mention keeping an eye out for squirrels.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

All the World's a Stage

Our lives seem to be one big stage, and it's a little bit crazy... in a good way, of course. A has been involved with a big local play production and believe me when I tell you they don't mess around. They expect a lot from these kids, and I think they respond to the challenge and do a great job. The production company does not mess around and in reality they are a professional company, not some amateur volunteer group, which for the record can put on amazing productions. I've just noticed the level of professional commitment with these guys.

The entire month of July has been pretty much dedicated to this play, and A has been enjoying herself because she's in the band so she gets to do what she really enjoys, mainly play guitar and perform on stage. Personally I think she's a very good actor and a natural performer, but I don't think it's a passion for her. She's more comfortable being in the band. Fair enough.

The rehearsals have been all day affairs, starting from the morning and going until the evening, mainly because they have to work with the actors/directors and then the band has to rehearse the music. It works out for me because I can take her in the AM then head off to work, and then mom can pick her up after her work. It's a lot of juggling and organization but definitely doable. Most importantly, she's really enjoying it. I was pondering getting N involved in some of the production/crew aspects, but not only is he uninterested (it's always his first reaction), but I'm thinking it's good to get him involved in things that aren't always connected with his sister. There is, however, the convenience of dropping the kids off at the same location. Oh well, you just can't have it all, as every parent is reminded of each and every day.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Justin Hawks for the pic.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Back to Work

With the summer holiday and time off to visit family, it seems like I haven't worked much in the past two weeks. They have ample summer staff at the Inn, so I have been able to take some days off for assorted reasons, including travel. Now that we're back and things are starting to heat up on the catering front, it's time to get back to work, which is always a bit of an adjustment for yours truly. Now granted, there isn't much idle relaxation going on around this house, but somehow things are different when I have to shower, shave, and wear clothes that are reasonably presentable, none of which I have to do when I'm working on the domestic front.

Mind you, it's not a bad thing. As most people can attest to, it's nice heading off to work, not only to make the big bucks that fuel our opulent lifestyle, but to get a break from domestic duties and interact with the outside world. Getting a little complimentary food and dessert is not a bad thing, either.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to max devine for the pic.

Tech Camp

This is a bit after the fact, but a couple of weeks back we managed to enroll N into a tech camp over at one of the local high schools, and he really enjoyed it. Tech camp might be a bit of a misnomer because it wasn't all about computers. I think the name derives from the fact that it was held at what they call a "technical high school" or technical center, or what I grew up knowing as a trade school. We had heard about the camp but weren't sure how to go about enrolling in it, and of course we were behind the curve and submitted our application late, landing him on the waiting list. Since we were new to the system we weren't really sure what we were potentially missing out on.

I had pretty much written it off and told N as much when three days before the first day I got an email explaining to me what we would need for his first day of camp. I contacted the person in charge and inquired about the wait list and she informed me that he had in fact made it into the camp. Very cool. We were all excited but also unsure of what to expect. After all, we were, or rather he was entering into new territory, and that's always a call for anxiety. To his credit, he didn't seem nervous at all, he never does.

On the first Monday morning, I made him a lunch and got him ready to go, with the usual ceremony of sending your child off to camp when you're a neurotic and overbearing parent. And then we were off. I didn't know this but the camp is pretty big and draws on kids from a pretty wide area. There were probably 100 kids in attendance, and we knew several of them from homeschooling group and even our own neighborhood. I dropped him off and went about my day, returning after lunch to pick him up.

As it turns out, he had a pretty good time, and for good reason. The camp is really geared toward a lot of things he enjoys, including 3D printing, working with computers, and making and breaking down gadgets. They even got to work with an excavator simulator. He really enjoyed it, and I think he jived with some of his camp-mates, though it's hard to tell with him because he doesn't give up much info. Suffice it to say that he was excited to go back, despite the early morning start time. Plus, he informed me that he didn't need lunch, sparing me the need to pack one for him in the AM. It also gave us a chance to go get some lunch on our own away from the junk food authorities, which meant pizza and cheeseburgers.

All in all it was a great experience, and I only wish it were longer. Since it was sponsored by the town it was a bargain, as well. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ye Tan for the pic.