Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Water Heater Woes

Thursday, Kacey came home to a garage full of water. I knew a couple months ago that something was wrong with the water heater, possibly a tank leak, and was starting to release water. I had placed a tub underneath the water heater to see how much water I was loosing. The leak had pretty much stopped, until Thursday. So that means, time to install a new water heater! A little frustrating as the current one is only 7 years old, but it came with the house and is an off-name brand. So I was not too surprised.

Actually, for me, the toughest part is not removing or installing a water heater, it is figuring out what to buy to replace the old one. I have removed and installed plenty of water heaters (not covered in the 100 Man Skills), but I am very hesitant on large purchases to ensure I am getting the best reliability and best deal. We had a gas water heater, but I had been considering a tankless unit. So, the research started.

I have read that gas tankless units require at least 4" venting, which is larger than the standard 3" venting for general residential. I have also heard of other gas line considerations that caused me to lean toward the electric tankless option. Also, the gas tankless options are about $1200 versus the electric tankless which start at $700. Also, reliability and payback are questionable to date. As I looked in to electric tankless options, I could not find many readily available. So while I would like to have saved some room in my garage, and would have no problem running 8 gauge wire for the 240V line, I stuck with another gas heater. Plus this gas heater is larger yet uses less energy than our old water heater.

After looking at brands at the major stores, I picked Kenmore from Sears. Getting spare parts from Sears is easy, and I have grown to generally trust their brands. Also, I would receive 10% off on their 3 day sale they were having. So on Friday after securing a truck, a baby sitter, a little help, and verifying that Sears had what I wanted in stock, I went to Sears on Saturday morning to purchase a 50 gal Kenmore Power Miser 9 gas water heater.

For removal, turn off the hot water supply and open a handful of the hot water faucets in the house, including the one nearest the heater. Then, hook a garden hose up to the drain to redirect it outside. Set the thermostat to Pilot Light and turn the gas system to Off. Next the gas line should be closed in as many points as there is a valve. My setup had two shutoff valves, and both should be shut off. Then, I released the T&P valve to begin the drain process. Enough water will come out to make the water heater movable. When you disconnect the gas line, you will smell some gas; this is the gas left in the line escaping, so ensure the area is ventilated.

After getting the new heater home, my brother and I began to unpack for installation. Unfortunately, there was a large dent in the side from a fork truck. I called Sears and they said just bring it back for another one, and we will give you a discount. I do like the fact that I didn't even really have to ask for one.

So after returning home for the second time, my brother and I got the heater up on some blocks and got the vent hooked back up first so my brother could leave. I began with hooking up the gas line. Our house uses insulated flexible hose for the gas lines. I purchased new black pipe to create a new dirt trap and line to install in to the heater. I did not turn the gas on at this point as it is not needed yet. I would turn it on and test the lines later once the water lines were connected.

Next I began work on the water lines. As the old heater was hard piped, I cut the copper back to around 18" away to install my 18" flexible lines. After sweating on the new dielectric unions I connected the flexible lines. Pretty easy.

Next I turned the water supply on and I noticed that the teflon tape I had used on the threads was not preventing the water from leaking out. I went ahead and let the heater fill with water because I had already started and I would be able to remove pressure from the water lines went resealing the lines. To remove pressure I opened up the faucet in the garage and hit the T&P valve for a minute; this removes enough pressure to allow the water lines to be removed without making a mess. I attempted to re-tape the joints, but this did not fix the problem. So, I removed all the teflon tape and just used pipe dope. Upon reinstallation, no leaks!

Verify the water heater is full by going inside to verify water coming from the faucets you opened previously. If they are, you can shut them off. Once the heater is full and the gas line is connected, it is time to open the gas line and verify the connections. I used a liquid spray that foams and bubbles in the presence of natural gas. After letting the gas lines sit open for 5-10 minutes, I verified no leaks and felt confident in my black pipe installation. If you are not confident in your abilities here, consider hiring someone with a sniffer to install your black pipe.

So my lessons learned are from now on, for 3/4" high-pressure water lines, just use pipe dope. It acts as anti-seizing compound and forms a great seal. Save the teflon tape for small faucet jobs. Also, always put together connections before sweating or tightening anything. Because I did this, I saved ruining the dielectric unions which require putting a couple of the fittings on the pipe before sweating. I guess that makes it a lesson confirmed, not a lesson learned. Lastly, you can over-tighten water lines with gaskets, so be careful. I did over-tighten one line and when removing to install with pipe dope, I had already ruined the gasket and had to go buy another one.

This blog entry is not an exact step-by-step process I followed. I have shortened a couple steps and details. The purpose of this entry is to show the amount of detail and planning that must take place on the order of operations and part planning to minimize trips to the store. Even with my planning, I still made 3. One was the initial visit, one was a forgotten part, and one was the ruined gasket.

If you have any questions on a particular step for your own installation, feel free to email me or comment on here and I can provide more details. Good luck on your own home repair projects!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (81-100)

Final installment of the man-skills. Fun times, let me know what you think.

#81 - Sweat copper tubing
Well, yes. I can do this. I just got done doing some today and will do some more tomorrow. Tip? Clean copper, flux, and heat up the copper before applying the solder (without the heat source applied).

#82 - Parallel park
Yeah, I can do this. I know the tricks. I grew up parking trucks.

#83 - Escape a rip current
I am not a strong swimmer, so I try to avoid certain situations. The mag points out to swim parallel to the shoreline, and I had forgotten that.

#84 - Use a sewing machine
I suppose I will claim a no here. While Kacey bought a very nice one that does get used, I don't think I could use it. Last time I sewed? Probably home ec in 7th grade.

#85 through #89 are Medical Myths

#85 - Snakebite
Myth: Cut open the wound and suck out the venom.
From the Discovery channel shows I watch, I have learned this is wrong. Wrap a light tourniquet and minimize movement.

#86 - Frostbite
Myth: Rub snow on the affected area.
I also recall from my Discovery shows that you need to make some warm water, or rub the area against a warm part of the body. The mag mentions not to rub the area.

#87 - Burns
Myth: Put butter on it.
Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer uses butter as suntan lotion. I have never heard of rubbing butter on burns, just cold water. If it blisters, then watch for infections.

#88 - Seizures
Myth: Shove a spoon in the victim's mouth so he won't swallow his tongue.
I don't think I have heard this myth. I have only heard to not restrain the victim. The mag mentions two things- it is impossible to swallow your tongue and roll the victim on their side. This is called the recovery position.

#89 - Ticks
Myth: Burn it off with a cigarette.
Growing up we had to worry about ticks. I think I recall on occasion lighting a match, then blowing it out and putting the hot embers on the little guy. But generally we just pulled them off, hoping to get the head and all. The mag says to use dull tweezers and slowly pick it off.

#90 - Change a tire
Yeah, I can do this, and everyone should know how. You may need a breaker bar to remove the lugs (or jump on it if stranded, last resort). Only use a six point socket (most kits only have 6 point sockets). Break the lugs free before raising the car up. And never use an air gun to put the nuts back on! Tighten the lugs in a pattern to ensure a flush fit.

#91 - Shovel the right way
The mag mentions having a sharp shovel. I think using the right shovel for the job is key, which the mag also mentions. Try to minimize the distance the material must be moved.

#92 - Fix a toilet-tank flapper
Yeah, I have done this many times. Having a good seal prevents slow leaks. I think I still prefer the float on an extended arm type of flush system as they are easy to adjust and not many parts that can break or wear out as opposed to the circular float around the column.

#93 - Tackle steep drops on a mountain bike
While I enjoy being on my bike, I don't get out that much like I did growing up. It is simple physics, though. Keep the weight distributed properly by shifting it behind the seat and keep it slow, unless you are a seasoned veteran.

#94 through #96 are Handling Emergencies

#94 - Reverse hypothermia
Once again, watching Discovery helps out here. Everyone knows body heat can help, but if by yourself and in wet clothes, start a fire, take them off (sounds wrong in the cold, but correct), dry them out, warm up, and get the clothes back on!

#95 - Perform the Heimlich
While I have thankfully never needed to do this, it is good to read up on this skill every once in a while. After my son was born, I re-read Heimlich and CPR for infants and adults. My bro-in-law suggested a refresher course, which is a great idea.

#96 - Perform hands-only CPR
As stated previously, I have not needed to do this, but I have brushed up on it. We all take our EMT services for granted and owe them a lot of thanks as these are things in which we heavily rely on their speed and abilities to save our lives.

#97 - Prune bushes and small trees
One thing we helped dad do growing up was prune fruit trees. In fact, that is how I almost lost my pinkie finger in high school. Make clean, close cuts, keep the tree growing up, and try to keep a central leader defined.

#98 - Jumpstart a car
Yeah, I have to do this more than I should. I have an amp in my car that is on a manual switch, not an ignition circuit, and I have on occasion left this on. If you are jumping the car to let it sit some more, let it run and charge for 5-10 minutes. Keep the negative cable off of the dead battery; put it on the frame to avoid sparking on the dead battery. Also, be very particular that the cables don't touch each other, or anything else besides the battery.

#99 - Calibrate HDTV settings
I learned some methods a couple years ago when I got my HDTV. So while I am probably not perfect, there were a couple things I learned that I now use. Keep black areas black was an important one. Also, not too bright now!

And last but not least...

#100 - Fold the flag
I am shamed to say that I have not had to do this since elementary school when everyone had to do this (at my school). It was actually a big day when it was your turn. Me personally, this is a skill that even if I read, not doing it will cause me to forget again. Of course I know to not let it touch the ground and that the stars should show, but in 5 years, I am sure I will have forgotten the method again. Here is a link to folding the flag.

Comment with your stats or thoughts. I have enjoyed bringing these to you.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (61-80)

This has been fun so far. Here we go!

#61 - Replace a fan belt
I have done this. There are various methods on various cars, so consult a car manual for your car if it is not obvious. Before removing the old one, make sure there is a diagram for installing the new belt.

#62 - Lend a hand
This is a great concept. I used to help my dad by getting tools and holding the flashlight. This is how I started to learn my tools. I encourage everyone else to teach their kids some skills and techniques and how to work with their hands.

#63 - Mix concrete
I haven't done this since college, and did it some when I was little. Don't make too much at once, and really work to get the mixture right before laying it down.

#64 - Run rapids in a canoe
Well, I have only been in a canoe on a few rivers in Indiana. So never needed to navigate some serious rapids, but I also don't really want to. I am not much of a water person, but canoeing down an Indiana river sounds good to me. The mag talks about how to identify rocks ahead of time by looking for "V"s in the water.

#65 - Drive a stick shift
I really think everyone should be able to do this. I could do it when I was young and could barely get the clutch down. I have also tried to teach a few people how to do it. There are two reasons everyone should be able to do this. 1-In case of emergency. This means you don't need to be good at it, but understand how it works. 2-Cars with manual transmissions get better mileage. I hope that my next vehicle has a stick option.

#66 - Escape a sinking car
I would say most people reading this have never needed this skill. I have seen this on TV numerous times. I understand the water pressure prevents the door from being opened once the car is a couple feet in the water. So, put down the windows first thing, or hold your breath and wait for the car to fill with water. Since I would freak with the later scenario, I personally would put down the windows first thing.

#67 - Shoot a home video
I am no expert, but you learn a few things from trying. I also have picked up a few tips from my bro-in-law, who is an expert. Moving slowly is important. Shooting some extra time at the beginning and at the end also help in editing. Also, start big and zoom in slowly if needed.

#68 - Replace a faucet washer
Similar to #60. Not sure why something this similar is split in to two items.

#69 - Shoot straight
While I am probably not as good as I used to be, and was probably only average, we shot rifles a lot growing up. I remember shooting the 22, the 12 gauge, and a high powered rifle. Shooting the later was almost the most fun. The technique I would use sticks the butt tight in to my shoulder, start above the target, and breathe out while slowly lowering on to the target. And squeeze, don't jerk the trigger. The mag says to hold your breath.

#70 - Tie a necktie
While I never learned the full Windsor, I was only taught the half and it serves me well. I have been thinking I should finish it off and learn the second half, which looks easy. The mag talks about how this is a great father-son bonding activity and I look forward to doing this one day.

#71 - Grow food
We had a very large garden growing up and growing food was just part of growing up. I have resurrected this activity the past couple years and do enjoy it. As I do not have great soil, I did have to invest in getting some compost to start the garden. Other than that, it provides cheap and great tasting food. We primarily grow various tomatoes and a few different types of peppers. It is also easier than you may think and if you have contemplated growing your own veggies, look in to it!

#72 - Handle a blowout
I have experienced this first hand, but luckily was not up to highway speeds yet. In high school we didn't keep the best tires on our trucks and while getting on a highway one of them blew out. The most important and hardest thing? Keeping calm.

#73 - Skipper a boat
I have never owned a boat, but in high school I had a friend who had a boat. On occasion, I did take the wheel and knew some basics, but that is about as far as I have been.

#74 - Fly a stunt kite
I don't think I have ever flown a stunt kite, just regular kites. Not quite sure why this is a necessary man-skill. Lame.

#75 through #77 are Military Know-How Skills

#75 - Make a drum-tight bed
Well, I am not a military man, so I don't know their skill. Apologies to my military friends, but I am not sure knowing how to tuck in your bed sheets is a required man-skill either.

#76 - Shine shoes
Yes, I do shine my own shoes. Now that I think about it, mine are due for a cleaning!

#77 - Drop and give the perfect pushup
While I can't do as many as I used to be able to do, I try to always perfect a proper pushup when doing them. The mag mentions "Repeat until ordered to stop".

#78 - Carve a turkey
I am not great, but I have done this before. Grandpa always used an electric knife, which made it look so easy!

#79 - Replace a broken windowpane
It has been a while, but we did replace windowpanes growing up. We have several old buildings on our farm that we had to keep glass in. I can't imagine how a farm with 2 young boys would keep needing to replace windows :)

#80 - Change a single-pole switch
I have done this many times. A couple tips- wrap the copper clockwise so tightening of the terminal does not push the copper out. Ensure no insulation is in the terminal, and ensure no copper is exposed outside of the terminal. Lastly, always pull hard against your work to ensure all connections are tight.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (41-60)

To keep this moving, here we go.

#41 - Put out a fire
I have never needed to do this in an emergency, but I have put out fires before. The mag is mainly covering how to properly put out a small fire in your home. We get trained on this yearly at work and we are taught the PASS method. Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle, Squeeze the handle, and Sweep the base of the fire. Of course, the only way you can be safe by knowing this in your home is to actually have a fire extinguisher!

#42 - Move heavy stuff
Yeah, yeah, lift with your legs, not with your back. But, the mag is actually covering a method for moving things which requires a strong blanket. Basically, put the thing in the blanket and lift the corners of the blanket. I prefer some good gloves and some grit!

#43 - Change a diaper
Um, I think I can say I am good at this now :)

#44 - Drive in snow
While growing in Indiana and driving trucks at an early age, driving in snow is something we were taught at a young age. Keep the revs down, down-shift to assist in smooth braking, and if possible, get some additional weight over the drive tires (which you can only really do with trucks and a few cars).

#45 - Remove bloodstains from fabric
While during my childhood I didn't really have to mess with this, I since have. Immediate cold water and try to avoid rubbing. Not really sure if this is a must-have skill, but it is good to know.

#46 - Fell a tree
This skill amazes most people. It really is a lot easier than it appears, but being wrong can be costly. It also requires, for a larger tree, a sharp chain and works better if your chainsaw skills are good. I have dropped quite a few trees in my day.

#47 - Ride a bike
Do I really need to address this? Yes, I can ride a bike.

#48 - Conquer an off-road obstacle
While I have never been in a true off-road course, I have navigated plenty of terrain with trucks and tractors. I think this gets to the true idea of this being a skill, not one's ability to get through an actual course. Taking certain terrains at an angle is key, as well as using the lowest gear possible.

#49 - Whittle
I have never really made anything of substance, I have whittled some objects before. Mostly, sticks for cooking and sharpening pencils in the workshop.

#50 - Install a graphics card
Yes, I can do this. Not sure if it is an essential skill, but most people should know how to do this.

#51 - Hitch up a trailer
I have been doing this since I was little too. Don't forget to cross the break away chains and test your hitch! Tougher for most people- backing up a trailer. Although I find it easy, most people really struggle here. Tougher yet- backing up a hay trailer. If you even know what I am talking about, you understand.

#52 - Sew a button
I learned this before going to college when I learned how to do laundry. I would say this is an essential skill as it is pretty easy and saves a lot of hassle. Don't know how? Ask your mom!

#53 - Throw a spiral
I actually didn't know how to do this until a couple years ago. We never played football growing up, we played basketball and baseball. I am still not great, but I do know some technique for a spiral. I really don't think this belongs on the list, but it is a way for a guy to get embarrassed easily.

#54 through #58 are Surviving Extremes

#54 - Lightning storm
If you can hear thunder, you are at risk of being hit. The mag talks about not touching anything in your home that my be attached to ground, but that seems pretty extreme. I do try to avoid taking a shower even though the Myth Busters busted that one. I also turn off the desktop computer during storms to prevent possible HDD damage.

#55 - Flood
With the cars and vans that most people have, driving out of danger is not a good idea. They are too light and risk being swept away. Look for flotation devices and know which way to get to higher ground.

#56 - Tornado
I have had to navigate a few of these in my day and the two times I was close, I did not have a basement. When I was younger, we had one get very close to the house; close enough to throw a large tree on the house. At that time, we huddled under some blankets in the bathroom, the only room without a window. The mag mentions that a car is not a safe place to be either.

#57 - Cold
I have never had to worry about freezing to death anywhere, but I have learned not to exert enough energy to build up a sweat. You can generate some heat by stretching and pushing muscles against one another (called Isometrics, the mag taught me that term).

#58 - Heat
I have never been in a life and death situation regarding heat, but I have been in circumstances where I knew to be careful (e.g. the Australian Outback). Water and cover are key.

#59 - Home-brew beer
I have to admit I never got in to this. I have friends who do it, but I never did. I am not quite sure this is an essential skill, but it is a cool one. As popular as this has become, there are several guides to doing this that may not yield great results but would let you say you have brewed beer.

#60 - Fix a faucet cartridge
I have found that plumbing is a skill that very few people have. Key to fixing a faucet is keeping your parts in order when taking things apart.

Let me know your stats!

Shipment #1

Is here. Now, I just need something to attach it to!

Monday, October 13, 2008

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (21-40)

Let's get right back in to it. #21 through #40 are "Mastering Your Workshop" items.

#21 - Circular Saw
Have used this many, many times. Although an interesting piece of information is that the circular saw in my garage was actually purchased by my wife. And, why buy another one?!

#22 - Spade Bit
This are very handy to have around. I have a small set of these. You must have a drill with some power for some wood, and it helps to have a small sharpening stone to keep them at the top of their game.

#23 - Infrared Thermometer
I am not sure why using an infrared thermometer is on this list. You aim, click the button, and it tells you the temperature. If you are pulling a trailer, it can be helpful to monitor the temperature of the wheel hubs.

#24 - Wood Chisel
These are actually quite simple to use and in a pinch, you can use a flat head screwdriver (depending on how nice you need it to look). Outline your cutting area and then score off several rows inside. Then, chip them out.

#25 - Sandblaster
We did some of this when I was younger, but it is not a skill I have really needed. You have to be careful to not destroy what it is you are trying to restore.

#26 - Torque Wrench
I really should have one, but I don't. I always guess, which you can't really do. I just haven't had the job yet that required me to purchase one, but I have used them. Funny story- in college, we found a Craftsman torque wrench when doing a highway cleanup; it was in really bad shape. We took it to Sears and *poof*, we had a brand new torque wrench! I believe Study still has it.

#27 - Hacksaw
I love my hacksaw. You really should have one in your garage or workshop. Know your blades and know which size to have on. Usually around 20 tpi could be considered general use. A hacksaw is not a tool you wait until you need to purchase; by then it is too late.

#28 - Feeler Gauges
I have to admin that growing up, we used the poor man's method of checking rocker arms. With the engine running, slightly over-tighten them all and then one by one, adjust. So while I have not used these before, I know where to use them and we just didn't.

#29 - Test Light
I prefer to use a multimeter for all my tasks, so I don't have a test light. As mentioned in the mag, be careful where these are used.

#30 - Framing Hammer
While I can't hammer as fast as I could in college, I think I am still faster than most people. Part of the trick is practice, part is confidence, and part is a good hammer. I love my Stanley hammer for this job so much that I won't use this hammer for other jobs; I have a second general use hammer.

#31 - Grease Gun
Oh yeah, plenty of experience with these growing up on the farm. Knowing when a fitting is dirty just by the feel of the gun doesn't take much time to master either.

#32 - Hand Plane
I have done a little of this, but not a lot. It gets tiring on bigger jobs, so find a planer.

#33 - Socket Wrench
My collection is not as big as a mechanic's, but it is big enough for all my jobs. And, I add sockets as needed. Not sure what to have lying around for a small set? Buy 6 point deep wells to start off with. Unless you are doing more advanced work, you don't need 12 point. And the deep wells are always handy to have around.

#34 - Multimeter
Please, Fluke and I are tight. I still have my old analog meter too! Don't forget your EMF detector!

#35 - Brick Trowel
It has been a while since I laid brick, but it comes back to you.

#36 - Air-Impact Wrench
Oh yeah, who doesn't love the sound of one of these going to task. While I have one, I would like a bigger one. Important tip- don't use these to put your lug nuts back on!

#37 - Drill Driver
Oh boy do I love my Craftsman Professional Lithium Ion drill set. And while I am mentioning Craftsman, don't forget to join the Craftsman Club!

#38 - Coolant Hydrometer
While I haven't used one in a while, growing up we did because we were keeping our old vehicles running. Now, I just do a standard flush every 30k-45k miles.

#39 - Sledgehammer
Back to cutting firewood growing up, for the really big logs, we would start with a sledge and a wedge. Also, when we would set fence posts, we didn't have a fence post driver, we used a sledge hammer. One of us would stand on the bed of the truck and drive it in, the other would hold the post.

#40 - Crosscut Saw
These have their place but are seldom used on my projects.

There you go! I did pretty well there, how did you do against the list?

100 Skills Every Man Should Know (1-20)

I subscribe to Popular Mechanics magazine. It is an ok mag, although the advertising gets a little old. I get tips on outdoor projects, car repair, and new technologies.

The past issue covered "100 Skills Every Man Should Know". As I read through, I realized that I am pretty well covered here. Very few had I never really thought about or had a chance to experience. I decided to cover these 100 skills in my blog and briefly talk about my experiences, as well as a few I think don't belong, and a few I believe were left out. I figure 20 is not too many to read at a time. Here we go!

#1 - Tape drywall
Oh goodness, I have done this too many times in my life. Although they do cover the very important fact to apply at least two coats (5 in. first, then 8-10 in. blade second), they mention the use of water in a form I don't quite use. The mag mentions dipping the blade in water. I prefer to add a little water to my trough in which I have placed some mud to work with and mix it in. When you are applying the 10 in. blade mud, it needs to be much wetter to allow for a nice smooth, thin coat. The angle of attack on the final count greatly affects the result as well. Keep your hand close to the wall and keep plenty of tension on the blade.

#2 - Grill with charcoal
Growing up, we only had a Weber until I was in high school, so charcoal was the only way. Although my dad didn't teach me the proper methods, I learned them in college. Our fraternity grilled often and I picked up the proper charcoal stacking techniques from buddies of mine. Direct vs. indirect heating I didn't really get until watching Alton Brown, but this is hard to do when the grill is full!

#3 - Split firewood
Again, I have been doing this since I was barely able to swing an axe (or maul, much better). The method discussed in the mag is the weak man's version where you only start above your head. I prefer the all-the-way-around method. While much harder, it produces great results. It also requires practice and a decent aim.

#4 - Set up a ladder, safely
While the mag did have a decent tip on proper angle detection (stand with you toes against the ladder base and grab the run at shoulder level), I still prefer the "test it out method" (unless doing a very high-up job). That is, get up a rung or two, and lean back on it. You can feel how much the ladder wants to tip back. Also not mentioned in the mag is checking the footing of the ladder. Ensure it is sunk in slightly by jumping on the bottom rung just a little. This keeps the ladder from sliding back on you.

#5 - Take the perfect portrait
In 4-H, I did a photography project for about 5 or 6 years. During this, setting up a photo is one of the things we learned. I didn't do much portraits, but the basics are simple. Don't take a picture with the camera looking right in to a bright light; rather ensure that your subject is properly lit. I have much more to learn here, though, and I will when my new D90 gets here in the next week or so.

#6 - Find potable water
While I have never *needed* to do this, I have gotten many tips from watching Survivor Man and Bear Grylls. The mag mentions a couple methods I have learned for both desserts and jungles. I also really like the dew ideas you can do with your clothes tied to your boots and collecting evaporated water from plants using some plastic and a container. I did learn as a kid, though, that the best idea is to take a lot of water with you, even if you don't think you need it! While hiking in Hawaii on the Na Pali coast, I was not comfortable with the amount of water we had brought in, so I turned us around about half way in. My only regret? Not having enough water on hand to begin with!

#7 - Build a fire in the wilderness
Growing up my extended family did a lot of camping. And, since my grandfather was a fireman, he made sure all the kids knew how to properly play with fire. While this didn't cover all the proper techniques to build when you don't have the proper supplies, it was still great fun and wonderful memories. 4-H didn't really cover these skills either, but being friends with Eagle Scouts in college helped out here. All the tips to find kindling, small sticks, and larger timber for a structure, make building a fire easy. The tip I have picked up from Survivor Man? Always have a flint striker in your pack!

#8 - Build a shelter
This is a skill I have also never needed, but have learned about in recent years from Discovery. Keep it small and simple, and get some water shedding on if time allows or you expect to get wet. If the weather is cold, maybe try some heat rocks!

#9 - Ditch your hard drive
Please, I think I can handle this. Low level formatting for general home use HDDs. A power drill for more important data. A much more difficult skill? Reviving a bad HDD. I have tried, and failed, although I came close.

#10 - Use a French knife
Most people watch Food Network and think they could never do the knife work seen on TV. This is untrue! It is just the speed that takes years to perfect! First off, you must have a high quality knife. Kacey prefers Global Knives. Second, know a couple techniques. Again, speed does not matter here.

#11 - Cast a line
Growing up, dad would occasionally take us fishing at Anderson Orchard. While my dad and brother seemed to somewhat enjoy it, I just couldn't stand it. I, for the most part, need to be doing something. Fishing was doing nothing. Usually after 15-20 minutes, I would be off picking berries instead of fishing. So, while I don't enjoy fishing, I can and have done it; and am probably not very good at it.

#12 - Wax a car
I have done this many times. Buy some good wax, park in the shade. Wash the car well. Wax in sections, buff off by hand.

#13 - Check trouble codes
I had to do this recently on my Acura CL. While it took a couple minutes to find that the plug was behind the ash tray, beyond that it is fairly simple. My latest code? Bad catalytic converter, but I knew that was the problem before I started.

#14 - Iron a shirt
Any single guy trying to impress a woman should know this. Pants are important too. I like the fact that the mag tells you to imagine that the ironing board is a work bench.

#15 - Paint a straight line
I don't really agree that this should be on the list. I have painted my fair share of rooms, and although using painter's tape isn't perfect, it gets the job done if used properly.

#16 - Tie a bowline
Ok Popular Mechanics, you finally got me. Many of my friends may be surprised to know that I do NOT know my knots! 4-H didn't really cover it, and on the farm we only used one knot, and I don't even know what it is called. I have always wanted to learn my knots, but have never found the motivation to learn them. Maybe teaching them to my son can be my motivation.

#17 - Use a stick welder
Wow, this makes me feel like less of a man. Popular Mechanics got me on two in a row! Again, many of my friends may be surprised to know that I have never run a welder. I know, its sad. But growing up, dad never let us do it! Ug. And now, I don't have one to play with. When I graduated from Rose, I almost took a course for welding because I wanted to build up that skill. I still do. Yes, I know some basics to welding and could probably do a hack job if needed, but I don't think that's good enough to put a check next to it.

#18 - Read an electric meter
I worked for South Central Indiana REMC the summer after my freshman year at Rose. While my job was not reading meters, I learned more about them. It really isn't that difficult, and in my opinion, doesn't belong on this list either.

#19 - Hang food in the wild
I have had to do this, as well as trash. Find a couple trees close to one another, use some rope, and honestly, you can probably figure out something without ever reading a magazine. More important than knowing HOW to hang food is knowing TO hang food.

#20 - Solder wire
Again, please. Been doing this since I was little, and got paid to do it at my work-study job in college. Having the proper tools can aid in this too. A solder sucker, and good hot gun, and a knife to clean the leads are very important.

There you go, the first 20. I hope to do 21-40 tomorrow. Reply with your thoughts, or your stats!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Two Tips You Can (Maybe) Use

Tip #1 - Use Some Wasted Water

We have saved some old orange juice jugs and have placed two in each bath room and two in the kitchen. When we need hot water, we fill the jugs first. I empty them out every few days on the plants and trees in the yard which almost everyone has. I also put water on the garden and herbs occasionally. Additionally, we have a one liter bottle in the kitchen that I fill for water for the cats. If you have cats or dogs, this will easily work as well.

Tip #2 - Know Your Baby Monitor is Working

So this tip is not quite for everyone, but it is worth mentioning regardless. We realized we always wonder if the baby monitor is actually working. Yeah, it tells you by turning the light from green to red, but you always have to stare at it. What we started doing is placing a ticking clock next to the monitor. That way, we simply listen for the ticking. It has no effect on being able to listen for baby, but it easily lets you know it is still working.

More to come... I know I had three ideas, but I forgot one of them at publication :)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Beware of Yaari

Yarri is a social networking site targeted for Indian children, according to what I have read. I have already received invites to this site, but I think you should delete them as I have. It requires access to your free email account and sends everyone an invite. There is no opt out.

A few google searches reveals a lot of information. Just goes to show you before trying anything new on the net, review it first!

Saturday, October 04, 2008

First Big Trip is Under Our Belt

We just returned last night from a week and a half trip. I was presenting at a conference in DC, so we drove out early to visit friends and family who have not yet met Nolan. We did 1675 miles, got around 30 mpg (maybe a little better), got lucky that gas went way down, and saw many people. We stopped in Pittsburgh, Bethlehem PA, Baltimore, Laurel MD, Bethesda MD, and of course we stayed for a week at the Gaylord National Resort.

Nolan was great! We have really lucked out and gotten ourselves a good traveler. More details to come later on the trip. And, I still intend to start my small series blogs soon on a topic I read about recently. For now, I have about 550 feeds to read since Thursday afternoon...