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2010-01-04 Rev. 2010-01-15, -08-04, -10-28, -12-13, -14, 2012-03-08, -09-03, 2013-07-28

Not the big ones but miscellaneous little ideas that proved useful.


Electrical outlet in ceiling with cord coild on porch post edge.Electrical in the Ceiling - When I wanted to have electricity available on our open front porch I didn't look forward to dropping wires down inside the walls and the floor getting wet made bringing the wire underneath was not going to work I was already doing stuff near the front of the attic, so I ran a short run over and put the outlet in the ceiling in line with a set of posts. There is a cross bar between the posts that is strong enough to stand on while I reach up and plug in, but I actually leave the cord shown plugged in most of the time for use with the electric mower and string trimmer storing it as shown. At Christmas and Halloween, lights along the edge of the porch are plugged in. 2013-08-28
Meclizine Nausea Medicine For Migraine, etc. - Meclizine (Bonine) is a medicine primarily sold for car and air motion sickness, like Dramamine. But I like it because, besides being much cheaper, it works for other stuff, as I don't get car sick. I first was told about it, I believe, from a woman who recommended it for dealing with migraine headaches, which are often accompanied by vomiting or nausea. Generic Meclizine is a "behind the counter" medicine; because it is sold in bottles of 100 small pills, for only about $6, pharmacies keep it behind and you have to ask for it.  But note that price - Dramamine is sold in small tubes at 8 pills for about $5. I keep it around and drop a tablet really quickly to cut off pending nausea or migraine.  2012-09-03
Power strip with switch protectionPower Strip Protection - A problem with power strips can be that if they are used for an almost permanent connection, the switch can be bumped and turned off.  Some can't be glued in a fixed position because they are also the built in circuit breaker that needs to be switched off and on to reset.  My solution was to glue small wood blocks along side the switch so a finger can reach in to change it, but something falling on the strip is much less likely to change it. 2012-03-08
X-10 Communications - X-10 is a remote control lighting system that I have used in the house for years for convenience and security. Besides the units that control the power as wall switches and plug-in boxes, there are a bunch of remotes including one loaded from the computer for timing and 4, 8, and 16 button units.
Over the last several months, I have thought about logging my waking and sleeping because I have been falling asleep in mid-day and waking at 1 or 2 am for a couple of hours.  Aside from the awkwardness and need for silence when Gigi is asleep, I was concerned as to how much I was sleeping - I thought it might be about 8 hours a day but .... I thought of writing it down, but was often too tired to manage that. I thought of programming my little Parallax controller to log wake and sleep.  Suddenly, early this month, it occurred to me that the log of the system could be used to monitor turning on and off a bedroom light I wasn't using otherwise: I could turn it "on" when I got up and "off" as I would if it had a bulb in it for sleeping.  And two clicks were all I needed to recall.  No wiring, no programming, no dead batteries. And it has worked nicely and I am sleeping about 1/3 of the day.  Save the data, which goes in the form of an htm file, load the file in the browser and copy the table, paste special into Excel and sort from there. 2010-12-14
Half Curtains - The houses around me have curtains and roller blinds that are being opened and closed day and night.  An expensive house I was involved in had power blinds to keep out the sun.*  A cheap alternative I have used in my urban house is half curtains on the lower half of the windows, carefully placed so they block outside viewing to the inside because the lower ground only lets people see the ceiling while inside a constant view over the top is available of the upper part of the scenery. Depending on view, like over the porch and along the neighbor's drive, more or less opaque upper or shear curtains are added in some locations.  A Venetian blind next to the desk with one louver twisted in the other wise closed blind allows the cat and me to look at the street with limited space to look back in. 2010-12-13
* Shade Model - When the lady for whom I did some programming asked how she could protect her carpet from fading as the sun moved through its various paths outside the arches beyond the windows without leaving the curtains closed all the time or trying to set just a timer on them, I suggested making a model of one arch on the face of a box aimed to match the wall arches and putting the photo cell sensor of the drapes' mechanism flat on the "floor" so when the sun shined in the model arch, the curtains would be closed.  It was made and reported to work great. 2010-12-13
Wood board on bathtub for seating and reading/snackingBathtub Board - This whole bathtub might be a project for its various edging and enclosure, but here the board is presented.  It is just a 1x8" softwood board stained dark reddish brown and overcoated with polyurethane varnish.  The two battens underneath keep it from warping but the placement of the one on the right is vital because it keeps the left end from slipping off the tub edge.
 Originally, I made it for my hedonist bath time - 45 minutes baths are "normal" when I take a beverage, a snack and a book along.  But it is strong enough that it has been used as seat for myself and a couple of other people to take a bath/shower while seated when getting down in the tub would soak an injury or make it very difficult to get out.  A shower curtain out of the picture allows for the board.
  It is finished this dark color to match the other woodwork in the bathroom when it is stored upright against the wall.
  The tub is an old fashioned deep, long unit - like a claw foot but with rim lower support - that previous house owners had framed with a panel (lower right).  I added a white Formica panel over the boards and added the corners (with plaster underneath) and tub surround (having to buy an extra panel to fit) that look so grubby at the seams in the picture.  The aluminum angle under the board is glued to the tub with silicone adhesive.  The woodwork mentioned includes boards screwed to the surface that hide a slot cut in the house planking to access plumbing.  2010-10-28
PVC Hose Connections & Snap Fittings - It is not well known that PVC pipe fittings are available that will thread to both ends of garden hoses.  One use of these is to make custom soaker/sprinkler forms as with gray water. Also a long straight pipe can be pushed places it is difficult to make a pipe go - like under a ramp or up a drain to wash it out.  The pictures below show a detail of the female PVC fitting glued to a pipe with a quick connect fitting screwed in (right) and the same fitting in place with a hose end attached (left.) The T shown connects to two elbows and drilled "arms" to make a soaker that flanks a large pecan tree in the back yard.  Below is a closeup of a different brand and color but matching size showing the rubber o-ring seal on the male and the valve on the female. The large collar next to the valve pushes down to loosen balls inside the grip the male fitting the groove just below the ring.  This groove is also the weak point of the connection and it is rather too easy to snap the fitting at the groove by stepping on the connected pieces or lifting by the valve piece a long piece of pipe, especially with water in it. The green seem to be more durable than the yellow. 2010-10-28  p.s. I find the repair fittings like the one shown in the lower left corner of the first picture to be very reliable even if they take a bit of effort to install.

Mt. Auburn Crime Watch signs for June 2010Cheaper Waterproof Signs - For a neighborhood group, the cost of printed waterproof signs for announcing a monthly event were too costly at $2.50 to $5 each plus a setup charge.  A solution was found by going to a sign supply company and buying a 4x4 sheet of white corrugated plastic with the H wire supports, and cutting 1 foot tall cross panels into 3 - 16" or 4 - 12" wide pieces as shown at right.  The wording is supplied by laser copier or printer transparencies which can be color.  In cheap form these are 8.5x11"  The wider 16" sign will take two signs, one in Spanish and one in English and can be on both sides.  The narrower 12" one will take one sign on each side in one or both languages.  Clear 2" wide packaging tape holds the transparencies in rain or sun for the week or so they are up.  The white panels and supports are reusable.  2010-08-04

Electric Blanket Extension - I find that electric blankets are too short and have wires so near the bottom they are awkward to tuck in - I pull them out.  Several years ago, and just recently (yesterday as I write) to remind me, I have sewn a foot or more of additional material on the end of the blanket to allow tucking in well while moving the top up under my chin.  If you move it too far and are as tall as I am, the foot of the bed lacks heating and toes get cold.

Electric Blanket Repair - There is an electric blanket repair station listed on most electric blankets and I suspect that most people don't use it.  When I had one fail because the pins pulled out of the plug too soon after I bought it, I packaged up the controls and blanket and shipped them off, expecting a bill but assuming it would be less than buying a new blanket.  Imagine my surprise when I got a new blanket back with new controls!  And further more, as successive blankets have quit for various reasons, for the cost of one-way shipping, I have gotten a new blanket and controls every 4-5 years.  Important considering the cost of new king size blankets.

King Sheets/Blanket on Queen Size - We sleep on a queen size bed (I am 6'2"), yet a while back, I realized that while a fitted sheet has to match the bed, for the top sheets and blanket, king size worked much better in covering the two of us when one grabbed more or when pressing down the covers between us used up fabric.  And "sheets" in this case means that instead of a bed spread, I use a colored king sized sheet over the electric blanket - meaning it is cooler when the blanket is off.
Temperpedic at one-seventh the price - The widely advertised Temperpedic mattress "call this 800 number for a free sample and more information" costs a major fortune from my point of view $1700+ last I checked.  For a while, I used a Temperpedic topper from Penney at about $70.  Then I discovered, as we were having to change the inner spring mattress I hated, that Walmart carries mattresses that are Temperpedic on one side and urethane foam the rest of the way.  And a queen size costs under $250 with a return policy.  It came in a box about 15x15x30 inches, tightly packed in a plastic bag and if I wanted to return it, I could never get it back in the bag or box - but wouldn't have to since I could return it to the store.  The surface is really a bit odd - when you first lay on it, it seems really hard, but after a few seconds you start to sink in and it supports you and is soft feeling.
Automobile back-in parking, non-owner insurance, & no car  are discussed here
Door Holder and String Closers - These really work best in an older house and possibly with a blind wife, but they can be really convenient.  My back door has steps without a landing and thus no easy place to set something to pull the door shut on the way out - a piece of nylon twine from door frame near the hinges to the handle provides a way to snag a grip and pull the door shut.  The bedroom has a string that runs through eyes from the entry door around the room to come down beside the bed in the corner so the door can be pulled free of its holder while laying in bed. This is because my wife often talks on the phone or has machines that read aloud in the living room or office when I want to not listen and read quietly or sleep in the bedroom.  A couple of keys add weight at the end so the string follows the opening and closing of the door with out sagging.  The door, with the keys, tends to swing shut on its own and keeping a door open is one of the ongoing problems presented when I worked at the hardware store. For various reasons, door hold opens that are like closers in yielding to a pull are not common on the market (magnetic or clamp doorstops are about the best and require precise mounting.)  So, I made a door holder that touches the top of the door just enough to hold it.  It is a flat piece of aluminum bent to an L mounted on a bookcase behind the door.  The part sticking out is bent so the door slides under to increasing pressure.  A rubber strip like is used in bathtubs or on concrete steps to be non-slip provides an additional grip.    2010-01-15
Screw eyes at Frame and Foot - Our house has half a dozen large eye screw eyes in the door frames at the top and in the baseboards or walls or bookcases at the same height.  The high ones were installed to take lines that supported curtains made of sheets that provided privacy for house guests.  The lines could be light rope, but mostly were light chains about 5' long with an S-hook at one end with one S closed to stay on the chain.  The 1" links and hooks allowed rapid fitting and extra S-hooks allowed a network in the air so two sides of a "room" might come out from adjacent walls and meet at a corner suspended by a chain without a curtain across to a third wall.  The corner was the doorway.  The baseboard eyes were used to hold pet dogs and guide dogs.  The eyes are big enough to loop through one of the cheap veterinarian leashes or a snap hook that is part of the guide dog leash at both ends to allow size adjustment.  Double ended snap hooks are sold in hardware stores for easy attachment to loop handed leashes.  Although they would seem obvious, the screw eyes fade from sight, being high or low.  2010-01-15
This started out being called Choices, but after a few entries, that bothered me, so Ideas seems better. 2010-02-04
Air and Animal Flow -Two doors to our utility porch (washer, dryer, freezer, cat food and litter box) are propped slightly open so they do not latch if the dog or cat gets on the porch, in part to avoid trapping the animal on the hot porch in summer.  After finding that the long narrow crack of sufficient size to let the dog open the door also let in a lot of hot air, I sewed up long narrow (4") pieces of 1" urethane foam into muslin and tacked them to the door frame so the door closes against the edge.  It ends about a foot from the floor with just cloth below that to accommodate the cat better. 2010-07-11
CAR FLOW - I have been thinking about traffic patterns and what might be involved in simulating them and even the basic thinking leads to the idea that bunching has to occur by any normal behavior.  Suppose an expressway was simulated by a circle of 3 lanes with a circumference of an even size, say 3 miles.  If all the cars were initially going 60 miles an hour and by driver practice or automatic driving were maintaining the recommended distance of 2 second spacing, at that speed, it takes 60 seconds to go a mile, so for each mile in each lane there would be 30 cars, or 90 cars in 3 lanes or 900 cars in 10 miles.
 Now, if one car changes lanes, to exit or for any other reason, or one car joins from an entrance, dividing the space between cars, for a moment there is only 1 second of spacing between 3 of the cars.  Now if we assume that the only information the vehicle controller (driver or automation) has is distance to the car in front and speed (not necessarily true in an automated system), then both the second and third cars will have to slow down to improve spacing.  But if they slow down, every car behind them will have to slow and/or accept new spacing or a combination.  Thus a ripple will move through traffic of cars slowing to maintain spacing.  30 cars to the mile is 176 feet per vehicle.  31 cars is 170.32 f/v.  That distance in 2 seconds is 58.065 mph.  I think if you told people that adding one car dropped the speed by almost 2 mph, they would not believe it.  The next two additions each drop it about 1.75 mph. 
 But it gets worse.  There has to be some time factor as to how long it takes to adjust.  If the inserted car and the one behind it both stood on their brakes to make a fast adjustment, there would be chaos.  At the instant of insertion, the spacing would be about 88 feet.  So each vehicle has to slow enough to go from 88 to 170 feet.  If the system/driver is allowed 10 seconds to make this adjustment, the first driver must drop speed to 54.4 mph for 10 seconds then speed up to 58.1.  If the vehicle behind has to recover spacing in the same time frame, it will have to slow even more then speed up more.  If it only slows to 54.4, then for 10 seconds it will stay the same distance, then fall back as vehicle 2 goes back to 58.1.  Thus vehicle 3 will be slowed for nearly 20 seconds (math not done yet) and all the vehicles behind will be closing up or slowing more.  One method in the automated system for reducing the mess would be reduce the stiffness - slowing doesn't occur instantly but is proportional to distance and recovery starts sooner. Ish. 2010-07-11


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