Time to get the lawmower ready!



20170226_153603We have had an early spring this year in Virginia!  I am usually not cutting grass until the beginning of April, but we have flowers blooming and grass growing already!  I went up to Home Depot and spent about $70 getting the old lawnmower ready for the season  YIKES!  I remembered what it was like owning Honda automobiles back when I was young and the insane price they charge for parts. Thankfully, I had some gift cards I got for Christmas.   Here’s a rundown of the parts I needed and what they cost:

$17  each,  Two wheels:  Home-Depot only had rear wheels (with the gears on them for the self propel)  I disconnected the broken self-propel years ago when it failed, so I didn’t need self-propel wheels, but they didn’t have standard wheels, which may have been cheaper

$23 Double blade set:  Honda lawnmowers have two blades on them…one to cut the grass, the other to mulch it.  Only the cutting blade was worn, but they only had a package with both blades in it.

$5 Kohler air filter.  I found out that a Kohler air filter is the same size as a Honda air filter, so I saved $3 by not buying the Honda one.  Air filters clog up frequently in lawnmowers and will cause hard starting and other problems.  Before each mowing, if it’s been dusty, remove the filter and tap it to knock the dust out…replace each season, or more if it gets dirty

$4  Quart of oil.  It’s good to change the oil in your lawnmower frequently.  Lawnmowers do not have oil filters, so if you want your engine to last, change every 25 hours, or each season, whichever comes first.

$6  Starter cord:  The starting cord was getting a little frayed, and I was worried that it would break, and I wouldn’t be able to start the motor when I needed it to.  I took the top off the lawnmower and re-strung the cord reel.

After replacing all these maintenance items, I poured fresh fuel into it and it started up on the first pull of the cord!  BTW, it’s a good idea at the end of the season to burn all the gas out of the mower so it doesn’t sit and go stale during the winter…ethanol gas tends to do that!  This lawnmower is already about 20 years old, hopefully I can keep it going for another 20

My parents lawn however started growing before mine did, so I mowed it today but mine is going to need it by next weekend!  Some people loathe cutting grass, but I enjoy it, especially during the springtime when the weather isn’t very hot yet.




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Controlling the Christmas lights

img_9369Who wants to to out on a 20-degree night and unplug strings of Christmas lights that are decorating the house?   Nobody I imagine!  For this reason, I have had a project in the works to resolve that issue.  How could I connect the lights up so I can turn them on and off from inside the house…or even better, use a light sensor to turn them on and off when the sun goes down 🙂

For that, I had an idea…just tap off of an existing outside light and wire up some outlets.  The perfect candidate was a motion sensor light that is controlled with a switch on the wall in the living room and the den.  The mostion sensor went bad one day, so I had the idea to go ahead and do this project when I replaced the motion sensor. 20170218_204627

I ran a piece of conduit across the surface of the soffet above the carport to the other side.  I used a piece of 3-conductor “romex” cable.  One wire is “hot” that is on whenever the switch is on in the house.  The other wire is controlled by the motion sensor, so I can add another lamp if I need it.  (shown here without the wiring pulled yet!)


I then ran the conduit down the side of the house to beside the driveway where I added two outlets:  The one in the gray box is “hot” and comes on whenever the switch is on inside the house.  This is good for running power tools and stuff outside, like my electric leaf blower, or to vacuum the cars out.  The white outlet on the bottom is controlled by the light sensor that is hanging off the bottom there.  It will turn on at nighttime, and off in the morning.  That’s where I can plug in Christmas lights, or what I am even thinking of, is some low-voltage landscaping lighting in the future along the driveway.20170301_192212

This project required about 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon, and about $50 or so in parts, but will save lots of headaches.  This also solves a secondary problem of having extension cords draped through the carport and causing tripping hazards  when yardwork is being done…and the outlet is closer to the yard, so I can reach the entire yard with my long extension cord.


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How do I stay so healthy?


For anyone who has known me in person, they may know that I am in excellent health. I do not take any medications, rarely get sick, my resting pulse rate is around 50 beats per minute, perfect blood pressure, I can run several miles, and can bench press more than my weight of 155 pounds. That’s pretty darned good for a 42 year old I think.  I frequently have people asking me “how do you have so much energy?   Well, there’s no real secret to staying healthy, THERE IS NO ONE INDIVIDUAL THING THAT WILL PUT YOU IN PERFECT HEALTH.  It’s the cumulation and combination of many small things that put you here over the course of time.  Here’s some of the things that have kept me in good health:

Wear yourself out each day until you are physically tired: If you work in a laborious job, GOOD!  you have this one accomplished!  This can sometimes be a challenge though if you work a desk job.  You most likely are mentally tired after working in front the computer all day, answering phone calls and putting up with one crises after another.  The first thing you want to do when you get home is plop down on the couch in front the screen and zone out…WRONG!  What you should do instead is do something that is laborious, but is not mentally challenging.  Go to the gym and work out, do yardwork / mow the grass (with a push mower) ride a bike or jog around the neighborhood, play ball with the kids. Just something that will wear the stress off your body. You want to be done for at the end of the day, truly physically tired, not just mentally tired

Look for small things throughout the day to get exercise with:  Park in the back of the parking lot (a lot less mentally stressful too not fighting over the close spaces)  Take the steps instead of the elevator, stand and walk more often, mow the whole yard with the push mower instead of the riding mower, use a hand tool instead of a power tool…those types of little things.  This helps with the above mentioned to balance physical and mental fatigue at the end of the day.

Get proper sleep:   Now that you have worn yourself out physically though the day, you need to get rested and restored.  The optimal amount of sleep is 8 hours a day.  I do not always do this, but I make certain I get an absolute minimum of 6 hours of sleep in a day.  Don’t forget afternoon naps! A quick power-nap of about 30-45 minutes in the middle of the day really helps out your energy levels and your health when you can do this.

Genesis 2: 2-3 “On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.”

A diet high in a variety of foods, I lean towards high protein, high fat, and less carbohydrates:  There have been many, many fad diets over the years that say if you eat this one thing and not all this other stuff you will loose amazing amounts of weight and be perfectly healthy as an athlete. Well, it doesn’t go quite like that.  The human body needs a wide range of sustenance.  There are three basic foods, Proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  Proteins are what your body uses to repair itself, so obviously, it’s good to eat.  Carbohydrates are what your body uses for fuel.  Fats are used as fuel too, but are metabolized much slower, so they will satisfy your hunger longer.  If you are getting the munchies, eat a snack that high in fat and protein, like nuts, instead of something  high in carbs, like sugar. There are many more vitamins and minerals your body needs beyond these basic things, so give your body a healthy variety, and don’t be afraid to try out new, unique foods.

Genesis 9:2-4 All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power. I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables.

Eat Good quality foods:  No matter what you decide to eat, it’s good to pick items out that are less processed and have more real, natural ingredients.  Fresh foods are simply more nutritious and have more of what your body needs and less of what it doesn’t need.  Now, I’ve heard many say that cooking is too slow / complicated / inconvenient and that’s why they buy processed food loaded with preservatives.  Well, there is an easy way around this problem.  Take time to cook a large amount of food at one time, store it, then reheat and eat individual servings from that food when you don’t have time to cook a full meal. avoid foods described as “lite, diet, sugar-free, fat free” or any other monikers that masquerade as being more healthy.  Removing things out of food means it’s more processed, and also most likely has an artificial ingredient replacing what was extracted.  Make foods with the most basic ingredients you can find

No drugs, smoking, drinking  Okay, I occasionally have a beer or a glass of wine, but I don’t drink enough to get intoxicated, and I don’t make alcoholic beverages a regular part of my routine consumption.   I simply cannot see what the enjoyment is in being intoxicated.  It causes short-term problems and long term health issues too.  I’d rather be of sober mind and a clear head.

Luke 21: 34“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware”

Ephesians 5:18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit”

The same goes with smoking.  Yes, there’s some really nice smelling tobacco out there, but why the heck would I want to burn it and inhale it?  …I cannot figure out why one would want to purposefully inhale combustion by-products. Vaping? well, the jury is still out on that.  Yes, it’s just water vapor, but many of the flavors out there have just as much toxins and other processed garbage in them as classic cigarettes

Consume less media:  There are many benefits of this, one very obvious…if you are sitting around watching TV, you are not out and about doing things and being active, but a more subtle one exists too.  The media ultimately wants us to feel insecure.  Why? because insecure people buy things, and that keeps advertisers happy.  Be it buying the latest clothing, the newest vehicle, electronic gadget, whatever, the message is your life won’t be complete without it.  The media even shows us unattainable bodies in order to sell us things, because guess what, if you are insecure about your physical condition, you go out and buy special diet foods, diet pills, gym memberships (not a bad thing if you USE it!) cosmetics, etc.  Here’s thing thing about buying stuff to try and resolve insecurity…IT DOES NOT WORK!  You just end up with a cluttered house, and a maxed out credit card that you end up having to work more(more stress) to pay off. The best idea is to turn off the tube, get out and enjoy the people and things around you!

Leviticus 19:4 “Do not put your trust in idols or make metal images of gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God.

I really enjoy listening to music, however I have really picked up listening to Christian contemporary music within the past 8-10 years, which is really uplifting!  I am also listening to more traditional hymns and classical music.  I still enjoy some of my classic rock occasionally, as I figure if the music can withstand the test of time that it has something going for it

Psalms 100:1  Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. …

Maintain good spiritual health:  You have most likely noticed the Bible versus interspersed throughout this posting.  Maintaining a good relationship with the one who has made you is some of the best medical advice.  Keep up your prayer life.  Be in fellowship with the Lord, and with other like believers that can lift you up and encourage you.  A good, positive attitude in life is some of the best medicine out there!

DISCLAIMER:  I am not stating these things to be self-righteous or to be arrogant.  I am stating these things because they have worked for me in helping me feel great and enjoy life with good health.  I feel that if I they worked for me, others may benefit in the same way I have and the tips are worth sharing.

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Laser thermometer: troubleshooting a car

A laser thermometer is perhaps one of the most useful tools you can have in your toolbox for checking things around the house and the car!  They are not very expensive…You can pick a basic one up and most home improvement box stores or hardware stores for around $40 for a basic model.

You can use them for sooo many things!

They are good for finding leaks around windows and doors in your home

Check air duct temperature on heat and air conditioning for proper functioning

Aim at aquarium to check water temperature

find overheating components in a computer or other electronic devices, or dead electronic components (they won’t be warm!)

find air ducts or hot water pipes within walls

check if a light bulb (or other object) is still hot before changing or touching  it.

There are many uses when working on the car too:

Here’s a quick video of using one in my car.  I had a bad fuel injector (that’s the clicking noise you are hearing) that was keeping a cylinder from firing.  I was able to tell exactly which one was causing the misfire and rough running because that cylinder was running cooler than the others when I held the laser thermometer at the exhaust manfold:




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“The Challenger” game

This is a simple “arcade” game if you can call it that, from what I am guessing, from the seventies.  The goal of the game is to move the wand through the entire bar without touching it.  Sort of like playing the board game “operation” where you remove the object from the body without touching the side.  If you do, then you get a BUZZ.

The problem was that when a dime was placed in it, the game would not go into play mode, but would simply take the money and reset….an annoying problem that anyone has ever used a vending device has had.

When a coin is inserted, and the game goes into play mode, additional lamps will light up on the front panel.  Those lights stay lit as the game is played until the bar is touched and the game is “lost”.  Red lamps in the middle will light at this point, and a buzzer is sounded for a few seconds.  At that point, the game goes back into standby mode.

What was happening is that when a coin was inserted, one of the lamp sockets that illuminates when the game goes into play mode had a wire touching ground.  When power was applied to the lamp, the power supply would short out and shut off, instead of allowing a user to play the game.  A short buzz would be heard, and it would go dark until the power supply reset.

Here’s a video on how it all works;

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Mid Century Modern in my neighborhood.

Anyone that knows me well enough knows I like the contemporary and modern architecture of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  It came from a time when the USA prospered and the future looked bright.  This outlook was reflected in architectural design.  In Richmond VA however, most home architecture is very traditional and conservative.  Most homes have typical double-hung windows and stick with an appearance that have been used for the past 200-400 years….there’s not much cool and unique when it comes to homes in Richmond!

There are a few exceptions however, and around our neighborhood in the Northside of Henrico, I have noticed there are quite a few scattered in the midst of traditional ranchers, tri-levels, and colonials.  Here are a few that I have seen driving and biking around the neighborhood.  I have noticed that the landscaping and upkeep of most of these is quite good, indicating that the owners appreciate their homes, and their unique style and are not just a “a place to sleep”.  I would love to go into some of these homes and check out what they look like inside.

Note:  all exterior images are from Google Earth, as It would look creepy going around and snapping photos of houses!


This one is right at 1715 Hungary Road and easily seen.  I pass it frequently as I travel around.

1725 Hungary Road


This one at the corner of North Run Drive and Joceyln Court is one of my absolute favorites.  The landscaping is exceptionally well done!  It even looks good from the back side, with a nice glass-enclosed porch behind the garage.



This one particular on Prince Avenue  is a rather common design I’ve seen in Northern Virginia in the Fairfax area, but this is the only one I know of here in the Richmond area.  I know a friend that lives in a home of this design in Fairfax, so I can describe it.

The Living room is is actually in the smaller single-story left wing with a vaulted ceiling.  The front door is on the left side of the 2-story middle section with an open staircase directly ahead that sort of resembles the one in the Brady Bunch house from the TV show.  To the right of the staircase is a guest bedroom / office area (just like the Brady house!). Kitchen and dining area is across the back with a family room.  upstairs, the master bedroom is across the front, and 3 other bedrooms are across the back.  The single-story wing on the right hand side is a garage.  The design is very spacious and open inside.  It’s design could actually be more accurate to the TV show set than the exterior image they seen at the beginning of the show.


These two are rather conventional looking split-levels, the first one being at the corner of Wilmecote Avenue, and the second being on the corner of Maji drive.  What’s cool about these is the entryway with the little square windows on each side, and the hanging lamps:


Another cool one On Forest Glen Drive.  Looks like a tri-level that has has a garage added onto it, along with other rooms, but it has been done tastefully and keeping with the design of the home:


Here’s another one on Forest Glen Road, a rancher with a big carport and a large front window



This one here on Delma Drive is a split-level that was on the market a few years ago.  This house is a split-level with a unique balcony that goes from the front to the side

This house was on the market a few years ago (sold for $200,000) and I was able to pull some interior shots off of the real estate ad.  The interior looks more seventies, than sixties, especially the “sputnik” light fixtures in the foyer, and the dining room.  The wood-paneled basement with the yellow-tile floor is definitely out of the seventies! The kitchen however looks to have been renovated within the past 10 years or so, and looks out of place with the rest of the house


Well, this was a short tour of the homes I’ve seen within a bike-ride distance from my home here.  I imagine there may be more farther away from me, but I figured I’d post some of what catches my eye as I’m toolin about!


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Air conditioners need to be de-bugged too!

This past Saturday, my Air conditioner, only 2 years old or so began making a loud buzzing noise when it came on in the morning.  Andrea woke up early, and was trying to be quiet, as not to wake me, but I ended up waking up anyways when the air conditioner started up and was making a loud buzzing noise similar to a game show buzzer.

I was worried, as it sounded expensive.   Well, it’s got a warranty on it, but I may still need to pay for the service visit.  Luckily, it was still cranking out cold air, so I was thinking it maybe not all that bad.    I decided to check it out myself.  I put on my clothes and went outside to the outdoor unit.  Using my ears, I was able to source the problem down to the electrical enclosure on the side of the unit.


I switched the unit off with the thermostat and began to investigate.  I found that if I pushed the button on the contractor relay, the unit would start up and hum just as quietly as it typically would.  This is a big relief to discover…no expensive motors or other parts were the cause of the problem.  Check out the video below to see for yourself:

My buzzy, buggy AC unit

What does the contactor relay do?   Simple actually.  The thermostat inside the house operates at a low voltage,  24 volts.  The air conditioner however works at a high voltage, 240 volts…10 times higher.  Instead of running the massive high voltage wires through the house to the thermostat, thin, low-voltage wire is run instead.  The contractor relay is simply a switch that receives that low voltage signal from the thermostat, and uses it to turn on the high voltage that runs the compressor.

I obtained a new contactor and replaced it easily.  Replacing the part was an easy 10 minute job at best:


After replacing the unit, I decided to investigate the old one, and see what made it fail.  I had heard this particular contractor relay was a failure-prone model, so I wanted to find out what made it troublesome, as I am curious in that way.  Well, once I disassembled it, I found that the failure was not actually the fault of the design, but it had a big….literally…in it!


The piece you see here moves when electricity flows through the coil above my finger.  The buzzing was because it wasn’t making complete contact with the flattened bug sitting between it, and the coil inside the housing!  This issue reminds me of the first computer, and where the term “bug” became associated with computers, and it was found…yep, in a relay!    ..I wonder why bugs are attracted to electrical relays?!?!

computer bug

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