Thursday, October 19, 2006


It's funny being one of the Afterschool Moms. Well, I suppose I should say, one of the Afterschool Parents, but I'm pretty much the only Dad out there on anything like a regular basis, so…one goes with the name that’s already there.

I may have posted a long time ago about what it was like to wait for the bus with Jake, and how the moms there on our block seemed unsure what to do with me. I never really felt as though I were accepted. I was a dad hanging out in their mom-space, and no-one was comfortable.

It has taken a while, but hanging out after school almost every day so Jake can play for a while has literally gotten me a place at the table. The picnic table, to be precise (there are 2-3 picnic tables set up around the playground). There, school policies are dissected, teachers compared, summer programs evaluated, and world problems occasionally solved.

I mostly just sit and listen, though I do contribute. I am most uncomfortable, oddly enough, when things get silly, because, lets face it folks, guy silliness is not quite the same as gal silliness, and I'm afraid I might overstep the bounds were I to cut loose.

Its cool, though I am slightly disappointed that Trish gets the invite to the "Mom's Only" party instead of me. :-)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tripping the Lights Fantastic...

I eventually got that water filter for the ice maker installed. I had to stand in front of the tubing fixtures at Lowes for a good 30 minutes before finding the right ones, but they did the trick. No sprays, no drips. Gotta love that Teflon tape.

In the end, though, I also had to clean out the freezer and the refrigerator sections in order to get rid of all the stuff that was contributing to the funny-tasting ice. Probably should wipe down the freezer more often.

But anyway, on to the topic at hand...

So when we were working on this house I got into compact fluorescent bulbs. They've been around for a while, and what with the cost of oil and whatnot, they've gotten a real push here lately. I'm sure you've seen them. They are getting pushed because they use less energy, put out less heat for the same light, and last longer. They cost a lot more too (and have a bit of mercury in them, so recycle the suckers, don't just toss them), but the trade-off is supposed to be worth it. I bought an early one years ago for a lamp, but in those days, "compact" was relative. The thing wouldn't fit in the lamp, and I lugged it around for years before putting it into an outside light socket.

The first CFL's were a bit bigger than incandescents, and had a small but noticeable and annoying delay before they came on. Some of them made a buzzing noise, too. And, that little swirly shape just didn't look right. It was with these things in mind that I selected the first batch of CFL's for this house.

The initial ones were some brand called Bright Effects. They were enclosed bulbs that looked like slightly larger incandescents, and they advertised that they came on instantly. And so they did, but rather dimly. Over a period of a minute or so, they brighten to full. You can actually see the light coming up as they do that. Well, that wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I'm not sure I can describe it right, but somehow the initial dimness of a room with these lights made it a less pleasant place, even after the lights had brightened.

As a temporary measure, I mixed in some different brand swirlies that did the delay thing but came on full brightness. So the lights were mixed, but at least the brightness issue was dealt with. I wound up doing this in several places.

Recently, I had some old incandescents go out and got a bunch more CFL's to replace them. I stayed away from the Bright Effects this time, and decided just to put up with the swirly shape (how often does one look directly at a light bulb, anyway?). The next batch were Sylvanias, and I think some technological shifts had happened in the meantime, because most of these came on with no delay I could notice, and came on full blast as well. I noticed this because I was nearly blinded when the 150W equivalent CFL I put in the tool room blasted on as soon as I flipped the switch.

Cost or no cost, I might ditch some of those old Bright Effects for these new guys so I don’t have to worry about dim start-ups or mixed bulbs.

I have to say I like these things. Some people don't like CFL's because they don't like the quality of the light, but 1) I don't mind that much and 2) they have done a lot to make the new CFL's a lot less, err, fluorescent-looking than they used to be. They are also a LOT cooler burning. No doubt about that at all. You still wouldn't want to grab one bare-handed, but they won’t turn a closed room into an oven, either.

One oddity for me is that people are used to measuring their light's brightness in watts, which is a unit of power, as opposed to lumens (or even candela or candles), which is the light brightness measure. That sort of made sense in the old days, but now its making things confusing, because as you may have noted above, the CFL's are put out in "brightnesses" corresponding to the old wattages people are used to, 40-60-75, etc, even though a 150 "Watt" CFL only uses 37.5W to get the same amount of light. And most lamps and light fixtures are also rated in regard to incandescent bulbs. I'm certain you could stick that 150W equivalent CFL into a lamp only rated for a 60W bulb, because the CFL pulls only a bit over 1/2 the power (and heat!) while spitting out 2.5 times as much light as the 60W.

If you haven't done so already, I'd suggest making an investment in these things as your old incandescents give out. I think you'll be pleased.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Nobody likes funny-tasting ice cubes. And most city water systems, while perfectly safe, have a bit of a "flavor" to them that is not exactly pleasant. In some areas, the calcium buildup is bad enough that you can clog your icemaker, which makes a mess. It happened to my folks once. So we've always had a filter on the fridge icemaker. Well, the old filter is getting a bit long in the tooth, and I've been meaning to change it for a couple of months now, with no success.

The problem is that new filters are too easy too use. Yes, you read that right. All the ones I saw at a couple of hardware stores are so-called "tool-less" devices. Instead of having to screw the filter connectors on to the water lines, which might require such exotica as a pair of pliers (by the by, I personally feel that anyone who lacks a pair of pliers in their home and the basic understanding of how to use them should not be allowed to vote or drive a car), they use gaskets so you just have to push the tubing into the holes. Of course, our water feed is the screw kind. Copper, no less.

So in order to use the new, easy, tool-less water filters, I need to buy adapters that convert from screw-thread to push-in gasket, and, just to be safe, a mounted version of the filter so I won't obsess about the thing pulling the tubing out when it gets heavy with sediment. Oh, and drill holes for it, etc. Plus hope the copper line doesn't snap off at the nasty bend it takes coming out of the wall (no doubt part of our previous owners handiwork) or spring a leak at its connecting point.

Fortunately adapters look pretty cheap, and tubing is a whole $0.07 a foot (I need well under three feet). But if I can't make this work myself, I plan to buy a 10lb bag of ice from the gas station to tide us over until the plumber can get here and install the "tool-less" water filters for me.

* A little joke for all current and former residents of Houston, Texas.