Friday, March 28, 2008

My Scratchitti Element Is Finally Fixed

Over two years ago my Black Honda Element was vandalized at my wife's place of work. I've talked to a few auto body repair places to repaint the car. Quotes ranged from $2,000 to $4,000.

Not an option for a $22,000 Element.

Not an option for me to shell out for a vandal's handy work.

Last summer I had a thought, why not call a car wrapping company? Wrap the car with an advertisement or just black wrapping.

I stopped by Sign Language last summer and spoke with the owner, Jack. He thought it was possible and would run around $200. Much better deal than a new paint job and the wrapping material should last at least 5 years.

Finally I motivated and brought the Element in today to have it wrapped. An hour later, you can hardly notice the black wrapping. Diana couldn't tell the difference. Diana and I no longer drive in a card with "bitch" scratchitti on three sides.

If you have a scratchitti car this is a cost effective way of covering up.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thoughts from Mountain View

Just getting ready to board the plane home from SFO after a few days in Mountain View. I had a great time catching up with old friends from as well as meeting new AOL colleagues.

I planned on flying into San Jose which required a connection at LAX, shockingly the connecting flight was canceled. Instead I flew to SFO where I picked up my rental car.

A rental Prius.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I had trouble getting the car to move. A quick look in the manual fixed that and I was on my way. Having never driven a hybrid before it was certainly interesting to not hear an engine running. A few time the combustion engine did turn on and it jolted the car a bit. I guess I could buy one, it had some good acceleration.

Now as I write this I'm listening to a traveler ask the counter person if he can change the side of the plane he's sitting on. Apparently he only sleeps on his right side and he's on the wrong side.

Good luck with that one!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Preparing to prepare (Restoring Steel Casement Windows)

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I'm getting ready to restore all of the steel casement windows in our apartment. The building is from the 1930s and I'm not sure how long the current paint and glazing has been there. (pictures to come)

One of my neighbors has redone all of her windows and she'll be sharing some of her secrets, but I'm also doing some research.

First, who actually specializes in fixing these types of windows:

Seekircher Steel Window Repair - Peekskill, NY - they restore and repair old windows. Here's an article in the New York Times about John Seekircher.

- Kansas City, MO - has a nice step-by-step instruction of how they restore steel windows.

J Sussman - Jamaica, NY - they craft custom steel windows.

Second, what how-to articles are out there:

ThisOldHouseWeb - Someone writes in asking how to fix cold and drafty steel casements.

ThisOldHouseWeb - A detailed article describing the restoration process.

The Steel Window Institute - Who's who of steel window manufacturers

Third, the pictures:

Here's a standard steel casement window from the 1930s. steel casement window

You'll notice here that the outside glazing on the glass is worn away and missing a protective coat of paint.steel casement window close up of window glaze

Here you can see rust forming on the inside of the window as well as it not closing completely. steel casement window close up of window frame

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My Most Popular Page

I keep an eye on my site analytics and consistently I see one post showing up via Google organic search. It's my closing post on my Baltimore row house staircase replacement. You can read it here.

The post ranks on the first page of Google results for "replacing stairs" and "replacing staircase." My next home improvement project is to restore our steel casement windows throughout our apartment. I'm planning on using a combination of video, pictures, and text to detail the project.

I took the first step today and more detail will be coming.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Save Money - Stop the Earmarks

Senator McCain and DeMint are offering an amendment to the 2009 budget resolution that would impose a year long moratorium on congressional earmarks.

Visit the Citizens Against Government Waste website and easily send emails to your Senators telling them to support the amendment. Get Washington focused on fixing real problems instead of how to hide pork spending for each state.

Click HERE

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Too Many Cold Showers

My wife and I purchased an apartment late last year in a 70+ year old building. We’re on the 5th floor, the top and we’ve noticed the showers don’t get hot enough. We’re having work done on one bathroom, so since January 1st we’ve been showering in the other bathroom where the water has never gotten warm enough. We essentially have a cold shower every time. The other shower is slightly warmer.

I asked the contractor and the superintendent what the problem could be and they said it was the mixer value jets. Apparently the old pipes have debris that clogs the jets thus the hot water side must be clogged. New valves have bigger jets. My sink hot water is scalding, it must be the jets.

Seems reasonable, so it was more cold showers until our other bathroom is renovated and we get a new water valve. A cold shower can be refreshing during the summer, but day after day in the winter is tough. I shave in the shower and the lack of hot water seriously impacts the closeness.

In Baltimore I had tiled my shower and installed the handle on the shower mixer valve which had a hot water mix adjustment. The design is to ensure you can prevent scalding.

This past Friday night as we sat watching TV, I started to think about that shower valve in Baltimore. Maybe the prior owner was ok with cold showers? My previous thinking was that nobody would purposefully subject themselves to cold showers everyday. The plumber who installed these valves must have adjusted them for the prior owner.

I booted up my laptop, checked the valve for make and model and proceeded to search. Sure enough there was a hot water mixer valve in this model. Next step was to disassemble it. Sure enough I needed a hex key, I didn’t have one. I'd have to wait until Saturday morning when the local hardware store opens.

I purchased the set, headed home and off with the handle. Viola! The hot water setting was not maxed out. All this time, all those cold showers, it was a simple Internet search away.

With the hot water setting cranked up to the max, I re-installed the handle. It was tough going, the screw was sticking. Nothing a daub of dishwasher soap can’t fix though, smooth installation.

Handle back on, shower on, hot shower is a go!

So where is this post going? Is there a natural gas leak in our apartment as I write this?

This story is applicable to business.

Everyday we do things a certain way because we assume that’s the best way. We get used to the cold shower, we accept it. We adapt our bathing process; we optimize our soap up time to ensure minimum time under the shower head.

In business everyday people doing things the same way they did them the previous day. Even if something is wrong, many times the root cause isn’t sought out. Maybe it takes research, maybe investment in a tool? Time surely you could have better spent running around after the shower to dry yourself and warm-up.

How often do we go back and double check our key assumptions? Check our processes? Challenge the status quo?

Maybe the person who created them was a madman or madwoman?

Maybe it was somebody who liked cold showers?

You'll never know until you check.