Andrew Pollack's Blog

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Risky Business; plus Weekend Work -- Crappy Equipment, a plague of mice, and tired feet.

By Andrew Pollack on 05/09/2010 at 04:18 PM EDT

Hi all - It's been a busy spring and I've been lax with the blogging. Here's an attempt to catch you up.

Work first - There's a lot happening with Second Signal right now. I hope to be making an announcement soon about the next steps toward global domination. That's meant a fair amount of work both on the business side as well as the technical. Given how busy I've been with regular (paying) work this year so far, it's been difficult to reconcile. That's the risky part. I've been able to help a friend out a little bit while lightening my client load in anticipation of the work (and income) Second Signal is going to generate. The risk of course, is that it could be fairly difficult to get the client work back if I need it. If things don't go well, I could be posting again in the fall looking for projects.

Meanwhile on the home front things have been busy as well. Here's the highlights:

Karate - Still doing this at least twice a week with Coryn. I'm working on moving from my fifth to my sixth belt (in our club that is moving from Purple to Green). With a bit of work I should be able to finish that transition later this month or next. Basically, that puts my in the "intermediate" level of skill. No longer a beginner but with a lot of work left to go.

Fire Department - I'm still the Lt. on Engine 1 (or as we call it now on the radio "1-01"). There hasn't been a huge amount of activity in the past few weeks, although we did have a busy night last Thursday. I was supposed to be cooking for the supper meeting, and had done most of the prep work when nearby Portland went to a 3rd Alarm for a fire at an industrial site. That mean we had to send our Heavy Rescue and Ladder to Portland to cover their stations and handle anything else that came in while all the city apparatus was committed. I went with our Ladder to cover Portland's Ladder 4 station. We were there six or seven hours and picked up a couple of minor incident calls. I left my prepared food for the people at our Central Station to finish cooking and cleanup and they tell me it was quite good.

Around the house, it's been a busy spring too. A couple of weeks ago I replaced a couple of cedar fence posts. Those are six or eight inches diameter posts that are about 9 feet tall. The bottom 3 feet are in the ground. When they snap off, you have to first dig out the old post ends before you can clean up the hole and place the new ones. It's a lot of work. The same weekend I replaced the garage door opener on my side of the garage. The old one had a circuit board problem and had become very unreliable. The new one is quieter and slightly faster. It's also red and shiny.

The next project was planting three new Emerald Arbor Vitae trees in a line that will be a great screen between the pool and the neighbor's new porch once they've grown. Right now they're just about as tall as the fence - about 6 feet. These grow fast though, so I'm hopeful in the next few years they'll do the job nicely.

Speaking of pools, I had to open ours early this year as we're replacing the outdoor carpet that goes around it. That lasts several years, but in the end the sun is hard on it. To get to the carpet, I had to take the cover off. Take the cover off, and you'd better get the pump, filter, and chlorine running or you're going to have swamp pretty quickly. Another case of one project spawning two more. The old carpet was gone and the deck underneath power washed two weeks ago, and now the pool is up and clean as well. On Monday some new boards are being delivered so I can replace the few warped or rotten ones in time for the new carpet to be glued down later this month. The pool heater was more trouble. I went to test it this weekend -- it's too soon to heat the pool, but I needed to know if I'd need to schedule repairs. As has happened a couple of times before, a mouse had made its home in the control dome on the pool heater. This required some nasty clean out as well as the replacement of a couple of wires that had been gnawed through. Once done, the gas could be turned back on and the pool heater started and tested. All is working properly again and we're ready once the weather gets a bit more consistently warm.

That leads me to this weekend's pain the backside. A few years ago, I made the mistake of buying the worst riding lawn mower that John Deere has ever made. The L100 was a low-end riding mower built for big-box stores to compete with those made by MTD for consumes who don't need serious farm equipment. I've owned an MTD riding mower and it was an excellent product. I still own an MTD snowthrower and it too is an excellent product. The John Deere mower - at a cost about $300 more than a similar MTD mower -- is a terrible piece of junk. Where MTD makes a good, cheap mower; John Deere took a good mower and cheapened it. The result is terrible. It has very poor traction, the brakes are barely workable, and it is generally just not a good product.

True to form, I went to mow on Friday before the rain we were expecting and the machine failed. The over complicated and badly designed deck linkage got stuck in a way that prevented the belt from engaging and no cutting could happen. I had to pull the power into the garage on Saturday and remove the deck, take all that linkage apart, grease the places where metal parts pivot (without any kind of sealed bearing or spacer) and in one case replace a metal rod with a new one that I had to make myself out of straight steel rod -- bending it to match then threading the end for a bolt. So much for Saturday. Today the weather cleared and I was able to finish the lawn.

So, friends and family -- I've been a bit busy. Sorry for not writing more but I'll try to keep up now.

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