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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bits Of Randomness

You Take It
Kirstin offers George a pinecone.
So it's been nearly two weeks since the last post; my apologies to the faithful. :)

With the change (finally) to spring/summer days, I find myself occupied with many more tasks than normal, and that makes for long days coupled with a periodic lack of motivation to sit and write. More appropriately, write cohesively.

At any rate, a number of things have taken place or been noted on post-its as conversation pieces/writing notes:

For starters, during the first part of finals week at UMM, as I was driving home from work (I often drive through the UMM campus since it's the most straightforward route), I noticed a random backpack in a grassy area. The odd thing about this was that there was no obvious person nearby. It was just a lone bag. Or so I thought.

As I rounded a corner, I noticed a random foot. Hanging from a tree. Somewhat disturbing in a basic sense, really, but what I soon discovered was a girl, with several books in tow, quite a distance up in a tree very near the backpack. This immediately brought two questions to mind -- 1) why climb a tree to study, and 2) how in the hell did she get all that stuff up there with her? The grounds crew keep most trees (this one included) quite well trimmed presumably, amongst other things, to keep people from climbing.

I still don't have the answers to this question, but I did run into someone else (one of our summer interns, actually) who had seen the same thing -- so I know I didn't see something that didn't exist or happen.

Another random thing I saw was a bald eagle eating on a dead raccoon. There's really not much to say about this (dead raccoon on the road near home), but it was unusual to see a bald eagle around here. I don't know of any nest nearby, so that was kinda cool to see (it was on my way to work one morning).

Coming in with the 'Here's Your Sign' award is something I saw in the little town of Cyrus, Minnesota on May 15. I had driven to Alexandria after work to pick up some things, which brought me through Cyrus. Normally this is a pretty uneventful thing, but a sign caught my eye. Along the road, in town, on one of those little hand-painted yard signs (akin to the 'vote for' type of sign) had very bright red lettering on a stark white background and read:
We Buy Batterys

Obviously we're talking about lead-acid batteries, and presumably this gentleman (assuming it was a gentleman) had been sneaking into his stockpile for a little lead lunch, because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the fairly common spelling of the plural of battery.

On the experimental front, I started driving at 57MPH a few weeks ago. This was a relatively small change from my normal 62MPH, the speed at which I've usually driven for many years now. It was an experiment in the sense of a reduction in 5MPH should in theory improve gas mileage. Well, after one tank of gas in the pickup, it would appear that this is indeed the case. My mileage increased approximately 1.5-2MPG. This is quite unscientific, but interesting nonetheless, and the range is due to my 'typical' mileage over the last six months or so. Wintertime driving always gives me somewhat lower MPG's, so more 'research' is necessary. But it's a good feeling anyway...

I should note that the relatively same experiment with the car has produced no noticeable difference in mileage. This is presumably due to the difference in transmissions and gearing that I find between the car and pickup. More time must pass to determine feasibility with the car, but I'm sticking to 57 with the pickup for now. It most definitely works. Granted, I tend to piss off a lot of people during my commute, but the additional 45 seconds to a minute I incur during my commute to/from work is so marginal to me that it's worth it -- especially if I can see a 2MPG increase...

On the home front, several things have taken place lately. For starters, I'm willing to call the sump basin project a complete success. Yes, there was some capillary action going on around some of the floor cracks in the basement, but there is yet to be any standing, running, or physically visible water above floor level in the basement this year. The sump pump system (with the perforated sump basin) seems to be relieving enough of the hydraulic pressure to prevent water infiltration.

This is clearly a Good Thing, and something about which I'm very happy. The water level is starting to go down again, so I've noticed in the last two days or so that the sump pump is not running as often (back to 3 times/day versus 4-5 times). Eventually the basin should dry up as the summer progresses. So that's my report on that note.

In other basement-related news, I spent the better part of last weekend (another reason I didn't write anything last weekend) scrubbing the walls and floor of the northwest corner of the basement (the area around the furnace and oil tank, as well as the sump basin area). Half of the basement (the worst half, I might add) has now been completely cleaned. I even started painting the walls, which still need a second coat but are looking much better with a single coat. Once I get the walls painted in the northwest corner a second time, I will then do the EpoxyShield thing on the basement floor of that corner of the house. Then I'll likely move into the cistern and paint the walls and floor.

Once the North half of the basement is done, I can then focus on the more utilized South half. I can't hardly touch the South half at all until I have a place (cistern and NW basement corner) to put everything. So this will be a work in progress, but it is one of my personal goals to get the basement walls and floors painted and sealed this summer. Considering I have pretty much all of the material to accomplish this task, I feel fairly confident that I can make this happen (as long as I dedicate time to the project).

And in outdoor news (the last thing I'll talk about tonight), I got the tiller running once again. I asked around (interestingly enough, I had the fortune of candidly having a chance to pick the brain of a diesel mechanic) and was referred to a fellow in town who does a lot of small engine work. I called him, explained my carburetor situation, and asked if I could simply have him clean the thing. After bringing it to him and having him use some sort of caustic solution to clean out and dissolve all the varnish, I got the carburetor back (with a new air filter as per my request) after a bit of a delay (due to a gasket order) yesterday (Wednesday). I installed the carburetor and, on the very first pull, the engine fired right up. This made Matt very happy. :)

So, after having about $30 in carburetor work and $4.50 in filter parts, I'm still well under $200 for a damn nice tiller that's essentially brand new. I'm very happy about that (as is Beth). So one of my upcoming projects will be some tilling, I guess... :)

And with all of that said, I'm heading for bed. It promises to be a short day tomorrow (since I'm leaving early due to the long holiday weekend), so I must get all the beauty sleep I can (you know I need it)!

Until next time...
"We have art to save ourselves from the truth."
- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)


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