Category: Updates

Toasti Toes to the Rescue

It was a cold and windy day in early January when I got a call from my wife. “The sink is backed up and water is shooting everywhere out of the washer,” she said in a frustrated tone. Being the wise husband that I am I left work early to go home to my wife’s rescue.

Upon my arrival at home an idea occurred to me that perhaps the problem was not that there was a clog but that the drainpipe exiting the house from the kitchen was frozen. This was entirely possible because the drainpipe was buried only a few inches beneath the ground. Old farmhouses have fun things like that. Before entering the house I circled around to the backyard and discovered the terrible truth.

Water from a downspout had run downhill and washed dirt away from the pipe completely exposing a three inch section of it to the frigid air on the north side of our house.

This was not a good situation. The sun was setting and the temperature was dropping even further and with a frozen drain pipe we wouldn’t be able to use any water in the house until it thawed out. Not really knowing what to do I drove to Lowe’s hoping to find some answers. An employee showed me to the electrical pipe heaters that are meant to keep a pipe from freezing. These ranged from $20-30 but clearly written on each one was a warning to only use it indoors and not allow it to touch the ground. I tried soliciting ideas from Lowe’s employees to try and fix my problem but they were unable to offer me any solutions.

I was growing desperate at this point. It was dark out, cold, and windy. As I made my way towards the front of the store I spotted something that I thought just might work. It was a cardboard display of Hot Hands and Toasti Toes, the little bags of hand and feet warmers that people who work outside in the cold winter months sometime use. I read the packaging on each carefully. The Hot Hands actually get hotter than the Toasti Toes but the Toasti Toes don’t require oxygen to stay warm once you get them hot. For the idea that hatched in my head, there wasn’t going to be much oxygen available.


I purchased six packs of Toasti Toes, costing me about $8. When I got home I quickly went to work. I knew that that main problem was that the pipe was exposed to the cold winter air, so I needed to cover it with something. With the ground frozen I had little choice: I went to the barn and got some fresh horse manure. It was readily available and well, some of it was still warm.

Once I had removed the Toasti Toes from their packages and they got warm, I stuffed all 12 of them (there’s two in a pack) down around the pipe. Then I put a brick on top of it and dumped a wheelbarrow load of horse manure on top to seal in the heat. And then, I waited.

And waited some more. Hours passed and nothing happened. I was starting to think that I had just wasted my time and that it was a stupid idea to think that a product meant to keep feet warm could possibly unfreeze a metal pipe in early January. It was late at night and I was about to get into  bed, disappointed that my MacGyver-like home repair had failed and not knowing what I would do to fix it the next day.

Suddenly, I heard a great whooshing sound coming from down stairs.
My wife was already in bed and asked what I had done.  “It worked!”, I exclaimed and ran downstairs to confirm what I knew to be true. Sure, enough the pipes were empty. The drain pipe was unfrozen all thanks to Toasti Toes! Five hours, six packs of Toasti Toes, and a pile of horse manure were all that was needed to get me out of a bad situation.

Thanks Toasti Toes!


The Office Comic

Six years ago my friend Matt and I started a web comic called The Office Comic. Over the course of two years and about 150 strips we had a lot of fun with it and got a lot better at it as time went by.

After it ended I let the website go offline and the domain name fall into the nefarious hands of the guys from Water. They seem to have finally relented in their fight against us and let the domain name go. So the other day I picked it up and have decided to put the archives of the comic up for the world to enjoy once more.

I’ve always enjoyed writing and one of the things that I appreciated most about doing a webcomic was that thanks to Matt’s artistic abilities I was able to experience writing in a medium that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to do.

Exactly six years after The Office Comic began, on January 25th I will begin publishing the archives in the same way that they were originally published, following a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule. Go to TheOfficeComic.com to experience it in all it’s lost glory.


Wooden Train Sets From Melissa and Doug

There comes a special time in every father’s life and that time is when his child(ren) are finally old enough to get toys that the father wants to play with. This Christmas was that time for me.

Our son was given a Melissa and Doug wooden train set for Christmas and then for his birthday he got three more sets as well as some Thomas the Tank Engine train cars. There are a couple very cool aspects to wooden train sets that you don’t get with other styles of trains.

The first one is that you and your kids can easily pick up the tracks and create any layout you want. The track pieces fit together just like puzzle pieces. And because they are made out of solid wood, there is nothing to break on them. With a total of four sets worth of wooden tracks to work with, we are able to now create some fairly awesome layouts.

The other cool thing is that pretty much all the different brands of wooden trains and tracks will work with each other. So if your kid is into Thomas you could get a Thomas the Tank Engine and buy a more economically priced track and not have to worry about whether the two will work together.

I don’t know that I would want to try my hand at it but you can even get a model Train Track Bit Set to make your own tracks. Of course you’d need a router and router table as well but if you’ve already got them then this could be a really cool investment.


Last Minute Christmas Thoughts

So this year I asked for a deep fryer for Christmas because ours broke earlier this year and I’ve been missing out on fried foods ever since. I can only hope that if someone gets me one that they choose one from the Best Deep Fryer Reviews top ten list, because those ones sure look nice.

Many people this year are looking for ways to spend a little less at Christmas and one way to do that is with Printable Christmas games. They are cheap and can add some great entertainment to your family gatherings this year.


Christmas Song Airplay

Now through December 27th my Christmas song “Can’t Wait For Christmas” is on the radio playlist at Christianrocker.com. Check it out, there are plenty of cool songs on the radio and it’s a really neat site in general for independent Christian music.


New Christmas Song

I just posted a new Christmas song to MySpace and Purevolume. It’s titled “Can’t Wait for Christmas.” I hope you guys enjoy it and in case I forget to say it later, Merry Christmas!

Listen on MySpace
Listen on Purevolume


Remembering the Important Role of Public Libraries

The following article appeared in the September 30th edition of the Lebanon Daily News.

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Pennsylvania’s budget impasse left many libraries without state funding. Frequently, local news programs have featured one library or another telling a sad story about how they have been forced to cut back.

Thanks to Benjamin Franklin, we can take pride that Pennsylvania was the birthplace of public libraries. In the mid-1700s, when Franklin created the first public library, he did so with the intent of making books available to low- income people in his community. As a result, the common person in Philadel phia had access to a depth of knowledge previously only available to the rich and the powerful. Those without access to a good education could take personal re sponsibility for educating themselves and their children.

In recent times we have seen public libraries largely abandoned, and I be lieve that there are two main reasons for that.

The first is the Internet. The vast amounts of information readily available to anyone with a connection to the Inter net has caused many to use it as their sole source of knowledge outside of formal settings. I love Google’s Book Search feature. The ability to search thousands of books, especially ones con temporary to any historical time period, is a resource that local libraries cannot hope to match.

Many people, however, cannot afford an Internet connection and rely on free access at their local library.

The other reason is the public school system. Its creation has removed much of the sense of personal responsibility in regard to education. Many people, kno wingly or not, view schools and colleges as the only means of learning. When ed ucation is handed to you, in fact mandat ed to you, then you have no sense of appreciation for the education you re ceive.

Schools have their place, but how much money should taxpayers provide to educate others’ children? Shouldn’t each set of parents bear the responsibili ty for their own children? It is simply a matter of whether we want to take per sonal responsibility for our education.

My hope is that we as a society can be a little more like the people of Frank lin’s day and see and appreciate the great gift we have been given in public libraries. Politicians are fond of telling us how poorly our children are doing in their schools and telling us we need more funding for those schools.

I would suggest though, that that funding would be better spent on public libraries where people can rediscover a sense of responsibility and joy in learn ing new things.


Someone Paid Me $5 To Do This


People Just Like Beetles

My very first online video The Japanese Beetle Trap has surpassed 5,000 views on YouTube. I know that there are plenty of videos that get views into the millions but I’ll settle for 5,000 and counting for a low quality video about japanese beetles, it’s definitely a niche topic.

My two other more recent videos appear to have gotten lost somewhere in the bowels of YouTube however. A Valentine Song from back in February still has less than 20 views and Josh the Chicken only has 10 views. I don’t do enough in the field of online video to understand why one video gets lots of views and others never receive any. One thing I have noticed is that YouTube now pushes paying them to promote your video on their site. So that could explain why more recent videos seem to get lost if there’s nothing external to YouTube driving a lot traffic to the video. 

 

You can view all of my videos on the Videos page.


Chicken Coop Details

I’ve posted a detailed description of the construction of our chicken coop. Also we’ve got six more chicks now. For details on both please visit this post: The Chicken Coop.

coop_chicks