Rick’s Law of Home Fixit Projects

Over the years, I’ve had to fix a few things around the house. And each little project that I do follows the rule of “Rick’s Law of Home Fixit Projects”.

For instance, suppose that you want to add some drip irrigation for the flower bed. That requires one trip to the local HomeDepot/Lowes/Ace/HardwareStore (take your pick). So off I go, get the new drip irrigation parts, and set aside some Saturday time to do your little project.

That’s when you realize that you forgot a few parts. So it’s off to the store again to pick up the one part that you need to finish the project. And then there’s the final trip for the last part that you need.

Once again, the “Rick’s Law of Home Fixiti Projects” strikes again: “Every project requires at least three trips to the hardware store”.

And it happened again this weekend. My mother-in-law is selling the cabin up in the mountains (near Strawberry, CA), and I needed to finish fixing the water pipes. You see, it was my job last winter to drain the water pump and pipes before winter set in. The cabin is at 6000 feet elevation, and doesn’t get used during the winter (it’s a mile back on a unplowed forest service road). The water supply is from the river out front, the cabin is older and not well-insulated, and has metal (galvanized) pipe.

So in the fall, we take one final trip up to the cabin to prep it for winter. The pipes, pressure tank, and water heater get drained, the toilet gets some anti-freeze, and any leftover food is taken home. And that’s what I did last fall.

Then in the spring, it’s back up to the cabin to get it ready for the family to use. And that’s when I discovered that I must have left a bit of water in the water pump. It was a bit obvious — a spray of water as I turned on the pump.

We got a plumber who decided that the pump didn’t need to be replaced, it just needed a new impeller housing. The plumber replaced that part. And Pam and I went up Saturday to finish turning on the water before the sale of the cabin ‘closes’.

I knew that there was one drain plug that needed to be replaced. So the first trip to the hardware store I picked up an assortment of plugs and fittings. And one of the plugs fit, so I turned on the water pump (no leak), and found that a ‘union’ fitting in the bathroom was leaking. The union was pretty old, so I decided to replace it. I took off the old one and brought it with me, and Pam and I drove to South Lake Tahoe (CA) to the hardware store to get a new union.

For those of you that are counting, that’s hardware store trip #2.

Side note: it was lunch time, so we drove onto highway 89 towards Camp Richardson, and stopped at the “Burger House” (about two miles from the “Y” — the junction of highway 50 and 89). Great burgers (1/2 pound), big bun, a pile of pickles, cheddar cheese, and fresh red onions), a basket of shoestring fries, and a milkshake. Yeah, not really diet food, but it was really good. Recommended, if you are in the neighborhood. Outside dining; while we were there, a few California Dept of Forestry fire trucks headed for the fire in Tahoe City; that’s another story. Anyhow, great burger place if you are in the neighborhood.

After lunch, back to the cabin (about a 25 minute drive), where I discovered that I bought a 3/4″ union, and needed a 1/2″ size.

Which required — wait for it — yes, the third trip to the hardware store.

I did get everything back together, no leaks, all is well.

But the next time that you start on a project around the house, remember “the Law”. It will take at least three trips to the hardware store.


Smarter Malware

During the ‘morning rounds’ on the Innertube, I came across this blog entry from the folks at VirusList.com, which is the blogging site of the anti-virus folks at Kapersky Labs. The entry talks about a multi-stage attack by some malware that is after your on-line banking information.

Stage 1 is the initial infection, which can get on your system with a ‘drive-by’ just by visiting a malwared web page. A program is downloaded and installed on your computer. The program sends every URL (web page address) that you visit to the hacker’s web server.

Stage 2 is where the malware watches for encrypted web page traffic, such as when you visit your on-line banking site, or a shopping site as you are doing a checkout/payment. That traffic is captured and sent to the hacker’s web server.

Stage 3 is when the hacker analyzes that traffic (web page content, even though encrypted), and determines the bank you are visiting. It then sends to your computer another program that intercepts any keystrokes as you are using your banking web site.

The result is information about your bank login, account number, password, etc. sent back to the hacker. At that point, identity/financial theft can ensue.

Your protection against this? Anti-virus program that can sense the download of the malicious software from step 1. For instance, the electronic greeting card (‘ecard’) mail that’s going around. Clicking on the link in those emails will get you a download (and install) of malware. At that point, your computer is ‘owned’ by the hacker.

If you keep your anti-virus current (and your operating system and applications patches current), you’ll be protected. Along with the Safe Computing Practice of not clicking on links in emails.

And if your computer is infected? How do you recover from that? I’ve been working on a malware-infected computer. My conclusions will be in a post over on the “Security Dawg” web site.

Greeting Card Virus Warning

There’s another “You’ve been sent a greeting card” spam mail making the rounds. In some cases, it may get through your spam filters.

The message includes a link to click on to get your card. Clicking on the link will result in an attempt to download a virus on your computer.

If your anti-virus is current, it should block the viral install attempt. But “Safe Computing Practices” are that you should be very wary about clicking on links in emails. And greeting cards emails are a common malware-distribution technique.

Our recommendation is to just delete greeting cards messages.

Good Advice For Guys

I got this from my daughter. It made me laugh.


1. Fine : This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

2. Five Minutes : If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

3. Nothing : This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.

4. Go Ahead : This is a dare, not permission. Don’t Do It!

5. Loud Sigh : This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to #3 for the meaning of nothing.)

6. That’s Okay : This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. That’s okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

7. Thanks : A woman is thanking you, do not question, or Faint. Just say you’re welcome.

8. Don’t worry about it, I got it : Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking “What’s wrong?” For the woman’s response refer to #3.

Atomic Time

Sitting here in my family room. I have two atomic clocks in here (not really sure why). These are the clocks that are set by the very accurate time signal from the US Government. Accurate to the fraction of a second, they say.

One clock shows 7:51pm.

The other shows 7:52pm.

The clock on the DirecTV schedule screen shows 7:53pm.

No wonder I am confused.

On The Road Again – Part 3

So, after visiting the “World’s Largest Roadrunner”, we headed NW on Highway 285, a nice and lonely two lane road over mostly flat country. The weather was clear, visibility unlimited, and few cars to impede our progress.

There was a roadrunner crossing the road ahead of us. Small bird (smaller than the picture), dark colored; had to look quickly to see it.

We got to Pecos, TX, which is the home of the western rodeo. And a very large cantaloupe farm (which we missed). A small town, not even a McDonalds. I wanted to stop at the museum, which is right off the main (and seemingly only) drag, but as we pulled up to it we saw the “Closed” sign. I forgot to take a picture of it, or the old railroad station next to it.

Around the corner was the Chamber of Commerce, so I stopped in for a quick visit. Picked up a few brochures, and a couple of metal “Sheriff” badges. Not much else to see, so it was back on the road, continuing on 285 to Carlsbad, NM.

Just before Carlsbad, we took a shortcut on a small country road (County Road 720, if you are following along) to head to Highway 180/62 to Whites City, the gateway to the Carlsbad Caverns National Park. A 20 minute drive up a windy two lane road to the Caverns was our next destination.

The Carlsbad Caverns are located on a mesa about 800 feet above the flat New Mexico landscape. The view from the parking lot is impressive. Whites City is at about 3500′ elevation, the Caverns are at about 4300′, and you can see for about 200 miles (it seems).

The Caverns are quite impressive, and quite a hike. You enter through a very large hole in the ground about 100′ wide, on a paved path that switchback’s down into the cave. Eventually, you’ll go down about 700 feet along those switchbacks, steep in places. Your ankles and calves really get sore with all that downhill walking.

The cave wasn’t as moist as I expected, but quite pretty. The various caverns are quite large and somewhat colorful. I’d show pictures, but you can see better ones at your favorite reference web site.

At the end of the hike, down in the bottom of the cave, you can go on a 1 1/2 mile hike back up to the surface, or take the elevator (!). With my physical shape (round is a shape), we decided on the elevator.

They are overhauling the visitor center, so you just get a couple of large trailers of information. But it is worth a visit. If you stick around until dusk, you can sit in an amphitheatre at the cave mouth and watch several hundred thousand bats fly out of the cave. We opted instead to travel on.