Camper bunk night light

We like to take our kids camping in our popup, but one problem I hadn’t solved yet was the lack of a night light. Evan likes to have one, and it’s nice to be able to see a little bit when sharing a “room” with kids. What I did was modify an existing light in the camper to add a night light feature.

Bunk night light

Once I figured out what to do, it was a fairly easy project. Check out the project page for more information.

Peg Perego tractor

Dusty had the good fortune to find a Peg Perego Power Pull ride-on tractor on Craigslist recently. The price was right, but unsurprisingly, it needed a little work. We found a new battery for a good price, but there were also some cracks in the chassis. Both the front end and rear ends have succumbed to the impacts a novice driver is likely to administer.

In only an hour, I built a PVC frame to reinforce and repair the chassis. Since the back end was toast, the new frame also provides sort of a hitch as well. Visit the project page to read more.

Peg Perego tractor

Random thoughts on a roadtrip

On Tuesday we took the kids to the zoo in Indianapolis. The zoo itself was nice, and the kids had a good time, but along the way I had several random thoughts.

  • We missed almost every stoplight in Speedway, IN just by a second or two. My theory: the stoplights are timed for 10mph over the speed limit. Hmm… fitting.
  • We stopped for dinner at a Wendy’s on the way home, and they didn’t offer diet Coke. All they had was caffeine-free diet Coke. Thankfully the Pilot station next door offered free “flavor shots” on their soda machine. I’d only seen that once before.
  • There were dozens of oversize loads on I-74. In this economy, at least the pilot car escort business is booming.
  • There were a number of line jumpers at the zoo, but at least they were polite and said “excuse me” as they pushed their way to the front of the line. My passive-aggressive side enjoyed standing in their way so that they had to say it to me.
  • Our Garmin GPS needs a “It’s OK, I just have to pee” button. Whenever we took a highway exit for a quick stop, the voice directions went nuts “recalculating” our route to our destination.
  • By my count, there are 53 orange barrels per mile in road work zones. That’s one barrel every 100 feet. According to my research, many of those barrels use 6V lantern batteries to power the flashing light on top. Not only does that mean a lot of money, but also there must be a guy who goes out and replaces or recharges the batteries.

What’s going on with Packet8’s Freedom Choice 500 plan?

We use Packet8 for our home phone service. It’s an inexpensive VoIP service which provides 500 outgoing minutes for $15 a month. Today I received an email from Packet8 (now known as 8×8) which says:

8×8 will be discontinuing the Freedom Choice plan, and effective June 1, 2009, your plan will be changed to:
8×8 Freedom Unlimited Plan – $24.99/month

June 1st is monday… and they’re increasing my bill $10 for the privilege. To top it off, the Freedom Choice 500 plan still shows up on their website right now.

Since I just got the email 3 hours ago, there’s not much information on the net just yet. I’m hoping the straight story comes out pretty soon.

Underground wiring

How long will standard NM 12-2 wire (like “Romex”) last if buried directly in the ground? Answer: about 11 years.

For past year or two, the GFCI outlet in our garage has tripped occasionally. We were never able to figure out exactly what was going on, despite lots of experimentation and replacing the GFCI outlet (in case it was faulty). The problem is, unfortunately, that our chest freezer is on the same circuit in the garage (there’s only one circuit in the garage…)

Well, on Friday, Dusty called me at work and told me that my homemade power outage alarm was going off. The GFCI had tripped again. We unplugged absolutely everything on that circuit, but the GFCI still tripped. This time I had an idea. It was pouring outside, and had been for some time. We have a post light in the front yard, installed by the original builders. They ran standard indoor wiring out through the garage wall, under a planting bed, under our front steps, and about 40 feet to the post light. I unwired the light and left the circuit open, but the GFCI still tripped. Finally, I disconnected the outside wire at the outlet, and lo and behold, no more ground faults… I deduce that the insulation on NM wire has decayed somewhere outside and has a ground fault when wet. I’ve never done any digging in that area, so I didn’t damage it.

Especially at the time the house was built, the proper UF wire (rated for underground) didn’t cost that much more than the NM wire. I used a whole bunch it when running power out to my shed, and it wasn’t too hard to work with. At this point, I need to run a new wire to my yard light, since that light is required by our local code. I’m going to either have to dig a 100ft trench to the breaker box or find a way to fish the new wire under the steps where the original wire is. If the installation had been done properly in the first place, I could have saved a lot of trouble…

Burger King in Wenona Illinois

On Friday, on the way to a camping trip, my family and I stopped at the Burger King in Wenona for lunch. We placed our order, then the kids and I sat down with our drinks as my wife filled hers. When she looked in her cup, there were large green and white chunks floating in there. She called me over to see, and I then discovered the same problem in the other cups too (which we had been drinking out of). I checked, and the junk was coming out of the ice, not the soda. It looked like mold to me.

I took the drinks up to the counter and complained. The guy running the counter was very polite and apologetic and got me new cups of ice from the untainted supply behind the counter. The staff at the counter started handing out cups pre-filled with ice to subsequent customers.

Here’s where it gets worse, though. About a half a dozen customers (either those who were waiting on their food or were already in the lobby) went up to the ice machine and got more ice from the tainted machine. I went up and warned each person about the problem, and most were disgusted but grateful for the warning. I went up to the counter and asked to speak to the manager. I told her that I really shouldn’t be the person warning people about the sanitation issue. Her response was that the ice was fine earlier, and that they’d take care of it when they weren’t busy. All I wanted was an “out of order” note to be placed on the machine.

The drink dispenser was the type that doesn’t make the ice itself. There’s a hopper on top that you have to dump ice in from the machine in the back. There was no lid on top of the hopper like there normally should be. I don’t know where the gunk came from, but without a lid on top, the possibilities are limitless.

I am now paranoid about fountain soda, and I’ve definitely lost my taste for the Wenona Burger King, if not Burger King in general. I wanted to file my complaint online at Burger King’s web site, like I’ve done for past incidents at other establishments, but on their site, there was no feedback form, no email address, and no postal mail address. All they provide is a consumer relations phone number. It’s a toll call, and I had to wait on hold for ten minutes. The associate on the phone was polite, took my complaint and forwarded it to the regional manager (or perhaps the assistant to the regional manager). I’m not anticipating any coupons or gift cards coming my way, since they didn’t take my address, just my phone number. At least if they call me back it will be on their dime.

Update: The manager of the store got my feedback routed to her. I wasn’t at home to take the call, but on the answering machine she apologized and offered a free value meal on my next visit. I didn’t call back, since I’m rarely in the area, and it’s certainly not worth a special trip for $6. I’m glad the feedback system worked, though.

False start

This morning, I got out of bed, wandered in the dark to the bathroom, and dragged myself through shaving. As I got in the shower I couldn’t believe how tired I was and wasn’t looking forward to the day. I got out of the shower and headed toward the dresser for some clothes, but something didn’t seem right. When I moved my water glass out of the way of the alarm clock…

What… the… heck…

It was 1:21am.

I normally finish my shower around 6:30, so the fact that I only got two hours of sleep explained the discord. My wife woke up as I expressed my dissatisfaction, and before long the mystery was solved. Apparently, my wife said “Please shut off the TV. You forgot to set the sleep timer.” What I heard was “Get your butt out of bed and get to work.”

Going back to bed was never so refreshing.

Interesting islands

If my research is correct, the island in the map below is called “Treasure Island.”

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Treasure Island is an island in Mindemoya Lake. Mindemoya Lake lies on Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin Island is in Lake Huron (one of the Great Lakes). Therefore, Treasure Island is an island in a lake on an island in a lake. It’s not the only one, but it’s one of the largest.

To take things a step further, Vulcan Point is a small island in Crater Lake, which lies on Volcano Island, which is in Lake Taal, which is on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Therefore, Vulcan Point is an island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island.

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I don’t know why I find this stuff so interesting…