August 20, 2012

Summer 2012 fitness update...going well! ...

Wow, haven't posted since MARCH!?! Well, I do post regularly on Facebook and at least weekly on Twitter. Anyway...

It's been over 3 years now since I switched to a vegan diet, and I now can't really imagine consuming meat and milk again. Exercise is a definite habit, and I regularly lift weights or do cardio, and hit these workouts hard. I've become hooked on workouts from BeachBody. I've done about 5 "rounds" of P90X (each round is 3 months), a round of P90X2, 2-3 rounds of Insanity (a 2-month program), a round or two of Asylum (one-month program), and I'm now on week 6 of the 3-month Body Beast program.

At my fattest, I weighed 172 pounds, which for my 5' 4" frame was too much. Shirley and I started WeightWatchers online (tracking "points" instead of counting calories), and along with some nutrition suggestions from the Beach Body programs, from The 4-Hour Body, and working out once or twice a day, I dumped the fat, got down to the 30-inch size waist pants that I was 30 years ago, saw better numbers at the annual physicals re heart stuff (lipid panel, heart rate, etc), and at my lightest was 130 pounds.

This morning I weighed 144 pounds. There's a little more fat on the midsection, but I'm not worried. I'm taking 5 grams of creatine morning and night, and that is known to cause a little water retention. But more importantly, our Omron electric bodyfat monitor shows me hanging in there around 13% fat, pants still fit just fine, and the tape measure shows that the biceps are about 3/4" bigger and the quads are an inch larger. I've definitely put on solid mass during the past month and a half of Body Beast. The final 4 weeks of the program is intended to get one a bit leaner. And I can always do a round of Insanity or Asylum if I want to hit the cardio hard.

It feels good to be lifting again!

Posted by Joe Litton | August 20, 2012 in Fitness, House | Permalink | Comments (1)

November 26, 2010

Repairing leaking toilet tank - not original plans for day

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, so most stores - especially plumbing supply/DIY stores - were closed. Fate has a sense of humor, so we found ourselves yesterday keeping a plastic container under one side of a toilet tank where water had decided to start dripping.

My mission today was simple: pick up a toilet tank seal kit (rubber gasket for between the tank and the toilet, and the bolts / washers / seals (2 bolts - one on either side) that fasten the tank to the toilet, and fix it. Easy right? Wrong.

Turns out the builder cut a few corners as some builders are wont to do. The water valve at the wall did not work to shut off the water. And it was a cheap piece of crap valve with the water hose that goes up to the toilet tank incorporated into the valve. I hate those types of plumbing components! OK ...I popped over to our nearby ACE Hardware, which is a small neighborly store, populated by guys who have been doing plumbing and electrical and everything in construction for forever and know frickin' everything. In short order I had the needed parts and some teflon plumbing paste and was back home. The easy part was done.

Turned off the water at the street, cut the plastic water pipe that had the old valve (fortunately there was over an inch of extra pipe sticking out of the wall, so that made it easy), and put the new valve in place. Hey, even with the house water turned back on, this higher quality new valve worked. Go figure.

OK, the real PITA was that one of the holes in the tank was not quite large enough for the bolt. On one side, the bolt popped through the hole nice and easy, I slapped some teflon paste above and below the fiber washer, and snugged things up just fine. But I swear it took an hour on the PITA side to twist the bolt back and forth and coerce it through the hole (a smarter man would probably have reamed out the hole a little, but I was afraid I'd crack the porcelain or do other damage).

Finally, the blasted 2nd bolt was in place, I smothered the fiber washer with teflon goo and slapped some between the metal washer and the porcelain on the underside (there were some small chips of porcelain gone - I suspect from the original installation - so I wanted the extra insurance of the teflon paste), and the assembly was tightened down.

More teflon paste on the inside of the large center gasket, flip the tank over, carefully snug up the wingnuts on either side of the tank bolts, attach the new water line, adjust the float, and about 3 hours after starting, the job that should have taken 30 minutes was done. The good news is that it all works and there are no leaks ...for a total outlay of a few dollars.

These three very short videos (1, 2, 3) by an experienced plumber were a great help.

Pics of the PITA stage ...and back to a working crapper :) ...

ToiletTank    ToiletRepairDone

Posted by Joe Litton | November 26, 2010 in House | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 04, 2009

How to replace a section of screen on a pool enclosure

PoolScreen We've been in our house for 4 years and had recently noticed that some of the screen around the lanai and pool area had started to rip. I searched the web for instructions or pics about how to replace a pool screen, but found nothing. It's not a difficult task, but it did take a little experimentation to figure it out. So in hopes of making this process a little easier for someone else, I've posted pics and instructions on this Flickr stream.

We bought the supplies at Lowe's: a 25 foot roll of screen material, a Pool Screen Tool (spline roller), and a package of spline. The screen material comes in different sizes, different color shades, and with different size openings. It's therefore helpful to snip a little piece of screen from the existing enclosure and bring it along to the store. I'm sure someone who does this for a living would have a section of screen replaced in about 15 minutes; it took me about an hour :)

Posted by Joe Litton | January 4, 2009 in Florida, House | Permalink | Comments (4)

December 07, 2008

Wreath construction and lights at night

The first pic below (click a thumbnail image to see larger) shows Shirley as she was building the Peace Wreath. The second pic is our house at night ...probably should have used a tripod, but you can get the idea. More and more homes in the neighborhood are getting lights up, so the third pic is of a couple of houses across the street. The neighborhood's starting to look quite festive.

BuildWreath  XmasLights08 NeighborhoodLights08

Posted by Joe Litton | December 7, 2008 in House | Permalink | Comments (1)

December 01, 2008

Replaced POS garbage disposer with a real appliance

DisposerOld We've been in our house for close to 4 years. It was build by Mercedes Homes. We had checked a lot of model homes from many builders over a couple of years before deciding to go with Mercedes. Overall, we think they do a decent job. But they did skimp on the appliances. Our dishwasher is, in the words of a plumber who repaired a leak for us early on, "below builder grade". That means it is about as cheap as you can find. Similar with our POS garbage disposer. The device that came with the house was a 1/3 hp InSinkErator. I could be wrong, but I believe that is the lowest horsepower disposer that is made. I can understand a builder wanting to keep costs down, so I'm not surprised. Well, this thing had started to leak, so it was time to replace this with a real disposer.

DisposerNewAfter checking reviews on ConsumerReports .org (and elsewhere), I popped on Amazon and ordered a Waste King 3300. This model is 3/4 hp (so just over twice the horsepower of what came with the house), gets very good reviews, and includes a 10-year parts and labor in home warranty. As long as we keep our receipt for the purchase, if anything goes wrong with this device, Waste King will send someone to our home and fix it. Free.

I did have to make a run to the store for some plumber's putty, but aside from that it was a pretty easy install. And the Waste King is nice and quiet!

Posted by Joe Litton | December 1, 2008 in House | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 16, 2008

Kidde smoke alarm: beep 4 times and on

Man, this was driving us nuts. Sometime over the past couple of weeks, one of our smoke alarms started misbehaving. It would beep 4 times, each beep about 30 seconds after the prior beep ...and then stop. And then it would do this again randomly through the day and night. This would happen a few times a day.

The smoke alarms (we have 7 of them) are wired together with the house current, and each also have a 9v battery. We tried changing the batteries, blowing them each out with compressed air, testing them all, and nothing worked. So yesterday I bought a new one and replaced the offending smoke alarm. That made things worse.

Last night Shirley heard the thing go through it's little cycle twice within 1/2 hour or so ...conveniently at around 2:30am. So since she was awake anyway, she searched the web and found this posting from an electrician (scroll to the bottom of that page).

We had recently changed the batteries in the bedroom smoke alarms (4 of those), so for the other 3, we followed the steps listed by the electrician. For each smoke alarm:

  1. Remove the smoke alarm from the ceiling (twist counter-clockwise, and then pinch the 3-wire plug to release the wire plug, freeing the smoke alarm)
  2. Remove the old battery
  3. Press and hold the TEST button. The smoke alarm started to beep and then the sound very quickly trailed off to near silence
  4. Insert the new battery
  5. Plug the 3-wire plug back into the smoke alarm and re-mount it on the ceiling

Our house is again nice and quiet :)

Posted by Joe Litton | July 16, 2008 in House | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 02, 2007

Garage hose - possible thanks to solar water heat

GaragehoseBack in April of this year, we completely disconnected our gas-fired hot water heater/tank, and had a passive solar water heating system installed. In the pic to the left, the silver tube hanging down is a vent hose from the old water heater. We'll need this if we hook up a tankless water heater as a backup to the solar system. Over to the right are the 2 water pipes for the solar water system. The nearest pipe (wrapped in black insulation) is the cold water feed, running up to the unit on the roof. The far pipe returns the heated water down to the house.

Well the installation included a spigot on each of these pipes, and given that there's really not a convenient outside spigot if we need a hose in the driveway (like to rinse the car off), today I picked up a hose and a hanger and hooked it up. Shirley's been wanting this for a while (I believe since April), so a few minutes time, and it's done. She only had to wait 6 months :)

Posted by Joe Litton | November 2, 2007 in House | Permalink | Comments (1)

October 13, 2007

Our banana tree has fruit!

BananatreeI was out mowing the lawn Saturday and when I was mowing by the side of the house I noticed that our dwarf banana tree has babies! The first banana tree we ever saw was in Hawaii. Next was in the Cook Islands. So to me, seeing bananas growing just screams that we are in the tropics. I've no idea if these babies will ripen into something tasty, but I sure hope so. There's not much to compare to picking and eating fresh fruit and veggies from your own plants. Hmmm... I bet with a fresh banana or two and some rum and maybe some coconut and pineapple ...I think we may be doing some recipe experimentation in the not-too-distant future :)

Posted by Joe Litton | October 13, 2007 in House | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 23, 2007

Timer for outdoor compact fluorescent lights

Timer00A year or two ago we replaced the 3 lights outside our garage with compact fluorescents to save on energy use. That's good, but sometimes we'd go somewhere and not return until after dark ...with the lights still off, so that defeated the purpose of having outdoor lighting. And sometimes we'd neglect to turn them off in the morning, and they'd end up being on all day. Well I finally located a timer (from Swylite) that works with the low current draw of compact fluorescents. I figured this would be a pretty easy install - maybe 5 minutes. Wrong.

Timer01 The switch for our garage lights is in this strip of 5 switches. The one on the far right is a timer for the 'holiday' lights (we string up a number of LED lights around Christmas, and they are all connected into outlets that are controlled by this timer). The second switch location in from the right is where the garage light switch was, so this is the location for the new timer for the outdoor compact fluorescents. This would have been a quick install, but one of the wires I needed for the connection was, as fate would have it, located behind the left-most switch. Sigh. So I had to remove 4 switches and do the hookup and then squeeze all of that junk back into the proper locations. Ugh! It probably took me 30 minutes to do this little hookup, since getting things to fit in there and to all align properly with the switch plate was far more involved than it should have been.

Timer02Ah, but all's well that ends well, right? It finally all went together and now the lights turn on and off at the proper times. One nice little feature of this timer is that it allows us to set a 'variable' mode. This means that the lights will come on and be turned off within 15 minutes plus or minus from the times we set. So there is not an exact time every day when the lights go on or off. Just a little more security. And some energy savings and convenience :)

Posted by Joe Litton | September 23, 2007 in Earth friendly, House | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 31, 2007

Florida Building Code: Clothes Dryers must vent to outside

Well that was pretty easy to find. Yup, it does appear that our dryer vent is in violation of Florida Building Code 2004 Residential Section M1501. The first sentence of this section of the building code is:

Dryer exhaust systems shall be independent of all other systems, shall convey the moisture to the outdoors and shall terminate on the outside of the building.

We had hired a private inspector who caught a number of things that needed to be corrected during the construction of our home. And this is fairly common, really, since at the time there was so much construction going on and each construction manager was responsible for many simultaneous builds. It appears our inspector (with whom we are very satisfied, and will continue to recommend highly) ...missed this one item. There's so much to check, and he did find and document plenty of items. I absolutely would never purchase another home (new or used) without having the home inspected thoroughly first.

So I'll probably contact the builder on Monday and see whether this will be easy or difficult to resolve.


Posted by Joe Litton | March 31, 2007 in House | Permalink | Comments (0)