“You get what you pay for” is an adage I don’t live by. I’m very frugal, so I’m always watch for great deals or just buying cheaper stuff. Many times you are paying for a brand or a “lifestyle”. This applies to nearly everything you can buy, but today I want to talk about tools.
Background: My old miter saw
Last spring I built a chicken coop. Everything went really well until my miter saw stopped working. I’m a big DIYer and love to learn new things, but in this case I wasn’t interested it fixing it. I probably needed a new switch, which would require taking it apart, finding a part, installing that part, and putting it back together. I’ve never worked with this type of electronics before, and I didn’t have the time or interest right now to learn right then and there, especially being in the middle of this project.
I decided to buy a new saw and to sell my old one on Facebook Marketplace. It went really quick and I realized afterwards that I could have got more money for it, but it was a cheap saw and I was just happy that I didn’t have to throw it away. The old saw was a WEN compound sliding miter saw. WEN looks to be a lower end brand, but I got a solid 5+ years out of it and it worked well enough. It definitely wasn’t the best saw available, but it functioned well…until it didn’t. Continue reading
We’ve been using the same Cabela’s Westwind tent for 8+ years and it has been great. However, as a “Ranger” for The Dyrt, I get to test camping products. This time the company was Wenzel, a company that make tents in the budget price range.
For the Ranger review program, we typically get a coupon code to use and I rarely spend more than the total amount (typically $100), but this time I decided it would be worth it. There wasn’t anything I found cheaper from Wenzel that would be really useful for my family at this point, plus I love tents. I picked the Ivanhoe 6 since our only real issue with the Westwind is the setup time/effort.
The Ivanhoe has a simple setup with a single walled design. It is definitely smaller than the Westwind Deluxe, but my oldest son James is now in is own small Coleman dome tent, so we don’t need it to be as big. We plan to use the Ivanhoe in good weather mostly, since we love the weather proofing and vestibule from the Westwind (though the Ivanhoe performed admirably in the rain).
Here’s my video review of the Wenzel Ivanhoe 6 tent:
My office recently hosted a “Hack-a-thon”, where we could build whatever we wanted to build. I spend some time on the first day learning some new technology from some co-workers, but the second day I started to build an app that I had wanted to build for a while: a spring planting planner scheduler. Basically, the concept is it tells you when to start seeds indoors or outdoors based on your local last frost date, which is critical because a miscalculation could kill your plants.
Inspiration and Data: Patrick at One Yard Revolution
There are similar apps out there, but the data from mine is from a YouTube gardener named Patrick Dolan. His channel is called One Yard Revolution and he’s my favorite YouTube gardener due to his philosophy of using free, local resources and using the least amount of effort for maximum yields. Patrick is willing to change his practices based on his own trials and peer reviewed research and he shares his success and failures on his channel. He transformed his backyard into a yearlong garden with raised beds, low tunnels, and a hoop house. That’s impressive since he lives in a suburb of Chicago.
A few years ago he released a similar tool, but it is build in Excel/Google Sheets and isn’t the most user friendly if you aren’t comfortable in Excel. It was supremely valuable to me, and was the main inspiration for my app.
For the location-based frost-date data, I’m using the Farmsense API data to get the nearest NOAA station and then the average last spring frost date. I’m going with the date that has 30% probability at 32 degrees.
You know I’m working on my basement and I wanted to share my thoughts on the product I’m using for the ceiling grid, CeilingLink. Generally, they have been very positive and I’d recommend it if you are in a similar situation.
What is it and who is it for?
CeilingLink is a direct-mount grid system for ceiling tiles. My basement has 7’2″ ceilings from floor to joist, so I needed something that would give me as much headroom as possible, being that I’m 6’5″. Classic drop ceiling was out of the question. I wasn’t interested in drywall for a variety of reasons: effort, cost, and access. With ceiling tiles, I can remove a few to access whatever I need to access that’s up in the ceiling. Plus, I’m not convinced that drywall looks much better than tiles. The other benefit is sound reduction, as ceiling tiles can help absorb some between the basement and the main floor upstairs. Finally, a lot of people leave the basement ceiling exposed. The primary reason we didn’t want to do this is spiders. There are a decent amount of spiderwebs in those joists and it feels warmer and cleaner having a real ceiling.
I’m a member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and have been my entire life. I didn’t really get a solid appreciation and knowledge of what that meant from a historical and theological perspective until my college theology courses at Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC). Through my study in coursework and research for papers, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of my faith body and why we do some of the things we do. This deeper understanding includes the origin and traditions of our liturgy, as well as the concept of fellowship. More recently I’ve been thinking and reading more about why women aren’t allowed to vote or serve as voting members on boards in our church. What I found was more than I expected.
Most toilet paper holders are functional, but are frustrating. They are frustrating mostly, because they are overly complex. The other frustrating thing about traditional, spring-loaded toilet paper holders is living with people who are too lazy to replace an empty roll. The new roll just sits on top of the old one, making the entire holder useless.
Five years ago I wrote a post detailing my media server setup. The post is woefully out of date from a hardware standpoint, but only slightly out of date from a software standpoint. The endpoint of my systems is still a Roku with the Plex app, but now I have a almost three-year-old Roku 2, which is significantly faster than my old Roku HD. Currently I’d recommend the Roku Stick or Stick+.
When we moved almost 4 years ago, the old laptop I was using for a server would no longer turn on. Instead I’ve been using a low-powered Windows 8.1 HP Stream Mini desktop combined with an external hard drive. If I were to buy one today, I’d get a similar cheap PC or maybe a refurb desktop, since the HP Stream is discontinued. Since all of my media is directly played by the Roku/Plex, the computer can be wimpy since it doesn’t do any transcoding, just serving.
Ever since we bought our house, we knew we wanted to finish our basement. The basement is dry, ceilings are high (enough), and we want to maximize our living space. To facilitate the process, last summer we had our electrical panel upgraded as well as the electrical service buried (no more overhead wires!). Besides the financial impact of the electrical work, our daughter was born last May, so it wasn’t really in the cards for me to start working on the basement then.
Now is the time.
Even though I wasn’t going to start work on the basement last year, I did learn enough Sketchup to come up with some to-scale floor plans.