The role of women in conservative Lutheranism

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.

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Cereal Quickie: Good Trix is back!

Since 2007, Trix has been balls…but that’s not a good thing. The taste profile changed along with its shape. I’ve still occasionally partook of Trix, but it wasn’t great. It was a firm “meh”.

Last week I found the first box of the fruit shaped Trix, since I heard they were switching back. It was glorious, and I think it catapulted Trix to the top of my fruit cereal list.

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Two great finds 😍

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P.S. The new limited time “Most Stuf” Oreos are also amazing. They are the best Oreos.

I suggest you check out both of these.


Everyday Design: The Toilet Paper Holder

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.

the worst

Possible solution #1: bidet

The solution used in many other countries is to eliminate the need entirely, via a bidet. This is something that has crossed my mind as something to try, but I’m not ready to commit.

Possible solution #2: a better design

This is the route I chose to take. Finding a design with an open end, not requiring anything spring-loaded has drastically improved my life. You may scoff, but the amount of stress caused by someone not replacing the toilet paper builds up. Open ended design removed that spring-loaded barrier and all is well


My Updated Budget Home Media Server Setup

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.

On the server, I’m still using Windows Media Center to DVR over-the-air shows via my USB TV tuner and attic antenna.  Media Center has also been discontinued, but you can still install it if you know where to get it.  For me it has been the most reliable, easy to use DVR software in Windows.

After it is recorded I use MCEBuddy to compress/encode the video (which is usually a couple GB) and remove the commercials.  MCEBuddy runs in the background and works automatically after the initial setup.  MCEBuddy can also organize your media for you, putting in the folders by show and season…just the way Plex likes it.

Finally, to avoid latency, since the Roku 2 has an Ethernet port and so do the server, everything is hardwired through my router.  This made more of a difference than I expected it would and allows me to keep using my old cheap wireless router.

That’s about it.  We use the Roku to access the media, but also to watch stuff on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, PBS, etc.


Here we go…starting to finish my basement

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.

The plan so far.

Materials…round one

On Sunday afternoon, I spent a couple hours at Menard’s, taking advantage of the 11% rebate to pick up some materials.   I bought 50 2x4s, a few pressure treated 2x4s and some foam board.

Getting started

Tonight I cut and dry-fit all the foam board except for one piece I need to cut out for the center beam.  It would have been easy for me to not get started, but I forced myself to get going. I’m also going to use the scrap pieces of foam board to better insulate the rim joists, using some Great Stuff around the outside gaps, and covering it with fiberglass insulation.

My work tonight

Momentum

Starting is very important to how I work.  Once I start a project, my innate drive to finish what I start will get this room done quickly.  Plus, I’m generally impatient 🙂

Any tips?

Has anyone else finished their basement?  Have any tips?  I’ve done a ton of reading and research and planning, but I still want to learn more if I can.


Amazon Affiliate Linkerizer: Firefox and Chrome extension

Since I do product reviews and lots of product research, I’m frequently posting Amazon links.  To help me send better links and make me a small amount of affiliate money, I made a new Firefox and Chrome extension.

If you use it without adding any affiliate code, your purchases support me and this blog.

Based on a project I found on Github, Amazon Affiliate Linkerizer puts a button in your browser on Amazon pages.  When you click it, it cleans up the link and add an affiliate code to the end.  The code is customizable per the options page…otherwise it supports me with my affiliate code.   If you use it without adding any affiliate code, your purchases support me and this blog.

If you want to try out this plugin, get it for Firefox or Chrome:

             

I could release it for Microsoft Edge, but I don’t want to pay the $25 developer fee.  (My company paid the $5 developer fee for Chrome, since I had a work-related extension first.)

If you are a programmer, check out the project on Github.


What I’ve learned about soil-less gardening: hydroponics, aeroponics, etc.

Every winter I get excited about gardening and get eager to start growing.  A couple years ago I almost bought an Aerogarden. I didn’t because of its cost, but I resolved to learn about how it worked and if I could make one myself.  As it turns out, the “Aerogarden” doesn’t actually use aeroponics, but “deep water culture” hydroponics.   Not everyone agrees philosophically that we should be using hydroponics, but the science behind it is fascinating nonetheless.

Hydroponics

Hydroponics, simply, is growing plants in a nutrient solution, without soil.  There are various methods to do this, and the Aerogarden is an all-in-one consumer kit.

Aquaponics

Aquaponics is a subset of hydroponics that incorporates fish into the mix, using the fish waste and physical filtering instead of a synthetic nutrient solution.  You can also raise the fish for food.  Many people use tilapia.

Aeroponics

Aeroponics is a specific type of hydroponics that suspends the roots in air and sprays or mists the nutrient solution over the roots at set intervals.  There are two types of aeroponics, high pressure and low pressure.  (There is also another type called “fogponics”, using ultrasonic foggers, but there are issues with root suffocation on established plants.  This tends to work best for cloning plants.)

high pressure

High pressure aeroponics uses mist and is considered more efficient with water and more effective at growing plants due to ideal droplet size.

As far as I know, there are no consumer-grade high pressure aeroponic systems available, likely due to the requirement for more knowledge and maintenance (potential mist heads clogging, etc).   The only company I know selling high pressure systems is Art Garden, and his systems require more than just a basic knowledge to operate, and are pretty easy to copy DIY.

Here’s an early video about the family behind Art Garden and their system:

There are some great plans for DIY systems on weed-related sites, the best I’ve found is from 420dotcom.com.

low pressure

Low pressure aeroponics is simpler and can be cheaper, but isn’t quite as efficient.  It uses slightly more water and the water droplet size isn’t as efficient for root update, compared with HPA systems.

Products like Tower Garden use low pressure aeroponics.  Here’s a great example of a DIY system:

This system seems like the easiest to build and maintain.  It could even work with an aquaponics setup as well.

So what?

At this point, I’m not ready to do anything.  I’m going to stick to regular outdoor gardening, using the compost I’ve made from my yard waste and food scrapes.  The first major project I have to start working on this year is finishing our basement.  After the basement is finished,  something like this could be a future project.  In the meantime, it is fun to learn about this stuff and watch YouTube videos about it.


Sources:

Various articles and videos I’ve watched in the last two years.  If you want specifics, I can try to dig some up for you, let me know in the comments!


REVIEW: My Toro Snowmaster 724 QXE

The 2015-2016 winter was our first winter in our house, and I fully intended on surviving with only a shovel. I changed my mind, after 8+ inches of heavy wet snow, and almost 2 hours to shovel our driveway. Having already done some research, I seized my chance…I drove to Home Depot and bought a Toro Snowmaster.

I’ve been using my Snowmaster 724 QXE since last year and I was a little apprehensive at first, since it was a new model. After using it a few times, that apprehension is gone.

The Design

Photo credit: Toro

Yes, it is technically a single stage with a different auger design. They call it “inline two stage” because the sides of the auger pull snow toward the center, and the center paddle (much smaller and more scoop-like than a standard single-stage) throws the snow out the chute. The bucket and chute design are shallower in their tapering to maximize throwing distance. It may not throw as far as a two stage, since it lacks an impeller, but if you keep it moving and full of snow, it can throw snow 20-30 feet. The lack of impeller lets Toro use more power in the auger, which spins very fast (“10 times faster than a 2-stage”). This also allows the blower to be a lot lighter, needing much smaller tires (this isn’t a disadvantage).

The lack of weight on this blower means it moves around more like a lawnmower, than a typical two stage blower. Toro even put their personal pace system from their mowers on it. This means that the controls are very minimal:

  • one lever to engage the auger
  • Toro’s “quick chute” joystick (which is awesome)
  • personal pace bar to push the blower and engage the drive-train.

All this means that I can clear my driveway and sidewalk in much less time than my neighbors.

Performance

End of driveway (EOD) snow is the one question mark for most people, since single-stage blowers typically suck here. My Snowmaster 724 has been able to handle EOD snow without fail. I do need to slow down a bit, because the hard-packed EOD snow slows down the auger, but as long as you listen to the engine, you’ll be fine. EOD is the one place that the extra ~$100 for the more powerful 824 might be nice. The 824 would handle it a little faster. though my 724 hasn’t failed me yet, even when EOD snow is 2-6 inches higher than the bucket.

Finally, the other nice thing about the fact it is a single-stage and Toro has a well-designed compression scraper bar. It works in a couple inches of snow as well as a foot of snow…meaning you don’t need two machines.

Final Thoughts

Whether you buy a Snowmaster is up to you and your personal situation. This is a excellent machine that I can recommend (and apparently The Sweethome recommends it now too).


The Best Laundry Basket

The incorrect basket

I read most of The Sweethome’s reviews. They are usually great, in-depth, and well-researched. They impress me with their testing and I’ve had great luck with their picks.  Sometimes, the picks don’t live up to my expectations.  Their laundry basket pick is one of them.  They picked the Sterilite Stacking basket from the Container Store.

I looked these at a local Container Store. Ultimately they felt junky, were too small, and were unimpressive.

The Container Store also vastly disappointing.  The selection was poor and it felt like walking into a OCD nightmare.  The store felt unorganized, but it was a store of organization containers….

The correct laundry basket

The good one

Back to the point…the best laundry basket is the 2 bushel Sterilite basket from Walmart: Sterilite Ultra (the good one)

Note that there are two different versions of the “Sterilite Ultra” basket.  Walmart stocks the better one, with the triangle shaped holes and the non-arching handles with a bulge on the bottom. These handles are thicker and more sturdy compared to the ones with oval holes and simple arching handles, which break easily. The basket itself is also made out of heavier plastic.

We have three of these baskets and they’ve held up well to regular laundry tasks, but also to my kids messing around in them (which is what broke our old baskets).  They’ve even survived being thrown down the stairs…more than once by Alyssa.

Check it out!


Quick Tip: DIY Bird Feeder Filler

You know I love the birds.  I buy black oil sunflower seeds in 50 lb bags and fill my bird feeder all year round.  Instead of buying a filler or a special scoop, which do work, I made my own out of an old juice jug.  The design is super simple, very effective, and free.

Make it!

Just a utility knife to cut a decent sized hole in the top narrower side of the container (I used a cider jug, but you could probably use a half gallon milk jug, or some other similar plastic container).  This hole allows you to use the container to scoop seeds out of your seed bag.  Use the juice container’s pour hole to pour the seed/bird food into your bird feeder.  Depending on your feeder, you might even be able to leave it hanging while you fill it, like I do.

The final step is to bask in the feeling of saving yourself $6-$15 and the glory of DIY!

Happy birding!



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