At the end of August last year, there were reports of the Google Street Views car being seen around the neighborhood. For the half dozen or so people on the planet who don't know what Street View is, it's a terrific value-added feature that the Google Maps folks created by photographing many if not most of the primary and secondary streets around the world. Using Street View you can not only see a satellite view of your location but actual cached photos.
It's also rather hard to miss the Google car as it's about as subtle as a Oscar Meyer Weinermobile.
Besides a paint job that looks like a cross between a Peter Max-themed commune bus and a parted-out Toyota Prius Hybrid it's got a six foot mast on its roof with a device on top that looks like it came from War of the Worlds. It's actually a high-definition camera with 15 lenses and a Class 1 laser range finding device.
Anyway, I was leaving the Owls Head Park dog run with the pooches one morning when I saw the Google car cruising down 68th St in Brooklyn. I assumed that it would probably hit my street in the next 15 minutes so I hustled home to sit on the stoop and see it close up. I was trying to think of some clever goof I could do for the camera. Over the years, Street View's cameras have captured everything from rennaissance sword fights and naked people to arrests in progress and even dead bodies. It would be hard to top that so I figured I would just bow to it as it passed. Something completely lame like that.
The dogs and I waited on my stoop for 15 minutes before my ADD kicked in and I decided to change the oil in my motorcycle in the garage instead.
As I was warming up the engine, an elderly lady stopped on the sidewalk and extended pleasantries with me. With the motorcycle still idling, I grabbed the leaf blower and started sweeping the sidewalk. With a 700+ pound motorcycle, I like maximum traction with the sidewalk as I pull that monster out of the garage.
And that was the moment that the Google car chose to arrive. I gave it a quick wave, but was a little too late I'm afraid. But she didn't miss it.
"You can do it. We can help."
A couple of weeks ago, I did my annual pre-heating season ritual of flushing my 42 year-old Weil-McLain steam boiler in preparation for the ceremonial relighting of the pilot light. I learned later from a plumber that you shouldn't flush a cold boiler because the fresh incoming water will leave chemical deposits. It was academic in this case however because the boiler drained dry.
WTF? The low water cutoff (LWCO)/autofeed should have replenished the boiler with fresh water. It didn't. Granted, the LWCO looks like some sort of World War 2-era device and it had never been serviced since I bought the house so I wasn't surprised that it had failed. I called the most knowledgeable plumber I knew in the neighborhood. If ever there was a plumbing geek, it's him. He even collects old boiler doors as a hobby. But he also has a reputation for both being very expensive and very hard-to-get. He even charges for estimates.
True to his rep, it took a week to get him to my place. When he arrived he stared at the boiler and the LWCO for about sixty seconds and said it would cost $1500 to replace the LWCO. But he didn't recommend it. He pointed me to several areas of rust and some funky insulation on the boiler and said that it probably wouldn't last the heating season. Furthermore, if he replaced the LWCO it wouldn't be compatible with any new boiler he would install so I would be throwing away $1500.
He opened a nicely bound, four color catalog of boilers and showed me what I needed: a new boiler. He showed me the price printed next to it: $6558! He could see the blood draining from my face and reminded me that that was the installed price. But I would also need a new autofeed ($700) and $200 to pay an electrician to hook up the existing two-wire BX to the emergency cut-off switch. The numbers kept building to the final cost: $7400! If there are no unexpected problems, that is. Then he handed me a bill for $54.38 for the estimate before leaving me to deal with the same problem I called him about.
The #1 question I get asked on this blog is "What's your #1 piece of advice for a novice DIYer?" I sort of hate that question because every situation is unique.
Is it "prime before you paint?" Or "measure twice, cut once?" Or "dull blades are dangerous?" Or "make certain the breaker is really off?" Fact is, you'll find lots of sites with lots of Top Ten lists for do-it-yourselfers. Just read the first thing on the list, I guess.