Steve's blog

Some DIYer I turned out to be

Posted by Steve on Sat, 01/16/2010 - 10:26pm

During the heating season -- from late October until April -- I run a large humidifier 24/7. It's something I've done since music school. I had a 115 year-old Czech flat-back double bass that didn't like steam heat. By the time spring arrived I would have spent anywhere from $300 to $1000 at the luthier getting glue joints fixed, new cracks repaired, the sound post reset and so forth. Running a big honkin' humidifier was a lot cheaper and the bonus was learning that it was healthier for people too.

The humidifier, a six gallon Bemis, is located in the kitchen extension where it's close to water and where the noise is less annoying. When I walked into the kitchen to feed the dogs yesterday morning, something was missing. It was quiet. Normally that means the humidifier tanks need refilling, but I'd just done that the night before.

I checked the unit and there was no sign of power. I pulled out the heavy breakfront to get to the wall outlet, forgetting about large bottle of VSOP on top. It shattered on the floor, showering my pants in brandy. After a quick clean-up and clothing change, I checked the plug with the first thing I found: my cordless phone charger. There was no juice at the outlet. Or at the next one either. Hmmm, a blown breaker?

The basement breaker panel looked fine. Nothing tripped. Aha! That circuit is downstream of a GFI exterior outlet on the back porch. Sure enough, it had tripped. I reset the GFI and the circuit, and humidifier, popped back to life. I climbed the stairs to my office/mushroom cave, self-satisfied that I'd fixed a problem that would have driven a lesser man to call an electrician.

An hour later, I went back to the kitchen for a coffee refill and saw that the humidifier was dead again. Drat, that probably means a bad GFI. Oh well, I can handle that too. But when I reset the GFI this time, the circuit was still down. Huh?

The High Price for Cheap Rent

Posted by Steve on Sun, 11/15/2009 - 11:57pm

On a nearby street, a line of ugly, cheaply built, 1980s-vintage row houses stand on a plot of land where there was once a neglected old Victorian. The six houses share a communal front "yard" -- a quarter-acre concrete pad that gives the place all the charm of a New Jersey strip mall. To complete that grim visual, cars are illegally parked on it, usually double wide, often obstructing the sidewalk.

In fact, there are more cars than one would expect from six single-family homes. A couple of months ago, I deduced why that was when I saw a small "For Rent" sign hanging from the railing in front of one of those row houses. The answer: because they've also got illegal apartments. A visit to the Department of Buildings' information system confirmed that all of those houses lack a Certificate of Occupancy to permit rental apartments.

Most Bizarre Use of a Shop Award

Posted by Steve on Fri, 07/24/2009 - 12:02pm

There's no way I don't get nominated this year. As prologue, let's step into the WayBack Machine and bump the dial back to early June, when I casually mentioned to Doc Karen that I had seen several feral cats on my evening dog walks. In addition to being an MD, Karen is also a NYS licensed wildlife rescuer so I should have known that I was shaking a hornets' nest. A week later, over my fourth or fifth margarita, I found that I had agreed to allow my shop to be used as a holding facility for the Great Owls Head Cat Roundup.

Karen hooked me with the Mayor's Alliance and the ASPCA for a trap-neuter-release campaign (called a TNR -- I learned some new lingo hanging with these people). The TNR would encompass at least two known colonies and four caretakers (again, lingo) over a geographic area of about five blocks. I was surprised to learn that feral cats aren't usually loners but are part of a loose colony of ferals. A cat that isn't part of a colony is called a rogue. Do I need a glossary here?

I can't say I didn't have misgivings about X number of wild cats in my pristine shop, especially when I know what a drop of water can do to my steel decked tools.

In fact, I had a lot of reservations about it after I was told that X could be as high as 28, which is the maximum number of cats the ASPCA bus can spay/neuter in a day.

I also learned that I would be expected to help with the feeding and cage cleanings twice a day. At even five minutes per cat, that's a lot of hours over the course of the five to seven days they would be guests of BrooklynRowHouse. I can't say that Meredith from Mayor's Alliance didn't give me multiple chances to back out.

On Thursday night they started loading in the cages and I could see that it was going to be a larger operation than I'd anticipated. It wasn't just 26 cages but food, bowls, bed linens, plastic sheets and cage dressing for the occupants. And lots and lots of garbage bags. The old newspaper pile alone was three feet high.

It's 2009. Time for Secession!

Posted by Steve on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 7:42pm
Every presidential inauguration year seems to kick off another round of local secessionist talk. In 2001, it was about New York City seceding from New York and becoming its own state. I admit to a certain degree of sympathy for that given the fact that NYC is the revenue cash cow for the state. But few people took the talk seriously. Short of NYC becoming a hostile nuclear power, there's no way Albany would agree to let us go.

No brag intended.

Posted by Steve on Fri, 05/15/2009 - 12:40am

A couple of weeks ago one of my stained glass designs was picked for the Dragonfly Design of the Month, May 2009.

I don't consider myself an artist in the visual sense so I was kind of embarrassed by the attention and decided to keep it to myself. But I wanted to publicly thank Michael Wilk, president of Dragonfly, for the honor. So here it is. I know I probably wasn't the most cooperative candidate he's dealt with.


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