Sunday, November 23, 2008

Microwave Oven

My sister Mary and her family came to visit Rachael and me last Fall of 2007. Mary tends to be a little meddlesome and noticed that our microwave had some buttons that were broken (or at least difficult to press) and some of the digits on the time display were missing. The Microwave also had an interesting feature where the keypad (which worked properly) was only visible when the door was open. Mary made the decision for Rachael and me that we needed to purchase a new microwave. Rachael also agreed with Mary. Mary even made it a point to email all of her girlfriends about how our microwave sucked and I needed to buy a new one. I objected. I thought why buy a new one for $300 when I could fix it myself or at least have it fixed for $60? I replied to Mary's email with the notion that I will fix it myself. Of course, there were many replies from ladies telling me to buy a new one and what a lousy husband I was. Some were saying that their husband would say the same thing and nothing would get fixed (Now they have the lousy husband). Anyways, I was able to get the microwave fixed and it has worked fine so far.

The reason that I have this post is to start a discussion on when to scrap a device and when to get it fixed. I feel that if anything is broken on a device we (as Americans) just throw it away and buy a new one. Why not at least attempt to fix it and get a few more years out of it instead of adding more junk to the landfill? I feel that you can save money and you can save the astronomical amount of junk added to our waste. Am I being stubborn or am I just being economical? What do you think?

(A note: I love my sister, Mary, but we disagree on a few points. She is not a bad person and I am not trying to make her look like one. I was just trying to illustrate the grief that I can get for at least trying to salvage something that has a few quirks but works fine.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Do it yourself Home Landscaping

This is a continuation of Rachael's post, Growing, about the lanscaping project that we have been working on. The brunt of the work is done, but we art still adding plants here and there, we will be planting bulbs soon, and we are always maintaining the area. I would like to share a bit of the technicals details and history of the project.

I moved into the house in December of 2004 and the backyard was almost bare if it was not for two ash trees (which I hated and took down) and a nice texas redbud (which I love). For two years I attempted to water the lawn with your standard hose a sprinkler which proved to be annoying. Let alone I would sometimes forget to turn off the water before I went to bed and found the backyard almost flooded. Therefore Rachael and I decided to get a sprinkler system. We got estimates and found the cheapest to be $2500. I have helped put in sprinkler systems in Nebraska and it did not seem to be too difficult. So, I thought I can do this and I started researching on sprinkler placement, and how far below the ground to dig, and how to connect to the main, etc. After about a month of research, I came up with a plan. I also thought, since I will be digging up these trenches, why not lay wire for low voltage landscape lighting. Rachael and I also wanted to have flower beds, so I planned to have separate stations for these beds.

Commence digging...I found that in Austin the ground is a bit more rocky than the ground in Nebraska and realized this project will take some back breaking effort. I also invested in a pick axe for trenching. The project took about 2 months to finish with about 2 days on full labor. I was basically solo on this project with a little help from my friend Mike Elsasser. I am not sure if I would ever do this again, but who knows...I like a little pain. Some afterthoughts, or things that I would do differently....
  1. I used the thickest 1" PVC pipe for the water main, which I recommend, but I think I went overboard with 1" PVC pipe for each station. I think 3/4" PVC should suffice. Water pressure for me is great though.
  2. I would buy the 12" guage landscape lighting wiring and sprinkler control wiring in the lighting and sprinkler sections, but I found you could buy it in bulk at a cheaper price in the electrical wiring section.
After putting in the sprinkler system, Rachael and I put down 6 cubic yards of garden soil in the flower beds. We added three trees (Live Oak, Red Maple, and Bradford pear) and started planting a bunch of plants. We halfway planned what to plant (which I would not recommend) and found some plants worked and some did not. Some that worked great were mexican grasses, chinese witches, cannas, and a sumac. We also planted a Loquat tree which we planted from a little seedling that has grown to be about 6 feet high. One plant that seems to grow well (actually too well) is the potato vine. It has a pretty color, requires no maintanance, and can be grafted easily, but it can just grow out of control. It is a great plant for an outdoor pot.

I also put in low voltage lighting which spotlights all of the trees in the front yard and backyard and also spotlights some features of the house. One of the pictures in this post shows the front of the house with the landscape lighting at nighttime, although I could not get a very good picture. Oh well.

Due to the incredible amounts on yard waste that I disposed of, I decided I could make better use of the yard waste and I bought an Envirocycle Composter. I bought it in July and am still on my first batch. I am still learning about what to put in and what not to put it, so the first batch is taking awhile. We are also able to put kitchen waste (excluding meats). I can't say that I bought this because I am an environmentalist...I just thought what a good way to reuse the yard and kithchen waste.

Toastmasters Speech #4 "How to Say It"

I Got Rid of It


I finally got rid of it. It took me prisoner and I could not release myself from its bind. I was ensnared by its hypnotic power. Now, it no longer controls my life. I cut it off and no longer have to suffer the effects of it. I am free. I am talking about my TV. My wife and I sold it about two months ago. Why did I get rid of it? I didn’t sell it so that we could stop watching TV. I sold our TV with the plan to buy a new high definition TV. But plans changed and we will be living without a TV for awhile. Our time without a TV has been rewarding and we have found better things to do. For this speech I would like to give you three reasons why you should get rid of your TV.


The first reason that you should get rid of your TV is that you will have more free time. TV robs us of our precious time. How many of you have come home after a long hard day and then sat to watch a little TV. Then 4 hours later turned off the TV and went to bed? How many here have ever declined an invite from a friend because you had to watch a TV show? Same here. It is an easy outlet that allows us just to numb our minds and escape our everyday world. But TV just robs us of our time. According to the Nielson report, the average American watches TV 4 hours a day. Think of the amount of things that could be done with that much more time in a day. My wife and I have found that without the TV we are communicating more, we are reading, we are gardening, and we have even started a big task of creating a mosaic table. Getting rid of the TV adds so much time in a day to be used in more constructive and purposeful ways.

The second reason that you should get rid of your TV is that TV warps the mind. How many of you would let your kid watch Desperate Housewives, the Sopranos, or Sex in the City? Why not? I know the reason why. These shows promote violence, sex, infidelity, and many other negative behaviors. There have been studies published in the American College of Preventive Medicine that show a direct correlation between teen pregnancy and violent behaviors due to the images shown on TV. Now my question to you is that if you would not let a kid watch these programs, do you think you should be watching them? Even our adult minds are influenced by the things we watch on TV. To say that TV does not influence us is telling the billion dollar advertising industry that ads don't work. We know that TV ads affect us and so does everything else on TV. Getting rid of the TV removes those negative images that only seem to be more prevalent as time goes on.

The third reason that you should get rid of your TV is that TV can directly cause bad habits. How many of you have grabbed a whole bag of Doritos, sat down to watch a little TV, and then 2 hours later found the bag of Doritos empty? Me, too. TV causes us to have a sedentary lifestyle which replaces a physically active lifestyle. We tend to snack while watching TV and half the TV commercials advertise junk food or fast food, causing us to snack more. Watching TV also causes us just to be lazy. We would rather sit, eat junk food, and watch TV than pursue those activities which require more effort. Getting rid of the TV forces us to find something else to do. After selling our TV, I have sometimes sat down in my living room try to figure out what to do. After a little thinking, I have been able to find many things that are more fulfilling than watching TV.


So I have given you three reasons to get rid of your TV. The three reasons are because TV watching robs precious time, it warps the mind, and it causes bad habits. Now how many of agree with my points? How many think I am too extreme to recommend you to get rid of your TV? Now I know I might be a little too extreme, but at the very least think about removing the TV from the bedroom or limiting your TV watching. It will be a change and a little awkward trying to find alternative things to do, but I promise that you will find your friends and spouse to be more interesting, you will have more energy, your food will taste better, the sun will shine brighter, and your life will be more fulfilling.