SOLD – We’re selling our 2003 Volkswagen Jetta GLS 5-spd Wagon


  • Car was purchased in June 2013 with 134K miles from original owner in Boston area
  • Car was in FL from June 2013 to February 2014
  • Car has been in Southern NV from February 2014 until now
  • IP was replaced at 146K, original IP was leaking and eventually failed. Replacement was a brand new IP purchased from Bora Parts
  • MAF was replaced w/ OEM part at 147K
  • Serpentine belt and tensioner were replaced at 156K
  • TB was replaced at 164K in July 2016 with 100K mile timing belt
  • Rear brakes were done sometime in 2017 (I don’t have the mileage)
  • Large cooling fan was replaced in 2019 (I don’t have the mileage)
  • Oil changes performed w/ OEM filters and VW spec oil every 10K miles or less
  • Has aluminum evolution skid plate
  • Does not have the OEM stereo. A Kenwood unit was installed (see pictures)
  • Current mileage is 188,032 miles


  • Likely broken rear shock mount
  • No cargo cover
  • Gets about 42 mpg, haven’t investigated why it’s lower than it should be
  • Light rust on driver side door frame (see pictures)
  • Front bumper is missing some clips to attach it securely. It is fine, but will become detached if it gets hung up on a parking stop.
  • CEL – fault code 16512 – Coolant Thermostat Valve (N214) pops up every now and then. I haven’t taken the time to troubleshoot it yet.
  • Timing is retarded, I will adjust it to spec prior to selling
  • One of the middle air vents is missing the horizontal bars (see pictures)
  • Headliner material over the moonroof motor is missing (see pictures)
  • Couple of small cracks/chips in the windshield


  • Will sell with or without Yakima roof bars as seen in pictures
  • Will sell with or without timing belt change tools, other various ALH specific tools, Bentley manual
  • Will sell with or without Ross-Tech KEY-USB diagnostic device


Asking price is $2,800 without any of the above-mentioned extras


Watch DVDs on an Acer Spin 713 Chromebook using crouton/chroot and vlc

A new member of the family

Go straight to the TL;DR.

I recently purchased a new Chromebook. It’s been over a decade since I’ve owned a true ‘personal laptop’. Most of the time I got by with the limited personal use allowed on a work laptop or my phone or a tablet or my partner’s laptop. Well, it was finally time to purchase one of my own. After doing some research and weighing the pros and cons of the different options, I decided on a Chromebook. The model that I chose was the Acer Spin 713 w/ an i5 processor, 8 GB RAM, and a 256 GB SSD. I decided to spend the extra money on a mid/high range Chromebook because one of my pet peeves is slow computers and I didn’t want to have to fight with a computer that was always having performance problems. I was also looking for a convertible laptop that did tablet and tent mode.

So far, I’m pleased with my decision and am getting used to Chrome OS. I was a little peeved that Microsoft discontinued support for their Office apps. That means no offline options for OneNote, my preferred notetaking app. About ten years ago, I migrated all my notes from Evernote to OneNote and I’m not ready for another migration. I’m also hoping that it gets full Netflix support; to date Netflix only works in the browser and the app is not compatible.

External DVD drive for Chromebook

Now onto the subject of this post. My brother recently recommended a movie to us, Only the Brave, and we were interested in watching it. It wasn’t available on any streaming service that is available to us, so we decided to see if the library had it. Our local Boulder City library didn’t have it, but it was available from one of the other libraries in the Las Vegas Clark County Library District. We requested it and we had it in hand in a couple of days. I went to pop it in our HTPC and that’s when I remembered we were having issues with the sound card on that machine. So, I decided that maybe it was time to buy an external DVD player that we could use with one of the other laptops in the house. We picked a highly rated one at a decent price from Best Buy due to my initial research telling me that most any USB DVD drive would work.

Initial problems

A couple of days passed, the new Chromebook arrived and we decided we’d try to watch the movie. Well, I didn’t realize that the external DVD drive wouldn’t work out of the box with Chrome OS and that led me on a new adventure. I could have just given in and watched it on the Windows laptop in the house, but I’m always up for a good challenge. I originally tried doing it with crostini, but it appears that you can share the DVD files with crostini, but you can’t really share the device with crostini (i.e. /dev/sr0 is not accessible in crostini). I was able to install libdvdcss and vlc in crostini and it would try to open the VOB files on the DVD, but I couldn’t get them to actually play. That’s when I decided to try crouton and chroot which eventually did work.

Installing VLC and getting it to work in a chroot

My initial research led me to believe that I would be able to access /dev/sr0 in a chroot. My first try was installing an Ubuntu chroot with the Unity desktop environment. There are great instructions for installing chroots at the crouton Github repository. Unfortunately, all the Ubuntu chroots that I tried had this weird and annoying bug where the screen wouldn’t refresh until you moved the mouse. I tried a bunch of different desktop environments, but they all had the same bug. So, I then decided to move to a Debian chroot. The sid release errored out, so I tried buster and that one installed fine. I initially installed lxde and it didn’t have the same bug that the Ubuntu chroots had, so I proceeded to install vlc, libdvd-pkg, and libdvdcss and everything worked. Yay!!!! Well, yay for at least a little while. I think Chrome OS updated, I deleted my existing chroot, tried installing a new one, and for some reason or another I couldn’t get it to work.

I then installed the buster debian chroot with lxde, but alsa or sound in general wouldn’t work. The DVD played fine, but no sound. I then updated the chroot using the ‘-u’ flag. Sound would then work, but there were no panels in the lxde environment. I then decided to try xfce and that did the trick. So, now I have a functional chroot that will play DVDs in VLC on /dev/sr0.

Actual steps to get it working

  1. Open terminal – Ctrl-Alt-T
  2. Enter shell by typing shell at the crosh prompt
  3. Follow steps 1-3 from the crouton example to install the crouton script
  4. Install debian buster chroot with xfce by typing
sudo –r buster -n debian -t xfce
  1. Open xfce session by typing
sudo startxfce4
  1. Once inside the chroot open a terminal and install libdvd-pkg, libdvdcss, and vlc
sudo apt install libdvd-pkg
sudo apt install vlc

Once libdvd-pkg is installed, you’ll need to run dpkg-reconfigure to get libdvdcss installed

sudo dpkg-reconfigure libdvd-pkg

Follow the on-screen instructions to install libdvdcss

  1. Once all that is installed, you’ll need to run one more command to allow the chroot access to /dev/sr0. This last step I found on this reddit thread.
sudo chmod 644 /dev/sr0
  1. Open VLC and enjoy watching your DVD

Have fun

Hopefully, you’ll be able to do this without going through all the steps/troubleshooting that I did. I know it’s probably not a common use case due to Chromebook’s primary use of streaming content. But if you do find yourself with an external DVD drive and a Chromebook, rest assured that you can use both to actually watch a DVD. Cheers!

Ruby Mountains Lakes Loop Hike – 6 Aug 2014 to 9 Aug 2014


Back in April or May, Maria and I attended a talk by a biologist that described some research she was doing on a small mammal survey project. The survey was designed to mimic surveys done in the 1930´s (by Grinnell in California and by Borell and Ellis here in NV) and see how the abundance and diversity has changed through the years. Anyways, we saw some pictures of what I think were Thomas Canyon and we were both enamored by what we saw and the Rubies became something that we frequently talked about.

I’ve done quite a bit of backpacking through the years, but María had never had the chance…she’d been camping a handful of times and we go hiking all the time, but she’d never had the opportunity to combine the two. I had some vacation from work scheduled for the beginning of August to do some backpacking around Mt. Whitney in CA with a friend from college. Well, that trip fell through, I already had the time off from work, and we were both itching to get outside, so we decided we’d do some backpacking and chose the Rubies as our destination.

In our research we found a great website put together by Bill Homan ( I think I’m like most people and prefer a loop hike instead of an ‘in and out’, so we chose his new Lakes Loop Hike as our route. He’s done it twice and I think he did it in one night and two days both times. Since this was our first time, I decided to budget three nights and four days, mainly because I knew it was going to be slow-going since it was María’s first time and plus, I wanted some time to go fishing.

So, here’s the trip report, organized by day. We had a great time and I highly recommend this route if you want to see some beautiful scenery and don’t mind a little off-trail route finding. The route-finding is made pretty easy by the use of the kml file that Bill provides. It is a great resource as is the route description and pictures that Bill put together. I don’t have a GPS, but did have my phone with me. I kept it in airplane mode, only used it when we were unsure about where to head, and still had enough battery to take some pictures on the third and fourth day when I was sure I was going to make it back to the car with some battery still left (arrived at the car w/ 13%). I used an app called Locus Pro which I’d recommend if you have an android phone and if you plan on using your phone instead of a GPS. It loaded the kml file without any issues, allowed for offline map access including USGS topos, and just worked when we needed it. We also had Bill’s route description, a printed topo map, and a compass just in case the phone/GPS didn’t work.

Day 1 – Road’s End Trailhead to Back of Thomas Canyon

We got a little bit of a later start than we wanted. We camped the previous night at Illipah Creek Reservoir (just W of Ely) since there was no way we were going to make it to the trailhead at a decent hour (I had to work in the morning and it’s a long haul from S’rn NV to NE NV). We made it to Road’s End around 1030, started hiking right around 1100, and made it to Island Lake without any problems. This part of the route is on good trail, nice switchbacks, easy climbing, and a good warmup for what’s next.

Island lake on the way to the pass to Thomas Canyon.

Island lake on the way to the pass to Thomas Canyon.

Once at Island Lake, it’s pretty obvious from Bill’s photo where the pass is. We started using the GPS at this point, but it wasn’t really that necessary, just head around the N side of the lake, start gaining altitude little by little. You’ll hit the boulder field around halfway to the top and since this was María’s first time walking on top of boulders plus with a heavy pack, this is where we started to slow down a little bit. We saw some pikas on the way up and almost walked by Larry’s trail camera without noticing it. Once across the boulder field, the rest of the way to the pass isn’t that bad.

Looking towards the pass to Thomas Canyon.

Looking towards the pass to Thomas Canyon.

And then once you do make it to the pass you are rewarded with a great view across the back of Thomas Canyon. We made it to the pass from the trailhead in about 2:10. I guess we were overwhelmed at the excitement of having made it to the pass because we immediately started to descend the chute in front of us instead of heading a little bit higher to access the correct chute (and easier chute from the looks of it that we got later from below). Bill’s GPS tracks show the access to this correct chute, but we weren’t looking at the GPS at this point and just decided to head down. About halfway down the chute we realized our mistake, but decided to just continue downward to try and meet up with the route. We were able to make it down the chute without any issues and later met up with the rest of Bill’s route down the side of the canyon.

Jimmy heading down the chute to get into Thomas Canyon (Mount Fitzgerald in the background).

Jimmy heading down the chute to get into Thomas Canyon (Mount Fitzgerald in the background).

Once we rejoined the route, we were able to avoid the cliffs based on Bill’s description and the picture he has outlining the path down. Things in the chute and below were slow-going for us, it’s pretty steep and things slide pretty easily. It’s not the fine scree that I normally just mostly slide down, but larger rocks that aren’t anchored at all, so you need to be careful where you’re putting your feet. We made it from the start of the descent to solid somewhat-flat ground in about 2:00.

Picture of the two chutes for descending from the pass above Island Lake. The two chutes are visible in the center of the photo. Once out of the chute, we traversed to the left to avoid the cliffs and then cut back right to make it to the back of Thomas Canyon.

Picture of the two chutes for descending from the pass above Island Lake. The two chutes are visible in the center of the photo. Once out of the chute, we traversed to the left to avoid the cliffs and then cut back right to make it to the back of Thomas Canyon.

Heading across the back of Thomas Canyon was relatively easy. We more or less followed the GPS tracks here since it helps to stay at the right elevation instead of heading too high or too low. The back of the canyon is pretty steep so if you’re too high or too low you might make the route more difficult than it needs to be. There’s plenty of water across the back of the canyon, we filled up at one of the E forks of Thomas Creek. While walking across the back of the canyon, I flushed the first of many Himalayan snowcocks that we encountered. We scared the crap out of each other, I wasn’t more than 10 feet away when he came flying out of his little nook.

It took us about 1:00 to make it across the back of the canyon. It was about 1630, the weather was looking threatening, we were a little tired, so we decided to set up camp (total hiking time for the day was right around 5:30). There are quite a few good spots in the SW corner of Thomas Canyon. We picked a spot to the NE of the beaver dam pond. There’s good access to water here, good access to the next pass, and options between trees and open areas. While cooking dinner a pretty strong storm came rolling in, some wind gusts were strong enough to almost completely collapse the tent. The tent bounced back, but both poles got bent pretty bad. We made it inside the tent just before the hail started to fall. It hailed for the better part of an hour (bb size hail), the wind kept up, and after that it started to rain. It rained on and off the whole night and into the next morning.

Our first campsite at the back of Thomas Canyon near the Beaver Dam. A hailstorm hit right after cooking dinner. Wind gusts were strong enough to bend tent poles.

Our first campsite at the back of Thomas Canyon near the Beaver Dam. A hailstorm hit right after cooking dinner. Wind gusts were strong enough to bend tent poles.

Day 2 – Thomas Canyon to Echo Lake

Due to the rain and the threat of thunderstorms we didn’t get started on the trail until right around 1100. We made several attempts to break camp, but nasty looking clouds kept on rolling in from the W which we couldn’t see until it was right on top of us. When getting ready to leave, I spotted a goat or a sheep on the ridge between Thomas and Right Fork Canyons, but by the time I got the binoculars it was gone and I was unable to identify it.

We debated whether or not to follow Bill’s route up to the next pass (between Thomas and Right Fork Canyon) and in the end we decided on a very similar but alternate route. It was hard to tell, but it looked like there was still some snow on Bill’s route, so we decided on trying to avoid the snow. Our camp was a little further to the N than where Bill’s route crosses the creek coming from the beaver pond, so we decided to just cross directly W of our camp and start climbing the side of the canyon from there. We basically climbed straight up the side of the canyon following a small, rocky drainage. Once we hit some pine trees, we started heading S and towards the pass, slowly climbing and staying above each set of pine trees. It took us about 1:10 to make it to the pass where we took a quick snack break before we started on our way to the next pass.

Almost out of Thomas Canyon (Mount Fitzgerald in the background).

Almost out of Thomas Canyon (Mount Fitzgerald in the background).

Again, from the photos and Bill’s description, it’s pretty easy to tell where the next pass is to get out of Right Fork Canyon. Again, we used the general description instead of the GPS to make it to the next pass. María was pretty sick of walking across boulders, I was as well, so we decided to drop down from the pass and cut across the back of the canyon a little lower in elevation to try and avoid as much boulder field as we could. Dropping down below the boulder line isn’t too tough, there are a couple of small cliffs to avoid, but basically it was just finding a decent route down to the pine trees.

Crossing the back of Right Fork Canyon on our way to Echo Lake. We dropped down to avoid most of the boulder fields.

Crossing the back of Right Fork Canyon on our way to Echo Lake. We dropped down to avoid most of the boulder fields.

Once down off the rock, we started to make our way across Right Fork Canyon. We spotted a lone mule deer in one of the small ponds/marshes towards the back of the canyon. Since we didn’t follow the GPS route across the back of the canyon, we probably climbed too soon and wound up having to drop again to make it up to the pass. The SW corner of Right Fork Canyon is made up of these wide rock terraces that are pretty easy to climb up or across. We got all excited again and just started climbing when we should have continued W a little further before climbing. In the end, it was a minor detour and we made it to the pass out of Right Fork Canyon in 2:00.

Looking towards Box Canyon. Taken from the pass leaving Right Fork Canyon. We head towards Echo Lake from this pass, more or less maintaining the same elevation we head just below the smaller cliff below the large cliff on the right side of the photo.

Looking towards Box Canyon. Taken from the pass leaving Right Fork Canyon. We head towards Echo Lake from this pass, more or less maintaining the same elevation we head just below the smaller cliff below the large cliff on the right side of the photo.

Once at the pass you can see the no-name lake and down into Box Canyon a little bit. Here we made another minor detour, we started down towards the no-name lake when the route almost maintains the same elevation as the pass itself. Bill’s pictures and description tell you where to go, but we just felt like we knew where we were going until we checked the GPS. We climbed up from the no-name lake and rejoined the route. This section is just as Bill describes it…along a steep, rocky slope covered with sagebrush. It’s tough on the ankles, but better than a boulder field. Along this slope, we spotted another snowcock that was still foraging so we didn’t scare each other and we got a better look at it. It still took off too quick for us to grab a picture.

We made the same approach as Bill to the saddle above Echo Lake, drop below the cliffs and then start climbing. Shortly before making it to the saddle we spotted a fox walking across the saddle. It dropped out of view for a bit, then we spotted it heading further W across the back of the drainage. After that we made it to the saddle which took us about 1:45 from the last pass where we left Right Fork Canyon. In total, it took us just around 5:00 from the back of Thomas Canyon to the saddle above Echo Lake.

Above Echo Lake. We were going to camp at the small terrace in the lower right of the picture, but decided to head back to the other side of the saddle. The terrace was still about 15 minutes above the lake and we wanted to get an early start the next day.

Above Echo Lake. We were going to camp at the small terrace in the lower right of the picture, but decided to head back to the other side of the saddle. The terrace was still about 15 minutes above the lake and we wanted to get an early start the next day.

We started the descent to Echo Lake to try and find a decent campsite. There was one possibility on the S side of the lake, but it wasn’t great. So, I dropped my pack and decided to see if there were any decent spots on the E side where the terrain is more level and where the outlet to the lake is. I made it about halfway down to the lake, it was looking like rain, and since I wasn’t sure if my search for a decent campsite was going to be successful, I decided to head back and reevaluate. In the end, we decided to head back to the saddle and camp on the other side. There are some nice, flat places with good access to water just on the other side of the saddle. This also set us up for a good start for the next day’s route.

The evening was really nice, great campsite, beautiful view of Box Canyon, and an almost full moon. The skies were clear for the first time during the whole trip and we took advantage of the afternoon sun to dry some things out.

Couldn't ask for a better moonlit view. From Campsite below the saddle to Echo Lake.

Couldn’t ask for a better moonlit view. From Campsite below the saddle to Echo Lake.

Day 3 – Echo Lake to Favre Lake

We were awakened the next morning by a chorus of snowcocks. We got a relatively early start and started heading down the drainage right around 0800. We had plenty of battery on the phone so we more or less used the GPS to follow the same route in the kml file. About halfway down the drainage, we flushed out 4 snowcocks from where they were hiding in the grass. Luckily they spotted me a little sooner and didn’t scare me near as much as that first one.

The pass between Box and Kleckner Canyon is visible right in the middle of the photo.

The pass between Box and Kleckner Canyon is visible right in the middle of the photo.

Once we got past Bill’s photo point of the aspens with the view of the pass to Kleckner Canyon, we kind of left the GPS and just found our own way to the bottom of Box Canyon. There’s some big rocks/cliffs that you need to avoid as well as some creeks that can be tricky. The creeks that had water were sometimes overgrown with vegetation making them slip hazards while there were other dry ones that had pour-overs that were too tall for us to climb down. In the end, it took us a little over 2:00 to make it to the bottom of Box Canyon.

We crossed Stoddard Creek and once on the other side, we found a pretty good game trail that we were able to follow for most of the way up the side of the canyon. We also found the trail right where Bill’s GPS point said it was. We followed this trail which was good at times, crappy at others, and we lost it a few times before finding it again. From the crossing at Stoddard Creek to the pass into Kleckner Canyon took us another 1:00.

Finally found trail heading out of Box Canyon on our way to Kleckner Canyon and Favre Lake.

Finally found trail heading out of Box Canyon on our way to Kleckner Canyon and Favre Lake.

We took a quick snack break at the pass and started on our way to the bottom of Kleckner Canyon. The trail down the canyon was pretty good, but it was easy to lose at times as well. We crossed Kleckner Creek, refilled water, and just on the other side we found the trail sign. The Kleckner Canyon trail was in okay condition, there were a couple of downed trees and it followed some drainages at times, but all in all, it was nice to be back on trail even if it wasn’t a very well-maintained or well-traveled trail.

Do we look happy to have found a real trail??  First sign of real trail since we left Island Lake.

Do we look happy to have found a real trail?? First sign of real trail since we left Island Lake.

Once we got close to Favre Lake, there were a ton of trails going in all directions. We took a short tour heading S on the Ruby Crest Trail before realizing that we were heading away from Favre Lake. Once heading back in the right direction we easily found one of the nice campsites on the S side of the lake. In summary it took us 5:30 to get from the saddle above Echo Lake to Favre Lake. We saw another mule deer just above our campsite here.

I started fishing around 1400 on the S side of Favre lake and had three trout on my first three casts. They were all small (6-7 inches), so I tried a larger spoon, but had similar success. In the end, I fished both sides of the lake for about two hours total and caught at least 20 fish. I kept three of the larger ones which were probably around 11 inches.

Jimmy fishing at Favre Lake.

Jimmy fishing at Favre Lake.

Day 4 – Favre Lake to Road’s End Trailhead

We got an early start the next day and left Favre Lake around 0700. We took the trail around the back of Favre Lake and agree with Bill, that the views on the way to Liberty Lake are great. We made it to Liberty Pass in 1:40 maintaining a slow leisurely pace with lots of photo taking. Once over the pass, we started running into a lot of people which was kind of a shock since we hadn’t seen anyone between Island Lake and Favre Lake and even at Favre Lake we only saw a group of three bowhunters that were heading down Kleckner Canyon.

Taken just below Liberty Lake looking towards Favre and Castle Lakes.

Taken just below Liberty Lake looking towards Favre and Castle Lakes.

We made it to the trailhead at 1000 making the hike from Favre to the parking lot right at 3:00. At the parking lot we were in even more shock due to the bicycle race finishing up and a whole tour bus full of ‘adventure travelers’.

In summary, this was a great loop hike that can be done a lot of different ways which I’m sure we’ll be doing again in the future.

For more pictures, see the gallery posted here.

Remove stuck moen cartridge without tool

As my house gets older and older, more and more maintenance items pop up. This time, it was time to finally replace the cartridges for my Moen single handle shower/tub fixtures. One was starting to drip and the other was just really hard to pull out and push in. So, I looked up some how-to’s online and set off to get it done. As is expected, shortly after beginning, I ran into some problems – both cartridges didn’t really want to come out.

Moen Cartridge installed

After some pushing and pulling and some choice words under my breath, I was able to get the first one out. The second one wasn’t going to give up so easily…nor was I. I again did some research about stuck cartridges and discovered that a tool exists to remove them.Moen extraction toolAfter seeing the price and after considering the fact that my local hardware store probably wouldn’t have it in stock, I decided to try and get it out with the tools and resources I had on hand. My first attempt was to put a pair of vise-grips on the end of the shaft and use a couple of different items to try and pry it out. No dice.

I once again thought about the cost of the extraction tool and a potentially fruitless trip to the hardware store and decided it’d probably be better if I tried to make my own. It took some snooping around the house and the toolboxes, but eventually I came up with something that did the trick.

Homemade extraction tool

With a 3/4″ (or 13/16″) socket, some spacers (nuts), and washers, I was able to extract the cartridge without too much trouble. A couple of things to note:

  • The washer that is used to attach the handle to the cartridge is not hardened; that’s why I used an additional washer. The little, wimpy washer originally bent on me when I used it alone.
  • As the cartridge comes out, you may need to play with how many spacers you use as the distance changes between the washers and the cartridge.

spacer options

I’m using a longer socket and the head of the wrench as a spacer.

Every thing was going fine, the cartridge was coming out little by little and I thought I was home free. That’s when I realized the shaft of the cartridge was just spinning as I continued to turn the screw. I’m pretty sure the real extraction tool has a way to keep this from happening, so I came up with my own solution.

nut trick

I found a little nut, stuck it between the socket and the shaft and continued with my extraction. Once the cartridge was out enough, I was able to clamp the vise-grips on there and spin it around to make it come out that much easier.

final steps

After a little more pushing and pulling, success and a happy DIY plumber.

happy plumber


My relationship with garbage

When I drive down my street on garbage day, I’m always amazed at how people can fill this huge container two times a week. What do they put in there? And why?

I just weighed my kitchen garbage bin and it was 1 lb 1 oz (net). It’s almost ready to empty, but I probably have a few more weeks to go.

Based on some back of the envelope calculations, I’d estimate that my monthly garbage production, including what I generate at home and at work, is somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-5 lbs per month. The US average in 2007 was 4.62 lbs per day, that’s per day, not per month, like in my case (Source: here).

So, what are the different things that I do to keep my garbage production down? What follows is a summary of the most important things that come to mind.

  1. Compost. Regardless of where you live or what kind of available space you have, composting is a possibility.
    1. Vermiculture. This is a great way for people with limited space to reduce what they put in the garbage bin. I’ve had my worm tower going for over five years and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Look for a follow-up post with additional details on my worms and vermiculture in general.

    1. Traditional. There are certain times of the year when I generate too much organic waste for my worms to handle. There are also times when I have things that the worms don’t particularly like. This is when I use the outdoor compost. I mainly use the outdoor compost for yard waste, but it’s nice to have an additional place to put kitchen waste when the need arises. If you have a yard and you’re actually giving away your yard waste, think twice about giving those nutrients and organic matter away, it would be better served to stay in your yard instead of going to a landfill.

  1. Packaging. Next to composting, I think this is the biggest thing that allows me to generate so little garbage. Before I buy something, I always ask myself if the packaging is recyclable or not. Some exceptions to this that I feel guilty about purchasing are heavy cream, snacks in those plastic/foil bags, the mesh bags that potatoes come in and probably a few others that I’m forgetting.
  2. Reuse & Recycle. These two are obvious ones that most everyone probably already does, so I won’t say much here, but I’ll try to post here in the future on some of the more uncommon reuse and recycle techniques that I’ve come to use.
  3. Bones. Well, these eventually make it to my garbage can, but before they make it there, I try to get as much out of them as I can. Every time I eat something with a bone, I save it and put it in a container that I keep in the freezer. When I’ve got enough of them, I dump ’em in the pressure cooker and make a nice broth out of them. The spent bones then go in the garbage, but at least I’ve gotten everything out of them that my teeth weren’t able to.
  1. Smelly stuff. I struggled with this for a while and this originally forced me to take the garbage to the curb more often than I liked, but it just didn’t make sense to but a little bag in that huge garbage bin. So, I’ve finally found a way to control the smelly stuff, so that I don’t have to lug that thing to the curb so often. I use a produce bag from the grocery store and I jam the smelly stuff into the corner, then I twist the bag until I’m confident it’s sealed. I then grab the part of bag with the contents and push it back inside the unused portion. I repeat this process two or three times or until I run out of bag and then tie a knot. I can keep this in my little garbage can, pretty much indefinitely without any odors.
  2. Cloth napkins and towels. It just makes sense to use cloth towels and napkins for most everything. There are very few things that I use paper towels for. The one thing that comes to mind is coating oil in my cast iron pan, cleaning up greasy stuff, and applying rain-x to my windshield. I’m not afraid to use paper towels, in fact, paper is a renewable resource, but if I can reduce my paper consumption and waste, I’m all for it.

You might be asking, what actually does make it into my garbage can? Well, I thought about that as well and these are some of the things I came up with: hair from when I cut my own hair, used paper towels (I don’t use that many and I think a roll lasts me about 9 months), snack bags that can’t be recycled, non-recyclable containers, the stuff I sweep up off my floor (this should probably be going in the compost though), bones after I use them for broth, the absorbent pads that come with meat, waxed cardboard containers, beer bottle caps, dental floss and not much else.

I know I’m a single person with no kids and my situation lends itself to less garbage production, but I do hope that some of the ideas I’ve shared might help you to generate less trash as well.

Windows 7 won’t let you change folder name (thumbs.db and images in folder)

I’ve run into this problem several times and I’ve never found a complete solution until now. We use a lot of pictures at work and I should probably come up with a more modern way of managing them, but I’m stuck in my ways and I use a relatively archane way of organizing the photos. Each folder name is in yyyy-mm-dd-desc format. I use Picasa and through it’s search function combined with my folder-naming scheme, I can usually find what I’m looking for without too much trouble. So, in conclusion, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

But, something does ‘break’ every once in a while and it has occasionally prevented me from renaming the subfolders where I store my pictures. I’ll copy the folder from the camera’s SD card to the server and then go to change the folder name and Windows tells me that the folder is being used by another program and can’t be renamed. The old solution was to just sit and wait it out…normally a couple of minutes but very frustrating. Today, I think I finally won this battle.

First step was to confirm what I thought was going on. I found this page and tried the unlock tool, but it didn’t work; it didn’t find anything that was locking my folder and I was still unable to rename it. I then used procexp which I’ve used in the past and like a lot for certain things. Procexp allowed me to confirm that it was explorer.exe locking the thumbs.db file. This file is the thumbnail database that windows creates for any folder that contains images. So, now that I had confirmation that the thumbs.db was causing the problem, I could implement a permanent solution.

It took a two fold approach.

  1. Prevent windows from creating thumbs.db files. I found this page here that instructed me how to add a registry entry to prevent creation of thumbs.db files.

At this point, I thought I had won. I rebooted, went to my pictures directory, looked at some pictures in a subdirectory to see what an appropriate name would be, went to rename and, bam, same thing; windows wouldn’t let me rename the folder. I concluded that since the thumbs.db file was still there, it was still being updated every time I opened the folder and hence why I still couldn’t rename the folder.

  1. Delete all the thumbs.db files recursively in my Pictures directory.

With step 1, I had solved the problem of Windows creating new thumbs.db files, but now I had to deal with all the existing thumbs.db files that were still causing me problems. This went fine, I just had to find the correct switches for delete when used from the command line. Windows won’t let you delete thumbs.db from windows explorer nor would it be very practical to go into every pictures subdirectory and delete them all (it’s a hidden file and since windows locks thumbs.db when you’re in that directory, you can’t easily delete it, if at all, through the GUI). So, it was off to the command prompt which I ran as administrator since I was going to be deleting hidden files. Then in the root of my Pictures directory, I executed the following command del thumbs.db /S /A:H. What this command does is deletes the file thumbs.db recursively (that is in each subdirectory) and since it’s a hidden file, I’m pretty sure that you have to specify to delete files with the hidden attribute. A note of warning: using del recursively can be dangerous and delete files unintentionally; please use caution with this command.

So, in conclusion, if you’re having trouble with renaming folders that contains the windows hidden file, thumbs.db, the above solution should work. I had read lots of solutions to this problem, but none ever worked for me 100%. I’m pretty sure this is due to my relatively unique situation of dealing with folders that always contained images and the hidden thumbs.db file.

My ‘research’

I’ve started a few blogs in the past and I’ve never kept them up for one reason or another (primarily laziness). But as I go through life, I’ve found that I’m constantly researching things (work-related things, home-related things, whatever-related things) normally with the purpose of finding the best answer, the best solution, the best product. I normally document these things for myself, but lately I’ve come to the realization that my time spent should not only be for myself, but for others as well. In other words, I shouldn’t keep my research to myself. So, I’ve decided to start another blog where I share what I’ve researched, what I’ve found, what I’ve spent my time thinking about. I hope it’s useful for others.

I could share all of these things through the different social media sites, but I like control and flexibility and that’s not entirely available with social media. Granted, I’ll be taking advantage of social media to let you know what I’ve been up to, but the primary content will be found here.

So, here I am with another blog. Let me know what you think. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, so give me some time to document what I’ve been researching for the past several years. Let’s see how this goes and maybe I’ll finally keep one of these things going for more than a year or two.