Posted by mike d. Filed in A Day In The Life...

Holy smokes, there is a lot of wildlife at the new home.

This weekend we saw:
Red-Winged Blackbirds
Black cow birds
A red tailed hawk
Eastern Bluebird
Garter Snake
Four deer bounding across an old beaver dam

I’ve got my camera at the ready, but so far I haven’t been fast enough or subtle enough to snap any pictures.



Posted by mike d. Filed in A Day In The Life...

At this point Jen and I are mostly moved into the new home. And a new home it is; we are the first residents in this new construction. Easy and convenient? Yes, though non-loan-related financial output for the home has surprised me.

There are always a bunch of costs associated with buying an older home, and I think these are mostly understood and expected. Usually there are repairs necessary or major components like furnaces, roofs, or water heaters. That was certainly the case with the House of Rock. We had to replace a furnace, remove an old oil tank, fix up some walls, and clean up some old junk that had found refuge in rafters of the garage… but the house was essentially livable from the get go.

What surprised me is that the new home has its own lengthy assortment of costs based entirely on the fact that it is new. The house needs a water filter, radon testing, appliances and all the standard decorating accouterment. Painting and staining are on the menu, as is a new gas line for a grill.

Perhaps the real difference between the HoR and the new Home is not the built-on date as much as it is my higher expectations for quality and performance. With the HoR, all I needed was to be certain that the house would stand. With this Home, I’m eager to make it streamlined and efficient.


Fridge d?

Posted by mike d. Filed in A Day In The Life...

For the upcoming house purchase, Jen and I are exploring options for appliances. One such appliance, the refrigerator, has caused some mental frustration.

Annoyance: Refrigerator vs. Fridge
Where did that D come from in the abbreviated form Fridge?

After some research I’ve learned that the reasoning is sloppy. When a G is sandwiched between vowels it often creates a combo sound of d+guh, like refrigerator, regenerate, and gauge. However, sometimes when it’s at the end of a word the preceding vowel is lengthened and the G loses it’s D sound: Think Oblige or Siege. Why? I have no idea. Grammerphils care to comment?

One’s first attempt to correct this might be to remove the E at the end of the word, but that ends up making Frig rhyme with Wig.

The best way to force the pronunciation was to add a D. Think: Ledge, Bridge, Ridge, Fudge, Melissa Ethridge.

Here’s why it’s sloppy: Garbage, Pillage. Neither have the D but both have the D sound. One site suggests that this is because the accent is on the first syllable.

In conclusion: who knows? English is weird.

Posted by mike d. Filed in A Day In The Life...

Yesterday Jen and I finally succeeded in moving on what has been a fairly long drawn our process of bidding on a new home. After weeks of looking we found a home in Clinton, CT. We were trying to find a place in Guilford, but the prices were too high for the quality of house.

We pushed further east and ended up two towns away in Clinton. Clinton is a tiny shoreline community: Just 19sq miles with ~13,500 people. The town has an abundance of inland wetlands (17% of the town is water), and our future home is one that includes wetlands.

The view from the backyard.

About 40% of our property will be pond. This comes with advantages and disadvantages. Privacy and wildlife are assured, but so too are mosquitoes and fewer land based wooded adventures. Still, excitement abounds.

At the moment we are expecting a closing the week of April 1st. More pictures to follow!

Posted by mike d. Filed in A Day In The Life...


Twelve Dollars!



Posted by mike d. Filed in A Day In The Life...

Christmas 2013 yielded many fun gifts, but one in particular was highly unexpected. On my yearly DiDonato Christmas list, I had included a stand upon which I could shine my shoes. To some this might seem a very odd request, but growing up I had always admired Dad D’s shoe shining kit. I remember the biting smell of shoe polish and the unexpectedly loud whir of his Ronson Two Speed Roto-Shine shoe polishing motor.

I wasn’t looking for anything as elaborate as his – just a stand upon which I could apply elbow grease and achieve new levels of luster on my work footware.

You can imagine my surprise when Dad D procured for me my very own Ronson Two Speed Roto-Shine Shoe Polisher!!!

oh the glory!

oh the glory!

So... many... attachments...

So… many… attachments…


There was, however, a problem. Only the high-speed was working. Dad D and I took the motor apart and found a fairly simple design.

The switching mechanism switches between two different circuits. One of the two circuits provides a direct connection of line voltage to the motor: Full Speed. The second does the same, except there’s a resistor in the path. This is unsurprising. The Resistor limits the voltage going to the motor. If that resistor fried, then the circuit wouldn’t work.

When we tested the resistor with an ohm meter we got nothing. This suggested deadness. Unfortunately, the resister was really weird looking. It didn’t have the traditional color scheme… but being that the unit was from the 50′s, we didn’t think much of it. Still, we had no way to determine what the value of that resistor was.

I decided to enlist an electrical engineer to aid in the process.

Enter: Sander

Sander and I took a look at the circuit. I told him about the weird resistor and he too agreed that it was weird. “Simple solution!” Sander declared as he pulled a potentiometer from his grab back of electrical goodies, “We’ll use a pot and gauge speed by the sound of the motor.”

And that’s what we did. But the results were somewhat surprising. Figuring out the resistance was easy – but when we tried the unit with various resistors they immediately burned up. Huh?

Sander figured it out in a stroke of obviousness. Despite my insistence that this was an ancient resistor – it was no such thing. The device was a Diode. How Clever!

The diode cut out half the waveform and reduced the speed of the motor by half. By doing so, the designers were able to get away with a much smaller device within the body of the polisher.

We replaced the diode and later that night I shined my shoes to glorious levels of sheen.


Posted by mike d. Filed in A Day In The Life...

As I wait for the wedding pictures to come in from our esteemed photographers, I thought I’d take this time to share with you my recent adventure at -109°F.

For my birthday this past year my folks gave me a Soda Stream! As a passionate seltzer drinker, the soda stream is a soda dream. Custom carbonated water on demand is surprisingly convenient. Jen and I drink seltzer every night with dinner, so it really makes cents… or does it?

The machine operates using CO2 cartridges. Each cartridge claims to produce 60Liters of carbonated beverage. For Jen and me, this quantity is likely inflated because we are generous, some might even say profligate, with our bubbles. But for the sake of math, let’s presume the 60L thing works out.

At the local grocery store, we can get two liters of setlzer for $0.89. That’s a mere 44.5cents a liter. Frankly, the fizz fades furiously once one opens the orifice – but still, that’s cheap! Soda stream refills run about $15/canister. That’s $0.25 per liter. A savings of 19.5 cents per liter!

With a $100 price tag on the machine and the price of the refills, it would require ~360 liters to break even after initial investment. Better than the store brand? yes. Much better? no.

Now if only there was a way to refill one of these canisters myself.


I did some research online. While many lauded the use of paintball gun refilling methods, I was hesitant because of the whole ‘food grade’ thing. While CO2 is CO2, I was worried about the oils used in lubrication of the paintball CO2 valves. There was, however, a video online that suggested the use of Dry ice to refill the canisters. Dry ice is the solid form of CO2. It is safe for food and except for the fact that it’s so cold it burns to the point of disfigurement. (Fun Fact: Dry ice is about -109°F)

No problem!

The plan would be to partially fill the empty canisters with dry ice. As the temperature of the canister stabilized, the dry ice would melt under pressure into liquid CO2. When that liquid was released into water it would rapidly depressurize into gas. Ta-da! Seltzer!

I decided to give it a shot.

Tools: meat tenderizer, wrench, gloves, dry ice, vise grips

Tools: meat tenderizer, wrench, gloves, dry ice, vise grips

I have two canisters, making refills extra convenient. I picked up 5lbs of dry ice at a local ice store for $11.99 and the adventure began!

This is what 5lbs of dry ice looks like.

This is what 5lbs of dry ice looks like.

First, I used a release valve on the side of the canister to make sure that both canisters were completely empty. Next, I used a vise and a wrench to unscrew the valve atop the bottle.



Next, I put on my safety glasses and thermal gloves, covered the ice with a dish towel and smashed it to pieces.




Admittedly, I thought that the dry ice would be cold enough not to stick together. I imagined it pouring from a cup like dry sand. Such was not the case. It clumped up like snow.

This was completely useless for pouring.

This was completely useless for pouring.

This made my make-shift paper funnel completely improbable. Even with a plastic funnel I had to jam the dry ice into the hole using a skewer.

Note: Failed paper funnel on the counter.

Note: Failed paper funnel on the counter.

I filled each container up to about 50% full. Then capped ‘em.

For the most part, this was not a frightening endeavor. HOWEVER, it sketched me out a bit that after I finished filling them, both containers frosted over somethin’ fierce. This isn’t surprising because dry ice is COLD. Yet it freaked me out enough to isolate the canisters in the garage and wait inside while the canisters warmed up.

Once the canisters were room temp, I transported them gingerly to the condo where we installed the first of the two canisters into the soda stream. I depressed the switch… and FIZZ! Beautiful fizz at half the price!

Things I would do differently:

1. At the ice store where I purchased the dry ice, 5lbs was the minimum. I really only needed 4lbs for two canisters. For my next refill adventure, I will most certainly be seeking other dry ice vendors.
2. $12 for this is CRAZY EXPENSIVE. As a comparator, my quick online searches suggest that I should be able to get dry ice for about $1/lb. See #1.
3. I need to improve my crushing method. Dry ice went everywhere. It was hard to contain underneath the towel. Apparently you can order dry ice in 0.25″ pellets – this would be awesome. See #1.
4. I should have weighed the canister before I started so I’d know precisely how much dry ice to add. I wrote above that I filled each to about 50%. It was probably closer to 75%, but I had no precise gauge. As we all know Pv=nRT. If you add too many Moles (n) your pressure could be higher than the defined limit of the container – this could lead to trouble (i.e. exploded canisters). This is why I let my canisters warm up in the garage far away from my body. If I had weighed the containers when they were new I would have been able to closely approximate the moles of CO2 (~44grams per mole for dry ice). I was reassured however by the release valve on the canister. I figure if I added too much, that release valve would have failed and the results would not have been catastrophic.
5. I had/have mild concerns about the O-ring in the container. With the excessive cold of the dry ice I worried about the failure of the o-ring a la the Challenger. When we finish consuming the fizz, I will carefully inspect the o-ring and report back.

Posted by mike d. Filed in A Day In The Life...

Every once in awhile, life kicks you when you’re down.

Shamus, currently residing in New Jersey, had the pleasure of experiencing this first hand recently. It started with the untimely death of his vehicle.

Wednesday 10/2
Shamus brought his Lancer into the shop as it was making a disconcerting rattle. The rattle turned out to be the frame which was rusted out to the point where the engine was at the brink of launching itself out of the vehicle and hurdling down the street. Add some other loose heat sheilds and inconveniences, and Shamus decided it was due time to buy new.

Friday 10/4
Hastened by the complete failure of the Lancer, Shamus moved quickly on a new car. That Friday, Shamus decided on a 2013 Corolla.

Sunday 10/6
The clouds darkened in deep foreboding, foreshadowing Shamus’s pending torment.

Monday 10/7 14:30:00
The new 2013 Corolla was delivered.

Monday 10/7 15:16:00

A tornado touches down in New Jersey.

New Jersey, which averages about 3 tornados per year, decided to specifically target Shamus. The funnel touched down in a park just to the North East of Shamus’s location. It then b-lined it directly to Shamus’s car where it crushed it under a tree.

The Path.

The Path.

Fun fact: the other marks on that map are where Shamus and his family were residing at the time of the incident.



Shamus, do keep us updated on whether you get reimbursement for this fiasco. This is really lousy. All that aside, I’m glad you and your loved ones are unharmed.

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