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September 2nd, 2016:
My Home Server Closet Is Overkill

TLDR; I’m the king of overkill, but I want to do things the right way. I installed a managed switch just to have my DTE Smart Meter Energy Bridge in my server closet.


Server ClosetI got the DTE Energy Bridge for my Smart Meter a few weeks ago. My server closet is the best place for it, but I’m out of ports on my 24-port switch, so I temporarily installed it in my theater using an Ethernet jack on the wall. Having it dangling there drove me nuts, but I knew that I would remember to install it correctly if it was kept in plain sight.

When we moved into our current house, I made running Ethernet to (almost) every room a priority. Gina was a real trooper and helped crawl through the attic, pass cables through walls, and even dig into insulation to find lost cables where my hands wouldn’t fit. I built everything around a freecycled telecom rack with some rackmount shelves installed. All in all it has worked well and been through a few dozen iterations. But it has had a 24-port patch panel (rescued from the trash at work), a 24-port unmanaged switch, cable modem, router/access point, media server and web/home automation server.

Computer RackAfter 10 years I had run out of ports on the switch and my server closet is in a perfect location to install the DTE Energy Bridge: ~15 feet away from the exterior wall where the Smart Meter is installed. I had a few rarely used network devices that were unplugged to save ports as well (a/v receiver, bluray player, etc. that I only needed connected to update firmware). It was time to upgrade.

I decided to buy used since enterprise and small-business organizations alike tend to upgrade their network hardware regularly. I found a great deal on a Netgear ProSafe GSM7224 Managed Gigabit switch on ebay ($25, shipped). It arrived in used, but fair condition… and missing one of the rackmount ears. So, I set it aside along with the patch panel to deal with another day.

Network Panels and Smart Meter Bridge"Another day" happened today when I finally had some time off of work to do maintenance in my server closet. I fabricated a rackmount ear out of a generic ear for Belkin hardware that I had laying around and attached it to the switch. After re-configuring the rack once again (moving shelves, keyboard trays, etc. around), I installed the new switch and patch panel. The switch was configured by the previous owner in a way that wasn’t working for me. So, after a factory reset and network speed test, we were up and running.

Finally, I moved the Energy Bridge into the server closet, plugged it into the switch, mounted it to the interior wall and called it a day. Most people would have just unplugged something and been done with it. That would have driven me nuts. 2 hours later and I feel like I actually accomplished something… what that is, I’m not sure, but I know I did it the right way.

- Duane

August 30th, 2016:
Lessons Learned By A New Father (Part 1)

Here’s the first installment of stuff I’ve learned in the past 10 weeks of new fatherhood:

    Stay Puft Baby and Dad

  1. The first 2 weeks are tough. More difficult than you can imagine. Everyone says this. You think you know what it means. You’re wrong.
  2. Weeks 3-4 are better than the first two… but your brain will be erased and you won’t remember how bad 1 & 2 were. Weeks 3-4 are about as bad as you imagined 1-2 could be before baby arrived.
  3. After week 6, it gets a lot better. You come out of the haze and really realize that this new person is in your family. By week 10, you’re interacting with her and you can barely remember the first month.
  4. Take lots of pictures/videos. Everyone tells you that it goes by so fast and they grow too quickly. It’s true.
  5. Diapers aren’t as bad as you imagined… especially if baby is nursing. The first few days are a horror show (meconium), but really, it’s not too bad.
  6. There will be blow outs… big time. My wife is a scientist and bought a case of “blue pads” used for surgeries, etc. We put them on the changing pad as well as line her car seat with them. Keep a few in your diaper bag for impromptu changing. Lastly, make sure the “seal” around baby’s legs is good by pulling the diaper up on her waist after securing it… like you’re putting a pair of shorts on her. Nothing can stop the dreaded “rooster tail”… it’s just going to happen some day(s).
  7. Gripe water works. All of the articles/books I read said that there’s no scientific evidence for it to work (our baby shower no signs of colic, so that may be a different story), but a dose of gripe water and a little patting on the back and she produces some of the most amazing belches and stops crying
  8. Your wife will need a break… especially if she’s nursing. As soon as you can prepare a bottle and baby is ready to accept it (check with your pediatrician), offer to take the last feeding of the night and put her to bed… or tell your wife to go out shopping for herself and stay home and feed baby. (Just make sure you time everything right so that you have enough milk and/or mom comes back in time.)
  9. A bedtime routine is key. Our baby has slept in her room, in her crib, since she was 2 weeks old (before that we tried a bassinet in our room). Having a bedtime routine was key to making that happen. On bath night, she gets a warm bath… but otherwise, it’s the same every night: mom puts on a lullaby and dims the lights. I undress baby and change her diaper (if needed). Mom applies night time lotion. I put baby in her swaddle. Mom feeds baby. Usually she’s asleep by the end of the feeding and mom waits 20 minutes, then puts her in her crib. 90% of the time, that works. The other 10%… well… all bets are off
  10. Speaking of swaddles: they work… just be sure that you follow the instructions for your swaddle blanket or quick-swaddle. Talk to your pediatrician about positioning baby’s head. Baby should always sleep on her back.
  11. We found out about swaddles in on of our classes, but we also learned about the 5 S’s for getting baby to calm down/sleep from “The Happiest Baby On The Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp: Side, Swaddle, Shush, Swing, Suck. Look it up… it helps, but as you’ll find, nothing is a guaranteed solution
  12. We’ve always cooked dinner together, and doing that with baby is a challenge. We found that a bouncer or car seat on the kitchen counter (if you have space) works well. We tried wearing her in a front-carrier, but worried about hot spatter from pans could get her. Of course, be careful with cutlery, spices, or other hot liquids.
  13. Bonding time helps. If you’re only holding baby when she’s crying, that’s all that you’re going to get out of it. Make time to play with baby (tummy time included) and I find that just a minute of fun when changing diapers or getting dressed means a lot before my day starts or before baby goes to bed.
  14. Teamwork helps. My wife and I have always teamed up: hobbies, chores, projects, and now baby. We calm each other down and cover for each other when we’ve just had enough. Teamwork can be fun too… and makes bath time a lot safer.

Well, that wraps up my first installment of lessons learned. There’s a ton more and I’ll try to provide ongoing updates.

- Duane

July 3rd, 2016:
Car Update: Camaro Emerges

After many struggles with my Firebird I finally got it started, only to confirm that my last hurried fuel line repair wasn’t good enough. So, I took a break to focus on my 10-year newer old car: 1999 Camaro. It has been sitting for over 2 years, but I thought it would be a better candidate to get on the road.

I removed the cover, knowing that I had some mildew to deal with in the interior… however, I also discovered that I had left the passenger window open about an inch. More than large enough to let mice in and definitely enough to let the stink of my old pole barn set in. We had some work ahead of us: deep cleaning, deodorizing, flushing fluids, cleaning out acorns and mouse nests.

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During the next 2 weeks, I spent the better part of 3 days cleaning the interior and prepping the engine. The only surprise was a mouse mess to clean up in the C pillar that I missed on my first pass. I used our commercial carpet cleaner, baking soda, Lysol disinfectant, water/vinegar, clove/water (to prevent mildew), and eventually bleach/water. Ultimately the mild bleach solution was most effective at neutralizing odors. I let my car bake with the roof off and doors open in the sun. All in all, there is a marked improvement in odor. Continuing to let it air out in our garage (instead of the barn) has continued to help.

However, as I let it run (trying to work through the fuel/stabilizer in the gas tank, it started to overheat. Yesterday, I replaced the the thermostat, but the old one looked like new. I’m hoping that I just failed to bleed all of the air out of the cooling system last time (which is a common issue with aluminum block LS motors). If that’s not it, a replacement radiator cap might be the solution… but I dread that I could have a bad head gasket and air/oil is getting into the coolant. Though my time is limited at the moment, I hope to figure out what’s going on before my birthday in mid-July. I just want to drive it around for 1 day…

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- Duane

June 29th, 2016:
A Wild Kara Appears! (Part 1)

On the Friday before Gina’s due date we learned that Kara was breach (butt down) and were scheduled for a C-Section on her due date. We were a little bummed out that Gina’s recovery time would be longer and that much of what we learned in our baby classes wouldn’t be used… or so we thought. Kara decided to surprise us:

On Sunday, June 19th, we went to church as usual and performed during the service (Gina sings and I play guitar in the praise band). During a particularly energetic song, Gina started to feel a little… weird. We went home to have lunch prepare for a Father’s Day visit with my family when Gina started feeling contractions… real ones. Excited to use some of our training, we started timing their frequency and duration. We quickly reached 5-7 minute intervals, but the duration was still around 30-45 seconds. After an hour-or-so, we decided to go to the hospital and check in… since Gina wasn’t supposed to go into labor due to baby being breach.

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After checking in, we were ushered to a triage room where Gina was hooked up to some monitors, got checked out, and then told to go back home. I thought Gina might take a swing at the staff! When asked when we should come back, they said “… when the contractions are 5 minutes apart and stronger…” We ended up going to the parking lot, watching “House” on Netflix for a while, then going to a market and walking around/buying some water to drink. Not sure what to do next, we just went home.

Once home, we tried to eat lunch and wait it out: more Netflix and a few phone calls to alert family of the false alarm. Gina called her parents and after a brief conversation, hung up and immediately her water broke. Big time. For real. No mistaking what just happened. Our previously calm demeanor stepped up to “go time”: while Gina got cleaned up, I took care of the new laundry tasks. We were definitely anxious and our next trip to the hospital was definitely more hurried, but still calm.

This time it took longer to get into a room… at least it felt longer. Our nurse took a little longer than we liked to hook up the monitors (again… compared to the first visit). After we explained our concerns, she stepped it up and we heard Kara’s heartbeat. Our nerves calmed, we settled in and waited for the staff to confirm that labor had begun. Once that was complete, we were scheduled for an… um… unscheduled…(?) C-Section at 9:00. The next 40-ish minutes were a whirlwind: operating room (OR) cover-alls, spinal anesthetics, waiting outside the OR, then in the OR seated next to Gina.

It seemed like just a few minutes later that we heard Kara cry… loudly. Our daughter had arrived and our biggest adventure together begins.

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- Duane

June 6th, 2016:
Firebird Update – More Fuel Leaks

Today, I ran out during lunch and bought a fuel line repair kit. After an extended day at work, I ran out to the shop to see if I could get my Firebird fixed. The repair took about 30 minutes and the results looked good:

New section of fuel line out of the fuel filter

New section of fuel line out of the fuel filter

However, I noticed during the installation that there was potential for another leak on the inlet side of the filter… this might have been a much older leak that I mistook for a brake line leak when I parked my car 6 years ago.

I continued prepping the car by changing the coolant and installing the re-charged Optima red top battery. Excited, I ran into the house to get my keys and returned to the barn where I turned the keys to the accessory position. The good news? The fuel pump energized. The bad news? The pressure caused a pretty nasty fuel leak right where I suspected.

I’m not going to run out to the auto parts store again, instead I ordered the parts and a better tube bending tool online. It should all be here in plenty of time before the weekend. However, there’s an increasingly good chance that we’ll be heading to the hospital to welcome our daughter. Who knows, maybe this will be her first car? Nah… I wouldn’t do that to her 😉

Update: Camaro

- Duane

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