Month: December 2016

Magic Pillowcase

I got a “magic pillowcase” kit during a pre-Christmas sale. I finally got around to making it — it’s literally a two hour project with a tiny person disrupting the process the entire time.

You lay three pieces of fabric together, roll the main body up and fold the cuff over. Pin together & stitch. Then turn it right side out and have a long piece of three fabrics – a main body, an accent strip, and a cuff. Fold it in half, and voila it looks just like a pillowcase. Fold it in half inside out (right sides together) – instead of using a French seam, I just used the serger to stitch along the bottom and side of the pillow. Knotted off the tails and it was done. Tiny person loves her pillow and blanket.

This is a pretty cool way of making pillowcases – might make some custom pillowcases for our bedroom and the guest bedroom.

Geothermal Running Rates

I’m getting code together to scrape the Symphony data into OpenHAB. In the interim, we’re watching the stats from the WaterFurnace Symphony web site. We’re running between 1,800 watts and 2,800 Watts to keep the house really warm (72 degrees at the thermostat) with outdoor temps in the 20’s. The loop temperature has stayed pretty consistent as well. It’s not cheap, per se, to heat 4k square feet; but this is a lot better than the power usage with the air exchange heat pump at similar temperatures.


We’d been noticing rather poor airflow in the family room since we purchase the house. Asked quite a few HVAC people – basically everyone who came to quote our new system both last year and this year. The only halfway sensible answer we got was from the company that installed our geothermal system: the sales guy said there is probably a damper at the trunk. Which is reasonable, but there’s no access panel or anything. And why would you put an adjustment lever in an inaccessible location and have it closed off??

Now that we’ve got our unit in place and the whole house is toasty … the low airflow in the family room kind of sucks. So we put a borescope into the vent. Couldn’t see well enough to figure out what was going on. We put a bright flashlight & Elph camera into the vent & took some pictures – sure enough, there’s a metal piece halfway across the ducting right up by the trunk.

Now there’s an obvious answer (cut something), but I googled dampers behind hard surfaces / ceilings / etc. Got a lot of “cut it”, but even more “call a professional” … not quite sure what a professional is going to do that’s different (apart from possibly repairing the drywall). We tried to come up with some way to feed a flexible but stiff long something into the vent to shove the damper aside … couldn’t think of anything. So we gave up and cut drywall.

This is *not* where you should put adjustment levers — and it isn’t like the lever is on top where the drywaller didn’t realize it was there. The lever is pressed into the drywall like they had to shove on the board to get it attached.


A friend of mine sited the The Economist/YouGov Poll December 17 – 20, 2016 – 1376 US Adults that says 58% of Trump voters agree that what is good for Donald Trump’s business is good for the country. Charles Wilson said much the same thing about General Motors back when he was the CEO/president/whatever they called him. I understand the sentiment (a rising tide and all that), but where I disagreed with the statement about GM is half of what I fear from Trump.

What’s good for the country *may* benefit GM/Trump/Whomever, but it could also harm them. And what’s good for them may or may not benefit the country. Relaxing safety regulations on construction would be good for Trump’s business and bottom line, but *really* suck for the people buried under a collapsed tower.

My other fear is that Trump made an amazing amount of money screwing over other people. He may make another amazing amount of money screwing over the country. My father-in-law says Trump is going to be a boon for the country because he screws over other countries to “our benefit” … which, viewed in a short-term and one-sided fashion could be considered awesome (to me a bit like stealing food from a homeless dude ’cause you get a little hungry on the way home from work, but I acknowledge that some people would like to benefit our country to the detriment of others). I just don’t see it as a sustainable policy, and I think history backs me up. The sun never set on the British Empire … until it did. Even if you’re not trying outright colonialism, I’ve seen enough of South and Central America to know how welcome American exploitation was — “yankees go home”, “fuera yanquis de America Latina”, etc. I remember seeing Michael Franti not long after Spearhead was touring Iraq and he said the message he got from speaking to Iraqis was “thank you for getting rid of a really horrible guy, now get the fuck out of my country!”. I don’t see countries being screwed over as particularly happy with the situation, nor do I expect them to express their discontent with sternly worded letters to the editor. And that’s REALLY bad for the country.


Another entry in my “fruit cakes and breads do not suck” series – Christmas stollen. It’s coated in powdered vanilla sugar. We made a vanilla stout a few years ago — and I pulled out the vanilla husks, poured some white sugar into a container, and mixed the husks into it. Those vanilla husks are still making a vanilla flavored/scented sugar. To make castor sugar, you can just throw a cup or two of sugar into a blender (make sure it has a glass container, the sugar will scratch plastic) and blend for a minute or two. This is *not* a replacement for commercial powdered sugar – that’s a blend of corn starch and finely ground sugar.

Anya really enjoyed this bread (probably because of the sugar coating!)

Geothermal Is Online!

We’ve got a functioning geothermal HVAC system running! They finished up the piping from the exterior wall to the furnace.

I was rather excited to see the containers of methanol — filling the tubes is the last step before bringing the system online. I like a nice fire … but it’s a cold way to heat your house.

The loop filling contraption – hooks up to the domestic water supply, mixes the methanol, and pumps it into the loop field. Over a hundred gallons – since we know the diameter (3/4″ in the loopfield, 1.5″ to the house) and the length (8x 200′) … we’ll calculate the volume of the cylinder some day. But for now … we’re got HEAT!!!

About as messy as a bean can be …

She managed the full Glastonbury experience without leaving home — shoes stuck in the adobe-eque mud, clay mud coating everything. We’re going to turn the geothermal dig site into Anya construction play land next year — take the toy excavator & dump truck out, make some roads, and generally get filthy.