Hate to admit it, but I am a compulsive manager.  Which is to say when there is something to be done, the first thing I do is sit back with a big cup of coffee and think about how to accomplish the task in the most methodical & efficient way possible.

This applies to Christmas, as much as anything else.  So, now and then over the next few weeks, I’ll show you a couple of ways to make Christmas shopping a very short, joy-inducing, event.  Nothing but brain cells and clicks, as Ure sees it.

The only real problem is deciding which method to follow to get to the sweet-spot of the joyous holiday blah, blah, blahs…

(Continues below)


The first idea I came up with is called Room-by-Room.  We have By-Gender, then there’s By-Hobby, and several others.

Which oughta be obvious, unless you’re hung-over or just need a caffeine infusion before taxing the brain.  Let’s wander around Uretopia ranch and I’ll point out a few things…

Front Gate:

The front gate of this place is usually open.  In rural East Texas, that’s short-hand for “we’re home and open to receiving guests provided you called first and we’re expecting you...”  That’s also “rural code” for “We can drop you from here…”

An open gate also means the mailman and the PS and FedEx drivers are welcome.  There are too many times (talking to our drivers, who play Santa several times a week all year-long) that a closed gate would result either in a trip to Palestine (14 miles) or to Tyler (37 miles) to pick up a missed delivery.  Gate’s gotta be open.

Still, we’ve been eyeing this Mighty Mule MM360 Automatic Gate Opener for Medium Duty Single Swing Gates for 16′ Long or 550 lb.  The “problems” with this little project is obvious:  We don’t presently have 120 volt power up at the gate.  Putting it in isn’t terribly hard, except I’d have to rent a trencher ($$$) and pay OM2‘s son a few bucks, and that’d solve the power problem.

Provided, that is, we don’t cut the telephone cables and the water lines in the process.  Those are trip-wires.

At that, what could go wrong?  Well the power could go out.

And what about the delivery guys?  Do we give then a code?  Oh-oh, wouldn’t that mean a pour (of concrete if you’re a snoozing slicker) and putting in a pedestal and THAT in turn, means big trucks (thinking concrete and lumber yard delivers) won’t be able to make the turn.

Hmmm… there has to be some way to “tune-up” the look of the front gate.

Which gets us to a $12 LIYUDL Solar Powered house address number Lamp Light,3W 4 LED Waterproof Doorplate Stainless Steel Light.  While there’s only one review, I figure this could be mounted over the existing house numbers and that would be the extent of changing the look of the place.  $12 instead of $330.  I can live with that.  Our meanderings resume…

In the office, one of my chairs is being snarfy.  It’s hard to beat Amazon Basics for things like this.  So a AmazonBasics Mid-Back Mesh Chair for $65 will be my big “end of year” office splurge for the year.

Except for TurboTax Home & Business 2017 Fed+Efile+State PC/MAC Disc [Amazon Exclusive] on  disk, which runs $95.

Off to the guest room/gym next:  Bintiva Professional Grade, Non Slip Grip, Neoprene Coated Dumbbells 10 LB Pair – Blue is about the only thing I could think of. If you have a treadmill, weight machine, kettle balls and oxygen, what else is there? (Elaine already one dumbbell…what’s two more?)

Nothing to get for the bathroom in the guest quarters.  I did want to mention that back in September, I picked up a Winsome 92436 Luggage Rack with Shelf which at the time was $29-bucks.  Today it’s up to $39.  If this is a hint about tomorrow Consumer Price Report, call in the Astroglide crew.

Still, can’t say enough good things about the luggage rack.  Elaine keeps a basket of fresh towels on it and rolls up the bath mat there when we don’t have company.  Which is most of the time…

(The GQ water heater is behind that door, so nothing’s blocked…)

Moving to the shop, the Big One on the wish list is a plasma cutter. I keep thinking I would do more metal work except that cutting raw stock down with the chop saw is noisy.

I spend more time looking at Amazon’s Super Deal Plasma Cutter Cutting 50AMP CUT-50 Digital Inverter 110-220V Welding Welder Cutting Machine Dual Voltage w/ Free Mask for $229.  No, a handheld free mask doesn’t excite me, either.  But, cutting 1/2-inch steel without firing up the oxy-rig?  Yeah, now you’re talking something… (You know you’re aging some when you spend more time on the tool pages than  the porn pages…)

The problem I have (more like an addiction) is I love tools.  We’ve had the “tool slut” conversation before.

I was all set to check out not only with the plasma cutter, but a boat-load of consumables.  Even went over to the house to talk to Elaine about it.  “Do what you want, dear, it’s your money….”  OMG, they broke the mold: What a wonderful wife, right?

Then suddenly, on the way back to the office (which is off the shop) I stopped in my tracks.  All that long-ago MBA training came back to me in a flash…

If you buy a tool, don’t buy anything unless the work done with the tool will be at least 10 X the price of tool…otherwise, rent.

Well, spit fire and save matches!  $250 forth of cutter and consumables would mean $2,500 worth of cutting prior to welding.  That’s gobs of cutting!

Been thinking about welding up a trailer, though, but been stymied by the shipping costs of having metal delivered.  Non-trivial, at best.

For a second, the mental fog cleared:  We’ve lived 14-years out at the end of the wire with nothing more than  a pickup truck, so what did I need a trailer for?

The mental chatter began to scream:

You can get some of that great FREE stuff on Craigslist and be able to swoop in and pick up those bargains that show up on the Criagslist in the Materials section…”

Hold it! (Rational brain working again?) That would only result in what?  (all together: MORE WORK!!!)  I’m how old?

In the end, I decided something for the electronics bench made a hell of a lot more sense: An ESD Safe Compact Desoldering Station (CSI474A). Turned out to be cheaper (by far) than the plasma cutter ($130 vs. $250) and I really do work on thousands of dollars worth of equipment.  So this one (I’m telling myself) makes the 10X rule.

The 10X rule is very useful. I came up with a corollary you might be able to use if the plasma cutters go on sale in January or February:

What if we consider 10X time savings as a criteria?  That would give us a more “wiggle-room.” And it’s how I justified the rototiller:  The garden soil would NEVER get turned over without a tiller.  Given a shovel, it’s like trying to turn  over pieces of a parking garage floor.  Ever try planting in Quik-Crete?

Speaking of which!  We have a few bare spots in the yard that just never want to fill-in right.  That’s because the soil is concrete-like.  While I was shopping the answer seemed to be stuff: Liquid Aerating Soil Loosener- Aerator Soil Conditioner- No Mechanical or Core Aeration- Simple Lawn Solutions- Any Grass Type, All Season- Great for Compact Soils, Standing water, Poor Drainage..  Sure: $30 bucks, but better than not having the lawn established and weeds coming up.

We will get to this March, or so.  Figure by the time I get around to reading the directions.  By then, soil temps will support grass seeding again.

One other tool – and this is part electronic, part cook: ES6530B Non-Contact Digital Laser IR Infrared Thermometer Temperature Gun for Kitchen Cooking BBQ Automotive Industrial, -58? – 1022? (-50? to 550?) with HD Backlight LCD Display Accuracy Reading which was $33.

The idea of having this around the electronics bench is being able to check component temps without electrocuting yourself.  It also has other uses, like seeing how hot the oven is when proofing yeast which like 94F ideally.

We (*Zeus the cat and me) spent a fair bit of research time on this:  The “critical measurement” on these thermometers is called the D:S (distance to sense) ratio;  Cheap units are about 8:1  while a better unit is 12:1 and realty good (meaning more expensive) are 20:1.

The 8:1’s give a reading in about a 2-inch circle at one foot.  The 12:1’s should give about an  inch of spot at a foot.  The 20:1 units will give you 3/4-inch at a foot (or better).  The 20:1 units are more spendy but sometimes you get what you pay for.

So much for thinking about Christmas….

I’s invite you to wander through the House, but that’s Elaine’s domain.  And pappy didn’t raise no fool.  Or, did he?

Write when you see the first wild turkey of the season…


Markets Get Some Data - Much Hype
What Will Drive Markets? Bitcoin Dims