Coping: Christmas System 1: Room-by-Room

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…

23 thoughts on “Coping: Christmas System 1: Room-by-Room”

  1. George, when I got fed up with the local tweakers kicking my front door and stealing everything, I added a gate to the driveway and keep it locked. No fancy solar powered gate opener for UPS/FEDEX, I just buried a 55 gallon blue plastic drum in the ground with a pier block in the bottom and a lid I bought from Uline and it works great. No more missed packages.

  2. The thing with the gate – why not add a camera – perhaps hidden to see who is at your gate? Then you can screen deliveries.

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

    Oh my god all of that reminds me of myself.
    My wife made me downsize check I had tax records and budgets that went back to the early seventies and to do books books and more books.. My legacy wood mill and three of my lathes.. How I acquired my menagerie was to do a job I’d calculate materials tools and hours then get bids. Of course being considered a bottom feeder I had to do it the cheapest way. I never ever made enough money to receive any loans on the five away programs no matter how many hours you work part time jobs and temporary jobs are not applicable since their considered temp. Then having a ton of medical bills. Shoot early eighties kid fell out of a tree impaled himself on a branch and punctured his lung and heart they flew in a surgeon my boss was playing the stock market with our pay and wasn’t paying our health insurance. Home owners wouldn’t pay and the discovery that there wasn’t any insurance. The bill.. Just under a half mil. So I did it all the hard way.. My tools had to be sold cheap so the wife could park her car in the garage.

  4. G, the Mighty Mule MM360 gate opener looks like a mighty fine idea. Might I suggest a small welding hack…for a shelf to hold the Tannerite filled Metal bucket!Cant be too careful out there in the Texas boonies, damm “ninjas” are everywhere these days. As for trading..calling a top is most difficult in any market, as difficult or more so than buying the/a dip. Easy to say, very difficult in practice to buy a dip. Far more likely and and a lot easier to do is Buy the Breakout!

  5. “That’s also “rural code” for “We can drop you from here…””

    Perhaps that’s the answer to all politics?

  6. My objection to the cheap office desk chair is that the also cheap pneumatic lifter fails fairly quickly. Not being as handy as you, replacing the lifter has not been an option and the added cost makes the bargain chair not so much of a bargain.

  7. Had a chance to buy both a CNC plasma cutter system, and a professional desoldering station for <$200 last month. I passed on both for lack of space. However, such deals happen occasionally if one is watchful (and patient… very, very patient.)

    Durn near took out a brood of wild turkeys, two weeks ago on a road in rural Michigan – definitely dumber than their pheasant cousins…

    My IR thermometer (Amazon had it for <$10 last year as a Black Friday deal) has gotten more use on ICR engines than my soldering table.

    Not impressed with the chemical aerator. Go to a bait shop and buy a couple hundred red worms or night crawlers, instead.

  8. Well, when you live in the Colorado outback, Wild Turkey’s are frequent, drop-in visitors. Their lovely voices keep me “on-track” when feeding old horses and tossing bread bits to the birds and bunnies. To celebrate the bird’s arrival, I bought a bottle of Wild Turkey and vowed to take a shot each time they showed up in back yard or on the security cam system (any excuse works, right?). Took less than 30 days for the 750ml “juice” to go away and the “herd” (normally 2-4 birds) grew to about 10 per visit. No, none are being considered for T-giving victuals. Just trying to decide if the whiskey caused the herd to grow or just another excuse to “well, just one shot” while in the home office headquarters doing the daily smiling and dialing.. Keep up the great work!

  9. 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”

    Phew sounds familiar except with me it was. The legacy mill..
    I looked at it marveled at what you could do with it it was the coolest thing and at bargain price.. When I jumped it was 2500.00 my wife was furious why do you want that.. Well a man could.. And he could I’m going to.. I was going to make so much.. It arrived I did what most men do that buy expensive toys that they’ll rarely use I stored it away so it could grow dust.. Then when I pull it out..where did you get that oh hun its been here forever where have you been. (Similar to my theory of how govt. Works with secrets.. In plain sight justifiable deniability) what was funny is.. A guy never unpacked it.. This guy didn’t make this and that I wasted the cash for a toy where if I had been smart just had someone with one make the parts I needed.
    I’m not sure about Palestine Texas but here layup cost is fifty dollars plus material. I made a mount out of cardboard and a scissors total cost of the mount 74 I see mounts everywhere like my old cardboard one now that sell for ten times what mine cost when I had a brain fart.
    So how often will you really use it. Can you use it enough to justify the cost. Those are the questions I ask myself. I also write for tool catalogues. Since most of my tools were look at only I can visualize the tools and save the cash

    • I have always been curious.. and years ago you go along and you wonder.. Hmm I wonder what they do there..
      well I would drive by this lumber yard.. every day in the middle of nowhere.. what was funny was there wasn’t any movement.. no shipments in nothing moved in the yard and my curiosity got the better of me. So one day I decided I wonder what they make there.. I stopped by.. my first guess should have been the elven foot high fences with Constantine wire on top and more camera’s than you could shake a stick at.. the double cypher lock on the main door with visual id system similar to what I worked around in the service.. I walk in six guys each had more gold on their hands all shut their computers off.( this was before computers were a common thing they were rare..) one gentlman came out cashmire sweater rolex watch with the nugget band hand made shoes and asked what do you want.. I said oh I see you are a lumberyard and was curious wht kind of wood do you sell any rare woods or just common woods.. we don’t sell rare wood and we don’t sell wood to the general public.
      well thank you I appreciate your time. and left.. every hair was up on the back of my neck.. that was on a tuesday.. on friday the place was totally closed with everything gone.
      I still wonder what that was about but am thankful I don’t.. my wife won’t allow me to just walk up to a place and ask anymore either..

  10. Re: cutting metal….
    Really George, you should just use a used metal horizontal cutoff Bandsaw, the old Kalamazzo were the best, no burned metal, no slag, and if you are smart use water+Borax as a cutting fluid, WD40 on machine to prevent rusting, Borax solution works better than all the oil cutting fluids, water has more cooling capacity and No Smoke. This is really nice on a lathe, high speed cutting- turning.
    I told a Rock Shop Guy about the Borax solution for the Diamond Wheel cutting Geodes and he never went back to the PCB oil product, he liked the no cleanup, no solvent mess.

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