2017-01-17

How to park a car

Welcome!  Hopefully you found this page because you realize that you need to improve your parking.

A city has a lot of cars and not so many parking spaces.  In fact, most cities have way more cars than parking spaces.  This article is to help you maximize parking, so that you and your neighbors have a better change of finding a reasonable space.

Of course, every place has different parking laws, and those laws are usually designed to give residents a better chance to park.  If you get a ticket, pay up and learn your lesson.

Not all streets have marked parking spaces, so it is up to the skill and intelligence of drivers to properly park their cars.  The following tips are to help drivers park properly in such a situation:

Maximize

Always strive to park in a manner that allows room for additional cars.  Sometimes this is impossible, due to how cars have moved in and out of parking spaces.  Inefficient spacing in a parking zone can literally be nobody's fault, so be aware of the possibilities before you think of vandalizing someone's car.

Curb distance

Generally, you'll want to park as close to the curb as possible.  Generally 6 inches is a reasonable distance, but sometimes up to 12 inches is OK.  Anything more than 12 inches is a sign of a very lousy driver.

I usually leave about four inches from the curb.  You can't do that?  You need to practice - a lot of beginners can't park very well.

While parking, be sure to flip in your street-side door mirror.  Otherwise, a lousy motorist or biker might break it off.

Hydrants, Intersections, and No Parking signage

If you see a space adjacent to a no parking sign or a fire hydrant, you should park as close as legally permitted to that sign or hydrant.  For example, if a sign says "no parking in behind this sign", you should park immediately in front of the sign, with no more than 2 inches of clearance.  As another example, if you see a hydrant and the law where you live says you must leave 8 feet of clearance around the hydrant, you should park 8 feet in front of (or behind) the hydrant.

Pull Up Principle

Unless you are parking in the last space (due to hydrant, sign, or intersection), you should pull up to the car in front of you, leaving roughly 18 inches for clearance.  Leaving less than 10 inches of clearance is too little and may prevent that driver from moving.  Leaving more than 24 inches is too much, and unnecessarily wastes parking potential.


Wrong-Way Parking

Always park in the direction of travel.  Never park in the direction opposite of travel.

On Snow

Only a scumbag would take someone's recently-shoveled space without shoveling out a space in return.  If you take a space that someone diligently shoveled out, then you are morally obligated to shovel out a space for someone else.  Oh, you're a guest visiting?  Great!  Get out your shovel.  Don't have a shovel?  Great!  Find a garage to park in.

2017-01-15

The Craigslist Buyer's Guide by Lance J.

I sell a lot of things on Craigslist, and so I have gained some experience on what makes a good buyer versus a bad buyer.

I have never had a problem with Craigslist, but I am sometimes concerned that some buyers trust me too much. I am a great and honest seller, but I am unsure how some buyers know that.

So here are my tips:

The Basics
  • Always deal locally.  Never deal with home addresses, shipping or traveling significant distances.
  • Never deal with shipping or the mail in any way.
  • Never deal with anything other then US cash currency.
  • Never deal with very high value items. 
  • Never deal with trades.  In a trade situation, you need to be able to properly validate what you're trading for.  This can be very difficult.
  • An extremely good bargain is very likely a scam.  Don't bother.
  • Never respond to an ad with weird phone numbers or weird email addresses.  These are only used by people that have been kicked off of Craigslist.  In short, they are scammers.
  • Any seller (or buyer) who tells you that they are located out of state, deployed overseas, have a sick child, need a donation, own a shipping company, is a veteran or pastor, or who simply loves Jesus... is, without exception, a lying scammer.
The Item
  • Know the financial value of the thing you're buying.  Buying a MacBook Air?  Great, understand what they go for new, and see what a used one sells for via eBay Sold Items.
  • Always verify what you're buying.  If you're not an expert, get a friend who is an expert involved. Buying a guitar?  Great, get an expert friend to go along.  Buying a smartphone or computer?  Also get an expert friend to join you.
  • Inexpensive items carry less risk.
The Seller
  • Sellers who don't know what they are selling are bad sellers.  Avoid them.
  • Never blindly trust the seller.  Most sellers are great, but good con artists will appear great too.
  • Ask lots of questions, and look for any signs of an inconsistent story.
  • Never expect a refund, but ask the seller if he/she would support a refund if it isn't what it appears to be.
  • Always get telephone contact information from the seller.  Yes, there are disposable phones and phone numbers out there, but with some legal work they can potentially be traced back. 
The Location
  • Only meet in someplace safe.  If you have any doubt, do not meet.  If something doesn't feel right, don't meet and/or walk away.
  • Show up on time or slightly early.  A seller isn't going to want to wait around for someone who may never show up.
  • As a seller, I usually will meet a buyer in a place that I know, and where I think they should feel comfortable, such as the local coffee shop. And as a seller, I dictate where we meet, but will often give the buyer a bit of flexibility.

2017-01-13

The Pack Rat's Solution: Selling Junk on eBay, etc

I hate to throw things away.  Let's say my toaster breaks and I decide it isn't worth keeping.  Hm, maybe I'll harvest its knobs.

I've been doing this for years, because hey, you never know when you need a good knob.  But it has gotten a bit out of hand, and so with encouragement from my wife, I'm now selling this stuff.

Now on the surface, it seems that it would be a challenge for me to get rid off all of my "good junk". After all, if I sell all of my knobs, then I won't have a knob when I need one!  But actually, that's not the case. 

I'm happy that the knobs are going to someone that actually NEEDS them for good.  It's better for the knobs to go to a loving home where they'll be used as knobs, instead of sitting in a box in my basement until I'm dead, or going into a landfill where they'll decay over the millennia.  If I ever need that knob back, I'll just buy one on eBay.

I make very little money selling these little things - the vast majority (sometimes more than 80%) of an items' gross income goes into selling fees and shipping expenses.  But my wife is happy, the buyer is happy, eBay is happy, and the shipping companies are happy, and I do have a few hundred extra dollars in my pocket.

That's all pretty awesome.

2017-01-12

Dishwasher no longer cleaning well? Here's the easy fix!

I know a lot of people who have problematic dishwashers.  They no longer clean like they once did.  Happily, most dishwasher problems of this nature are very easy to fix.

Let's start with a quick review of how a dishwasher works:
  1. Detergent and water are mixed together within the dishwasher
  2. The dishes are blasted with this cleaning solution for roughly two hours
  3. The dirty waste water is drained out
But sometimes you run the dishwasher, and it seems to do all of the above steps, but the dishes don't come out clean, with food debris and dirt still around.  Where does this process go wrong?

Here are some steps to take to address the issue:

ALWAYS Scrape your dishes before loading.

Yes, those corn kernels and other food bits aren't going to be digested by your dishwasher.  They're just going to clog up the dishwasher, preventing the water from blasting your dishes.  No blasting means no clean dishes.

Yes, it says this in the manual, but you ignored it.  Take a dirty sponge or rag and wipe off your dirty dishes before loading them into the dishwasher.  Yes, your hands might get a little dirty!  Suck it up.

Use GOOD dishwasher detergent

Lousy detergent does a lousy job cleaning dishes, and no, it is not all the same.  Try different brands until you find one that works well.  I've been happy with the Target "pack" style detergent.   Recently, I've been less happy with Cascade.

Properly load your dishwasher

Your dishes should feel like they're riding in a bus, not like they're jammed into an overloaded elevator.

Make sure there is at least a half inch between the surfaces of your dishes.  Nesting will prevent the dishwasher from blasting all surfaces.  Also, don't allow your spoons, forks and knives to "nest together".  You can fill your dishwasher, no worries, but don't jam everything in. 

Clean the filter

Some dishwashers have a filter or screen in the bottom sump that should be cleaned periodically.  Read your dishwasher's manual and see your dishwasher has one. It's likely full of awful food waste from years gone by.  Also, check the water nozzles in your dishwasher and make sure they aren't clogged with gunk.  If they are clogged, you'll need to do something to unclog them.

Use JetDry or similar

Yes, it exists for a reason - it basically helps the water and detergent scrub your dishes harder.  Some detergent has this built-in, but most does not.  Using it is simple and inexpensive.

Energy saving tips:
  1. Fully load your dishwasher before running it.
  2. Don't use "super scrub" or other modes that just mask your dishwasher's issues.
  3. Don't use heated-dry mode.  It's an energy suck.  Air drying can be much more efficient.
  4. Use the timer to run the dishwasher over-night.  I have mine run at about 6 AM, and then I can immediately empty it in the morning as I brew my coffee.
Other issues:
Leaks, a lack of water, or a lack of water pumping are much more serious issues.  Professional repair or replacement is likely the right course of action in these cases.
 



2017-01-11

WIFI Range Extenders have Limited Usefulness

A lot of friends and family have asked for me to install a WIFI range extender for them, so I decided to try one out.  I bought this TP-Link TL-WA855RE WIFI range extender for under $20.

The range extender I bought is very simple to use and does a good job at what it is designed for: You plug it in, and with a few configuration steps, you're in business extending your WIFI signal.  But range extenders do have significant limitations.

First, most range extenders have a single radio per band.  And therefore any traffic carried by them is going to be at about half speed.  Why?  Because a typical range extender is a pass-through device: every byte received by the extender needs to be immediately rebroadcast over the same radio channel.  That means a range extender needs to handle double the radio traffic of a typical router, effectively halving its useful throughput.


client ⇄ extender ⇄ primary wifi

Secondly, most range extenders are only range extenders.  They are not programmable routers.  You can not use them to build a "guest zone" or any other kind of new network. They generally do not operate as a gateway, but as a bridge.  There is no way to manage IP ports or implement a distinct WPA2 passcode.  And that greatly limits their flexibility.

In short, I'm glad I bought this extender - it is a fun toy and may be useful in a hotel or other zone where one can't improve the location or operation of the primary wifi access point.  But for home use, where the primary wifi base station can be re-located, re-configured, or upgraded, a range extender has limited utility.

2017-01-06

Bad Drivers

They say that 50% of drivers are better than average, and 50% are worse than average.

This is meaningless, as 90% of drivers are lousy, dangerous drivers.

There are a lot of cars out there, and therefore you see a lot of driving nonsense.  Drivers are texting, reading, and eating cereal from a bowl.  Drivers speed into intersections and crosswalks.  They crawl at traffic lights, they quickly accelerate and decelerate due to a lack of attention.  They ignore signs and roadway markings.  They ignorant that the pavement is wet and it's 32° F outside.

In the mean time, the police really can't keep up with it.  Pulling people over for minor infractions is a pointless game, particularly because cars pulled over increase traffic and therefore increases the potential for accidents.  Furthermore, it isn't right to give someone a $100 ticket for a stupid and meaningless infraction.  Cops generally have better things to do.

But when you add it all up, our roads are a dangerous mess.  About 35,000 people a year in the US alone are killed on the roadways.  But wait!  That 35,000 is only counts those that have died, and doesn't bother to count those with lost limbs, brain damage, or a crushed pelvis.  In all, over 3 million Americans are non-fatally maimed or injured every year on US roadways.

What can be done?  Does anyone care?

2017-01-04

Update on MetroPCS Service: Wifi Calling

I have another MetroPCS update, this time related to international travel.

I flew some 5000+ miles to some foreign countries with my MetroPCS-powered iPhone.

First, when I landed, I had no service: no voice, no texting, no SMS.  This wasn't a surprise, as MetroPCS is a US-only provider.

But this lack of service is actually a great thing, because it prevents a huge phone bill.  I recently traveled internationally with my AT&T-powered iPhone, and a few minutes of Internet usage (exclusively to do a flight check-in) cost me $40.  That kind of AT&T gouging won't be happening with MetroPCS.

BUT, there is something more exciting: Wifi Calling from International Locations!

Once I was hooked up to a local Wifi access point, I could make and receive phone calls and texts using my MetroPCS phone number.   So in a way, I was very connected, and had zero additional charges.




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