Block heater cord

In order to start after -30C nights most cars around here have block heaters. Usually the plugs hang out from a radiator slot or just from under the hood. So in that-30C you have to hold the male end and hold the female end while wrangling a -30C stiff cable, while wearing mittens if you have any sense. I wanted the cord to be a bit tidier on the car, and make it so that plugging in is a one-handed thing that can be done more easily with mitts on. So, I took an existing plug and build a Casing for electrical cord plug to mount on a flat surfacenew body for it. I have done 3d modelling before, but this was my first exposure to Autodesk’s Fusion 360. It is the nicest 3d modelling software I have used so far – very easy transition from other tools I have used and it just works. I feel like a total sell-out to use it instead of an open source product like FreeCAD, but it’s like I tried crack, there is no going back.
A friend 3d printed the model for me, we installed it on Friday. The temperature was only -11C and sunny, but with a bit of wind. It was not optimal for playing with small parts and bare hands, but we got it done. For now the setup works, but it will be interesting to see how well the body and the silicon glue pad I used to hold it on will hold up. Generally gluing things in -11C is not a good idea, but this pad did better than I expected.  New blog heater plug on my car

Shim screws

I live in an old brick house in a city with clay soil. When we have a really dry summer the soil dries out and shrinks and everything shifts. Then, when we get enough rain, the soil expands and everything shifts again. If you go to older parts of town, few houses are straight.

In my house these soil changes cause my back door starts to stick, or for the frame to become so lose that it barely latches. I used to fuss around with shims to make this better, but it was a big pain and meant taking all of it apart.

Shim Screws
Shim Screw and crown driver bit

Bring in shim screws. They are a screw with a second screw that spins loosely as a sleeve around the head of the screw. You use a special crown drive bit to drive both the screw and the sleeve into your door jamb. The sleeve only penetrates as far as the jamb, while the screw itself drives into the wall/framing behind. Then you take off the crown bit and adjust only the center of the screw in or out from the frame. Because the sleve spins but can’t slide up or down the screw, the jamb moves with the centre screw.

If the explanation doesn’t quite make sense, there are a bunch of videos online that show it, just google GRK shim screw.

In the case of my back door these gadgets mean that I can now adjust my door in about 2 minutes with one tool, rather than an hour or so with half my toolbox. Like!


fern fiddlehead fern fiddleheadI always admire these little guys when they roll out for the year. So much potential!

I had quite a bit of difficulty getting my phone to autofocus on these. I even used a second phone and found similar problems. If I focused on the roots, it would work, but if I tried to focus on the fiddlehead itself it would focus on the background. I wonder if it has something to do with the spiral shape. Went online to find out more. Came up empty on the concept of spirals as a problem for autofocus, but went down the rabbit hole on spirals in general :-)

Sichuan peppercorns

I read about Sichuan Pepper in Cooking for Geeks a long time ago. I have been wanting to try a dish with them for a long time. Recently there was a post on the Winnipeg SubReddit that mentioned that the Golden Loong restaurant uses them. Yesterday I finally got to try their Kung Pao Chicken with fresh sichuan peppercorns. The basic taste is lemony. More importantly, they are tingly and change the flavour of everything in the part of your mouth where they burst, including the water you drink after. Of the four of us there, one hated the sensation, one didn’t much like it, and the other two liked it at least for the intensity of the sensation. I’d have it again. Very neat experience, and one thing gone from the geeky bucket list :-)

Mouse wheel fix

The scroll wheel on one of our mice was not working right. The mouse wheel is a disk with slots; light shines through the slots and that is how the computer knows when the mouse wheel turns. I took the mouse apart and there was all sort of dirt stuck in the little slots. Cleaned out, works fine now. Nice to see that not all electronics are only disposable and some things can still be fixed.


Mouse wheel with dust bunnies
Mouse wheel with dust bunnies