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!

Follow an RSS feed on any WordPress site

I use TinyRSS to do most of my daily web reading via RSS feeds. RSS feeds allow me to subscribe to most websites that use content management systems, such as WordPress or mediawikis. Usually there is a little icon for this , but some web sites and templates don’t include them.

To follow a WordPress site that doesn’t provide the link, manually set up a feed and put “/feeds” at the end of the site’s regular URL.

For example, to subscribe to
http://thewrench.ca
create a feed with
http://thewrench.ca/feed/

Removing hot glue with rubbing alcohol

Today I learned that you can remove hot glue with rubbing alcohol. Just drop or dab some around the glue, and then start pulling or prying it off. The alcohol seems to get between the glue and the substrate, it doesn’t dissolve the glue and make a mess of it.

Of course this makes hot glue that much more interesting for temporary fixtures or jigs…

Adding GoodReads and the local library to Firefox Context Search

The Firefox Add-on “ContextSearch” lets you highlight text in a web page and then use search tools of your choice to search on the term. I have it set up with Google, Wikipedia (choose English or German), Google Maps and some other tools that came with it.
Goodreads is a website that lets users review books. It and wikipedia are usually my first stops when looking up a book.

Today it occurred to me that it would be nice to also use it to look up books on Goodreads.

I set up a new search engine option using the URL
     https://www.goodreads.com/search?q=
I got that URL by searching for a book on the site, then taking the URL
     https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=small+angry+planet&search_type=books&search%5Bfield%5D=on
and stripping off everything after the “search?”.

The fact that this works makes me think it might work for other search tools as well.

URL for Winnipeg Public Library paper books:
https://winca.ent.sirsidynix.net/client/en_US/default/search/results?q=

URL for Winnipeg Public Library ebooks:
https://winnipeg.overdrive.com/search?query=

 

Tape Gun Masking Tape Dispenser

wall mounted tape gun with masking tape

I use masking tape a lot to label stuff, tack stuff in place mark a spot when measuring. And of course for masking.

Finding the start of the roll is a nuisance.
So, I put some in a tape gun and mounted it upside down so it’s a dispenser when stored.
I was not sure at first how well this would work since the tape is mounted sticky side up. I have had this up for more than 6 months now, and sometimes the tape isn’t used in weeks. I am pleasantry surprised how well it still works after that.

Shin pads are moldable

I have been searching for new shin pads for soccer for a while. Most that are on the shelves here are thick and and awkward. I finally got some anyway (Nike Mercurial Lite), but hated them because they were way too wide in the bottom.
Then someone mentioned that hers were intended to be heat molded. I figured the chances of mine being a thermoplastic were pretty good. So, I put them into a pot of boiling water for about a minute and pushed them into shape over a pair of socks. They molded quite easily. Wrapped a velcro strap around them while they cooled down, and they now seem to hold their shape nicely.
The finish that used to be shiny on the outside is now a bit wrinkly; this may actually be a good thing, maybe it will make them less slippery.
Will have to see if they last and keep their shape.

Using wikidata to link to an article about a disease on wikipedia by ICD-10 code coded as property on wikidata

Wikidata is a sister project to Wikipedia that encodes much of the information on Wikipedia into discrete data values that can be queried.

I needed to document some ICD10 diagnoses and wanted to add links to Wikipedia as part of that. I did not know the actual names of the articles on Wikipedia, though. Manually, I could have found them using a search, but that would be a lot of work for >1700 diagnoses.

Turns out that Resolver will do this.  The following link will resolve the ICD10 code (P4229) with value K37 (corresponding to appendicitis) to send me to the Wikipedia article for appendicitis:
https://tools.wmflabs.org/wikidata-todo/resolver.php?prop=P4229&value=K37&project=enwiki

You could use similar code to link to a city by postal code or an animal by its taxonomic name, or using any of the thousands of properties available on wikidata.

See here for an example on how to use this with semantic mediawiki.

Zapier

An organization I am involved with does its internal communication and broadcasts exclusively through Slack. In my mind, Slack is “evil” because it lets communication in but doesn’t seem to provide tools to let communication out. For example, they don’t provide RSS feeds. I do most of my daily surfing through RSS feeds.

Today I figured I should look into this further and posted the question on the Slack Reddit.  Someone suggested I could do this through Zapier. I had never heard about them: they provide integration between different web apps. Sure enough, 15 minutes of tinkering later I now have an RSS feed from that Slack channel.

Update: It turned out very quickly that Zapier will only let you do so many updates for free. It doesn’t even reset over time. So, unless you are willing to pay for this, don’t bother with them.

Things should not be so complicated, but when they are, it is good to have a tool like that!