Adventures in cleaning out the dryer vent

One of the things you might do around the house while working from home these next few weeks is home repair.  But be careful that you don’t get injured!  Now is not a great time to have to go to the emergency room!

We had been noticing that our dryer was taking longer and longer to get things dry.  DH thought maybe our lint tube thingy was clogged again.

Ewww lint clogged tubes

So he vacuumed all the lint areas in the dryer and then bought a snake from home depot and snaked as far as he could snake.  And some stuff came out.  But that just made things worse– he managed to complete clog the tube so no air would come out.

Unfortunately instead of doing something sensible like venting out to the side into our driveway, our dryer vent takes a long tortuous path up and sideways and up to vent in the roof.  That results in a weird little built-out above the cabinets in our utility room.  DH had to take that apart to get to the vent.  Afterwards he had to close it up and paint over it again, but the only picture I have of that has too much of him in it to be anonymous (though you might just think I’m living with a celebrity since he does have a famous look-a-like).

How stupid is this when the driveway is like right there to the right?

Sadly, even after taking this part apart, air still wasn’t going through. Nothing was working. So we did two things.  First, we took the dryer completely apart.  It was clogged and disgusting.  I don’t think this picture fully captures the cloggedness– this is like 70% packed hard dryer lint by volume.  It took effort to pull it all out.

Caked dryer innards.

A grocery bag full of lint from the dryer.

Then, nothing worked to unclog the tube.  DH tried some dumb stuff like taping a box fan in a garbage bag to it (I’m like that does not seem like it could possibly be powerful enough to do anything, but hey, you’re the engineer) and started worrying he’d created a dangerous fire hazard while I determined that if you want someone to fix this for you, you need to hire a chimney sweep company (some plumbers will do it too, but it’s mainly a chimney sweep thing), but none of the sweep companies in a 90 mile radius online serviced our county.  I left a message for one (this being a Sunday when DH tried it), but by the time they called back the next week we’d already solved the problem ourselves.

So… the second thing we tried, the one that solved the problem was buying an electric leaf blower.  Now, I HATE leaf blowers with a fiery passion and we continuously remind our lawn service that we don’t want the sidewalks blown (at least they asked this year instead of just “forgetting”).  But… we needed the clog fixed before something sparked a fire and we had loads of laundry to do!  And an electric leaf blower was probably going to be less expensive than hiring someone from the nearest city and paying time for driving out here.  (Why electric:  because we don’t want a gas motor running inside the house, the same reason we had to run a generator outside the house that time DH forgot to get our electricity turned back on over 4th of July weekend.)  Buying the leafblower was just a little more expensive than renting and saved a trip back to home depot.  It is now in our shed for the next time we need to unclog something.

The electric leaf blower was impressive.  It looked like it was snowing.  Worked like a charm in only a few minutes.

After the bulk had floated down and been captured for disposal. Some still remains on the roof.

Lint snow on our plants. In our driveway. Where it the vent could have just, you know, vented.

And… now our laundry dries in 50-60 minutes again.  Even full up.  WHEW.

Though this whole debacle did add a lot of dust to the house and DC2 and I both got hives and had to take Zyrtec until DH and DC1 vacuumed/wiped everything down.  Perhaps we should have taken the dryer apart outside and started with the electric leaf blower.

Disclaimer:  If you try this at home, please read up a lot on how best to do it and for goodness sakes, do not do anything that could get you injured.  At least not until the covid-19 vaccine is available (12-18 months from now…) and you’ve gotten it.

link love

The assistant to the president and director of social media at the white house doctored a Joe Biden clip that President Trump then retweeted.

 

Postcardstovoters has a campaign right now getting Democrats in Florida to sign up for voting by mail.  That sounds like something good to do while sipping on your quarantini.  Here’s info on how to get postcards and stamps and how to sign up.  (You can just stick them in your mailbox when you’re done for the postal worker to pick up!)

How one blogger got refunds back after cancelling their Japan trip.

Should schools be closed?

Male privilege is real

More money, more options.

I hugged my children close and begged them to never go on the bachelor franchise 

 

Ask the Grumpies: HOW DO I SWITCH TO VIRTUAL TEACHING???!???

AnonSLAC asks:

We JUST found out that classes are going to switch to online for the rest of the semester starting next week.  I teach one lecture class (two sections, chalk and talk with lots of diagrams and equations) and a discussion class.  I have in-class exams coming up.  What do I DOOOOOOOOO?!??!

Any help would be appreciated.

I feel you.  For my midterm on Monday, if school is cancelled (we’re still waiting to hear(!)), I’m planning on having them all sign into Skype or Zoom and I will virtually proctor them via video.  I can do this because they’re all required to have laptops.  I also know they all have smartphones so they will be able to scan in their exams and mail them to me as pdfs.  I am not looking forward to this outcome because I know there will be technical difficulties.  But I’m assuming it will be better than creating a take-home that’s more challenging and harder to grade… and I had cheating problems last semester so I can’t just trust them to do a timed take-home on their own without the monitoring.  (They do get a cheat sheet so this kind of cheating won’t be a problem.)  I’m trying to figure out what to do for people without printers– they could take the exam blue-book style, which is probably going to be the best option, otherwise they will have to pick up envelopes with exams from on campus.  I should scan in the probability distribution tables.

I think I’m just going to gut my discussion class.  We’re only going to do the major required points and cut out the “fun” day.  I’ll have the students record their voice over powerpoints (I need to figure out how to do this) and upload them … and then require each student to ask at least one question and answer the main points questions as homework.  For one of the weekly assignments they’ll comment on people’s discussions on blackboard instead of in person.  And I’ll have them answer all questions from the reading as homework somehow instead of as in-class discussion… not sure how to get them to read other people’s though.  May have to have a second homework as well.  SIGH.  Or I could just let it go.

For my chalk and talk lecture I’m torn between videotaping all my remaining lectures and letting them watch asynchronously vs. doing a virtual lecture with my apple pencil and some computer program on my iPad during our regular class time (I’ve been testing out zoom with the whiteboard, though everything has to get erased after each page).  I could cold call and have them chat for that.  It might not be so bad if I can figure out a good program for it.  I wish I could remember which meeting program that I used like 3 years ago to talk to a statistician was the one that made it easy to write via hand and have people comment.

Our business school recommended zoom for all their professors/students, which our university provides for free to us.  We’ve gotten no guidance yet, but it looks like if you don’t get the professional version from your school it cuts off at 40 min with the free version.

I have been scouring the interwebs for suggestions.

Here’s the chronicle of higher ed on how to go online in a hurry.  Here’s a thread from someone in China.  Almost all, possibly all, my students this semester are local so I’m hoping there won’t be internet problems.

Here’s a couple of different things on how to teach using the ipad Pro and Apple Pencil (note, if you do not have an Apple Pencil, you will need to get one that isn’t personalized since it took a while to get a personalized one from China even before the Corona Virus).  1. Scott Dawson.  2.  teachbetter.coExplain Everything looks promising for this set-up, though it is not free.  Google hangouts (free) and Google Classrooms (your uni needs to have a license) is being pushed by a friend’s university.  I’ll probably end up with Zoom since many of my students are already familiar with it since our university has a site license for it.  I really hope I don’t lose my apple pencil again.

But really I’m hoping that Grumpy Nation will have suggestions about what to do.  Because, like you, this is a brave new world for me.

Grumpy Nation– have any of you done online classes or hybrid classes?  Any suggestions either for lecture or discussion?

Tell us about your pets

We only have one kitty now, Nice Kitty, and she truly is a nice kitty.  She is very polite and understands that she should only get demanding about morning food after DH has dropped off DC1 at the bus stop.  Prior to then she might occasionally sing the song of her people, but more like when you have your windshield wiper on the lowest setting.  Mow.  Mow.  And only after DH has gotten out of bed.  She understands routines and doesn’t deviate from them much.  (Though when it’s cold she sleeps on our bed and when it’s warm, she stays in the living room or in her own room (she has claimed the guest bedroom as her personal hangout) )

Do you have a pet?  Share something fun or lovely about them!  Because the best part of the internet is the animals.

RBOC

  • DH’s relative’s kid got into the closest regional school!  No word on financial aid yet.  Hopefully it won’t be too bad.  We’ve decided to put off thinking about how much we’ll expect him to contribute once we see the numbers.  We can definitely cover tuition, but living expenses is double that.  Ideally we’d be able to do a dormroom, mealplan, and books on top of tuition, but that could get pricey.  I’d prefer for him not to have to take out loans, but subsidized loans are not the end of the world.
  • We are sending DC1 to a fancy out-of-state specialty camp this summer for a week.  The camp only picks up kids DC1’s age who are flying Southwest Airlines (because they won’t pick up “unaccompanied minors” and SWA allows 13 year olds to travel alone) who land/leave at specific times.  We got everything figured out, including taking SWA at Christmas and having DC1 lead us around the airports etc. … and then they changed the flight.  But, although cutting things close, it was still in the allowed time window.  Then they changed the flight home so that zie would have to change planes.  In Orlando.  There are no longer any direct flight options for the way back.  And… DC1 is 13.  We can’t do that.  Our current plan is to keep the flight there (assuming it doesn’t change again) and to cancel the flight back.  (They are allowing us to refund without penalty.)  Instead DH or I will book a r/t and DC1 will get a one-way with a different airline that does have a direct flight to the airport closer to our town so that DC1 is accompanied on the way back.  This will greatly increase the time and the cost.
  • Burt’s Bees baby shampoo changed its formula so it’s itchy just like everything else (I am not the only person to complain about this– the Target comments section is full of complaints starting around 7 months ago).  Now what am I going to do?
  • Getting another tax refund from the government that goes directly back into estimated taxes for next year and a tiny refund.  I guess this is ok with us?  It seems silly though.
  • Emergency fund is finally full again for the summer.  Since we didn’t have to pay taxes or estimated taxes I don’t need to hold on to the excess, not that there’s much excess yet, but in a couple months there may be.  Of course, it might be best to keep the excess in cash for that first bullet point come August.  I hope the financial aid information comes soon so we can plan all this out.
  • DH’s company was supposed to get a Phase 4 grant from the DOD this summer (verbal agreement, not in writing) that would pay for several years of the company, but then the guy in charge at the DOD got promoted and the project got transferred to another department and that funding is no longer likely to be forthcoming.  So now it looks like the company has full funding through the summer, but they’re going to need to secure more funding after that.  So… I guess I won’t be doing a lump to DC2’s 529 this year since we might need the cash instead.

Link Love

Poverty grew in one third of counties despite a strong national economy.

Men who harass women online are literally losers.

Hot take on imposter syndrome

Code for pretty stata graphs

How do I find a personal assistant: Ask the Grumpies

Houstonian asks:

I just got a huge raise at my corporate job and am now making $180K as a single childless person with two cats.  I have way more money than time.  I’ve heard of people hiring personal assistants to do things like wait for the plumber or figure out how to get someone to refinish the front door and so on, but I don’t know how to go about doing that myself.  Have you ever hired a personal assistant?  How did you find them?  How do you figure out what to get them to do?  Any recommendations for working with them once I’ve found somebody?

At first I was going to say that we’ve never hired a personal assistant, but then I remembered that’s not actually true.  We’ve had mother’s helpers do additional personal assisting stuff.  So… I guess the lesson there is have a kid, then find a nanny or mother’s helper, and then hire them for more hours.  Kidding!  That is very much not useful advice!  Kids suck away way more time than personal assistants bring!

My first thought is that you should ask around and see what your higher paid colleagues are doing for personal assisting.  (Hopefully not all answers are, “My wife takes care of everything.”)  If they’re using someone part-time maybe you could hire the same person.  You can ask around to other folks as well– you may find that you have friends of friends who would love to get paid to sit at your house waiting for the plumber so long as they’re allowed to take their child along.

Otherwise, you might have luck with some of the online services out there.  I know some people swear by care.com for nannies, and I’m pretty sure they also do longer-term personal assistants.  People talk a lot about upwork.com and taskrabbit.com for smaller jobs.  Possibly you could try one of those out with a smaller project and see where that goes.  Alternatively you could advertise at a local community college or university.  I bet there’s a lot of Sam Houston State students eager to do odd jobs for $15 or $20/hr depending on where you live.

In terms of how to figure out what to get them to do– we wrote a really long list of tasks we needed to get done that just weren’t getting done.  For us this was things like painting DC1’s dresser or getting rid of a bush in the front yard.  There were a bunch of small deep cleaning things as well and some web-searching.  Once we got someone to take care of things, all of a sudden we had a ton of other stuff we realized she could just take care of and we wouldn’t have to.  It was great!  (Sadly for us, but happily for her, she graduated and her husband came back from Afghanistan and she left us for a full-time job.  But by then our list of delayed chores was empty.)  Some people use personal assistants for regular tasks like grocery shopping or laundry.  There’s a ton of stuff that people can do for you in exchange for money.

In terms of working for people– make things clear up front.  Make sure you know what their limits are and they know what your limits are.  What happens if they don’t show up or if they’re late?  How and when should they communicate questions?  How much autonomy do you expect them to have?  You may need to make this clear generally or on a project-specific basis.  It’s probably not that different than any kind of management you do at your corporate job, except that they have a different set of job responsibilities.  Be willing to fire people if you need to.

Here’s one person’s experience with hiring an assistant.

Here’s another person’s recommendations— I especially like the cat litter rule (yes, you can have a personal assistant clean out the cat litter box).

Here’s an entrepreneur article.

Grumpy Nation– do you have any experience with hiring personal assistants?  Do you have experience with being a personal assistant?  Any advice for Houstonian?