Showing posts with label guides. Show all posts
Showing posts with label guides. Show all posts

Sunday, July 13, 2014

How to Complain about the USPS

As the United States Postal Service employs many thieves and lowlifes, there is no guarantee that complaining will get one anywhere. However, this site offers information on how to complain against the government-run monopoly when it does its usual bit of stealing, lying and obfuscating.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Turn Off AT&T's Voice Mail Indicator Light

I told the technician I didn't want AT&T's voice mail service when he installed U-verse. Nevertheless, all my phones started blinking with the voice mail message indicator after he installed U-verse.

To get around this particular AT&T annoyance, call 1-888-288-8893, go to setup, and turn off the voicemail message indicator. This is just another bullying attempt by AT&T to try to pressure their customers into buying more unnecessary and inferior AT&T services.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gay Atheist Marriage Vows

I edited already existing marriage vows to reduce their verbosity and make them appropriate for an atheist gay male couple. Feel free to use as desired.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here together to join together this man and this man in Matrimony. Into this important institution these two persons come now to be joined.

"If any man can show just cause why they may not lawfully be joined together, let him speak now or forever hold his peace.

"__________________will you have this man to be your lawful wedded
husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him in sickness and
 in health; and, forsaking all others, keep you only unto him as long as
you both shall live?

"__________________, will you have this man to be your lawful wedded
husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him in sickness
and in health; and, forsaking all others, keep you only unto him as long
as you both shall live?"

[Present one ring for each man] "The marriage rings seal the vows of marriage and represents a promise for eternal and everlasting love.

"(Groom: Repeat after me) I __________________ take thee,
_______________ to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day
forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and
in health, to love and to cherish forever, and thereto I give thee my

"(Groom: Repeat after me) I __________________ take thee,
_______________ to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day
forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and
in health, to love and to cherish forever, and thereto I give thee my

"Forasmuch as ____________ and ___________ have consented together in
marriage, and have witnessed the same before this company of witnesses
and each other, and there to have given their pledge, each to the other,
 and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring, and by
joining hands; by the power vested in me by the good State of ____, I now
pronounce you husband and husband.

"You may now kiss.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I now present to you Mr. And Mr. ________________."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

State-by-State Air Quality Data

I just discovered, which I suspect is another good idea from the Democrats. On that government-run site, air quality is clearly displayed on a map for all of the fifty states. I think it is very useful for anyone that might be considering relocating, but particularly those who suffer from asthma. I have noticed that living in one of the states with "moderate" air quality is bad for asthma sufferers.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Do It Yourself Last Will and Testament

Here is a generic Last Will and Testament for single folk with uncomplicated lives. I shamelessly pilfered it from the Internet and dumped all verbiage that did not apply to single people with no children.

Whether it will stand up in a court of law, I don't know, but it seems right to me. Whether a will can survive a legal challenge depends on which side can buy the best lawyer (or judge). But this will represents a quick and cheap solution to a nagging problem that most of us put off until it is too late. The question is not whether to write a will, but why not write one? Although there is a potential downside--you supply your designated heir with a motive for the worst sort of crime, just like in an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

However, since gay marriage is likely to remain illegal for the foreseeable future, any gay couple should have on hand a Last Will and Testament to protect each spouse in the event of unforeseen tragedy.


Short form of a will for a single person with no children

Will of _________

I, _________[name of testator], _________[if known by other names, add: also known as _________ and _________,] domiciled and residing at _________[address], _________ County, _________[state], declare this to be my last will and testament, and revoke all other wills and codicils.


1. I am single and have never been married.
2. I have no children, living or dead.
3. My family consists of the following persons: _________[describe].


Reference in this will to the term “_________” shall mean _________.


I direct that my funeral expenses (including the cost of a suitable grave marker), the costs of administering my estate, and all legal debts allowable as claims against my estate be paid out of the general funds of my estate before any distribution of such funds to any of the beneficiaries mentioned below.


I direct that all taxes imposed by reason of my death on property passing under or outside this will be paid out of my residuary estate.


I give and bequeath my personal effects, _________[describe], to the following persons: _________.


My residuary estate is all my property remaining after the dispositions specified in Paragraph V of this will, whenever obtained, including property not otherwise effectively disposed of in this will, and property as to which I have a power to appoint. I give, devise, and bequeath my residuary estate to: _________.


I appoint _________ as my executor, without bond, of this will. My executor shall have the following powers, in addition to those granted by law: _________.
I subscribe my name to this will on _________[date], at _________[address], _________ County, _________[state], in the presence of _________, _________, and _________, attesting witnesses, who subscribe their names to this will on _________[date] at my request and in my presence.



On the date last above written _________[testator's name], known to us to be the person whose signature appears at the end of this will, declared to us, the undersigned, that the foregoing instrument, consisting of _________ pages, including the page on which we have signed as witnesses, was _________[his or her] will. _________[He or She] then signed the will in our presence and, at _________[his or her] request, in _________[his or her] presence and in the presence of each other, we now sign our names as witnesses.

residing at
[Signature] [Street, city, state]

residing at
[Signature] [Street, city, state]

residing at
[Signature] [Street, city, state]

Monday, April 6, 2009

Plumbing 201, installing an outdoor faucet

My previous class, Plumbing 101, is not a prerequisite for this course, but is recommended for aspiring students of Igor's Do-It-Yourself University.

This course explains how to install a new faucet in your yard for an outdoor hose. I taught myself this bit of lore last year. All that you need in material costs no more than thirty dollars. With a bit of luck, you should have a Home Depot nearby that offers plumbing equipment. I love that store. It is the friend of the do-it-yourselfer. The basic tools you need are:
  • a hacksaw to cut through PVC pipe. I prefer a convertible saw whose blade can be replaced with either a wide-toothed blade for cutting wood or a fine-toothed blade for cutting metal or PVC.

  • PVC pipe, including any joints and connectors you require.

  • primer and glue. The new types of formulas that combine both seem to work fine, from my experience, and do save a bit of time, but are slightly more expensive.

  • an outdoor faucet. I prefer one that is metal and capable of withstanding abuse.

  • tape measure.

  • a masonry drill if drilling through concrete, or a regular drill, if wood. You may be able to rent a masonry drill from the store, but ask your older and better established local friends if you can borrow one instead.

  • If you are working underneath the house in a dimly lit crawlspace, be sure to get yourself a bright light bulb (CFL works fine, but incandescent bulbs may be cheaper and more durable) attached to a long cord.
With planning, you should only have to make one visit to the store. Measure how long your new pipe needs to be and buy extra length just in case you need more. You can always cut away unneeded length, but adding length takes more time, requiring a connector, new pipe, and sealing.

I had to visit the store about three times. In one case, I discovered that the diameter of the pipe I had purchased did not match the diameter of the existing pipe. The measurements written on the pipes matched, but the actual diameter varied from the stated diameter. For this reason, I advise that you measure the diameter rather than trusting what is printed on the pipe. One trick is to wrap a strip of paper around the pipe, cut the strip until it is an exact measurement, and then measure the strip.

The employee serving in the Home Depot plumbing section proved knowledgeable and gave me an impromptu lesson on plumbing techniques. I recommend listening to these guys. In many cases, they can save you time shopping and prevent you from making costly mistakes. However, the good guy was only there in the evenings. During the day, he was gone, and know-nothings were there in his place. Know-nothings are hired because they are cheaper. Visit in the busy evenings, and you are more likely to get a good guy with valuable contents between his ears.

There is no harm in buying extra parts just in case you need them. The cost of extra parts is just a few dollars at most, but the savings from avoiding another trip to the store are considerable in terms of gas, time and most of all, frustration. I was fortunate that Home Depot was willing to let me in after their official closing time of 10:00 PM. I knocked on the glass door and in polite terms, explained that I was in the middle of a plumbing project and faced an emergency, and if it wasn't fixed, I'd be without water the entire night. Since Home Depot was nothing but nice to me, they receive a free mention in my blog. Notice, business owners, that this is one of the many benefits of treating customers well. Imagine, if Home Depot had been not so nice, what I would be writing now. I have nothing but good things to say about Home Depot, though, unionized or not. For years, they have offered domestic partner benefits to their gay employees.

Believe me, when it comes to plumbing, planning is the most important thing you will do. You face a critical decision. Which pipe do you intend to cut and join to your new pipe? In my case, I chose the pipe leading to the bedroom bathroom cold water. I verified it was the right pipe by having my boyfriend turn on the cold water while I was in the crawlspace under the house, feeling the pipes until I felt vibration. Obviously, you do not want anything to do with the drain pipes or hot water pipes!

Before you make any cuts to existing pipes, you should have in your mind all of the pipes, joints, and connectors you will need. You should measure the precise lengths and diameters required. If you are the forgetful type, write all this down.

Once you have all your materials assembled, drill a hole through the wall of your house, or the foundation, where the desired faucet will be. Drill the minimum diameter required to push a pipe through the hole. The hole can later be sealed with a variety of materials, although concrete will complicate making any adjustments in the future.

Next, turn off the city water or the well water, if you are using a well. City dwellers should find the water main in the front yard under a rusty plate. You may find nothing but mud in there. Use a trowel to excavate the lever that turns the water off. I used a vice-grip to turn the water off. At this point, if anyone is taking a shower in your house, you may hear a scream.

With the water main switched off, go inside and turn on the cold water faucet connected to the pipe that you intend to cut. This is to drain the existing water from the system. You won't get all of it, but the idea is to get as much as you can before making the cut. The less mess, the better.

Go under the house again and use the hacksaw to cut the pipe. You need to make two cuts, taking away a measured length of pipe. This permits the addition of a three-way joint, reconnecting the existing pipe and adding a third outlet for the purpose of your garden hose.

Your next instructions vary according to the schematics to reach the outlet. You should connect everything first in order to verify your measurements. Then you can go back and begin using the primer and glue to seal the various connections between pipe, joint and connector. Plumbing is a forgiving business, and if you make a mistake, you can always take away by sawing and reattach by gluing. Remember, you bought extra parts at the store just in case you needed them, as you may indeed discover now.

After all the pipe parts are glued together, wait the recommended length of time for the glue to cure. This should be about an hour or less. The next job, checking for leaks, requires two people communicating via phones, one inside and one outside examining the pipes. Turn on the water main, and run both faucets, the one indoors and the one outdoors, full blast, to determine whether a leak exists. With a bright light, inspect for leaks at every juncture between pipes. Look all around the circumference of the connections for the slightest trace of water.

If any amount of water is detected, that means the seal was imperfect or else you did not give it enough time to cure. If you're not sure whether there is a leak, wipe the water away with a cloth and wait to see whether another bead of water appears. If you detect a leak, you must replace the affected parts in order to use parts that haven't had primer or glue applied.

Since you are the plumber and have the luxury of time, you might want to check under the house a day later and maybe even a week later, just to make absolutely certain of no leak. For my part, I have checked several times over the course of a year and found everything satisfactory.

That's really all there is to it. A job like this would cost you two hundred dollars or more if you hired a plumber, due to the amount of time involved. The satisfaction you gain from doing it yourself is worth just as much as the savings. In this wealthy country, we hire professionals to do work like this that we could probably do ourselves. Your achievement is worthy of sharing with your friends at your next dinner party--a better item of conversation than your usual self-deprecatory jokes about middle-aged decay.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Plumbing 101

Your drain is stuck, but you don't want to call a plumber. I've been there many a time and have learned on my own how to clear drains. Here is Igor's List of Basic Plumbing Tips.

  1. Engage in preventative measures. Many plumbers recommend for a kitchen sink installing a garbage disposal ($200 or less if you do it yourself) to avoid a stuck drain resulting from chunks of food. I never installed one myself. Even a garbage disposal will not protect against oil and fat. Unless heated to a high temperature, oil will adhere to pipes. Capture and dispose of grease in the back yard rather than through the drain pipe. You can apply liquid grease to weeds in your back yard. It acts like an herbicide, but without the poison or the expense.
  2. In most cases, drain-clearing chemicals like Drano and Liquid Plumber will not help you. They may be acceptable for fixing slow drains, such as shower drains that may have build-ups of hair. However, a slow shower drain is not always a bad thing. Warm water lingering in the tub helps to warm the bathroom in the winter.
  3. For slow or stuck toilets and drains, the traditional plunger works best.
  4. Clogged sink? For about twenty dollars, Home Depot sells a device known as a plumber's snake, a long, segmented steel coil that can stab through a clog and has claws to actually extract a clog. This is sometimes all you need. Every home should have one.
  5. For a badly clogged kitchen sink, run a garden hose inside the house, attach it directly to the drain, and seal with a towel or other cloth. Apply water pressure to push the clog into the sewer. This works, but is messy, because water tends to leak no matter how well you cover the drain. But it beats calling a plumber.

These measures will save you $100 - $250 on a plumber's bill. Good luck.

Friday, February 27, 2009

You Can Buy a Car for $2000

In a better world, we would not need to buy a car. We could get around by hopping on a train. There would be no parking, no stress during the commute, and few accidents. The problem of drunk drivers would not be our problem. Spending money on car insurance, maintenance and gas would become a thing of the past. But we live in a country that has been held back in time by the conservative right-wing for a long time. The right-wing hates mass transit, because it helps the poor and the middle-class. Even talking about mass transit brings up fears concerning "socialism." Worse, mass transit connects non-white areas with white areas, and the racists worry about the exportation of crime from one area to another. For these reasons, mass transit never took off in the U.S. to the extent that it did in other cities around the world. Many of us need to buy a car just to get to work, because there is no mass transit, or the mass transit is inadequate.

The cardinal rule about buying cars is never buy a new one. This should be obvious, yet most of my friends and acquaintances still feel that new cars are the way to go. Upon my asking them why they bought a new one, the usual reasons given are:

1. They don't need all the money up front, but can buy on generous credit terms
2. A new car has no worries about potential mechanical failure
3. A new car looks better and feels better
4. A new car comes with a lengthy warranty
5. A new car has features which old ones do not

I suggest that all five of these advantages pale in comparison to the advantage an old car has of being cheaper. The truth is you can pay one-tenth the price of a new car and still be laughing all the way to the bank. First of all, do not use credit, ever, except when buying a house. Home mortgages enjoy certain tax advantages and other legal advantages, and everyone needs a roof over their head, although there are some that live out in the woods or under a bridge to avoid even that expense, but I'm not going to recommend you go there.

In order to avoid buying a lemon, you need only one thing, knowledge. This is obtained by reading about cars and learning about the differences between them so that you can judge a car based upon its documented advantages, the most important being reliability, rather than mere looks. Appearance means little, although if you are the "dress to impress" type, you should cough up a few thousand dollars extra for a nice paint job.

The best used cars by far will be found from your friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Spread the word around at parties and at work. You are more likely to get a good deal from someone you know, who will hesitate to take advantage of you because their reputation is on the line. To most people, their reputation is of far more value to them than a couple hundred dollars here or there. They will hesitate to lie to you in any way, because you might then complain to mutual friends. Now car salesmen will talk about how important their reputation is to them, but the reality usually is, you do not mix in their social circles, and they do not mix in yours. Car salesmen cultivate thick skins out of necessity.

If your friends are not in the market to sell a car, you can also find excellent cars that are for sale in the classified ads of your local paper or even on a web site such as Ebay. Try to buy from the original owner rather than a middle man. The original owner does not have to pay taxes on the sale in most states, whereas a car salesman does. Also, the original owner will usually cut you a deal if you can pay in full in cash, because he does not have a financing department, and not many people can pay in cash. Find the market value of a vehicle by referring to Edmunds. Remember, even though you want a cheap ride, the owner does not want to feel like he's being taken for a ride. You should pay fair value--what the market says the car is worth--which is usually very little. Any car over ten years old is likely to be a dirt cheap bargain.

Although you may get lucky with an American car, I have come to the conclusion that buying Japanese is the best plan, despite the fact that American used cars sell at a fraction of the price of Japanese used cars of the same type and year. I used to think that the marketplace was unfair to American cars, but actually the marketplace bends over backwards to assign value to American cars, value that the American cars do not deserve.

Expect to make a few repairs on your used car. Budget a couple thousand for potential repairs. In most cases, you will only wind up paying less than a thousand for repairs. You may be surprised to discover that cars made in the last twenty years have become quite reliable. I bought a fifteen year-old used Toyota Corolla for only $1500 from a friend, and it has been one of the best cars I've ever had, reliable in every way save one--the air conditioning broke. I didn't much care, because all four windows can still be rolled down. Fuel economy? How does 30 miles to the gallon sound? Good? I think so.

For better fuel economy and reliability, I decided to replace all four tires for $200. New tires represent an excellent investment, even more so when gas prices are high. An old tire that leaks air at a higher rate will generate more friction, whereas a fully inflated tire will generate less friction, improving fuel economy. Barack Obama referred to this fact during his presidential candidacy as one way ordinary Americans could reduce their dependence on foreign oil. The Republicans jeered at him, but he was spot-on. If the tires are alright, just inflate them to their recommended capacity. But when acquiring a used car, typically the tires need replacement. Even if the tires don't have obvious bad spots, hidden dry rot in older tires can create a potential for an expensive blow-out. Almost by default, I would recommend replacing the tires on a used car unless they look new or the owner states that they are indeed new tires. I also recommend changing both the oil and the oil filter upon purchasing the car. Every time you change the oil, in fact, you should change the oil filter, because it costs very little but has a strong influence on the quality of your engine's lubrication. You should also check the air filter and replace if it is dirty.

There are few things required to keep a car running these days, beyond the basics of oil, the air filter, and the tires. The rest can be left up to your neighborhood mechanic, preferably an independent shop, because once again you can't really trust the car dealerships, which tend to be thirsty for short-term gain and disinterested in treating customers right. For instance, I took my Nissan to a Nissan dealership and was told that I needed a $600 repair for a leaking valve. I took it to an independent, and he said I needed no such thing, and it turns out that he was right. Independent mechanics grow their business almost solely from word of mouth, and their reputation means a great deal to them. I have found independents to be honest almost to a fault. Remember the air conditioning problem I mentioned earlier in the article? My independent mechanic offered to adjust one of the belts to simply bypass the air conditioner, effectively disabling it, but allowing the car to function, which it was unable to do in the current state (the belt had become paralyzed). What did he charge for this? How about $15! Try to imagine a dealership even offering me the option of bypassing the air conditioner, let alone fixing the problem for under a hundred dollars.

In summary, if you want to save money--and you should--then buy used, buy from a friend, be liberal about replacing those car tires, never forget to change the oil every six months at minimum, and when your car needs work, take it to a reputable independent mechanic, preferably someone that a friend, relative or coworker recommends.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions