Brad vs. oxygen sensor: Brad ties game at buzzer, wins in OT

The last two things I had to do for the Saturn were to get an oil change and replace the post-catalytic oxygen sensor.

Today I took Elena out just to get out of the house, and we ended up at Wal-Mart for no particular reason. While there, I discovered to my surprise that Wal-Mart, or at least ours, does oil changes, with the nicest part being the fact that you can shop while they do it. Apparently they’re not allowed to advertise the fact that they do this, nor are they allowed to have external signs about it — something about zoning.

That left only the oxygen sensor. I tried removing it yesterday, but those things are, to put it mildly, difficult to move. I tried using a special ⅞” socket and running the car for a while to let things heat up, but when that didn’t work I checked more information online. People tend to use lots of penetrating oil, some heat things up with at least a propane torch, and some mentioned leaving the old one in and tapping a new hole.

Before Elena and I left the house, I called a local garage, Mo’s Garage and Towing. They removed the old sensor and put the new one I bought on, and they did it for fifty bucks. I would have spent somewhat more than that had I not done the other parts like checking the code and buying the sensor myself, so I still came out ahead.

Things I accomplished this weekend

Because Helen and I reviewed all our actions regarding home improvement and automobile maintenance, and because my employer asked all its employees to take a couple days of vacation this month, I found myself doing some things around the house. Here’s a list of at least some of the things I got done from Thursday through Sunday:

  • Cleaned the lens on Katrina’s camera
  • Repaired the driver-side mirror in the Saturn using Super Glue
  • Repaired center console in Saturn
  • Fixed the speaker rattle in the Saturn’s driver door
  • Fixed the lock in the Saturn’s front passenger door
  • Fixed the molding on the Saturn’s right rear passenger door
  • Rerouted dangling cable below Saturn (and crushed the Saturn’s jack when it failed — thank God I wasn’t under the car. I bought a much better jack for it at Meijer)
  • Replaced the broken brake light on the Saturn
  • Patched the stoplight lens and backup-light lens on the Saturn
  • Patched the stoplight lens on the Odyssey
  • Ordered new CrocsRx Relief for Helen
  • Read and cleared codes on Saturn causing “Service Engine Soon” light to come on using a tool I purchased
  • Purchased replacement oxygen sensor for Saturn and researched what I’ll need to do to replace it
  • Replaced broken sprinkler head
  • Oiled hinges in pantry
  • Oiled chair in living room
  • Bought new drywall for attic entrance in garage
  • Repaired several holes and gouges in walls around the house
  • Ordered new coffee maker for Helen, a programmable one with auto shutoff
  • Ordered new dishwasher; will be delivered on Tuesday, at which time I will install it myself
  • Replaced the fan in the master bathroom with one roughly six times more powerful (also required new duct work and framing in the attic, cutting ceiling drywall, caulking, etc.)
  • Patched and painted the wall in the first-floor bathroom (after removing shoddy first attempt)
  • Painted latches for shutters in master bathroom
  • Installed MacGourmet, a slick recipe organizer for Helen’s Mac, and input most of the recipes she had in separate files on her computer


Making things simpler

Recently I’ve started trying to improve my productivity by making things simpler. Some of the things I’ve done to do this:

  • Use an RSS newsreader. On my PC, I’m using FeedDemon, which also synchronizes with their site so I can read my news feeds when I’m on another computer such as Helen’s Mac. With it, I can see right away when dozens of sites like, Ars Technica, or Sarah or Amy’s blogs are updated without having to spend time visiting each site.

  • Use a task management system. I’ve read a bit about a system called GTD. I’ve also put most of the home tasks I have into a program called OmniFocus, which unfortunately is only available for Macs. I’ve begun investigating alternatives for my PC, but I have yet to find something with the elegance, speed, and convenience of OmniFocus. Thinking Rock, which is free, comes close, and I may begin using something like it for work.

  • Keep inboxes empty. I actually took some time and completely emptied my inboxes. (Check out Inbox Zero for information on how you can attempt this as well.) As a result of emptying my inboxes, I get a bunch of actions, which then go into the task management system.

I’m liking my new system.

The water challenge

For lunch today, I got myself a glass of water to drink. Helen asked for water from the jug she purchased at Meijer. I tasted water from each glass, then told Helen I couldn’t tell the difference if my life depended on it.

Helen insists she can taste the difference between water from our RO unit and other bottled water. We decided to administer a taste test to Helen.

I put water from the RO unit and from the jug she bought from Meijer into three glasses. I didn’t tell her which was which, nor did I tell her which water type got two glasses. Her mission was to pick out the odd glass and tell me what kind of water was in it. (I had read about this technique for taste testing, but I couldn’t find where I’d read it.) There were six (23 – 2) possibilities, ignoring the option of tricking her by putting the same water in all three.

Helen picked one glass as our RO water and the other two as Meijer water, failing to identify one of the two glasses as RO water. I did a little victory dance. Katrina and Elena, who were eating lunch at the time, enjoyed the entire spectacle.

In all fairness, I should mention that she only had a small amount from each glass. It’s possible that drinking a larger amount would help her identify the water sources. At the very least, this proves that the water is not as dramatically different as some have insisted.

(Comments from old site:)


Today, Brad tried to trick me. I asked for a glass of water. He turned on the RO unit and brought me a glass. I drank the entire glass and declared that this was, indeed, the Meijer water. Brad confessed.

A minor clarification

I was loud in turning on the drinking water faucet and moving the Meijer jug to intentionally obfuscate the kind of water she was getting. In addition, she knows I always give her her precious store-bought water. Like she said, she drank the entire glass, then said it was the Meijer water. I said, “Yep.” Hardly a confession on my part.

Pop quiz

Helen: “What’s your favorite dinner that Mama makes?”
Katrina: “Taco Bell.”

Allan's new diet

"I prefer to call them dried plums, thank you."

I had to haul all the kids to the Doctor again yesterday since Katrina still seemed to have some sort of infection. While we waited, Allan began screaming bloody murder and straining again. Poor guy can’t even go when he’s just eating fruits and veggies! The previous Wednesday, I had actually watched him empty his bowels like he was a tube of toothpaste. We’re talking, like two feet of poop. By Sunday, I thought Allan’s pears would help him. Monday he struggled, but hardly went.

As the pediatrician walked in, Elena, Katrina, and I were yelling, “Come on, Allan! You can do it! PUUUUUUUUUUSH!” Allan was beet-red, on the examining table, with his diaper wide-open. Without missing a beat, the doctor ran out of the room and returned with a rectal thermometer to (ahem) “help” him out a bit. We knew he wasn’t finished, but he did feel some relief, poor boy! He went a bit more in the afternoon after much struggling and yelling.

So now I have to feed Allan prunes twice a day. I gave him two containers yesterday. We might have to up the dosage soon if we don’t get results.

Allan’s six-month stats

Length: 28 1/4 inches (97th percentile); Weight: 21 pounds, 9.1 ounces (95th percentile); Head circumference: 17 3/4 inches (75th to 90th percentile)

Allan’s car seat is good up to 22 pounds. Phew! We have a few more weeks left.

(Comment from old site:)

Hi after all this time!

Hi you guys! I am so glad I found you! Please email me so we can catch up! Cliff Notes: Daniel and I have two little girls, Abbie and Amelia, and are still up in the Twin Cities.

Hope to hear from you soon!

April Fools

Yes, I admit I fibbed. Allan did not sleep in his crib the night before last. However, after an entire April Fools Day with no naps, Allan was exhausted and cranky—no joking! (We had no reason to go for a car ride, so Allan simply resisted all attempts during the day.)

We decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to try to convince Allan that the crib wasn’t so bad, after all! 45 minutes and many tears later (Sorry, Elizabeth Pantley), Allan fell asleep for a whopping hour. It was nighttime, so I fed him and put him in the crib again. He slept for another hour. I did notice that the one thing that seemed to help pacify Allan was a fuzzy washcloth. For some reason, if he could get a hold of it, Allan would put it near his mouth and suck his thumb/or the washcloth and finally go to sleep. The longest he slept was two, 2 1/2 hour sessions, but I also had to feed him because I was too frazzled and sleepy to listen to the crying. This is a big deal because previously, Allan would have immediately awoken upon being placed in the crib! I don’t know if it was his excessive sleepiness, but I’m hoping we’ll do this well or better tonight.

By the way, Brad did fool me yesterday. He sent me a link to a Rick Astley video and said, “you might find this interesting.” I watched the entire video, “Never Gonna Give You Up,” waiting for something funny to happen. I mean, I know that Rick Astley looks much whimpier than you’d imagine. Especially considering his deep, full voice. As I read the comments on YouTube, I noticed the remarks kept mentioning April Fools. I didn’t see anything funny, though. NOTHING.

Later, after talking with Brad about it, I discovered the joke was on me. How embarrassing.

(Comment from old site:)


First, I should mention that we didn’t just let Allan cry by himself. I was in there talking to him. However, I am not his Favorite Person in the Whole Wide World, and he found that unacceptable.

Second, when I sent Helen a link to the “Never Gonna Give You Up” video by Rick Astley, I didn’t tell her anything about it. I just said something about finding it interesting. She watched the whole thing waiting for something interesting. Ha! I was hoping to Rickroll her, but I didn’t expect it to go so well!

Incidentally, YouTube was Rickrolling people yesterday. Every “Featured Video” on their main page went to that video. That might explain why that video gained several millions views in one day.


Miracle of miracles! Allan finally slept in his own crib all night long! It’s such a relief that he’s finally figured out how to sleep by himself.

(Comment from old site:)


Please note the date of Helen’s post.