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IMG_20160313_143403.jpgSaturday evening I went into the basement to finish making an ExxoPok that I had started on earlier and noticed a small puddle of water right underneath our main drain on the floor.

I knew immediately where that was coming from, because a few years ago the same thing happened. There is a 1.5 foot section of really flimsy tube, made of unknown material, connecting from the copper pipe above into the cast iron drain that goes out.

Last time there was a leak on the bottom of this connection pipe, which we fixed by wrapping water activated fiber-glass epoxy tape around it. This time water was coming out of a growing hole at the top of the connection.

Sunday morning, by the time we had finally made it to Lowe's and back, to get more of that magic bandage, there was about a gallon of water on the floor, eight big towels soaking wet. Two people using the bathroom, taking showers, washing dishes, didn't improve the situation.

The tricky part to the job was that wooden door-frame right next to the pipe. We had to carefully saw, drill, chisel away at it to make a gap big enough for me to get my hand through. Once you open the package of that bandage you have to apply it really quickly. The stuff fully sets within 30 minutes. This time I didn't just wrap the leaky part; I put a full four rolls of the fiber-glass tape all the way around the entire piece of pipe.

That should last a few more years.


Reed City (??), MI


We were on our way home from Cadillac, MI, after a fun and relaxing skiing weekend. Our old van was loaded with skiing gear, two medium size suitcases, stuff for our dog, a cooler, some food. Since we only had a quarter tank of gas left, I decided to get off the highway and fill up. As I drove down the ramp the engine revved up all by itself, and then I lost all power - a very familiar feeling which I remembered from a few years ago with our Taurus.

I slowly rolled to the side of the road. Try turning it off and back on again, try reverse, now try drive, what about 1, or 2 - nothing. That's bad. Now what? While we were sitting there, searching for the closest towing service on the smartphone, a Sheriff pulls up from behind and asks if we needed help. The Sheriff called a tow truck for us, which took only about 15 minutes to arrive. Phil's County Line Service is just a mile away, in Reed City, MI.

Another 45 minutes later we had a rental car driver from Enterprise in Big Rapids, MI, come pick us up. Most of our stuff fit in the trunk of that Hyundai Sonata. Except for our skis and the cooler. The drive home was a bit tricky because of the weather. Lake effect snow falling, then blowing and drifting across icy roads. We drove past three trucks that had rolled over into the ditch, and two cars had slid off the highway - probably because of somebody being in a big hurry to get somewhere.

It looks like there will be another trip to Reed City, MI - to pick up the van (if they fixed it) or try to sell it for parts (if it isn't worth fixing).


Freeze! It's for your own good.

Anthem.jpgLast Wednesday it became known that all personal information of roughly 12% of the entire population of the USA had been stolen by some Chinese hackers, because one big, powerful, rich insurance company carelessly neglected to encrypt and protect their database. 

The insurance company said they will notify all affected customers, and offer them free credit repair and identity protection services - but it will take weeks, or months, before this happens; and then the "protection" will likely only be offered for one year. 

If you are one of the victims, or even if you got lucky this time, you are not completely helpless, though. There is one powerful tool available to you to protect your credit: place a security freeze on your consumer credit report. You have to do that with all three credit reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. It is free in many States, and costs $5 to $10 in some other States.

After that, you have the peace of mind that nobody can abuse your personal information to obtain credit without your knowledge. The freeze will slow you down a little bit, in case you want to get new credit in the future, because you would have to "thaw" your account temporarily, or for a specific lender, but for me that is well worth it! 


16 Million Email Addresses and Passwords stolen

They knew since December, but decided to tell us today. Investigations into a huge botnet turned up 16 million stolen email addresses, complete with passwords, half of them ending in .de - Germany.

I found out that my oldest email address, which I have been using for almost everything in the past 15 years, is one of them. I had almost expected that, given my level of exposure online, and I wasn't really concerned about any consequences, because I have been doing enough to protect my computers, and online accounts, and identities.  

Just in case you want to know what I'd recommend for your protection - and peace of mind:

  • For your online activities use an email address that does not contain your name
  • Use a unique, different password for every online account
  • Create complex passwords, using a system that is easy for you to remember
  • Change your passwords for everything every three months, or even more often
  • Keep your virus protection and firewall on all your computers up to date.
  • Scan all your computers for malware with multiple, different programs a least monthly
  • Turn all your computers off when you are not using them




Back in the Saddle again

Honda2013.jpgEleven days ago my motorcycle suffered considerable damage due to no fault of my own. I was on my way to work, stopped at a traffic light, when some guy in a burgundy car rear-ended me.

The bike jumped forward a foot, then fell over onto the left side. As I crawled out from underneath, the driver got out of his car to see what he'd done. He asked if I was OK, said he was sorry, and helped me pick up the bike.

When I inspected the rear end and realized, that this was not going to be cheap, the man told me he didn't have insurance (!?). There was a traffic jam forming around us, so I agreed when he suggested that we pull over, onto this parking lot, out of danger, to negotiate how to proceed.

He got in his car - while I realized my clutch lever was bent from the fall, so I couldn't drive. It took me a minute to bend the lever straight to make it operable again. That was enough time for my opponent to drive away.

I don't fully remember how I rode to work after that.

After I had filed a police report, called my husband, and contacted my insurance company to start a claim, it dawned on me that I had made at least three mistakes in handling this incident:

  • I should have called 9-1-1 immediately
  • I should have taken a picture with my cellphone
  • I should have wrote down the car's license plate number

Surprisingly enough, despite all these mistakes, the whole thing went really well after all!

I was just a little sore for a few days; my insurance company handed me a check for the repairs (minus my deductible) within six days; and the repair shop had my bike fixed today. 

You wouldn't be able to tell that anything ever happened!


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