Blue Collar Cost

It’s been a while since I added an entry to the Quantitative Philosophy section.  And in light of the recent glass door replacement debacle, as well as my growing experience with home-ownership in general, I have enough information now to present a new calculator: The Blue Collar Cost Estimator!

What is this calculator?  Well, ever notice how what would seem like an affordable project immediately becomes cost-prohibitive when requiring hired help?  So here’s how it works: for any home renovation/repair, input what you think would be the conservative estimate for the raw materials.  The calculator will then add the contractor’s up-charge and account for the cost of labor (which is substantial).  Here’s the formula:

Estimated Materials Cost * 1.45 * 4 = Final Cost

Here’s the logic.  The 1.45x multiplier seems, at least anecdotally, to be the materials’ up-charge.  The 4x multiplier seems to be the labor charge, which inexplicably scales directly with the initial cost of the materials.  I guess they figure the risk of damage warrants greater skill/care?  Dunno.

But that’s it.  Nice and simple.  For calibration, I tested two expenses.  The latest was the door replacement, which I estimated would have a materials cost of $1000.   1000*1.45*4=$5800, the exact amount of the final cost.  We also had a garage door spring replaced, which I estimated at $120.  120*1.45*4=$696, which is pretty close to the $700-ish final cost we paid.

There you have it: the scaling cost of blue collar labor.  Glad I figured out how to install laminate flooring.  The last room I did would have cost us almost $2500.  So try to be handy–your wallet depends on it.

–Simon

DNS

Of all the digital glues holding the Internet together, the domain name system is probably  one of the most critical, yet also the weakest.  The current protocol as a whole is unencrypted, and if it goes down, or is interfered with, then that prevents communication to anything not a hard-coded IP address.  But even then, SSL PKI breaks down unless the certificate in question was specifically exempted.  In short, a DNS failure would break the Internet.

And it was exactly that scenario in which I found myself recently.  I, the security-minded sysadmin of the home, had long since switched my DNS provider over to what at the time I determined to be the most privacy-minded and secure: Quad9.  And I never had any issues since.  But I made an error with my configuration: I specified two Quad9 DNS IPs, rather than using a different party as fallback.  And when, for inexplicable reasons, Quad9’s DNS servers ceased to resolve my DNS queries, I found myself offline–sort of.

Certain devices bypassed DNS, notably my work laptop and the Ring cameras.  Liz’s work laptop did not, however, which is an interesting aside in that mine must have a hard-coded VPN IP and hers did not.

But back to the main story.  I had never experienced a DNS provider failure before, and it took some rather lengthy late-night testing to figure out the problem.  Ultimately, I ended up switching back to OpenDNS with a Google fallback–not my ideal configuration, but one I’m sure won’t experience any downtime.

Yet in the end, I’m left to wonder: What happened to Quad9?  The Internet community as a whole offered no information, which I’m sure would have been available anecdotally had Quad9 truly ceased to function.  Perhaps Spectrum was blocking it?  But why would they do that, only to allow me to use other DNS providers.  If forcing customers to user their own, why didn’t they block OpenDNS and Google?

I posit this query to universe.  In the meantime, know that you may have issues with a Quad9/Spectrum configuration.

–Simon

Sunflower

I used grow sunflowers back in the townhouse.  It was amusing to see the tops of those giant plants sticking above the privacy fence in that 12×12 area, but the limited space required vertical gardening to get anything resembling a respectable garden, and sunflowers fit the bill.

But when we bought the house, we stopped planting them, for no reason other than all the existing garden space was being used.  But then we tilled up grass for a new garden, and with the excitement of seemingly endless possibilities, sunflowers were thrown into the mix.

Then, as flowers do, they turned to seed.  And sunflowers make a lot of seed.  And squirrels are greedy bastards, but I can’t shoot them in my backyard.  So I harvested the seed.

I’ve tried other tools, but the katana really is the best one for the job

I don’t know what to do with them, so they’re hanging in the basement drying.  Maybe next year I’ll create a sunflower forest.

–Simon

The Weak are Meat

Last year, hunting was a failure…if you judge success by quantity of vanquished quarry, that is.  Flesh is only one of the reasons to go hunting, granted, but the other reasons are mere condolences one gives himself upon the lack of dinner, when no flesh hath been gotten.  But not this year!  This year, we eat!

Following last year’s events, I let the season sneak up on me, until Joe, unexpectedly, called me on a promise/threat that I would take him hunting.  And not one to dishonor a prior arrangement, I agreed.  We would hunt flesh this year after all–Joe for the first time.

I prepared.

  • Mucks
  • Mora
  • Wigwams
  • 7/2 Federals
  • First Aid
  • Tourniquets

The first aid kit and tourniquets were new acquisitions.  After last year, when the woods were awash with 20-somthings sporting camo-skinned shotguns, I considered that I might need something to treat trauma.  Fortunately, that turned out to be a mere precaution.

And so, properly geared up, we were off to that little plot of woods in which I’ve only ever been successful hunting squirrel on public land: Clark Lake.  I cast a judgmental eye upon Joe’s loadout: a tactical 12 ga. and an army bag packed with who knows what.  But points for enthusiasm, as evidenced by this photo:

Two squirrels, in the end.  Joe did make an effective spotter despite his lack of experience with the sport–his eyes must be better than mine.  And while he was slow with the draw, he did clean one.

And to maximize the manliness factor, we cooked then in a dutch oven in an open fire while getting some target practice in with the longbow.

It was a good day.

–Simon

Desperate Times

I never would have predicted that Windows would have gotten so bad that my own wife would choose to abandon it, especially given her disdain for Apple.

But the OS world is not one of strict duality.  And upon my suggestion, she agreed to Ubuntu, convinced with my recommendation (in turn based upon my own recent experiences with it).

The process was essentially the same as the above linked post, so I won’t go into detail again here.  Instead, I’ll just share this picture, and again vouch for Ubuntu with yet another successful experience:

If Windows 10 has made you pine for an adult operating system, and Apple isn’t your cup of tea, then consider the latest Linux distros.  They’re far more user-friendly than they used to be.

–Simon