Goldfish bowls are evil

December 14th, 2014 • UncategorizedNo Comments »

The idea that goldfish can live happily in a fish bowl is a huge misconception.  The analogy I like to use is that keeping a goldfish in a bowl is like keeping a great dane in a closet.  It just isn’t good for them.

Goldfish are active and need room to swim around.  They are also messy and need good water filtration.  The rule of thumb with goldfish is a minimum of 10 gallons per fish (so if you want 3 goldfish, you need at least a 30 gallon tank).

You will also need very good filtration, since they generate a lot of waste.  I recommend getting an over-sized filter for your tank (if you have a 20 gallon tank, buy a filter that is designed for a 30 gallon tank).  I would not recommend the use of an under-gravel filter for use with goldfish.  Instead, get a hang-on-back power filter or a canister filter.  If you have a very large aquarium, you might need more than one filter.  Also plan on doing a 30-50% water change at least once a week while the aquarium is new, and at least every two weeks once it is established.  Remember to use water conditioner to remove chlorine from the water when doing water changes.

Many commercial goldfish foods are full of fillers and don’t provide the best nutrition.  I recommend feeding your goldfish a high quality food like Omega One.

For more in depth information on goldfish care, I recommend visiting Koko’s Goldfish.

If you follow these simple guidelines, your goldfish will live a long happy and healthy life!


Ethanol in gasoline

December 14th, 2014 • Automotive, DIY HomeNo Comments »

Most people have heard of E85.  But have you heard of E10?  Many people have not.  But those same people unknowingly buy it all the time.  Most regular gasoline now contains 10% ethanol (E10).  So what does this mean for you?

For cars:

If you have a car that is labeled as “Flex fuel”, or is fairly new, then you don’t have much to worry about.  But if you have an older car, it can mean worse gas mileage and deterioration of fuel system and engine components.

-Ethanol requires higher compression engines to burn at peak efficiency, so using it in engines designed for pure gas can cause the MPG to decrease.

-Ethanol negatively affects rubber and plastic parts in your fuel system.  This causes hoses, seals, and other parts to break down, leading to the failure of those parts.

-Ethanol separates from gasoline if stored for long periods of time.  This is called phase separation.  When this occurs, the ethanol settles on the bottom of the tank.  This can result in your engine getting a high concentration of ethanol.  For engines made to run on pure gasoline, this can cause serious damage.

-Ethanol attracts water into fuel.  This can cause poor engine performance, rusting of fuel system components, and frozen fuel lines.

For small engines:

Many of the same points I made for cars apply to small engines.  But the problem is often compounded when fuel is left in equipment for long periods of time.

-One thing that is usually only noticeable in small engines, is the increased engine operating temperature when ethanol fuel is used.  The reason it affects small engines more greatly is because they are usually air cooled as opposed to liquid cooled.  The ethanol burns hotter and causes the engine run hotter than it was designed to.  This can put more stress on components and decrease engine life.

-Ethanol eats away at fuel lines on power equipment with small engines.  You may find yourself needing to replace fuel lines as often as every 2 or 3 years.

-Ethanol attracts water into the fuel.  This causes the fuel to go bad and small engines to run poorly or not at all.

So what can I do?

The easiest thing to do is find gasoline that doesn’t contain ethanol.  It will be labeled as “100% gasoline”, “pure gasoline”, or “no ethanol”.  There is a website,, that can help you locate stations that sell ethanol free gas.

If you are in doubt of whether or not gasoline contains ethanol, you can test it using a small testing bottle such as this one:

If you can’t find pure gasoline locally, there are still some things you can do:

-Try not to put more fuel in your vehicle/small engine equipment than you will use within two weeks.  The longer ethanol fuel sits, the greater the chance for phase separation and water absorption.

-Drain the fuel from the carburetor and tank on small engine equipment when they will be stored for long periods of time.

-Use a fuel additive like Ethanol Shield to help prevent ethanol related damage to your vehicle or small engine.

-Consider using a bottled premixed gasoline for small engine equipment that isn’t used frequently.  These fuels contain no ethanol and have a long shelf life.  The time and money you save on preventing repairs will pay for the extra cost of the fuel.  Some examples of this type of fuel are TruFuel and VP Small Engine Fuels.  You can usually find these at your local hardware or auto parts store.


Hopefully this has helped you become more informed about the fuel you are using and saved you from trouble caused by ethanol in your fuel.


Fixing miniature Christmas lights

December 14th, 2014 • DIY HomeNo Comments »

Christmas is just around the corner, and that means many people are hanging lights.  This can be fun, but it can also be frustrating.  Sometimes you pull out a strand that worked fine last year, and only part or none of it lights up.  Many people then throw the strand away and buy a new one.  But I have found that with the right tool and a few minutes of your time, you can fix many of these strands.

My tool of choice is called the Light Keeper Pro.  The main function of the tool is to repair the shunts in the bulbs.  The purpose of shunts is to pass the electrical current on to the next bulb if the filament burns out.  Normally, the shunt activates as soon as the filament fails, but sometimes they don’t work and need a little help to activate.  This is where the tool comes in.  While the strand is plugged in, you pull out a bulb in the burnt out section, insert the tool into the socket, and pull the trigger.  Each time you pull the trigger, it sends a high voltage blast of electricity into the bulbs to help activate any shunts that haven’t yet done so.  You can tell when the job is done because the previously unlit portion of the strand will light up.  The tools also has a few other features, such as a current detector, and a bulb removal tool.

If you are interested in this tool, and in fixing your lights, I recommend you visit their website and check out their instructional videos.

I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!  And hopefully this will help make your holiday season a little brighter (pun intended).


Water Heater Maintenance

July 2nd, 2014 • DIY HomeNo Comments »

Proper water heater maintenance is easy to forget to do.  Your water heater sits tucked away in a basement or closet.  Most people usually find out they have a problem when there is no hot water.  But with a little planned maintenance, you can prevent issues and extend the life of your water heater.  I was recently doing some work on my water heater, and so I figured I would write a quick post about it.

Things that can help your water heater live a long happy life:

-Flush your water heater each year.

-Check the anode rod when you flush the water heater. *

-Replace the anode rod if it is heavily deteriorated.*

*Quick tip: Use an impact wrench with a 1-1/16″ socket to loosen the anode rod if you are having trouble removing it.

Another common issue that is often easy to fix is a pilot light that won’t stay lit.  There is a device called a thermocouple that controls the flow of gas to the pilot light and burner.  The thermocouple is heated by the pilot light.  If the thermocouple is cold (pilot light not lit), it is supposed to shut off the gas.   If it is hot (pilot light lit), it is supposed to allow the gas to flow.  When these go bad, they fail safe to the off position and shut off the gas.  They are usually easy to replace and you can get a new one at most hardware stores.



Is Google Down?

May 5th, 2014 • Tech TipsNo Comments »

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you are questioning whether or not a Google service is experiencing trouble, there is a quick and easy way to check.   Google calls it the “Apps Status Dashboard”, as it is meant for users of Google Apps.  Anyone can access it, and anyone who uses Google services (such as Gmail, Google Calander, Google Drive, etc.) will find it useful in the event of a service outage.  It conveniently displays the current status of each Google service, as well as the history from the last seven days.  When an outage is reported, there will be an orange or red circle in that services row which can be clicked on for more details and updates on the issue.


Hard Drive Reliability

May 29th, 2013 • Server StuffNo Comments »

Just a word to the wise.  If you have a home file server or NAS, use enterprise class hard drives, such as Seagate constellation or WD RE drives.  Normal desktop drives aren’t meant to run 24/7 like the enterprise class drives.  They are a little more expensive, but the added reliability will be worth it in the long run.