Category Archives: Misc

Free Classes Every Day

What I’ve recently discovered is the plethora of free virtual classes available at our local library. While this is specifically the St. Louis County Library system, it is open to anyone and I’m guessing that this type of resource is available at other libraries. You don’t need a library card or be part of the SLCL system.

Here’s the link to get to the Calendar – enjoy.


Replace Your Watch Battery

When my wife’s watch needed a new battery, I checked with a local watch repair and they wanted $27.00 to put in a new battery. Since a new watch only costs $25.00, I thought I’d try to replace the battery myself.

The watch make is a Skagen, which is a bit more upscale then our usual Timex.

I bought a $12.00 kit on Amazon which had a number of pieces. I wasn’t sure which piece would actually work. The knife-like tool worked to pop off the back. The notch for the knife was barely visible.

Notch for the Knife

You can also notice above the black line which I put on the watch. This is to mark the spot where the watch should line up with the turning mechanism. You might also notice the dirt and dust around the edge. I’ll clean this off with a vacuum and alcohol swab.

A 20 pack of batteries was available on Amazon for $5.99.

I tried to just press the back on, but didn’t have any luck. I ended up buying an inexpensive press which worked after a couple of tries.

Here’s a video showing the process.

Replacement Windows

Since I need to replace a few windows in my house, I thought I’d share my research. It’s interesting that I talked to eight different companies and only made my choice after talking to the eighth company.

First – it’s complicated. and there are a lot of factors to consider.


You have to figure out what material you want your windows made out of. You can choose:

  1. Wood
  2. Wood covered with vinyl or aluminum
  3. Fibrex – wood and vinyl
  4. Vinyl
  5. Fiberglass.

Wood – the windows I’m replacing have rotted at the bottom, so I’m not a fan of all wood windows. They take a lot of maintenance – painting at the minimum.

Wood covered with vinyl or aluminum – this seems to be the ideal since you eliminated the maintenance factor. Pella had a lawsuit against them for water getting behind the aluminum and rotting the wood. Again – wood will rot if it gets water damaged.

Fibrex – this is an Andersen Windows product. They combine wood fibers and pvc. This results in a stronger product and theoretically shouldn’t rot.

Fiberglass – a more rigid window which won’t rot, but may need painting.

Vinyl – there seem to be lots of brands and quality types with vinyl. Consumer Reports rates vinyl windows on wind and rain resistance and gives out score from 91 to 54.


This is a biggie since poor installation can cause problems with even the most expensive window. I even have doubts about one installation I heard about from a big box store where they had complaints that the window stuck out past the vinyl. It’s the Pella 350 which is about an inch larger than their 250 model. The Pella dealer said that they installed theirs so that the window never went past the vinyl siding on the outside of the house.


As you can see by the table below, prices go from $850 to $4730 for two windows. For my whole house, the price would from $9775 to $54,395.

Elite Exteriors – vinyl – Corvus 1000$850
Home Depot – Andersen 400 wood covered vinyl
Home Depot – Andersen 100 composite
Home Depot – Simonton 6100 vinyl$1772
Lowes 250 – vinyl
Lowes 350 – (CR-93)
Marvin – Elevate – fiberglass$3170
Mills – Pella 350 vinyl (CR-93)
Mills – Great Lakes Comfort Smart vinyl
Pella 250 vinyl
Pella 350 vinyl (CR-93)
Window World 4000 (CR-67?)$1148
Renewal by Andersen$4730
Wilke Window – this is to fix two windows and replace one.$1140

Consumer Reports (CR) gives ratings on wind and rain resistance. They don’t give advice on how well the windows hold up over a number of years.

The two windows I am replacing have rotted on the bottom. They are 100% wood windows, but they have lasted 30 years. My other windows seem to be holding up ok. They do need regular maintenance.

Your income, what you can afford and how long you plan on living at your current residence are all factors when you consider price.

Models by Manufacturer

Each windows company has a number of models which they sell. Each different model has a different price point and different features. Some are single hung versus double hung. Some tilt-in and some don’t. Some have the grill between the glass and some don’t. Some have a full screen and some have a half screen. What you have to figure out is what are the features which are most important to you and what are you willing to pay extra for.

Marvin – fiberglass – one thing I didn’t like about the sales presentation was that he did not have any models or displays to show me the different series and what the difference was between them. He didn’t even have a brochure. You have to go online to download or request brochures or go to their show room.

Pella 350 – This model is an inch thicker than the 250 and has an extra weather strip. This is also the model highest rated by CR. While Lowes has a good price on the 350, especially for veterans, they don’t have their own installers, but contract it out.

Renewal By Andersen – RBA – these are the most expensive. While I do like the RBA windows and their service, I don’t like their high price.

Window World – Model 4000 – this is the model recommended by the sales person. It has a couple of unusual things I noted. 1. You can’t open the bottom window all the way since there is a piece of trim which sticks out and stops the window. This piece of trim also showed a hole which water might enter. 2. For some reason instead of the water just following the natural path and leaving down a sloped piece, it has a small lip at the bottom to hole the water in and only has a small “weep” hole on the side which is covered up by the screen. I can see the water getting backed up and/or the weep hole being blocked. On the other hand, I have a friend who has bought a number of these windows and likes them.

Weep hole on both sides – Screen covers up the hole.

Other Considerations

Every person’s situation is different so there is not one right answer for everyone. You need to look at all the ratings, the price, the installation and all the features you want and make a decision that is right for you.

Other Factors

I like to use the Consumer Reports ratings as a basis for my decision. I currently have Andersen windows in my house and want to match the look and finish of these windows. The Pella 350 seem to come close to matching the look of the Andersens. The Pella 350 also has a nice inside finish than other vinyl windows and is larger. It also has the grills between the glass and has the tilt-in feature.

My Solution

While almost all companies were more than happy to replace my windows, a couple suggested that my water problem was related to factors other than my windows. That seems to be the case. A couple suggested just replacing my lower sash with Andersen replacement windows. I ended up choosing Wilke Window to replace the lower sash in my two windows and also replace another window in my kitchen for a price of $1140.00.

Read ID in One Hour

The standard old Missouri drivers license will no be valid for airline travel as of  October 1, 2020. Here is the process we just went through to apply for the new license.

  • Cost – $5.00
  • Time – it took us an hour of waiting.
  • Documents we needed – drivers license, passport, social security 1099 and bank statement with your name and address.
  • There are other document options so make sure you read the entire document below –
  • You get back your old license and give you a temporary license until your new Real ID license comes in the mail.
  • You cannot extend your drivers license, but will keep the expiration date on your old license.
  • For more information click here.
  • Tip – the office is open late a couple of days per week. I’ve been told that coming on those days at a late time and you can get right in.

Dudes Playground – Veterans Day

There is a new lake/park in Waterloo Ill. which is being dedicated to veterans on Sunday November 11th.
It will start at 1:00 p.m.
5301 Kaskaskia Road Waterloo IL 62298

The featured speaker will be a rear admiral Lee Metcalf, retired. There will be a band, barbecue and free beverages for the afternoon.

The eagle will be there and available for photos. Bring your camera or cell phone for great pictures. A donation to World Bird Sanctuary would be appreciated.


Brian Ettling – Climate Change

brian-ettling-globe - EditedFriend, author, speaker and expert on Climate Change, Brian Ettling, is coming back to St. Louis for a couple of weeks this fall.

He will be teaching his continuing adult ed Climate Change 101 class for St. Louis Community College at Meramec Campus on Saturday morning, October 13th.
NATR:734 | $19 | Age 60+: $17
F01 | Sa 9 am-12 pm | Brian Ettling | Oct 13 | MC – SO, 107
For additional information, contact the Office of Continuing Education at 314-984-7777.

He is also willing to give a couple more talks while he is back in his home state of Missouri in mid-October. You can message Brian through his Facebook page if you’d like him to talk to your group. – movies-music-books – FREE

hoopoladigital-01The St. Louis County Library has added another streaming media service for all it’s patrons. Yeah!!!!

All you have to do is go to and Signup.

You choose the St.Louis County Library and setup your account.

It has ebooks, movies, comic books, audiobooks, and television (older shows). I’m listening to music as I write this, so that’s a nice feature.

To return any emedia, you have to look for a return near the bottom of the page.

While I’m using this program in St. Louis, Missouri, it is also available in other cities and states.

The library allows you to borrow 15 titles each month. On the first of each month, those borrows renew. They’ll be automatically returned when your lending period is over.

Note also that there are apps for this program which seem to work well with my Android phone. You can download books to your e-device.


How to Keep Your Basement Dry

Here’s a speech I did for Toastmasters on tips to keep your basement dry and how to be prepared if there is a problem. Gutter Guards are another topic I didn’t have time to go into, but I use them also.

I didn’t have time to cover sewer backups, but Ask This Old House did a great segment on this. Free for St. Louis County Library Users


I’ve been a big proponent of for many years and now I just noticed that it is Free for St. Louis County Library Users. is a video resource and training company with a LARGE list of programs and skills which all of us need to learn and refresh.

You will need to setup what they call a Profile at Lynda – just your name and email address.

Note – normally this would cost $25/month.

Here’s the link to setup an account.

Listening to Podcasts

A Podcast is either an internet audio or video show which you can download and then listen at some future time.

Since I’m not in the Apple Universe, I use as a way to subscribe and download shows to my computer. I then move them to one of my devices and listen to the show at my convenience – usually when I’m gardening. Below are the shows I am now listening to – Car Talk is my favorite. My favorite device for this is a Sansa Clip which also has a slot for a SDHC card.

Here’s the NPR podcast list.



Veterans Honored at Truman Middle School


I was glad to be part of 100+ Veterans honored at Truman Middle School in Crestwood, Missouri. All the Vets got a chance to talk to groups of kids and answer their questions. At the end there was a big assembly and a standing ovation from all the kids. What was most emotional for me was that the kids lined the halls and applauded us all as we left the building. Thanks to John Fee for leading this effort at Truman. I for one am glad to see the spirit of respect and enthusiasm for our armed forces and veterans in our young people today.
















Making Free Donations via Amazon

Amazon Smile is a new program whereby any purchase you make via their website will donate .5% of the purchase price to a charity of your choosing.

Right now, only physical products , not digital, are included.

The problem I have is in remembering to go to and not just the regular

A solution to this is to download the “Smile Always” Extension for Chrome. It will automatically redirect you to the charitable site.


There is also a Firefox addon called Amazon Smile  Redirector – see the link below.



Cross House in St. Issey, Cornwall, England

We stayed at this house for two weeks in May and had a great time. There doesn’t seem to be any way to give feedback or offer comments so I’m putting this information on my blog with hopes that at Google Search might help others.

  • No Wifi.
  • Directions are wrong – turn on A389 not 359.
  • Charcoal BBQ. No chimney starter. You need lighter fluid. They also need a wire brush.
  • Needs night lights.
  • They need a much better book of instructions. The stove in particular is quite different.
  • No fans in the house.
  • Toaster sets off the smoke alarm almost every day. We had to move the toaster to the dining area to overcome this problem.
  • They need a knife sharper.
  • Washing machine – push in On/Off button – push quick wash – push control knob in and turn it to 3. Use the line on the control.
  • Bedroom 1 – 2 twin beds
  • Bedroom 2 – 2 bunk beds – 4 people
  • Bedroom 3 – 1 full size bed
  • Bedroom 4 – largest – includes bathtub. Bed is soft.
  • 2 extra bathrooms upstairs. No bathrooms downstairs except for outside toilet.
  • Watch out – Steep – narrow stairs to 2nd floor.
  • Living room has board games
  • TV room – hdmi + SD card + dvd player
  • Stove is unusual – set top right to 280 degrees for cooktop.
  • French press coffee maker.
  • Trash – recycled – separate into colored plastic containers in the laundry room. Take out to curb on Thursday night. Trash is every Friday – Recycling is every other Friday, but they don’t tell you which Friday that is.
  • Dining room is great.
  • Game room – has ping pong + snooker – don’t use pool balls as they are too large and get stuck.
  • Lots of parking space.
  • Walk – go down the road towards Pickwick Inn, then cut across the public path towards St Issey. 40 minutes.
  • Americans – Bring electrical adapter for electronics.
  • To lock new doors, hold up on handle and turn the key. To unlock, just turn the key.
  • They also have boogie boards – beach stuff – one beach towel
  • Restaurants -Pickwick Inn – down the road you live on. Good food and service 10 – 20 pounds.
  • Nice lawn in the back yard. Its a good area to feed the birds and watch them.
  • No store of any type in St Issey, but it does have a pub. Wadebridge Tesco is the nearest store. On A39 at first round-about turn right and go up about 200 meters.
  • Wadebridge center has some good stores. Boots – hardware – grocery
  • RingOBells pub is close, but the road is tiny in one section with lots of traffic. They have parking on the side. It’s a cute pub serving food 12 to 2 and 6:30 to 8 :30. Wifi is a very poor connection. Be careful driving when leaving -treacherous.

Video Games for Seniors?

While the average age of gamers today is 32, there’s a good argument to be made that Seniors might be the gamers of the future.

Daphne Bavelier says that action packed shooter games have some positive effects on your body and brain.

  • Vision is better. You can resolve small detail like the small print on many items.
  • You can resolve different levels of grey – like foggy days driving the car.
  • Your attention seems to get better – the ability to track multiple items.

It’s interesting that this increased attention does not help with multimedia-tasking.
Driving and talking on the phone is still a bad thing to do.
Even if you think you’re good at multimedia-tasking – you’re really terrible.

Daphne also makes the point that too much video game play is not good. She makes the point that a glass or two of wine every day might be good for your health, but two or three bottles a day would probably be bad.

Finally, Daphne is trying to get the entertainment industry to come out with games that are not only entertaining, but also have the elements that would help the brain.

Here are some other studies on the benefits of electronic games

Here’s the video on Ted Talks.”Daphne Bavelier: Your brain on video games”

College Classes – $15 for Seniors – TODAY

Today, Friday, August 17th, is the day Seniors (65+) can signup for classes for $15 dollars.

This is only for St. Louis Community College classes.

Hopefully you have gone over ahead of time and gotten a student number and a registration form where you put in what classes you want. You can check online what classes are available here:

When you fill out the form, make sure you list a number of classes which you might be interested in. Put “Alternate” in front of classes in case your first class is full or is not going to be held.

I’ve been told by a teacher at the school that they need a minimum of 15 students per class and a maximum of 18.

I got over to the school at 8am and there were 43 people ahead of me. Luckily the computers were down, so they just took the application and said we could pay on Monday. That sure beats waiting in line for the 43 people ahead of me.

I’d suggest you take a picture of your registration form as they don’t give you any copy.

Note #1- I gave them my form on Friday morning and Saturday in the mail I got my registration form back with my class enrollment and invoice for $15. They also called my on Saturday morning. I’m very impressed.

Note #2 – after paying your fee, you need to go and get your student ID and parking pass. Before you go over there make sure you know your computer login information. both your ID and password. I’d recommend making a password that is not too hard. You will have to use it during the year to login to the school computers.

Note #3 When you get your .edu email address, you can also then take advantage of the Amazon student free 6 month Prime account and then 50% off the regular membership.

Note #4 – bring a large thumb drive to class – this is where you will keep a backup of your work.

How to Install Vinyl Railing

I bought my CertainTeed Kingston Railing from a local wholesale supplier and had it delivered to my home. The railing has an aluminum core surounded with a vinyl covering.
PLAN AHEAD – if possible put in your posts so that the railing balusters have at least two inches to four inches spacing at each end. If you have less than that your covers won’t fit easily.

 One thing you need to know upfront is that a 6 foot railing is actually 68 1/2 inches long. Similarly the 8 foot railing is not 8 feet, but is 92 1/2 inches long.

The first chore I had is figuring out how to cut the railing. I ended up borrowing a friends miter saw and bought a carbide tipped 60 teeth 10 inch saw blade. You don’t need to buy a special metal cutting blade. Just make sure you get a carbide tipped blade. I could have gotten a 40 teeth blade, but went with the 60 teeth to get a finer cut. Take  you time cutting through the metal.

There is a center support that you screw into the bottom at the middle point. Attach the crush block to the middle of the bottom rail-I used a 9/64 drill bit for the pilot hole. The block goes parallel to the rail. I also cut a couple of 2×4’s for extra support when I install the bottom rail. Make sure you set these down in the right orientation when you are

I also cut a wood support for the rail when I cut it on the floor to make sure my cuts are square.
When you measure the bottom rail you want the slots to be equi-distant from both end supports.

After you cut the railing you slip the covers on. There are two ways the covers can go on, so make sure they go on correctly so that they cover the supports.

Slide in the supports. I used a rubber mallet to get them in and still when I put the railing into place it was a bit tight. You might want to cut an extra 1/32″ extra off at the ends to get an easier fit.

All of the screws require an unusual  square bit for them, so you may be headed to the hardware store for this item.

You only put in two screws per side on the rail. For the bottom rail you put screws in the top part of the support. I used a 9/64 drill bit for the pilot hole. For the top rail you put in two screws in the bottom holes. Then you can screw in the vinyl railing to the aluminum end supports. I used a 9/64 drill pilot hole. Try to be careful here so that the screw doesn’t stick out and stop the plastic cover from closing. I used the one inch screws for all these attachments.

Note – they include some long screws, possibly for attaching to wood, but I never used these.

After you put in the bottom rail, you put in the square balusters.

Make sure the top rail lines up perfectly with the bottom rail before you cut it.

I then sanded and lubed the holes in top railing so that the balusters would go in easily. I also sprayed the balusters to make it easier to attach.

You start from one end and work your way down. You then screw in the aluminum supports for the top rail and attach the rail to the support.


1. My posts weren’t perfectly level so I had a problem with the bottom rail shorter than the top rail. Ideally you would like all your posts straight and level.

2. My 2nd problem is that I couldn’t fit one of my covers on and tried to cut it with my miter saw – it cracked and broke. You’re supposed to be able to cut this and bend it around the railing. I will try a hacksaw next time.

Note – I called the Certainteed main office and they were nice enough to send out four free replacements, even though I only needed one. I did find that if you used a coping saw, you can easily cut the bottom middle part and then it fairly easy will slip over the railing end.

3. On one of my top rails I had a post very close to the end and the metal support was sticking into the post area. I had to cut out a section from the post for it to go into the hole.

4. Another thing I’ve learned is that once you have your top rail in place, check the balusters and  try to move them up and down. Ideally, they won’t move much at all. If they do. then you know you have a problem.

5. My first drill bit only lasted for one railing. I bought the titanium metal bit – Id did last the rest of the project.

6. Drilling into concrete – I added two 38″ posts to the ends and had to connect them to the concrete. Not an easy job – even with a hammer drill.

TIME: my first rail took about four hours as I took my time and figured out how to do everything. My 3rd rail took about 1 1/2 hours.

The printed directions are almost useless, but they have a nice video on YouTube. Here it is:
Here’s the final job done:

College – only $10 for Seniors

St. Louis Community College has a nice perk for anyone 65 and over – you can register for classes and it will only cost you $10 – on one page it says $15 -so the price may have increased.

The only caveat is that you can’t register until the Friday before classes start – that is August 18th for the upcoming fall semester. Also, you might not be able to get the class you want if the class is full.

You will need to go to the school in person to get a student ID and parking pass.

If you’re between 60 and 65, you can register any time for half-price.


Our Role as Parents

Tornado Alert and Preparation

With three tornadoes in the St. Louis area yesterday and one tornado just 600 meters from my house, here are some lessons learned.

  1. Have a Weather Alert radio. You may not hear the outside sirens. Our friend Karen had no idea that bad weather was in the area. Make sure you have one with a backup battery in case your electricity goes out.
  2. Turn on your TV to see how close the bad weather is and get ready to go to the basement.
  3. Gather everything you may need ahead of time when you go to the basement – wallet/purse, checkbook, keys, flashlight and extra batteries, charged cell phones, appropriate clothes to wear, laptop and power cord(not strictly needed, but in case of  the worst it would be nice to have.)
  4. Go the basement  early. Don’t wait until the last moment. Some people couldn’t open the basement door when the tornado struck. Being macho and watching the storm is STUPID.
  5. I also like having a TV in the basement to monitor the storm. You’ll know when the storm has passed.
  6. Just because it looks like the worst part of the storm is away from you – don’t count on it. It appeared to me that our area was not going to get hit very hard after watching TV, but boy was I wrong.
  7. Here is a more complete list below from government sources.
    – Eye glasses
    – Battery powered radio/tv
    – Can opener for food.
    – Cash – extra
    – Cell phone and electric charger + car charger
    – Change of clothes + jacket and hat
    – Chlorine bleach and medicine dropper  – – – When diluted nine parts water to one part bleach, bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use scented, color safe or bleaches with added cleaners.
    – Duct tape
    – Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and
    – Emergency reference material such as a first aid book
    – Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
    – Fire Extinguisher
    – First aid kit
    – Flashlights and extra batteries
    – Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
    – Garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation – 5 gal bucket
    – Generator with new gas and oil
    – Gloves – heavy
    – Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container
    – Infant formula and diapers
    – Laptop – charger and mouse
    – Matches in a waterproof container
    – Mess kits, paper cups, plates and plastic utensils, paper towels
    – Paper and pencil
    – Pet food and extra water for your pet
    – Picture log of entire house belongings
    – Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
    – Pocket knife – leatherman
    – Prescription medications and
    – Rain gear
    – Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person.
    – Tent
    – Towels
    – Wallet – Keys – camera – Checkbooks
    – Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days,
    – Whistle to signal for help
    – Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Stopping an Accelerating Car

Consumer Reports has a nice video on how to stop a car which is accelerating out of control. Watch it – it might save your life some day. (video)