EL Pumpkin is Spanish for Electroluminescent Pumpkin

EL Wire is a flexible wire that glows when you apply electricity to it. I am seeing more and more things trimmed with EL Wire and it makes for interesting effect. If you watched America’s Got Talent you might have seen a finalist called Team iLuminate. The iLuminate team used EL Wire to create animations and lighting effects on top of group dancing.

My nephews and niece were in town for Halloween and I was struck with the idea of adding a little animation to our Halloween Pumpkin. I wanted to make a pumpkin that changed expression. We made a basic smiley face and angry face by carving grooves into the face of the pumpkin. Then, we laced the EL Wire in and out of the grooves. We used red for the mad expression and blue and green for the smile expression. It was pretty easy to do and I had fun sharing my bits knowledge with the kids. It was rewarding to hear them come up with their own ideas – “We could hook an MP3 player up to this and scare people” or, “What if we added motion detection?”. It was also fun to hear my 5-year-old niece Zoey say, “Electroluminescent”.



I think the Blue EL Wire worked the best and looked the best. The red looks a little orange. The Green EL Wire sometimes didn’t illuminate. You can only illuminate 2 strands of EL Wire at a time with the stuff I had from SparkFun. I need to experiment more with EL Wire and get an EL Wire controller to do some more intricate animations. I will post future projects if I come up with anything interesting.

Always start with sketches when you start your project. It’s important to have a plan to allow yourself to stray knowingly.

EL Pumpkin Sketches
EL Pumpkin Sketches

EL Wire is LED of the future if you ask me…

Adding Images to EAGLE PCB Layouts

Over at Instructables, I created a tutorial on how to add custom graphics to EAGLE PCB layouts. EAGLE is a very popular layout tool for electronic circuit boards known as PCBs. The tool is powerful but some things are not obvious. We were working on a PCB layout and wanted to add our logo to the design. After spending the afternoon searching around, I finally decided to brute-force the process. I figured it out and now I can replicate the process of adding images to EAGLE. I thought that  I would share what I’ve learned so it will be easier for you.

For this Instructable, you will need an installed copy of EAGLE and a PCB Layout that you want to add some graphics to. I am using SparkFun’s FT232RL USB-to-Serial Breakout PCB (EAGLE Files) for example purposes.

Mini Vox Robot Hacking

Yes, I went to Radio Shack today. And, yes, I will still call it Radio Shack. And, yes, sometimes you need a quick electronics fix. I get most of my stuff online these days.

Radio Shack had the Erector Spykee Mini Vox robot on sale for $10. The Mini Vox takes voice commands and makes the robot move, talk, dance, and even fire a “laser.” The box says, “Ages 7+” – I fit that category. The box also says, “Some assembly required.” It should have said, “Some de-assembly required.”

Mini Vox Voice Controlled Robot

While playing with the demo model at the store, I realized that I could reuse the voice commands to set inputs on a microcontroller.

The voice commands go something like this:

“Mini Vox”

Robot beeps


Robot moves forward

Here are all of the commands and their response:

    1. “Forward”DC motors get positive voltage
    2. “Backup”DC motors get negative voltage
    3. “Turn Left”One DC motor gets positive voltage and the other negative
    4. “Turn Right”One DC motor gets positive voltage and the other negative
    5. “Laser War”LEDs flash and RGB LED flashes different colors
    6. “Yo Man”Says “Yo Man” back at you and RGB LED flashes different colors
    7. “Electro Dance” – Makes sounds, LEDs flash, RGB LED flashes different colors, and DC motors pulse on and off
    8. “Destroy Target”Says, “This is my favorite,” makes sounds, flashes LEDs, and RGB LED flashes colors

When I got Mini Vox home, I ripped it apart. I was quite surprised how responsive the voice commands are and how many parts are inside this little robot. Most of the parts are reusable.

Here’s what you get for your $10 investment:

    • Orange LED (x2)
    • RGB LED
    • DC Motor (x2)
    • Motor Driver Circuit Boards (x2)
    • 8 ohm Speaker
    • Microphone
    • Slider Switch
    • Momentary Push Button
    • Lots of screws

Mini Vox Guts

The forward and the back voice commands are the easiest to tap into. You can disconnect the DC motors and connect them to a digital input of a microcontroller and now you can use voice commands to set the state of 2 digital inputs and act on them.

If I come up with something clever, I will let you know. But, the first piece of my Iron Man suit has fallen into place.

$10 Mont Blanc Rollerball Hack

My dad gave me a Mont Blanc pen as a gift a while back. I love the pen – it writes amazingly smooth, it’s rather expensive, and I also don’t want to lose it.

On the site Instructables.com, I found a pen hack tutorial. Someone figured out that the refill for the Mont Blanc rollerball pen is the same as the refill for the Pilot G2 pen. The Mont Blanc is so nice because of the tip and the refill has the nib right on it. I picked up some office supplies and recreated the project. I bought a Pilot G2 for $3 and a Mont Blanc rollerball refill for $7 at Staples. My Pilot G2 / Mont Blanc rollerball pen turned out great. I feel much more comfortable carrying the hacked version around.

The Pilot G2 Mont Blanc

Here are some tips:

    • You can get blue or black Mont Blanc refills.
    • The Pilot G2 is the “0.7 Fine Point” version of the pen.
    • The Mont Blanc rollerball refill is slightly larger than the ink cartridge of the Pilot G2.

All you have to do is trim down the Mont Blanc refill and match the size. I took some sand paper and smoothed down the plastic endcap to match the size of the Pilot G2 rollerball cartridge.

Here is the tutorial that I found that inspired me to create my own $10 Mont Blanc Rollerball.

Steam Pumpkin – My Steampunk Pumpkin

Halloween is one of my favorite times a year being ShadowLord and all. I was Batman three times in my life and only once as a kid. Pumpkin carving is something I also get into. My first pumpkin at age 9 was an old farmer smoking a pipe. It even had a twinkling red LED in the corncob pipe. After burning up a handful of LEDs my dad taught me about current limiting resistors.

Fast forward 20 years and I am still shoving LEDs into pumpkins. This year my inspiration comes from steampunk, a growing subculture fascinated with steam-aged garb and future technology fusion. Steampunk was born of the H. G. Wells and Jules Verne visions of futuristic technology and style. Call it what you want, Steampunk is an inspiring movement of makers and re-users of technology and materials.

Here is my steampunk-inspired pumpkin.

Where do you start?
I cobbled together whatever I could find that resonated steampunk. I found my Mom’s old purse that had some faux leather, brass loops, and a gold chain. I also grabbed an old candle holder, a lampshade, a door hinge, a metal coffee filter, and some brass brads. My Dremel was used to drill, cut metal, and cause sparks (insert grunt).
Full of hot air
I knew that I was going to add some technology to the design and I settled on an automated fog machine that would blow smoke from the ears of the pumpkin. Okay, I know it’s a little literal, but it is a steam pumpkin.
How do you do that?
Using the ioBridge IO-204, I rigged up the fog machine to trigger when someone walked in front of the pumpkin. I used a passive infrared sensor from Adafruit to detect motion. The IO-204 has an upcoming feature that allows for onboard logic, meaning you can break off of the Internet and have local controls take over. To integrate it with the fog machine, I tapped into the wireless remote control that came with the fog machine. This made it easy to control using a single relay. To light the pumpkin, I bought a BlinkM RGB LED Blaster from Sparkfun. The LEDs are high-intensity lights that you can mix colors together. It turned out to be a neat touch. When someone gets close, I set the color with the IO-204 to an evil red to accompany the smoke.
For more information and more “How-to” detail, check out Instructables.com.
Introducing The Steam Pumpkin
Here is a YouTube video of “Steamy Wonder” in action:

Internet-enabled Message Center

What are you up to now?

I took the leap and bought an Arduino from LiquidWare. Arduino is an open-source microcontroller that has a processor, some digital I/O pins, and analog inputs. You can create little standalone programs that monitor inputs, control LEDs, and pretty much anything that you dream up. My favorite projects are ones that involve the Internet. A microcontroller is rather simple by itself, but what if it could use the web to get answers, send an email, maybe update my Twitter status? That means there is an unlimited number of projects ahead – Microcontrollers collaborating in cyberspace. The missing link for the web part is the ioBridge IO-204. I know you are no stranger to the IO-204, but for those of you who have not heard. The IO-204 sits on my network and relays data from its channels to ioBridge.com servers and back into my network. It allows for remote control and monitoring without network configuration and programming. One of the expansion boards is a two-way serial board that accepts serial strings and connects them to APIs of web services that ioBridge interfaces to and sends back responses. For instance, I can send the commands, “[[[calc|9*9]]]” and this returns 81. OK, maybe not impressive on the surface, but that result came from Google Calculator. Anything Google Calculator can solve, your microcontroller has access to those results. For more examples, visit the Serial Web Services API on the wiki.

Message Center Project
I wanted to combine these two worlds with a sample project – maybe it will inspire you to come up with something better, spark some ideas that you have. I have my Arduino measuring my outside temperature here in Pittsburgh, which is an analog input scaled to Fahrenheit. At any moment I can press a button and get the temperature on the LCD screen – no Internet required. Since I have been planning a work trip to Atlanta, I also wanted to compare my temperature with hot-lanta’s. So, my project solves that. Using the “weather command”, I am able to get the weather anywhere in the world by zip code or city name.
I added a few more things to the message center. With another button, I can get Google’s current stock price. My strike price was $405, so I have been watching it closely. If it gets below $405, I get an automatic email from my message center. The stock quote comes from the Yahoo Financials API.
I have one more button that emails me a secret message when it’s pressed. I put this in here for when my mom comes into my room from when I am on the road. It’s aptly labeled, do not press. Next time, I will hook it to a light sensor in the basement to catch her when she turns on my lights. I am sure you all have the same issues with your mom.

Source Code

The Arduino requires some c-like programming and I wanted to include the sketch for you to steal and use for your projects. You will see how I send the serial commands from the Arduino to the IO-204 using the UART serial connection (pins 0/1) and receive and parse the incoming results. I use a SoftwareSerial port for the LCD results. The pushbuttons are software debounced and use pull-up resistors for solid digital connections. The LED’s linked to each button use a 330-ohm resistor to protect them. I was aided by the Arduino Inputs tutorial on Ladyada.net, Debounce Tutorial, and the ioBridge Wiki / Forum. Please let me know if you have any questions, maybe I can help. I have learned a lot about handling strings on the Arduino.

// Message Center using Arduino and the ioBridge IO-204
// An open-souce Shadowlord Project
// www.IamShadowlord.com

#include SoftwareSerial.h>

// SoftwareSerial Pins
#define rxPin 2
#define txPin 3

// Setup Software Serial
SoftwareSerial softSerial = SoftwareSerial(rxPin, txPin);

// Global Setup
int middleLED = 11;
int rightLED = 10;
int leftLED = 12;

int leftButton = 5;
int leftButtonCurrent = LOW;
int leftButtonReading;
int leftButtonPrevious = HIGH;
long leftButtonTime = 0;
long leftButtonDebounce = 200;

int middleButton = 4;
int middleButtonCurrent = LOW;
int middleButtonReading;
int middleButtonPrevious = HIGH;
long middleButtonTime = 0;
long middleButtonDebounce = 200;

int rightButton = 6;
int rightButtonCurrent = LOW;
int rightButtonReading;
int rightButtonPrevious = HIGH;
long rightButtonTime = 0;
long rightButtonDebounce = 200;

int tempPin = 5;
int tempAnalog = 0;
int tempF = 0;

char* currentRequest = "";

// Start up program
void setup() {

pinMode(rxPin, INPUT);
pinMode(txPin, OUTPUT);

pinMode(leftLED, OUTPUT);
pinMode(middleLED, OUTPUT);
pinMode(rightLED, OUTPUT);

pinMode(leftButton, INPUT);
pinMode(middleButton, INPUT);
pinMode(rightButton, INPUT);




// Setup LCD

// Test LEDs
digitalWrite(leftLED, HIGH);
digitalWrite(middleLED, HIGH);
digitalWrite(rightLED, HIGH);


digitalWrite(leftLED, LOW);
digitalWrite(middleLED, LOW);
digitalWrite(rightLED, LOW);


// Start main program loop
void loop(){

// Get Analog Input and scale as temperature for ioBridge temperature sensor on arduino
tempAnalog = analogRead(tempPin);
tempF = tempAnalog / 6.875;

// Monitor left button status and debounce
leftButtonReading = digitalRead(leftButton);

if (leftButtonReading == HIGH && leftButtonPrevious == LOW &&
millis() - leftButtonTime > leftButtonDebounce) {
if (leftButtonCurrent == HIGH) leftButtonCurrent = LOW;
else {digitalWrite(leftLED, HIGH);
softSerial.print("Outside: ");
moveCursor("02", "01");
softSerial.print("Atlanta: ");
leftButtonCurrent = LOW;
//Request temperature in Atlanta via ioBridge
digitalWrite(leftLED, LOW);
leftButtonTime = millis();

leftButtonPrevious = leftButtonReading;

// Monitor middle button status and debounce
middleButtonReading = digitalRead(middleButton);

if (middleButtonReading == HIGH && middleButtonPrevious == LOW &&
millis() - middleButtonTime > middleButtonDebounce) {
if (middleButtonCurrent == HIGH) middleButtonCurrent = LOW;
else {currentRequest = "Google";
digitalWrite(middleLED, HIGH);
softSerial.print("GOOG: $");
middleButtonCurrent = LOW;
//Request Google Stock Price via ioBridge
digitalWrite(middleLED, LOW);
middleButtonTime = millis();

middleButtonPrevious = middleButtonReading;

// Monitor right button status and debounce
rightButtonReading = digitalRead(rightButton);

if (rightButtonReading == HIGH && rightButtonPrevious == LOW &&
millis() - rightButtonTime > rightButtonDebounce) {
if (rightButtonCurrent == HIGH) rightButtonCurrent = LOW;
else {
digitalWrite(rightLED, HIGH);
softSerial.print("Alert: ");
rightButtonCurrent = LOW;
//Send email via ioBridge
Serial.print("[[[email|hans@nothans.com|Alert|Mom, is pressing your buttons]]]");
digitalWrite(rightLED, LOW);
rightButtonTime = millis();

rightButtonPrevious = rightButtonReading;

// Display serial messages
if(Serial.available() > 0){


char charIn = 0;
byte i = 0;
char stringIn[32] = "";

while(Serial.available()) {
charIn = Serial.read();
stringIn[i] = charIn;
i += 1;

if (currentRequest == "Google") {

int stockPrice = atoi(stringIn);
moveCursor("02", "01");
stockPrice = stockPrice - 405;
softSerial.print("Change: $");
currentRequest = "";


// End program loop

// ioBridge Serial LCD Functions and Parameters (for SoftwareSerial)

void displayMessage(char* message){

void clearLCD(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void setBacklightBrightness(int level){
// level
// 0=Off -> 9=Brightest

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void setBacklightTime(int level, byte seconds){
// level
// 0=Off -> 9=Brightest

// seconds
// 01 = 1 seconds => 06 = 60 seconds

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print(seconds, BYTE);

void moveCursorHome(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void turnCursorOn(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void turnCursorOff(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void turnBlinkingCursorOn(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void turnBlinkingCursorOff(){
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void scrollMessage(int row, int speed, char* message){
// row
// 1=First Line -> 2=Second Line

// speed
// 0=Slowest -> 9=Fastest

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);
softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void moveCursor(char* row, char* column){
// row
// 01=First Line -> 02=Second Line

// column
// 01=First Position -> 16=Last Position

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void drawHorizontalGauge(int row, char* leftLabel, char* rightLabel, char* length){
// row
// 1=First Line -> 2=Second Line

// leftLabel and rightLabel
// 2 character labels

// length
// a=Empty -> k=Full (filled in from left to right)

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);

void drawVerticalGauge(int height){
// height
// 0=Bottom -> 8=Top (filled in from bottom to top)

softSerial.print(0xFE, BYTE);


Bonus Project

It’s simple, but I hacked together a power supply for the Arduino, which gets power from USB or a coaxial input from a transformer. I wanted to only run one brick, wall wart, so I hacked a USB cable. There are 4 wires in the USB cable (from pinouts.ru):

2D-WhiteData –
3D+GreenData +

The IO-204 has a regulated 5VDC and ground (up to 1A – 4A total draw depending on supply) on each channel, so using a terminal strip, I connected the VCC and GND to a cut in half USB cable.

It’s magic – look ma, only one power source.

Death Tag – Spitball with Tic Tacs

You’re It!

Death Tag is a full contact game using a McDonald’s straw and various projectiles – the most lethal of which is the Tic Tac – 1.5 calories of pain. This is Death Tag’s story… Pass on the fun, er, the mayhem…You’re it!

I invented the game as a kid when I discovered that a Tic Tac and a McDonald’s straw had roughly the same diameter. A fresh Tic Tac fits almost perfectly into the straw. This principle makes the combination nearly lethal. Over the years, I have expanded on the design and have tested straws from every fast food chain in the United States and projectiles of all sorts.

The Straw

The McDonald’s straw has one of the largest diameters, with a straw from Starbucks a close second, and an In and Out Burger straw third (West coast glocking). Always have multiple straws on hand – you never know if you need back up muzzleloaders. Tic Tacs become sticky, so avoid copious spit.

The Projectile

The Tic Tac fits perfectly inside the McDonald’s straw. My independent testing proves that this combination is the most fierce with the highest muzzle velocity. The Tic Tac is the most accurate and longest shooting projectile I have used. It also leaves a white mark on your targets. There are two drawbacks though – stickiness and cost. Saliva + Tic Tac equals jammed barrel on occasion. I have recently switched to un-popped popcorn. This projectile is cheap and somewhat pointed to being your enemy to a swift submission. Popcorn also allows for some advanced techniques like “The Rain Maker”.


Load the projectile, use your tongue to stop up one end of the straw. Build up some pressure and move your tongue. You can gets some serious distance and accurate shots this way.
“The Machine Gun” or “The Rain Maker” technique requires a cheek full of popcorn. Load up some popcorn and shuffle the kernels into the barrel while blowing. Make it rain destruction on your opponent.

Origin of the Name

Death Tag started picking up steam in the early 2000’s. I was on the road a lot and drove solo across the country many times. On a drive from Columbia, SC to Melbourne, FL, my friend Dale and I stopped at a truck stop. The trucker’s paradise had everything, a Micky D’s and convenient snacks. I bought up a supply of Tic Tacs and grabbed a handful of straws. I explained the premise to Dale and it soon involved us shooting cars out of the window. We assigned point values to certain objects that you hit. For example, the side a truck was 1,000 points, but a minivan is 5,000 points. A car window had the point value of 10,000 points and a road sign was 15,000 (since you could shot out and arc it – we called it the golden arch). The ultimate thing we shot was a Target sign on the side of a tractor trailer – 50,000 points. The “freshmint” or white Tic Tacs also leaving a little white mark to be proof positive of a successful hit. We started calling it, “Death Tag” because we were paying more attention to hitting our targets than driving safely.

A Word of Caution

It’s called Death Tag for a reason. Be careful, you could die, lose an eye, or leave a welt. I know it sounds fun, but I am a trained professional. I recommend discussing the side effects with a doctor and always wear proper eye protection.

Making the Perfect Cup of Coffee

The only reason to make the perfect cup of coffee is to enjoy the perfect cup of coffee. My life is filled with moments connected to coffee. Nothing was better than being in New Orleans and having a coffee at Cafe Du Monde. Or blitz chess at Seatle’s Best (while they were the best). And performing at a coffee shop on an Open Mic night with bad poets, mediocre musicians, and wannabe comedians.

These sentiments might not mean much to a person that doesn’t drink coffee (or tea), but I am sure you can find a parallel substance in your life. I am not talking about drinking coffee for the sake of drinking coffee, not the times you need it to wake up, but rather the experience of coffee. When you couple a perfect moment with the perfect cup, you create a truly great experience.

“It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.”

Ernest Hemingway

I would rather have a brewed coffee or espresso vs. a latte or cappuccino. Certain large-scale coffee vendors have serialized the coffee drink to the point where coffee is second to sugar. A Cafe Americano (espresso plus hot water) is about the best value (but I noticed Starbucks raises the price $.35 every quarter). I am not a purist but I am in it for the coffee taste. I am so much not a purist that sometimes I say “Expresso” when I am in the company of those who take it too far. I like to miss use words and see the retractions, most just simply ignore me.

What are the ingredients of the perfect cup of coffee? I am going to conclude that the situation is just as significant as the actual cup of coffee. Take away the experience and it probably would taste as it tastes from a truck stop in North Dakota. When I am home I meticulously attempt to make the perfect cup of coffee using apparatuses from all over the world.

Here is my approach to the pursuit of the perfect cup:

    • Invite a friend (or better yet have the friend make your coffee)
    • Have a notebook handy for those best ideas
    • Mute the mobile
    • Grind a whole bean roast (French is one of the best coffee tastes)
    • Use a coarse grind for the French Press
    • Use medium grind for the drip
    • Use filtered water and ceramic mugs
    • Boil the water and then let it cool off for 2 minutes
    • Use a little of the hot water to warm up the carafe and cups
    • Brew in your preferred fashion (I prefer the Aeropress for dark roasts and the French press for lighter roasts)
    • Don’t overdo the steeping – bitterness is what most people don’t enjoy (bitterness is caused by overheating and over brewing)
    • Pour into mugs
    • Add warm milk if necessary (a Cafe Au Lait is equal parts coffee and warmed milk)
    • Create your moment and enjoy

It’s a lot of work that needs continual attention and improvement. A lot can go wrong, but the overwhelming ingredient is timing.

iTurn – iPhone and iPod Touch Hack

Since my toaster has been on the Internet Twittering my toasting habits, I have been flooded with email asking what I was going to do next. To be fair, most of the email suggested that I had too much time on my hands. My mom got me an iPod Touch for Christmas (she gave it to me a few days early). I have not had the thing out of my sight since she surprised me with a wonderful gift. She also gave me Batman which I transferred to the iPod. I turned the screen about 44 times a minute while watching The Joker and The Dark Knight try to out smart each other. This got me thinking, “Could I control a motor with the movement of the iPod?” I had my next hack.

The iPhone or iPod Touch has an accelerometer that detects how the device is oriented. As the devices moves off axis (from straight up and down) the screen rotates. I want to use that feedback to control the position of a motor or servo or cause specific events to happen depending on the device’s position.

Taking the ioBridge IO-204 module, I connected the servo controller and a servo to one of the channels. On the servo I taped a Best Western hotel pen to show the movement of the servo. I found from hours of testing that the Best Western worked the “Best” and Hampton Inn worked slightly worse.

iTurn Setup
On the ioBridge website, I created 3 widgets that corresponded with the orientation of the iPod. “Left” for when tilted towards the left, “Right” when I turned right, and “Forward” when I was holding the iPod normally (straight up and down).

Warning: The next part involves some light programming. I made a quick HTML file with some JavaScript that detected the orientation of the iPod and called the appropriate widget. The orientation code is below for those of you that are interested in trying this for yourself:

function updateOrientation() {
case 0: widgetExecute(“Upright Widget ID”);

case -90: widgetExecute(“Right Widget ID”);

case 90: widgetExecute(“Left Widget ID”);

Load up the completed HTML file on your iPhone or iPod Touch and now you can control a servo with the turning of your iPhone. I call it “iTurn” (didn’t see that one coming, did you?).

Here is a YouTube video of the iTurn project:

I Fixed the Furnance

I have been off of the road this week and have noticed that the leaves are turning here in Western Pennsylvania. The temperature has been dropping and got pretty cold overnight, so I tried out the furnace. As I switched the thermostat from cool to heat, I heard a click, some gas released, the normal procedure that I remember from last winter, but this time the sequence ended with a loud rattling sound and no heat.

The neighbor came over and we got daring and took off the front panel of the furnace. There was a definite source of the rattling and humming, but I have never looked at a furnace without the cover. I felt led to loosening some screws and found a status light that was blinking. On the back of the cover plate, there was a chart of the status light indications. Of course solid green was good, but this light was blinking twice and repeating after a pause. The chart indicated that a valve was stuck open. I grabbed some more tools and removed more screws from a pipe getting closer to the source of the humming sound, and found a blower fan stuck. We cleared some debris, put some tubing back, all of the remaining screws, and the furnace kicked on. The house was getting warmer and more importantly, there were no explosions, not that I was worried, but I did leave my neighbor and stood behind a wall when I flipped the power switch.

I have fixed all kinds of computer problems and do some pretty advanced troubleshooting on electronic devices, but I got the biggest sense of satisfaction fixing my furnace and feeling the heat coming out of the vents. There’s just something about fixing mechanical things, using tools, and having a pile of leftover parts at the end. I walked around all week hoping that something else would break.