Removing a Stripped Stainless Steel Screw

Well, if you made the mistake of putting decking down with stainless steel screws like I did, you may have run into this issue before. Either you didn't drill a decent pilot hole, or it was getting to be too hot, and you were in a rush, it doesn't matter. The bottom line is that you now have a completely stripped stainless steel screw head staring you right in the face.

After giving up with the hacksaw (because I realized that would just leave a dead screw in the wood, I decided to use an old flathead screwdriver bit. I held the bit on the head of the screw and pounded it into the screw a few times with a hammer.

After the bit was into the screw, I slowly turned it out.

Stainless steel screw head


I finally built a sandbox for the kids (just in time for winter, right?). I've been meaning to all summer, and planned to do it as soon as our landscaping was done in the back yard.

It took longer than I thought to finish up the landscaping, and after that, there were a few other more pressing projects. But, the bottom line is that it's done.

I got the plans from the Home Depot website. It cost about $85 for the materials, which I realize is complete overkill for a sandbox. However, I wanted to have at least one thing in the back yard that wasn't a plastic monstrosity, even if they only use it a few times.

Actually, I'm sure it will be worth it. The kids love to play in the sand. Anyway, here are some pictures of the process.

Prepping the base

Building walls

Adding pavers for edging

Fixed bench



The birds are back in town

It was a nice day today. Walking around the Como Lake, we saw all sorts of birds coming back from migration. There were loons, coots, mallards, and gulls. The red-winged blackbirds were in full chorus.

One of the coolest things was a mature bald eagle that surprised us overhead. We stopped walking to take a look at it, when all of a sudden its talons came out, and down toward the water it went. When it came up, it had a fish.

Eagles are still an amazing sight. Even though they are easier to spot, their size and the way they soar are always captivating in my book.

Simple Lego Ship (with Blender mesh files)

This is a 3D model of a Lego ship that we made (over and over) when we were kids. For some reason, the simplicity of the space craft facinated us. We made many other spaceships, but this one stuck with me for some reason. Here's how it fits together.

The image below shows the pieces required. They are (from left to right): thruster, jet booster, seat, and steering wheel.

Lego Ship Pieces

This next two images shows it going together.

Lego Ship Step 1

Lego Ship Step 2

Finally, here's the ship fully assembled.

Lego Ship Fully Assembled

Here's how the ship looks with a Lego Astronaut on it.

Lego Ship and Man

Finally, we also had an alternative version where the thruster is a gun. I don't know if I like this one or not. It would definitely be more useful in a hostile environment, though.

Lego Ship and Man with Gun

I've also saved the Blender mesh files below. Feel free to download and use them.

Download the Blender mesh files

Lego Astronaut Blender Mesh Files

Lego Astronaut

Here is a Lego man that I did with Blender (v 2.4.9). I've decided I would post this, since when I did a search for one, I couldn't find one. I will try to keep it up to date. The link to the mesh files are below.

Download the Blender Files (this contains LegoMan.blend, face.jpg, and suit_logo2.jpg)

My First Indigo Bunting Sighting

Since I started paying attention to birds just a few years ago or so, I've always been fascinated with the Indigo Bunting. Probably for two reason. One (in my opinion), it's one of the more exotic looking birds that Minnesotans can see. And two, no matter how hard I tried, I could never see one in the woods. Just pictures in books. It always bugged me.

This morning that all changed though. While I was sitting at the breakfast table, I looked out at the feeder. At first I thought "that's an indigo bunting out there!" But, since that's never my luck, I figured it must be a bluebird. Once I saw that the chest was also blue, though, I ran and grabbed my video camera.

I couldn't believe it. I was actually seeing an indigo bunting. And, not out in some quiet, wooded area, but right in my back yard. Right here in Saint Paul, MN. When I got back to the window with the camera, it was still there. And, it stayed there for quite some time. Here's the video.

The funny thing is that lately I began thinking my back yard lacked bird traffic. It doesn't have a lot of trees, so I've always figured I'd have problems getting birds to visit. Now, I wonder if these sightings are more common than I think. I haven't really been bird watching for long, so it was definitely a blast to see. I hope it comes back again soon.

Vali-Hi Drive-In

I don't know, for some reason, I like this photo. It was taken randomly doing 55 mph east on I-94. Under those conditions, I thought it turned out pretty well.

Vali-Hi Drive-In

I love drive-ins. The Vali-Hi drive-in is a great place for the family to go. There's nothing like sitting outside to watch a movie on a summer night. My only hope is that these will still be around when my kids are old enough to stay up until the first showing.

Making Gravlax

Recently, at a party, I experienced Gravlax for the first time. When I asked about the recipe, I was told it was easy to make. As a salmon lover, this was perfect for me. So, I had to make it for myself. Here's how it went.

Note: This isn't a real recipe. I'm just paraphrasing what I did. You can find many great recipes out there if you need to follow more strict rules.

Step 1: Get a fillet of fresh Atlantic salmon. I froze my fillet for 7 days after I bought it. This may or may not have already been done. Also, it may or may not have been necessary. But, 7 days in the freezer should kill any chance of getting ringworm. So, I took the extra precaution.

Atlantic Salmon Filet

Step 2: Mix 1 part salt and 1 part sugar. Optionally, you can add crushed pepper. Rub the mixture into the salmon.

Salmon Salt and Sugar Rub

Step 3: Next, add dill. Don't skimp on the dill.

Chopped Dill

Step 4: Now, wrap up the salmon with a plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

Wrapped Gravlax

Step 5: Put the salmon in the refrigerator. Let it cure in there for 3 days, turning it over once each day.

Step 6: Slice up and serve. I added some capers, dill, lemon, red onion, and cream cheese.