greatbear: (picard upset)
Jeff and I do most of our grocery shopping at a nearby Giant Food store. Like so many large grocery chains, this one has a customer loyalty card (read, marketing and research device). In addition to the supposed discounts the card offers, it also accumulates "points" that can be used for discounts outside the store. The chain has partnered with Shell gas stations that will give you $0.10 off of a gallon of fuel with each hundred dollars spent on groceries. Fair enough, especially since we do spend a lot on food, and there's now a Shell station mere walking distance from Mayhem Acres. The point accumulate, but need to be used within a month of earning them. In some cases we've earned anout points to get 50 cents or more off each gallon. As the rules state, these can be used to purchase up to 35 gallons of fuel with a discount. Jeff is usually the one that takes the discount regularly, since he is the one most often footing the food bill (he's a chef). In order to make the best use of the discount, we've often filled a car along with several five gallon jerry cans we use to power the fleet of outdoor equipment and generators among other things, this in order to get as close to the 35 gallon maximum. My trucks also benefit here, as the tanks are bigger than those on the cars. The other day I needed to fill the big truck, knowing it would take close to 30 gallons of diesel fuel to fill. Points were set to expire soon (we've lost some before this way), and having just come home from the grocery store with enough points to drop 40 cents per gallon, it was time.

Just like anything that promises discounts, redeeming them isn't exactly easy. It's doable when you pay at the pump, but it takes a rather technical song and dance with precise key presses, card scans and such. I lose my temper when I try, because I'm not familiar with it. Jeff has come along and done the button pushing in these cases. The other issue is, when paying at the pump, the transactions are limited to $75 dollars or so per transaction. This will not buy enough fuel for the truck when it's thirsty for one, and the discount is limited to one transaction. Anything more is regular price. There is a way around this as well, you have to pay the cashier inside to ring up a big enough transaction. Okay, that's doable, but I wasn't able to walk to and stand in the store, so Jeff did this while I sat down on the pump island. It took him a while to do this, and while I was waiting, the store manager was wandering around cleaning the pumps and tidying up the place. This man is a certifiable dolt, he's been there for years, the staff hates him and quits constantly, and he's dumber than Forrest Gump but also lacking in any of the charm or lucky situations, not to mention politeness. Well, our intricate procedure needed to get cheap diesel fuel was finally in place, and the pump began beeping to tell me it's ready. I pull out the nozzle, press the start button and began fueling. Well, didn't the fool with the rag and spray cleaner decide to start cleaning the pump I was using (again!), and while doing so, he stuck his hand inside the slot where the fuel nozzle gets stored and causes the pump to immediately shut off. I stood there totally dumfounded for a second, with barely six dollars on the counter. The guy is looking at me with his hand inside the nozzle slot and a quizzical look on his face, and I realized that he not only stopped the pump, but it was the same action as finishing up filling and returning the nozzle, completing the transaction. I honestly didn't know what to do for a moment until it hit me. I just saved 40 cents a gallon on about two gallons of fuel. I slammed the nozzle into the pump and told the guy he just wasted my points for the month. Manager Guy was rambling and mumbling, I told him I am not returning here anymore and started climbing in serious pain back into the truck. He did surprise me by taking a $20 bill out of his own wallet and apologizing, which I did accept. I sat in the truck and fumed for a bit, Jeff shaking his head. I decided to go ahead and get my fuel, but my card wouldn't work in the pump. I was ready to pull my beard out and head home, but Jeff used his card to get the task done. I gave him the cash and we both went home for the night. Seriously, I have a short fuse when dealing with certain people. I am also very forgiving, and can tolerate quite a bit at first. But some people are hopeless. I also can't stand it when things are needlessly difficult. It's sad to think that both of these are increasing in number at a frightening pace.

At least one thing was almost comically easy, especially given the circumstances. That night, while I was writhing in pain laying in bed, cussing and fuming before the painkillers took effect, I was able to pull up parts diagrams on my little laptop and order parts to fix my MINI Cooper left hand window. I remember when I actually had to go get car parts from a shop during the day. Right now, that's too difficult.
greatbear: (four cycle)
I've gone on and on about my love for music via these pages since I began the whole LJ thing over ten years ago. I also have written ad infinitum about my love of automobiles (when they aren't causing me some hellbound fit because something is wrong and I am in the midst of fixing them, at least). I've been perusing a bunch of saved links (not much else I can do) and found this video, one I meant to post here some time ago. It's somewhat of an ad, but it has no focus on a particular product. In it, we are treated to something very simple, but for people like me, it has a very special, deep meaning. It is the sight and, more importantly, the sound of several high performance cars being started up. Domestic to exotic, every one has its own place among some of the greatest performance automobiles. Each one has it's own voice, it's own song. Like some of my favorite music, hearing this music brings a smile to my face.

Find your best set of earphones, or killer surround system, maximize your screen and enjoy.

greatbear: (me and mom)
For someone who has problems getting around and has to work on anything that involves standing or exertion on a 15 minute on/15 minute off work cycle, I seem to have quite a few irons in the fire. The door project spawned several concurrent sub-projects, which was actually planned for the most part. What wasn't necessarily planned was how many sub-projects ended up being spawned from this main one. The good news is I am finally putting to use a lot of the supplies I had gotten in the past. The only thing I could say that is bad about it is slows down the individual pieces of the puzzle as a whole. I don't mind this in the least, because the concurrent bits are taking less time by far than if they were done piecemeal. I brainstorm along the way, and discover ways to make things work better and build-in paths for future upgrades and easier maintenance. For example, I've had an alarm system for the house I bought all the way back around 1995. I'm finally installing it. I hid the sensor for the door in the frame, and ran the cabling for it since I had the wall apart. Yesterday I hid a conduit in the closet so I had an easy way to run wiring from the basement (where all the brains are) into the attic. So today I was able to connect the little dome camera above the door into the switches in the basement in record time. I should've done this years ago. I gave it a test run tonight, and I am beyond pleased. I have full-HD, 3-megapixel, bulbous video:



The camera does not have "night vision" using infrared LEDs as an invisible floodlight. But the automation system will turn on the light above the door as someone approaches, and if things are set to do so, a pic can be taken and sent to wherever I am, and this also starts a video recording. If it's someone I know, and they need to get into the house, I can unlock the door from across the country (or planet, for that matter, wherever I can get interwebs) and lock it when they leave. It has been a lot of fun messing with this stuff. I do the noisy work during the day, and when Jeff hits the sack early in order to get up a 0dark30, I can quietly fiddle with the electronic end of it. While everything does tie together in one way or another, if the automation were to go on the fritz, everything can work manually, and life is the same as it usually is. Having had unfortunate delays for years that kept me from doing these things earlier meant that technology has improved immensely, and not only is this sort of stuff mure capable and reliable, it's much easier to install and integrate.

Things weren't all peaches and cream, though. I hopped into the MINI to run a couple errands and I noticed the passenger's seat was wet. I then noticed the window was slightly open. Okay, no biggie, it's been raining like crazy lately, close the window. All it did was squeak and move a a fraction of an inch. I tried to lower it, and it went maybe an inch at best. Then it wouldn't go back up. Even wrestling with the glass didn't help much. So, now I have an unexpected little project. Strange that it's the passenger's side, which doesn't get used nearly as much. This also makes i the first real problem I've had with that car in over 11 years. I did have some minor problems when I first got the car that were taken care of under warranty, and last year I replaced the speakers because the ones in front failed. So today I have been drying out the car and will look into it during the weekend. Most likely it's the window lift mechanism. I would have simply parked the car on the carport where it normally sits off season to keep the rain out until I can fix it later, but the trailer is parked in the way. I'd rather fix it and be done with it.

The one thing that really took the wind out of my sails happened the other day. Since I needed to get into the entryway closet to not only install the conduit, but also do some serious cleaning and prep for the new floor. Inside the closet was a few of Mom's coats, most of which ones that I had yet to find a good home for. One of them was one I was keeping, it was a mink-trimmed coat she had gotten around 1970. She was very proud of this coat, since we were not well-to-do in my earlier years, she had scrimped and saved to buy this one thing to make her feel a bit more elegant. When I pulled the coat out, I noticed a hole. My first thought was that moths had gotten in and chewed on it. Upon further inspection I found the right sleeve has been totally destroyed by a mouse, who nested in it and chewed away the better part of the sleeve and even some of the fur trim. I completely lost it. I wanted to just throw everything away at that point. After a while I regained a bit of composure, but my will was shot and my enthusiasm for the projects was dashed. There is absolutely no hope for the old coat now, so I will cut off the remaining fur trimmings and toss the rest. I've had a fair share of "physical memories" like this ruined over the years, mostly from outside forces. And it reopens old wounds, puts me mentally is a dark, cold place, and my willingness to be outgoing and to do things becomes impossible. I eventually recover, but momentum is slow to build once again.

I am hoping that progress and my limited mobility keep improving, or at least maintain their current state. We have a lot of plans and trips for the very near future, and Jeff needs a huge break too. My work is giving me pleasure for the most part, and we could use some downtime fun.

In the spirit of my 2.8mm wiiide-angle view, it seems ol' Homestarrunner and gang are back for the first time since 2008 with a new cartoon.

Happy weekend, everyone!
greatbear: (forearms)
People driving past La Casa must wonder if we either have 1) lots of people living in the house, or 2) are constantly throwing parties. Sadly, the seven vehicles (three trucks and four cars) belong to just the two of us. Add in the 30 foot trailer and parking at Mayhem Acres sometimes takes some planning. I also have to remember lots of license plate numbers. This is not so bad, but for some odd reason I always seem to have a mental block remembering the plate number of my Dodge Stratus. The rest? No problem. The Strat, as I call it, is my usual daily driver. Though it's 14 years old, it's never had any serious problems, is pretty economical if I keep my foot out of it, and the parts for it are cheaper than average. Jeff and I used it as our ride of choice when we would travel, since it's something he can easily drive (no stick shift like the MINI Cooper,, or as long as a bus like the Silverado, for example). Since Jeff recently bought a new car (a 2015 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium), some of the wear and tear on the Stratus has been relieved. It's a nice, roomy and economical ride with some cool gadgetry like the Eyesight collision avoidance system that also acts as an adaptive cruise control and will even give you a gentle reminder if you are sitting at a light, it turns green and you don't immediately start moving. It senses the road around it with a pair of cameras on either side of the rear view mirror, can alert you if you veer from between the lines, there's an animal or object in the road ahead and even stop the car at speeds below 20mph and you might be distracted and a car stops ahead of you. There's also the (required for 2015 models) rear-view camera and lots of other cool tech to get the geek on. This is Jeff's first brand-new car after all these years, and, so far, he's loving it. The subject came up a while back about what to call the car, if anything. I keep calling mine The Strat, Jeff started calling it the Subie, then I started calling it the Cubaru. For kicks, I went to see if CUBARU was taken as a vanity plate, and it wasn't. And surprising, given how many people around play guitar, neither was STRAT. My original plates were fading and the rear plate had a hole in it and was buckled from being rear-ended many years ago. So...



I am far too lapsed to be considered a guitarist these days, maybe I should bone up on my playing to do my two-meaning plate justice. My finger joints and my damaged shoulder make that difficult. Practice might not make perfect, but at least I could fake it. Jeff, however, needs no practice in being a cub. :)
greatbear: (tools)
Finally. After postponing this for years due to health issues, money issues, time issues, timing issues or just plain procrastination, I finally ordered up a new front door for La Casa Mayhem, and I picked it up today. I had to convince the people at Homo Despot that I had a nice big truck, and the wonderful shipping pallet it was delivered to the store on was ideal for me to get it home with the least chance of additional damage. The material handlers, obviously walking around with "Loading..." graphics floating over their heads were having problems processing this. The forklift drivers were out to lunch, and the guys rolling the door around the store seemed to be colloquially in the same place. Both me and the cool gal in the millwork department I had been dealing with were basically saying the same thing. Finally one of the forklift operators returned and all of us humped the thing onto the truck, where I tied it all down and headed home. Jeff came home soon after I did, and the two of us wrangled it off the truck and onto the carport where it will sit safely until I begin work. I'm glad I had the pallet to keep the thing safe and upright, if anything were to knock it over before I installed it I would be fit to be tied. I took a couple quick shots of the thing still cloaked in plastic.



Another one with glass detail )

In addition to taking out the original door/sidelight assembly, I might have to resize the rough opening slightly for best fit, plus reroute the doorbell wiring. I also plan to affix a hidden alarm switch as well as I am doing the work. This should complete the basic door installation. While I am focused on that part of the house, I will also take out a small section of an adjacent wall where the light switches are in order to consolidate some of the outdoor lighting controls as well as prep it all for ongoing home automation. ALso, for over 25 hears, my OCD has been bugging me because of a small electrical hack hidden in that wall. After the house was built and all the electric hooked up, I found there was no power to the outlets in the front part of the living room. Turns out the electricians who wired the house forgot to run a branch to the five outlets there. To fix it, they popped a hole in the one living room outlet box and the outside lightswitch box in the entryway, and connected the two with a piece of ratty UF cable. I discovered this when I changed a light switch in the entry years ago. It's been bugging me since, because the composite boxes have large pieces missing, and this also puts those outlets in a lighting circuit. While I have the wall apart I will replace the boxes, reroute the branch feeder to a different circuit, and put in a larger device box for added controls for the outside lighting along the walkways and the two post lights. All four of these circuits will have automation-/remote control-ready switches installed. My janky motion sensor setup for the outside front door light will be replaced with a setup that integrates with the lighting control system. I will also install the little dome camera in the ceiling outside the front door, part of an extended remote monitoring system I am putting together.

If my body survives the exertion and labor needed for these projects, I will hopefully be able to complete the living room skylight project that's going on four years now, and the sunroom, which, sad to say, been on hold for eight years. Neither of these are really backbreaking work, but involve working overhead for extended periods, something that was impossible for me for a long time. Not too long ago, I refitted several light fixtures in the Mayhem Lab with new ballasts and bulbs, and I found I didn't have a single problem or flash of pain during or after. The lighting project was a test for this, as I could've simply done one fixture at a time or dropped that project temporarily had it become an issue. Go me!

When I headed outside to snap the pics of the door, I discovered Jeff had quietly come home and was sitting in his new car, airconditioning on, grooving to Pink Floyd and answering messages on his phone. I realized I didn't take any pictures of the car for LJ, so I did, and also snapped one of Jeff in his work duds, hat, and his beard, which I remodeled a little while ago. :)

More pictures and text behind the cut, since everyone seems to surf LJ on tiny things anymore )
greatbear: (forearms)
Jeff came home early Thursday for a doctor's visit, the last few days he's been having mild flu-like symptoms. We made a trip together to the doc and tests seem to indicate it is viral in nature, so it is mostly a rest and wait it out situation. I went with him to see if there was anything I could help with at home, and to get an idea what it was, since chances are good I would get it too. I've been battling a form of exhaustion for a few days too, I can only do so much before I need to take a nap. Problem is, I sleep and nap during the day and by night time my body clock on its graveyard shift time zone keeps me awake. So, when Jeff along with By-Tor and the Snow Dog head to bed, I head into my little lab and fix stuff. This time I tackled my failing Dell 30" display. After a half hour of thermal testing the display lamp driver board I narrowed the trouble to what seemed like bad soldering in a 1 square inch section of the board. There is about three dozen components about the size of sesame seeds in that space, and out came the tiny iron and other tools I have for such work, including the 3.5-90x stereoscopic microscope I got for such things. After more thermal stress testing after the repair with good luck, I threw it back together and am now using it while creating this entry. I hope it holds out, I absolutely love this display, but I relegated it to lab bench PC duties. The irony here is the particular computer and display is connected to the aforementioned microscope. I could've had a nice panoramic view of the board on the display it it weren't the one in pieces under the scope!

Our latest pup, Snickles, aka By-Tor mentioned above, had his first day of doggie school this evening. He had fun, and seemed to react well. He's finally growing out of his puppy-ish stages and has become a very loyal companion for the two of us. He needs to learn some discipline for his (and our) sake, and I think with some "official" training he will be a model pooch. Kodi did well in his schooling about 7 years ago, and I am hoping for the same results with Da Snick.

Jeff is very close to buying a new vehicle. His '00 Chevy S-10 has been decent for these fourteen years, but it's getting long in the tooth at over 185,000 miles, and given the fact that I have two trucks as it is, he's in the market for a wagon/small SUV sort of ride that gets decent mileage, can haul stuff as well as people and will be reliable. So far he's narrowed it down to the new Jeep Cherokee, the Subaru Outback, and the Subie Forester. Friday we are going to kick tires and take test drives. Hopefully this will be with as few hassles as possible. I had a decent time with my last vehicle purchase once the dealer was finally able to get the model I had settled on to the lot.

I'm happy to see some more old, familiar faces showing back up here in LJ-Land. The more I sit here and take the time for a "real" entry as opposed to a handful of words scooped up and thrown at Facebook, the better I feel about "socializing" online. I see usernames in my friends list of people who have cast off this mortal coil and are no longer with us. Those names seem like pictures hanging on a wall, and their journals acting as memorials as well as places to visit and remember the days gone by. None of the other popular "social media" behemoths have this. Nor do they have the control or accessibility of everyone's posts like LJ does. I think people are feeling this too, and while making entries here is a bit more work, it definitely pays us back in the depth of contact and interaction. Let's keep up the good work.

Well, the display has been performing like new as I've been writing this between other tasks and not flashing and shutting down like it had begun to do several months back. I wasn't about the scrap a thousand dollar display. These things are supposed to come with 3 year warranties, but I bought this from Newegg, and, disappointingly, it showed no warranty from Dell when I started the process. I've since reconsidered a lot of purchases from there, a shame, since I've generally had good luck over these many years. I hope my repair lasts until it somehow becomes obsolete, which I don't see happening for at least another ten years or more.

Cheers, everyone!
greatbear: (jeff and me)
Today is Jeff's birthday. Together we are over 104 years old. I feel every bit of those years too. To celebrate, I took Jeff to Outback Steakhouse (g'day, crikey, fair dinkum, crocs, you call that a knife and all that stuff). On our way home he got a call out of the blue from a former coworker he was very good friends with. Hearing them catching up and recollecting old times and seeing the smile on his face was a treat. I seriously ate too much, and in the last few days, I've been eating more beef than in a long time.

I had gotten him a new bicycle as a birthday gift, his old one was never fun for him to ride, as the frame size was too small. I took him to a "real" bicycle shop where I had gotten mine and we looked at a few and tried a couple out. He came back from a test drive of the one I picked out after a very short ride and said he loved it. It's a GT "comfort" or "hybrid" bike, essentially the frame, gearing and components of a mountain bike, but with less knobby and overall softer tires. It also has 29" wheels, better able to deal with bumps and other hazards. I got a pannier rack delivered today for it as well, and put that on while Jeff was talking to his dad. Our bikes will be the primary mode of transportation when we head up to PTown in July. I can't walk for any distance at all in my condition, but as has been the case with this back ordeal, I can get around quite well on a bike. Jeff's old ride was not comfortable for him, this time I think we'll truly be set.

I've been offline as far as social media goes while I tend to personal issues as well as computer troubles. the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that powers my primary computer went bonkers a while back. The malfunction made everything plugged into it go on and off like a car's turn signal. Other than perhaps dropping a computer into sea water or hurling it from a cliff, cycling the power is one of the worst things that you can do to it. Consequently, the hard drives were scrambled, the BIOS corrupted, and a few other minor bits of hardware were hosed. While I had mostly current backups of files, all of my current work, saved web pages, and the like were all unavailable. So I had to stumble around on one of the other PCs for a while as I worked on the beast machine in the studio. It's back, but it has some corrupted registry entries and other annoying problems (Photoshop registration got borked, Windows update doesn't function, some other software is screwed up in odd ways, and the like). A while back I had taken the original main hard drive out and replaced it with a nice, big 1TB SSD. This SSD is what got beat up by the UPS, but it was not physically damaged. The original drive has been hiding safely in the Underground Lab of Mayhem, I can simply make a copy of it again, but only after I get through some stuff. The copy would put the PC back to December of last year, when I did the upgrade. There are more computer stories to tell, but I'll save that for some other time.

Jeff has been busting his ass doing work in the yard, and it shows. The flower beds, rose garden and other areas are looking better than they have in years. I wish I could be more help with that, but the required stopping and bending is just too painful. I managed to do some serious suspension work and other maintenance on Jeff's truck last weekend, a friend came over and basically gophered tools and parts while I did the work. This saved me from having to constantly get up and down. I have to do the same on my old Stratus, but I will wait until after the wedding. It does need rear brakes, so those will most likely get done this weekend, it's only about a 45 minute job. Safety first.

As more aspects of our big wedding day begin to coalesce, the two of us are excited as well as still in a bit of a panic mode. It's less than a month away, and there's still a ton of stuff to get done. This is where I'm glad I'm stuck at home. I just wish I was able to do more. Having my back fail again was the worst thing to happen that I was worrying about, and loading up with narcotics to control the pain has the unfortunate side effect of scrambling my thoughts much like the hard drives in that PC. I lose track of time, forget what day it is, and forget things while I am having conversations. Even writing this entry is a chore, and this is one of the prime reasons for me hiding from the world. I just hope this is not a sign of something more serous. Given my luck of late, it's quite possible. But I refuse to let anything get in the way of our big day.
greatbear: (oh schnapp)
Automotive advertising is inescapable. It has been for at least a century. Print, billboards, television, even entire movies and TV series have been thinly disguised advertising vehicles (see what I did there?) for the automobile industry the world over. Some are clever, some are annoying, some are so pompous as to not even show the actual car (looking at you, Infiniti). But all of these ads have one thing in common. They introduce new marques and models. The latest, if not greatest, things. The shiny stuff of dreams and dealer showrooms. Macho truck ads. Those you-have-arrived spots for luxury models. Snow flying off of SUVs. Tire smoke and speed for the sports and muscle cars. You know the drill. Many of those cars and trucks are familiar to lots of people, being made for decades. Honda Accords. Toyota Corollas. Chevy Impalas. Ford F-150s. Sure, some nostalgia creeps in, and the new models pay homage in styling or in resurrected models from their heydays past. Still, it's all meant to get feet into the showrooms and butts in leather trimmed seats. No one would ever advertize an old model, or even yet, spend screen time and print space telling people some vehicle is going to end production, not to be replaced with something new, would they?

Well, if you are Volkswagen, a brand familiar to just about everyone on the planet, and the vehicle is the Type 2, aka Kombi, better known as the Bus stateside, a sight seen on roads the world over for over a half century, an icon of pop culture and counterculture everywhere, sometimes a good run has to come to an end. Rather than silently letting the model die off as the industry is known to do, it is instead a cause for celebration, even if it is bittersweet. Still being produced in Brazil much the same as it had been at the start, the last models rolled off the production like in September, 2013, ending an era of automotive production of a particular model since, well, that other bug-shaped car from VW. This is a sendoff, a goodbye, a farewell, but, oh, what a wonderful sendoff it is. Betcha never got choked up at a car ad before.



I think practically anyone old enough to drive has memories of these quirky buses, even if they never owned one or knew someone with one. Thing is, despite no longer being made, there will be another half century filled with people who will know of the humble Type 2/Kombi/Bus. This touching tribute has stops all over the world, including practically my back yard, in Baltimore. They are still quite plentiful in these parts.
greatbear: (forearms)
Being a professional crastinator of epic proportions at times, I waited until the last minute to file my taxes, given that I have had to pay sizable amounts in the past since being off work and pulling funds from locked-away accounts. Because of some changes, plus the expensive surgeries and other medical bills from last year, I instead found I am getting a sizable refund. I would've so turned that shit in back in January had I known. That's a w00t.

I finished up more network cabling and installed the super-duper wi-fi access point tonight after climbing about in the attic, lifting the floor up there to run the remaining cabling (the AP needs two Cat6 runs just for it's own bandwidth) and it is now in place with the potential for gigabit-plus speeds wirelessly. That's a w00t.

Jeff and I had a nice steak dinner tonight. So far, my tummy troubles of late have eased enough for me to enjoy a meal with some substantial red meat for a change. That's a w00t.

The weather looks to be on track to be nice enough to finally get some work done outside. I got yard work to continue with, plus the usual springtime maintenance of the vehicle fleet and outdoor equipment, and a heavily laden trip to the landfill/recycling center that was put off since before last September. That's a w00t.

The aforementioned tax refund will be put toward the new front door and entryway renovation/upgrade, plus a business class color laser printer/copier/scanner/fax, as well as costs for the upcoming wedding. I hope my back and general health hold out. I guess that's a w00t too.
greatbear: (forearms)
Today was a day of errands. Earlier I had to go back to the parts shop and pick up a pair of replacement tail lights for my MINI Cooper S. Though it hardly seems like it, I've had that car for over ten years now! The original tail lights have become cloudy due to UV damage from sunlight, and unlike many cases where I've sanded and polished the damaged layer of plastic, the clear plastic covering these assemblies has clouded throughout the depth of the plastic itself. I had ordered these the other day when I had picked up other parts. Turns out one of the boxes had been opened and a piece of mounting hardware was missing. The guys knocked 20 bucks off the price of that particular part, and the missing part was not an issue, since it can be transferred from the old assembly. I love inadvertent bargains of opportunity.

Later in the day Jeff called to say he was stuck working late (imagine that) and he was going to miss out on taking his dress clothes to the cleaner. I rounded up his stuff and headed first to the credit union for spending money and then to the cleaner. Some fool in the parking lot cut across my path as I was turning into the parking spot and I had to slam on the brakes. No harm, no foul. When I got back to the car I noticed it was handling oddly as I backed out of the spot and maneuvered my way out, as if a tire was going flat. This wasn't a far fetched scenario, as there is a huge amount of work happening across the road from Mayhem Acres on the House of Seven Toilets, and nails in the road are a distinct possibility and past occurrence. I drove back home the couple miles a bit more carefully, through the tight parking lot curbs, three traffic circles and all the turns in my neck of the woods. Car seemed to handle fine, tracking straight and true as always. I parked in front of the garage and got out to check the tires, all looked fine. Humph. I then stood outside the car while I turned the steering wheel side-to-side. Imagine my total WhatTheFuckness when the left front wheel was not moving at all. The tie rod end on that side had completely come apart:



Normally when this happens, the front wheels turn in opposite directions like a bow-legged cowboy's boots and the car goes nowhere, or it suddenly veers off in the direction of the failed side. This car drove just about normally. I had to laugh, because this sort of thing isn't supposed to happen. Apparently, the tie rod end was ready to fail due to a lack of lubrication, and that aforementioned need to slam on the brakes while turning into the parking spot was what finally pulled it apart. The tie rod ends are "sealed and lubed for life" and don't have any means to grease them as part of normal maintenance. Anyone can see the ball is dry as a popcorn fart on a vinyl sofa. "Lifetime lubrication" never is. Well, it is, according to the designers of this stuff. The life of that part ended today, it was lubricated for the thirteen years of its life. Most likely the replacement parts I'll get will come with grease fittings and will last well beyond the mere 13 years these did if I perform the same ritual of chassis lubrication as on the other ball joints on the car. The befuddling part of all this is, I regularly check the condition of the running gear on this and my other rides, and this never gave any prior indications of impending failure. No noises, looseness of the steering, wandering in the lanes, etc. Instead of working in the yard tomorrow as I had hoped, I will be working on this, replacing the tie rod ends on both sides and checking out every linkage, control arm, ball joint and component looking for any other problems. I will also have to perform my super-deluxe squinty-eyeball front-end alignment so I can eventually have it put on a rack and machine aligned. If it works out like the last few times, they will put it on the rack and say everything's fine.
greatbear: (forearms)
I've been fixing lots of things here lately; my statement in an earlier post about being a "fixer of things and builder of stuff" was far from metaphorical. What sometimes makes me laugh is how different my tasks are, often in the same day. Take these two photos for example:

IMG_1136


Jeff's truck needed a fuel pump, and, like most vehicles produced in the last 20 years, the fuel pump resides in the fuel tank. Rather than lifting the truck, dropping the tank and have to work with dirt falling in my face while wrestling with a heavy, fuel-filled tank, I find it far easier to remove the truck's bed. The new pump assembly required a modification to the wiring harness that connected to it, and this method made me able to stay above my work, enjoying the spring foliage as a nice bonus. It's also the better method since I had to work alone. I can finesse the heavy stuff without risking my back getting more wrenched than the bolts holding the bed in place (there are eight, by the way).

IMG_1143


The next morning and a trip to the post office to pick up more parts I had on order, I shifted gears and went small. A recent tantrum damaged my cell phone display, so it was to the internets for a cheap fix. I installed the new display which worked perfectly until four days later, where the replacement lost the image on the lower inch or so. This is indicative of a bad display driver circuit, and I ordered up another. I can practically do this repair in my sleep now. The board at the top of the photo is the amplifier out of a big Infinity subwoofer which was given to me, albeit with a problem. I found a service bulletin online, plus found some other problem parts, and the last two (the big blue capacitors) were also waiting for me at the post office. I slapped those in first, then bench-tested the amp board as I fixed up the phone. The Lab of Mayhem has it's own THX-rated sound system. I can fairly much rock my ass off with all six channels rumbling, and the all-concrete "bunker" (really) that houses the lab keeps the sound from making its way to the soundly-sleeping Jeff in the evenings. I had totally overhauled the lab, cleaning out decades of accumulated junk and did some upgrades, so I finally have a place I can tinker and make to my geeky, nerdy heart's content. The garage is next, as I have already begun to clear out junk there as well. Tonight I had my tire changing machine apart to figure out why it wouldn't clamp rims properly. A plastic cam used to position a pneumatic valve had broke in a move, and it should be something fixable with some epoxy rather than money. I find lots of satisfaction in being able to improvise or recycle something into a repair or build, rather than spending lots of money. It's like sticking it to the man.
greatbear: (Default)
I hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day weekend. There is a lot happening here at Mayhem Headquarters, mostly good, some bad. I'm letting the good stuff trample the bad stuff. I know I've been a terrible blogger of late, what with very sparse updates and little interaction. I will put forth some effort to change that as well. Some ADHD bullet points:

  • Work sucks, but I am managing.


  • Jeff has gotten good news on the status of his heart health, and can safely have his thyroid removed without fear of another heart attack or severe bleeding.


  • We are slowly catching up on things that had to wait while we dealt with our various health issues.


  • We are looking forward to some quality downtime going camping in upcoming days. Next weekend to nearby Deep Creek Lake, and in a month, not one, but two weeks in PTown. We are both stoked.


  • We've been making time for entertainment and cultural outings. Sporting events, shows, concerts, and spending time with the extended family. Lots more of this is in the works.


  • There are some bummers along the way, I have to contend with a wrecked car, I'm behind on some repairs on the house and some other projects. If things keep on the current track, I'll get to them.

    I hope this finds everybody well.
    greatbear: (cirque du so gay)
    Here at Mayhem Acres strange or odd occurrences are pretty much the norm. It seems that this phenomenon tends to spread a bit from the epicenter here. Take this past Monday, when I was taking Jeff to have surgery, as an example. A bit more than a mile from the house as I was merging onto the perpetually busy Rt 29, we both noticed a car on the left shoulder of the opposing lanes of traffic. Not the first time we've see it around here. As we got closer, Jeff said, "It's Batman!". Sure enough, it was the Caped Crusader, seemingly having problems with his sinister-looking Batmobile. I noticed right away that ol' Batty had chosen the Lamborghini as his daytime ride, saving the actual Batmobile for the cover of darkness. Turns out the Dark Knight was on his way into Washington, DC to entertain children at a local hospital. With the help of the local constabulary and perhaps the Boy Wonder, he was able to make the trip. The Lambo Gallardo Spyder apparently needed a tow back to the Bat Cave, as tires for the $200,000 car are tougher to come by than, well, Bat-tires.

    I wanted to snap a picture of the scene, but I thought it against Bat-protocol. Besides, I had gone too far trying to merge into traffic. Traffic which, ironically, was uncharacteristically flying along in all six lanes, in both directions. Around here, a disabled car usually garners a gaggle of rubberneckers, even if it's an old Nissan Sentra with one red door and a boiling radiator. Batman does not even get noticed.
    greatbear: (born to drive)
    Rally car driver Ken Block is back with "GYMKHANA 4", his latest crazy-assed showcase of unbelievable driving skill, humor and destruction of tires. This time around, it's a full-on Hollywood-style production, the only thing not done with special effects is the driving. Maximize the frame, crank up the sound, and enjoy this hoon-fest.

    greatbear: (Default)
    The last few days have been rather productive given the circumstances I guess. I spent a good amount of New Year's Day and the day after in a buddy's garage (call it Mayhem South) working of Jeff's truck doing some tasks I put off due to both our physical conditions. I had replaced the leaky intake manifold gaskets AGAIN (the 4.3l Vortec engine the truck has is prone to water leaks from the intake manifold, it's a design flaw in the gaskets and the aftermarket redesigned versions were completely out of stock when I first did the repair) as well as a few other tasks. As it turns out, not only do I have to take it slow and easy attempting work while hunched over under a hod these days, my long-time buddy had just been beset by the same sciatic nerve pain that I had been dealing with and ultimately became major surgery to fix. This made a few hour job span two days because of this as well as wanting to spend more time at our respective homes for the weekend. I drove Jeff's now nicely-performing truck home, then noticed in the last mile or so the heat started to disappear and the temp gauge rising. Not good, but I figured there still might be air in the coolant cavitating the water pump or something. Coming home I added more than a gallon of extra coolant. NOT GOOD. No leak to be found in the work area, and nothing going inside the engine. Putting the pressure tester on the engine I discovered a huge leak at the water pump. Cthulhu dammit. I installed this water pump early last year and had fits with the included gaskets. Apparently the alternate ones I installed were no better, one just blew out, apparently from the engine's regained ability to build up proper cooling system pressure. Oh well, that project will be tackled in a few minutes. A couple hours to replace a fifty cent part. Two, actually.

    Jeff is back at work since Monday, and doing okay so far. Despite the organization's reworking of his duties to be in an office mostly solo doing less-stressful work, he still came home very tired the last couple days. I hope he does not overstress things while there. Try as I might, I hope his life at home is not such a bother. We both have doctor's appointments on Thursday for our respective ills.

    I had put some of the house upgrades on hold for the time being. The very cold and windy weather we were saddled with over the past several weeks was not conducive to cutting two large, 2ft by 6ft holes in my living room ceiling (Ceiling Bear can see Russia from here!) to finish off the skylights only to have frigid air from the attic howling into the house until I get the framing and drywall into place. No fun there. No hurry there, I will do this in the spring when I can also do some painting and other upgrades/repairs as well. Since I have to reframe and replace two exterior doors, I'd prefer there to be warmer weather for exposing the indoors for hours at a time. in the meantime, I am doing small stuff like installing and upgrading the outside fixtures to LED versions. I also have a lot of work to do on other vehicles in the Fleet of Mayhem. The Stratus needs an oil change, new shocks and struts, new plugs and wires and timing belt, the old truck needs a ton of work, and the new truck gets minor attention. Not enough "me" to go around.

    My garage buddy showed me his MRI pix. I told him to get ready for the same sort of surgery I had in all likelihood. This is going to be rough on him, as he's the sole breadwinner in the family who runs his own business, and is having mortgage problems as well. I hope he gets through his ordeal a lot faster than I did.

    I found this astonishing video via Bearbook. I always found that radio personalities never look like what you imagine from their voices. Also, knowing a few people in the radio biz, I've come up with a not-exactly-kind term of "radio face" to describe people who would not generally be considered anywhere near the vicinity of gorgeous. Here's a case where the face and the voice do not match, yet make for a very uplifting story:



    I am always amazed when someone's voice does not "fit in" with their personality or other perceived traits. Look at Susan Boyle, for example, who waddled onto the Britain's Got Talent stage to dismissive words from the judges, only to totally floor them and win not only the audience's hearts, but those of entire countries. It seems Ted's rather unique request for money has paid off too. Expand the comments on the YouTube page for more info. He has the perfect face, and the perfect voice, for radio. I wish him well in his turnaround of life.
    greatbear: (Default)
    Jeff and I had a fairly productive weekend. There were a few things needing to be dealt with that required some running around at the end of the week, some stuff mailed out, trips to the credit unions, etc. But I think I got most of it all under control.

    Saturday I did what anyone about to have major surgery on their back would do.

    I split a one-third cord of firewood. X-D

    Having a splitter made this doable. I sat on one of the logs, and had a little (dis)assembly line going. None of this stuff was big, maybe 24 inches in diameter at best. I tossed to pieces into wheelbarrows that Jeff would take to the woodshed and stack. Jeff did some mowing of the lawn and weeding of flower beds, which looks great. I did some tinkering in the garage. I noticed that the battery on the big tiller was toast. It was six years old, so it was time, I guess. I'm wondering about the battery in the tractor. It came out of the wrecked Dodge Shadow in '00. What did not enter my mind was how long the battery was in the car before. No dates on the battery itself, and it was the one which replaced the original, so it might have been 4-5 years old prior to that. It's still going strong, and still load tests well. Not bad for a 72 month AC-Delco aftermarket battery.

    I wanted to change the oil in Jeff's truck for a while now, it's been sitting down at the garage for a couple weeks. The battery was dead in that when I wanted to move it on Saturday, and the charger did nothing to revive it. Another dead battery. So, Jeff and I went out today to run errands as well as to now buy a pair of batteries. Great timing. The truck is all done, Jeff has his own vehicle once again.

    While out and about, we stopped into the new Performance Bicycle store that opened up nearby a month ago. Lots of nice rides. I'm thinking that once I heal up, Jeff and I will treat ourselves to a pair of new bikes, and do a lot more riding. But first, I need some repairs of my own.

    Monday is the big day. WIith luck, you should hear from me in a day or two. I'll have Jeff keep people informed.

    Cheers!
    greatbear: (glasses)
    Sometimes, in the midst of some potentially disastrous FAIL can come a little bit of win. In this case, however, the way the win presents itself is pure WIN.

    Imagine, you are a driver in a fast, tight road course. You have mechanical problems and manage to get your car off the track, but one of your wheels comes off and rolls along the traffic. The race can't be stopped instantly in order to clear the hazard. In the absence of that ideal solution, I present you with something even better:



    There are some things that would never happen no matter how hard one tries that instead happen by pure chance. This is one.
    greatbear: (Default)
    I poked and hammered a bit more on the truck this evening, plus sanded and polished the gouges out of the taillight. It aint perfect, but it's at least it's less heinous than before:

    uncrunch


    I guess it's not bad for a bit over an hour's worth of work. I should invest in a good set of body picks.
    greatbear: (kmfdm icons)
    This past weekend, while enjoying our company with [livejournal.com profile] champdaddy, not everything was all sunshine and lollipops. Our usual spot requires an intricate series of maneuvers with the truck and trailer not unlike a sliding-tile puzzle of sorts, with backing, turning, swinging and other wheeled dancing in order to slide the trailer into it's spot and leave the most available space on the site for other stuff. Well, I am usually quite adept at this little 8-ton pas de deux. This time, with my eyes giving me trouble, the rain pouring down covering my mirrors and keeping me from opening all the windows and trying to make sense of Jeff's signals while he's holding an umbrella, well, I made a boo-boo:

    crunch


    I turned too tight backing up and 'jackknifed' the truck/trailer and ended up with this mess. Fuck. If ever was a off day where something I normally do well ends up being an impossible task, this was it. Oh well, it was nice having a nice new truck for that short period of time.

    Today before I headed out for my gimpy leg therapy, I pulled out the taillight and started levering out some of the crunchiness. After about five minutes using a couple of rubber-covered tool handles I got most of the metal back where it belongs. Some other time when I am in the mood for it, I will try and finesse the creases out, a process that takes far longer. The problem here is that the broad, flowing body design with subtle sweeps and lines will be really tough to make anywhere near perfect since it can't be hidden along sharp lines or boxy panel features. The scratches in the paint, well, I dunno about that right now. I can at least polish the scratch from the tail light plastic.

    As much as the evolution of the automobile has changed the servicing end of ownership, with sophisticated electronics, complicated drivetrains and safety bits, etc, bodywork, with few exceptions, has remained firmly fixed in the distant past. Prying, pulling, pounding, beating, grinding and hammering are still the order of the day. Model T or Prius, they are all the same for once.

    As for the rest of the weekend, there eventually was sunshine and lollipops. Really.
    greatbear: (old graybeard)
    In spite of losing out on the Provincetown trip, I've decided to use the time for much-needed repairs. Some of these involve my rickety old body. I will be making appointments to have hernia surgery in a few days as well as trying to find out exactly why my Achilles tendinitis has gotten so bad in the past few months that I can barely walk. That, coupled with the fact I eat like a pig and slowly have been losing weight makes me believe there's something else at play here. I'll find out soon enough I hope. I also have to make a dentist appointment (I know it's been more than ten years by now) as well as another trip to my ophthalmologist to see how the glaucoma is doing. Yeah, I'm falling apart big time.

    My main issue in all of this is having the time off for the procedures (and accompanying recovery in the case of the surgery) held against me by management. This started many years ago with one particular manager that for one reason or another, disliked me intensely and delighted in making examples of the slightest faults or issues. This put a big flag in my records that to this day seem to haunt me from time to time. Not long ago I heard he had kicked the bucket, and when told this among others in our group I applauded the news and hoped for some really good rot to take place. Yeah, not nice, and shocked some, but as a reference, he got what he had coming IMO. I need to make sure these procedures will not be held against me, and if they appear to, I will hold off and possibly begin some legal action. All I ask for is equal treatment. Sound familiar?

    Also, now that these pesky vacations are no more, I have more time to work on stuff. While my eyes might need some work to improve my vision, I can only hope it's as easy as this:

    polishedlight


    On Sunday while awaiting the final outcome of our trip, I finally did something about the sun-clouded headlights on my Stratus. Both lights had clouded badly over the past nine years, and the right-side lamp had some deep gouges from the time that Mom had gotten run off the road by some mofugger (that I was ready to go find and beat to a pulp) into a row of orange traffic barrels. Some sanding and polishing with my new Baldor two-speed monster buffer, and the things look practically new again. I should regain a noticeable amount of illumination as well.

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    greatbear: (Default)
    Phil

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