greatbear: (aerial me)
It's been a bit since i last tapped away at this old blog thingie. Today was a nice day, and I couldn't stay cooped up in the house. After taking the dogs around outside for their morning rituals, I limped my way down to the garage to begin whatever necessary work I've been putting off which I feel I can manage to tackle, given my limitations. I began by rearranging the outdoor power equipment as well as dragging out of mothballs a generator that has been parked inside for about ten years or more. This generator burned out long ago, and the cost of parts exceeded that of a new generator. I finally decided to modify the thing and bough an entire, new generator head (the part that attaches to the engine that actually generates the electricity. while doing this, I also took some of the other equipment out of storage that will be used soon, like the lawnmowers, tractor, etc. I discovered the battery in the tractor has finally given up the ghost. The big rototiller needed some carburetor adjustments. The aforementioned generator, unused for all those years started up on the first pull. So I had lots of little engines running outside in front of the garage, where the nice breeze and warm sun urged me along. Life was good. Or so I thought.


It's not easy for me to do these sorts of things these days, when five years ago it was something I did practically on autopilot. I have to take things slow, and moving all the equipment feels astonishingly heavy and immovable now. But I managed, and I got my partial fleet of stuff running and at least tuned up. The wind being what it was, and the strange air currents that seem to make all the leaves collect in front of the garage as well as blow them all over inside when the doors are open also seemed to make life difficult for me to keep from getting exhaust fumes in my face. After a while I had already had enough for a while and headed up into the house for a little break in the easy chair and a drink. Not soon after I sat down, I started shaking. Badly. It was getting tough for me to keep my balance, and I felt about to black out. I moved into the studio where the window was open and the breeze was coming in. I contemplated calling Jeff, but after a while things slowly started to clear up. I believe having four engines running at the same time and having the wind spilling over the garage concentrated the fumes more than dissipated them, and despite also having the big exhaust fan on in the garage, I was working in the middle of a fair amount of carbon monoxide. After a couple hours I was mostly my old self again. Jeff came home while I was still a bit out of sorts and I told him I didn't feel well, and he admonished me to not hesitate to call any time I am in need of help. Then the ironic part hit (there always seems to be an ironic part with me). When I started telling Jeff the rest of my day, he saw on the news of a MD family that was killed from carbon monoxide, from a generator. I've never had this sort of thing happen with me before. I've worked on hundreds, if not thousands of engines in my life, and I always take precautions like proper ventilation, not running stuff in enclosed buildings, even having CO detectors. The Starting of the Engines of Spring is a yearly ritual I've engaged in for decades. Oil gets changed, blades get sharpened, tune-ups done, and often I will have a dozen engines running at the same time. It's a gearhead's version of A Joyful Noise. But today was the first time I had any ill effects from it. I barely picked at dinner, my appetite, already a constant trouble, was shot. I waited until after it got dark to go back out and put everything away. It appears most of this week has rain in the forecast, so that will probably keep me from doing more work. But I plan to keep going, as if nothing happened. Except I will keep the noise down to only one or two engines at a time, and one big industrial pedestal fan.
greatbear: (fucking painting trees)
Here's a rare glimpse behind the scenes at the underground bunker at La Casa Mayhem. What am I doing, you might ask? Well, once again I am directing the full power of my fully operational battle station awesome IT infrastructure to bear on an innocent old man in hopes of making him cry again. In other words, I am fixing and printing more family photos lost to the fire at Jeff's parents' place.



He has "officially" moved in today, getting his permits signed off. Jeff's phone rang this evening, announcing the number as originating from the landline rather than dad's cell, something that made us both smile. There are some relatively minor tasks that need tending there, railings for the stairs into the basement, walkways and landscaping, some of which I will help with this weekend. The trailer gets moved back to its storage space in the driveway so the yard can be repaired and grass planted in remaining areas. Right now it's raining, and the yard is pretty much a mud bog. This is typical during construction. By mid summer, the place should be looking mighty fine. Dad can finally begin to relax and start making the new house a home.

I spent a bit of a beautiful yesterday trudging around in a junkyard auto dismantling and recycling facility yesterday helping a friend collect parts for one of his cars that recently got wrecked. I managed to find a rare item, a compass/mini trip computer out of a 2000 Chrysler Sebring convertible. This is the same JA body series as my '00 Stratus, and I had wanted to hack the computer into the Strat, as it was never offered as an option. Today I took some time to tear into the dash and wiring, splicing wires and modifying the dash to accept the computer. Success! I also lucked out in that the yard also had a section which had tractors and other outdoor equipment, and I found a steering wheel that I could adapt to my old Gravely garden tractor. The original wheel is still available from Gravely, but it goes for a downright silly $160. 12 bucks later I had a perfect replacement which also got installed today while I did yearly maintenance on the tractor. So, garage duties today were productive.

My aforementioned friend and I go way back, to the 6th grade. For years he had operated his own auto repair shop, but hard times as well as disability forced him to close down. I took a lot of the equipment off his hands and set it up here at Mayhem, and there's still more to get as I make room for it. Sadly, he's not going to be in the business anymore, even the relatively short walk through the junkyard wore him out. His health has never been stellar, at 6'8" and 400-something pounds, all that weight finally is taking a toll on his well-being. While he has tried to address some issues, old habits (and a healthy appetite) are hard to break, and the lack of income and job opportunities keep him from obtaining medical help that could help. He says he is not going to undergo surgery on his back that is the major issue. I am far from a glowing example of successful back surgery, and I am one of the many examples of people he knows that are no better if not worse off after surgery. Still, he could be better off losing the ample belly he's had ever since I've known him. I've suggested it many times with no success. I worry about his future.

A week ago Jeff and I roused the pooches before the crack of dawn and took a weekday trip to the beach. We wanted to get Snickles accustomed to crowds, walking, other pets and the beach. Well, we hit on all points but the last. As it turned out, Rehoboth beach no longer allows dogs on the beach or boardwalks between Memorial Day and Labor day, and we missed the opportunity. We could've taken a trip north to the state park where the dogs are welcome, but that is a pretty quiet area and we wanted immersion education for da Snick. We were disappointed, but rather than waste the two-and-a-half hour trip, we hung out downtown and walked the dogs while doing some shopping and eating. Snickles did pretty good once he got acclimated to the surroundings. He's naturally very friendly with people, and surprisingly good with kids. He barks loudly at anyone on a bicycle. Little does he know the next step in his preparation for a Big Gay Life with us will involve not only getting used to Jeff and I on bikes, but riding along as well. I got a new pannier carrier for my bike as well as a made-for-the-purpose pet carrier which attaches. Kodi has his front-mounted carrier on Jeff's bike, with mine being a full suspension bike the best I could do is a rear mount. I will soon be taking the little guy for rides in the neighborhood. If that is a success, he and the rest of us will be ready to ride through the streets of PTown together, where the dogs are certain to be rock stars. People got a kick out of Kodi riding with Jeff, a pair of pedaled pooches is certain to bring out the smiles of passerby. Not to mention hunk/babe magnets deluxe. ;-)
greatbear: (four cycle)
...for a good old-fashioned valve job. Actually it is also a head job but I didn't want some of you to get the wrong ideas. ;)

The weather here has been nothing short of amazing, and it has become time to start working in the yard, especially catching up from the last few years of disabilities. Last weekend Jeff and I cleaned up a corner of the yard, cutting down trees wrecked by winter weather as well as weeds, vines and brush. Trees became firewood, will become mulch soon, and the brush and trash became a large bonfire. The area looks good, but is only partially done. Hey, I'll take results like this any day.

With weather being warm so early, we will attempt that old farmer's ritual of getting the potatoes in the ground on St. Patrick's Day. To that end, I got the big rototiller out and fired it up the other day. Or tried to, unsuccessfully. Seems the carburetor got fouled up and it wouldn't stay running without the choke set. No big deal, I picked up a carb kit and tore into the thing for the first time, having had no prior trouble with it since buying it new in 1990. With gas being as shitty as it is these days, I honestly expected this problem to show up sooner. There was crud in the float bowl and clogged passages. Some time with cleaners, compressed air and some TLC, it was done and good as new. Later that day I got into the garden and scratched up the soil to mix in the leaves I dumped in there from last fall. The tiller was kinda down on power despite the rather easy task it had, so back to the garage for some more checks. As the engine heated up the exhaust would sputter like a Catholic priest being questioned about altar boys. I suspected a burned exhaust valve and put the tiller away until today, when I did a leakdown test to confirm the problem, then I tore into the engine to make things good again.

IMG_0794


More of the set is here.

It seems the valves were not burned yet, but the clearances were far too tight and the engine would sputter out the muffler the hotter it got. I did a valve job the same way it has been done since the early days. The valves were in decent shape, they got bead blasted and checked, the seats in the cylinder were checked, and I lapped the valves. Lapping involves smearing an abrasive grease onto the seats and the valve faces, then spinning them together with a tool made for the task. It's not unlike cavemen starting fires by spinning a stick. Lapping matches the valve faces to the seats and creates a perfect seal. I used coarse and fine lapping compounds. Some grinding had to be done to get the clearances right, once everything was set up properly, the head and cylinder gets de-carboned and cleaned, the valvetrain reassembled and checked once more. I need to run out and pick up some gaskets to complete the job, and the old Troy-Bilt will be good for at least another 20 years.

This little project, while unexpected, was not unwelcome. Despite always working on things here at Mayhem Acres, a project sometimes becomes a zen-like exercise in quiet concentration. This was one of those times. The tiller was down on power the last few times I used it, and I knew I was going to need to pay it some attention. Rather than approach this as drudgery, I took the opportunity to dig my little-used specialty tools from the back of the toolboxes, take the time to go through motions that still work on even the most modern engines despite the techniques being a couple hundred years old. I find an odd comfort working on low-tech engines and machinery like this. It's completely hands-on work, problems are found by touch, sight, hearing and smelling. There are no downloading of patches or flashing computers and control modules. A handful of basic tools, some time and nice weather made an otherwise humdrum mechanical exercise into a meditation. I can't wait to get the remaining parts and bring it back to life. Few things for me are as enjoyable as starting up an engine after some major work. Silly as it seems, it's my way of bringing things to life, I guess. And this tiller will get used to start the garden that will provide us with food, as I have been doing for decades.
greatbear: (forearms)
Long day at work that was actually pleasant and productive. I hope the next three days are like that. After coming home and having a bite, I started getting things fixed up and ready for the trip. Our 10x10 easy-up canopy we take camping suffered a broken strut when it was used for a function where Jeff works. Tonight I brazed up the broken metal piece, cleaned and painted it and reassembled the frame. Good as new. I packed the truck with some sundry items and gave it a mechanical once-over. It's good to go, though I'd really like to wash the thing before the trip. It's a mess inside and out. I have a pair of folding reclining chairs that need repair after a rather large individual from LJ that shall remain nameless bent part of the mechanism. That will happen tomorrow. Most everything else is ready to go.

Put a 500GB drive in an external enclosure and am currently backing up this laptop. The new server has settled down and is behaving nicely (click on wood), though I still have to find out why the DNS service wont load properly at startup, yet runs without issues after starting manually. The server itself has it's own automatic backup schedule, so it takes care of itself. I realized that in the past several months I have accumulated nearly 11TB worth of hard drives. Newegg loves me. I await the inevitable day that I can look back and call that ridiculous amount of storage 'quaint'.

N.B. All those drives are not part of one computer, instead some are library drives for the HTPC, a couple small ones and one big one for the new server, a couple external drives, and about half that will make up the uber file/media server. The same data in a bunch of locations. And I promised myself no more god boxes. Sheesh.

I am reading where the NHRA, the sanctioning body behind professional drag racing (with cars, not with heels and dresses) is considering shortening the track from it's historical 1/4 mile (1320 feet) to 1000 feet in wake of the death of one of it's more famous drivers, Scott Kalitta. I'm sorry, but that is total BS. Yes, the cars are hitting record speeds again and again, and it's getting tough to haul them down from 340+ mph in the remaining track length, even more so when the cars or their systems are damaged. Racing of all kinds has always evolved the safety aspects as speeds increased. Much of this safety tech works it's way into our everyday cars. Time has come to advance the safety technologies once again to keep pace. Making the track shorter reduces trap speeds and leaves more room for stopping. But changing the track length invalidates comparisons of past record achievement with what will happen in the future. And some things should remain sacred anyway.

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Phil

December 2016

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