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: (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: (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.


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: (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: (fuzzy)
Been busier than a one-armed paper hanger lately. Lucky for me, the back trouble was apparently just a slight strain. By Friday I no longer needed any painkillers to be comfortable. Took Kodi for his third installment of Puppy School in the evening. He does pretty well I guess, and gets his excitement quotient to boot. If he would only do as well with his homework as he does in school.

Saturday rolled around and I spent it all day in the garage working on Jeff's truck and a couple side jobs. The truck needed work on the transfer case, new door hingepins and intake manifold gaskets. The gaskets took the longest, and had me bent over under the hood for several hours. If my back had healed, I sure put it through qualification tests soon enough. It passed.

Sunday I decided to do something different, so I climbed into my truck and went shopping in the snowstorm. A typical shopping trip for me, the auto parts store, Wal-Mart (ugh, during a lapse in judgement since it's next to the parts store), McDonalds for lunch and an extended wandering around Home Depot. I have a 10% discount card expiring at the end of the month that I should use on getting a new washer/dryer. My current washer is fairly new, but the dryer has been patched up more than a farmer's pickup truck to keep it going, and it's about to fall apart soon. I wont know how to act with a matching washer and dryer for the first time in my life.

Came home and cleared all the driveways and walkways of the winter mess so it would not end up like the concrete-like mess of the previous week that I took a couple spills in and impossible to remove without Ma Nature's help in melting it away.

Jeff has been under the weather this weekend and needed to work on Sunday. He took time off today to get some rest, but I think Kodi had other ideas.

This is shaping up to be a busy week. On Friday, Jeff and I are going to head to Pittsburgh for a conference he has to attend. While he does his chef and dietician duties, I will try to stay out of trouble. I could use the time off to do something different.

I've had lots of posts to make, but really not feeling it lately. Dunno what's up with that. I'm content with reading when I can for now. I'm also way behind in replies.


greatbear: (Default)

December 2016



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