Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Med Update

T-6 days to deployment...

Here's a neat vid of the "AAA" stent/endovascular aneurysm repair I'm scheduled for. Liking the spacey-sounding terminology--they "deploy" the stents and anchor them. The stents look like cat hairballs on a stick before they're launched, though.

 Some surgical squick, though, for the squeamish...

Minimally-Invasive Repair of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm

MUCH better than the aortic-replacement surgery shown at the beginning of the video, with as much as 10 weeks of recovery.


In the meantime, the subclavian-carotid bypass went very cleanly and recovery has been speedy. The doc used medical Superglue instead of sutures or staples, so I've been spared wound care.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Med Update.

First half of the aortic repair was this past Monday. Everything went well. The doc snipped my left subclavian artery where it joined the aorta and rerouted it over to the carotid. I'm left with a couple of 3" incisions on my neck and collarbone. The doc went with glue to close everything up, so I'm hoping to stay out of Wound Care--unlike with my kidney (staples) and hydrocele (stitches) surgeries.

I did an overnight in the hospital to make sure I wasn't going to stroke out or something. I was pretty bored, very boring. I had a nice room (I got to see it the next afternoon, when I was dressing to leave) with an interesting view up 9th Avenue and across the airport. Couldn't see any of it. They warned me not to turn my head (might tear the glue holding my neck shut) and not to use my left arm (might stress the new arterial joint?). I was wired utterly awake but too tired to read, couldn't write (left-handed), didn't feel like moving or anything. Still better than my usual 7 or 10-day stays.

The next half comes in early January, when a stent will be run from my thigh, up the aorta, and positioned to close off the damaged inner liner of the aorta, and so closing off the full-length "pocket" that runs all the way from the aortic arch down to the south end somewhere.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Pic of the Day: Black Friday!!

Been a while since I made something...

Yeah, it's Vancouver. If movie and TV crews can use Canada for American locations, so can I :p~~~

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gear Review: Epiphone Les Paul Special

This probably won't be the last guitar I'll ever buy, but it's the last one I've bought so far. I got it "on sale" on Black Friday (Nov. 25) of 2011. Those Guitar Center scamps had the thing marked as $119 for several weeks, arranged like that one puppy at the pet shop right up front on the main aisle. Then, mere days before Black Friday--$109!

That made me think that maybe it wouldn't hurt to go look at it instead of walking by. I thought about that for a few days, not wanting to just impulse-buy a guitar I didn't really have the space for, even if it was on sale. But like many guitar players, I have Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. Fortunately, my GAS is mild and manageable and only has me buying the occasional instrument at a reasonable price.

Besides...won't hurt to just try it out a little. Plug it into an amp...play it. No wife or girlfriend to roll her eyes and scoff when I extoll its virtues--I don't have one with P-90 pickups, after all, and I don't have a Les Paul. The Les doesn't sound like my Stratocaster knock-off, my Peavey T-15, or the cheapie Tux. It really is about the sound, not about the color...though I didn't have a yellow guitar, either. And I'd never had a new one, just second-hand.

Off I went, visions of maybe bringing back a $109 bargain on that Black Friday. Everything was exactly as it had been when I got to Guitar Center...except that the GC scamps had put the price back up to $119. So much for that.

I picked it up, anyway, and took it over to a suitably big and loud-looking amp. Turned it up just loud enough to hear what I was doing, played around for maybe 40 minutes...and seriously considered putting it back on its stand and leaving, friendly puppy feeling or not. Then I considered trying out its sister guitar, identical in every way but the color--transparent cherry instead of transparent "TV Yellow", because  don't have a red guitar...There was a black one, too, but I've already got some. I played it some more, gradually deciding that I liked it enough to take it home.

There was only one thing wrong with the Les: the selector switch had a bad solder joint, so one of the pickups was dead. I could have made some noise about it, but I'd rather just fix things myself. Says something about Gibson/Epiphone's quality control, though. It only took a minute for me to solder the wire properly. Yeah, I shouldn't HAVE to fix a brand new guitar...but I'd rather fix it myself. Trust issues. My damn guitar.

So. Here's what I got:


More than the sound and the shape, I really REALLY like the feel of this guitar. The finish on the back of the neck is smooth enough that for the longest time while I was playing and getting used to it my fretting hand would overshoot. The only clear coat is on the back of the neck. The paint is flat yellow and shows off the body grain nicely.

The guitar's marketed as a "Special," Epiphone's entry-level Les Paul model:
--2 P90 single-coil "soap bar" pickups
--24-3/4" scale length
--mahogany body and neck
--rosewood fretboard
--bolt-on neck
--22 "Jumbo" frets
--single volume and tone controls
--low-mount 3-way selector switch
--flat translucent "aged" TV Yellow body & back of neck
--chrome hardware
--pearl inlay dots
--no pickguard
--rear access to electronics
--made in China
--single-piece wrap-around bridge; 2 height-adjustment screws, 2 intonation screws

There's a "Custom Shop" label on the back of the headstock, but apparently there's no such shop. Specials are made on the same line as any other Epi, just in smaller quantities. Heh.

Very good balance. The neck stays where you leave it, unlike that aggravating "Tux" which won't stay put. The mahogany feels solid without being heavy--lighter than a maple, heavier than poplar.

The P90s are very loud and bright, but they mellow out nicely when the volume is rolled off. It sounds best straight into an amp. Doesn't seem to like effects processors like the Zoom 505 or Digitech RP100, which both come off harsh. Through my Crate amp, I brought out a damn good and passable Alice In Chains sound--"Rooster" sounds amazing, even with my hackery. Surprised myself, there.

For all the good feel and comfort, though, this guitar kicked my ass. I had to work to play songs I was used to getting through without effort. Three years later, I still haven't figured out why I had so much trouble. With that Gibson-style 24-3/4" scale length, it's not strung nearly as tightly as my Strat copy or the Tux (both with 25-1/2" scales) and should be slightly tighter than the Peavey T-15 (23-3/4"). I went from wondering whether there was something wrong with the guitar to wondering whether I'd had a stroke or something. I even set it aside and played one or another of my other axes for awhile to keep my morale up.

Maybe it was the working out on the Strat copy and heavy strings, but we worked out our differences after a few months. All the other guitars are hanging out of the way and the little Les Paul is always within grabbing distance.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

More pieces of the Medical Puzzle--BIG pieces.

Big developments, lately--all thanks to my right elbow screwing up in June.

I went to my doc about it in July; he sent me to an orthopedic guy. The appointment came up in August, more than a month after my elbow stopped being a problem. But that doctor sent me along to Occupational Therapy for my non-hurting elbow anyway.

Part of the routine there was "riding" an arm/leg machine, sort of a seated cross-country ski thing. I could run that thing on a low load for 15 minutes non-stop, something I'd never manage just walking. This led me and my therapist to think maybe I should get into lower-body therapy to try building my stamina and walking strength.

Back to the ortho doc, who asked me a few questions about the symptoms I've had when I walk or stand. He recommended that I go to a cardiologist instead: whatever my walking troubles are, they don't start with my legs. Find and fix the big problem and we'll deal with this later.

My regular doc set up a cardio referral. At that appointment this morning, the cardio doc said my heart's fine, based on an echo-cardiogram this morning and the stress test I took over the past two days (more about that next). He's got me set up for lung capacity/function tests next week, since that's the next big possibility in all the issues I've been having.

In the meantime, I had a followup CT in October to see whether my aorta damage had gotten worse.

It did. Now I'm going to need surgery to fix it. The vascular doc sent me in for a stress test to make sure I'm good for the surgery.

First half will be a carotid/subclavian bypass, where two arteries are moved over to tie into the carotid. Four weeks after, a stent will be run up from my thigh and placed to close up the damaged "pocket" that started all this medical stuff 52 months ago.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pic of the Day: The Internet Loves Us

The Facebook Oracle offered this to us this day; the first "Related" link is comedy gold:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Scumbag Gets His Due (well, some of it).

In the early days of this blog, I wrote about this former acquaintance of mine who has earned the nickname Scumbag several times over.

While looking through the Google's brain for other people I knew in Tallahassee back in the day, I went looking to see if Scumbag was still in trouble with the law.

Didn't expect the results I got, but I wasn't terribly surprised. He is a Scumbag, after all--the guy who sat and watched TV while his recently-exed fiancee' tried to kill herself with an overdose. The guy who squealed when he got busted by ATF when he tried to sell an illegally-assembled Uzi to undercover agents. The guy who caused a rollover crash on Appalachee Parkway in Tallahassee by changing lanes without looking or signalling; a car with several girls climbed the guardrail at the railroad overpass not far from the State Capitol building. He didn't bother to stop and check on them despite having bragged about being an EMT (he also said he'd been a Navy SEAL, fought in Iraq in 1991, got Gulf War Syndrome, was taught Japanese swordfighting by Musashi himself, and that he's a powerful warlock. Heh.).

He was convicted on the gun charge, went to prison for a few years in 1997, and appealed the decision all through the '00s, claiming his civil rights had been violated. Apparently there are some other interesting bits on his rap sheet...but his most recent criminal enterprise took the cake and burned the freaking bakery down.

He and his ex-girlfriend were arrested in June of 2012 for multiple instances of sexual assault upon a 14 year old girl.

He was charged with TWENTY-FIVE counts of sexual assault on a juvenile and another 25 for possession of porn. His ex got 5 counts of sexual assault on a minor.

Once I stopped gloating that his ass was arrested (yet again), I asked the Great Google (pbuh) whether Scumbag had gone to trial.

Why, yes. Yes, he had. In March of 2013 he and his ex were convicted. Scumbag got 15 years plus 36 months probation with 256 days' credit for the time he'd already spent in the box. Girlfriend was convicted on two lesser counts and got two 60-day terms and credit for 29 days' jail time.

Not nearly enough. There's nothing I despise more than someone who hurts a kid (and that's even taking Republicans into account).

I had my share of shitty adults as a kid--the stepfather who flailed me with his belt or threatened to take me out back and beat me with an axe handle.

There was one shitty teenager, though, who might have wired my rage button more than the abusive stepfather did.

In 1973, we moved four times, going from Pensacola to West Palm Beach to Loxley, Alabama to Mobile, Alabama. Prichard, actually, which lies close to the port, the Africatown Bridge, and a couple of miles north of downtown Mobile. I've spent hours in Google Earth scouring Eugene Avenue, trying to remember what our house looked like and where one of the neighborhood kids lived.

I wasn't quite 6 yet. Maybe that's why nothing looks familiar now. But I do remember the school yard fronting along the north side of Meaher Street, an easy walk north along Eugene. I remember a day when I was out exploring the neighborhood and stole a "Coca Cola" keyring dangling from the ignition of a parked school bus.

I remember the neighborhood kid and some friends playing with the new Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle in front of his house. I don't know how many times we played together after that first meeting, or what his name was, or even how long we lived in the neighborhood. Not very long, since we moved twice the next year.

I do remember the kid's older brother, who tried to molest me.

You might not want to read any further. It's not particularly graphic, what he did, but "trigger warnings" are a thing.

Everyone else was out of the house--parents at work, kid at summer school, according to Big Brother. All I've got is mental snapshots: I'll give you these opera glasses if you'll do something for me...him with his underwear down...mine down...a few awkward moments of him trying (and failing) to get me to blow him...I didn't know enough to be afraid or disturbed, didn't know what any of this was about...and then I was climbing a tree, playing with the shiny glasses. I didn't actively block it from my mind, but I can't remember giving it much further thought until I was in my 20s, when suddenly everything popped up again.

The neighborhood hasn't changed much, from what I can see in Google's Street View. Still tree-shaded, with kids playing in the quiet streets or sandy yards. The school's been rebuilt and faces the street where I stole the bus keys. I wonder whether that kid's brother molested anyone else, whether he ever got caught. I'd like to think some other kid's big brother grabbed him and went all Frank Castle on his ass.

I'd settle, though, for learning that Scumbag gets a few bales of shit beaten out of him while he's in prison. No rape and no stabbings, just a series of ass-whippings he's had coming to him for a long time.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Even More X-11 Progress!

This is getting to be a habit. It's been about 8 weeks since the last update, 12 weeks since I dropped a different distributor in.

The difference has been amazing. For much of the last two months, I've been making adjustments to the ignition timing and carb settings. Since I'm running the car with a non-computer-controlled carb and distributor, I don't have a manual or sticker for where the base timing should be set. I went with 10 degrees BTDC, plugged the vacuum advance in, then set the carb mixture and idle speed.

Much better. I've had none of the hard-start issues that plagued the car over the last couple of summers. I did have a bad afternoon the day I drove across town to get the X's tag renewed, though. I didn't have any tools. The car stalled as soon as the front tires touched the tag office parking lot and several more times on the way home. I never figured it out, other than the car was running hot. After it cooled down for a few hours, it started right up with no trouble. I got out the timing light a few days later and put things like they should have been weeks before. Fixed.

The next Friday, I went back to the tag office to get the Tracker's renewal. No troubles, no overheating. While I was sitting in line, I thought about the tachometer I'd repaired several months before. It was in a box behind my seat. The dash was only partly put back together from last year's electrical project; all I needed to do to be done was...hook up the stupid tachometer, adjust it, and install it properly.

I'll do a writeup on the tach separately; there's a common problem with GM tachs from the '70s through the '90s where a resistor goes bad and makes the thing read too high, too low, or not at all. I found a website with some decent step-by-step directions. The repair is dead simple if you're even okay with a soldering iron.

The tach worked, needing only some adjustment to read correctly. Once I got that done, I kept going, putting the instrument panel back together (so now I have fully-functional gauges AND dash lights), putting the heater/air conditioner controls back in (so now I have a working heater and defroster for the first time in 18 months), reinstalling and wiring the front stereo speakers, and bolting the steering column into place for the last time.

There's still the glove box to reinstall, but man, does the dash look good. The engine's running better than ever before...though there's still the small matter of getting that freaking dead muffler from last year swapped out.

On an X-11 related note, I recently found a program that let me grab almost all of the Chevy Citations Forever Yahoo Group, which I've been trying to archive for at least 6 years. It's called PG Offline and should work for most Yahoo Groups, as long as you're subscribed. I nabbed everything back to March of 2002. Everything for the 3-4 years prior to that is corrupted and useless. THANKS, Yahoo. Still, the yield was more than 31,000 posts spanning 12 years. That's not bad.

PGO is primarily an offline reader; you can grab a range of posts or the entire archive and look them over without needing to be inline. It also lets you export an archive to an SQLite database for further hacking. I found an SQLite browser which further let me save the post archive as a Comma-Separated Values file.

From here, I'm going to write a little Python code to go through the CSV and save all the posts as conversation threads to make stuff easier to find. There's a ton of technical stuff formerly locked up on Yahoo's servers that I can set free and make available to group members--engine swaps, parts sources and numbers, and like that. We're always getting new members who can't find info about parts.

Next grabbing project will be the group's photo archive. muahahahaha!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

X-11 Progress!

It's been about 4 weeks since I dropped a different distributor into the X.

Holy crap, what an improvement.

It could just be a matter of ignition timing. I was never able to turn the other distributor far enough either way to get better timing. It turns out there was a metal vacuum line in the way in one direction, but I couldn't find an obstruction that would keep it from turning the other way.

Could have just pulled that distributor out, turned the case 60 degrees, adjusted the rotor back the other way--all to make what was the #6 spark tower #1. Just swap the plug wires accordingly.

But then, I wouldn't have been able to use this other one I had, would I? =)

The replacement item came with a box of goodies shipped from a guy down near Orlando, Florida. He had a little Holley 4160 4-barrel carb, an Edelbrock intake manifold to fit the X-11's 2.8L V-6, and some miscellaneous bits to make it almost a drop-in weekend project. I paid him $300 and waited. He had the parts in his barn and needed some time to get them together, box them up, etc.

I didn't sweat it. But it did take nearly 2 years.

I could have gassed up the Tracker and taken another road trip...

Nah. No way. According to the Google, the drive down and back would have been even longer than 10 hours there/ten hours back.

No. Way. I don't think the Tracker could make the run, with its engine so close to overhaul time. The little guy deserves a rest.

Fed-Ex did the work instead. The carb turned out to be from a 1972 or so Ford 302 marine engine. It's a little larger than I'd like; the 2.8L V-6 calls for about 350 cfm of air flow. The smallest Holley 4-barrel flows 390 cfm, which is fine. My Holley pulls 450 cfm. That shouldn't be an issue, really.

The intake is Edelbrock's aluminum 2-piece--the manifold itself plus an adapter casting to match a 4-barrel carb. There's also a 2-barrel adapter which would let me either go back to the existing Rochester 2SE carb I'm running or to a Holley alternative. For that matter, with the 4-barrel adapter in place, I could even install one of the all-in-one fuel injection systems from Holley or elsewhere. All it takes is a thousand bucks or so. (heh)

Both the carb and the intake are just going to stay in the box for the time being. To swap it all in will take some planning and some parts I don't have yet. Because the intake was intended for rear-wheel-drive vehicles like the Camaro and S-10/Blazer, the coolant outlet will end up on the passenger-side end of my front-wheel-drive car, so I'll have to work up a long, long, long top radiator hose. I'll also have to design a different air intake. The Holley is huge compared to the little Rochester 2-barrel. There's not a lot of room between the top of the engine and the underside of the hood, so the existing air cleaner would have to go.

The distributor is a mechanical and vacuum advance version of the 2.8's all-electronic item. The car's existing power and tach connectors plug right in, so I went from this:
...with the coil mounted on an ugly homemade bracket and the wiring spliced to plug into the X-11's factory wiring...to this:
...a factory installation that looks like what the car came with. Except for the computer-controlled stuff.

The past 4 weeks have been amazing. I've gone from a struggling starter to an enthusiastic one for the first time since I got the car in 2009. I'm still getting a little hard-starting trouble when the engine's hot, but I haven't been stranded so far.

Next project is to dial it all in: get the timing set, get the carb adjusted, and hopefully get a little more power out of the thing.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

RIP Robin Williams

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
-- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. Yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.
- David Foster Wallace

I'd usually add my usual Rush song, "Afterimage," which is my go-to song for someone dying. It's appropriate, given the opening lines--"Suddenly you were gone / From all the lives you left your mark upon."

But they have a much more powerful song, 'The Pass,' on the "Presto" disc that hits pretty hard, the way news of Robin Williams' death did:

Here's a link to the Songfacts page for "The Pass," in which Neil Peart says of suicide that "I just can't relate to it at all, but I wanted to write about it. And the facet that I most wanted to write about was to demythologize it - the same as with 'Manhattan Project' - it demythologized the nuclear age, and it's the same thing with this facet - of taking the nobility out of it and saying that yes, it's sad, it's a horrible, tragic thing if someone takes their own life, but let's not pretend it's a hero's end. It's not a triumph. It's not a heroic epic. It's a tragedy, and it's a personal tragedy for them, but much more so for the people left behind, and I really started to get offended by the samurai kind of values that were attached to it, like here's a warrior that felt it was better to die with honor, and all of that kind of offended me. I can understand someone making the choice; it's their choice to make. I can't relate to it, and I could never imagine it, for myself, but still I thought it's a really important thing to try to get down."

I like Peart's modification of an Oscar Wilde quote in the chorus:

 All of us get lost in the darkness
 Dreamers learn to steer by the stars
 All of us do time in the gutter
 Dreamers turn to look at the cars

...but I disagree that there's some heroic battle here. Depression is a pain unlike anything physical. When it combines with despair, nothing else in life matters. It all goes away--family, friends, accomplishments. Dawn Summers posted this on Twitter--"How depression makes suicide look:"

 I haven't been this close to it, but I've seen the view. It fucking sucks. There aren't many famous people I care that much about, but only three make me choke up when I think of them, for the way they touched so many people's lives: Johnny Carson, Carl Sagan, and now Robin Williams.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Twenty Years Gone: Jim Barrett and Dr. John Britton

Twenty years ago today, Jim Barrett and Dr. John Britton were murdered by a religious terrorist.

The clinic where they died was firebombed January 1, 2012 by some homeless jackwagon who'd been watching the weekly terrorist "protests."

The clinic reopened in a different location, in the same shopping center as a Hobby Lobby.

A repost of my 2009 write-up:

On this day in 1994, Paul Hill walked up to a pickup truck in the driveway of a Pensacola clinic and killed Jim Barrett and Dr. John Britton with a shotgun.

I stood in a parking lot across the street with some of the other clinic escorts (Jim was one of ours) for a few hours. The bodies were laid out and covered with sheets while the crime scene guys did their thing.

I never met Dr. Britton; he was one of the volunteers who stepped up when David Gunn was murdered barely a year before.

Jim was a good guy, a sort of grandfather figure. He's buried at Arlington:


I'm gonna hoist a drink in his honor sometime today and hope that someday crazy religious douchebags will no longer exist.

And for the rest of us, if you know a guy like Jim, buy him a drink.

Friday, July 18, 2014

X-11: Progress?

Tentatively optimistic in the wake of Tuesday's distributor swap. I've made one adjustment so far, turning the distributor a bit clockwise after the starter struggled to spin the engine over.

This has been a consistent issue for most of the last five years and I'd always it was a starter issue. Especially when the engine was warmed up, the starter was working as hard as it could. I'm not a great mechanic, and I never thought that maybe the distributor was a bit too advanced or retarded, perhaps causing a buildup of cylinder pressure keeping the engine from spinning easily. Certainly sounded like it, especially Wednesday morning when I tried to fire it up. This time, the starter was dragged to a standstill, pushing hard against the crank--even worse than ever before.

After that little adjustment, though, the engine spins over at least twice as fast as before--strongly, no hesitations. Unheard-of in 5 years of tinkering!

This is all the same issue I've been trying to work out for a while, especially after getting stranded a few times in the last year. It seemed for a month or so that I made things better with the exhaust work I did in November, but that's also when the weather started getting cold.

As soon as things warmed up again, the drivability troubles started again--starter having trouble turning the engine, getting worse as the engine warmed up, dragging the battery charge down (and looking for all the world like a bad starter). Once the engine started (IF it started), it ran fine. Idle was a little ragged. Hard to judge gas mileage, since I hardly go anywhere lately. Haven't been to Fort Pickens since my back-to-back day trips in February of 2011 (here and here). Haven't been back to Fort Pike since my time and gas-wasting road trip out there in 2011. Power? Hard to tell there, yet, but if the starting issue is solved now, I'm up for a Pickens trip.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

X-11: Smoke Test!

Dropping the replacement distributor into the car took less time than finding the cap and rotor I needed from storage.

It only took a few bumps of the case counterclockwise and clockwise to get the engine started, then a smaller bit of turning it to find the sweet spot--well, the temporary sweet spot. As soon as I got the thing locked down for a test drive, it started raining. Drove it anyway. Seems smoother, can't smell it dumping raw fuel into the exhaust.

Next up is another round of tuning and tweaking that should take care of all the drivability issues I've been having for a few years--hard starting when it's hot, which gets me stranded and makes a-holes unhappy; rough idle, dumping fuel, impressive clouds of gray smoke that fumigate the area if I coast in third at highway speeds...poor car.

Assuming that's taken care of, all that's left is the leaking sunroof, rusted-out rear hatch, clutch, power steering, rear tires...radiator...air conditioning...stereo (still uninstalled more than a year later)...getting the dash back together...bodywork...muffler...

Friday, July 11, 2014

X-11: Spark Test

The X-11's been running poorly lately, especially since the beginning of summer. I'm currently running a distributor and coil from an '85 S-10 Blazer. It works well enough, making a really nice, fat white spark, but I've never been happy with the installation. I had to make a bracket to mount the coil and wire up connectors for power and tachometer feed. None of it looks good. It seems to have a block of some sort on the casting restricting how far it can be turned (probably for emissions purposes), but all I'd need to do is loosen the hold-down, pull the distributor, turn the shaft just a little, and put it back. It's been a guessing game trying to get the engine timing dialed in ever since I put this distributor into it. It's really happy in winter, but I start having drivability issues once the weather warms up.

The distributor I'm testing in this video is identical to the X-11's original item, aside from being non-computer controlled. It's an all-in-one style with the coil built into the cap. Very clean installation, no external coil and wire, and the car's original wiring just plugs right in. There's nothing to keep it from being turned for more advance, either, so maybe the engine will have better hot-weather manners.

My test rig was powered by an old PC supply. I originally intended to run jumper wires to each of the distributor cap "towers" (where the plug wires connect) and even started making up some jumpers for the second half of the video, but at this point I was satisfied that it'll work, since I could hear a "chirp" from internal sparking where there wasn't a jumper and could see a good spark in the tester for those that were jumped.

I could have used a lab assistant, though, to see just how good that spark was. The last time I rigged up a test like this was for the distributor that I'm about to swap out of the car. My lab rat then was a co-worker who just couldn't resist the urge to touch the pretty white fire--and BAP!!. He jumped a couple of feet in the air. He didn't think the thing was going to work. Heheheh.

I still need to check out the vacuum advance and replace the cap and rotor, but now it's ready to drop in.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Pic of the Day: Chevy V6 Power Wheel

Taking a break from the Lincoln/"The Car" project. But I had this idea for what was going to be a table showing how the four engine cycles (Intake / Compression / Combustion / Exhaust) overlap in the GM 2.8 Liter V6.

Exciting, huh? Gearhead stuff ahead!

In one of my old auto mechanic books, there's a simple illustration of the overlap in a V8. I'd been meaning to do something similar to that for years just out of curiosity. I did scribble a table in my notebook last night, but when it came to copying that to a CAD drawing, I decided on a diagram instead. Think of it as a map of how the engine runs.

For the car-guys-in-training:
Each ring is a cylinder, #1 on the outside, #6 on the inside. This follows this engine's 1-2-3-4-5-6 firing order.

Red represents the combustion cycle (or "stroke"), where power is generated.
Gray is exhaust.
Blue is intake.
Orange is compression.

Each cylinder follows these four cycles (hence "four-cycle" or "four-stroke" engine). Technically, the intake cycle should be first, since everything else depends on that: air and fuel are drawn into a cylinder, the mixture is compressed, then it's ignited, and finally the burnt gases are pushed out of the cylinder.

I put the combustion cycle first on cylinder #1 (closest to 0 degrees) because getting all those things to happen properly depends on getting that cylinder set up properly (Top Dead Center) while the engine is being put together.

The wheel represents two full turns of the crankshaft, since it takes that long for a single cylinder to go through all four cycles--intake and compression in one, combustion and exhaust in the next.

Looking at how the circular markers line up, you can see which pairs of cylinders are moving together: 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6.
While Cylinder 1 is burning fuel, #4 is breathing in--and both pistons are moving downward.
As #1 breathes out, #4 is compressing its air-fuel charge--both pistons moving upward.
As #1 breathes in, #4 burns its fuel--both pistons moving down.
As #1 compresses, #4 blows its exhaust--both pistons moving up.

The other pairs perform the same way, but overlap the rest in such a way that there's always one cylinder firing for every third of a rotation, or 120 degrees.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pic of the Day: Fort Jefferson, 1898

Standing on the seawall, looking along the ditch and the southeast wall. The east bastion (Bastion C) is in the distance. We're standing on the curve where the seawall turns to face on the south wall, adjacent to Bastion D.

This is one of a trove of photos and technical drawings in the National Park Service Historic Structure Report for Fort Jefferson.

This fort is spectacular. If you go to Key West, you owe it to yourself to take the 90 minute FastCat ride out there, some 70 miles west of the Keys. Once you're there, even though you're miles west of Florida and Cuba, you're still considered to be in the Atlantic Ocean (or maybe the Gulf of Mexico is north?). Climb up on top of the massive walls and all you see is ocean in every direction.

The water's like crystal. Very good snorkeling on the coral reefs that surround the fort.

Project: "The Car" plans in CAD (pt. 5)

This thing's looking more like a car now. I got the peak lines for the rear fenders, part of the rear roof, and what looks like a vent panel just in front of the trunk lid.

Just think...it's taken me something like 20 hours to get this far. And I only have the side, bottom, front and rear views to go!

Then..."The Car."

Close your blinds--it might be out there watching.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Project: "The Car" plans in CAD (pt. 4)

Took about 3 hours from my busy napping schedule to get back on the Lincoln. I made a slight adjustment to the front fender line and placed the rear window opening and a rectangular panel that sits just ahead of the rear trunk lid.

It took several hours' worth of studying all the source pics I grabbed last week to work out just what the Mark III's real shape is. On first glance, it's just a slab-sided brick with a knife-edge fender peak that runs the length of the car. It's not obvious just yet in the drawing, but there's a very subtle "Coke bottle" effect. The front-most point on the front fenders is the widest. The body narrows very slightly just at the rear edge of the doors, then swells just wide enough for the rear wheels before narrowing again at the rear bumper.

So it's a subtle slab-sided brick.

Good thing about CAD is that I can erase lines without messing up the screen.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Project: "The Car" plans in CAD (pt. 3)


Johnny Lightning's Lincoln is reasonably close--well, it's in a ballpark near mine.

Still working on the front end of the Mark III, trying to hash out the shape of the fenders. Had to go looking for more source photos of Lincolns. Ended up at a page comparing the Mark III and its Cadillac competition with lots of usable pics and one hell of a long loading time.

Good thing I'm not on dial-up anymore. That site would have taken days to deal with. Just grabbing the link to paste it here made my computer choke for almost 2 minutes.

So anyway, the Lightning car is somewhere near right for suitably vague definitions of right. Still cheaper than finding a full-scale Mark III to measure.

About the only line I've locked in since the last post is the base of the windshield.

Need more caffeine.

Monday, June 16, 2014

George W. Bush, The Failure

...or the Overwhelming Success, as far as Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are concerned.

Osama should have commissioned a medal for George Bush, who turned out to be his unwitting point man in the United States.

Were it not for Fratboy and his neoconservative lackeys and the media toads who whipped Iraq from unimportant Middle Eastern backwater to OMG EVIL EVIL EVIL!!!!!111!!!!, Osama's terrorist mission couldn't have succeeded.

Fortunately for him, Fratboy did everything Al Qaeda could ever have wanted. He handed Osama an enormous victory by invading Iraq and toppling Saddam: now Al Qaeda could enter Iraq. Fratboy took their hat and coat, polished their shoes, served them coffee, and paid the tab in cash and blood.

Mission Accomplished.

Edited to add a comment I scribbled elsewhere. Liked it too much to just leave it there:

Time to round the chuckleheads up, load 'em on C-47s wearing whatever they're already wearing when they're nabbed, slap a chute on 'em, and Operation Dope Drop their asses somewhere generally close to somewhere in Iraq. Since Cheney will be there, make it an undisclosed location. He'll like that.

Give General George Dubya a Patton hat, make McCain't his tactical advisor. AND...do them like they did the troops: insufficient armor and equipment for the job. Maybe they'll get lucky and find a cache of stuff abandoned by the Iraqis before they ran off.

McCain't and Cheney can grimace at 'em. Dubya can paint 'em something purty.

Hell, we can even call it "D Day"...for "Dumbasses." If they get captured...well, we're not at war in Iraq, so they're not POW's (sorry, McCain't, I know you like the martyr gig), and we don't know diddly cupcake about 'em.

"What? He says he's George Bush? He painted you a flower? I see. You want to trade him for who? Bieber? What's a Bieber?"

Friday, June 13, 2014

Project: "The Car" plans in CAD (pt. 2)

Moving a little faster today. Ordered a scale modeling ruler from Excel (1/24, 1/25, 1/35, 1/48, 1/72).

Still working on the top-view, going front to back. At the current stopping point, I've gotten the front bumper, grille, and hood roughed-in.

Starting to look like a car.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Project: "The Car" plans in CAD (pt. 1)

1977's "The Car" was a low-budget lift of "Jaws" (interesting discussion of that at the link). The acting and dialogue are laughable in places--hammy, campy and over-the-top.

It's one of those so-bad-it's-good flicks that's worth watching with friends, but not so bad that you'll need extensive alcohol support. Bring your sarcasm along.

(article at Wikipedia)

(The Drew Review: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

The IMDB page.

A little town in the American Southwest finds itself stalked by a mysterious black car.

First, a pair of teens are run down as they ride their bicycles on a mountain highway.

Then, it's a French horn-playing wiseass who, frankly, had it coming. The Car backs over him, then hits him a few more times for good...measure (heeheehee).

As the bodies rack up, the cops try to confront the bad guy only to get wasted themselves. It's up to newly-minted Sheriff Wade and his remaining men--and the county's wife-beating dynamite expert--to try to trap The Car under tons of rock.

The real star of the movie is The Car itself. It started out as a 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III. George "Batmobile" Barris and his guys modified three of them, mostly by adding sheetmetal bodywork over the existing Lincoln panels.

One of them is the "hero car," the main actor if you will, used for the bulk of filming. The other two were stunt cars. There's some disagreement in the various writeups I've seen online, though. Barris' own website says there were four--one hero and three stunt cars. Another source says three, with a fourth "loosely assembled" on a later-model Thunderbird body for the movie's finale, where The Car is tricked into going over a cliff to its doom.

Either way, only one survived filming. It was parked on the Universal back lot for a few years. Supposedly, it was auctioned off in 1984. The auction picture does look like one of the originals, but there are some differences. The hero/shooting car had chrome trim around the windshield; the two stunt cars had black trim and so does the auction car:

The bumper and grille are wrong, too, but the bodywork does look like one of the real articles.

I've scoured the Internet several times looking for source photos, drawings, trivia, the same sort of thing I was doing a year ago working on my build of Revell's 1/96 Saturn V. With that one, I got close to a gig of photos and videos.

With this one...not so much. a little more than 240 pictures and some videos, a dozen conflicting websites.

Guillermo del Toro got his brother to make him one.

This guy's build is much closer, since he started from a Lincoln Mark III. His Facebook page has a ton of build photos and some behind-the-scenes shots of the Barris build and filming.

Ertl made a 1/18-scale die-cast of The Car about a decade ago. I found one of those on Ebay for close to $200. Way out of my price range. I'm not bringing another car home, either, though there are several up for sale...and even more out of my price range.

Tom Zahorsky at Johnny Lightning built a single 1/64 scale Car in preparation for tooling, but the project got axed. The one in his blog writeup is the only complete one.

From here, it gets even more scarce. A poster named "Tom" scratchbuilt one in 1/87 scale. There's a picture of this tiny wonder at 87thscale.proboards.com about a fourth of the way down. He mentioned making copies available in 2008, but hasn't been back to that site since 2009.


I took a lot of screen-captures from my copy of the movie, grabbed pictures of Lincoln Mark III's, and dug around online in search of a cheap Lincoln until I finally found this ugly green creature:

This is a '69 Lincoln Mark III from the Johnny Lightning "demolition derby" line. Here it's clamped to a modeler's miter box to give me a good right-angle reference for accurate measuring. Measure twice, draw once, right?

This is me, so you know there was a snag. Johnny Lightning, Hotwheels, Matchbox and the rest sell their cars as 1/64 scale.

I worked on my first CAD attempt for most of Friday night and well into Saturday morning before I realized that nothing was lining up with the real-world specs for the Mark III. Did a little measuring Saturday night and found that the Lincoln is actually closer to 1/72 scale.

Crap, again, and crap.

Scrapped most of the previous night's work--well, 6 freaking lines and a few guidelines--and started mostly over. Since I started with the real-world specs, I kept my basic guides. About all I had to do once I got restarted yesterday afternoon was to move the wheels back a few scale inches.

Here's where it is now, complete with expanded view guides for front, rear, top and bottom. I decided to work on the top view first this time:

So far, it's just the center section of the hood, the grille, and part of the front bumper, but it's a lot more than I had before. Yeah, this is probably the more complicated way to do it, drawing up the complete Lincoln and then drawing The Car over that, but it seems like the best way to get the right results.

No idea when I'll get done, but for now I'm just enjoying the challenge. CAD fort drawings are much easier--lots of straight lines, simple curves, and repeated details. For all its slab-sided, hard-edged looks, even the Lincoln is more complicated than I'd expected, though Barris' Car is going to be much easier. Lots of those straight lines and simple curves.

Bonus cool: Barris is also responsible for the Beverly Hillbillies' Olds truck.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pic of the Day: Asking for it.

Meet Dean. Dean's an asshole.

Here he is at the University of Arizona last year:

He's at it again, this time at ASU.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Song of the Day: Countdown (Rush)

Today's the anniversary of Shuttle Columbia's maiden flight in 1981. Here's the original STS-1 launch video:

...and a fan-edit putting a shuttle launch to "Countdown" by Rush:

 It looks like mostly Shuttle Discovery footage, but I won't quibble--a shuttle launch is a shuttle launch, and they still choke me up and give me goosebumps even when I know what'll happen next.

Friday, April 11, 2014


I’m finally getting something done about my legs. For several years I’ve had poor circulation that’s puffed my lower legs and feet up and is causing some bad-looking discoloration and blistering from fluid collecting under the skin. I’ve gone from wearing size 9 sneakers to size 12 deck shoes–and on a bad day even those won’t fit. My doc got the go-ahead from Medicaid or Medicare for some kinky air boots and compression socks to clear this stuff up. These items also come with one (1) blonde and one (1) brunette to manage and maintain the medical aspects. I inquired about adding one (1) redhead, and it seems there already is one at the doctor’s office, but she doesn’t come to my house, so it doesn’t really count. The blonde lady says that my legs will be looking normal again within 3 months. Some of my walking troubles and even some of the chronic cough/congestion I've dealt with for several years can be traced to all this crappy circulation.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Fred Phelps Dies...I Catch a Cold.

That effing bastard.

I just got back from dominating--DOMINATING!!--my local CVS. Walked in like a boss, made the place mine.

Well, yeah, I leaned on my shopping cart a few times and limped, but I did all this without crutches.

Forgot to mention that, did I? Sorry. Been off my feet for most of the last 29 days. I've only been able to put weight on them without howling for a little over a week.

My vascular doc says that the root cause is poor circulation in my legs; the valves in the big vein aren't closing properly, so blood tends to pool at the bottom end of me, especially in my left leg and foot. Most of the time, it just makes walking a hassle. But every few months one foot or the other will start hurting in one area--the ball, the top, whatever. Within days it spreads across and then up and it's the worst pain I've ever had. Nothing touches it. If that foot's on the floor, I can't pick it up; if it's off the floor, I can't put it down.

Almost inevitably, a day or two after one foot starts this crap, the other one joins in.

It's been one hell of a month. My left one started aching Feb. 19th (Wed.); the right one joined in the following Saturday. I stayed in bed as long as I could. Lost so much strength in both legs that I had to use a walker. That was an entirely new dimension of pain, since I still had doctor's appointments to go to. Getting from my room to my nephew's car took 15 long, long minutes. Getting back in took 40.

After the second week, I started being able to use crutches. "B.C." powders started helping with the worst of the pain. I've never had this stuff last so long, a month. It's usually a week, several days on crutches and a few weeks building my leg muscles back up.

The vascular doc says I'm going to need air boots and compression stockings. He's already done treatments on each leg to block off some under-performing veins, but the others need all the help they can get.

After all the crutching around these last few weeks, tonight's shopping run was the first time I've gone without them or that walker. So, like I said, I dominated that store.

Song of the Day: Spring is Here, Suh-puh-Ring is Here!...

...and here's the ever-brilliant Tom Lehrer's "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park"

Saturday, March 8, 2014

RIP Bartcop, one of the first liberal bloggers

Blogger Terry R. "Bartcop" Coppage died Feb. 7 of complications from flu, pneumonia and leukemia. He was a liberal blogger before blogs. When he started up in 1996, I didn't even have a modem in my elderly IBM PC, let alone know what "websites" or "blogs" were.

It was awesome, finding a fire-breathing, no-bullshit liberal during the waning days of the Failure Bush's final term.He was calling the Fratboy "Worst President Ever!" while the finger-wagging media shitheads were still on board and dreaming of Bush in his flight suit.

Here's the Crooks & Liars writeup and TBogg's eulogy.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pic of the Day: Big Freeze

I've never seen ice like this in Pensacola. This was taken Wednesday morning, after nearly 20 hours of icy rain, freezing rain, and sleet. No snow, but plenty of ice blanketing everything. The National Weather Service estimated 0.2" of it by dawn Wednesday.

Every tree had ice weighing its leaves. One on my side of the house was leaning badly enough to grind its limbs against the shingles.

Every car's doors were iced shut...except for the X-11's. Any time it rains I have to run out to throw a tarp over the still-leaky sunroof. I could try to be smug about being able to open my doors, but the tarp was ice-welded to the roof and doors. Couldn't see, anyway, since the windshield wipers were frozen to the glass and their mechanical stuff was entombed in ice.

The rest of my car looked about like everyone else's--a heavy coat of ice on every horizontal surface, all exposed glass iced over, icicles drooling from overhangs.

Nobody went anywhere. I didn't even try walking on that road. There's enough ice there for a hockey game. Before everything finally thawed out sometime early Friday, I heard at least three cars coming around the curve too fast and sliding into the curb. Otherwise, it was deathly quiet, even on the Interstate a mile away. There were something like 100 traffic accidents, one 17-vehicle pileup on I-10, and a train derailment in that frozen 48 hours.

I managed a couple of photo-reconnaissance trips Wednesday and Thursday mornings, right when it was the coldest. I thought of Fort Pickens, which must have looked spectacular just then, but all the bridges in the area were closed even if I were fool enough to try driving the icy roads.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pic of the Day: For the folks who didn't make it.

Here's the Shuttle Columbia flying into the clouds.

Here's to Apollo 1, the Shuttles Challenger and Columbia, and all the other folks who didn't make it home.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Song of the Day: "Dreamline" (Rush, Auburn Hills MI 3-22-94)

First song off the Counterparts Tour bootleg video.

Tonight (Jan. 22, 1994) is the 20th anniversary of Rush opening that tour here in Pensacola.

I was seated directly opposite the stage, up in the bleachers at the Pensacola Civic Center. Gotta say, Rush or not, I really wish the sound quality of that concert had been as good as this video:

The Civic Center (now renamed as Pensacola Center...hahahaha) is a big concrete boondoggle, a horrible waste of taxpayer money, an acoustic disaster, and it deserves to be knocked over, set on fire, have the ashes sown with salt, and then have the developers and their political toadies forced to clean up the rubble with toothbrushes, plastic spoons, and those cone-shaped drinking cups that won't stand on their own.

In summary, the Civic Center sucks. There's a sound-sucking echo that makes even a hockey game announcer sound like he's using a bullhorn in a tunnel.

I knew the sound would be bad, since two years before I attended the Feb. 25 opening night of the band's "Roll The Bones" tour. That one left me deaf for most of the next day. This time, I brought earplugs. Man-o-man did I ever need them.

The "Counterparts" opening act was Candlebox, supporting their self-titled debut disc. I couldn't hear the guitars or vocals well; anything in the midrange was muddy or inaudible. But the highs and bass were incredibly loud, almost painful even with earplugs. No complaints about the band. I liked what I could hear of them, but I hadn't heard anything they played other than "You," which was getting good airplay on local radio:

I probably fidgeted through the opening act and through the intermission. Finally: the intro!

On earlier tours, they opened with the "Three Stooges" theme. This time, we saw a gigantic bolt spinning slowly in space, finally docking with its counterpart (get it? Counterparts Tour!), accompanied by "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" ("2001: A Space Odyssey"). This led into 'Dreamline,' the first track on the "Counterparts" album.

From that point--shitty sound or not--I was riveted.

The set list (via Wikipedia):
Intro ('Thus Spoke Zarathustra'; first time used as intro)
'The Spirit of Radio'
'The Analog Kid'
'Cold Fire' (from Counterparts)
'Time Stand Still'
'Nobody's Hero' (from Counterparts)
'Roll the Bones'
'Animate' (from Counterparts)
'Stick It Out' (from Counterparts)
'Double Agent' (from Counterparts)
'Mystic Rhythms'
'Closer to the Heart'
'Show Don't Tell'
'Leave That Thing Alone!' (from Counterparts)
'The Rhythm Method' (drum solo)
'The Trees'
'Xanadu' (abbreviated)
'Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres' (Prelude)
'Tom Sawyer'
'Force Ten'
'Cygnus X-1 Book I: The Voyage' (teaser)
There were plenty of Rush Geek moments to be had. Lifeson brought out his classic double-neck Gibson EDS-1275 to play 'Xanadu.'

The twin 20-foot high rabbits introduced for the "Presto" tour made a comeback during 'Show Don't Tell.' The stage-left rabbit now sported a gangster hat and sawed-off shotgun. As the song ended, there was threatening music...a shot rang out! An animated bullet flashed across the screens behind the stage, searching for its target for several seconds. Then, with a flash and the sound of a deflating balloon, the other rabbit fell. Up on the screen, his spirit was comforted by a pair of scantily-clad angel bunnies...and the band played 'Leave That Thing Alone!' Has nothing to do with bunnies, just the band having some fun.

Neil Peart's seven and a half minute drum solo followed. This is the one time in the entire set when the sound didn't suck: I could hear and feel every seismic *THUMP* of the drums in my chest and seat. There were a pair of massive speaker towers hanging almost directly above my seat, so I got it from above as well.

I freaking loved it.

Neil's drum solos are legendary, a staple of every concert. If he hasn't used a part of his kit in the show so far, this is where he makes up for it by beating on everything.

I. Freaking. Loved. It.

Neil's kit spans 360 degrees around him. One 180 degree section is mostly digital; the other is acoustic, but also has some digital triggers. There's also a forest of cymbals.

The solo started on the digital side. As if seeing him playing wasn't cool enough, roughly halfway into the solo he paused after hitting an enormous *THUMP THUMP!*...and his drum kit spun 180 degrees so that the acoustic half was facing the audience. Neil turned the other way on his seat and went right back to the solo.

I spent a lot of time watching Alex Lifeson's playing to see whether I was playing the same way. It might have helped if I'd taken notes (yes, I had a notebook), but I was too busy just soaking in the experience. This was only the second rock concert I'd ever been to--and the second Rush concert. I could hear better, thanks to those earplugs, and by now I knew every song. The only way the evening could have been better (aside from backstage access and that double-neck guitar of Lifeson's) was if the sound hadn't sucked.

Oh, and the ticket price? $21.00. Compare that to $60 or so for a seat in either Tampa or Orlando last year for the "Clockwork Angels" tour.

Once it was all over, I sat and watched the road crew breaking everything down for awhile before leaving to save myself the crowds in the parking lot.
On the way home, I got to hear the concert all over again as WTKX played the studio versions of every song on the concert playlist.

I got lucky a few years after this show. I found a pair of VHS bootlegs of the March 22 Auburn Hills gig. Bought both for $40 a pop. One went to my nephew, who's also a Rush fan. I copied mine to DVD years ago, just before my VCR started eating tapes instead of playing them.

Friday, January 17, 2014

PSA: Knock the dust off your CPU!

It should be one of those things you do every year, like changing batteries on your smoke detectors.

[note to self...install that smoke detector I bought 10 years ago....]

I'd been having shutdown issues on my 4-year-old PC, but only when I was running MCEBuddy, a program for converting MS Windows Media Center video to other formats. The program had always worked without trouble before, but in November of last year it started crashing the system.

I put it aside for a few months. Started messing with it late last night (well, early this morning). I set Windows 7 to show its "Blue Screen of Death" the next time there was a crash, got MCEBuddy going, and waited.

Fifteen minutes into converting this season's premier of "Justified," the computer simply shut off. No blue screen, no crash codes or anything. Didn't even have time to do a memory dump or write to a log. I tinkered for several hours, doing the usual stuff: upgrade the program, change to a different hard drive, look online for suggestions. Each time I'd get a few minutes into the video conversion and *CLICK* the PC turned off. Never a blue screen, always amnesia ("Why'd you turn me off? I didn't do anything wrong!").

I finally downloaded a little widget called Open Hardware Monitor. It gives you a table and a graph of an array of your system's stats like CPU, motherboard and video card temperatures, clock speeds, fan speeds and CPU loads. I ran the widget and set MCEBuddy to converting again.

The main motherboard and CPU temp graphs had been hovering in the 110F and 90F ranges, respectively, but as the program kicked in both temps started going up and up and up. I don't know how accurate the reporting is (there's a temperature-reading error on earlier AMD Athlon II X2 processors), but the widget pegged my CPU's temp at 212F (the motherboard's was closer to 220F!) before the system shut down as before.


And that was with both sides of the case removed to let more air in. So much for it just being bad fans.

I pulled the heat sink off the CPU and found a layer of dust buildup between it and the fan. It might not have been 212F, but the sink was too hot to handle. A little brushwork and it was clean. Didn't put new conductive grease on (got to wait for payday), but I did a little dusting around the board before firing the thing up again.

Now the temps are running 131F/122F at most for the mobo and CPU, respectively, for 12 hours even with MCEBuddy running and pulling 90% to 100% of CPU load.

Time to pull the system apart and hit the graphics card's fans and sinks. It's running around 135F on the low end and 152F max. It's got to be in the current card slot, but maybe I can move some of the others around to get more air in there.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

X-11--Five Years!

I still haven't done any of the body work, but every day the car's running is a damn sight better than sitting unused in someone else's driveway.

Hard to believe it's been five years since the X-11 was delivered.

I'd post a picture, but Blogger won't let me for whatever stupid reason.

Screw them, Here's Rush playing "Red Barchetta" in 2008:

Awwwwww, yeah.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


National Weather Service says:

  • Humidity 38%
  • Wind Speed N 13 G 18 mph
  • Barometer 30.56 in (1035.3 mb)
  • Dewpoint 0°F (-18°C)
  • Visibility 10.00 mi
  • Wind Chill 10°F (-12°C)
Last Update on 7 Jan 1:53 am CST

I says: too cold.

My brand-new oil-filled radiator heater is huddled on the floor, shivering pitifully and asking for a heater of its own.

Going to bury myself under an electric blanket and hibernate.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Song of the Day: Silvestri's "Back to the Future" theme on acoustic guitar

A water-transfer swirl paintjob:

Very cool.

And now for the song:

"Back to the Future" theme on an Alvarez acoustic. Gorgeous.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Doesn't Seem Possible: I'm a Homeowner.

When my mother died back in November, it became official: I now share custody of a house with my sister.

I've lived here since December 26, 1976. Thirty-seven years, minus a few years in Tallahassee and several months at Fort Jackson and Fort Gordon.

Before this one, we lived in 12 other houses and one apartment between my birth and my 9th birthday. I barely remember any of those; a scene here, a memory there. This is the first one my parents actually owned.

Now it's mine.

What the hell do I do with a house?

I've been pondering that. Part of me wants to gut the joint, put new wiring and plumbing into its 50-year-old walls, expand my microscopic bathroom, and add insulation all around. I'll settle for getting rid of the honking big vanity my mother put in my bathroom a few years ago.

The big thing, though, is the outside.

We have a freaking WHITE house. All the brickwork, all the wood trim, the fake-stucco'd cinder block planter...it's all bleached arctic snow-blind holy-crap white. NASA's contractors didn't use this much white paint on all their Saturn rockets combined.

Black fake shutters.

Not my favorite combination for a house. I've never liked it, but now I have no idea what colors to go with.

The "moon rocket" motif is out.

Don't have much of a lawn for me to tell the kids to keep off of.