Sunday, October 30, 2005

Nice weather again today for running the errands with the top down.

I did some more paint and rust removal on the frame. At this point I am again considering sending the frame out to a professional sand blaster to finish up the process. Why? According to my calculations I will spend more money on supplies to complete the process than I will pay someone else to do it. That doesn't add up does it.

The big bowl 'o candy is sitting next to the front door waiting for tomorrow nights guests. I hope some is left when the trick-or-treaters start to show up.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Great Pumpkin
Yesterday morning as I was driving out of the neighborhood, I noticed some vandalism. Two mailboxes had been destroyed. By pumpkins.

It is hard to believe throwing a pumpkin at a mailbox could break it but seeing is believing. Last night when I got home, G mentioned that our pumpkin had been stolen.

I wonder if the folks with the broken mailbox would reimburse us for the pumpkin.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Skip on to the next post, this is the boring stuff.

Yesterdays lunch included fried okra. Actual skillet fried okra, not that deep fried battered stuff. I suspect that the okra season is coming to an end. In a restaurant.

I was out driving tonight from 8:00-8:30. It was a chilly 45F but still a nice night for a ride. Gloves and hat were not optional.

Can't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I got the call from the upholstry shop yesterday before lunch. The rear window panel was ready for pickup. I had dropped it off on Wednesday around 11:00 so the total turn around time was less than 48 hours.

The 'h' key on my keyboard is intermittently working today. You never realize how many of those you use until they are occasionally not working. Then when it does work, it is one ell of a surprise.

Today has been a relaxing day so far. That doesn't mean I haven't done anything so far, it has just gone pretty smoothly. Perhaps it has something to do with the cool Fall like weather outside and New Yankee workshop on the TV. I bet if I flipped channels I could even find a football game. No thanks, I will stick with dadovision.

Jordan had a friend come over and play for a few hours. We picked him up this morning and I got a chance to see how the '53 is coming along. Good thing we are not having a race, because I would be losing.

Because we had an honored guest, and also a lack of bread at the house, we made a trip to Sonic for lunch. Wacky meals for everyone. Woo hoo.

Amoung my many mundane chores today, I managed to also get the repaired rear window panel re-installed in the Miata. I looks good and it feels good to know I can weather some ran if I have to.

I mentioned last week it took about 40 minutes to get the window panel out. The instructions I DL'ed off miata.net said it should take about an hour and a half to disassmeble. The instructions also mentioned it would take about one hour to reassemble. Well when it only took 40 minutes to take it apart I decided I was in for a nightmare of a reassembly. I was expecting a 3 hour tour. It went surprisingly quickly and did indeed only take one hour.

Rear window repair summary
- Total repair time: 1 hour forty minutes.
- Total cost: $65 which included the cost of the plastic window and sewing labor.
- Satisfaction level: High.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I have this friend with a rash

I often get asked for advice on selecting a computer. It is usually someone asking for a "friend", not actually for themselves. I think they may be a little embarrassed to admit they want a computer. What a geek. :)

All kidding aside, here is what you need to know:
What do you want?
What do you need?
How much can you afford?

I don't really want to know the answer to the third one, but you should know the answer because you don't want to overspend.

While I am mentioning money, I will throw this out too. If your buying from Best Buy, CompUsa, Circuit City, etc, (Not that there is anything wrong with that!), when the sales person offers you an extended warranty, say NO. If you're the type of person that has trouble saying NO, then ask the dude if you need an extended warranty. They will proceed to tell you all the things that can go wrong with your new computer. At that point tell them you don't want to buy a computer will all those problems and leave the store running. I still laugh when I think about the time a salesman tried to get me to buy an extended warranty for a 17"flat panel LCD monitor.

What do you want? Probably a computer that will browse the internet, email, play music, maybe a little picture editing, and document editing. If that is all you want you are in pretty good shape.

Hopefully your needs are covered by your want list, assuming it is not be prepared to scale back to just the want list if the budget becomes a problem.

Congratulations, life is going to be easy because almost any new computer today will cover the want list from above. But you forgot to mention you wanted a DVD burner, or player or 5.1 channel surround sound.

Seriously though, if your list is what mentioned above you will be in good shape with a 800 MHZ processor, 100 GB harddrive, and 256 MB of RAM. For the record, the laptop I am using right now is has a 800 MHZ processor, 256 MB of RAM, and a 40 GB harddrive.

If you are planning on editing video, the above is nowhere near enough. If you are into playing 3rd person shooters, you will want to add a high end video card. If you are into digital photography you will want a CD writer and probably a bigger hard drive.

The above description is sufficient for some gaming and digital pictures but if your avid about it consider increasing your specs.

You can probably get a PC without a monitor to match those spec's for about $400. Don't forget your still going to need a monitor or flat panel display.

The price of flat panels has come down. I would definitely consider getting one. If you have been using a 19" or smaller CRT monitor, you will be happy with a 17" LCD flat panel. The measure the display size differently so if your use to a 17" CRT and you get a 17" LCD, the screen size is actually larger. You don"t really need to get a 19" LCD unless you have money to burn.

A few more notes on flat panels. I have had good success with the Samsung Syncmaster. I even wrote a review for one on Amazon. The 17" will probably cost you about $350 today. The nice thing about the display is that it will out last your computer. Long after your computer becomes obsolete, the display will still be worth having. Next time you upgrade, you can continue to use the same LCD. Hopefully that will help ease your mind when looking at the price tag.

Now a note about computer brands. I would not buy an HP or a Compac. I would buy a Dell or a Gateway. I have had good success with both of those. If you ask around you will find others who haven't.

If I were buying a computer today for me, I would be considering (GASP!) one of the new Apple Mini Macs ($499 - does not include the display, KB, etc). I haven't used one but I would be highly tempted.

These days I prefer a laptop. You may want to consider one. There is a premium on these but I think the portability is well worth it. Again, the computer I am using right now is a Dell laptop and it is over 4 years old and still working well. I hope you would be so lucky. At work I just got a high end Dell Inspiron 9300. This is a sweet machine and probably more than I would ever have bought for myself.

For the record, you can get a Dell laptop today for $499 that has a 14.1" LED display, 1.4 Ghz processor, 256 MB of RAM and a 40 GB harddrive. It also includes a CD Burner/DVD combo drive and a free color printer.

The only drawback to laptops is that in my experience, the CD players only last about a year, even when you don't use it much. Fortunately I was able to get mine replaced under warranty twice. (My laptop came with a 3 year warranty.)

If I were getting a desktop today, and I decided against an Apple, I would build my own. At this point I have built close to a dozen. This process is not for the faint of heart. For you I would recommend buying the Dell, or Gateway. Maybe even a Sony or an eMachine though the jury is still out on the later. Again avoid the HP and Compac, upgrading these a couple years from now will be a nightmare.

How about an Apple laptop? Now I am just dreaming.

Oh yeah. About that Internet thing. If you have DSL or a cable modem, the internet will be great. If you use dial up, it will seem slow at times. It is not the computer, it is the connection, read THE MODEM. Getting a faster computer will not fix the problem. Getting a faster connection will.

Last year I put together a computer from some spare parts I had lying around. It was a 300 Mhz machine with a 12 G harddrive, and maybe 128 Mb of RAM. Plugged into my network, sharing the cable modem to access the Internet you could't tell the difference between it and a 1.4 Ghz machine I have with 512 MB of RAM. The 300 Mhz machine was plenty fast.

I gave this computer to my sister. I demo'ed it for her at my house. At her apartment she used a modem for internet access for a while but it was unbearably slow. Since then she has gotten a high speed connection and the last I heard was again satisfied with its performance.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Now with the Dodge de-rattled, the only remaining problem is the bouncing brakes.

ZERO percent chance of rain tomorrow. Just what I need so that I can take out the topless Miata.
Matching Numbers
The frame of my GMC truck is suppose to have the serial number stamped on it twice. The number also shows up as part of the VIN on the VIN plate.

Yesterday while cleaning the frame I decided to check the number on the frame versus the number on the cab. I would not have been surprised to find out they did not match.

I did end up with a surprise. The frame number did and did not match the VIN in the cab. How is that? Well the two numbers stamped on the frame did not match. The last three digits on the cab are xxxxx816. On the frame I found xxxxx816 and also xxxxx815. The number on the front of the frame did not match the number on the middle of the frame. I guess the first stamp occurred before they remembered to increment the serial number. I wonder if this is common.
Of Note
I forgot to mention that last Monday (10/10) was Brianna's Birthday. Exactly one year after her fourth Birthday she turned five. She had a Princess cake again this year. She only had 3 partys this year. Poor Brianna.

Also of Note
I was just looking back at last years blog entry for Bri's B-day (10/10) when I started wondering about the truck. I had been thinking I got it last October but it turns out I got it on September 12, 2004.

The rear piece of the Miata top is riding around with me in the truck now. How long before I get around to visiting the repair shop?

Answer: Because I don't have a sewing machine.
Question: Why don't you try to fix it yourself.
More useless MPG info
The last fill up on the Dodge resulted in a calculated value of 12.68 MPG. This was city mileage. That is only 0.4 MPG less than I got on the tank of highway miles: 13.08. That is not a very radical difference.

GMC Update
I spent a couple hours yesterday afternoon with a wire wheel on my corded drill removing paint and rust from the frame. This is actually faster than using my sand blaster. Unfortunately there will be spots on the frame that the wire wheel will not be able to reach, or simply won't be able to clean as effectively as the blaster.

I had about decided to take the frame to a professional sand blaster but then logistics got in the way. The frame won't fit in the back of my truck nor on my neighbors trailer. I finally decided that by the time I figured out how to get it to the blaster and back, I could probably be done with it. Maybe not.

Super Cat Nala!

I am ready for a vacation.

Job Posting
Wanted - Skilled typist with good grammar and spelling skills to proof-read and correct my blog entries. Must be self motivated and understand my perception of reality. Salary negotiable.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Topless, Well Soft Of

This morning I removed the rear panel from the Miata top. Total time involved about 40 minutes. I will be taking it to an upholstry shop hopefully to get a new plastic window sewn in. We will see. Pun intended.

I used the instruction from Miata.net found in the Garage section. An odd thing about them. They didn't really match my car at all. I am guessing that I do not have the original top.

While dismatling the rear deck of the car, I found a hole. Perhaps someone removed a BB. No it was bigger than that. It was cut in a piece of the sheet metal probably using tin snips. My suspicion is that at some point a CD changer was installed and later removed. This hole was used to run a cord from the changer to the head unit. I was pretty sure when I replaced the orignal radio with a new one last year, that some one had replaced the radio before. And then un-replaced it.

Greasy Kid Stuff
I put the GMC frame up on saw horses in the driveway today and proceeded to scrub it down with degreaser. I removed a lot of grease and grime but there is still much work to do. I made a huge mess on the concrete.

After cleaning the top side, I needed to flip it over. The safest way to do this was to put it back on the ground, flip it over, and then lift it back up on the saw horses. That frame is heavy.

After putting the frame away this evening, I drove over to Mr. Killen's to borrow my sand blaster, or as I said to him, to borrow his sand blaster. Possession is 9/10's. While there I got to look over his freshly painted frame. His project is a '53 Ford. It is amazing how much better shape his truck is in than mine, considering it is almost 30 years older.

Assuming I have the time tomorrow, I will sand blast a few spots on the frame that I can't clean with the big stiff nylon bristle brush.

All the frame lifting I did tonday made me sore. I probably just need more exercise. Perhaps more frame lifting.
Rattle And Hum

Back in the Fall 1996 I decided I wanted to get a pickup truck. By the spring of 1997 I had decided what I wanted and later that summer I ordered it. In the fall of 1997 I finally got my new 1998 Dodge 1500 Quadcab 4x4. Who says you can't have everything you want.

Pretty quickly I noticed an odd sound when I made a sharp turn. But not always. The noise sounded like a BB (Ball-bearing) rolling thru a metal pipe. It occurred on turns in alternate directions. Left, right, left. Never Right, right, right, or left, left, left. The reason is pretty obvious.

Somewhere along way, I decided that the BB, or bearing, or whatever it is was in the frame of the rear seat.



The noise in the seat often spurred conversation, but most folks didn't notice it til I pointed it out.

Friday while driving home from Destin, Florida, I decided I would try to find the noise. Why? Because all the way home from Florida, I had to listen to some bottles rattle in the back of the Tahoe. This could drive a man insane. Assuming he were sane to start with.



To remove the rear seat, it must be folded up and four bolts removed. Not a problem. Next the seat is lifted up to detach two clips from the back wall and pulled forward to detach two clips underneath. Easy enough.



At this point, the casual observer driving by would have seen me standing in the driveway holding the back seat tilting it this way and that trying to get it to rattle. A feckless task.

What next? Time to go for a ride. My neighbor offers to drive while I lay in the floor of the back space. I can no longer call this the backseat because there is not backseat there. Ok, rear floor board.

I press my ear to the back wall expecting to hear the rattle. Surprise! The sound is coming from in front of me. After many donuts in the cul-de-sac in front of the house, I finally decide that the noise is emanating from the passenger seat, about halfway up.

Rolling around in the floor board of the back of my truck is like a crazy ride at an amusement park, especially while alternating between clockwise and counter-clockwise circles. Good thing I don't get motion sick.

Once released from my under-sized prison cell, I take to opening up the passenger seat. This required unfastening the botton of the leather seat cover and pulling it upward. I am now looking at the seat frame and foam. The seat frame is made of steel tubing. That would be the pipe, now lets find the BB.



I drill a big hole in the frame. The finger above points at the new hole. Next I grab a magnet and we go for another ride. Clockwise, counter-clockwise, repeat.



It is amazing what came rolling out of the hole. Several spherical pieces of welding refuse. Some guys at the factory in Mexico City must have been having a little fun the day my truck was build. I guess quality is not job one at the Dodge factory. Eight years later I had a little fun 'fixing' the noise. I can't believe it took me eight years to get around to solving this little problem.

It sure feels good to have the rattle fixed. I was amazed that I only had to drill one hole. I could have easily been in another part of the frame. Ginger has mentioned the Tahoe has a rattle. Not sure if I am up to the challenge. After all, it could ruin my perfect record.

Friday, October 14, 2005

We are now home and glad to be here. The trip is right at 360 miles and took 6 hours of driving time. Throw in another hour and a half for lunch and other necessary stops.

I have a story to tell but I am too tired now so it will have to wait til tomorrow.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Last Night Out
Tonight is the last night of our vacation trip. And we went out to dinner again. I wasn't really looking forward to it because, well, this will be the fourth night it a row. It turned out to be the best night too. We had dinner at The Back Porch. This place is on the beach and had the best seafood we have had this week. Almost every table in the restaurant has a window overlooking the beach. On nice days like today, all the windows are open so the breeze can blow through. There is a small airport just north of the beach so small aircraft fly over while you dine. Between the planes, the boats, and the jumping fish there is plenty to see. For dinner I had the grilled Tuna/Amberjack/Grouper special. G' had the brown food combo: shrimp, scallops, and crab cake. The kids had the, yep you guessed it, popcorn shrimp. It was all good.

Tomorrow morning we are loading up and headed home. Good thing we have a whole weekend to recover from the vacation.
Wow, it is Thursday. This week has consisted of sleeping, reading, eating, and a little bit of the beach too.

Tuesday I went over to B&N to get a book. I had decided I didn't want to read the book I brought with me. The book I was searching for was The Gold-Plated Porsche: How I Sank a Small Fortune into a Used Car, and Other Misadventures by Stephan Wilkinson. If I couldn't locate that one I would get Truck: On Rebuilding a Worn-Out Pickup, and Other Post-Technological Adventures by John Jerome.

The store had neither but offered to order them for me. I explained that I wasn't local and continued to browse. Assuming I remember, I will just order those when I get back home, or better yet, from the condo. After all, I do have internet access.

I found a book. It is probably the same story just told by a different guy. This one is not about a Porsche or an old pickup but rather about a tractor, a Allis Chalmers WC tractor. This book, Busted Tractors and Rusty Knuckles: Norwegian Torque Wrench Techniques and Other Fine Points of Tractor Restoration by Roger Welsch, has turned out to be a surprisely good read, especially considering I settled for this book because I couldn't find what I was looking for. Roger, an admitted amateur mechanic, tells tales of rusted metal and broken bolts. Like many others I am sure, I can identify with much of the material.

18.4 MPG - I filled up the Tahoe Tuesday night. I have never really paid attention to its gas mileage before, mostly because I so rarely drive it. I was amazed that that the trip odometer showed nearly 400 miles, 391.1 to be exact. By contrast my truck hardly ever reaches 300 miles on a tank, I can only remember it happening twice.

More Notes on Dining Out
Tuesday night we had dinner at A.J.'s 'World Famous' Seafood and Oyster Bar. Basically another fried seafood joint for us tourist. Much better than the night before. Don't ask to sit outside or you will end up sitting at the bar upstairs. Thats ok if that is what you want but we enjoyed being inside and looking out the galley windows much more. Outside the windows you can see the boats coming in and weighing their catch.

Jordan filled out the comment card on the table, so I will go to it to complete the review. Here are the highlights:
What time did you visit us? 6:45 pm Tuesday 10,11,05
Server: Megan
What I ordered today: Shrimp, French Fries, Sprite
What I remember most about today? The good shrimp
Something I would change about AJ's is: don't be to loud

I picked up a box of matches to go into my match book collection. I started this collection probably 25 years ago when a friend and neighbor, Blair Tice, gave me some match books his parents brought back from Las Vegas. It is difficult to find match books these days but when I see a box, I still pick them up.

Yesterday morning we took the kids over to The Track to do some go-kart riding, and mini-golf. Jordan and Brianna even got to drive their own karts on the kiddie track. Jordan thought the carts were too slow, Brianna thought the track was too narrow.

I can hear the truck frame back at home calling my name. The tractor book really makes me miss the old truck.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The previous post was created using Blogger's new plug in for Microsoft Word. It works reasonalby well though I did experience one problem. All the apostrophes got converted to some wierd character. I have since gone back and removed all the aposthrophes from the previous post. Notice the first line of this entry has one. This entry was not created with Word, but rather with a collection of words.

Destination Vacation

I am posting today from Destin, Florida. The kids are on Fall break this week for so are taking a vacation at the beach. A much needed one too.


Yesterday we drove down. I used Mapopolis on my Axim X5 to provide on the fly directions during the trip. The PDA was attached to my handheld GPS. It is pretty cool. It talks and provides directions as you drive. It will even tell you when you leave the recommended path and calculate a new route as you go. This is pretty cool unless you have just turned off the beaten path to stop for lunch. Then it can be annoying, but fortunately, the PDA has a volume control. I setup one of the buttons to toggle the automatic routing on/off as well.

We left the house yesterday just after 8:00 AM. The drive is right at 6 hours but we made two stops: the first was for a snack and restroom break, and the second for lunch at Sonic.

The condo we are staying at is called Sun Destin. Jordan thinks it is cool because it has 18 floors according to the buttons on the elevator. He only counted 17 while standing outside.

The condo is on the beach. We are staying on the fourth floor overlooking the pool and beach. There are two pools here. One outside, and another one which is indoors and heated. This is what we call the contingency plan. There is also a hot tub around here somewhere.

And WiFi. The connectivity is not free but the rates are pretty reasonable. I think it was $16 for 3 days. At first that seemed pricey but then I considered the amount of entertainment it would provide me and how disconnected I would feel without it.

After arriving yesterday, we made a trip to Wal-Mart to pickup some supplies. Among those was Brianna's birthday cake. She was celebrating her 5th birthday.

Last night we had dinner at the Fishermans Wharf. Sounds like a good place to eat while at the beach. We had a nice table by a window overlooking the water. A nearby marina was visible so we got to watch some ships come in. Outside on the deck, some newly weds were apparently having their wedding reception. Nothing says classy like a tattoo on the brides back that says Heavy Metal Heartbreaker.

I would not recommend the Fishermans Wharf to a friend. The prices were as to be expected for a tourist area. Entrees around $15-$20. Kids menu was $4-$5. The food was reasonable, but the service was lacking. Save your money and head on over to Burger King.

[Update] Today for lunch I had some shrimp and fish leftover from last night. Believe it or not, this stuff was actually better nuked today in the microwave than it was fresh from the kitchen last night. This just shows environment is everything.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Blah blah blah.

Nothing of merit to say today.

Blah blah blah, blah blah.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Hanging Around
Today was my first day at a new job. Change is good.

Only four more days of work til vacation time begins. I really miss being retired.

Did you know that if a line connects the mid points of two sides of a triangle, the line is parallel to the third side? While were at it I might as well mention that the length of the line connecting the midpoints is 1/2 the length of the third side.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Blockers Blog

Yesterday's fill up on the truck was 21.95 gallons for 287.1 miles. That gives a 13.08 MPG. That is about inline with what I normally get: 13 to 14 MPG. What was unusual for this tank was that it was 87 octane instead of the usual 92.

I can not yet definitely say it is not burning oil any more but it looks good so far. I need a few more miles on the truck before I feel certain on this point.

Cheerio.

Saturday, October 01, 2005