Archive for 2012

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

As of this writing, N is still sleeping and R is singing quietly to herself in her room. K & I are already up. We’ve either failed miserably at the whole anticipating Santa thing or got pretty lucky with amazingly unique kids. Well, I know the second part is true.

Rudolph With Rachel

As I’m sure it won’t be long now, please enjoy this holiday cheer courtesy of R & I.[1]

Hope you and your family have a fantastic Christmas!

PS: Looks like the post went up too soon and the file is still uploading. If you get a bad link, try again in a few minutes.

  1. Same video as Facebook, but higher resolution, if you already saw it there. []

Congrats Jeff & Sandy!

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Congratulations again to Jeff and Sandy!

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Any party with a chocolate cake themed by Wrath of Khan, armfuls of old friends, great microbrews, a funky band and let’s not forget a TARDIS surprise for the bride… well, let’s just say that the reception was great fun for everyone.

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More pics in the gallery.

Sid Sackson Rocks!

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Just got my Sid Sackson Signature Series box set of three games from Funagain.com today. It’s a re-release of three classic Sackson games by Gryphon and Eagle Games. This is extra cool because they did a very successful Kickstarter to raise funds for the initial printing. Unfortunately, I was too late to buy in, but found that funagain had them available for preorder. Nice!

Anyhow, I made a unboxing video and posted it to YouTube. Enjoy!

I love my boy.

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

So as we were watching a time lapse video of the moon, N asks me:
“Have you ever been to the moon?”
“No,” I say, “very few people have been to the moon.”
“Hmm… you should build a rocket and go to the moon… but only if you build a moon buggy too.”
“Why, because it just isn’t any fun to go to the moon if you don’t have a moon buggy?”
“Naaah.”

Lawnmower Woes

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my Craftsman lawnmower since I bought it 9 years ago. This relationship has been progressively less love and more hate. Being the sort-of person I am, I just couldn’t bring myself to discard a working (if not particularly good) lawnmower. I’ve kept up the regular maintenance: oil changes, air filters, plugs, deck cleaning, etc. I’ve evicted several mice (including several complete families), washed out their detritus and repaired their inevitable wire chewing.[1] I’ve replaced countless blades thanks to my lovely trees and their obnoxious rocky-soil avoiding roots. Deck brackets, axles, and other mechanical parts have been straightened, bent and straightened again (or replaced) oh so many times. Each time, I managed to get the crazy beast running again just well enough to mow my lawn, albeit unevenly.[2]

This summer, with the extended June/July drought, proved to be essentially mower free. Finally the August storms came[3], and I put off mowing until just before our trip to Maine. All was well (after evicting another mouse) until the engine started running even rougher than usual and making awful popping noises. “Strange”, I thought, “I don’t think the air filter is supposed to be pushing out of the intake.” Upon further review, it was clear exhaust was being blown back into the air intake. Ugh.

Vacation intervened with half the lawn mowed, and we returned to quite the lush jungle of grass. Off come the valve covers. And what to my wondering eyes should appear (or is that disappear?), there is but one (and only one) bent pushrod.[4] “Huh? Where did the other one go?” The exhaust valve was very stuck, but the intake was moving (and apparently allowing the explosion to escape). There’s a very small oil drain hole at the base of the push rod housing… just big enough for the pushrod to slide into. Nice. Somewhere in the crank case is a well digested push rod.[5] After some research it was perfectly clear that I had neither the time nor money to invest in tearing out the engine, dropping the oil sump and attempting to find the broken bits of the pushrod.

Meanwhile… grass grows.

I spent the week stopping at various lawnmower sales places, which, have horrible hours for working people. Usually something like 9 to 4:30. I can’t decide if I want to buy one of the same general quality as the one I had (which I didn’t really care for) or shell out twice as much coin for a bigger/better(?) model.

Meanwhile… grass grows.

Finally, today comes and I’ve got to do SOMETHING with the lawn. Off comes the cylinder head. The steel insert that the exhaust valve slides in (theoretically) has shifted a good 3/4″ up out of the head. Even after freeing the valve (with a hammer!), it can only move about 1/8″. The intake valve insert is similarly displaced. Desperate to get some lawn cut, I remove the exhaust valve and bent push-rod and put the head back on (sans spark plug). Figuring one cylinder’s worth of power is better than nothing, I begin to mow. Of course now I’m billowing white smoke as the one operating cylinder digests the fuel meant for both… I manage to mow the front yard before I can’t stand the cloud anymore and stop. Oil is oozing all over the side of the engine, smoking profusely. I’m guessing the disabled cylinder is leaking quite a bit of oil, as it’s all over the spark plug hole. This might explain the immense black build up on the piston and the bottom of the head. Anyhow, seeing my despair (and probably noting the telltale smoke clouds) our neighbor offers to let me use hers. I thank her and finish the job.

So now, when I ‘sell’ the mower, do I put the valve back in, or just give the new ‘owner’ a bag of extra parts?

  1. Why do rodents like to chew wires? So many other things to chew, but they seem to really go for plastic insulation and copper. []
  2. 42″ deck doesn’t mean 42″ mowing really looks nice… I got maybe 32″ of useful mowing considering the overlap required to clean up. []
  3. Reminds me of Tucson. []
  4. For the non-engine types, these are the rods that get pushed by the cam shaft and open the valves at the appropriate time. []
  5. The other cylinder’s valves checked out. []

Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Happy Independence Day all!

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Go wave a flag or something.

Despite some chronic calf cramps I’ve been battling, I managed to run an essentially pain free 5K this morning putting down a very satisfying time of 22:40.[1] 1km splits were: 4:49 (uphill and mob), 4:36 (flat), 4:17 (downhill), 4:44 (rolling), 4:13 (downhill and sprint).

If you’re in the area, come see the Community Band playing for the parade at 1PM. Otherwise, enjoy your 4th!

  1. The only reason that isn’t COMPLETELY satisfying is I discovered that had I been 2 seconds faster, I would have scored 3rd place in my age group! []

Fault Logic

Friday, June 1st, 2012

A few weeks ago I had a recurring problem with my 2010 Jetta TDI which caused the check engine light to turn on. Fearing the worst I contacted VW only to learn that this merely indicates an emissions issue. Apparently, its only when the engine light blinks that the driver should panic stop the vehicle for fear of imminent doom.[1]
Once I dutifully delivered the vehicle to the dealer they hooked up the magic diagnostic computer. As far as I can tell this mystical device is essentially a USB dongle and a laptop computer. This modern oracle revealed that one of the injectors had failed to deliver its due share of fuel to the engine. Diagnosis: “You probably got some bad fuel.”
So the next day, yes, that’s right, the light is on again. Another trip to the dealer and the same diagnosis. Solution: Finish the tank of fuel and run another one through it. If the injector is bad it will continue to be bad, if it’s fuel it will probably go away. Next day, light comes on again, but I ignore it. Fast forward to last week and about half way through the new tank of fuel… light goes out. [2]
After speaking with the service manager, we agreed to monitor, but that it probably really was just bad fuel.
Through this whole adventure, I found myself wondering why the multifunction display in the middle of the dashboard can’t provide this information directly? Why can’t I push a button and have the car show the code information right on the screen? “No”, you say, “if they did that, then we wouldn’t be able to pay the dealer $75 to do it for us.”[3]
So today, I’m on my way home, and what do I discover the German engineers have decided is worth my immediate attention:

There’s no need to inform the user about the inner workings of the engine, that ancillary system that MAKES THE CAR GO. The license plate lights: yes, a special light-shaped indicator and diagnostic text.

  1. At the time, I was about 10 miles from where I was going and decided to keep driving anyway, since the engine showed no signs of having any difficulty. []
  2. It resets after three ‘warm up’ cycles without an error. []
  3. I paid nothing because I’m still under warranty. []

Whirly Update

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Well after about 24 hours and nine complete battery discharge cycles[1], I’m yet to do any serious damage. There have been a few pretty gnarly crashes… the kind that sounds like a mix between a weed-whacker and an over-taxed wind-up toy. Or even worse a single sharp metallic ‘whack’. I’ve had several walks to the ‘landing site’ with the sunken “about to consult the parts list” feeling. So far, so good.
I’ll admit the main and tail rotor tips have some pretty good “grass”[2] stains and a couple of visible nicks, but the spare set I bought are still mint in packaging. The canopy has a few Darlington Stripes and the skids are a bit scratched up, but well… that’s why they’re called skids.

So far I’ve learned:
1) Flying in the garage is nice because there’s no wind. Unfortunately, it has much tighter control requirements… and more rigid penalties for failure.
2) Flying outdoors is great for (relatively) soft landings in the grass, but even a slight breeze can make things really complicated.
3) If all else fails, throttle back and wait. This will probably be a less helpful technique as I start to get into more forward flight.

  1. The bird came with one battery and I bought two extra. One of those was free from Walt’s. Thanks guys! []
  2. And maple leaves, and spruce tips.. []

Family pictures.

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Cinco De Mayo:
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Sunday Best:
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Whirly Bird!

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

I jumped into the RC hobby world with this fun purchase:

Thanks to the friendly help at Walt’s Hobby I decided to go for the Blade 120 SR instead of the smaller coaxial Blade MXC2. Both are 4 channel((Throttle, yaw, pitch cyclic and roll cyclic)) birds with yaw gyros for stability, but this one uses the conventional tail rotate for anti-torque. It’s about 50% larger (main rotor is 12.5″ in diameter), so it does pretty well outside even in a light breeze (as I proved tonight). It could fly indoors, but you’d need a pretty big space…. maybe once I get to be a better pilot.

At this point I’m proud to report I exhausted three rechargeable batteries (each about 7-8 minutes of actual flight time) without breaking anything, so I’m off to a good start. It’s certainly going to be a challenge to fly in a well controlled manner, but it’s awfully fun right out of the box.