Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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. []

Out and Heading Home

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Everything about the surgery went well and we’re on our way home. Well, actually I’m waiting in the car while K gets my prescription filled.
Dr. Battaglia said that there were actually several tears, but not of them were a particular problem. In any case they’re cleaned up now.
I’m a bit sleepy now and not just a little light headed, but otherwise I feel fine. I’m sure that I’ll continue to feel fine until the pain blockers wear off.
The next step is getting the leg elevated and lots of ice. Sleep too.

Thanks for your thoughts.

One more thing…

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

Happy Life Day to my sister.

She’ll know why.[1]

  1. If she’s worthy of the gift she sent me. []

Other updates…

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

The astute observer of this web space may also have noticed that I uploaded a whole pile of images from the last several weeks. (month?)

There is a trip to the Zoo on Nate’s birthday set:

There is a Memorial Day set:


And some other just family update pics:

As always, you can see these and more by going to the latest updates link.

Thankful for spaceflight

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

I hope all of you have had a great Thanksgiving. Of course we are thankful that K’s folks, brother and grandfather are here visiting with us. We had a great dinner and I’m looking forward to pie.

At 5 o’clock, though, we had a bonus flyby of the ISS and STS-237. Through pretty heavy clouds we still got a great view of the tandem flyby. The shuttle trailed behind the space station by about 20 seconds, but both were very bright and readily visible through the cloud cover. This is one of the brightest flybys of the shuttle I’ve ever seen. There were times when the shuttle was as bright or brighter than the space station.

Here’s a slightly enhanced long exposure (about 25 seconds), and a very enhanced version with sky map overlay.



Tech musings…

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

K & I decided to finally cash in our Discover Card cash back that we’ve been accumulating pretty much since we were married.[1] We’ve replaced the TV in our entertainment center with a new Sony Bravia LCD TV. Nothing enormous, a nice 32″ set, which is about as large as the entertainment center can handle. It took us pretty much all night to finally get it set up properly. Apparently everybody else in the world would rather have their images distorted or cut off than display[2] some tiny piece of unused space. Yuck.
I think we finally got it squared away between the TV and the cable box… which pretty much means we’ll have to go through it again when we finally stick a DVD in. I also had to scrounge for component video cables. [3] Minus two points to my geek score for not realizing that S-video supports only standard resolution broadcast. HD resolution requires either component or HDMI connectivity. That’s ok, I get the two geek points returned for backing the right technology[4] when I selected our DVD player 8 years ago. HDMI wasn’t in wide use yet, so no support for that… but since I don’t have anything that provides and HDMI output[5] no big deal there. Anyways, it does look pretty nice and we’re looking forward to testing it out properly. DVR recordings look pretty good but just don’t do it justice.

In other news, I’ve sold off the excess camera gear and I’m about half way to my next L-series lens. Not sure when the other half will ever come around, but I’ll look for excuses.

Finally, I took the plunge on an e-bay CPU. It only cost me $59, but it feels like a gamble. If it works, it will double my processing bandwidth and increase the work on my heatsink by about 15%. If it doesn’t, I’ll be out $59 and some thermal paste.[6] It is pretty remarkable that they can squeeze two 3.4GHz processors onto the same form factor and only increase the thermal load from 84 to 95 watts. I suppose it helps when the transistor size is reduces by a third (90 to 65nm process). So bye-bye Hyper-threading, hello dual core…. assuming my PC doesn’t just melt into a glowing pile of slag.

The good news is my new improved space heater will be just in time for winter!

  1. Ok, not really, but it’s been many many years. []
  2. or not display as the case might be []
  3. Thankfully they are physically and electrically identical to RCA audio and video cables. []
  4. Component Video []
  5. yet []
  6. Hmm… I suppose I ought to check to see if I have any thermal paste left… []

Big Boy Bed

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

The other night we moved Nate out of the crib and into a big boy bed, which is really just his crib mattress on the floor. He was excited about it, and has been sleeping well. Although, I do not know how anyone can sleep like this.


That’s on thing that can be checked off the list of things to do before the baby gets here.

A few weekend shots…

Monday, June 15th, 2009

From Friday afternoon, Nate putting on a burst of billowing speed.

And a gratuitous world dominating iris shot: [1]

Saturday morning, after the Wings’ defeat, I decided to show my team spirit by wearing my 2008 Stanley Cup t-shirt anyways. Rather amusingly Nate (not a hockey fan… yet) demanded to wear his “peh-gun wert”. [2] I decided this was a good excuse for a picture. You’ll have to (mostly) trust me on the content of my shirt though.


  1. These irises are taking over the world, not the shot. They grow like weeds! Beautiful weeds, but weeds. []
  2. We’re still working on the “s” and “sh” sounds. He’s capable of making them, he just doesn’t seem to realize they’re significant. We correct him as often as we think about it. He says “wah-dow”. We reply back “SHHHHadow”. “wadow, good,” he replies. []

Dragon*Con Pics Posted

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Of the 400 something pictures I took this weekend, I’ve uploaded over 100 of them into the Dragon*Con 2008 gallery. There are sub-albums for each day Friday through Sunday, with the majority of the pictures on Saturday because of the parade.

Here are my top 10 in no particular order, except for this first picture, which I think is the best I took all weekend.
The subject is wearing a fantastic costume and is well posed and balanced in the shot. I didn’t get her name, but thanks for being so cooperative. I like the steam-punk look, I could definitely have some fun with that, but I’m not sure how I would distinguish myself amongst the crowd.

IMG_6043 IMG_6110 IMG_6179
IMG_6349 IMG_6374 IMG_6401
IMG_6407 IMG_6447 IMG_6452

Our Nate goes to 11!

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Can you believe it!?
11th Month

He hits the big 1.0 next month Memorial Day weekend. We’re going to have a shindig, so if you can make it to town, let us know. The house is already going to be full, but there’s plenty of space in the backyard for tents*!

* Not to mention the dozen or so fine inns and getaways gracing the Village of Cazenovia.