Friday, January 30, 2009

January 30, 1969

The last concert. Fifth Beatle Billy Preston on keyboards.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I call it Cyclops

Our family member that had to be put down was a 1998 Maytag washing machine. In a family of four, with children, we do about ten loads of laundry a week. I figured the Maytag had done about 6000 to 7000 loads of laundry. It had been rebuilt twice. About six months ago it started leaking some light machine oil out the bottom. It didn’t seem to effect the operation. Twice in the last two weeks, the laundry room took on a burning rubber smell. I liked it. The wife didn’t. The next move by the Maytag was leaking some water out. That pretty much did it. We got a Consumer Report on washers. Friday night we found ourselves kid-less. Wife and I actually went out for a nice dinner at Red Lobster. We exited the restaurant to find a large flat bed tow truck blocking our car and no sight of the driver. After a few minutes, we decided to just walk over to Sears at the mall and check out washers. We walked in and a very knowledgeable salesman showed us around the washers. We looked at top loaders at first, as that is what we have always had. However when I was doing physical therapy for my bad back, the PT people were telling me that top loaders were about the worst for bad backs. The reaching in, lifting damp clothes, was not a good thing and there was no other way to do it. We were about sold on a nice top load washer, but I decided to ask about front loaders. The salesman told us that we would wind up spending more money up front, but there were advantages. The front loaders use about one-third the water and half the soap than the same top loader. The base model front loader, spins at about 1000 RPM. You have to purchase a mid line top loader to get the same spin speed. The faster the spin, the more water is squished out so the dryer works less. Down sides are that you have to use the High Efficiency soap, they cost more, you should clean out the door gasket once a month and run a “clean” cycle one a month. The wife got real interested in the savings of water, that perhaps we can extend the dryer life, that we won’t stress our backs and that the mid line unit we purchased, can not only do the king sized comforter, but you could put in the sheets with it! This thing can wash clothes!

It is also a lot of fun to listen to and watch. It is very quiet, but it starts, adds water, stops, reverses, adds soap, reverses, washes…..on and on. The controls are fully electronic. It senses even how many clothes are in it and only adds the water needed to wash that sized load. You can over ride any of the choices the computer makes. The spin cycle is something else. It spins up. Stops. Reverses and spins some more. Back and forth for a while. When it finally does the final spin, and you are in watching it, it sounds and looks like a jet airplane motor. The thing flies. The clothes come out just damp. Our dryer is running faster and the clothes are totally dry when it finishes.

And it is heavy. The delivery guy was a big burly guy and he had his shoulder up on the washer to walk it back into its hole. I asked him if it was heavy and he told me “yeah, 250 pounds. But you will love this thing”.

I call the new washer “Cyclops”. It has lights, bells, beeps. Everything a man needs in a machine. Except it doesn’t keep beer cold.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We had to put an old friend down last Saturday

He was just worn out. He'd done his job for ten years and about 6000 to 7000 times. He'd started to leak things out on the floor about six months back. We'd fixed it over the years, but you could just tell, it was time to let him go.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stranger than the truth....

My wife sometimes calles me "DD" for Demented Drummer. This appeared today in the local news.

DALLAS — A thief could have made off with lots of things from Condoms To Go; a sexy new outfit, a dominatrix's whip, or — of course — condoms.

Instead, a mannequin and underwear disappeared from the store in the 17500 block of Coit Road.

According to police, someone removed the front glass door and took the items before dawn today.

The dummy was valued at $250, the underwear set at $50.

The store’s manager could not be reached for comment. Police said they had no information to release on a suspect.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Handy neighbors

It's great to have handy neighbors. This past Friday night, wife and I were heading to bed. We both flushed the toilets at the same time, and they didn't go down. It was midnight and we are both attempting to plunger the toilets. Finally, I declare that we must have a backed up sewer and it would need to wait until the morning.
We had a backed up sewer line about six years back. We'd built onto the house and the back part of the house, didn't drain very well. I'd rented a sewer snake and attempted to clean the four inch sewer myself. I didn't have much luck then.
So Saturday morning, I get out a wrench and crack open one of the sewer clean outs. Yes, it was full of water still.
I've got a shop with two old cars in it, drum parts from building drums, and tools from three major building projects (1120 square foot shop, 920 square foot home addition, numerous out buildings). I've got a neighbor who has a shop and does gun smith work. Except for the last two years, he's been buying and rebuilding old Ford 8N tractors.

Our other neighbors, he works in electronic repair and they are constantly fixing cars, boats, homes over there.
I thought I'd remembered a plumbing truck over there, so I called them up to see which plumber they would recommend. They reply with "backed up sewer? We have that twice a year, due to the old septic system here. I'll be right over with a SEWER SNAKE and we'll see about unclogging it". I get out a garden hose and an extension cord and we proceed to snake out the sewer pipe. He estimated we were about 30 feet into the pipe and "bump"....we hit something. A moment later and WHOOSH....all the water vanished.
It's great to have neighbors willing to help each other.

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's amazing what you can find in the street....

We got our oldest daughter a new Ipod for Christmas. Her old one, just wasn't big enough. It can only hold 1000 songs......
I got the hand-me-down ipod to use while I do my walking. Actually, wife and I share it. I often listen walking out, hand it to her to use walking back home. I had a set of ear-buds that have the soft rubber replaceable tips on them. I got home one day about a month back and one of the rubber tips was missing. I put out the all-points bulletin at home, but we didn't find it. I did find a package of replacement tips, so didn't think much more about it.

Returning home from walking this week, the trail intersects a street near us that we use to get from our home to the trail. That street actually dead ends into the trail. As I was walking, looking down, lo-and-behold, there was the missing ear bud tip!
I put it in my pocket. I then forgot it and washed those pants. It survived the wash and is now back in use.

Another mystery, sol-va-ded...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I have so-le-ved-a the case

Or so Inspector Clouseau would have said. Remember my Texas Drivers license that I’d lost out at All Saints Camp while orienteering back in November? I had searched my pockets, my gym bag, and even returned to the three places I’d most likely lost it at. That was all assuming that I’d taken it out on the orienteering course with me. Which I had! Except sometime, I had placed the license into my fanny pack, which has a water bladder, a list of the IOF orienteering symbols, my electronic finger stick, and I put my keys into a plastic bag in the fanny pack. It seems I’d also put my license in it also! Why it didn’t fall out when I got back from orienteering that last November, I’ve not figured out. This past orienteering meet, I got my gym bag out and was loading it up with shirts, a change of clothes and such. The morning of the meet, I filled the water bladder and went to place it into the fanny pack, and lo-and-behold, there was the missing, and now replaced, TDL!!!! Why didn’t it fall out when I returned from orienteering? I always remove the bladder, dry it out, maybe run some bleach through it. Oh well. I’ll just leave that old license in the bladder compartment. Next time some cedar tree assaults me, I’ll have my Texas Drivers License right there with me to show the Tree Police.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stinging battle wounds!

I had a Monday Night Band practice last night. Just two days after my last orienteering event. I had also played drums Sunday morning at church, but I'd only played about 30 minutes at church. At MNB, I hit some of the drums a bit harder than normal and the drum stick smacked into my injured right palm! A bit painful, so I had to adjust my grip so as to try and avoid the pain. Unfortunately, my palm also started to perspire! That stung! Combine that with another good whack from the drum stick, and multiply the pain!

Oh well. Great jam session.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A bad day Orienteering is still better than a day playing Golf….

Saturday January 10, 2009, opened quite brisk here in north Texas. I picked up Mr. G at his house at 7:30 AM and we headed north towards Lake Texoma and the James Ray Boy Scout camp. The North Texas Orienteering Association had their meet at the camp.

We got to the camp in good time, about 9:15. The registration area was being set up in a pavilion that is about the highest point in the camp. And it is totally exposed. The air temperature was probably about 28 and the wind was about 20 MPH out of the north, from over the lake. The wind chill was something! Mr. G and I talked with a few people and then paid our $7 each to pick up our registration card. We decided to head over to the start area and see if we could get a start time. Yes, we could. In fact, we both got “zero zero”. That means we were first to start. I was doing the Brown course, which is technically advanced but the shortest of the advanced courses. Mr. G was doing the Green, which is the medium length advanced course. Once we had our start times, we only had about 25 minutes to get ready, so we headed to the camp men’s room and then back to my truck to decide what to wear. I choose an Under Armour athletic shirt my daughter gave me for Christmas, then a zip up long sleeve athletic shirt and a knit cap. We had to put on our gaiters, and I also gaffer tape my shoe laces. That prevents them from getting snagged on vines, brambles and twigs and getting untied. Then, it was time for the fanny pack with the water, the thumb compass and RF finger stick that would record my times and off to the start. We had about 5 minutes to spare, which was a bit cold waiting in the starting block. We spent the time “clearing” and “checking” our finger RF sticks. Clear, erases any data on it. Check, then verifies that it is empty.

The start then proceeded. I place the clue sheet into my arm protector, where it is easy to just glance at it and see the clue to navigate to the control point. Advance to the next start box at the next minute interval and pick up the map and place it into the Zip-lock bag and shoot a staple into it to try and keep it in the bag. Wait the next minute for our start and then insert the RF stick into the official “start” RF recorder. We then proceeded down the path to the official start “triangle”, turn over the map and start figuring out how to go find the first control point in the woods. My first point was a boulder past a building just about 150 meters NE. Off I went. I found some boulders and then found the correct one. First point checked off, which is always a good feeling. I’ve been known to totally mess the first control! Talking with another guy in my age and course this meet, he did mess up the first several points. The second control I again just shot a compass bearing and went almost straight to the control. I navigated to the third control by following a water channel to a path. I was heading down the path when out in front of me, stepped a coyote! He took one look at me, did a 180 and heading back into the brush. I figured that was a good sighting being first out on the course. Once I got the third point, I followed a power line to get near to the fourth point. To the fifth, I followed the wrong water channel and found a “man made object”, just not the correct one. I noticed on the map, an identical water channel and man made object, so headed that way. After the event, I spoke with two others who made the same mistake I had. From the fifth, I chose to pop out on the main road, cut across the parking lot and then follow a well graded trail down to the Boy Scout shooting range. My control was a ruined fence to the north. I was working around the fence and manage to trip myself and bruise up my elbow pretty well. My seventh control point was a bit worrisome. There really wasn’t a good way to navigate to it, so I took a very precise compass bearing and headed into the forest. Thankfully, it was fairly open and not too bad to get through it. I shocked myself, and gave myself a false sense of well being, when I walked right up to the control. Seven controls down in good time with no mistakes! I shouldn’t have gotten so cocky! The course was about to bite me, and hard. At the seventh point, I noticed that I could go out of my way a bit to the west and hit an indistinct trail. I’d been on that trail a year ago and it was OK. Plus there were houses along that trail, which would have been good at “catching” me from going too far. But then to the north, I knew about where a marsh area was, as I’d been there the year before. I chose to take a compass bearing and start stomping through the forest, open areas and such. Except this was the second longest distance to go, about 750 meters, or .4 or a mile. A few minutes into my march, I hit a clearing with a wrecked sailboat, which I’d seen before and was on the map as “man made object”. SO far, right on track. Relax, let the mind wander…..NOT a good thing to do. I got to the area which I thought was the marsh, and there wasn’t much marsh left. But it has been a dry year in north Texas, so I figured I was still doing OK. But then I come across a house in the distance and a bird feeder, which would also be a man-made, X marks the spot on the map. I find what I THOUGHT was the X on my map and decided I’d overshot and was a bit to the west of the gully I needed to find. WRONG! I wasn’t far enough. In fact, I now realize, I was about 200 meters short! I spent the next 20 minutes, stomping around in the gully. I then decide that I’ve screwed up and perhaps pop back to the road and try and determine which house is which black box on my map. Except that we’d also been warned that the houses were out-of-bounds and were NOT mapped correctly. OK…but I figured I’d try it. Except then I picked the wrong house, since I wasn’t far enough still. I then come across a trail. A fairly big trail. So big, it had fresh ATV tire tracks in it! I check my map and there is only one trail noted and it shows as indistinct. I decide I’ve been looking almost an hour, I’m messed up, but following the trail should lead back to something I can navigate from. I follow it a bit but then hear two people coming from behind me to the north and south. I asked one of them to show me where they are on their map. Most orienteers will help out by showing you that, and the one did. But then, I also determined that it wasn’t exact enough and decided to head to the next control, which was actually closer! I got to the ninth control, still having missed the eighth control. I looked at that control for a good 30 seconds, got mad at myself and decided to NOT forfeit yet and try and navigate backwards to the eighth control. On the way back, lo and behold, here is Mr. G! He’s making good time and considering his course is longer, he is way ahead of me. He confirms that I was on a good bearing to back up to control eight. I get over to the general area and find about 7 people standing around, checking in different gullies for the control! Finally, we find it and I hook it back to the ninth control. I would find out at the finish that I’d spent an hour and 13 minutes on the ONE control! That was longer than I’d spent on the first half of the course. But I was also still within the three hour time limit and had a new grit in my teeth to finish the course. Actually, I did have grit in my teeth, from falling down. And leaves in my pants, and twigs in my pockets. One twig was so bold as to squirm down under the elastic band on my finger holding the RF reader! I hit nine and then navigated up to the tenth control, which was on the same water channel as the ninth point. I tag control 10, three more to go and my confidence is heading back up. I pull up my map to figure the next control, and find about 75 percent of my map and zip-lock, are gone! Torn off in the woods! The top photo is of a 1:7500 map of the park. The torn map and zip-lock below, was what I had left. I had enough map left to navigate to point 11. A nice lady had followed me to control 10 and offered to let me look at her map after point 11. Point 12 was the only other “real” point, as point 13, the final point, is always near the finish and is the same point for all the different courses. So, we hit 11, 12 and 13 together. I was just happy to finish the course. I’ve finished every course I’ve attempted. My time of 2 hours and 37 minutes was horrible. Until I check the results after lunch. I was in sixth of the seven in our class that finished. One or two, didn’t finish. I was only about 20 minutes behind the person who got third place. It seems that all of us old folks had trouble on the course. Myself, one other on Brown, and another guy who had done Red (longest and hardest), sat and discussed where we messed up, how we messed up, what would have been a better way to navigate.  It's a great way to learn from mistakes and learn new ways to think about navigating.
(The other courses are White, which is all on trails and the clues are both in English and orienteering symbals, Yellow, mostly on trails, but some not, also in english and symbals, Orange, some route choices will need to be made, not all on trails and no English, just the symbals).

I took some ribbing from a few people, including Mr. G, who took a look at what was left of my map and announced that I must have tried to eat it, as I was out there lost so long.

The course setter and I work for the same company, and she was nice enough to give me a new map. I like to mark my route and then mark what I SHOULD have done. They are good to learn from.

So, let’s review the bodily injury report.
Sore ankle, sore muscles. About 40 scratches on my hands, included a good cut in the palm of my right hand. About 20 scratches on my thighs. Four scratches on my face and neck. Some rash on my belt line, where my fanny pack had collected up some leaves and forest duff that caused a reaction. A bruised elbow from the ruined fence that decided to trip me. And the crowning injury, I took a tree branch to my left eye! And I wear glasses and the tree still attacked. I attempted to get the trees name and the name of his insurance company, but all he would say was “cedar tree 438763A……stick it…..old man”. I asked around at the finish, who I should report tree-assaults to, but they just looked at me like I was some loony.

Mr. G and I ate some great burgers, fries and onion rings at the local convenience store. Mr. G got a third place and then we headed back to home.

I had trouble sleeping that night, as my poked eye continued to water and hurt. Around midnight, my wife handed me some eye drops and pointed out that they had an anti-biotic in them. She then informed me that they were veterinarian drops! I put two drops in my eye anyway. My eye doctor goes to the same church and I figured if it was worse in the morning, I’d just ask him if he’d consider taking a look. It was much better, so I didn’t bother him.

My wife just keeps looking at the wounds and the tales of orienteering and saying "And this is fun......again just HOW????"

I’m still on the look out for Cedar Tree 438763A. I have a hatchet with his name on it.

And a day in the woods, even when I’ve “lost map contact”, still beats a game of golf.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Uber Ghetto Redneck

We have had a very interesting start to the New Year, 2009. The wife has been battling not one, but now two root canals to her teeth. That was how I spent the second day of the year, waiting to drive her home from the first root canal. On the first Saturday of the year, the temperature here in north Texas, was a record tying 84 degrees. I did our three mile walk in shorts and a T-shirt. Saturday night another cold front blew through. By Sunday church time, it was 40 degrees and the wind was 25 MPH and gusting to 40. I walked in long pants, T-shirt, sweater and coat on Sunday. By Monday morning, it was raining and still dropping. By the time I got to work, it was starting to ice up.

I got home about 3:30, as I would need to pick up a daughter at school, since the wife had the root canal scheduled. I went to check our mail box and the door to our plastic mailbox was iced up and sort of on crooked. I went to open it and it fell off, hit the pavement, and broke!

Later that night, the wife and I were returning in the dark, icy evening from getting some groceries. I suddenly remembered that our neighbors had a broken mailbox. Their wood mounting pole had rotted. They had the box replaced by someone and the old box had been lying on the ground for several weeks. The trash men must not recognize it as trash. After parking in the garage, I mention said broken mail box to the wife. She said, “Hey, it has just been lying there….” So I head out the door, into the icy night, retrieving the broken mailbox. I drug the old mailbox into our living room and was heading out the back door, trailing icicles, leaves and dead grass.

My wife commented “Uber Redneck”. I think she meant to insult me.

I said, “More Uber Ghetto I think”.

Hence, we shall have Uber Ghetto Redneck mailbox.

Our old one had been painted by our Uber-talented artist daughter. Maybe she will paint this one also.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Old cars are a pain

Our 1970 Mustang Mach 1, decided to start leaking radiator fluid. All by itself it made this decision. There was a small amount on the garage floor, maybe half a cup. Was it the upper radiator hose? No, that was too easy. It had to be the lower. And not where it attaches to the bottom of the radiator. No, up by the water pump. The motor in this car is the 428 Cobra Jet. It is "wall to wall motor". You can hardly even see the bottom radiator hose.
I did figure out the problem. A year ago, I took the front of the motor apart to put in a different distributor but more importantly, to get the harmonic ballancer rebuilt. On this old Ford, it is cast iron, two pieces held together with rubber, to absorb vibrations. The old rubber can fail, so I sent it off to get rebuilt. When I put on the lower hose, I didn't get it pushed all the way up to the stop mark on the water pump. Nor did I get the hose clamp on evenly. So when it was clamped down, it was cocked and after a year, decided to leak.
I drained the radiator and took the hose off on Saturday. And Sunday afternoon, put it all back together. I didn't bother to start it. I need to do that and then let it cool and check the fluid level. Big blocks like "low" water. Otherwise, they spew radiator fluid about.
In the photo, just to the left and a bit lower than center, is what looks to be some white marks. I have them circled in white.  That says "RAD" on the lower hose. So you know which end connects to the radiator. As you can see, what with the AC, the power steering pump and IT's radiator, belts and such, it isn't too easy to even see the hose. To work on it, you are under the car. Except to tighten the clamp on the top. That is easier to reach from the top.
I also took the 1969 Mustang coupe out and washed it, cleaned the windows and vacuumed it out. That was the first time in about a year. Hey, they sit in the garage 30 out of 31 days.