Thursday, December 17, 2009


Matty had his first concert of the year last night. This is his second year playing stand-up bass in a school orchestra.

The concert opened up with the students from the “beginning orchestra” which comprised of around 25 students that had been playing anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 years. They were all dressed in white shirts and black slacks. They did a very good job and played for around 20 minutes, many of the songs being seasonal and very short.

Following that the “advanced orchestra” went up on the stage and as you can see from the picture it consisted of nine students all dressed in black. I was very impressed by how well they sounded for such a small group of young kids. The concerts he played in Brownsburg were with much larger groups of kids, the bass section alone would have five to six.

I was also impressed by how well Matty played being I never hear him practice at home, the most noise I hear from his bass is when it either slides off whatever he has it propped against or it being moved out of his way.

The total concert lasted about an hour and was very entertaining. Its sad to think that they wont be doing it next year. Due to budget constraints all music has been cut from his school along with sports. I’m really rather upset about this because this is the only chance most people have in their lives to do either.

I guess when Tucson cant afford to pay police and firemen that expecting our children to have extra curricular activities thorough the school is expecting too much.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Movers from Hell pt4

The last week of October I finished up the necessary claim paperwork for what was stolen during our move. It took me over three weeks to research what is missing, look up values or equivalent values and fill out the 18 pages of claim forms. These forms I submitted to the claim company and a week later they sent me a letter stating they had received the forms and forwarded them to their parent company (Atlas). It went on to state I would be hearing from a claims representative shortly.

Five weeks later and still no word, I contacted the claims department it was sent to. After two minutes of looking I was informed, “there is no record of any claim in your file”. Up to this point I have pretty much taken all of this in stride, I mean it really does no good to get upset. because all of this will take time to sort out. The problem is, every person I have dealt with appears to be either totally inept or completely ineffectual at their job. At this point in time I really went off on some poor secretary that probably is completely capable of doing her job and was only guilty of answering my call. My words were something along the lines of “Just so I understand this correctly, not only has your company lost my personal property, you have now lost the claim forms for that property”.

That was over a week ago, by last Friday everything had been submitted to the corporate claims office once again I was placed in the “someone will contact you shortly” status.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Sahuarita has a “Outdoor Lighting Code” which is to help prevent light pollution. Without going into details on it, there is basically a certain lumen output per acre allowed in residential areas which is so low it disallows the use of street lights. In residential areas at night you might as well be 50 miles out of town, its very dark.

Even though I grew up in the country, when you drove down a country road there weren’t cars parked up and down the sides or people walking around. Driving here at night seems odd, like there is a blackout or something. It doesn’t help that the composite headlight housings on my pickup are hazed and yellow.

A few weeks ago when my brother in law was here, he brought me a 3M headlight polish kit. He had tried it and liked it so well he bought a master kit for his shop. I was a bit skeptical on it working because I had tried using a Dico wheel and some plastic rouge, it appeared to clear the lense up some but I felt the yellowing was not limited to the surface.

Friday night I was doing some reading on headlight housings to see if there was any clear opinion on who made the best clear aftermarket housings when I came across a thread on GM Fullsize Forums about polishing composite headlights. One of the people posting mentioned he had after washing the lenses, wiped them down with lacquer thinner. This not only removed the yellowing from the lenses it melts the surface repairing the thousands of small pits and surface cracks in the lens.

Sunday I decided to work on a few things I had been wanting to do. The stereo in my truck had a whine from the alternator, the most common cause for that is a bad ground. I moved the ground from the factory harness to a good chassis ground under the dash which cleared up the whine. The alarm that I had installed when the truck was new wasn’t working properly and the range of the transmitters was down to a few feet from the truck. I checked the connections to the system and found no problems, changed the batteries in the remotes, no fix. I pulled out the main unit from under the dash where they had mounted it and could smell a faint burnt capacitor smell, so I removed the system.

I had some extra time so I decided to tackle the headlights. I removed the grille because I was not familiar with the headlight removal and didn’t want to mess up the aim. Once it was off, I removed the driver side housing and was able to see how easy it was to pull the pins that mount the housings. I wiped the drivers side housing down with a clean white rag and some lacquer thinner which turned the rag a dark yellow, it looked like I had cleaned off the inside of a car window that had been owned by a smoker for 20 years.

Once the composite lens dried it turned a hazy white but was still relatively smooth. I went over it with my DA sander and some 360 grit paper. I then used the 3M kit and quickly hit it with 500 then 800 grit paper. The kit then stated to use a thin pad that was probably somewhere in the 1000 to 1200 grit range. The last step was to use a sponge pad and compound that I replaced with some mirror glaze. As you can see from the pictures the difference between the polished and un-polished is quite obvious. The park lamps are made out of a different material and did not polish out to a glass finish like the headlamps.

When I finished the drivers side lights it was starting to get dark so I decided to install the grill while I could still see. The garage was occupied by my wife’s project which involves stripping the dining room table / chairs and refinishing them. We were also sharing the DA sander between the two projects. At one point the smelly kid that lives upstairs even came down and helped her for a while. As you can see it looks quite fun, It had just started to cool down for the day and were already acclimated, but you really can’t complain about 60 degree weather at the end of November.

Installing the grille was a mistake, I finished polishing the park light on the passenger side and started to take out the headlamp, the first pin came out easily the second is froze in the nylon insert it screws into. Next weekend I will pull the grille back off and get the light out.

THe difference in the lights performance is amazing, since only the drivers side is polished it over powers the passenger side so much that while driving it appears to be burned out or not connected correctly. Once I have it polished I plan to order a HID kit for the low beams, I found one that has good reviews for 49.00 with a lifetime warranty.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Leakage

After finding the rear wheel brake cylinders leaking on my truck I decided to look it over a bit more. I had noticed some oil spots on the ground where I park at work and really didn’t want to look at that because Chevy motors and manual transmissions are notorious for having rear main seal leaks. At first glance that’s where mine was leaking from.

Knowing that it wont fix itself and will only get worse I looked a lot closer.

I have changed the oil on my truck myself all but maybe six or seven times. I’ve seen the oil cooler adapter (item 7) where the spin-on filter normally mounts but never really thought much about it. Now I’m looking at it as being the obvious source of my oil leak but not really understanding why its even there. My truck doesn’t have any of the cooler lines, it never has, so why does it have this adapter that serves no other obvious purpose.

Saturday I made a couple calls to some parts stores hoping to get whatever gaskets or o-rings there were to fix the leak, no one I spoke with knew what I was talking about. So I drove into Tucson and went to five different parts stores. Even the old standby NAPA didn’t have the o-ring kit to fix the leak. I stopped off at a self serve car wash and washed down the underside of the truck to determine if that was in fact what was leaking and if there were any other leaks. Once I got home there was oil on the adapter and with the truck needing an oil change I took it off to see if I could determine what was wrong or even fix it. There was one paper gasket (item 5), and an o-ring (item 6). The o-ring was as hard as a rock and cracked, being the obvious problem. I made a new gasket and covered the o-ring with RTV. This of course changed the leak from a random drip to a constant stream.

After cleaning up my mess I logged into and found a Felpro number for a rebuild kit for 2.69. Armed with the part number it was much easier to find the kit locally. The following day after work I was able to pick it up from a small NAPA that was closed Sunday and had the leak fixed in 15 minutes.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend Not So Fun

This weekend I spent working on the truck.

Last Monday on my way home from the airport, my brakes felt a bit strange. When I got home I popped open the hood and found the fluid level in the master cylinder to be about 1/8th of an inch. A quick check around the truck led to some fluid on the driver side aft wheel. I parked the truck and Friday morning tore into the back brakes.

The last time I had the drums off the rear axle was 13-14 years ago so of course it took about 1.5 hours each just to get them off. The original brake linings were not even close to being worn out but the drivers side was soaked with fluid and the passenger side had just started to leak. Two hours and 150.00 later I had new cylinders, shoes, hardware kits and drums, the original drums had quite a few heat cracks and I was having a hard time finding somewhere that would turn them so I just bought new ones.

Putting them back together was fairly uneventful, they were more complex than any other drum brake I had ever replaced and the springs were a total pain. I bled 3 bottles of fluid through the system before I was satisfied with the pedal, I will probably end up bleeding out some more this coming weekend. I can’t really complain much 103k miles on brakes is pretty good, they would have probably gone 140k if the cylinders had not gone out.

The sad part in all of this is the state of my truck. When I bought the truck in 93 it was everything that I wanted and I had intended up till this weekend to keep the truck forever. The time I spent on it this weekend revealed just how hard Indiana was on it, there is corrosion everywhere. It’s not like it has huge spots rusting out through the body its more that every single piece on the truck has some form of corrosion. Eventually it will rust out through the body panels and other than completely disassembling it and having every single item media blasted and repainted there is nothing I can do to stop it from happening. I already have one project vehicle and don’t really need to take on another of that magnitude, so my current plan is to fix a couple minor things on it and put it up for sale. I can buy a newer truck that has spent its entire life in Arizona for a fraction of the cost it would be to prevent mine from turning into red powder and blowing away.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weekend Fun

I got a last minute offer to go to the “Dickies 500″ at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.

I flew in Saturday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised by our accommodations, we were staying at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine Texas.

That night we had great steak and lobster dinner at the Old Hickory Steakhouse Restaurant, one of many at the resort. After dinner we walked across the street to The Glass Cactus Nightclub. The Molly Ringwalds, an 80’s cover band was playing, they were below average and I was very tired so I didn’t stay long.

I woke up Sunday to an overcast morning, the National Weather Service website showed a 70% chance of rain for the entire day, not good for a NASCAR race. Fortunately Texas Motor Speedway has lights for night racing which would give them that much more time to get the race in if it did rain.

It took us a little over an hour to get to the track and another 45 minutes to get our VIP passes and into the suite. The Bombardier suite was awesome, it had a max capacity of 68 people and was just past the start finish line on the front stretch. We had good food, our own bartender, some nice gift packs and “Racing Radios” scanners to use.

The picture does it no justice, it was huge and with the windows canted out at the top it gave the illusion of leaning out over the track. With glass walls dividing the suites there were very few blind spots when sitting towards the back of the suite. We were running a little behind schedule so the people assigned to the suite quickly hustled us out of the room for a pit tour.

I was really excited about the pit tour, I’ve been to a lot of NASCAR races but never had access to the pits. Our guide took us past hundreds of people standing in line to go through the small tunnel to the infield and at the tunnel entrance told us to merge in to line. This probably saved us a good hour of standing in line and once through the tunnel you immediately were able to see the hour long line you would be standing in to get back.

On the infield side we had an ESPN journalist waiting to give us the pit tour. While I’m sure it was interesting it was basically NASCAR 101, so I didn’t hang with the group very long. Because we were running late we had arrived at the infield about 10 minutes before the start of the drivers meeting, thus the chances of seeing one were pretty much nil, so I headed off to find JR’s pit area.

After getting pictures of JR’s pit area I made my way back up pit lane towards where his and Jimmies cars were parked in line. I tried for a good ten minutes to get a clean picture of each from behind the pit boxes, but there were constant crowds around each car on pit lane. One of the people in my group came up and asked what I was doing, then explained to me we were allowed on pit lane as well. After climbing over the wall it was much easier to get a nice shot of both cars.

I quickly got tired of dealing with the shear amount of people and all the fun things that go along with large crowds, so I snapped a couple quick pictures up and down pit lane before I headed back for the hour wait to go back through the tunnel.

After getting back to the tunnel line, I found out that it was closed the direction I wanted to go and wouldn’t open for another thirty minutes, so I put my camera away and two minutes later the Grand Marshals of the race, ZZ Top, drove by on their golf carts. So of course I didn’t have time to get the camera out of the bag to get a picture of them while they were four feet away. Once I was back in the suite I set up a soda can tripod, hit max zoom and got a shot of them on stage. They played for about an hour as the sun started peaking out from the rain clouds.

After the pre-race festivities and the track was cleared a CH-47 Chinook flew by right in front of the suite and touched down on the end of the track. As it was landing the aft loading ramp was coming down and out drove the 2010 Camaro Pace Car for the race. It was very cool and got a great reaction from the crowd. The dropoff happened very quickly and due to where I was sitting and the angle of the glass I was not able to get very good pictures of the drop.

I am not going to go into the details of the race itself, it was actually a very good race. nothing like the yawnfest last week at Talladega. I was very impressed with the traffic control after the race and the ease with which we were able to leave. It was a great overall experience and I look forward to the chance to do it again…. must drive to Phoenix this weekend…. must drive to Phoenix this weekend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dust Bunnies

I haven’t posted in a while, I have been working a lot of hours as well as doing a shift change for a week last week. That made for a very short weekend.

I basically had one day off, and didn’t feel much like house projects, so I decided to do something I had not done in a while and play some mindless games of destruction on my laptop.

I purchased a P-7811FX Gateway laptop about a year ago. I love this laptop, its fast, has an incredible 17″ screen with a native resolution of 1920×1200 which is large enough to display two documents at 100% side by side, or movies in full HD. It also has a NVidia 9800GTS which at the time the laptop was released was the best mobile video card available. I’m convinced this laptop which was exclusively sold through Bestbuy was a loss leader for them. The components it was speced with made any similarly equipped laptops 750 to 1000 dollars more than the Gateway. Bestbuy only sold this laptop for about 3 months before it was replaced by a newer more expensive Gateway which had cheaper parts and cost more.

About three months ago I had a new game I wanted to play but it ran horribly on the laptop. Because of the new job, I never had time to figure out what the problem was. After a year of installing and removing numerous different programs and drivers, I decided before I tried to fix something that worked fine before I would wipe the drive and reinstall Vista x64. Having a 1TB home server makes this a very quick task, I had the laptop back up and running in less than an hour with all the updates installed. I was rewarded for my work by not being able to run any Direct 3D games at all, OpenGL games worked fine. I tried Gateway approved video drivers, new and old, NVidia drivers and modded drivers, to no avail.

It was now time for the best tool I have ever used to fix anything, Google. Rest assured that if you have a problem your not the only special person that has had it and no one ever posts anything good on the internet, people only like to talk about the bad. A quick search took me to the Gateway forums on Notebook Review I had done some reading here before I bought the notebook. The problems I was now having were similar to problems people had with early issues of this notebook just over a year ago. Gateway quietly released a revised version of the P-7811FX and the problems went away, I was one of the fortunate ones that got the revised version.

My Google search had dropped me right in the middle of the old threads to which there was no solution, other than getting the revised laptop, that wasn’t going to help me. After doing a Google search specific to their forums I found some posts with problems similar to mine starting about three months ago. After 20 minutes of reading I had no definite solution, only a few things I could try based on it fixing one or two peoples problem. A common theme to the solutions was heat, so that’s where I went next.

Computers running anywhere other than cleanrooms are filthy pigs when you open them up, no different than the air filters on your homes heater. Luckaly the Gateway is very simple to get access to and within 5 minutes I had the heatsink, transfer tube, radiator assembly removed. Unfortunately it was completely clean.  I spread some heatsink compound on the processor and put the laptop back together, no fix, back to the forums.

I read for another hour and realized that everyone having issues had the newest revision of the laptop and everyone’s problems started about three months ago, before that no issues. I am still working on it from that angle, but with little luck. Everyone posting has different BIOS revisions installed, different video drivers, even different operating systems, basically no common theme other than three months ago.

As a band-aid fix one of the guys figured out it was a timing issue with the video card switching with different power modes.  Installing RivaTuner which is an overclocking program allows you to force the video card to remain at one timing constantly, this seems to have stopped the crashes. I was able to play Dead Space for about 30 minutes before I stopped the game, previous to that it would crash within 10 seconds of starting to play it.

Back at work Sunday night I was asked:
“Kelly, how was your weekend”
“It was very short”
“What did you do?”
“I played a video game for about 30 minutes…..”

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I finally had some time to try and figure out what happened to my site. After playing around with a few different things it appears my SQL database became corrupted. I found a couple of articles on how to recover it but didn’t have much success, so I ended up wiping out everything and starting over. I was able to save my posts except for the very first few. Because I had to dig into a few things while trying to figure out what was wrong I found some pretty serious flaws with the security for my web-server, so maybe it wasn’t so bad it happened.

My next project with this site is to figure out how to do backups for the blog.

Friday, October 9, 2009


My blog has suffered some technical difficulties, an idiot for an admin —–> me, and the lack of any true backup. I should have it back up this weekend.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Garage Shelves

Two weeks ago I found a Craigslist listing for some Lista shelves in Phoenix. Lista makes probably some of the best industrial shelves and cabinets available, and they are priced according, so when I seen them listed for 275.00 I got very excited. After a quick call to the seller and some reservations for a U-haul trailer we were on the road to Phoenix.

I had also found some Weld ProStars in another listing and on the drive up I debated if I needed to spend the money on them. Once we got into Phoenix, I decided to call the guy with the ProStars and we stopped by his place first. They are 15X3.5’s and 15X8’s off a late model camaro, the Mikey Thompsons on the back rims are shot, but the price he wanted was less than the back two rims would have cost alone.

After we loaded those up we headed over to the guy with the Lista shelves, whom of course lived on the opposite side of Phoenix. An hour later we arrived at his house, an upscale gated community with 500K+ homes, he lead us through the garage which was absolutely packed and on to a RV parking pad next to his house. The cabinets were sitting there against the side of his house and after just a quick glance over, I handed him the money.

Loading them was an adventure in itself, they are not modular so you either keep them all together or take them completely apart. Thankfully the roll-up doors were not installed, the larger ones weigh over 100lbs and the sliding shelves, which removed easily, are probably around 70lbs each. He had a friend over at his house and even with using a couple of dolly’s they were difficult to get loaded.

Once we got home I was able to slide them out of the back of the trailer onto a couple of dolly’s and their they laid until I had time last weekend to work on setting them up. At 9′×9′×24″ my choices in placing them in the garage were rather limited. I do have a three car garage but it does not have any overflow space around the sides. The wall I ended up placing them on had water fittings for adding a water softener. I reluctantly decided to cut a small opening in the metal pegboard back of the center cabinet to allow the waterline to pass through. If I do decide to put in a softener it will easily fit in the center cabinet.

After Matt and I moved them in and out of the garage a couple times to clean them, I was ready to stand them up. The problem was the placement of the garage door and opener. I needed to stand them up in the open ceiling area of the garage which just happens to be about 10 feet from the wall giving me a foot of space in which to try and lift them upright. Matt and I tried a couple times to lift them, but had to wait for Tania to get home, even with the three of us I was thinking I was going to be taking them apart and assembling them standing up. That plan failed quickly when I realized I couldn’t take them apart with them laying on their back, flipping them would have been just as hard as lifting them. After about 30 minutes of struggling we had them standing and 15 hours of work later I had them in place and fully assembled.

They appeared to come from some auto parts warehouse and held large items, for my needs I want some more shelves in them so I looked on Listas website to see how much they were. The site showed the sliding shelves which are rated at 770lb load capacity and had a 789.00 price tag each. The standard fixed shelves are a little cheaper at 70.00 each, I’m going to price out some metal and unless its a lot cheaper to build some I’ll order the Lista shelves.