|"Blaine? His name is Blaine? That's not a name it's a major appliance!"|
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Thursday, June 30, 2016
As I am loathe to retype the entire sordid history of these truly and refreshingly odd vehicles, let me Google that for you. I'll wait for you to get up to speed. Meanwhile, the bare minimum is that Nissan in a fit of madness/genius back in '89 released a trio of vehicles that were an homage to styles of the distant past, like creating a parallel timeline. This was well before the New Beetle, PT Cruiser or Thunderbird, and even those cars were meant to ape their former selves. Not Nissan. At any rate, here's the Pao we're considering, as seen at Montu Motors in Oldsmar, FL:
|Tailgate folds down, glass hinges up, nice!|
The very definition of Spartan.
It's the black sheep at Montu.
|Even its stereo is retro!|
In no order of preference, here's the other cars on their sales floor. I was smitten with the '89 Prelude 4WS 2.0xx - mostly identical to the one I owned, blissfully, over a decade ago.
The apogee of affordable Honda engineering.
Those turbine wheels look better with age.
The most functional automotive cockpit ever.
My a/c was manual. This one is much nicer.
|Make no bones about it: it's FOUR Wheel Steering!|
|Nissan Patrol fire truck. My Japanese pal Nob noted |
"The livery says it belonged to the Kamikawa
City Fire Department, part of the Fukumoto Squad."
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Our "New" Mazda B2300 110k Mile Truck
BRAKES & ALIGNMENTDespite having lead a pampered life, miles still = wear and tear. We took our B2300 to Austin’s Alignments and Brakes where my pal Matt runs a tight ship and threw some Benjamins at it. Here’s the breakdown: (9/5/2014)
Then, feeling that we hadn't blown enough money on the B2300, we went back and had a front end alignment and fixed the worn out sway bar end links which also silenced the sleigh bell jingles from the front suspension. (9/18/2014)
Sway Bar Link Kit x2 $40.64
Shop Supplies (cigarettes & booze) $5
Alignment Labor .70 hour $63
Sway Bar Labor 1 hour $90
STEREO & TINT
JL Audio Amp KD5003 - $280
JL Audio Basslink control - $35
JL Audio Box Sub CP108LG - $230
Plus these additional charges from our two visits that I find maddening, inscrutable and wildly inflated:
Audio Labor $350 + $55 + $25
WHAT IF I'D DONE THE STEREO MYSELF? 3X LESS EXPENSIVE!
Me, buying online would have cost: $682 vs $1829 from CustomSounds. I'm not knocking going the dealer install route: it's a package deal and there's a warranty. No knuckles get scraped and there's no surprises, other than spending triple what a talented DIY'er would.
COOLANT SYSTEMThe mechanic at Bill's Complete Auto Service is an older epically bearded gent who works at a glacial pace and often stops to stare off into infinity, I guess contemplating how he wound up in a trade he was so unsuited for. He left a rubber grommet off the firewall and we drove around with a loud whooshing noise in the cab until we could get the truck back to him.
Radiator and Clutch Master Cylinder Repair 12/20/2014:
Clutch Master Cylinder $104.86
A few weeks later I bought and installed these parts myself as I'd rather not pay someone to do a worse job than my own bumbling attempts:
Coolant Expansion Tank - $49.23
Heater Vacuum Valve $20 (Murray Climate Control - Vacuum Bypass Closes Heater Valve
Part # 74809 make sure you get the right one, either 2 or 4 port)
Ford coolant expansion tanks were made to fail. What shitty plastic. The only upside is that the expansion tank and the valve are replaced using basic hand tools and an afternoon of spare time.
NEW (To Us) TOPPERUsed, green bed topper. Smells of mold, doesn't match the truck's color and its clear coat is mostly gone. Pros: keeps the rain off our stuff and is lockable.
Pinnacle Ceramic Tint 30% sides and 15% rear + eyebrow - $168
CLUTCH PILOT BEARINGThe pilot bearing suddenly decided to commit seppuku (or is it hari-kiri?) resulting in a truck that often refused to go into any gear unless the engine was first switched off. Similar to my contentions that the stereo install's cost was greatly inflated by usurious labor, so too is the installation of a new clutch - but not nearly as much of a drubbing percentagewise as the stereo. Where the stereo component's cost were roughly a third of the final overall cost, in the case of the clutch it's closer to 50% so not as much of a bitch-slap to the bank account.
The cost to do the clutch includes replacing the slave cylinder on a just-in-case basis. This is proactively done as the engineers at Ford (obviously high from sniffing glue) thought it made sense to mount the slave cylinder at the center of the output shaft, necessitating a transmission removal when it fails. For such a well designed and thrifty truck this is a big, stupid booger of a mistake. But it is what it is. While it was all apart we went ahead and tossed a new clutch in too. If you're smart enough to change your hydraulic fluid every five years it likely will never have any issues. Unless ... while changing the fluid you screw up and introduce air into the system. Then the only way to bleed all the air out is to do a voodoo dance while removing the transmission so that you can turn the slave cylinder upside down while introducing fresh fluid to it. So don't do that.
Clutch Slave Cylinder $67.50
Clutch Kit $214
Gallon Oil $32
Labor 5.10 hrs $382.50
Labor Resurface Flywheel $65
TIRESNew shoes for the truck were needed as the BF Goodrich Comp T/A's were older than we realized, tired and quite the hand full in the rain. New kicks ran a bit pricey with most good tires being roughly $100 per. Being of a frugal bent we checked Craigslist & found 4 General Grabber AT-2 225/70-15 tires with an asking price of $250. Adam posted the ad and stated that they were only a couple years old and had approximately 1000 miles on them. He'd removed them after noticing a slight loss of fuel economy on his 70 mile commute but wanted to keep them for an impending move to a snowy climate where they'd work well. Eventually he replaced the Ranger they were on with a Wrangler, so it was time to let them go. A slight haggling took place and we acquired them for a piddling $220.
Discount Tires mounted and lifetime balanced them for $76. Total cost = $296. Contrast this with if we'd bought them through Discount Tires with all their ancillary fees, disposal charges and taxes of $542. Thanks to Craigslist we have $240 additional dollars to spend on pizza and beer. Re. the Grabber AT2's the drive home was quieter than before as the prior tires would really sing. These are a bit more muted despite their very blocky tread design. Also slightly evident is the additional strain their 7 additional pounds per wheel puts on the engine. As the truck is not going to be used for long distance commutes, their lack of LRR "low rolling resistance' credentials is not as important. Overall they're good and we look forward to how they perform in the rain and eventually in the snow.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
What initially looked like a great deal turned out to be a mirage - but it was just bad luck rather than ignorance on our part. The clutch throwout bearing could've happened any time, same too for the coolant system that waited until it was in our hands to puke. When buying any used car one should set aside a stack of Benjamins for all the consumables and assume they all need doing. I'm tacking this bit on in July 2017: we've had to remove the transmission again to replace another coolant line. Seriously. There's a plastic coolant line that snakes behind and around the engine that can't be replaced without removing the transmission, so that was another $500 labor bill. The alternator died while towing our TR6 across the country. Then a friend of ours destroyed our air conditioner compressor using a ham fisted technique to lever off the old a/c clutch, so there's that too.
Would we buy another Ford Ranger / Mazda B2300? Probably not. On a positive note, we're pretty confident that we've covered our bases for the foreseeable future for sh*t that might break. If you buy one of these trucks, find a pampered one and bargain hard on the price.
Or make your friend follow through on the promises to sell his Toyota truck to you.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
Monday, August 25, 2014
|My 1967 CA77 Honda Dream. There are many like it but ...|
I recently shelled out three Benjamins on a Probe Engineering FS-02E Electronic Ignition for the beast as after the rebuild I never could get it to run without fouling the plugs and/or flooding. I also got a Dyna DC8-1 Dual Output Coil from Z1 Enterprises for $70. My rationale for throwing this vertigo-inducing amount of money at my shitty running bike is predicated upon my incompetence with adjusting stuff and a general disdain for having to do any task more than once. A points ignition system is a guarantee that you'll be doing the same task again and again, searching for your timing light, ordering new points off eBay, messing around with it constantly because you're not sure you got it right, wondering why the timing drifted and so on. I'd much rather be riding.
|Probe Engineering FS-02E Electronic Ignition for CA77|
"There are many who will swear by the point and mechanical advance. Good for them. I am sure we will see them on the side of the rally route with the points cover off smiling from ear to ear."
The old coil and regulator looks like something puked out of a 1950's vacuum tube radio. Modern regulators are infinitely better at being efficient, small and protecting the bike's circuitry from alternator voltage spikes. I don't have my new regulator as it's a pending hand-me-down from my massively patient pal Scott, but I'll post its install when I get it. For now you can compare the old coil to the new Dyna. This 5 ohm coil is half the original's size and will make a very hot spark + I can go to my local NAPA Auto parts shop and buy spark plug wires by the foot as they aren't molded into the unit like the factory did in the 60's.
|Out with the old...|
My decision to buy this ignition system was weighed against the alternative kits: Charlie's Place carries their own very different take on the concept though they were out of stock when I decided to buy mine. Then there's Elektronik-Sachse but at €320 the American dollar exchange rate would have been seriously out of kilter for buying this from Deutschland (why is the American dollar such a worthless proposition abroad when, for the first time in my life I have a few to spend? That's a rhetorical question btw).
Obviously there's a big difference in the design ethos of the Charlie's Place ignition system and the Probe Engineering unit. The Probe control module is remotely mounted, thus not on the cylinder head as Charlie's all-in-one design is, and therefore operates at a lower temperature. Mark Whitebook at Probe feels emphatic that a power transistor's operational temperature range is exceeded when mounted to a bike's cylinder. Other Honda's, CB's in particular had the points pickup mounted on the crankcase/crankshaft so the temperatures there are cool in comparison to the cylinder head but the Honda Dream's points are on the hottest part of the engine so mounting the control module module there is likely problematic. In the interest of full disclosure, I'd have bought the Charlie's Place system had it been in stock as it's $70 less expensive, but that's me, always looking to pinch a penny. Soon the difference between the two systems will be a moot point as I heard that Mark at Probe is discontinuing production of the FS-02e at the end of 2014 - or perhaps of ignition systems in general. If I hear otherwise I'll let everyone know.
|Headed to the Harvest Classic...|
When I first saw Quadrophenia, the classic Who movie about Rockers vs. Mods in mid 60's England, I totally identified with the Mods. I still do. Mods ride scooters and Vespas. Mods are intrinsically much cooler than their rocker counterparts with their big motorcycles. They bathe, they like ska and rocksteady. They've got cool fashion. The Harvest Classic is the modern manifestation of this epic rivalry. Go Mods!
Sunday, July 27, 2014
|Not wine. It's bokeh.|
In photography, bokeh (pronounced boh-kay and sometimes boh-kə) is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus portions of an image produced by a lens. A lens with a large aperture can take photos with a narrower depth of field than one with a smaller aperture. Borrowing from the wiki "depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image" and there you have it. Okay, bokeh. The wine is in focus, nothing else is.
One sure method to significant bokeh is to use a non-zoom camera lens, i.e. "fixed" in its focal length. Such lenses are often better for capturing the maximum amount of light and have larger apertures. Natually, you'll pay for this capability. Bigger diameter lenses make for much more stringent tolerances because a large lens amplifies defects, so they command higher prices. That's why the tiny lens in your cellphone often gets everything in focus, though this is not a rule of thumb.
My Nikon Coolpix has an astonishing 42x zoom lens, 24-1000mm if that's how you roll. I can take clear pictures of the moon's craters or the paintings hanging on a neighbor's wall - from one block away. What I can't take a picture of is the drama of bokeh, when only the desired object is in focus and everything else fades into blurry patterns and colors. Try as I might, the Nikon is a very literal camera, with typically everything in good focus even in aperture priority mode. Looking back through my favorite shots from my undergraduate journalism student days, the common thread that emerges is this: they're of people. They're doing things. They're neither far away nor are they macro. Some exhibit bokeh. All the times I carried a telephoto I wound up with pictures I don't care about today: an airplane. A race car. Things. But when I shot with a fixed mm lens like the 50mm f1.4 on my Canon there were the indefinable elements of atmosphere, tension and ambiguity. And I shot pictures of people.
As I sold my Ae-1 Program in the early 00's I now had to search out another. Craigslist immediately yielded two. My first call to Carrie in Buda inspired enough confidence that I skipped the other listing. The camera I bought for $60 seemed a good deal, visibly in mint condition but on the pricey end of the spectrum. The battery was dead, but conveniently the 5th place we went had a PX28L and I could test it. I cranked the film winder over and hit the shutter button. It was much louder than I remembered but it seemed to work. It came with a Vivitar dedicated flash, a 50mm f1.8 lens and all the original boxes and manuals from 1984. I bought it and trekked home.
|Canon AE-1 Program, Mint!|
This is where I realized three things: the loud shutter squeak was abnormal and required repair, the 50mm lens, though free of dust and fungus, was fairly hazed looking eerily like cataracts and finally the Vivitar flash, despite looking like it had never been removed from its box, would not power on. Oh well. I'm sure Carrie was unaware of these things and I was not motivated to drive to the ends of Texas seeking a refund, then discover that all AE-1's look like this anyway.
My fix for the lens was simple: buy a much better lens on eBay. I found a fd 50mm f1.4 and asked questions and sent the seller the link to the Ken Rockwell page on how to test with a flashlight. Lunkfish57 said it looked fine so I took the plunge and what I got for a mere $50 looks like the elves at the factory made it yesterday. Let's contast this with what I'd pay for a similar lens for my girlfriend's Sony Nex 7: there isn't one. The closest E-mount is a 50mm f1.8 and even then it's a $300 purchase. Chalk one up for being frugal.
So now I await the syringe I'm going to use to oil the gears in my camera, and I'll run a roll of Kodak 400 asa color print film through it and we'll see what kind of dramatic bokeh my $110 got me.
Friday, December 1, 2000
(This story was originally published December 17 2021. I've backdated it to appear at the beginning of my blog as I want my current blog to focus on life affirming topics rather than traumas. As this is still an ongoing topic in litigation, expect updates at which point I'll restore it to a current date.)
A semicircle of six bored Lakeland Florida cops are standing around discussing the merits of arresting me. The Black one, obviously the lowest ranking member of the group is fixated on me, his body language telegraphing a strong desire to see my face in the parking lot gravel. I hand my license to him but his eyes only look at me, not my license. As I extend my arm to hand him my identification he pulls his hand back making me reach even further in a subtle show of dominance. He then looks at it dubiously as if holding something unclean.
It's a warm December day and the sun is incongruously pleasant as I stand there in the parking lot of the Lakeland Hospice House where my mother lays dying, wondering how sideways this will go. I can't believe that forty eight hours previously I was hugging dear friends goodbye over pilsners in Germany, having no idea my brother Lewis was hiding my mother's impending death from me.
The officers exude an air of detached levity, one of them lightheartedly mocking his superior for being so serious when he called for backup against the calm, grieving man. I guess two cruisers and four cops were not enough. My wife Jennifer stands a distance away observing and afraid. The third cruiser had just arrived and a young blonde female officer exited which dominated the attention of the cop who seemed to be the ranking member of this group of Polk County intellectuals. Noting his name tag I offer my explanation regarding what had transpired but he was so focused on the woman that he didn't respond. I try again, but louder: "Officer Pettit!" at which he snaps out of his trance and blurts "Yes ma'am? - uhh I mean sir?". Uncertain as to whether he was trying to insult me or just dumb, I press forward in an attempt to communicate.
"My mother is in that building dying" I explain, not sure they understand what happens in a hospice. "I'm here to tell her goodbye but apparently my brother has told the staff I'm not allowed."
Just a few minutes prior I'd signed into the facility's guest register (noting that my mother's opportunistic and unsettlingly weird neighbor Miriam's name preceded mine). I asked to speak to a nurse for the latest status on her palliative care. Instead of a nurse I got a shockingly dour woman named Supervisor Sue and a big broad shouldered man she introduced as a "social worker". In case you wonder, this is all verbatim:
"There was a miscommunication, the family is requesting no visitors." says Supervisor Sue.
"I am the family".
"Sir the family is requesting no visitors".
"I'm literally the son".
"I need to ask you to leave".
"Since when is a son not allowed to see his mother?"
"I'm asking you to leave the building"
"Under whose edict?"
"Sarah call the police!"
"Have you no empathy? Stop and consider this from my perspective ..."
Her reply was to wait in the parking lot while they attempted to contact my brother - the first I was aware he claimed any jurisdiction over my dying mother. Seeing no path forward and in disbelief that my brother could legally make such a request, we exited and sat in our Fiat by the entrance. I called my mother's friend Vicky who was also being kept in the dark and didn't know her friend was in hospice. She was thankful to hear from me said she'd come straight over.
I wouldn't have known my mother was dying had I not called my estranged cousin Lee that morning after our ten days in Germany and asked her how my mother was doing. Her guarded answer only raised more questions as it was apparent she was either similarly in the dark or was telling me the minimum her conscience allowed without the specifics. I surmised that between a cancer diagnosis at the age of 89 and a hospital stay from which she hadn't returned that she must be in a hospice. I called a number of hospices in the area using the gambit "I got a garbled voicemail from you and I'm worried about my mother ..." until Lakeland Hospice House answered in the affirmative.
Now I'm standing in their parking lot trying to reason with six cops itching for a distraction. I explain to Officer Pettit that Supervisor Sue cleared us to remain in the parking lot to await our friend. Officer Pettit says that when they made the call they reported I had "made fists and stepped threateningly towards her" - an utter fabrication. He adds that Supervisor Sue wants me "trespassed" to which I pointed out the glaring contradiction "then why would she grant permission to remain on the property with my car?" This logical Catch-22 confuses Officer Pettit, but he presses on "the power of attorney is the one who said you can't be in there". I'm not a lawyer but find it hard to believe that a power of attorney would grant the right to keep my mother prisoner.
Ever the optimist, I offer "you guys gotta know what it's like to be a son ... all I'm asking is that you show some empathy" to which I swear to the gods above and the devils below that Officer Pettit looked me blankly and said "wut?" and I again said "empathy" at his blank expression of incomprehension.
"It's one of them situations where you gotta make an arrest, where you think the person being arrested really shouldn't be arrested but you don't got a choice" to which I again said I'd been permitted to remain with my car. He said they'd been told that too then added "it don't make no sense" to which I agreed. They bantered for a bit, then the Black officer with the attitude hands my ID back to me in an odd slow motion and says "we come back here for another 'issue' there's gonna be problems".
That all went down December 15th, a bit over a day ago. Vicky did show up, they let her sign in and she walked to my mother's room and noted weird Miriam sitting in the corner like a guard. Miriam who is not a family member told Vicky that my mother was unconscious and Vicky had to go as she wasn't a family member then called Lewis. Vicky ignored her and managed to get a couple uninterrupted last minutes in the room with her friend. She offered the lighthearted quip that she needed some Tennessee Ernie Ford music (a favorite of my mother's) to put some life into her - and my mother who they claimed to be unconscious and unresponsive raised her hand, which Vicky perceived as an affirmative. Then the staff tossed Vicky out too.
The next day I contacted Gerald Hemness, a local attorney I knew to have a reputation as a fighter and who had been a cop in a former life before realizing how low he'd aimed at vocations. Our consultation revealed my gut instinct that a Power of Attorney didn't convey the right to imprison a person was true. Gerald used the metaphor that while a person could be evicted from a place of business, a hospice was a different case altogether and was like an apartment complex: each room represents a different family "living" there and if the apartment complex owner doesn't like someone, they don't have the right to deny anyone entry who was behaving lawfully. Furthermore, a PoA similarly doesn't convey the right to deny visitation from immediate family, so on both counts I was correct. Attorney Hemness (who was at that point out of state and not able to make an in-person visit) called Lewis' attorney to request he stand down. Obviously while I am legally permitted to visit, without a lawyer physically present I risked cops unfamiliar with the law arresting me - and as we know, when a cop screws up absolutely nothing happens to them 99% of the time.
This was my text exchange with him that afternoon:
LEWIS: You and spouse are cleared to enter while strictly observing rules Supervisor Sue has explained to you. The visit will be 60 minutes maximum and should occur ASAP. You will notify me of your ETA
ME: To be concise: we were never NOT clear to visit. I'll coordinate with the staff as you're not part of the equation. -- Stay clear of me.
I called Supervisor Sue once I was sure she'd gotten word of her error so I could get a mea culpa. None was forthcoming. I then asked her who told the police I'd made fists and stepped towards her to which she became angry and refused to offer any explanations. I made it clear I was on my way and would prefer a visit without drama.
We drove back to Lakeland again, an hour's drive. We signed in and I noted Lewis had signed in just a few minutes earlier, obviously intent on not letting me visit my mother without him hovering outside her door, which he did. Weird Miriam was there and vacated upon our arrival in a manner reminiscent of Gollum. We stayed for two hours and I held my mother's hand and talked to her with no signs of consciousness at all.
My window to speak final words to her had closed.
Why am I sharing this private disaster with you? I can't say exactly. Perhaps as a cautionary tale for siblings you don't trust. Maybe also as a warning to raise your sons and daughters in a manner that lends to them solidarity with their siblings. Teach them love and inclusiveness. Be a good parent. Be the parents I didn't get. And when you write lengthy superlatives and odes to how fantastic your parents were and how they always bent over backwards for you and inspired you to achieve greatness, remember that there's other adults out there who view your words as emblematic of the pile of cinders they'd been handed.
The full backstory will eventually appear on my blog. As for now I must await notification of her death, then funeral, then the obvious aftermath of that. This story is far from over.