Posts Tagged ‘Uh-oh’

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TS… Aaaagent Man, TS… Aaaagent Man!

November 19, 2010

So, when I started this, I never promised to be all regular and stuff.  You want regular, go buy some Metamucil. SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) is the better of this pair at the bloggity-bloggity thing, even going so far as to try to get published.  My attempts here are for more…  personal reasons and/or moral support.

Still, I admit.  Been a while.  I do need to get better than this.

So what should I rant about today?  I know.  I’ll jump on the bandwagon of the last few weeks.  Ye Olde TSA.  I have a unique perspective on this, both as a person of not inconsiderable size and as a recent business traveler.  I have to admit that in my most recent foray into Mordor (Chicago) that I only saw one person get pornogra-fied, and no one seemed to be getting, ahem, extra-friendly.  In perspective, I watched probably 200 or so people go through that security line.  Mathematically, that means there’s one half of one percent chance that I could have been subject to the ‘enhanced security procedures.’

Now, allow me to fantasize.

Had I been selected, what would I have liked to do?

I’d have asked for both procedures.

You may have remembered, I mentioned that I carry a little extra baggage when I fly.  Or walk.  Or sit.

Big Butt

To the point where I’m relatively certain that those TSA guys really don’t want to look at nudie pictures of my corpulence.  Hell, even I don’t want to look at myself when I get out of the shower.  The whole idea is to make this venture even less appealing for the TSA people than it is for I, their intended passenger victim.  This goes doubly so for the guy that’s gotta put his hand in the perilous danger of personal injury from the pat down.  (Note to self, on my next flight, I need to route by the nearest Chipotle for my pre-flight burrito with extra beans and peppers.)  The agents themselves are already starting to dislike these new procedures, I think a little more motivaiton is all that’s needed to add a little more pressure form the inside and start an all-out coup or revolt.  How revolting!

(See what I did there?)

As a side note, I should mention that under normal circumstances, I’m fine with the prospect of someone jingling my bells, but I usually prefer them to be cuter, and wearing a lot less.  And there’s usually beer involved.  And maybe a cover charge or some tips or something.

And ya know what would make this even better?  I want John Pistole himself to do the screening.

Butt Head
(credit image:  DayLife/Associated Press)

I figure that if the special sauce is good enough for his rank and file TSA grunts, it’s good enough for the head as well.  Head honcho, I mean.

I think he needs to hold his hand a little flatter, though. Gotta make sure both the boys get equal attention. A little cupping might be nice, too. Just sayin’.

And eventually, we can even have this:

Butt Head
They’re even already in the blue uniforms!  Won’t that be so much fun!

Or we could, ya know, employ security techniques that actually work.

But where’s the fun in that?

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Paul Bunyan is my New BFF

June 28, 2010

So, I just came in from the back yard.  Or rather, our back stretch of asphalt.  Whoever put in the driveway before we bought the house decided that we needed twelve feet of blacktop in any direction from the house itself.  Comes in handy when I’m under a car, but for other things?  Pain. In. The. Posterior.

So what was I doing out in the sweltering 90-degree 90% humidity?  Trying to stay warm.

Oh, not now.  In January.

One of the first things Vesta and I did when we bought the house was to have a wood stove put in.  I took a picture, but the internets ated it.  So here’s a much nicer installation of the same model, complete with rear heat shield:

Nice, huh?  Ours is not as nicely installed and has a lot more blue in the soapstone, but it is still flushed to the wall. It puts out about 50,000 BTU’s, which they say is enough to heat 1,500 square feet.  We still end up using a space heater on and off upstairs, but it does the job nicely.  We have ours in the living room, and there have been nights in February where we’ve cracked a window to keep it below 85 degrees inside.  Please note, I’m not complaining here.

So a few weeks ago, a friend of my mothers’ calls up and tells me that she has several cherry trees that were trimmed, and would I like the wood?  Expecting a few arm-sized branches, I raced over in the Jeep.  Trimmed, as I found out, was a bit of an understatement.  I found veritable wood burners’ gold:  16+” rounds, pre-cut, that had been down for a couple months, free for the taking.  All told, about a cord and a half, I expect.  Whoopee!!

So I ran home, hitched up the trailer, and four loads later, it was all in my back yard.  Or back black top, whatever.  I’ve been whittling away at it ever since.

In acquiring our wood to burn, I have three main tools at my disposal.

Husqvarna 455 Rancher Chain Saw

7-ton Electric Log Splitter

Fiskars Super Splitter

I’m considering doing a detailed write up on each one of these as I putter along on this blog, incidentally.  I have a couple other odds and ends that help along the way, but these are my big three.  Oh, and a lot of sweat and determination.  I don’t have a lot of land (standard 1/10th of an acre city lot) so I need what I use to be compact and productive.  I don’t have room to store a full sized gas splitter, so I use the electric.  It’s split just about everything I throw at it.  Vesta even gets on on it, it’s so easy to use.

We actually sat down and figured it out on day.  Heating with wood warms you about 10 times.  First by cutting it, then by hauling it, then stacking it, then splitting it, then stacking it, then hauling it, then stacking it, then stacking it again, then burning it, then getting rid of the ashes.  Pretty cost-effective at the free price, I think.  There’s the added benefit of what Vesta calls the Woodburner’s Diet:  eat whatever the hell you want, then cut/split/stack wood for a weekend.  Guaranteed to lose weight.

It’s a ton of work, but in the middle of February when it’s hovering around a balmy no degrees Fahrenheit, and I get the gas bill, I love opening it in my PJ’s in 75 degree comfort to see that it’s only $35 bucks*.

*We still cook with gas, and have a gas clothes dryer, gas (tank) water heater, and we do run the gas furnace for about a half of an hour a day in the morning to take the chill off.  Otherwise, we’d have no gas bill.
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Aaaaaaannnndd… We’re back!

June 15, 2010

Ok, so we’ve been back for a few days.  Had to at least attempt to recuperate.  I took today off work so I could get some requisite odds and ends done, and I’m sad to say that only the odds got done, the ends, I’ll have to squeeze in somewhere in the week.

How was the trip?  I have to say it was OK.  Yes, I realize a cruise that is essentially free (minus tax, and there’s a hefty amount of that…) can’t be all bad, can it?  I got to go snorkeling, after all.  But I have to say, there’s one or two glaring things that kind of overshadow the entire experience.

RCL is an odd company.  It has some amazing people working for it.  Our stateroom attendant, for example.  Pampering almost to the point of smothering.  But I will say, our sheets were clean and drum-tight every time we walked in the room.  As near as I can tell, his job is to scrub the room, top to bottom, either two or three times a day.  And there’s the cute little towel animals, too.  The pics are uploading in the background (1.6 GB takes a little time on my DSL…) but I’ll link one here when I get a chance.

However, RCL has some absolutely crap-tastic managers.  Vesta has Celiac disease, which for the unindoctrinated, means that she has a…  negative… reaction to eating gluten.  Rashes are really the least of the symptoms here folks, and we own a single-bathroom house.  Prior to the cruise, I had to fill out a little questionnaire asking about food allergies.  They even had a little check box next to Gluten-Free Diet, right next to peanut and shellfish allergies, so they are aware of the issue.  I thought this was a good sign.  I called ahead, and was told (by a very rude CSR) that the ship would be able to accommodate any special diet.  When I got on board, I made a point of asking the guest relations desk.  They said that the chefs would be able to make anything.  OK, I thought, we’re good to do.

I, as it turned out, was wrong.

The main cafeteria-style buffet on most RCL lines is called the Windjammer Cafe, and it is about as average as cafeteria foods get, albeit a little more colorful palette (I should mention that my father is an executive chef, and Vesta is writing a food book – it’s a subject we’re comfortable with)  The only thing I could find the entire week that I was sure was GF was some yogurt, pineapple, and maybe the salad, although Vesta stopped eating the salad because something gave her a rash, indicating a cross-contamination issue.  Even the meats were slathered in a gluten-containing rub and rice cooked with stock (they both use it as a texturizer and extender.)  Even dishes that are normally prepared with corn starch, like sweet and sour chicken, were done with flour.  It’s not a matter of cost, because corn starch is a lot cheaper than flour, it’s a decision that one of the kitchen managers made to simplify their ordering.  The net result is that Vesta was left with virtually nothing to eat for a solid week.

In case you weren’t aware, a suffering spouse is not conducive to a good vacation.

To Vesta’s credit, she did ask one of the line chefs to show here what was gluten-free.  After a very frustrating tour of constant ‘no, that has flour in it’ the chef told Vesta that if she’d brought her own food ingredients, like GF pasta, they’d be happy to make it for here.  Lot of good that does in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, really.  The next meal, when I asked the same question, a different line chef said ‘Well, she can have a salad right?’  I didn’t even bother explaining the cross-contamination issue.

So bottom line, my wife couldn’t really eat anything but some Snickers bars and stale potato chips the I’d found in the on-board shops, which were expectedly overpriced.  I thought that a good deal of the reason that people went on cruises was the so-called fabulous food.  I guess not.  Culinary Fail, Royal Caribbean.

So, that aside, we got to go to Key West and the Bahamas, which was very cool.  Actually, I tell a lie.  It was not cool, it was hot.  Very hot.  Fog-your-camera-lens-when-you-step-outside hot.  Key West set a temperature record while we were there.  In 95% humidity.  Joy.  Snorkeling was cool.  I have a Kodak Playsport camera, which is waterproof to about 10 feet, so I have some really cool footage of use snorkeling in the Bahamas (again, waiting on the upload to post here) so there are parts we did enjoy.  But such a glaring issue does tend to overshadow the fun we had.

I have more thought on the cruise that have been bopping around for two weeks or so, I’ll see if I can hammer them out for my next post.

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Workin’ on the Weekend…

June 1, 2010

So with the weekend and the beautiful weather comes a list of project to do around the house.  Vesta, naturally, has her list, which is usually centered around digging in the dirt or hanging bracket for curtains or something.  This past weekend, my list was but a single project:  Brakes on Maximus.

 Maximus is our ’99 Jeep Grand Cherokee, so named because I have pulled a 10,000+ lb trailer over 100 miles several times with him without incident.  (His I-6 engine should only be good for ~half that, but necessity being the mother of stupidity…)  I have Maximus set up pretty decently for towing, with a transmission cooler, PowerStop blank (as in smooth, no slots or cross-drills) rotors and R1 Concepts Posi Quiet ceramic pads.

 The problem with those ceramic pads is they tend to wear out a little quicker than semi-metallics.  And they go from stop-on-a-dime great to stop-somewhere-in-that-field –over-there sucky in oh, a week.  Or less.  And they get LOUD – not the hey-its-time-to-do-your-brakes squeal, but the your-pads-gone-and-your-pressing-the-steel-pad-backer-into-the-rotor chatter.  So new pads and rotors in hand, I set out on Saturday to get this done.

 Did I mention that Saturday was the hottest day of the year that far?

 Normally, this would be a five or six hour job for me (I’m not the fastest turner of wrenches) but as always, there were complications.  My chief problem was that every bolt on every caliper was seized.  Every.  Damned.  Bolt.  How do I define seized, you ask?  Easy.  If after torching and soaking with penetrating oil and the impact wrench turned up to 130 PSI and all of my 350 pounds standing and jumping on a breaker bar with a 6-foot steel pipe extension on it, ½” 20 TPI 1 ¼” long bolt won’t budge, that is what I call seized.  At least one like that on each caliper.  And one of the wheel lugs, just for good measure.  After cutting two bolts off with the angle grinder and drilling out the shafts, at the end of the day, I had two wheels done, and a small pile of broken sockets and ratchets.  Go me.  Go me straight on to continue this on Sunday.

 Did I mention that Sunday was even hotter than Saturday?

 The last two wheels went faster than the first, even through the front passenger caliper didn’t want to compress fully.  More on this shortly.  I got everything back together and Vesta and I went on a little test drive to bed the brakes.  Or I should say, we tried to go for a little test drive.  After about 2 miles, when the little lady in the Accord pulled up next to us at a stop light and yelled out “your wheel is smoking, and it smells funny,” I turned around and sulked home.  Being after 9:00 PM on a Sunday, I knew I’d have to wait until the next day to finally get that seized caliper fixed.

 The next day being Memorial Day.  And hot.  And Stormy.  Did I mention that I can’t do any of this in my garage because there’s only a dirt floor in there?

 So apparently the parts stores are clairvoyant, or I got exceedingly lucky, because not only did I find a parts store that was open, but they had my caliper in stock.  More money into this project, but at least I can get my $20 core charge back on the old part…  I also swung by Sears to swap out my two freshly non-ratcheting ratchets for new ones.  They are suckers with that Gaurantee Forever thing.  Oh well, back to work.

 Did you know that when a caliper is seized closed, that no matter how much anti-seize you used on the bolts, it ain’t coming off?  I didn’t, but I do now.  I had to dust off one of my favorite Tools of Mass Destruction, Mjöllnir.  (Yes, we tend to name things.  Keeps our lives…  colorful.)  So after wailing on this caliper for a half hour with a three pound hammer, I gave up and retrieved Mr. Authoritay, Mjöllnir’s BIG eight pound brother.  And with that, the offending caliper finally broke free.  Hooked up the new caliper, put the pads and rotor back and bled the brakes.  Finally done, wasn’t that fun?.  Did I mention it was storming off and on through all this?  Yeah, that fun.

 So what did we learn from all this?  If I’d have had this done by a professional mechanic, I’d be looking at the neighborhood of a cool grand, easily.  The girl at the parts counter said more like $1200, and that was before the caliper.  My cost for parts was about $300, which would have been a lot less except for that caliper.  So I guess I’m ahead, even if I did lose the entire weekend and have to replace a few tools in the process.

 So how did you spend your weekend?