Tuesday, January 28, 2014

No more direct to Vegas

Heres an odd one for you.
Since 2007 I've been to Las Vegas for a week or so in April every single year so this year will be my 8th trip. This is all for business, I'm not a crazy Vegas addict or anything.
Anyway other than the first year where the travel agent pushed me onto US Air (a saga in itself) I've always had a direct flight. The first couple years out of Manchester, New Hampshire (MHT) a couple years out of Providence, RI (PVD) and last year out of Hartford, CT (BDL). I like where we live because it gives me options for what airport I fly out of. Hartford is the farthest at just under 2 hours but its a nice low stress drive and only a half hour more than Boston, worth it for a direct flight.

Trouble is this year there is 1 direct flight from greater Boston. Its on Jet Blue which is normally a good thing but all the return flight options either get you into the airport after midnight (and then I've got an hour and a half drive home) or leave at night and arrive in the morning, the dreaded "red eye".

I'm rotten on red eye flights, I don't sleep well on the plane, so I end up being a zombie the next day. My plane sleeping schedule is pretty much always the same, we get up in the air, I fall asleep for 20 minutes and I'm awake for the rest of the flight.

So the red eye option is clearly out. Which means I'm stuck with a stop. The internet makes it nice and easy to search around for flights but the computers at the various airlines also have a grand time coming up with crazy options. It takes about five or five and a half hours to fly from here to Las Vegas, seven hours total I put up with (so 5 hours of flying with 2 hours of layover. 20 hours I will not but yet the airlines all like to put those options out there. They'd like to have me make a bunch of stops and cool my heels.

I made the multi-stop mistake years ago when Angie and I went to Barbados. We flew out of Providence because I was frankly scared of Boston. We had to go to JFK, then Miami and finally to Barbados, the return was the reverse. It was the first time we had ever flown together and was about as much fun as you'd imagine it being... I was young and now that I travel more than most people I've totally learned my lesson.

This thing about Vegas bothers me mostly because a used to fly the route often from Manchester, change in Vegas for Burbank. The flights were almost always full, in some cases crammed full. Apparently I'm good for business, if Southwest quits a route it means they can't make any money at it. In this case either they weren't charging enough or when I wasn't on the plane nobody else was going either...

Angie and I joke that we're good for business, we see this in restaurants a lot, the place is empty, we show up and it fills up. Apparently its true for airlines too. I wonder if I could make a career out of it? Like William H. Macy's character in the "The Cooler".

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Whew, what a week

Welcome to "Polar Vortex II" or whatever the idiot weather people are calling this latest cold snap. Of course with a cold snap come troubles, for me it took the form of car issues. First was the Jetta, Tuesday I got nearly all the way to work when the low oil pressure dinger came on. I'm so glad it made noise, I'd have never noticed the idiot light. Turns out the oil feed to the turbo had ruptured. Fortunately I got the car shut right off and towed directly to my mechanic. He pressure washed the engine (yay, clean engine!) fixed the line and the seals for the oil cooler which I guess are common leak points. I like that about this guy, he looks for other fixes for common problems which won't cost me much while he's there.

I didn't get the Jetta back until Friday so Wednesday I hopped in the 190D. It was quite cold -4F or so and I was a bit concerned when the engine was difficult to get started. I should have stopped there and let the car warm up but was in a bit of a hurry. That car has been running well and started at -6F some weeks ago when I tried to make a video of cold starts on both cars. This time I got about 400 yards from our house and it quit. Angie came with the Ranger and we towed it home and I went to work in the (fuel slurping) Ranger. That night I changed the fuel filter on the 190D and although the engine was warm to the touch owing to the block heater having been on all day the car still wouldn't start, even with the fuel filter full of Power Service. My guess is either:
A. Ice in the fuel tank causing no incoming fuel
B. Failed fuel pump

I'd like to think A is more likely since theres never been any problem starting this car but we'll see. Since it was still very cold out I shipped the car to my Mercedes mechanic (as opposed to the VW mechanic that got the Jetta) and we'll see what he says.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Aladdin Lamp

Fred gave me an Aladdin lamp for Christmas.

If you've never seen an Aladdin they're the pinnacle of wick lamp technology. Really they're a blend of wick and pressure lamp tech as the round wick heats a mantle which is coated with a chemical (commonly thorium) that fluoresces when heated.

Here it is pretty much as delivered:

Of course being a dope I jumped right in and lit it up. I also thought at the time that it was amber glass. Turns out the old kerosene had oxidized to that lovely amber color. My rush to light it sucked that rotten kero into the wick and ruined it. I could get it lit but it wouldn't burn right and smelled and didn't give much light. Wednesday I finally remembered to order a new wick and today it arrived. I ran right out and installed it with some fresh kero and an hour later it lit right up.

Heres the second time I lit it:

It throws about the same light as a 40 watt bulb but its a soft white light. Its very steady and makes no noise though it does give off quite a bit of heat which is nice on a cold evening.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Something different in a video

I haven't been as prolific in my video making as I've wanted and thats a drag. The real problem is how long it takes to produce a video. My general rule of thumb is 1 hour for every finished minute. That includes time setting up lights and getting stuff ready, then being in front of the camera, then cleanup, and finally editing. So a 15 minute video like my 200A rebuild basically takes a full, long day to make.

Add to that I'm interested in all kinds of stuff. When I made my first lantern video I should have called the Youtube channel "LanternGuy" or "LanternLab" but like most folks I really didn't think that far ahead. So now I've got seventy-something lantern and cooking videos and I hate to drop something different in there.

So I've created a new channel "Curtludwig-Two" which will be a place for me to put quickie little videos that aren't as well produced as my other stuff. Just short things that I'm thinking about and doing.

My first video shows off the Jetta starting up at -4F. It seems like theres been a run of bad diesel fuel around the US and Canada this year and with it so cold people are having all kinds of cold start issues. One of my favorite things about the Jetta is how easily it starts, even when its really cold.

Anyway, enjoy and hopefully this new channel will help me to get some more videos out.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

Any time we manage to stay up after midnight Angie and I like to remind each other "We're not old!"

New Years Eve is one of those nights where you figure you ought to be out doing something but too often we find ourselves home in bed by 10pm. This year I wanted something different so I booked us into the Holiday Inn in Concord, NH for dinner, a show and dancing plus a night at the hotel. That last part is important, drunk driving isn't worth it so I wanted us to be able to stay the night and have all the fun we wanted and just crash into bed when we were done.

The dinner was fantastic, a roast beef as big as I've ever seen, chicken, fish, dessert, etc all very good. Then a little dancing, then 2 comics, both pretty good, the second funnier than the first. Then more dancing, then around 10pm we took at nap which had us up and moving for the 12pm champagne toast.

All in we spent around $350 including drinks, breakfast the next morning and gas to get up there. Of course that doesn't include Angie's new dress or my new bow tie but those things will be around for a good long time. We had a great time and I'll be looking for something similar again next year.