Friday, December 19, 2014

Something I'd forgotten

Looking back through my pictures I found this:

Thats the evaporator in our fridge, sure it looks like its been through a snowstorm and thats actually a problem. Self defrosting refrigerators aren't supposed to get like this, ours in fact should self defrost every day...

Ours freezes up fairly often and I've gotten pretty good at defrosting it, I use a turkey baster with warm water and then follow up with a heater:

The heater gets out residual moisture to hopefully help it not freeze up again as soon. Well sadly last summer it was freezing up every couple weeks. Fortunately the system is actually really simple. Theres a timer which tells a heating coil to warm up and a thermostat which tells the heater to turn off when the ice is all gone. In our case the timer had gone stupid. Its got a spot where you can insert a screw driver and advance it and I was lucky to find that after advancing it through a couple cycles it straightened up to fly right. Oh what a sweet sound it is when the freezer defrosts and I know I don't need to buy a new fridge...

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Pretty cool

I spent last week in Silver Spring, Maryland and while wandering around I spotted this:

Silver Spring is just outside Washington DC and shares in the district's "Capital Bike Share" but this was actually around the corner from the nearest bike share station. In fact it wasn't until I walked past it the next day in the opposite direction that I noticed:

Its hard to get a good look from the picture but look at the bottom of the pedestal and notice the tire pump. Hanging in the pedestal are a bunch of screw drivers and wrenches, just the sort of stuff you might use to fix your bike which can be conveniently hung from the top of the pedestal. Its a self service bicycle REPAIR station. Clearly this is an area serious about having bicycle riders. I wish I'd gotten a picture of the lady getting her bike out of a bike storage container.

Sadly the weather was terrible so I had no chance to pedal around. If you have the chance Silver Spring is really an area on the up and up. I'd been there four years ago and it was interesting to see how much nicer it is now.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Its that time of year

The day before Thanksgiving we got some snow:

About 8 inches of heavy wet stuff. Fortunately the day before (evening before even) I got snow tires for the Jetta.

On the left a summer tire, on the right the snow tire. Both are "Autogrip", the summer tires are 185 something 14 (for 14 inch rims) the right are 175 something 14. I know it looks like the left tire is wider but its the picture, in person the snow tires are noticeably wider.

The summer tires are mounted on VW "Rondo" (I've heard these called "Africa" also but the online thing I found says "Rondo") wheels. The one shown has VW center caps as does its mate on the other side. The other pair have Volvo center caps. I kind like that so I haven't bothered to look for a pair of VW centers. It occurs to me I should check if the MB centers on my 190D will fit...

The winter tires are on VW "Orlando" wheels. The center caps were missing when I got them and I can't take credit (or blame) for the paint job. Actually I kind of like the paint job and considering these are my winter wheels and the center caps are plastic and apparently fragile I'll stick with this look for now. I wasn't sure what I thought when I first got them but once I got them on the car I kind of like them.

With its winter tires the car handles MUCH better in the snow than it did before. Last year a little snow made it skate terribly, now its much more sure footed. I don't think it'll ever blast through snow like a 240D does but its not bad with the right tires.

Its been my experience that snow tires make all the difference in the world. I've got places in the snow with a snow tire equipped 240D that 4wd SUVs feared to tread and I would suggest that most people who claim "I need an SUV" really need to try snow tires. I've only ever had cheap snows, I imagine better tires would work out even better.


This is a boarding pass, in about 6 hours its going to let me go home. I COULD be going home right now, theres a flight home right now. I think I just watched it head to the runway. Theres an empty seat on it, a seat I could have been in but US Air hates me.

To be fair US Air is just greedy and stupid. They want $200 for a change fee, a $35 ticketing fee AND some unknown quantity of money if the fare for that flight was different than the exorbitant (Portland, Maine to Washington D.C. for more than my last trip from Boston to LA) price I paid for the later flight for me to change to the earlier flight. There are two things that really burn me, first the $35 ticketing fee. Thirty-five bucks to print a five cent ticket. Then they can't even tell me in advance how much the final price will be. Until I agree to spend $235 I can't find out if the final price will be $235 or $500 or who knows. I didn't think to ask but I bet if the earlier flight is cheaper I don't get any money back...

When I was done with a completely fruitless discussion the unhelpful gate agent ended with "This is capitalism at its best." which is wrong, this is capitalism at its greedy stupidest.

Fact A: It would have cost US Air nothing to put me on that flight.

Fact B: If I were on that flight I'd be a happy customer and would promote US Air which is a "goodwill" as it is I'm upset with US Air and will badmouth them at any opportunity which is an "Opportunity Cost".

It could be argued that US Air could resell that open seat, however I was at the ticketing agent at 2pm which left me just enough time to get through security and get on the plane. Someone at home could NOT have made that flight but they could make the later flight and could potentially have taken my seat. Which brings me to

Stupid fact C: I would have been willing to pay a reasonable change fee. I'd call it a "convenience fee" and would have paid even $100 but I will not pay "an amount to be determined later", thats what I call "a scam".

This is not my first irritating run in with US Air, in fact I think I've had maybe 2 trips with US Air over the last 11 years (my professional traveling career) that weren't marred by some stupidity:

Example 1: My first trip to Las Vegas during which it took 16 hours to get the Las Vegas. US Air claimed this was due to "weather delays" however NO OTHER AIRLINE was reporting weather delays in either Boston or Philadelphia, the other city I was traveling through.

Example 2: My first return from Las Vegas which took 24 hours due to "the pilot's seatbelt is broken." So poor maintenance... This was when I swore off traveling on US Air but sometimes its unavoidable.

Example 3: Overbooked flight in Charlotte, they asked for volunteers to move to the next flight without mentioning that all the flights for the next WEEK to Boston were overbooked. I fought hard and stayed on my flight. Somebody got royally screwed on that one.

Example 4: While I was on a flight from Boston to Philadelphia they canceled my next leg to Cincinnati. US Air offered to fly me in 24 hour hours late. I pointed out that I could DRIVE TO CINCINNATI and get there more than 12 hours sooner. They eventually got me to Cincinnati a mere 20 hours late.

Example 5: Failure to check-in. I'll admit on this one I arrived at the airport a little on the late side but I normally don't check a bag and can get through security pretty quick but their check-in system was broken and I literally couldn't get a boarding pass so I missed the flight. A US Air employee came through on this one and got me on a United flight direct when my original flight had a stop in the dreaded Philadelphia and I got home a mere 2 hours late.

Its worth noting here that US Air has some good people, it just seems that the corporate culture is one where the policy is to be followed at all costs and very little flexibility is allowed.

Example 6: Broken APU, this happened on my flight to Washington just last weekend. APU is "auxiliary power unit" its an extra engine that starts the plane. The lack of one made the flight 2 hours late and meant we had no heat on the flight a fact they didn't make us aware of until the end of the flight. Recognize that at 30,000 feet the outside temperature is around -50F so it was getting pretty chilly inside the plane by the time we arrived. Fortunately the flight was only an hour and a half long. Another case of poor maintenance on US Air's part...

Frankly I hope US Air goes bankrupt but I recognize that is being run by a bunch of idiot MBAs whos only idea about how to run a business revolves around "screw the customer, maximize shareholder value." which seems to be the thing for all businesses these days.