Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The boys of summer

Spring is here and Sunday I spent some time puttering around the yard. Put down 6 cubic feet of mulch, put some composted cow manure on the asparagus bed, Angie raked the yard...
While all that was underway I had the oil draining out of the snowblower, got that changed and realized I hadn't changed the oil in the Cub Cadet last year since the plow has to be pulled to do it. So I got the plow off and the oil changed, it sure cranks better with 5w40 instead of the 15w50 I'd had in it previously. I'd gone with the heavier oil since it burns some, we'll see how it does with the lighter oil.

I pushed the snowblower back into the garage and brought out the Snapper. I'd changed the oil in that when I put it away last fall so its mostly ready to go although I want to replace the rubber wheel on the drive. It doesn't do reverse real well right now. The wheel thats on it is one I put on when I brought it back into service. I think that was 2009 but I can't find any record of it in my notes. 6 years would be a pretty good run anyway I'd think, its a cheap part too.

My plan is to drag the Cub Cadet to camp with us in May and drag the Cub Cadet thats there back here. I've got a mowing deck for the one at camp thats never been installed. We don't use that Cub Cadet the amount I'd expected we would, we just don't have that much towing work, so it'd be nice to have it as an additional mower. There are many times when we could get a lot more work done if we could mow with two machines at the same time. So thinking about that I decided it'd make more since to put the mower on my Cub Cadet so it can be a mower when we get it up there.

This is what they call a "timed deck" where the sweep of the two blades overlap so they use a toothed belt to keep from hitting each other. Its a nice finish mower but not the kind of bushhog mower we normally use at camp. It'll be interesting to see how it holds up. I don't think we'll use it all that much since it starts so hard. Lately if I don't run it every day it needs a little shot of carb cleaner to get going. My long term plan, as I've said before, with this machine is to transplant a diesel engine into it. Sadly the $600 diesel engines of 2 years ago are gone, these days a 10hp diesel runs $750-$800, a 13hp goes for $900 which is a temptation. The 10hp rating is really a "burst" rating, the engine isn't rated to run at that speed (3550 rpm) long term. Its rated speed is more like 2500 rpm where it makes more like 8hp. The good news is that it makes max torque at more like 1500 rpm. The chart is hard to read but it looks like 18 lb ft at 1500 rpm. An online calculator tells me that the K161 with 7hp at 3600rpm is 10 lbft so it sounds to me like the 10hp diesel will be a nearly 50% increase in usable power...

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Mileage milestone

Had to snap a picture last night on my way home from work:

Its not every day you see something like that and I figured I ought to catch it.
I've put about 28,000 miles on the Jetta now in 1 1/2 years. I've got maybe $4000 in the car total right now which includes buying the car so from a financial perspective I'm doing pretty good. My '83 240D went 25,000 miles for about $2,500 which is the gold standard for me at $.10/mi, so at under $0.20/mi with Jetta I'm doing pretty well.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Like I mentioned yesterday we recently went on a cruise:

Sadly I don't have any of the pictures from the cruise with me right now (or I don't think I do) but I've got some from just before the cruise which is a good story too so let me talk about that now.

Our cruise left from San Juan, Puerto Rico on a Saturday so we flew down the day before. I'd waited until late to book the hotel and couldn't get into a Holiday Inn property on points (my normal preference) so we looked around Priceline for awhile and found the "Hotel Miramar" for a decent price. It had really good reviews so I took a chance.

The ride from the airport to the hotel was pretty much terrifying. One of the nice things about San Juan is that the pricing for most taxi rides is fixed by zone so if you know what zone you're in and what zone you're going to you won't be massively scammed like you can be in other big cities. Our taxi driver was an older lady who was overly cautious and several times almost got into accidents because she wouldn't just GO. San Juan is a Boston like city, drive fast, ignore others. Anyway she got us there without killing us but I think I got a couple extra grey hairs.

At first look the Hotel Miramar isn't much to look at. Its in the Miramar neighborhood of San Juan which sits across a lagoon from Condado which is a more ritzy tourist area. I suspect Miramar is where the people who work in Condado live. Its run down and dirty but the Hotel Miramar is excellent. We were on the 8th floor which is clearly the "executive level" you have to use your key car just to get the elevator to go there and theres no door handle on the door from the stairway (easily fixed by pulling on the door closing mechanism) so the rabble can't get in.

Our room, number 802 is really 801 and 802 combined, its HUGE. Easily 700 square feet, bigger than our first apartment.

This view is half of the balcony, to the right of the picture is the bedroom, where I'm standing the balcony is twice as wide and opens into the sitting room and kitchen. For what I paid this room is LUXURY.

We had dinner at Pizza e Birra Miramar. My Spanish isn't good but even I know pizza and beer. Angie doesn't drink beer so we had their house made sangria instead which was fantastic. The pizza was good but nothing special.

Next morning we went to a little local place for breakfast. When we went in we were the only English speaking people in the joint. I've been through that before in Argentina but I think it was a first for Angie and one which she handled really well. Not many folks working there spoke any English at all but surprisingly they had an English menu. I was glad for that but we'd have worked it out anyway "sin queso por favor".  Breakfast was great and I really like latin coffee which comes with milk already added. The orange juice was fresh squeezed, like when I asked for a cup they squeezed it right then.

Then we made our first mistake, we walked around the lagoon. Don't get me wrong the lagoon is beautiful and going around takes you through Condado but, one of the annoying things about cruises is you can't get on the ship until 1pm at the earliest while you need to check out of your hotel at either 11am (in the US) or 12pm in PR. This means you've got a couple hours to kill. What we should have done was go back to the hotel and hang out until we had to check out. Instead we wore out our feet early.

Anyway for mistake number 2 we didn't pack towels. There is a really nice beach at the north west end of the lagoon. If we'd had towels I'd have just gone there and hung out for a couple hours. As it was we decided to check out the section just north of Condado which turned out to have nothing going on. Hilton has some villas there but they're total blandsville and it looks like maybe not done yet so theres just nothing to do. We started to walk into old San Juan got called a "Stupid gringo" by an old guy and decided it wasn't worth it, we've done old San Juan before and figured once we got there it'd be time to go home.

I think this is my favorite picture of the whole trip

We did stop and get a coconut which is something I'd never done before. They lop off a little chunk and give you a straw. After we drain the milk I slammed the body against a bridge abutment (nice new bridge with sharp corners) until we could get inside and get the meat. You'll notice that the coconut has a green husk, this is normal and how they come off the tree. Before they get to the store they pull all that husk off. I seem to remember a Sesame Street clip showing somebody pulling the husk off the coconut. Oh wait, here it is. Angie's grandfather looked at this picture and didn't know what it was, I'll have to show him the video...

I was slightly nervous of the coconut, you know, fresh natural product, far from home, strange tropical diseases but in the end it all worked out just fine. Fresh coconut is much softer than the older stuff that makes it to the states. We took a tour in St. Kitts and somebody bought a coconut and had the same reaction I did.

One more highlight of Puerto Rico was mofongo which is fried plantain which is crushed into a pulp and then formed into kind of a volcano shape and has meat and sauce in it. Mine had steak which was really good but filling and hard on my stomach. Angie got fajitas which was silly, it was 2pm and we should have shared one meal. Anyway, mofongo is a Puerto Rican speciality which I'll be looking to try again soon.

Okay so thats it for the pre-vacation vacation. I'll find the actual cruise pictures and next time I'll tell you about St. Thomas.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Back on track

Calling myself out yesterday seems to have done a world of good for me. I spent a bunch of time today thinking about writing. Maybe if I call myself out for being a lazy bastard that will help too. Honestly I've become very lazy, this morning it was a big deal to drag my butt out of bed. I've been blaming that on lack of sleep and blaming lack of sleep on the cruise and trip to Vegas but since I've been home I've been binge sleeping, for instance last night I got a solid 11 hours which means over the last 5 nights I've averaged 8 hours. They say you can't make up sleep debt that way but I feel like I've done a good job catching up. Unfortunately sleeping late is hell for getting back on the east coast schedule.

My other problem is really an addiction to YouTube. Even if I'm not watching anything that good sometimes I'll suddenly realize I've lost several hours watching videos. I need to break that habit, I've got a ton of projects that each need "just a little more time" that I haven't been giving them. For instance I started the winter strong working on snowmobiles but then that petered out and neither the Wankel Panther nor the Pantera have had anything done to them in months.

I did manage to make some movement on one project yesterday. Back at Thanksgiving Angie's uncle John gave me his Coleman 200A single mantle lantern. He'd had it since the '60s but it fell into disrepair with a bad pump leather and he hasn't used it in years. I found a replacement pump and got it all cleaned up and nice but due to the cold I'd never tested it. This weekend is John's birthday so I really want to have it ready for him so last night I got it out, fueled it and got it lit. It flared a lot more than I like but did finally settle down into a pretty good burn although it flickers. The question is why the flicker, is it because of the FA tube or the generator? It also stinks pretty bad, I don't remember putting muffler mender which means I probably didn't. So I need to pull it back apart, try a new generator (or better yet a known good generator) and goop up the U tube joint so it doesn't leak. I don't think John plans on using this much, his idea of roughing it is when room service closes at midnight, but I like knowing it COULD work if it was needed.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Not doing a good job on my resolutions

I wish I could say I had an awesome excuse for missing out on writing things but I really don't. After a good start to the year I've slid badly.
Its not like I don't have a bunch of things to tell you about, we went on a cruise, I took a work trip to Las Vegas, a work trip to NYC, a work trip to Burbank. It even looks like I might have a couple really cool work trips coming up.

For now I'll keep it simple:

Thats me on the floor of the UN General Assembly. Yeah, its a weird face, I over thought it. I was teaching there about a month ago and got to take a walk around. The thing to know about the UN is that its big, really big. Look it up on Google Earth: and notice that the main building is about a block long and half or a third of a block wide, then notice the other buildings around it. Lotsa people and lots of stuff going on.

Anyway I was fighting a cold I'd picked up in California which dogged me until pretty much yesterday, today I seem to finally be free of the lingering cough, so I wasn't really at my best. I did meet up with a friend from high school while I was there.

This is kind of a weird story. Rachel's brother was my best friend from grade 1 until I was in college. At some point we drifted apart and I lost track of him. I've sort of caught up with him on Facebook in that impersonal way Facebook "brings people together" without actually bringing anybody together. Anyway Rachel and I were never close but then I saw her at out twentieth high school reunion last summer. The following week I had to go to LA for work and who else shows up in LA? This is where I give Facebook some props, I'd never have known she was in LA without it. Hilarity ensues where my class makes fun of me for going on a "date" which isn't a date and my new phone fails to get texts which are strangely going to my old phone and we didn't meet up. Then in March I go to NYC for work and while I'm getting on the train I notice Rachel has posted pictures of Times Square. So we manage to meet up for drinks. Very strange that we hadn't seen each other for 20 years and now we've seen each other twice in less than a year...

Finally it wouldn't be a trip to NYC if I didn't have pizza:

The normal looking slice is sausage, the one in the back is calimari. This is by far the weirdest pizza I've ever had, it had a spicy kind of sauce which also had a barbeque undertone and all in all I wasn't a big fan. The crust was excellent though...