Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trying to save my GM 215 cubic inch aluminum block V8

I'm a bit worried about something else with the auction that's coming up this weekend. I had a moderately unique engine stashed away out in one of the granaries for safe keeping. It was a GM aluminum block 215 V8 from the early 60's. I don't recall if it was a Buick or an Oldsmobile but they are pretty difficult to find. The engine was torn apart and the components were stored in two different locations. This makes it a bit difficult to tell people where to look for the parts. I've asked that the engine parts be kept aside and not sold in the auction but it's hard to tell if anyone back on the farm now can identify the engine parts.

If the engine is saved, I'll have it shipped out here and put it in my garage. I'd like to rebuild it and do an engine swap into something like an old Triumph or Opal possibly. Both of those vehicles would probably be really hard to find though. The engine needed new sleeves installed as it was seized up when I tore it apart. I'd also need to get a new crankshaft, camshaft, and so on. Basically, I'd only have the block and heads but that's a good start. Finding some of the smaller parts might be pretty tough though. Things like oil pans aren't going to be sold at the local performance shop. Well, I'll cross that bridge if it comes.

Old tractors

The auction for the stuff from the farm I grew up on is going to happen this weekend. My sister is back there organizing everything beforehand. She's been quite busy with determining what should be sold and what should be kept. It's pretty tough realizing that many of the things you grew up with will be gone in a matter of days.

All the tractors will be sold which was one of the tough decisions. I spent many hours working in the fields with those old machines. The tractors were from the 40's and 50's mostly but they worked very well. We rarely had problems with them and if we did, whatever it was could be repaired quickly. The old John Deere A's were one of the most solid workhorses for their time. I remember numerous times dragging my tired butt back in the house after working in the field from early morning until it was almost dark. My face would typically be covered with oil and dirt. The old tractors usually had bad exhaust systems too so they were noisy which resulted in a guys ears ringing after the end of the day. Still, I won't forget looking in the mirror at the end of a work day looking like a raccoon from all the dirt and oil on my face. Just another one of those unique childhood memories.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Everything but the kitchen sink! No, scratch that. Sink included.

Ah, sadly, the weekend is almost over again. I spent most of yesterday working on my audio/video system. I have two Onkyo receivers that I use, one is in the living room and the other is in the bedroom. For various reasons, I had to swap the two systems. Talk about a pain. The real problem comes from trying to configure the receivers as the programmable options are fairly complicated. It took a lot of troubleshooting and reading manuals to get everything running again. The system in the bedroom is functional again but the one in the living room still needs to be setup. I'll tackle that problem another day.

The other thing I'll have to work on soon is the kitchen sink. I currently have a plain stainless steel double sink that measures 22 inches by 33 inches. It's functional but the main problem is that the sink itself isn't very deep. A number of years ago, I looked into replacing the sink. I special ordered a very nice Kohler cast iron sink from Lowes. The warehouse made a mistake because when it arrived, it wasn't what I ordered so I had to return it to the store. I never found the time to order the sink again so the sink replacement turned into one of the many stalled projects. Fortunately, yesterday, that changed. My brother spotted an advertisement for a decent cast iron sink on Craigs List. After calling me to confirm I was interested, he went out and picked up the sink and brought it by late last night. The sink is in very good condition and looks really nice as this picture shows.

It just needs a few parts for the drain is all. This is an excellent deal considering it was free. It will probably take a day to install it as the trap for the old drain will need some modifications to fit. Hopefully, I can find time and more importantly, the energy, to tackle this project next weekend.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

HTPC repair

I don't have much anything going on today. I spent the bulk of yesterday fixing up my home theater PC that quit working about 3 months ago. I was in the middle of working on my landscaping project when the HTPC had a hard drive failure. There wasn't any spare time available to fix it up so it sat idle until yesterday.

It took almost the full day to repair the machine and reinstall the software. The PC is a bit older so it doesn't have built in support for some of the newer technologies like SATA drives. Since the machine is so old, I didn't want to spend much anything on fixing it up so I used what I had on hand. To replace the OS drive I had to use a really old hard drive I had removed from another machine. The drive is a bit noisy but it works. It took probably a good 4 hours to figure out how to get the machine to recognize the secondary disk drive which was a SATA drive. The secondary drive contained all the media so it was imperative that the machine could access it. Fortunately, I found some software drivers that worked. At least I have a HTPC for watching movies with again. I use XBMC as my media player mainly because it works pretty darn good and I can also use it on my Xbox machines.

I also spent some time winterizing more things around the place. I'm still not done but things are quite a bit safer. The furnace still needs to have the filter changed before I fire it up. That's a task for later this week.

One of these days, I need to find a project to work on. I'm still burned out at this point and am having a tough time feeling motivated to do anything other than small tasks. I'd still like to look into something related to cinematography. The thought of a career change is becoming more intriguing all the time as I've been in software development for about 25 years. Maybe I'll take a look at some night classes at one of the local schools. Finding someone else with a mutual interest in doing something artsy/cinema related would be fun.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gravel trucks and tractors

Okay, so here's this weeks story which is nothing special, just the issue of dealing with the changes in life. There's a bit of South Dakota accent in the text of the story so some wording may seem strange. It kind of expresses the way I talk when I'm around family.

Okay, so I grew up on a farm in SD back in the 60's and 70's. My Mom still owns half the farm where my family grew up. There is a lot of stuff back there, tools, tractors, antiques, and so on. Anyway, expenses are adding up for my mother so we are going to have an auction to help raise some money for her. I don't mind selling stuff but it's just a bit difficult to watch ones childhood evaporate. Some of the things we are selling have rather strong connections for me with my Dad. That makes it a bit tougher to deal with than I care for.

For example, there is an old 1947 International gravel truck my Dad and I both worked on as a team. Fire up the wayback machine Sherman! It was 1982 and I was still in my combative years at the time. I was 20 years old and still living at home, hadn't found a girlfriend yet, was overflowing with young male hormones. Lets just say I was a typical young male in the fact I was very difficult to get along with. Working on the truck and having so much fun with my Dad was a bit of a surprise due to my extremely volatile nature.

In the 50s, my Mom and Dad both had a job hauling gravel for roads. They ended up keeping one of the trucks around the farm after they stopped hauling gravel. The truck had been parked and sitting out back in the weeds unattended since the year I was born. In 62, Dad had rebuilt the engine, started it up and heard a problem with one of the crankshaft bearings. He shut the engine off and parked it until one day he and I started talking about it and got the bug to see if it would run. First thing Dad does is has me take out the spark plugs and pour some kerosene down each cylinder to help free up the rings on the pistons. The next day he has me change the oil and sends me off to a specialty shop in the city to pick up a new bearing. Seems like the company was called Standard Bearing or something like that. I remember saying something similar to "yeah sure, like this place is really gonna stock a bearing for some ancient truck." The old man says "just go check it out, if they don't have it, they can always order it." So I find the shop and tell 'em what I want. Low and behold, the guy behind the counter goes and the back and comes out with a box containing the bearing. I about croaked on the spot with surprise! Once I arrive back home, the old man had the biggest grin on his face when he saw I realized he actually knew a heck of a lot more about things, people, and places than I had given him credit for.

First thing we do after that is pull off the oil pan, yank the main bearing cap and replace the bearing. We button it all back up, pour a bit of fuel in the gas tank and the carb. Next we take an old 1950s John Deere tractor and hook a chain up to the truck. My old man gets behind the wheel of the truck and I jump on the tractor and off we go to tow start the truck. I put the old Johnny Popper in third gear and the old man puts the International truck in second gear. We made two loops around a path that winds around in the yard and much to my surprise I hear a loud bang from the truck, see a bunch of mice nests go flying out the exhaust pipe on the old truck and hear the sound of a flathead 4 engine firing up louder than can be! Man, that was that an awesome moment! I leaped off the tractor, yanked the chain off the truck as fast as I can and jumped on the front fender. The throttle cable had broken right after the truck started so I was working the throttle by hand from the fender. The old man was shifting and signaling when to throttle up or down. We didn't get too far because the ignition coil burned up but neither of us cared because we were having so much fun! I had a new found respect for the old man. He was just like me, all excited about the truck running! While we never did get back to working on the truck again, it was a memory I won't forget.

I really don't want to see things like that get sold to some stranger. Unfortunately, I don't have the resources to bring the any of it out here. Even if I could, Mountlake Terrace has enacted a law that says you can't have a non-operational vehicles on your property for more than 30 days. Net result is no fixing up old vehicles or machinery on your property. For crying out loud, you'd think a guy was living in some upscale neighborhood or something. Sheesh! Anyway, I guess I just have to come to terms with the fact that things like the truck will be sold off. I'd really like to hold onto the truck and maybe one of the tractors but without a farm here, it just isn't realistic. Sad, but life goes on. I'm not the first person nor the last that will have to deal with fading connections to ones childhood. At least I still have my memories of the good times.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Time to winterize

So here's what the pond looks like currently. It won't be until spring that I start work on the yard again as the weather is going down hill at this point. And here are a few more pics to show what some of the other parts of the yard look like.

I spent a bit of time working on odds and ends around the house today. In fact, I finally fixed the light over the garage door. The old light didn't provide enough of a load for the motion detector so it never worked properly. It would turn on and then right back off after 10 seconds. It would do this three or four times before it would finally stay powered on. A larger wattage light seemed to cure the problem as I went from a 15 watt florescent light to a 37 watt florescent. The light worked quite nicely when I returned from the grocery store tonight.

I also spent a bit of time programming the Pronto TSU3000 universal remote I picked up at the Goodwill a couple of weeks ago. Basically, I need to universal remote to control my LaserDisc player. Yes, yes, I know, LD players are old tech. None the less, I find LD pretty cool and plan on increasing my collection of discs. When I bought the LD player at a thrift store, it didn't have a remote so I have to run back and forth between the player and where I'm sitting when I want to play or pause a movie. Fortunately, the Pronto controls the LD just fine. I've got the basics working at this point and can control the transport mechanism such as the play and pause controls. One drawback to the Pronto remote is that the contrast of the LCD display is a bit poor for my eyes. The other drawback is the fact that the charging cradle seems to want to hold onto the remote. I have to raise remote to the proper angle before I can remove it from the cradle. Oh well, for $10, it's not a bad deal at all.

Speaking of thrift stores, I stopped at a couple of places on the way home from work last night. I didn't find much of anything until the I was at the last store on the route. I found a pair of wireless playstation 2 controllers. What's more, they had the IR detector included. Usually, I only find the controllers without the IR detector. They were $15 total. Not a great price but not a terrible price either. They fit my hands comfortably so I picked them up. Guess I might have to dig up a Virtua Fighter disc and play a round or two. Not that I'm any good at it, but it's just kind of fun. Mostly, I end up playing a racing game, Burnout Revenge, as I have one of the steering wheel controllers. It's a lot of fun with the steering wheel. One of these days, I really need to rig up a racing chair. It would be a hell of a lot more comfortable than holding the wheel controller in my lap like I do it now. All in good time.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Just another day

Well, yesterday was spent removing the old leaky water heater and installing the new one. My brother and my mother came over to help out. It was a bit more complicated process then it should have been due to how the old water heater was installed. The pipe work around the heater almost formed a cage and made it difficult to remove and install because of the tight space. After the heater was installed, it took several hours to resolve all the issues with water leaks. A number of the flexible copper pipes had to be thrown away as the plastic washers in the fittings were too old to seal properly. We finished up last night about 7:30 pm and I was able to take a nice hot shower afterwards. That's one job I'm glad is over.

There are still numerous other things I need to fix around here. The satellite dish cabling needs to run through the attic as it's just laying on the deck right now. It's a trip hazard and makes the deck a mess. After that, the truck needs a lot of work too as it has an exhaust leak, an oil leak, and the tires are damn near as bald as my head. Pond pipes need insulation for the winter, gutters need cleaning, and on and on. Cat 5 cable needs to run throughout the house too as my wireless network is unreliable. My old microwave knocks out the network every time I run it. I could replace the microwave but I'm not certain if the network would handle the cordless phones well either as some phones operate in the same frequency. So many tasks! For one person, it's pretty hard trying to do all the upkeep necessary on a house.

With winter just around the corner, I can't really do yard work much longer so I'll need to find a nice indoor project to work on. Artistic things are appealing to me as I like the process of creating. Cinematography might be one of the next projects. It's different from my daily job and would be a nice change of pace. A good starter project might be to tinker with some stop motion filming. Hmm, as a matter of fact, think I'll go watch a movie. Sci Fi channel is running Dagon at the moment so it might be interesting to observe the camera work.