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Upcoming website downtime.

UPDATE: server is up again (obviously!) but this may be temporary. Later in the month I’m going to upgrade the hardware with some larger capacity drives. I might be doing some other work on the machine as well. Meanwhile enjoy things being back online.

We’re moving at the end of this month. Which means I’m moving our Internet connection and the machine that serves this website. Hopefully the downtime will be limited to a few hours, but it could be a day or two if things don’t go perfectly. As a firm believer in Murphy’s Law, I hope for the former and expect the latter.

There isn’t any truly mission-critical stuff happening here, so I imagine the vast majority of the Internet (meaning 99.99999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999997% will remain blissfully unaware.

That’s a good thing.

Quick Review: ‘No Time To Die’

As I mentioned in my previous post I went to see the latest Bond movie recently. Linda was in Bend all day doing some sewing with a friend and suggested we meet to see the movie. It was showing at the McMenamins, an Oregon institution. They own several properties around Oregon (and now Washington too) where they have taken historical buildings from the early 20th Century and converted them into Hotels, restaurants, pubs, theaters, etc. When we travel around Oregon they are always our first choice for lodging, as each of their properties is an adventure. The one in Bend is an old Catholic parochial school, and includes a nice theatre that allows you to order from their full pub-food menu and enjoy beer, wine, and cocktails as you lounge in comfy old couches and loveseats to enjoy the movie. It is my favorite place in Central Oregon to see movies, but over the past year and a half, we haven’t visited, as it has been closed.

As I was driving down, I thought back to the last time I’d seen a movie in a theatre, and it was March 14th, 2020. I was in Portland to visit my sons Chris & Nick. Chris had taken the train down from Olympia, WA and I had driven from home up to Portland. We were all in town and I had three tickets, right on the glass(!) for a Western Hockey League game between the Everett Silvertips and the Portland Winterhawks. We had planned it several weeks in advance, but the world was already feeling the impact of this odd new virus out of China. As I drove up to Portland I received the news that the game had been cancelled due to the perceived risk of virus spread. It didn’t feel like it at the moment, but it was indeed the day the world changed. The game cancelled we instead went to a theatre and watched a movie, in this case ‘Knives Out’. We were the only people in the entire movie house. It was surreal.

It was also a movie starring Daniel Craig, in an odd role channeling Foghorn Leghorn; a hard break from his “Bond, James Bond” persona.

So here we were, five hundred and ten days later, once again going into a movie theatre to watch a Daniel Craig movie. I never would have thought when we watched ‘Knives Out’ that the interval would have been this long. And we’re really not out of the woods yet, are we?

The movie? Some classic Bond moments but should have been titled ‘No Time To Edit’ as it goes on far too long. The first third to half of the film is a fun romp, with some classic chase and subterfuge, but as it goes on it grows a tad tiresome, and honestly predictable. Yes, Craig gets the send-off he has so richly deserved (unlike any previous Bond actor ever has) but it was telegraphed early and was expected when it came.

If you haven’t seen it, go re-watch ‘Spectre’ beforehand, as it serves in many ways as a continuation of that story. Keep your expectations low, and hit the restroom before the previews end.

Saved again by Mike Valentine…

I was heading down to Bend last week to meet Linda to watch the latest Bond flick ‘No Time To Die’ at the McMenamins Old St. Francis theatre. Zipping along on US97 southbound, which while not a freeway in the traditional sense, it is as close to one as we get in Central Oregon. I was in the Z4M, enjoying the last few drives before it is put away for the winter. (Every time I drive this car I think “I should drive this car more often!”… it is the much fun to drive.) For the past year or so there has been some roadside construction on 97 on the north end of Bend. No idea what the project might be, it’s not actual road construction, but something alongside it that has taken quite a long time to complete. So for a long while the speed limit has dropped from 65 MPH down to 45 MPH through said construction long before you reach the usual traffic clusterfsck that is the north side of Bend around Cooley & Robal lanes.

So I’m rolling along all by myself with no traffic ahead and none close behind for the whole section from Tumalo to Bend, and as I’m approaching the construction warning signs I get a STRONG Ka Band signal on my Valentine1 radar detector. A glance shows me that it’s signature arrows are showing me the signal is behind me. I glance in the rear view mirror and all I see is a Subaru in the left lane coming up fast. I’m in the right lane already, but knowing that the construction zone is coming up AND there is an L.E.O. behind me with active radar, I come off the accelerator and begin slowing to the construction zone speed of 45 MPH. Sure enough the Subaru blows by me at likely 75 MPH as we enter the construction zone. I glance in the mirror and see the unmistakable outline of a Dodge Charger in dark blue and yellow. The Oregon State Patrol. As he passes me he lights up and accelerates to what is likely well over 90 MPH to catch up to the Subaru. (oh the irony!)

I can only imagine what the cost of that ticket must be for the Subaru driver. 20+ over in a Construction Zone. Oh boy.

Dime holding up a Dollar…

The proverbial dime.

The M Roadster is now getting old, so I’m having to dive in and tend to things. One of the bizarre weaknesses of this race-bred engine is this tiny little filter that is located in the VANOS Solenoid pressure relief valve. Apparently if clogged this thing can ruin your day, and your VERY EXPENSIVE engine along with it. Given the age and mileage, and the fact that I’m planning on a weekend trip, the time has come to attend to the task. Thankfully, it’s relatively simple.

Pop the unit out of the head, thankfully located in a very easy to reach spot at the front of the engine:

22mm wrench right there.
And… Remove.

The process at this point it to remove two old o-rings and the filter at the end of the unit. Mine did not look that bad. Very little in the way of clogs, but certainly worth a swap.

Old filter.

The o-rings were old and crusty and came right off with ease. The filter not so much. The plastic was very brittle and it basically disintegrated as soon as I tried to pull it off with needle nose pliers. I had to resort to a pick to remove the final, base ring.

New filter.
Reassembled unit, with old parts adjacent.

Popped back in the head and ready to go.

E24M Power Steering pump rebuild and reinstall.

Freshly rebuilt power steering pump.

When I drove this car home from its previous owner in Wisconsin I noted an odd, barely perceptible vibration when the steering wheel was anywhere right of TDC. It grew worse over the following year, to the point I stopped driving it. From the leaks I could tell that this pump was dying. Eventually all the fluid came out, even while parked.

I replaced the alternator soon after driving it home (its bushings had collapsed) so it’s not surprising that these thirty-plus year old seals had hardened to the point of uselessness. I also was a bit daunted by the pump’s location and what appears to be a complicated bracket setup. The alternator turned out to require removal of some radiator hoses, which didn’t happen this time, but it still wasn’t easy.

The PS pump has two hydraulic connections, and a multiple set of brackets on both front and back, along with a toothed adjustment bracket to set the belt tension.

It was tough to remove, mostly due to the difficulty in reaching the top hydraulic banjo bolt. Thankfully I had the car on the scissor lift and could find the sweet spot for reach while lying on a carpet remnant on the cold concrete of the shop floor. It took multiple attempts at multiple heights to get all seven or so regular bolts and the two banjo bolts undone. I then sent the pump off to a guy in California for the rebuilding.

A bit of hilarity ensued when he mixed up two pumps and sent each to the wrong clients. Thankfully he figured out quickly where each of them were and had us ship them to each other on his dime. I don’t mind some human error now and then, what matters is how it gets handled. Compared to our experiences with Dan Mooney of Classic Jaguar (which was a costly nightmare) this experience was smooth and I’m still a happy customer in the end. This car needs another pump rebuilt, and I’m very likely to send it to the same guy. He was fast, communicative, and swift to rectify his shipping error. The pump looks great (almost like new, only the “West Germany” label betrays its age!) and arrived pre-primed with fluid. So far I’m impressed.

Less impressive is my mechanical ineptitude as always. It required three attempts to get it back into the car properly. All due to me. 100%. On the second attempt I figured out that the hydraulics need to be attached FIRST since the hoses have to be “just so” in order to properly sink those banjo bolts into the right spots. Of course, they are not visible while you’re doing this and so you’re holding up the pump with one hand while reaching around to the top with the other to blindly turn a bolt, hose, and two washers (which always want to fall out and roll off to some dim, unlit corner of the shop!) into the right spot. After I figured that part out, I found that the adjuster bracket really needed to be installed on the bench prior to installation in the car:

Proper pre-installation of the adjustment bracket.

One more lap around the hydraulic hose install and then one fixed bracket bolt and THEN the adjustment bracket and finally all the other bolts and it is done.

I figure about the time I figure everything out, I’ll die.

But at least now I can get this car moving under its own power again, and off the lift so I can get back to swapping snow tires on and off cars. Winter has come!

Back in the car.
My chilly workshop.

Shocking development…

Well, not really shocking but certainly annoying. Perhaps some indication of my cognitive decline?

Last night I noted that our TV and amplifier (which drives our sound system, and serves as output for the TV, our Roku, AirPlay, and Bluetooth, etc… was off. It usually sits is a “sleep” state as modern electronics do, but they each have an LED somewhere that tells you they are still “on”. Well they were off. I had a look at the power strip behind the furniture where they plug in and toggled the switch. No juice. Went out the garage to check the breakers and sure enough, one has tripped. It is labeled “lights bedroom” which is unhelpful, so I went back in after resetting the breaker and everything was “on” again. I popped my head into the back bedroom which is now my office and the room where the wine collection is housed. Everything seemed fine. I stepped out and thought I’d poke at Netflix and see if something I’d been wanting to watch is available. I find the thing and it is doing that annoying Netflix thing where it auto-plays under the display screen and “pop” the TV & Amp (and Roku, AppleTV, et al) turn off again. I poke my head in my office and sure enough the light switch just flips. No light. OK, so the label is half right. Clearly the bedroom in the NW corner is on this circuit, but so is the wall it shares with the bedroom. My laptop is still running on battery but all the external HDDs have been unmounted because the power is out, so I know my nightly backups are going to fail if I allow this situation to continue.

I slip into troubleshooting mode.

This setup has been running just fine for over a year. I haven’t added any additional load to this circuit. Perhaps some component has a fault and is causing the breaker to open? That’s my theory so I first find some extension cords and power strips to run from other parts of the house to the items on this circuit. I head out the the garage and grab a few (I also stumble upon the power cord for my time-lapse rig in a box out there! Happy dance! I love little coincidences like that. I’ve been wracking my brain to locate that item for over a year!) I reset the breaker, which I note is a 15 amp one, and head in to start unloading the circuit. I start with the TV/multimedia setup. I run a power strip to relocate all of its plugs. Shortly after I power them all up the circuit breaker opens again. I know this because the bedroom light goes off and I hear the wine cooler shut off. A metaphorical light bulb goes on above my head and I think “maybe the compressor of the wine cooler has gone bad?” Thankfully it is closing in on Winter and my office is wine cellar temp anyway, so I wander in with a flashlight and pull the wine cooler’s plug, head out to the garage to reset the breaker. Back in my office I’m already starting to unplug all my external hard drives to get them off the circuit when the lights go out again. I’m getting frustrated. It takes a few trips back and forth from my office to the garage (at opposite ends of the house) to get the whole of my desk and its devices onto an extension cord coming from the bathroom.

Several attempts continue to the point where I’m CERTAIN there is nothing on this circuit but the ceiling light fixture, and the breaker continues to open at random times. Now I’m angry. Well, perhaps exasperated is a more accurate term. I finally give up, leaving the wine cooler unplugged and head to bed, now a full two to three hours later than I usually head to sleep.

This morning, after sleeping on it I’m mulling over in my head what might be going on. There is a sharpie mark right next to the 15 amp breaker in the garage so I’m starting to suspect that this breaker has a history with the previous owners of the house. Two other breakers have similar marks, so it’s turning into an “oh crap, I’m going to be hiring a professional electrician to sort this out at some point aren’t I?” scenarios. Ugh.

As I’m wrestling with all the data, troubleshooting, and theory around in my brain I’m making myself my morning hot cocoa. Linda walks in and tells me “The water for the red mares* is all frozen over this morning. The tank heater you installed yesterday isn’t working.”

OF COURSE! I used an extension cord from the water feature off our back patio out to there pasture where *Linda has been fostering two horses for a local animal rescue operation. They have been quarantined away from our barn and her other animals, so we have rigged up a temporary enclosure for them. It has been impossible to keep their water from freezing so I went to a hardware store and ran a cord from our backyard to run a tank heater. The tank heater is a borrowed one and it strong enough to keep our pond from freezing. Overkill for a 200g tank for sure, but what we had available.

I noted a 20 amp breaker in the panel in the garage labeled “water fountain & Xmas” which I assumed was you know… for THE WATER FOUNTAIN! (and some outlets under the eaves clearly for Christmas lights) Obviously the labels on our panel are a series of lies and misinformation! I step outside and sure enough, the water feature is silent and mostly frozen. I never thought to check it last night, because I foolishly believed what the labels on the panel said. Sigh.

I walk out and unplug the tank heater from the outlet that runs the water feature’s pump, then go close the breaker and of course the everything comes on again. The most important bottles of the wine collection are now safely resting in their temperature-controlled little world again.

Today my to-do list includes finding a lower-power-draw tank/bucket heater for our temporary equine residents. We only need one that pulls a few amps, as opposed to the borrowed one that can warm a pond.

And of course undo all my troubleshooting extension cord mess.