25 Mar 2014

I bought an air-powered right-angle drill from Harbor Freight – only top of the line here! For as often as I’ll use it it’ll be fine. I realized that drilling into a blind hole where I can’t see the steel bolt – in an aluminum block – seemed like trouble. I could just imagine the drill slipping off the bolt and boring a hole into the block. A spare chunk of Delrin was turned into a drill bushing, and as the Brit’s say, it worked a treat. A stubby extractor backed out the trouble-maker no problem, and presto, the two parts were back together again. For now I’ve substituted a Honda upper bolt while thinking about what to do about this mounting arrangement.

This was all supposed to happen on Sunday, except that I was directed to clean up “her half” of the garage, which wasn’t all bad because all sorts of new space was found. During the clean up I found my old car trophies, and it’s funny how they’re cool to get, sit on a shelf for a while, then go into a box forever. It also has something to do with losing a parent and questioning what’s important… old trophies, meh, not so much. It also helps to have a small house to foster the habit of not collecting a bunch of “stuff.”

16 Mar 2014

A few people have written, wondering what’s going on.

Those who’ve stuck with me through the Midlana build, and maybe the Kimini odyssey as well, know that I’m not immune to mood swings, sometimes spending a lot of time on the car, and sometimes… not. What’s been going on lately are a number of distractions: mom’s emergency surgery, yard projects, home projects, dog-sitting mom’s dog, contemplating life, and being irritated about the broken bolt in the engine.

The broken bolt is irritating because it didn’t have to happen. I’ve been contacted by several people who said they had the exact same thing happen with the same kit. It’s not a bolt quality issue, it’s a poor design. It’s very likely that the alternator bolt isn’t perfectly aligned, and is bending. Couple that with engine vibrations and that’s the most likely cause of the failure, not “bolt quality” (in fact, someone said that he drilled out the threaded hole in the block, rethreaded it for a larger grade-8 bolt, and the exact same thing happened). What’s especially annoying is that the manufacturer knows who bought this kit, yet neglected to notify anyone – including me. Thanks…

Anyhow, the picture here shows (in a dental mirror) the busted bolt in the block. The scratches were my attempt to unscrew it using the force of a dental pick – no luck. I have a buddy that’s got a (very expensive) right-angle drill, and there’s enough room that I think I can drill a hole in the center of it, then screw in a left-hand thread screw or bolt extractor. Assuming that the extractions works, the question is: then what? Not sure. The easiest thing is to reuse the kit parts, get a new bolt, and shim the upper bolt to make sure that there’s no bending force on it – the suspected failure mode.

As far as “contemplating life” goes, I suspect everyone goes through this after losing a parent, wondering about The Big Picture. Also, there’s now a bunch of thoughts that I can’t get out of my head: given that I might have 30 more years of decent-quality life, how do I want to divide that up? How much longer do I want/need to work? What do I plain to do in retirement? How much do I need in order to retire? I never gave it much thought, and then, boom, here it is, middle age – it creeps up on you, that’s for sure. What doesn’t help is that my dad was my same age as I am right now when he retired… if only I’d gone all-in on Netflix, lol..

In lighter news, using one of the digital communications modes available to amateur radio, I was able to contact someone in South Africa. That in itself isn’t a big deal, but what is, is that it was done with only 10 watts, and that he said that his antenna was pointed the other way. That is, instead of taking the short (10,000 mile) path, our signals were using the “long path” – 15,000 miles – up through Alaska, over Russia, passing east of Antarctic, to his location, just amazing. Speaking of amazing, I just finished the most epic real-life adventure story I’ve ever read, the report written by Earnest Shackleton regarding his failed Antarctic expedition, available here.) Please don’t skip to the end, just start at the beginning and read however much you can each day. At the end, you’ll just be shaking your head in amazement – and respect. It would make a awesome movie, but there’s no way it could be crammed into just two hours. You’ll see why.