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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

the Vile Queens Curse: last weekend of 2010

doesn't it seem like a freezing apocylypse happens everywhere the Vile Queens go?  they're presently at halftime in the Eagles stadium, two days after the east coast got shut down by a northeaster.  coming back home tonight or tomorrow.

well, VQs fans in Fargo will have bookend blizzards Thursday and Friday.  same in Barnesville, except their MNDOT road maintenance building burned out this afternoon, they lost two graders and three plow trucks.  the twin cities will be getting freezing rain, sleet, and ice Thursday night, changing to 2-4 inches of snow on the ground for the Friday commute.

just about the time the VQs head off to Detroilet for the last game of the year.  unless half the team is in the ditch, and the airport runs out of deicer fluid for the planes.

and then facing a 7 billion (or as we typed in the news business, 7 (B) billion) dollar state defecit, they send their VP of begging up the hill crying for a new stadium, with one year left on all their contracts and obligations to the state.

you know, I'm thinking the Howling Wilves didn't escape disaster when they shifted from town center developments in Jersey to football players in Frostbite Falls.

headed back to the trainwreck on tv... .

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Scarrrryyyyy Krishhhhhnassssss!

well, not really.  but hope you had a fine Chrismas.  I'm not into the "letters" thing, because it's too much work inventing all that unlikely crap and embellishing it with kingdoms for the ladies and Pope hats for the guys.

history would have perhaps been milder if we had 35 or so sitting Popes at once, right?

light one here.  we buried Mom in April, and snow buried us in December... those are the high points.  Son #3 bought tickets to a stunning Vegas show two months ago, and he flew down for the holidays to pick up an old buddy at tech school and cruise up the west coast.  which has slid out to the barrier islands under heavy rains, and many roads are still "closed, no updates" in Caliphony, and may be that way for months.  oh, we weren't told what stunning Vegas show that will be.  should be a clue.

got a root canal for Christmas, and just found out Mom's sister had a heart attack on Christmas day.  much better all around, thanks.

the Vile Queens have their third snowout in a row; the Philly game in Philadelphia is blizzarded out and set back to Tuesday night.  that's how bad it is.  guarantees they won't be moved to LA, who'd want all that freakin' snow on the beaches?

happy new year, and enjoy yourselves!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Howling Snowpocylpse: 5th largest storm on record

per modern records (1860-on) at the weather service.

17.10 storm total inches in minneapolis, about the same in st. paul, and we are around 17 inches here in the near North Burbs.  22 inches in Oakdale.  going to go higher in west central Wisconsin.

one drift on the south side of the roof probably passed 4 feet deep and could be 4-1/2 feet.  3 foot drifts all along the south side of the house roof, a little less over the garage.

so I had to bust out the Avalanche roof clearer, and in three shifts got the drifts broken, and the roof clear up to halfway up.  the rest, something apparently like our 17 inch storm total, hell, it'll clear.  first wind that comes along will make me feel lots better.

Shawn pushing the blower and me kicking down the drifts, we got the drive clear.  if you want to come to the front door, better wear snowshoes and bring your own St. Bernard for rescue, the drifts after we dumped snow in that direction are up to the 4 foot snow fence for a ways, and we'll let God take it away in his own time.

the plow knocked down my front yard snow fence full of Christmas lights and stuff, so I had to stomp out there and dig it out and shore it up.

and the Vile Queens... man, are they snakebit.  the Giants were to play here Sunday noon... except the airport closed down and they had to bunk in Kansas City overnight.  at 5 am, three rips in the Metrodome room, and it collapsed, with a couple dump trucks worth falling on the field.  they might get the HumpDump fixed for the 21st game, and they might not.  undt ZO, Zigmunt, ve hear you do not want ze roof in new stadium, yawohl?

there's a reason I love Minnesota.

this ain't it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

early Howling Snowpocylpse report

first 8 inches of the Howling Snowpocylpse, before noon… drift in the driveway was over a foot. the half-blower bites 10 inches. I was making slow headway when a contractor with a plow came by, and I spent the best $20 of my life ;)

clearing the way because the night before, as I was making sure we had K1 and charcoal lighter and sale Christmas lights, I called home to make sure wifey didn’t need anything. “Nope, we’re fine.”

this morning… “uh, I made a mistake. we don’t have stuff for the holiday breads for work.”

we got plowed out, pulled all the cars across the street to the park, and son #3 said, “hey, don’t want you freaking out or anything, I’m driving.”

event highlights included sliding off the road coming back, on the wrong side of the highway… getting stuck in the middle of an intersection two blocks from home… and enough raw language to make a Chief Petty Officer turn his head.

but hey, I didn’t freak out or anything.  thanks for taking that over, my friend.  when it was massively obvious the car was not going anywhere two blocks from home, I pulled my parka hood tight and walked a long, long block to a discount store and back with a car shovel for the son and a bag of cat food for traction.

those Minnesnowtans, they’re soft. We North Dakota kids, we take 40 below with the stinging snow blowing UP in stride.

and I slept the whole afternoon ;)

at 7 PM, we're at 15-1/2 inches in North Burbs, with 20 over at Oakdale MN.  the airport shut down before the city buses did, at 11 am.  some two foot drifts here, including it appears on the translucent roof over the high deck at Chez Swschrad.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

do you know what happens when you pay off credit cards?

it would appear they close 'em as soon as the money transfers.

considering the particular outfit that I just got a letter from, which shall remain nameless but there are all sorts of interesting rumors of cranky stockholders and peek-and-tell outfits about this one, there is only one reaction possible.

Halleluia, Halleluia, free at last!

while you are paying them down, it has become commonplace for the issuer to let you get 800-1000 dollars ahead, and then drop your credit limit down so you've only got enough for an emergency bus ticket home.

you know, this is not a bad thing.  leave the big cranky banks in the dust.  wind down personal debt and let those boys go whistle.

not that I want it all cut, but give it a month or so for all the reports to gel in the credit bureaus, and I'll be in really good shape, able to buy Rhode Island on a signature.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

we're back to one remote again

I originally had a Harmony SST-748 one-button remote, until it went nutso a year and a half ago.  dated back to 2003, and I bought it from the (then) manufacturer in Canada.

since then, we've been control-challenged in the swschrad house.  if you were taken over by Pumpkins Cat, and thus had a purring case of "cat paralysis," you could not change volume.

ve Germans, ve must haf ourrr Controllll, und ve must haf Orrrderrrr.

so I got the wife and I house present for Christmas, the Harmony 700 remote, yesterday during the Snowpocylpse (6 inches total with two meterologist freakouts.)  got it charged last night, programmed tonight, works nicely.

if you've never heard of the beast... shame.  this is the fabled One Remote to bring them all, and in the Household bind them.  at this midline price level, controls 6 IR devices totally, by model and brand, and operates them in correct sequence to make your media magic happen.  no touch screen, that and RF control are for higher priced models, as is control up to 15 toys with one button for your defined mode.  and yes, Elfin lords do your bidding at a wave of the device.  you pick your appropriate toys from over a half million models, tell the remote's software what is plugged into where, and it's automatically programmed from the computer into the remote.

nothing else compares.  I expect the RF control on higher end models will work the smart-home type controllers, but that little detail is not on the Logitech website.  shame.

other than that, moved 6 inches of snow, and found an affordable used ATC control module for The Great White Whale online, buying it.  supposedly this is the most common failure in any heat/cooling type issues in the car, which is one reason they are easily ordered online from Ford Parts for just under $800.  there are about $45 in parts in the thing, not counting the electric/solenoid 4 feature vacuum control monster.  I do hope this fixes the heat, I have only 203,000 miles on that car.

Friday, November 26, 2010

cleaning out the mind clutter, November 2010

clearing out the upper closet, as it were...

1) closing the last musings... everything I can get to tests OK.  no vacuum issues, no hose issues, no valve issues, no vacuum control issues.  the car still provides heat until you really need it, or get far enough from home that you don't go back for the other car, then it dies.  nothing but a dud rumble inside the dash from pressure against... something... from the blower fan.

it is likely, then, that there is a failed damper door (how, I have no idea) or the temp regulator door, which would make Rube Goldberg barf if he looked at the design, has a failure.  you can feel heat behind the dash.  the temp regulator door has a long, known, sordid history.  it is recommended you remove the dash to replace it.  it is said that if you take out the passenger airbag and the glovebox, blindly cut the ABS around a screw you can't get and take out three that you are not easily able to get to, you can replace the thing.

with 204,000 on The Great White Whale and a shift-change scare that would have forced me to drive every day instead of bus to work, this sounds like a Springtime In The Garage issue.

2)  closed Mom's estate out.  took out a 401K loan.  I am going to get the credit card boys off my back for good real soon now, as soon as all the checks clear.  this crap about changing the rules behind the new CARD act laws and finding new ways to charge fees, jack up the rates, and ratchet down the availiable credit as soon as you see a little daylight is done here.  there will be one card left to knock out, probably within 1-1/2 years worst case.  WOO!  death to 20% and all the crap you can eat!

besides, one of the card outfits that is almost like family to me has a really toxic real-estate side, and is besieged over that.  soon as they start losing court cases, they will not be like family to anybody.  except maybe the ghost of Jeffrey Dahmer.  so they're the first guys I'm cutting ties with.

no, I'm not as dumb as I look, no registered trademark internationally-known brand name to be seen here, please move along.  leave your lawyers at the drawbridge, and note the moat monsters here are amphibious.

3)  we at Chez Swschrad have been thinking long and hard about a basement redo.  it's a musty mess, stuck in 1979 with 1x2 glued to the block, minimal foam insulation, and creepy panelling over that, orange pile carpet with a sorta-orange patch at the base of the stairs; dark, dank, some holes in the ceiling from needed repairs, awful bathroom.  windows too small to meet today's exit access requirements.  FPE "arcwelder" power entrance panel, so you can't meet code on the basement bedroom circuit by changing to an arc-fault breaker.

it aggravates my allergies and asthma, and needs to go, with all its creepy growths.

we are hoping to get on one of the DIY remodelling shows, which would provide crew assistance, some cash, and whatever freebies somebody wants to promote on TV that would fit right in.  it's called product placement, if you've heard of that... also has long history in broadcasting, right to Lee DeForest's water-cooled carbon mike in the cathode of the transmitting tube in the 1916 era, called "tradeout" or "comp" or "clearance" among other things.  DeForest played Columbia records during his demonstrations and scheduled test broadcasts, free for the mention.

and if we get it, we move up the schedule as we can.  expanding the windows means digging new holes and installing larger window wells.  hard to do in frozen ground with shovels.

whatever, it's not life or death.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

getting dark and tired out there

winter's locking in, raiding the fridge, and watching feelthy pay-per-views while the wife and I are at work.  an unwelcome guest we can't get rid of.

last couple of days were very nice for November.  50ish by day, overnight only 40 last night, 25 the night before.  we might get one great one Saturday yet.

but that's about it.  the garden is cut down, the bulbs are in the basement, have yet to clean gutters, but it's about time.  my car, The Great White Whale, has had a progressing failure to (a) provide heat out of the heater into the interior, and (b) provide any freakin' air out of the ducts period.  I am going to have to blow Saturday diagnosing it.  almost certainly vacuum.  ah, but where?

if it's the vacuum motors, bad news, the entire dash has to come out, they are unreachable behind the dash.  can't be the switch, I've put a manual controller in place of the computerized gollywog one.  found a bevy of leaks in the prime vacuum stuff back by the back of the engine last year, that didn't help.

way I figure, it could be shot vacuum motors.  there appears to be some sort of vacuum regulator between the isolation tank and the heater stuff.  it could also be the isolation tank.  the non-motor stuff can be replaced.  the vacuum motors... hell, you can't even get to the damper doors in these modern cars to wire them open or put throttle cables on there and run 'em manually without ripping off the dash.

so, I have some diagnosing to do.  there is, of course, no information on how the plenum stuff is built on crown vics/grand marquis, so no way of knowing if pulling the radio, drilling a little hole, and jamming a dowel in there is all I need to do.  more likely to ruin the dash than fix something.

Harbor Freight doesn't sell a shop vacuum meter any more.  bought a racer's boost/vacuum gauge, and it's a little bit better fit to the small tubing used in the heater system.  so all I need is warmth, adapters and hose, the gauge, and a little room to drive to chase it down.

hope the issue is one of the several fixable ones.  parts availiability is another question, but plenty of junkyards around.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

working weekend

Had to do my quarterly weekend shift today.  Meanwhile at home, my wife was chopping the freeze-killed garden down.  Tomorrow, it's all hands on deck for leaves.

I also have the new screen and storm doors to finish on the back of the breezeway.  Good thing the old screen was down before the derecho came through on Tuesday, or there would be scraps of screen door all over the neighborhood.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

sold for GOOD, multi bills paid

fan tas tic.  the estate house is sold, all the checks are sent, except to the two named survivors.

now we have our lives back.

so far have winterized the two cars, put together a leaf blower, jammed the new parts into the snow blower, and downloaded McCAD for some PC board work.

just in time, too, the weather is going cold and rainy, with snow possible end of month.

Monday, September 13, 2010

got the estate house sold!

Phew!  only one pending to go, and it's gone.

The offer we got and settled on had another pending, and that was buyer's inspection.  on a 90 year old house, wouldn't you be sweating blood also?  are they going to make us redo the roof?  the drain stack?  the driveway?  pull up the carpet and staple it back upside-down so the dog can sharpen its claws?

Nope.  we got two things out of inspection.  reroute the outflow pipe from the water heater safety valve, and explain the while marks on the basement floor.  thank you, God!  made a speed run to Fargo on the weekend, fixed the heater, wrote about water and concrete = white spots.

Understand, this was Home for 51 years.  mom always used to say, "If the next folks don't want the garden, they can't have the house."  well, the contract specifically had the "garden" and "landscape" boxes checked, do not mess with them.  there was one rosebush we wanted to liberate and bring to our house, but it's a contract, and that's OK.  we got a few rare wildflowers before the home was shown, as well as a piece of the pioneer peony that came across America in a covered wagon five or so generations ago.  it's growing well.

We have the pictures.

And the memories.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

blew out my ankle, rehabbed my ankle, hit the fair.

darn left ankle turned under, back, and got stepped on hard a week ago Friday, ten steps from the bus stop home.  fortunately, exercise day... the bus came by in 10 minutes, enough time to get off my knees, get to the signpost, and straighten up.  able to get on the bus, grab the disaster emergency Ace bandage out of the exercise bag, and wrap 'er up.

a weekend of ice and compression, a little more work on the s/1, and I was back at work.  even got the state fair in today, good ten miles of walking around.  no pronation, please, but I have the heel and toe plane working fine.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

not bad for a lazy weekend.

got the ants painted, they are in the garden and on the deck now.

been working on the s/1 also.  that was a very sick radio when I got it off eBay, have fully recapped it, replaced about 8 transistors and a dozen diodes, a tubload of out of spec resistors in the RF deck, new output tube, new transformer, done most of the Kollar modifications, and have replaced all the diode-switched flea pins with a barrier block for easier connection.

tonight I found I had the AC line ground at the Cinch connector hooked up to the wrong pin.  that could have been ugly.  got that straightened out now.

we're getting real close... it's about time to finish looking up the transformer leads and get the manual annotated on where they connect... and then start checking the voltages, low first.  not going to hook up the screen and plate supplies until I have a fused crowbar built for the counter/keyer section.  a lot of  expensive ugly in the counter board, enough so I shotgunned out all the TTL logic, put in sockets, and fixed a lot of burned-off traces.  don't want 1600 volts going where it doesn't belong again.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I have to paint my ants. perhaps tomorow.

don't you paint your ants regularly?

OK, I'll explain.  we have a neighbor moving out of her home, and helped sort and pack stuff last weekend.  along the way, stuff she doesn't need, can't take, doesn't want, etc. got cleaned out of places like sheds.  we ended up with a weed whacker, some flowerpots, base for a chimenea, and some iron decorative baskets and pieces.  two of them are welding-shop steel ants, about a foot long.

primed all the iron stuff sunday in between other tasks.  we figure on painting one ant red, the other black.  they're going in/on/near the garden, and I haven't decided yet, but figure the red and on the ground, and will probably tack the black ant crawling up a deck post towards the table using some fence staples.

gardens can be fun.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

repurposing old stuff: celebrating the holidays at our house

Ahh, the holidays. A little weather incoming, but we'll be holed up snug, no problem.

So I'm waiting in the snow at the bus stop, and my cell rings. "Are you sitting down?"

Frankly, my dear, there is no "down" to sit out here.

"There is water all over the basement and the ceiling has fallen down."

There are also six newly-built dovetailed drawers for the cabinets half-painted, and a bird feeder McMansion ready to mount. And all of Son #3's business records. Please to get that stuff the (!) out of there, I'll look it over when I get home.

Sitting on the bus, thinking, "geez, I hope this wasn't corrosion from another harebrained quickie builders' trick 30 years ago."

Yep. you might think the subcontractors were in cahoots to loot the place and get out quick, reading that. evidence indicates this is worth considering.

Got home, waded through the mess, set up a ladder which promptly wicked up a quart of water into the legs... there is a steel nail bent over, holding the hot water feed to a floor joist. Bent over to dimple the copper pipe. Rusty as a farmer's junk pile behind the hill. Turn on the water, a fine needle spray from the dimple, corroded right through. electrolytic corrosion, a real plumber would never put in contact two different metals without brass or plastic in between them.

"geez, I wonder if I can fix this with a cut and a coupling. my luck with this is not real good."

And still counting, had to make a speed run to Orange Apron Place for any pipe and couplings I might need over the next few days. Quantity sized by the thought, "how many more of these little time bombs did the esteemed builder set up for us to fail on weekends, holidays, and middle of the night?"

Cut out a tee and angle and four feet towards the kitchen, and six to eight inches either side of the main feed, because the wanker was up against a floor joist, and I can't cook the water out without burning down the house. Yes, I tried. That's why a coupling fix led to a worse leak.

Had to pull down another two feet of ceiling sheetrock.

Got it done at midnight. Hinged, mounted, and filled the bird feeder. took an 80-pound sack of crap out to the trash, at the curb, in the Death Snowfall From Hell.

Had to shovel the car out starting at 8 am to get to work.

It is written that the Lord will not test you any more than you can handle.

Some days I wish he didn't trust me so much.

Oh, and the wife dropped the propane torch, it's hosed up, barely working. They used to keep working after they keeled over from being unbalanced by design. then again, they used to be made here, too.

They killed the buzz. But random nonsense will NEVER die!

... and so here some is.  One set of scraps of life gets swept into another pile, and you stepped in it.

Welcome to Scraps of Life with swschrad.  This won't scrape off, so you might as well bookmark it.  I sort of intend to copy some cached stuff over here for a slow start, and then will probably peter out completely.

As I figure this blog engine out, the appearance might change somewhat.  Won't it be exciting to see beginner mistakes?