feren: I AM THE MAN (Sakuranym - Feren_profile)
This morning I received a surprise invitation for [livejournal.com profile] lady_curmudgeon and myself to join [livejournal.com profile] datahawk and [livejournal.com profile] ottr for brunch-type foods at a restaurant in the area. I'd never been there and Curmudgeon wanted to get out of the house, so we readily accepted. We made good time to Wheaton, where the restaurant was... and then I had an attack of the Self Doubts, which lead us to leave the restaurant and pursue the other location, which is not where we were to meet up with our friends. Thankfully we were only a little ways away when the call was returned and the address verified.

We met up outside the door to the restaurant and that's when the trap was sprung - Data and Ottr handed Curmudgeon and I some wrapped-up gifts. SURPRISE PRESENTS! Unacceptable. My revenge will be without warning.

Inside things were hectic, obviously it's a pretty popular place. We made our orders, drank coffee and kibitzed while we waited for the food. It wasn't long before Curmudgeon and I were pressured to open our presents. To my complete delight and surprise I received season 2 and season 3 of Robot Chicken, and Curmudgeon got two boxed seasons of Pee-Wee's Playhouse. Pretty cool!

After our meal we made a stop at Fry's Electronics. While there we discovered that Ottr wasn't going to get his Nintendo DS from them as their inventory was completely ravaged last week, prior to Christmas. We also learned that there's an AirSoft pistol made to look like my Sigma SW40F. Pretty darn neat, and it puts the BBs out at something akin to 315fps. Not bad, though I've no idea if it's CO2 operated or what (Edit @2133: It's a spring!). While in the toy aisle I found a metal Slinky in excellent condition (the last one I bought from there was completely twisted and ruined, but I never got around to returning it). We also wandered around the store to pick up a set of USB extension cables for Mudgeon's computer. On the way to the check-out line I had a minor altercation with the father of a young boy -- the kid (around 8 or 9) was tromping around and, as he went past, kicked over the toy trains on display next to me. I made a sharp comment and told the kid to pick it up, which brought his dad over with an attitude, demanding to know if I "was his father?!" I said nope - but the boy's being incredibly rude by not picking up what he's knocked over, at which point I gestured to the wreckage of the display. I was surprised to see the dad turn to the boy and ask if he'd knocked it over. A mumbled "I don't know," was met with the father asking again, more strongly, "Did you knock it over?" The kid admitted yes, he had. "Then pick it up!" And within a few seconds the display was put back to half-assed rights and the family continued on their way. Good enough for me.

Since Ottr didn't have anything to buy and the hunt for a Nintendo DS was now officially on our group parted ways, with Data and Ottr heading off to shop at my retail nemesis (Best Buy) while I checked out with Curmudgeon. Shortly after that we were home and I tore apart the passenger-side wiper arm on my Expedition. It had frozen in place on Friday and didn't seem interested in moving anymore. I found that luckily I hadn't stripped the splines on the motor shaft, the arm had just come loose. I cleaned up the connection point with a bit of paper towel, jammed it back in place and tightened the nut down. A flick of the wiper control later and I had proof that all was once again right with the world. It's good to have windshield wipers! Especially with all the wacky weather we're having...
feren: I AM THE MAN (doctor-pwned)
My route up to [livejournal.com profile] lady_curmudgeon's place involves a good portion of I-294. For those who don't live in the Chicago area and thus have no reason to know about this road, I-294 is a major loop for I-94. It is also currently undergoing major reconstruction in a number of places.

This is gonna hurt the Expy more than it hurts me. )
In the end I'm okay and the truck is more than okay to drive. It just needs some work done to it. Seeing as how I have nobody to blame but myself for this situation I can't be too angry about it. My only goal at this point is to get it fixed as quickly as possible.

[Edit at 1149 4/14: I have to wonder how much of this damage could have been minimized if I'd just given myself this really nice grill and brush guard for Christmas last year, eh?]

Life is a highway
feren: I AM THE MAN (Blotch-TooCoolFeren)
I got the Expedition running again yesterday, not long after [livejournal.com profile] lady_curmudgeon arrived at the house. Although I got only 7/8ths of the work done, replaced a serpentine belt that didn't need replacing and broke a plastic housing on a 175A fuse bus I'm still citing it as a moral victory. The day was full of amusing little things, so I'll share an abbreviated time line for everyone here. )
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-gruntle)
Dear Expedition,

I would be thrilled if you trusted me when I tell you that yes, you do in fact have a 5.4L V8 engine. Despite evidence to the contrary, there is no such thing as a 4.725L V7 engine. Even if there were, nobody would want to buy it.

With rapidly dwindling patience,
Your devoted owner

These stupid coil packs can blow me. With a P0304 code reported by the on-board annoyance computer, it is a sure bet that my problem lies with a part that I can buy down the street for about $54 after tax. Of course, I don't have the time tonight to do the work or buy the replacement coil. Even if I had the part in my hand I couldn't start at this late hour -- for one thing, the engine is still far too hot from the drive home. More importantly, though, is that I can't risk leaving the repair unfinished. Tomorrow I need to be at the office early tomorrow for $EMPLOYER's "rah rah rah here is state of the company" presentation. The downside of driving to work and back tomorrow with a misfire is that I am dumping ridiculous amount of unburned fuel into my exhaust system -- something that can wreck the catalytic converter. That's a risk I'm going to have to take.

I expect my Saturday will be full of skinned knuckles and cursing because, naturally enough, the suspect coil pack is on cylinder number four. Cylinder four is the rearmost cylinder on the passenger side of the engine -- nicely obscured by everything! I know from unfortunate experience that changing spark plugs and related components on this vehicle takes upwards of 4 straight hours because of how Ford shoe-horned the engine into the compartment and how much junk (fuel rails, electrical distribution block, etc) they've heaped over the area you need to get at for the work .

No rest for the wicked, right?

The weekends why?
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-gruntle)
My summons for today's court appearance over the little matter of a missing piece of fascia was very clear in its instructions: it specified that my appearance was scheduled for 1330 hours today and that I should appear no less than 15 minutes early for check-in and documentation. Never one to risk infuriating the people who can leverage vast fines against me or -- thanks to that hum-dinger of a SCOTUS ruling on Kelo -v- New London -- actually take my home... I showed up earlier than they asked. I got to the court lobby at 1305 today... and at 1320 I was still standing in line with everyone else. Why? Because nobody from the village was around to unlock the doors for those who showed up to court! We milled about in the lobby, wondering exactly when or if the "fifteen minute rule" could be applied to civil affairs. At 1328 somebody emerged from the court room and proceeded to unlock the doors, allowing us to file in and begin processing our documentation with the clerk. Weak excuses were made that the "usual clerk" was on vacation today, but that was little consolation to my aching left ankle.

So remember, kids: when working with government offices or individuals, you are expected to be early... but they are under zero obligation to extend you the courtesy of being timely themselves. I'm fairly certain there have been civil wars over this. Yes, I know I shouldn't be surprised by this foolishness and yes, I have been to the DMV before. Still, this was ridiculous. For my friends in civil service (looking at you, [livejournal.com profile] hakeber), I understand the public is a mob of slobbering idiots and that you can hardly be held accountable for delays you didn't cause, but this was case of the village dropping a steamer on its constituents because all parties involved are untouchable and you're entirely at their mercy. Calling the judge to task on it is just going to land you a charge of contempt, so you suck it down and they get to smirk at you with full knowledge what they've gotten away with. This might not have been quite so frustrating to me had I not had to stand on my bum foot for over twenty minutes. If the judge/clerk/et all weren't ready they still could have allowed us inside the courtroom to sit down while they got their ducks in the row.

Regardless of the delays everything else went more or less as I expected. I was the fourth or fifth person called and when I approached the bench I entered a plea of no contest (I can hardly deny the fascia is missing on that 10ft stretch of my roof). I think this rather surprised the judge, since up until I got there people were entering pleas of "not guilty" for their citations about yard grass being too long or parking too far away from the curb. So the fine against me was upheld, I agreed to pay the fee today and then the judge bickered with the Code Enforcement officer assigned to my case. The officer seemed to think that I should get this fixed tomorrow now that I've admitted fault on public record, but the judge seemed to understand my argument that the work to be done is so piddly that I can't get anybody to fix the bloody problem without buying new windows or a new roof! Eventually they settled between themselves and issued me 12/1/06 as the "Date of expected compliance," after which I get another $120 "financial incentive" to resolve the matter. We shall see if I can somehow work a miracle and do in under 3 months what I've been trying to get done for well over a year. I won't even go into the fiasco that ensued afterward, when the city tried to send me on my way with no documented proof of my appearance, the payment or the new date after I paid the fine.

In other news tangentially related to government: After my time at the city hall was done I took the Expedition down to Joliet for emissions testing. It would appear that cleaning my MAF was indeed the fix, because in the 350+ miles since I did that work I haven't had the "Check Engine" light come on. I got my ticket, pulled in for testing and held my breath. Hooray, the Expy breezed through the testing station with flying colors. That's one less thing for me to worry about. Now all that's left is... everything else.

In Birmingham they love the governor
feren: I AM THE MAN (Default)
Last night the alternator on the Expedition took a dirt nap -- no more voltage for me! Lack of a constant feed of 13+ volts makes the Triton engine sad after about twenty minutes of driving... which leads to the engine stalling out once it has drained the battery to exhaustion. This lead to a series of costs:
  • For last night's tow, after the Expy stalled 4.5 miles from Z'ha'dum and left me blocking traffic during rush hour: $50
  • Diagnosing the alternator as failed: One 9v battery and fifteen minutes of time with the multimeter after getting home
  • The following day off from work to fix the problem: one vacation day
  • Ride to the auto parts store: One cup of coffee for Garry
  • One 130amp replacement alternator with a limited lifetime warranty: $157
  • Discovering that you don't have a 1/2" drive ratchet or breaker bar: Ten hairs off my head, three minutes of frustrated cursing, 30 minutes spent walking to Home Depot and back
  • One 1/2" drive ratchet so you can, you know, ACTUALLY TAKE THE SERPENTINE BELT OFF: $13.47
  • Coming to realize that (since the ratchet isn't a true breaker bar) without a pipe you can't apply enough force on the belt tensioner to get the serpentine belt off the pulley: five minutes of extremely creative cursing, curious looks from your neighbors
  • Making the pleasant discovery that while you have no pipe, the extension handle of your 2-ton floor jack will serve admirably: Giddy, not quite sane laughter
  • Doing all the work myself, thus saving the cost of a mechanic for diagnostics and replacement labor: three bloodied knuckles, two frozen hands, one runny nose, the financial costs listed above and (ultimately) 2.25 hours of my time this morning
I was just happy to see the multimeter display "14.85vDC" after all the work was completed and I started up the motor. Bitchiness about some of my obstacles aside, I did enjoy doing this by myself instead of farming it out to a mechanic. I think this is in part because there's a sense of pride in doing the work with my own two hands, but the fact that it gave me a chance to save some money probably didn't hurt either (Ra's medical bills pushed me grossly over budget this month). Mostly, though, I suspect it was because I got to pass the time by engaging in a hobby I really enjoy. Mechanics is one of those things I don't indulge in very much, but I do take pleasure in the work on a number of levels. I can't say exactly why it appeals to me because there are so many different factors. Perhaps it's because there's usually a logical process that I can follow to troubleshoot something and when it's fixed I have immediate satisfaction. On a less concrete level I find there's something that is just something soothing for me about wrenching away on a car -- I sort of hit this zone where I'm focused on my task but my mind blanks out so that time slides by. Maybe I'm daydreaming, maybe I'm thinking about other things, maybe I've found my Zen meditation method. I don't know exactly, but I do know I really like it and need to do it more often.

It was only 11:05 AM by the time I had the tools put away and was washed up, so I could have gone in to work and recovered my vacation day by trading it for a partial day off, but I opted against that. I decided I would rather stay at home and polish off some other chores around the house before I head up to Wheeling this evening to have dinner with [livejournal.com profile] roho, [livejournal.com profile] genet and the birthday boy himself, [livejournal.com profile] duncandahusky. I might crash for the night up in Antioch, I might not. It will all depend on how late I stay up there.

i steal the light from heavens gates
feren: I AM THE MAN (pantherhead)
I'm home.

I started to see snow flakes at the 90/94 junction in Madison. By the 12/18 exit in the same town it was snowing quite hard.

While this trip didn't qualify as The Drive From Hell, it got style points for the ridiculous number of accidents I saw (The SUV that was laying on its roof behind a length of K-rails is the clear winner of the "How In The Blazing Blue FUCK Did You Manage That?!" award... We were going five miles an hour!). For added bonus score the drive absolutely sucked from Janesville WI onwards.

And oh yeah, honking your horn when you're sliding sideways towards me is an excellent sign you're an idiot. I'm in control of my vehicle, how about you worry about getting yours out of that skid?

Shower and sleep are quite high on my priority list right now.

Momma's gonna worry


feren: I AM THE MAN (Default)

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