Episode 17 of Project Binky is live: Stuffing the running gear of a Celica GTS AWD into an Austin Mini. Fabrication porn at its finest. (previously).

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Apparently Ambien has made Roseanne Barr a racist. As if she wasn’t already batshit crazy. Serves her right, but I feel terrible for the rest of the cast and crew of her show, who are all now out of a job.

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I found an old Plomb ratchet in the new (used) toolbox this weekend, and upon inspection realized it was missing the drive selector. I did some research to find if there was anyone offering a rebuild kit. Apparently, there is! For $9 on Amazon I’ve got a repair kit coming along with a bunch of camping gear.

Date posted: May 31, 2018 | Filed under cars, general | Leave a Comment »


This shot was taken about 4 hours before the rain started falling. It’s a beautiful afternoon in the yard, and I’d just dug through the basement to find my old Tonka trucks for Bear and Finn to play with in the sandbox. Jen had Ruby on a blanket next to them, and I left them to run out to Mariottsville for some tolls I was buying from Bennett. As I pulled out of the driveway, Jen was on her back lifting Ruby into the air, and a light sprinkle hit the windshield.

I took the day off today to finish up post-flood recovery. The basement is pretty clean. There’s still water around the edges of some low-laying tile, and the ice room still has a wet spot on the floor. It’s hard to dry out in 100% humidity. The Scout is loaded with a pile of trash waiting to go to the dump, and I could probably throw out more. I’ve got a bunch of stuff I’m going to Freecycle in the ice room and some stuff in the garage that needs to go, too. Maybe this weekend…

After I’d cleaned up as much as I could clean up in the house, I got to work on the greenhouse. I’d patched up some of the holes in the plastic a couple years ago, but time and weather did their thing and they all took a beating. I peeled the old stuff off, washed the plastic (it was filthy) and applied new patches to make it water tight again. I moved the old rickety water barrel platform to the back outside corner of the greenhouse and used my wort chiller pump (it’s still alive!) to transfer all the water in the barrel under the garage to a spare barrel up on the platform. Then I reconfigured some hoses to reach inside the greenhouse so there’s on-demand water available for the plants. We also moved them to the corner nearest the house to get maximum light. They all look pretty happy so far, although there really hasn’t been any sun since they were planted.

Then I started organizing my new toolbox. It’s a heavier-duty unit than the one I already had out there but a little smaller, so I got creative with organization. I inherited a ton of new crescent wrenches with the box, a lot of miscellaneous tools, and a bunch of crap socket sets. I’m going to give the old toolbox to Glenn, who doesn’t have one, for his garage.

The compressor I bought is a used Craftsman 25 gal. electric unit, in good shape, but with a ratty hose. When I get past the camping trip I’m going to pick up a cheapo Harbor Freight sandblasting kit and try cleaning up some of the spare parts I’ve got. It’s good to have air out there, though, because now I can get some air tools to make things go faster.

One of the things Bear did for me while he was here was inspect our tent, which turns out to be too small for three people. I found a Coleman 4-person tent with good reviews on Amazon, and put that in my shopping cart along with some glow sticks, flashlights for the kids, and a beginner’s tackle box among other items. There are two weeks to go for our camping trip, and I’m slowly assembling the stuff we’ll need.

Date posted: May 29, 2018 | Filed under garden, greenhouse, house | Leave a Comment »

Compared to some of our neighbors, we made it through the storm in really good shape. I was returning from Mariottsville in the CR-V packed with a full-size toolchest and a 25 gallon compressor I’d bought from Bennett when the first rain started to fall, around 3:30. By 4:15 I was in the driveway waiting for the rain to slack off so that I could run inside for an umbrella. The girls were over at Christi and Glen’s house waiting for me to pick them up, so I went back out in the Accord to get them. Getting to their house was a little dicey. The roads were beginning to flood, but there was enough road for me to share with oncoming traffic.

On the way home things were much worse. I took the higher route home, preferring to avoid the hills of Edmondson Road, and turned on to a side street to get to Frederick Road. By the time we were able to turn on to Main Street there was 3 feet of rushing water coming at us, with a narrow lane at the center the only thing between us and home. We waited a minute for an oncoming car to pass, I said a silent prayer, and then hit the gas. Wading through the water I felt the wheels slip here and there but we kept moving and made it to the other side where the hill started climbing again.

Image: Gregory Morgan, via ABC News

At home we ran inside with umbrellas and dried off, but it was when I peeked into the basement that I knew our plans for going to an evening party were sunk: we had 4″ of standing water in the basement. When I went out to the garage to get the Shop-Vac I noticed that the egress stairwell to the basement was flooded to the top, meaning we had 3′ of water pushing against the basement door.

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Jen started vacuuming downstairs while I struggled with a shit Harbor Freight pump I use to chill wort; it failed and burned itself out. By this point I was soaking wet and the rain was only getting harder; there were rivers of water running past our house into a lake at the bottom corner of our property. I grabbed some scrap lumber from the garage and pounded a diversionary wall into the soil, directing water past the concrete lip of the basement stairs. Then I grabbed a five-gallon bucket, jumped in the pit, and started bailing it out.

Inside, Jen was suctioning up water and pouring it into the shop sink, praying that our drain wouldn’t clog and that sewage wouldn’t back up on us. I’d done some light cleaning on Saturday so we didn’t have a ton of stuff on the floor to get wet, but we did lose some boxes and a roll of paper and other assorted items. I did a bunch of waterproofing down there years ago, and since we replaced the back gutters, the basement has been relatively dry. But we’ve learned from years past that using plastic tubs on metal racks is the best way to store anything down there, especially on days like this.

Once I got the stairwell bailed out, I went inside and we spent the next two hours bailing and mopping. The rain slacked off at about 7PM, and the stairwell started draining faster than water was coming in, so we all took showers and had some warm dinner in front of the final Harry Potter movie.

The next morning we assessed the damage. I got our FIOS router reset and running but had to swap out our ethernet switch for a spare. Apparently it got fried along with our Airport Base Station, the HDMI switcher on our cable box, and maybe even our cable box itself. We enjoyed power and internet up until about 2PM when the transformer in the back of our lot blew, taking our power out and that of the block behind us. My neighbor wheeled over his generator and we hooked it up to the fridge, saving our food from certain ruin. That clattered in the backyard through the evening until about 1AM this morning when the power came back up.

So, lessons learned: I’ve been putting off the purchase of a generator for years, mostly because our once-twitchy transformer was replaced and our power has been relatively stable since about Finn’s birth. It’ll sit in the back corner of the garage and take up space, but it’s time I invested in one. I need to buy a submersible pool pump for those pleasant afternoons when water is trickling under the basement door. And I’m going to have to build a taller lip around the edge of the basement stairs to prevent the Patapsco River from sinking our house.

Date posted: May 29, 2018 | Filed under general, house | Leave a Comment »

But weather radars notoriously underestimate rainfall. Automated rain gauges in and around Catonsville, at ground zero, recorded nearly 13 to 15 inches of rain. The National Weather Service received a gauge report of 8.4 inches in Ellicott City.

To put this 2018 storm in perspective, about 5 inches of radar-indicated rain fell in Ellicott City July 30, 2016, while gauges back then captured 8.22 inches. So in terms of rainfall magnitude, Sunday’s storm is a likely rival, if not even more intense.

Via: The Second 1000-Year Rainstorm Engulfed Ellicott City. Here’s How It Happened.

Date posted: May 28, 2018 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

These are the endcaps I’m buying from Bennett. Technically I don’t need two of them–my passenger endcap is dented from the swingarm, and the driver’s side is OK–but it’s always good to have spares.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: May 26, 2018 | Filed under friends, Purchasing, Scout | Comments Off on Endcaps

The girls and I went to the Baltimore Herb Festival today, where I picked up six heirloom tomato plants for the greenhouse experiment. I spent about $40 on dirt and containers at Lowe’s and planted them two to a tub. Hopefully that will be enough space and soil for them to grow comfortably.

In the fourth tub I stuck a bunch of cucumber shoots, in the hope that three or four of them will take off and produce something. Jen tells me I need to split them out further. I want to hedge my bets with some hybrid plants, so we’ll be going back to Lowe’s for more containers and dirt sometime this weekend, and I can get another container to divide the cukes up even further.

After that was done, I ordered 10 new misting heads for the irrigation system because the ones I bought 13 years ago are, well, 13 years old and mostly drip instead of mist. The hose bib is shot so I bought two of those as well. I placed a rain barrel under the corner of the garage but I need to set the other one up under the back corner of the house to really collect as much water as possible.

The next thing I’ve got to learn how to do is to keep the tomato plants from getting too big and not focusing on producing fruit. In years past they just got tall and waited until November to bother with giving us anything worth eating, but that was because I wasn’t on top of them every day. This year I resolve to visit them every day and make sure they are happy.

Date posted: May 26, 2018 | Filed under garden, general, greenhouse | Leave a Comment »

Date posted: May 24, 2018 | Filed under cars, photo | Leave a Comment »

Peer Pressure is back in our driveway after a brief stay at the mechanic’s shop. As I predicted, the culprit was a missing rotor. The mechanic found a new one, popped it in, and she fired right back up.

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I’m planning a camping trip for Finley, Zachary and myself on Father’s day weekend. I’ve got a campsite reserved in Nanticoke, on the Eastern Shore, where there’s a campground sitting right next to the Chesapeake Bay. It’s mainly set up for trailer lots but there are primitive tent sites in back, which is what we’re doing. I’m a little nervous because Zachary hasn’t been camping yet, so I want to make it fun for he and Finley so that we can make it a regular trip together.

I’m beginning to sort through my camping gear, which is scattered between the basement and garage, for the stuff we’ll need. My good sleeping bag, backpack, propane burner, and first aid kit are all AWOL (lent out and never returned) so I’ve been eyeballing the sales at REI and Backcountry for new gear. I scored a good sleeping bag on sale last week and now I’m on the hunt for the other stuff, as well as some toys to make the trip more fun. I figure having some walkie-talkies would be cool, and maybe laser tag, and I need to get the kids some flashlights. And another fishing pole. And some basic fishing tackle…

Next I need to dig our tent out and see if we can fit three comfortably inside; otherwise I’ve got to add that to the list. I think it will be OK, but it’s been a couple of years and I just don’t remember. Rob had some camping gear packed away that Karean is going through now, but she’s also waiting for me to send a list along for what we’ll need.

Elsewhere, I’m sending the deposit back for our beach rental today, which I delayed for too long, but feels good to get those plans underway too.

Date posted: May 23, 2018 | Filed under family, finn, friends | Leave a Comment »

My Dad replaced the mufflers on his Ford F350 stakebody sometime in the late ’70s with a set of Thrush mufflers–generally, a brand associated with hot rods and drag racing. He got a sticker with the package and put it in the back window of the truck: an angry-looking bird. I thought it was cool as shit. I still dig the logo, even if it’s almost obliterated by rust.

Date posted: May 22, 2018 | Filed under history | Leave a Comment »

A couple of months back, when I was laid up, I got word that Bennett’s mother had passed. I met her once during a workday, and she was a real nice lady–she was even kind enough to make us all lunch. Now that her estate is being settled, he’s got to clear out the stuff he’d stored at her place. So he’s divesting himself of all but the essentials: a ’57 Studebaker Golden Hawk has been sold, a ’63 Valiant is still awaiting a buyer, and he’s sorting through the rest of his fleet. Most importantly, he wanted to move his ’53 IH R-110, named Phantom, out of the barn at the farm to his home garage. I’d offered to help months ago, and was looking forward to spending a day getting dirty moving trucks with friends.

First we had to make room, so I met he and Brian at his house to help move stuff from one bay of the garage to the other. I had to be careful not to pick up anything heavy so that I wouldn’t mess up my stomach, which is still healing, but tried to be as helpful as I could. When we had enough space cleared to fit a full-size pickup, we hopped in his brother’s Ford and headed up to the farm.

Upon arrival, we were faced with about 20 years worth of parts storage and cleanout. Actually, he’d already gone through a LOT of the stuff up there and moved, junked or sold it, but there’s still a bunch left. In front of the garage sat a spare R-series frame and bed loaded with parts he’s selling in bulk, so we continued piling stuff into that bed for disposal. Next, we reorganized a spare bed that was sitting on Phantom’s existing bed, spinning it 180 degrees so that it would fit neatly into the raised platform in his garage with the tailgate open.

We strapped that down to the bed and continued moving parts to the back of the Ford when we realized how many spare R-series parts he still had in the garage. I suggested we throw those in the back of Heavy D, which had been parked the farm, and I’d drive that home behind them. Quickly, we filled the beds of the Ford and the IH pickups with priceless 70-year-old sheet metal until there was no more room.

When we finished that, Bennett re-oriented the trailer and we started winching Phantom up onto the bed. This took some time and skill, but Bennett is a pro at this stuff and soon we had the whole thing strapped down and ready to go. Among the stuff he was getting rid of were two clean reclaimed Scout tailcaps and a full-size steel rim, which I grabbed, and he offered me a 25-gallon compressor and a heavy-duty toolchest, all for a price I couldn’t refuse.

When it was time to saddle up, I followed them down the hill and onto 40 in Heavy D, marveling at how different the driving experience in his truck feels. It’s got an identical engine/transmission combo as Peer Pressure, but the engine was built with a hotter cam so the idle is completely different and the transmission feels much smoother. It reminds me a lot of driving my Dad’s old Ford wrecker from our repossession days in terms of ride and steering: the suspension is softer than Peer Pressure (Conestoga wagons are softer than Peer Pressure, to be fair) and the oversized tires made steering something that had to be planned in advance. Still, I loved it. I can’t remember the last time I drove a full-size pickup with butterfly windows, a bench seat, and a CB radio, but it’s been too long.

Returning to his house, we scratched our heads until we came up with a solution for how to get a heavily loaded trailer up the embankment of his driveway without cracking the concrete: we shoved some 2×4’s under the trailer tires to lessen the angle. Once we’d done that, and with a little scraping, Bennett was able to center a 22′ trailer with a longbed Ford in front of his  narrow garage door with only two minor adjustments before shutting it down. For reference, this would be as easy as parking the Queen Mary in a phonebooth backwards with an outboard motor.

We used a snatch block around a concrete support pillar to winch the truck backwards off the trailer and got the second bed within inches of the raised platform it would be stored on; then it was a matter of backwoods engineering to jack it high enough to get the edge of the bed onto the lip of the platform. Once we had that done, it was a simple matter of using some 2×4’s to gain leverage and some pushing to get it in place. At this point I had to leave to meet the girls for an appointment up in Pikesville, so I said my goodbyes and cranked the Scout up to meet them there.

After the meeting, when I got in and turned the key to start it, I heard a POP from under the hood, and found that she wouldn’t catch. I added some gas to the carb, filled the tank with the remainder from my rotopax (remember, the gauge is still inoperable) and tried again: no luck. On further inspection, I realized the distributor cap was loose, and realized that the POP had been from gas vapor sneaking back into the distributor from a bad vacuum control diaphragm: when I turned it over, the vapor sparked and lit, popping the cap off and sending the rotor someplace I couldn’t find.

I fooled with it for a while, but was exhausted from the day, and the girls were waiting for me and for dinner. We returned home to eat, and did some investigation online before calling USAA to arrange for a tow back to our local garage. I’d added towing to our coverage a couple of years ago with this very thought in mind. Then I drove back up and waited for the truck to arrive. The guy driving the flatbed was a pro and we quickly got it loaded. I followed him to our neighborhood garage and we dropped it out front with an apologetic note to Jeff, the owner, describing the problem.

This afternoon I talked to Jeff and he’d already found the problem and ordered the part; hopefully it will be fixed sometime tomorrow and I can pick her up on Wednesday morning.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: May 21, 2018 | Filed under friends, Purchasing, Repairs, Scout | Comments Off on Phantom