Frequent visitors here know that I’ve been hoarding a lot of truck parts for the last couple of years. This week a set of original Rallye rims popped up on CL down in Virginia, and through the course of the week, the seller dropped the price from $400 to $350. On Friday I contacted him, and he sent me pictures of each rim that were clearer than the listing. I did a quick freelance job last weekend through a friend—basically creating a vector outline illustration of his car—and the payment hit my Venmo account a day later, for roughly the same amount as the rims. Serendipity, right? I thought it over all day Saturday, and in the afternoon I decided to pass. I don’t need different rims, although Rallye rims are my favorites. Something in my brain told me to slow down.

I’m very aware that I’ve been filling the pandemic void with retail salvage therapy, basically hitting the parts listings daily to find good deals on stuff locally. I love the thrill of the hunt, planning for recovery trips, and the fun of going to discover and pick over old wrecks for good parts. I enjoy the planning and preparation almost as much as the picking itself: having all the right tools to do the job is a satisfying feeling. And knowing I’ve got spares of most everything is a comforting thought, as well as helpful when I want to refurbish what I’ve got. I learn by example—seeing how something is put together vs. squinting at a poorly-printed diagram or following shitty directions in a Chilton’s manual, so it’s been worth the money to have spares to refer to.

But how much is enough? Do I need more than one of a lot of these things? I tell myself I can refurbish some of this stuff and resell it, but I haven’t made a lot of effort to do that in the last couple of years. If I was serious about it I’d put the word out before Nationals to pre-sell, and bring it with me (I don’t want to piss off the vendors there by selling from the back of my truck). I have enough sheet metal, one or more of everything that unbolts from the tub. I have spares of almost all of the mechanicals save the chassis, some of which I want to learn how to refurbish myself. Do I need more stuff? Where do I put it?

Going by that Mayo Clinic article, I’m not to the point where sheet metal is piled up in the house, but the garage is pretty well stuffed with parts. I’ve got things organized as best I can in the space that I have (and I have plans for re-organizing it all in the spring). I have sold lots of parts in the past, in the Before Times, when we did more in-person meetups, so I’m always willing to wheel and deal.

The other problem is ongoing projects. I’ve got about six different projects on the bench right now waiting for parts or better weather to complete: the heater box, the steel gas tank, the windshield washer switch, the spare hub, the rear seat etc. When my focus shifts and I let things go for too long, I forget where I am in the process and I have to start over again. The gas tank needs warmer weather, as do the washer switch and seat. So I have to finish those first before I move on to other stuff, and sometimes it’s hard to be patient.

Jen and I were talking about this a little bit, and something she said resonates with me: I’m a results-oriented person. I like to see progress in some form for each day: What did I accomplish? How did I make a difference? A pile of rusty parts is one way to scratch that itch, especially when my career is less and less defined by tangible products and more and more by an Outlook calendar filled with Zoom calls. But there’s got to be a balance somewhere, and I’m struggling to find it.

Date posted: March 14, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

In 1994, after a series of mass shootings, Congress banned many assault weapons. A decade later, the ban expired, and these firearms flooded the market. According to the Wall Street Journal, before 1994 there were an estimated four hundred thousand AR-15s in the U.S.; today, there are twenty million AR-15s or similar weapons.

The New Yorker does a deep dive into the Kyle Rittenhouse shooting and how a troubled, bullied kid made a colossal series of mistakes and was co-opted by a whole slew of opportunists eager to exploit his situation. Nobody comes out OK in this story.

Date posted: March 12, 2022 | Filed under general, politics, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Finn and I are sitting at the dining room table. She’s reading her D&D Player’s Handbook in preparation for the first meeting of the D&D club at school; she just made a new character specifically for the dungeon. I helped her step through the process using an Instructables post that helps one step through the process. The 1st edition Player’s Handbook was pretty terrible back in 1981 about this, and I’m afraid the 5th edition is no better. There should be, as part of the first chapter, a step-by-step explanation of what all the numbers and modifiers and dice rolls and checkboxes are. But no.

I’m still in my pajamas because it’s March 12 and there’s a snowstorm blowing outside, gusting at 50mph. I don’t particularly feel like going outside in that. Thus, I can’t do anything with the Scout, I don’t feel like going out for parts, or really anything else to do with putting real clothes on.

I’ve pretty much reached the end of The Division, my shooter game on the Xbox, so this morning I switched back over to The Division 2 (the one I played first). I’d come to the end of that game as well, but there’s an expansion pack that I’ll probably buy sometime this week to finish it out. I haven’t bothered to go back to my $1.50 copy of Red Dead Redemption after I kept failing the horse-riding tutorial at the beginning, so I’m hoping the D2 expansion pack has a bunch of new content to play.

Date posted: March 12, 2022 | Filed under finn | Leave a Comment »

Now that I’ve (mostly) got a new black rear seat, I’m looking at the front seats, which are gray, and thinking that I’d like to try and find front seats that match a little better. Doing some research on the interwebs this morning I found original sales brochures for the full run of Chrysler PT Cruisers and looked at the stock fabric offered each year. For almost all of the run there were two main colors inside: gray and beige. Some years they spec’d leather seats (some were even heated) but my unscientific research has shown that was mainly in early years and those seats also had integral airbags. I did find one year with a darker upholstery: in the 2009 model year they offered what they called Dark Slate Gray, which is as close to black as I’m going to get:

I’ve got an alert set up on the LKQ app for PT Cruisers in general but I think I’ll winnow that down to the 2008-2010 model years to ensure I don’t miss an opportunity.

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

Date posted: March 12, 2022 | Filed under Scout, Seats | Comments Off on None More Black

After a long pause in the logistics chain, my readers finally arrived last night, and it was with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation that I tried them on. They are made better than the safety glasses I bought last year. The progression is much less abrupt, and there’s a midpoint where I can use them for middle distance (about a half an arm’s length away). There’s a bit of distortion at the bottom of the lenses that affect my vision when I turn my head back and forth—it’s enough that I notice the curve of the lenses down there—but not enough to bother me that much. The biggest thing to get used to is the same issue I have with my safety glasses: keeping my eyes aware of the two main zones and moving my head to put my eyes on what I’m focused on instead of moving my eyes. I’ve also got to break the habit of moving to take them off to see things up close. I’m not using them for work; my monitors are far enough away from my eyes that I don’t need them, but it’s great to have them for reading in bed and doing detail work.

Date posted: March 10, 2022 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

Testimony and evidence showed that Reffitt brought an AR-15 rifle and a pistol with him on the trip. He took that pistol with him to Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, along with zip-tie style flex cuffs, a helmet, and body armor.

Excellent news: the first Capitol rioter to stand trial was found guilty on all counts after less than four hours of deliberation. Let’s get the rest of these idiots lined up and sent away ASAP.

Date posted: March 8, 2022 | Filed under politics, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I brought one of Dad’s old BASF jackets home with me when we cleared his stuff out of the house; at one point the Germans thought a canary-yellow nylon jacket was a good idea for swag. I would have kept it but it was an extra large and just didn’t fit, so I donated it to Goodwill this weekend.

Date posted: March 7, 2022 | Filed under family | Leave a Comment »

We had a spell of warm weather this weekend that I decided to take full advantage of. I’ve been working on refurbing all of the hardware for the new bench seat for the past couple of weeks, and by Thursday I had the hinges all blasted, sanded, rust treated, and painted. Saturday afternoon I got out to the garage and bolted the seats back together.

Then I pulled the brown seat out, rustproofed the retaining plates, and put the black seat in place.

As I expected it went in fine but it does not latch to the posts on each side of the wheelwells. When the seat goes all the way back there are two latch arms that tuck under the posts, but with the height of this seat, they don’t line up—the latches bump the posts and refuse to engage.

This was the issue with the brown seat when I put that in, so I knocked the metal feet off the base of the seat with a hammer. With those gone, the seat was shorter in back and was low enough to engage the latches.

I puzzled over this for a little while and then came up with a plan that I thought was pretty smart: instead of knocking the feet off the perfectly good second base, I unscrewed the base from the brown seat and took the wire and flap sanding wheel to it. It got a coat of primer and then several coats of black enamel, and it’s now drying in the garage. When it’s ready I’ll pull the black seat back out and swap the bases. With a little luck it’ll go back in smoothly and latch as well as the brown seat did.


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Meanwhile, a guy I follow on Instagram posted pictures of his hinges, which he’d just worked on over the weekend with a product called Insta-Black from EPI. Apparently this isn’t a paint but a “blackening solution” for steel tools, guns, and materials. I don’t know if I’d spend $60 on the trial product just for some seat hinges, but it’s a very interesting solution.

I’ve also got to scoot the Tuffy box forward about an inch to clear the seat properly when it folds forward; the brown seat upholstery has taken a beating from rubbing against the box and I’d like to keep it as clean as possible.

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

Date posted: March 6, 2022 | Filed under Scout | Comments Off on Be Seated

I haven’t bought any photo gear in years, and my shooting has slowed way down, but I just read about a new 56mm f1/4 portrait lens for the Fuji X-mount from Sigma, which is half the cost of the equivalent Fuji lens. If I was to buy new glass, this is probably what I’d go for. I think I’ll have to try renting one to see how I like it.

Date posted: March 5, 2022 | Filed under photography, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I finally got around to updating the idiotking post count in an interactive visualization instead of a flat graphic. I’m going to see if I can find a way to overlay the category counts next.

* * *

I’ve been working on some sketching projects at work which required me to lower my desk chair, bust out the pencils, and get close to the drawings I was making. After a short while working without glasses, I put my progressive safety glasses on and used those to switch back and forth between the drawings and my computer monitor. Those glasses work OK, but I look like a total dork if I have to take a call wearing them.

Warby Parker made me new progressives and shipped them on February 22nd by USPS. When I check on it with their tracking service, it arrived at the Baltimore sorting station three days later and hasn’t moved since. No updates, no movement, no nothing. USPS offers an “extended tracking service” which I’m sure would provide me absolutely zero further detail; I’m going to call Warby Parker on Monday and see if there’s anything they can do—but I’m not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, a friend recommended me to her client for a quick linework illustration job that I knocked out in a couple of hours this afternoon. I like making extra money on the side.

* * *

I made a list of projects to tackle around the house this year in my notebook the other night before I went to bed, mainly as an excuse to collect them all and quell anxiety:

  • New basement windows. I’ve been back and forth with my rep this week waiting for her to get the quote correct, but when that comes in I’ll sign off and get it paid for. I’m told it’ll be 4-6 weeks for delivery, just in time for some warmer weather.
  • Find a fixed basement window with a dryer vent. I really don’t want to close off the window over the washing machine with glass block, but we may have no choice.
  • Basement step rebuild. The concrete pad right outside our basement door has been tilted toward the house since we moved in, allowing for rainwater to spill over the edge of the stairwell and flood our basement doorwell. This pad needs to be broken up and removed, and the yard regraded away from the house. I’m going to mix a couple of bags of concrete and pour a higher threshold for the stairwell while I’m at it.
  • Bust out the concrete walkway out back. Running over the walkway with an eight ton boom lift broke it up into lots of portable chunks, so it should be easy to lift and haul away.
  • Clean up the treeline behind the greenhouse. This is a Sisyphean task that never seems to amount to much, but it’s got to get done. I think I need to nuke it all with Round-Up and then take the mattock to the earth. Or maybe rent a tiller…
  • Repair and paint the garage. It’s never been painted since we’ve lived here, and the front “doors” make it look like we’re cooking meth inside. I’m going to pull the front off, reinforce the doorframes, and build new doors that look and work better. Then the whole thing will get sprayed to match the house.
  • Pressure wash and paint both rear porches. This didn’t get done with the rest of the house last spring; both of them need a freshening up.
  • Finish scraping the outside windows. There are a couple at ground level that need some attention, but everything on the second floor got painted properly with the boom lift.
  • Polish the headlights on both Hondas. I did this for the CR-V three years ago and it made a huge difference, but the plastic has broken down again and fogged over. Time to buy another kit and have at it.
Date posted: March 5, 2022 | Filed under general, house, list | Leave a Comment »