This week’s earworm: Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds, Council Skies. I always thought he had a better voice than his brother, and he’s more talented as well. I really like the melody to this song.

Date posted: June 30, 2023 | Filed under earworm, music | Leave a Comment »

I’m anxious to diagnose the issue with the Scout, because I want to know what ‘s wrong but also because I want to drive her. I went out after dinner Monday night to check the timing to see if it was advanced or retarded, which could be the cause of my mystery sound. I had an old yard sale Sears timing gun that I hooked up to the battery and #8 wire (Scouts use the #8 wire instead of the more commonly used #1 wire on most GM/Ford products) but I got no light from the gun at all. On the bench I broke it down to reveal old capacitors and components that had probably fizzled out during the first Bush administration, so I hit the Harbor Freight for a new unit.

Back under the hood I cleaned off the timing marks and chalked the pulley. When I set the gun to 0˚ and ran it, the chalk hit at about the 15˚ mark—but I hadn’t run the engine or disconnected the vacuum advance yet, which meant the reading wasn’t entirely correct. It was getting dark by this point so I shut her down and put her back in the garage to avoid the rain forecast for the evening.

Thursday evening I went back outside to give it a second go; this time I was able to plug off the vacuum advance and get things ready for a proper diagnosis. While I was getting a wrench on the hold-down bolt, I was holding the distributor body and it spun under my hand with a little bit of pressure—which told me it wasn’t tight for a while. When I put the gun on it, the chalk showed up at about 15˚advanced, so I spun it back to 5˚ and listened to the idle settle down.

Tightening that off, I noticed some smoke coming off the manifold on the passenger side, which makes me wonder if there’s a leak between the manifold and the block. I’ve been smelling something from the engine for a while, and I wonder if that could be the culprit—it would certainly explain the additional noise.

Meanwhile, my oil sample is safely in the hands of Blackstone as per the USPS’s tracking service. Going on past experience, it’ll take 2 weeks or so to hear back from them on what the oil can tell us. I’ve got a new Fuel-Pro gasket sitting behind my desk for the next major step: dropping the pan to see if there are any chunky bits at the bottom.

While I had the timing gun out, I figured I’d throw it on the Travelall for giggles to see what the timing looked like there. I’d solved the high idle issue I had before by re-connecting the PCV valve on the back of the valley pan, but because I’d cranked all of the idle screws in all the way, I had to spin them back out. The engine is running sloppily now, loping around like it’s not firing correctly, and the exhaust is abhorrent—the girls flipped out because it quickly filled the house. I’ve got to get this thing mobile quickly so I can move it away from the windows to properly work on it. In any case I couldn’t get a good enough look at the chalk before I was forced to shut her down. New PCV valves from that era are hard to find, but I think a new one will help out immensely.

While I was digging around in my parts bins I pulled the two mirrors out and mocked them up on the side of the truck. They look great! I’ve got to go back through my reference photos from Nats and see how other owners mounted the top mounts to their doors; I’ve got a very small vertical area to work with and I’d prefer not to mess up the mounting surface for the weatherstripping, which may be my only option.


At the bottom the two holes pre-drilled for the old mount aren’t wide enough for this setup; I can easily drill a new hole and add a backing nut inside the door. I think what I might do is (with my new fancy welder) cut a small thin plate, weld two shallow bolts to that, drill holes through the door, and feed the bolts through the holes so it’s as flat as possible.

Another thing I noticed was that there are three dimples in the passenger side windshield frame for where a sun visor would have been mounted; I think this thing was as stripped-down as possible when it left the factory.

I’m talking to a guy from the Binder Planet who offered up a rear Travelall seat back in February, and who has some other assorted barn door parts left from a project. He’s able to meet in Rhode Island, so I think my plan is to rent a pickup and drive up there over a weekend, stay the night somewhere local, pick up the parts, and drive back the following day. If I time it right I might detour up to Mahopac to say hi to some high school friends on my way back home.

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

Date posted: June 30, 2023 | Filed under Repairs, Scout, Travelall | Comments Off on Weekly Roundup, 6.30


I stuck my old Nikon 1.4 manual lens on my Fuji XT-10 today and set it up for focus peaking so I could have some fun with a camera I don’t drag around anymore. Hazel was kind enough to sit for a picture.

Date posted: June 30, 2023 | Filed under hazel, photo | Leave a Comment »

A couple of weeks ago I took advantage of a great sale and purchased an entry-level MIG welder from Eastwood. It arrived the day we left for Ohio, and it’s only been the last week since I’ve been able to get it set up and tested out.

Most of what I intend to do with it is repair sheet metal and some basic fabrication. I’m limited by several things, which means I need to be smart and creative: I’ve only got a 120V service in the garage, I don’t have a lot of room for a big setup, and, of course, I’m trying to do this inexpensively. I’d started by looking at Hobart and Miller units, and while they all had their benefits I found muscling Brian’s beautiful Hobart unit around the garage with a 125cf tank to be difficult at best and completely impractical at worst.

So I kept my search focused on a 140amp unit that ran off a standard 120V plug. The Miller and Hobart units were all based around a heavy transformer while the Eastwood was designed around an inverter—lighter and smaller, at around 25 lbs. And with a 3 year warranty I figured I was in good shape. On Tuesday I drove over to the shitty side of Baltimore to a welding supply house and bought an 80cf tank of 75/25 argon/C02 and hefted it on to the back seat of the Honda. Driving home through Curtis Bay I saw what Canton was like 20 years before I moved there—downtrodden rowhomes with a bar or package goods store on every corner.

Back in the garage I assembled the whole unit as per the instructions, flipped the switch on, and put some basic beads down on scrap metal. Success! This evening I split some 22ga. steel in half and practiced tacking it together while I dialed in the settings. It’s going to take a lot more practice but I think I can get the hang of it when I’ve got some more metal to work on.

I think I’m going to start by repairing the crustiest of my Scout fenders and practice tacking things together before I get adventurous with the Travelall, but I’ve got a really good setup for the fall and winter to play with.

Date posted: June 29, 2023 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment » is an open-source compilation of design-related books and manuals compiled by a woman in her spare time: there’s a lot of really good stuff in here that merits deeper investigation. I’m also happy to see a bunch of books I used in my syllabus when I was teaching.

Date posted: June 28, 2023 | Filed under art/design, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to fix things in the last six months, and often that involves some exotic tool I don’t already own. My habit has been to immediately start typing a-m-a-z-o-n in a web browser, but I’m also trying to either gang up orders so as not to be wasteful or find local alternatives. I keep forgetting Harbor Freight opened a nice clean store in Catonsville a few years ago. While I was browsing the aisles yesterday for a new timing light, I stumbled across a small tool for opening the back of a wristwatch, which got me excited; my LL Bean wristwatch has been sitting on the dresser for about a year waiting for battery service, and I just haven’t gotten around to sending it back in. I always knew there must be a simple way to get the back off at home but never really did the research. For $7 I figured I’d give it a shot. Within 2 minutes I had the back off the watch and the number for the tiny replacement battery in hand (which explains why it only lasts for a year or so before dying); this I will have to source from Amazon, as most local home supply and drugstores don’t carry the particular size.

The second thing I looked for was a replacement battery for Jen’s old iPhone 4, which I’ve been using as an iPod for five years or so. There are pros and cons to this strategy: the connector is an ancient 30-pin design from ten years ago. The latest iOS it can run is 7.1.2, and the interface for iTunes in that era was hot garbage. It’s only 32GB, which limits the amount of music I can load. Meanwhile, I’ve got a 64GB iPhone 6 sitting here, but the version of iTunes on iOS 12 is buggy and likes to split songs from a single album up into individual albums, which is annoying as shit. The battery in the 6S is pretty much dead. But I’m going with repairing the iPhone 4 because replacing its battery involves no ju-jitsu or suction cups potentially cracking the display as with the 6. A new battery was $20 with delivery, which I just can’t beat. 

Fuck! I almost forgot to mention: I got an email from my old employer, System Source, about a swap meet and workshop they’re hosting on July 21. I’ve got some old gear I could possibly sell, but what I’m very interested in is enlisting the help of a knowledgable person to help me fix my old Powerbook 160, which needs the monitor recapped in order to function properly. I paused during COVID because one of the parts was out of stock, but I’m going to see if I can order it and bring the project up there for someone to help me with.

Date posted: June 27, 2023 | Filed under apple, watches | Leave a Comment »

I has happy to learn the badge I bought fit the back of the truck perfectly.

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

Date posted: June 26, 2023 | Filed under Scout, Travelall | Comments Off on Satisfaction

WOW. A long lost Steely Dan track from the Gaucho sessions was recently unearthed from the archives of the album’s studio engineer, released by his daughters who found it on a cassette while they were preparing a documentary on his life. The story goes that an assistant engineer accidentally erased the mix, and they tried to recreate it using a mix of lesser quality, but Fagen axed it. Gaucho isn’t the best Steely Dan album but it’s one of my favorites—it hits right at the age when I was really beginning to listen to music, and I knew there was something different about this band, from the way they wrote lyrics to how they arranged the songs. This song is pretty good; it would fit on Gaucho easily, probably on the second side.

Date posted: June 25, 2023 | Filed under music, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Things around Idiot Central have been in flux lately. Several of the rooms in our house are stuck in transition between their old and future selves, so we’ve spent the last month or so stepping around  displaced furniture, boxes of old items scheduled for disposal, and painting and cleaning supplies cached in strategic positions. The living room has been caught between two worlds since we got new furniture delivered, but we had a hiccup with the first new couch they brought us where I discovered the top of the backrest wasn’t connected properly. They sent us a new one pretty promptly, and we’re happy with it—but my old IKEA couch sat forlorn in the corner of the room, shoved against a cabinet.

Weekends have been busy so I haven’t had the time or the car to move it out of here, and Freecycle offered no takers. So Saturday morning I got out the screwgun and the deadblow hammer and we broke it down into manageable pieces that would fit into the Honda. It was bittersweet to see this couch go; I bought it with my ex in 1997 and it was the first piece of grown-up furniture I owned that didn’t come from a dumpster or someone else’s house. It served us faithfully for years and survived the wrath of eight different cats, not without battle scars. But it was old and smelled like dog and we’d had a slipcover on it for probably ten years, and it was time to move on. So Finn and I bashed it into six pieces, stuffed it into the CR-V, and I heaved it into the dumpster with a heavy heart.

Jen had spent Friday with a rented steam cleaner trying to blast all the dirt out of the carpets from our upstairs bedrooms, but we found it wasn’t up to the job. I think the professionals probably use stronger equipment and terrible chemicals to do the job properly.

She had an older Queen Anne-style coffee table when we merged houses, and we both agreed it didn’t fit our current living room vibe. She suggested we change out the legs to something more midcentury modern and found a set on Amazon that looked good. I bought some wood and built a shallow box on the underside, then sanded the dark cherry finish off the top. Finishing it with some 1800 grit paper, I taped the edges and shot it with five coats of polyurethane. What used to be a heavy, fussy slab is now a light table that goes perfectly with the leather chairs we bought and balances the sofa perfectly.

We’re nowhere near done, but progress is progressing, and I can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Date posted: June 25, 2023 | Filed under house, living room | Leave a Comment »

That was pretty bizarre. I fixed a strange bug in the sidebar logic that was showing multiple other posts in the right column on archived post pages—for some reason the widget was feeding other posts into the “Interesting” feed that blew up the pages. I had to switch to a different plugin last year  (the old one was unsupported and woefully out of date) and I didn’t notice the single post pages were broken until a few weeks ago. Futzing with the logic, that widget is now suppressed on all pages except for the homepage.

Date posted: June 22, 2023 | Filed under housekeeping | Leave a Comment »