Mar. 11th, 2016 09:36 pm
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Life continues to be more or less the same as it ever was. I’ve been working, at least intermittently, and I’ve even been paid. That has been rather nice, although it’s led to a bit of a flurry of spending as I’ve taken a bunch of stuff off the ‘want list’ which included several things that I’d decided I wouldn’t buy until we got to the US.

I’d been holding that restraint for a couple of years. Adding in the last 3 months of me not buying pretty much anything (I bought a few books, and a few items for our business) and then say “look, you’ve been paid”. I snapped. Much of this is ‘fun’ stuff, but the other thing that’s sucked up funds is things like ‘UK to US’ plug adaptors (10 of ’em, on the way). I’d thought I’d replace the old UK plugs with US ones, but bare US plugs are actually ridiculously pricey, so instead I’ve just bought adaptors. From China. Also, bonus, I get to keep the fuses for added safety.

And BC – Edison Screw lamp adaptors. I was unaware that such things existed – so I’d bought one of the 85-250v LED BC lamps for one of the anglepoises (as a test), but having discovered these I can just go to the store and get what, in the US, are regular LED bulbs and throw those in. Hurrah! These adaptors were way cheaper than the special bulbs and had free postage. Since I’m not in a raring hurry to get the lamps working, that’s fine.

I also started setting up my ‘home lab’, as it were. Up until now I’ve scrounged stuff from the lovely John, but 4k miles is a little far to take things for testing, and it’s a little tricky to ask John if he’d like to pop over for an evening of tinkering with electronics. I’ve finally got it together and bought a (new) soldering iron / rework gun combo. I wasn’t going to get a rework gun, I mean, me and surface mount are not close friends. But with our business plans, I may want to put together some kind of board with surface mount components, in which case a rework gun will become handy – and it was a few dollars extra to get that functionality. Second hand kit that’s also winging its way to me is a ‘scope that weighs approximately the same as the house (50Mhz Tektronix 453*).

Die perfekte Welle

I doubt mine will look 1/10th as nice when it arrives. Indeed, I know some of the plastic knobules from the switches are missing (the selector knobs are all there). I’m hoping (really hoping) that one day my 3D printer will arrive and I can print myself some new ones. If not, I’ve got some sugru in the toolbox.

I thought about getting something a bit fancier that would be better for digital hardware (perhaps the 150Mhz 454), but if I decide I need that later I can either sell off the Tektronix 453 and get something ‘more modern’, or just suck up the expense if I’ve got attached to the 453. I’ve also got an HP 6200B bench power supply on its way too. John has infested my mind with his HP / Tektronix lovin’, which meant that other, cheaper options got ditched on the way to this selection, but I think they should be handy. And the 453 seems to be considered to be a pretty good scope – which it’s within the realms of my knowledge to repair and keep going.

Whilst the scope is slightly frivolous at the moment, and is partly a ‘I have little to do at home’ thing some of the kit will be handy straight away. The bench supply will be handy getting the car alarm configured… since it wants to charge a bit before it works, and you need to send it various text messages to get it configured. That bench supply will also be doing duty building up the circuit for the first kit we’re planning for our business.

Most of this kit is pretty tatty, but should be enough to get me ‘up and running’. At least, once I’ve given it a really, really good clean it should be.

This splurge of spending does mean that I’m now rather over excited when I see UPS and USPS vans, which tediously never seem to actually stop here…

Still. I don’t think I can buy much else for the rest of the month (except for needs – like maintaining my poor Minor, that’s had hundreds of miles added some weeks). At any rate, I shall try to exercise restraint. I’ve put a bit into my savings this month and then I’m hoping to put some of the funds we extracted back into the house-savings too.

At any rate, the rain paused yesterday for long enough for me to go and throw silicone sealant around the minor with reckless abandon.


Water’s been dripping in through that wiper spindle’s hole for a while. In an attempt to prevent it totally destroying the glove box liner, and the radio underneath, and then the floor below that, I whipped off the nut cleaned up the seals and put them back with a thin layer of windscreen silicone on them. I note that this has been done before, with what appears to be gasket sealant. That might have been me… but it didn’t work that time. Here’s hoping this time it does work. Overnight it’s rained and there wasn’t any water that I could feel, so fingers crossed I might get some relief from that.

I also attacked the boot (trunk) – using sealant around the holes where the “MORRIS 1000” badge is mounted. This morning the boot (trunk) was actually bone dry, which I think is a first, and made me quite happy.

I also commenced trying to understand how to fit the alarm – and realised that actually, it’d probably make more sense for it to be on our family contract for it’s SMS messaging, rather than me stick it on the Net10 sim I’ve got kicking around. Well, maybe. We need to go and see if we can beg a cellspot for the house as it is slightly ridiculous that you have to go outside to make calls a lot of the time and while we’re there I’ll see if I can add it on at a low rate. Otherwise I’ll see which provider is cheapest for a pure voice/SMS option. It doesn’t need data of any sort, so it’s a big silly getting it a voice/data contract. I also realised that the alarm wants an SD card for some of its more handy features, and it makes sense to fit that before I put the alarm in the car.

Given that it’s a cheap Chinese system the manual is somewhat challenging to understand at times. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to require too many features the Minor doesn’t have (indeed, it looks like it should actually be able to track the fuel level of the Minor, which is pretty nifty, though why I’d want to is unclear).

I thought about fitting it this morning; indeed that was my ‘plan’ for the day. But I am distrustful of the weather, and although it said “0% chance of rain” the forecast started to get a bit sketchy around lunchtime, and it looks like rain every day after now for a while, so getting part-way through is undesirable. I succumbed to my rain-fear and went for a walk instead.


Which was probably a good plan as it’s been hacking with rain for the last hour and half, and I’d’ve probably still been out there dangling upside-down. I think when I have all the relevant bits, I’ll be a bit more enthused about getting it done.

In other news, I headed out yesterday to see if I could find a stick blender. We’ve wanted one for a long time, and before I got paid I kept seeing them at goodwill and value village. Of course, now I’ve actually been paid, they’ve vaporised. Goodwill does make me miss the cleanliness of most British charity shops. I’m sure there’s awesome stuff in there, but the electronics sections always make me feel rather like I need to wash my hands thoroughly on leaving. Anyhow, what I did find was ‘Goodwill Outlet’, which is a fearsome place. Unsorted, sad old things piled into plastic waist high bins… It’s the kind of place I feel the need to have a companion, because rifling through the stuff in there by yourself, it feels kinda weird. I suspect that there probably are stick blenders lying prone at the bottom of those bins, but I didn’t quite have the guts to pull so much stuff out.

And then we come to the elephant in the absent room. The house.

We’re off looking at properties this weekend. Five of ’em. One with a building, one with a ‘building’ (it’s a house of “poor quality” built in 1901), and 3 bits of land that are just land. I continue to feel the disappointment from the permit-disaster-wetland-hideousness, but hopefully one of these will speak to our souls. One of them, funnily enough, enormously close to where Kathryn’s mom used to live, and would give us effectively the same view. Which is weird. Although the land-with-buildings-on may be better for us, in terms of both location and usefulness. Still, we’ll see what happens.

* Handily, this is old enough that the entire manual is available here

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So, yesterday being Friday, and the scheduled car-purchase day, Kathryn dropped me at the (conveniently close) Amtrak station and I got my first experience of US trains. Yes, it started from the station 20 minutes late, but it was a pretty relaxing ride, and some of the scenery was just beautiful. Despite many promises along the way we arrived… 20 minutes late. Still.

It was also, unsurprisingly, raining*. Which whilst some of it was very pretty (the mist rising off foothills), much of it was somewhat obscured. Mind you, it was nothing as to the journey back. Anyhow, I made it down to Portland, OR. Now why travel out of state for a car? Well, after much debate we’d decided that we’d get a first generation Honda Insight. These are kinda cool insofar as they’re Honda going ‘oh look we’ve got this great research project on hybrids, let’s see how many people will buy one’. It’s about the nearest thing to a hand built car we’ll ever own. All aluminium and all the tech they could throw at it.

They’re not quite collectable. Some people think they might be one day, others argue they won’t. Ours definitely won’t because it was much lower in price than others as it’s been rebuilt from a write-off (or ‘Totaled – Rebuilt’ as it says on the title). The thing is, the value of these cars is low enough that even a fairly minor prang can kill them – looking it over, it all looks pretty straight underneath and on-top. You can see where it’s been repaired – the metalwork at the front has a slight twist where the paint’s just cracked ever so slightly.

Having seen a few of them accident damaged, the toughened ally wings (fenders?) tend to crack rather than bend. So I expect it looked pretty terrible after whatever happened to it. Anyhow, it looks fine now, and has a startling 38,000 miles on the clock (for a 10 year old car, that’s pretty impressive).

Anyhow, Nikki + Kids met me at the station and we headed in to a public charger for her Leaf. Off we went for coffee and came back to find the charger had got bored at 60% for no obvious reason. After brief debate we headed off anyway, and made it over to Willsonville, where the car was waiting for us. Nikki’d already given it a test drive, but I took it out for a second survey. Nothing hugely untoward came up – although the CVT was maybe a touch noisy. Although it’s hard to tell. These cars are built for efficiency, not quiet, so that might just be the way it’s meant to be. Also, it turned out there was not much oil in the CVT.

After a bit more gentle prodding, Nikki headed off with the Leaf to find a proper charge, and I made my way through a US car purchase for the first time in my life. Not complex, but weird not knowing which bits of paper to sign and where. The plan was for us to meet up at the charger, but first I had to sort insurance. After several failed phone-calls and failed payment attempts we got that done, and then I trundled off.

Unfortunately, the charger Nikki was meant to be going to, for some reason didn’t show up on my map. Well, not until I got much nearer having visited two others. By which time she’d finished and moved off to her next errand. Thankfully I found her looping the car park outside the electronics store she’d messaged me to say she’d be in. Given the low oil in the CVT I was reluctant to make the 130 mile journey without a top up – and headed over to the local Honda dealer who were *lovely*. I pulled in and went to buy the fluid, assuming there was a filler I could reach – then asked the nice chap a the counter who explained that no, there wasn’t.

So then I asked if they could squeeze in a top-up and they sorted it, topped up the transmission fluid (for free) and sent me on my way. Parker Honda, Wilsonville. That’s ace customer service :)

Now, I kicked back at my friends for a while, petting their dogs, where it slowly became apparent that I’d not taken my antihistamines in my rush for the train. It turns out I *am* allergic to dogs still – and as my eyes worked up to itching and I went forth sniffling I cursed my idiocy. Still, after rush-hour(s) was (were) done I girded my loins and stepped in the car. Many-a-time I’ve dragged cars back hundreds of miles, but this was the first time I’d be crossing state lines…

…and some how it felt a little more unnerving.

Actually though, the journey back was uneventful. Apart from the *fucking hideous rain*. This bit of the country, it knows how to rain, yes it does. But the little Honda did its thing admirably. We trundled home, 130 miles isn’t loads here, but it felt like a lot in a brand new decade old car and in the dark. Creeping in at around 2230, having set off from home 14 hours earlier I was very, very pleased to get in to bed.

It’s yet another trophy of moving country. We’re here, we own a car.

And today we spent time looking and land and houses**.

Hopefully soon our stuff will arrive and then we’ll feel more rooted. I hope.

* Did I mention that it rains twice as much here as in Bristol?
** And watching Philomena, because it was raining and hailing and… because we were tired. Basically.

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So, after debate and searching I ended up buying an Austin 1300 Auto. A car that doesn’t exist.
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Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So, I had this simple plan for today: Get up early, take Rebecca for MOT. She passes MOT. I spend rest of day either pottering in garden or recording podcast.

Actually the day went: Drive to MOT. Fail on a few minor points (no pun intended), then drive back via parts store, then grab lunch, then reorganise the garage so there’s more space, then… well.

First up was the washer pump. The old pump’s been moderately pathetic for quite a while. It still sort of worked, but most of the spray was kind of directed onto the screen surround unless it happened to be in an astonishingly enthusiastic mood.

So, it was out with the old…

Out with the old...

And in with the new. Which would have been awesome but for the fact that the generic washer pump I picked up has a substantial design flaw. One of those design flaws where you look at it and think ‘Really? Really? You didn’t think that was a problem?’. Can y’guess what it is?


Didja get it?

Both the holes for the screws are behind the supply and output pipes (which are moulded into the body of it) and, as a bonus, on one end they’re behind the power connectors too. Well done Generic Brand designer. Fortunately, because it’s made of cheap nasty plastic it was bendable enough that I could brute-force-bend it enough to get the screwdriver in to get one of the screws properly tight. The other screw is a bit more of a problem, but I’m really not sure how to fix it short of an entertaining bit of 3D printing to make the damn thing some kind of bracket with clips. Either that or tightening the screw edge-on using pliers :-/

Oooh, or I could replace it with a teeny tiny hex-bolt. Cunning. I might do that.


Anyhow, the washer fluid now hits the screen in a most vigorous way. Cleaning the screen with vim and enthusiasm. So I also changed the somewhat leaky windscreen-wiper-washer, which, it turned out was a bonus level challenge because the windscreen wiper spindle comes through at a subtly different angle than the chrome finisher is meant to fit, so the rubber doesn’t fit at all. In the end I used two of them on the one side to give me a bit more thickness in an attempt to make it fit. The other side doesn’t really leak, so I’m going to leave that for the minute.

Then we had to explore the brakes. There were two failure points:

- Nearside brake binding
- Brake imbalance

Now I could have assumed that the brake imbalance was due to the brake binding, but thankfully I didn’t. A quick look in the off-side drum revealed a partial cause for the imbalance; everyone’s favourite paper gasket had failed. Again. Oh ho.

Yes, it's everybody's favourite oil seal failure...

So my brakes had a thin coating of oil on them. Again.

Although I’d picked up new brake shoes I’d not bothered to get anything else; I mean, why would I? So a quick dance with the stanley knife and the cardboard from a packet of ice-lollies later I produced a new gasket. This is, of course, the oldest trick in the book. Well, one of ‘em. I also popped a thin coating of silicone gasket sealant on it this time since I did that to the other side and that, finally, seems to have stopped the recurrent failures. I have a feeling though that I’ll need to repeat this with a paper gasket instead of the cardboard one I’ve made up because I imagine it’ll leak again :-/

Of course the plan is, as part of the EV conversion, to switch it for an Escort rear axle and a Sierra gearbox. So it would be amusingly ironic if I finally got the seals to both be perfect now.

Anyhow, having tweaked that and the brakes on the other side which seemed to be over adjusted-up (oddly, since I’ve not adjusted them since the service 2000 miles ago), things seem better. The handbrake is coming on at 4 clicks like it should. If it’s not good enough then either I or the garage will have the joy of replacing the shoes (I’ve got them, just didn’t really want to waste the barely used ones that were on the car, even if they’re a bit oil contaminated).

Then there was the misadjusted headlamps. They’ve been ‘a bit low’ since she was returned to the road, and every MOT has been kind of scraped through on that front. I don’t know if the suspension’s settled a bit, or if the guy today was a weeny bit more picky, or indeed, the simple fact that the fuel tank was all but empty was enough to tip the scales against her, but she failed on that too. I’ve tweaked them both up a bit, but it’s kinda guess work. We don’t have a flat area with sufficient room to back up that we can adjust the headlights properly. Unfortunately, this brought me into close contact with the plastic headlamp dome, which it turns out is a terrible fit. After several minutes of me fiddling, I managed to get the headlamp ring back on and screwed on, but it…well, it’s still loose and any degree of tightening in one area makes it want to pop off from somewhere else. Modern parts really can be quite rubbish.

The funniest thing about the day was I rang the garage to check up that I’d hit all the points on the MOT list, and the guy proclaimed “I thought you’d fix it, well, I hoped you would. It’d've been disappointing if you didn’t”. Hopefully we can trundle up on Saturday with the iMiEV and the Minor and come back with both of them sporting new MOTs.

To be honest I’d've quite liked to go out for my nice lunch at Hart’s instead of spending the day lying by the car. But hey, needs must… :-/

Originally published at Mostly lemon based. You can comment here or there.

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So, the sums were in. The unbiased non-car-o’phile had been presented with raw facts and come to her conclusion. The answer came back the same as Kathryn’s. Basically – the new car – is a good idea although can we afford it?

The bank was rung, and they gave their loan costing. The change from the current payment ended up being 60 quid.

60 quid extra a month on the loan but no petrol spend (or at least very little), no servicing, and hopefully much more painless MOTs.

We should break even on our spend just before 2 years. Just as we’re leaving… Although, obviously, at that point we can consider whether we’re taking the EV with Rebecca, or selling it on.

Because, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve bought an EV. Well, we’ve had an offer accepted on a second hand EV which is currently approximately 3 times it’s normal driving range from our house. Ye-es. I blame Nikki. Having faintly floated the concept to her she instantly pointed out the one which we’ve kind of ended up buying (we’ve bought it’s twin, actually, the guy had two).

We’ve also applied for a free charging point from Polar Network, which will look quite lovely in the garage, I feel. Of course, this also means that I need to get my act together and tidy the garage, because at the moment it’s a one-car-and-shed-loads-of-crap car garage, rather than a two car garage.

Of course, at the moment, it’s likely that we’ll still take Rebecca Mog down to my mum’s because of the absence of charging points in convenient locations. Ironically, we can get 100 of the 130 miles to my mum’s house, because there’s a rapid charger 30 miles from our house. Driving really carefully we could probably just about make it there, but just around Exeter there seems to be a bit of a dearth of rapid chargers. Also, winding up the already 3 hour journey to 4 hours is not ideal…

But the rest of our existence, which is powered by sunlight and bought locally will continue to be revoltingly green.

To counteract this, I spent the morningday servicing Rebecca. It turns out that I’m way out of practice, and that I am completely incapable of turning the engine over without the starting handle (so I had to cut the hole in the glass fibre bumper valance for the starting handle), and that I am quite slow, therefore, at servicing her. She has, however, got greased nipples & fresh lubrication ;)

I’ve also changed the fuel sender for a new fuel sender, which means that the fuel gauge now shows an actual quantity of fuel. I did try the ‘LED Indicator Relay’ which it turns out is a lie. I’m quite pissed because I bought it off e-bay a while ago, and it turns out now that it does not, in fact, work.

It is a standard relay, so far as I can tell, and thus goes absolutely spare when connected to LED indicators. However, the act did allow me to change the rear light lens which had cracked in so many places I thought it was going to drop off. A trip to a classic carboot sale is probably in order. I was going to delight your visual senses with a timelapse courtesy of ‘Lapse It’. But it doesn’t seem to render large time-lapse files. Or at least, it’s so far failed 5 times to render it – just quitting with no explanation having ‘Processed’ the final image. This is, as you might guess, quite annoying. Especially since I paid for it after my playing with it yesterday.

I also spent a little time attaching pieces of metal to my freshly varnished driftwood and spraying the brass-bits-of-stuff which I bought accidentally (but it turns out I require) black, so as they’ll blend with the plastic bits of stuff (which I bought on purpose and do require) and not stand out as being brass against the chrome bits (which I also bought and which I thought would go okay with the black bit).

I may offer up photos at some point :)

Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

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So, with us planning to be here for most likely two years (nice to be less, but in reality probably at least 2) I’ve been contemplating the EV question again. Much though I would love to do Rebecca’s EV conversion, I’m well aware that this is not a cheap, nor low-time task. Not least because it’s something that I really want to do well which involves careful planning and design, and knowledge that is outside my normal field of work. And so I/we have been vaguely contemplating whether it might be time to consider replacing Chester with an EV.

Also, the idea of Baby + Car that intermittently sucks large quantities of money is slightly concerning.

Anyhow, as part of this, yesterday I/we did some finger in the air waving: ‘we spend…this much… on running the cars’ kind of thing. This came out at:

£ 4953.60

That’s petrol, tax, servicing, tyres… *and* Kathryn’s not-by-car commuting costs, or at least, what we thought we spent.

Having done actual sums and looked through an entire year of bank statements I’ve come up with:

£ 4790.55

As the *actual* spend, except that doesn’t actually include Kathryn’s petrol spending. This suggests I’ve woefully underestimated the amount that we actually spend on petrol, given that it might well be around £50 a month.

Of course, we don’t actually have the money to buy an EV outright. But the sums so far suggest it might be worth borrowing to do this.

Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

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So, I spent some more time with my minor today…


Having stripped the dashboard down I was able to complete fitting of the heater more easily, although I had to do hideous, hideous things to the ‘footwell’ setting on the passenger side to get it to fit with the new heater matrix, which saddens me, but hey, the whole thing will be going when she’s electrified, so I suppose it doesn’t matter.

It will, hopefully, be producing warmer air. I must remember to top-up the coolant system before starting her again.

I also got the new indicator stalk in, which turned out (surprise surprise) to be not quite as straightforward as you might like to imagine. The old one was actually held together with tape (well, the ball bearing which makes it ‘sit’ in left-off-right positions was held in place with tape). This is because the thing that holds the ball bearing in had disintegrated, and removing the ball bearing led to an indicator that flapped around like a wet fish. So the ‘temporary’ fix was to tape it in place, in such a way that it still sort of worked. I’d bought a new indicator lever with the intention of fixing it ages ago, but not got around to it because it required taking the dash apart. Today I had no such excuse, and after a brief tussle with the lucar connectors (lucas is not known as the prince of darkness without good cause) I had the new lever wired in, but hanging like an ornamental basket from the dash.
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Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

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I know, I know, she’s riiiiiiiiided a few times in her many years in my ownership, but today, following some help from my awesome friend Nikki (who kindly put aside her EV journalism for some of the day to come help) Rebecca is sporting a ‘new’ diff and actually, for the first time in months trundled up, and down, the private road outside our garage (without me having the fear that she was going to emit a ghastly ‘crunch’ noise and stop dead).

Today has, in fact, been a bit of a slog though. Indeed whilst fitting the differential went very smoothly, nay, incredibly smoothly (at least, assuming I don’t get down there tomorrow and find a huge pool of oil under the car, or that a rending metal noise does not occur when we’re enroute to the garage for the MOT).

If you’ve never worked under a car before, a way to simulate it would be to crawl under your bed with some 2kg bags of sugar. Now, whilst an assistant sprinkles you with bits of mud and grit, and ideally whilst rubbing your head in a mixture of mud and oil, hold the weights up at the most inconvenient angle you can until you’re whimpering from the pain.
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Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

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Well, I’m not sure. I collected Chester yesterday, and he’s clearly much better. The handbrake’s no longer sticking (fitted with new cylinders, new handbrake cable and new shoes. Thankfully the drums survived) and so pulling away doesn’t feel like the car’s dragging it’s feet.

However, tbh, despite it being almost a year since the last service he’s actually been running fairly well the last few weeks, so there wasn’t an awesome change in running which I have encountered after abusing cars in this way before. But normally our garage warn us when we’re nearing the 400 quid mark. Unfortunately, I think they’ve got used to the fact that we will keep Chester on the road, pretty much against the odds. That I’ll source parts for even expensive repairs (like a new front strut), because I’d much rather keep a solid old car on the road than buy a scabby but just as expensive to maintain modern car where parts are cheaper.

So when they wandered past 400 quid they didn’t tell us this time. And the fact that their basic service is now just shy of 200 quid….didn’t help – and that it was a 12k service, not a 6k service (last time the service bit of the job was just over 50 quid +VAT).

And then…they forgot to actually bill us for the service, so as I was quietly in pain from the £450 quid ‘service’, shortly after I pulled up to the house they rang and said ‘oh, we forgot to bill you for the actual service’. I said that my invoice said ‘service’ on it, because I thought it did and had been looking through old invoices to decide how much whimpering I should do…

…and offered to go check. And got in the car, instantly apologised, and then when he said it was 200 quid extra I believe the words out of my mouth were ‘How much?! On top of the £400?!’. I may have said ‘Are you serious!’, although I’m not sure. I paid it though, obviously. But I’ve really got to get back to servicing the car myself. Doing the brakes would have been hassley, but it’s definitely within my sphere of competence. The service itself is pretty easy stuff, and probably would have been no problem.

It’s just adjusting those vario-belts that gets me.

Anyhow. I just have to remind myself that in general he’s cheaper to run than a modern car, unless we did the evil ‘run it until it dies and replace’ model of car ownership. And that our insurance is “insanely low” because he’s old enough to be covered under a multi-car classic policy.

But I’m still holding out slightly on buying the replacement parts that he still needs, there are two tie bar bushes (currently hard rubber, will be replaced with polybushes because sports stuff is much more easily sourced) and similarly there’s a brake hose that needs replacing. P’raps once the minor’s out of the garage I’ll force myself down there and work on Chester.

On the Minor front, one of the two packages of ‘stuff’ I ordered for her have arrived. I might consider going down there once I’ve done my day’s cleaning duties to p’raps get one of the seats into usable condition. I was having temptation to fit a heated seat, but having considered it I think if I were to do that I should have got new flame-retardant seat foam (which I have not) and thus it should probably wait.

When the other package of ‘stuff’ arrives, the ‘new’ diff can go in, and the car should be mobile. Although she may need a new battery, I think I’ve somewhat hurt that one. She does need a wash, and she needs a polish too…

Then I can get back to cutting up wood for the house.

My main plan for today was to work on the garden, but it’s raining, which is upsetting. If it stops I may go and force chunks of wood thorough our chipper.

Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

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So, whilst I was on my nights I came across this sign, which actually caused me near physical discomfort. It made parts of my brain really, really uncomfortable and I came away from it with that kind of flickering twitchyness that comes from something inherently wrong existing.


Yes, yes! Fear the kerning disaster. I just want to run over and *FIX* it. I’m guessing it ‘looked fine in word’. I blame this on my graphic-design-in-my-youth-to-20s/technical writing history. This is why we don’t use word people, because it’s a bucketload of shit*.

Thankfully, there were nice staff on shift to take my mind off the horror ;)

Also, Bristol decided to bless me with a gorgeous (if cold) day as I cycled home…

Home time (@fuckyeahbristol)

Insanity is just seconds away. (@fuckyeahbristol)

Today is my post-nights day off, and then tomorrow is the joy of painting. Hopefully I can get it all finished tomorrow, (if two coats are sufficient for both the ceiling and the walls), then Sunday I can put the light up… Tuesday, when Kathryn’s home, we could pop the phone on the wall – then it’ll be the shelves under the stairs after that. But finishing the major work in the hall means we can properly clean the house, apart from Kathryn’s office… which will be awesome

Nikki is suggesting she may be free for a bit on Sunday, which may mean that I finally find the time and energy to remove the diff from Rebecca, so she can get back on the road.

I also need to resist this. If we were staying here, that might actually be impossible. But I keep reminding myself that whist it falls into the category of ‘we could get it going for under 3k’, it would not fulfil the “could replace Chester for Kathryn’s work” requirement – which requires a top speed of at least 60 and a range of at least 40 miles. Also, as time goes on, the 3k requirement becomes a smaller and smaller value, because the amount we’d save by having an EV drops since we won’t be here as long to recoup the funds…

But a Reliant Rebel EV, that’s pretty cool. Not as cool as the DAF EV, but much better converted, looking at it. Mind, that’s not hard.

* Personal opinion, YMMV.

Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

pyoor_excuse: (Default)

So, I had mentally scheduled (indeed I’d actually scheduled) today to work on RebeccaMog. Having sucked it up and accepted that we’re not going to have her EVified before we go to Nova Scotia, she needs to be made roadworthy again and today’s plan was to strip out the diff. However, you may be aware that it’s snowed here. It’s snowed, and the temperature is indicated to be -1 (“feels like -3″). Given that the gas cylinder in the heater ran out a while back and this would involve significant lying on the floor I decided that discretion was the better part of valour*. There’s also the factor of the GT550. It is on e-bay and will hopefully be whisked off by the next time I have a couple of days off so there should be some more space in the garage to work, which will be nice. Although I’m really going to miss having a motorbike. It’s one of those things that’s become part of my identity and not having the bike is kinda weird. Dyke with a bike, only no bike**. Meh.

Anyhow, so, that not being on the list, the vacuum was instantly filled by many other little jobs. So I spent some time (quite a lot of time, really) fixing the old Dead Bug Jumping podcast. Whilst I couldn’t find a speed changing plugin for Ardour, I could find one for Audacity. And while Audacity feels very…basic…now, after Ardour, and I spent quite a lot of time going “Argh” as things work differently in each application, Dead Bug Jumping now sports a complete set of updated podcast episodes with the first track playing at some approximation of the right speed. It is only an approximation – but given the variability of gramophone playback, I’m not too worried. The new episodes are recorded at a stroboscopically checked 78rpm, so that shouldn’t be a problem again.

That essentially took up the morning, but I did take a moment to put our meter readings on our utility supplier’s billing page, and then saw a ‘how do you compare’ kind of thing. And if you’ll forgive me a moment’s smugness:

Mmm, smug much?

Mmm, smug much?

Now, it’s not wholly accurate, because our last months reading was much higher than expected (although, to be fair, it’s been sodding freezing, and our heating is struggling to keep pace (one heater down, missing internal doors, it’s all not good for it). But I’m quite pleased about that. We’re doing quite well. Combine that with our reduced car usage (Kathryn commutes in it once a week) and my fairly committed cycling to work (although the cycling through the snow probably suggests I should be committed, rather than am committed), local food shopping, and habit of buying most things second hand and so on, and I’m feeling that for once we’re actually starting to do our bit. There’s much more that we could and should do, but until we get moved and settled, I don’t feel this is a bad place to be.

This is obviously the appropriate moment to segue directly into my consumerism. Heh. So, I am weak. Whatever… ;)

No, seriously. The Superpad III has continued it’s previously unsullied run of disappointment, continuing to be crap and randomly not working very well. I have to say it’s the worst piece of tech I’ve ever owned, and I really, really, really wish I could have found a solution that used the (now sold) iPaq. But the plan was (at least in my head) to pick up a slimp3:


I’ve even had logitech’s Squeezebox Server running on the music server in the optimistic hope it might attract a slimp3 to the house. Now, I’d given in and started considering that maybe a Squeezebox 1 would do. It is no-where near as pretty as the slimp3, but it would work, and it would mean I could free up that end of the book shelf, and get rid of some trailing wires, and also flog off the Superpad. All a win.

I’ve been trying to win one on e-bay to no avail, really, and then I came across this. Which is disappointing. See, logitech, you nearly had me. I may well still pick one up, because I’m not relying on it for internet radio, and obsolete technology’s pretty much par for the course in our house. But for once I was nearly sucked into a modern device. Granted, I reckoned the first iteration, long discontinued, was the one I wanted. But Logitech have handily saved me from that slippery slope.

Anyhow, most of the day has been spent doing paperwork. I’ve reapplied (for the third time) for the tax relief allowed to nurses (and a reclaim for the past 6 years (working up to 7)). You’re only normally allowed to claim for 5 years, but since I applied in 2008, and in 2009, and in both cases they lost the form, I’ve stated that I still want my tax reclaim to go back to 2006. I’d put it off so long because it means actually trawling through bank statement after bank statement – although I realised after a bit that my subscription to the Emergency Nursing journal, whist it changes price, it only changes once a year, so I only needed to find the cost for each year. And then having checked my UNISON subs, and found they’re the same in the first year as they are now (bargain!), I just stuck the same amount in for each year. That, therefore, did not take near as long as I thought it would (although there was still a fair amount of trawling). Also, thankfully, it turns out the NMC registration price has apparently remained unchanged every year. Which surprised me, because I thought it had gone up. But the website I found said ‘same price every year, back to 1996, when there was a massive price hike. So that all made life simpler. Of course, then I had to have 4 stabs at writing a letter to say what I wanted which didn’t say “I got heartily sick of pissing around trying to get you to contact me on a day when I was at home, since you refused to give me a direct dial number and would only do a ‘we will ring back within a few days’ thing”.

I managed to get it down to faintly irritated with an apology for being slightly irritated. Which I thought wasn’t too bad.

So that’s now in an envelope awaiting the tender ministrations of the post office.

I’ve also faxed various documents to Canada (to WES). I don’t know if you’re allowed to fax documents to them, but it seemed a bit pointless to mail them photocopies. I can do it if they want, but hey. It doesn’t say you can’t fax them.

I also sent the NMC more money, because I love them so. Or alternatively because they wanted more money to send things to Nova Scotia. As I suspected the “we’ll send it to multiple places’ only applies if you do them all at the same time. Feh. Feh, I say.

All in all, it’s been a wildly dull day, really. And now I’m sat ripping CDs again, before cooking dinner. I’ve managed to make myself feel that faint unwell that comes from spending the entire day inside looking at a computer with a fire going. And then I’m back at work more than normal this week (this is one of the make-up-shift weeks for the slight under-hours I do by working 12 hour shifts). Which is why I’d put off starting the hall until this week is done, because after Sunday I should have enough days off to get the hallway finished. Which would be really a very nice treat.

* or calor, given that it’s a calor gas heater….
** Unless we include the 1930′s pushbike collection, which brings to mind an entirely different dykey image.

Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

pyoor_excuse: (Default)

So, as a consequence of my job I got to spend today at an inquest. Obviously I’m not going to talk about the inquest, or the evidence, or whathave you. Whilst it was an open inquest and anyone could have attended, I don’t think it’s terribly appropriate to discuss these things here. What I can (and do) say is that having been grilled on the stand about triage and care and decisions I made 2 years ago was less fun than I imagined. Having the relatives asking questions of you and wanting answers that you sadly cannot give them, that’s no fun either.

As someone who was involved briefly with the patient in question, well, it was weird to consider that the time I met this individual in life was far more brief than the amount of time I spent discussing the individual post-mortem. As I say, not fun. And now I’m worrying about my documentation for many of my other patients, the adequacy of which, if it came to court, now concerns me. Because my 15 minute or so, total, interaction with the patient was dissected and examined like some kind of specimen under a microscope, and what saved me spending the whole session stating “my normal practice is…” despite my appalling memory was the fact that the notes were adequate to draw a witness statement, which was enough to jog enough of my memory to enable me to actually discuss the events adequately.

Anyhow, enough about that, because it’s stressful. In other news, Chester had been producing a faint burning smell for a couple of days, intermittently, and we hadn’t managed to find the source. I’d come to the conclusion that I might have to take the dash apart and check the condition of the wiring behind, because it smelt like hot / melting insulation.

When I was en-route to the court today I noticed a significant quantity of smoke coming from the car as I pelted up the stretch of 60 limit, and pulling up to the court could distinctly smell melting plastic, but not locate the source of the smell which appeared to be somewhere engine bay related, and definitely not in the passenger cabin. Having had another look around the car I headed home, intermittently, again, smelling hot/melting rubber. Finally I got home, got changed, and poked in the engine bay, then laid under the car hunting for the source of the odour. Just as I was sliding myself out I glanced up at the suspension strut. Last year, you may recall, Chester’s suspension failed fairly dramatically slicing a tyre all the way around it’s rim. This time it’s not made it through the tyre, although the tyre has definitely had it. I’m slightly afraid to pull the car off the kerb I pulled it up onto, so I could examine it without too much difficulty, and without dragging the ramps out, because I’m slightly afraid that the tyre will go ‘Bang’ when I do.

This does, of course, mean we’re now sans car (again), and also that I get to play ‘track down the obscure part for the 25 year old car’ again. Volvo, last I heard, could supply these, but at 200 quid a throw. Which seems excessive on a car that cost £270 quid. So tomorrow I’ll do some ringing around, and hopefully get it shipped here, and then he’ll be mobile again.

It’s funny, because I looked at it a few times around the time of the incident, and had thought about rechecking it, but assumed that it was less likely to fail being on the side away from puddles. I was, clearly, wrong. It’s more irritating because we’ve got through a ridiculous number of tyres on the Volvo, none of which have actually worn out. Punctures destroyed two tyres, the failing struts have now destroyed another two. I think we treated him to all new tyres when we got him, so this rate of attrition is really rather sad. We’ve only done 40k miles in him!


In other news, I’ve been doing more woodworking. Or what I consider woodworking, and everyone else would presumably consider causing wood torment and pain.



is what we started with, and what we’re ending with. That, on the left, is one of the few bits of unplaned, un prepped douglas fir. That, complete with price tag, is what we bought to build the book cases. The back is made of spruce ply, which is what B&Q stock.

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Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

The list

Sep. 29th, 2012 12:31 pm
pyoor_excuse: (Default)

So, I’ve got a little list of things to do when I finish my dissertation…More for me than anyone else, really.

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Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

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So, despite hideous tropical humidity, and the world (or at least the English bit of the world) being pretty awful to be working in (in a ugh – it’s really humid way), we put Rebecca in the garage today. With thanks to my awesome friends who came, helped me jumpstart her, and guided her into the garage. It was a hitch free move, thankfully, and surprisingly. And the rebuilt engine? Started easily – given that she’s been sat, unstarted for months.

So yay.

This is the second step in the EV conversion :)

Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.


Aug. 8th, 2012 10:10 pm
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So, today in a spate of productivity I summarised 4 papers ready for inclusion in my dissertation (2 more to go); I updated the ‘Superpad 2′* to the hacked firmware courtesy of Tim, I think. This has made it work better, be a bit faster, have functioning marketplace support (although irritatingly, I still can’t install a working VNC server on it). I’m faintly hoping for the Ubuntu Linux distro to be installable on it in the not too distant future. I might do a little video review of it at some point (I keep threatening that).

Here's hoping I've not instigated a bricking.

It does now work ‘sufficiently’ that I’ll consider using it as an audio player, properly, until a Slimp3 finds its way into my grubby little mitts. It also has a much prettier start up swooshing android logo going on. That, actually, is probably the most exciting thing. The keyboard’s better, it’s rooted. But despite the fact I can now install paid apps, the free one (slow though it is) is sufficient for the moment. I’ll consider the pay-for uPnP client if I get sick of the freebie one.

I collected a garden wood chipper, which I got from gumtree, which should mean we can clear the patch of garden that’s been covered with dead wood since…err…let’s not discuss that too much.

But most excitingly, I made this happen:

It did settle down after a few minutes, and I then bought some insurance, booked an MOT and a service, and am trying to decide whether to install a GPS/Alarm on it. I’m guessing that GT550s are still reasonably stealable. This sudden enthusiasm is partially because Kathryn informed me that if she’s not used her bike gear within the next 6 months, she’ll have to sell it/give it away. So it’s vitally important that I get back riding :)

* BarelyAdequatePad2

Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

pyoor_excuse: (Default)

So, a while back, some of you may recall that I bought and brought home a rusting heap.


The plan was to get a bike for Kathryn, but my fondness for things ancient and solid overwhelmed my common sense (not difficult). And I was somewhat optimistic about the state of the bike when I bought it from ebay. To be honest, when I got there I thought ‘oh arse’. But unless someone’s description is misleading I’ve always felt that once you’ve bought it, you’ve bought it. So I heaved the rusty heap into the car and drove home.

And then there was the misquote. See, I asked for a quote for a wheel rebuild and was misinformed about how much it would cost, and looking at the bike I realised that actually, it was fairly solid. Lots of surface rust, complete and total destruction of the chromework (impervious to water my ass), but the frame itself was pretty good. And having slathered the poor beast in penetrating oil, the brakes freed up and quickly came back to life. I started to contemplate what would be required to fix it.

….and make it look less shit.

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Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

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So, it’s traditional for me to post something after my nights. I was vaguely thinking about looking at my essay* but I am seriously exhausted**. I am quite pleased though, despite the two days of awfulness having failed an essay (where Kathryn spent much time putting me back together and making me feel like a human again), and the exhausting shifts I managed for the first time since I started the job to get on my bicycle at the house and get off my bicycle at the bike rack at work. I didn’t push her up the final hill, I rode up that hill all smooth like. Well, okay, smooth might be overstating it.

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Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

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I may have used that title before… err, so, if I have, put it down to a lack of imagination and too much Queen.

So, I actually made good on my promise to go down to the garage. My bicycle now sports front and rear lights (although the front light is somewhat interestingly placed). I also discovered that my old ‘Mt Zefal’ pump will actually fit on the bicycle’s pump mount (that I discovered today).

And thus, she looks slightly more like a working bike:

BSA Stepthrough

I’ve not yet got around to constructing the skirt guard, but that’s more through a lack of motivation to go and find appropriate nylon string (waxed cotton may indeed be more authentic, but less rotting is my thing).

I also spent some time switching out the old brake blocks (which were probably 1930s) for new ones (which are less well made). The new ones had a marginally larger screw to hold them on. After some thought I decided that making the hole bigger was probably reasonable as I’m more likely to buy more new brake blocks than get NOS ones – and carefully drilled out the holes in the brake assembly by about 0.05mm. It was just enough that I couldn’t *quite* get the screw through, even with jiggling and force. I doubt it’ll make much difference, and Molly is, at the end of the day, a working bike.

Having done this came the joy of adjustment. The rear brakes have a nice screw-thread / double locking nut / knurled nut thingie which is fairly easy to tweak and actually very quickly made the back brakes way more effective than they were with the old blocks.


The front ones, however, I initially had less luck with. They appear to have just the one adjuster which is where the rod coming down from the brake lever meets the tube going up. Where the rod enters the tube is a nut which you can slacken and then adjust the amount of insertion and tighten back up.

The new shoes are slightly thinner than the old ones were, so this needed adjusting up, but try as I might I couldn’t actually get it so the front brake really did a lot.

Then I struck the brilliant idea of putting the brake on and wedging it in the ‘nearly on’ position (with a screwdriver handle, because that’s obviously the proper tool). The screwdriver inserted between the n shaped brake shoe carrier and the wheel would, I thought, hold the brake there so I could slacken the adjuster, reposition the lever in the ‘not applied’ position and…. tighten it. Then when I applied the brakes they’d start from only-just-off and the lever would actually pull them with some force against the front wheel.

Yeah. No.

What actually happened is the brakes gently pushed the mudguard (against which the screwdriver was resting) downwards, and little changed.

After several attempts I finally hit upon

- Gently wedge (always a good start, gently wedging something) a screwdriver handle between the tyre and the mudguard.
- Apply brakes as hard as you can
- Gently wedge a second screwdriver between the n shaped carrier and the mudguard (which is now pressing against that first screwdriver)
- Slacken adjuster
- Move handle to brakes-off position
- Tighten adjuster
- Gently apply brakes and slip out upper screwdriver
- Release and remove lower screwdriver

And lo; the brakes actually work. And way more effectively than when she came back from the shop.

Lights, Brakes, Pump, Gears (well two of ‘em, apparently). Ladies and Gentlemen, I think we have a bicycle.

Oh, and before I sign off for the night, one thing that I thought was terribly pretty that I’d not noticed until today, and is just a sign of people who actually care about the finished product…

Prettiness built in as standard.

As a side point, if anyone’s wondering where the BSA Service Sheet for the early 3 speed BSA hub, it’s here.

Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

pyoor_excuse: (Default)

So, the Minor is currently without a clutch pedal, the LHD pedal supplied by Charles Ware (who else) failed, and is unservicable. It is, I’m informed, made by welding the pedal to a lump of cast metal, welding to cast metal being notoriously difficult to successfully achieve (in the words of my blacksmith a while back ‘it ain’t gonna be strong enough’). Whether or not other pedals made by Charles Ware are better made I’ll leave for someone more adventurous to find out. I fully intend to avoid purchasing from them in the future, anyhow.

So JLH are having a custom LHD pedal made. Which means I’ve rented a car because I’m available for Agency work for the next 3 days. Obviously, despite every day running up to my available days having ‘please come to work for us today’ messages arriving, since I’ve been ‘available’ a deadly silence has descended on the universe, and I appear to have spent 100 quid on renting a car that can just stay outside the house :(

On the plus side, I’ve got my essay to do, the house needs ‘a bit of a tidy’, and we’ve got builders coming to quote; so staying at home might actually be quite handy.

In other news, I may have killed the G-Wiz’s battery pack. While I firmly remember disconnecting it before leaving it in mothballs at my mum’s, I clearly didn’t, and they were pretty dead. Various other systems on the car seemed pretty unhappy, but we’re trying to revive it….

Originally published at Kates Journal. You can comment here or there.

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