Saturday, December 29, 2012
I think most of my updates on this project have been via Facebook and Twitter, so about time I got something here on my blog. Last summer, shortly before the THMMC Blue Ridge Parkway Tour, the MINI WUF threw a CEL and I had a brief spat of rough running. Took the MINI in to Flow MINI of Raleigh. They diagnosed the problem as a broken timing chain guide rail. Since I was far out of warranty at 108,000 miles, had to pay for a whole new timing chain "cartridge" myself. The cartridge includes all the parts to replace the whole timing chain assembly - the chain, guides, sprockets, tensioner, etc.
In the course of completing that repair, they apparently discovered that was not getting things back to running normal, so they ended up doing the walnut shell carbon blasting. Got the MINI back, but it was still throwing the CEL. Took it back in, and the second time they ended up replacing the throttle body. That didn't fix it either, so I ended up having to take a loaner on the BRP Tour. Flow MINI ended up replacing the valve cover and that seemed to finally fix things. In the course of all that work, they also flashed my computer to update it (had been at least two years since I'd had the MINI in to the dealer for any work) which resulted in my losing the ability to use the key fob's remote transmitter to raise and lower the windows. The one-touch operation of the sunroof kept working though. They had also diagnosed a slow leak in my turbo oil feed line, but not bad enough it had to be addressed right away.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
From a user standpoint, when viewing videos on Vimeo, you really only have two choices - HD on or HD off. With YouTube, there are numerous choices for resolution, both HD and non-HD, depending on the source video. As I have discovered though, when viewed on my tablet (a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1), the YouTube app only provides choices of HD on or HD off. Vimeo on the other hand, does not even give you a choice. The other thing I've noticed is that Vimeo seems to be more apt to buffering issues.
Saturday, September 08, 2012
The good news is, the switch back to an all-season and longer treadwear means I am still a ways off from having to buy new tires, which was part of my goal as I was tired of buying new tires every year. Should be able to make it to some time next summer.
Monday, September 03, 2012
Unfortunately, not all children are so blessed to be able to spend time just being kids. Instead, some children end up spending time being slaves. Slaves? Yes, you read that right, slaves. If you observed the U.N.'s recent "day" to recognize the end of the slave trade, you may be thinking, "huh?" Sadly, slavery is still alive and kicking in our world.
"The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Last week I happened across an effort underway to address child slavery and child trafficking issues in Africa - the Mercy Project. The Mercy Project is currently working in Ghana where extreme poverty weighs heavily on all who live there. Unfortunately, the poor conditions are putting mothers in a bad position - either watch their children starve to death or sell them to someone who will take care of them. These people who buy the children promise they will take care of them by providing food, housing, and an education. That is all a sham though as the children are really sold into slavery to work in the Ghana fishing industry. Bought for only $20, these child slaves are forced to work 14 hour days, 7 days a week, usually on nothing more than a single meal per day and a dirt floor to sleep on. The Mercy Project estimates there are 7,000 children in slavery in the Lake Volta fishing industry, some as young as 5 years old.
To help raise awareness of the issue of child slavery and child trafficking, the Mercy Project has produced this short documentary:
Mercy Project is working eliminate the slave trade in Ghana and the economic structure that allows it. They are hopeful that later this month they will be able to free their first group of children.
If you would like to help or would like more information, please visit the Mercy Project's web site at www.mercyproject.net. You can also find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @mercyproject.
Sunday, September 02, 2012
As we spend time this weekend celebrating Labor Day, many people see it as a time of ending. The end of summer, the end of vacations for a while, the end of their time off from school. Many are preparing themselves to put their noses back to the grindstone until the next big batch of holidays - Thanksgiving and Christmas - roll around and they get another respite. Likewise, for Jesus' followers, it would have been an easy time to bring things to an end. The reign of the Messiah on earth had seemingly come to an end. Time to get back to being good members of the Jewish community and paying attention to their customary work.
Fortunately, those early Christians did not see things that way. Instead, they tapped into the enthusiasm of Pentecost and began their work of spreading the gospel. We need to do the same thing. As we start the fall season, we can all renew our efforts and excitement in spreading the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
Of course, any time a church loses a pastor, that is going to create a lot of change. This has certainly been the case at Graham Friends Church. We now have a small but devoted core of folks attending on a regular basis. I've stepped up to be an elder and a trustee for the church and I'm trying to keep the web site maintained. I have been working on weekly lessons for our Wednesday evening Bible study/prayer meetings. For the summer at least, with everyone on vacation, I have not been working on Sunday School lessons. Those should start back up in September, so I am slowly working on developing a curriculum for that.
Anyway, I figured it is probably time to start doing some more work on this blog. As you may have noted, the format has changed. I just installed a new WP theme without any customizations. Not sure I'll bother trying to clean it up any. Just not enough time and I'd rather focus on the writing part.
Saturday, August 18, 2012
For this recap, I not only have some pics (see gallery at end of post), but a video as well. For the video, this was my first attempt after some self-study that included reading How to Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck: Advice to Make Any Amateur Look Like A Pro. From that, I picked up a few tips like making a "shot list" and when editing my videos together to start using shorter cuts. Don't think I'm to the point where my videos don't suck, but they may be better than say, a year ago. I am also slowing learning how to use the iMovie software on the new MBP. For this video, I learned how to fade the music in and out and adjust the audio volume on clips.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
Our first stop was Pelican's SnoBalls in Durham. I suppose technically this was not ice cream as it was shaved ice dubbed a "snoball". They had about 100 flavors on the menu along with a variety of extra toppings and other goodies. I stuck with a simple snoball and got POG - a mixture of pineapple, passion fruit, orange, and guava. And it was delicious. Probably my favorite of all the stops.
We then motored through Durham, skirting Duke Forest on our way to Maple View Farm. This is obviously a popular spot with travelers of all sorts as there were several Harley groups there when we arrived along with numerous cyclists that were using Maple View as their start/stop location for a country ride. I went with Blueberry ice cream in a waffle cone. I'm pretty sure the last time I had blueberry ice cream was during The Great Ice Cream Run 2 back in 2009 when we got some up in Maine. (Shhh - Maine's was better imo.)
Sunday, July 29, 2012
After 110k+ miles the paint was starting to show some age, especially in the form of swirls. I try to take good care of the MINI, washing and waxing it on a regular basis. Still, over time it is inevitable that a daily driver is going to need a little extra attention.
First step was a wash with Dawn so I could get all the old wax stripped off. Just that step was an improvement. Next I used some Meguiars Ultimate Compound to try to remove the swirling and some other surface blemishes. I was pretty happy with the results - probably removed around 95% of the problems. But it would definitely take something more aggressive to get that last little bit or if I had more severe problems to start with.
Friday, June 22, 2012
The problem is that far too many of the To Do's in the system have been languishing there for a while. Some are meant to - those in the Someday/Maybe category. But lots of Action tasks seem to just live on indefinitely. So, I try to keep myself on the lookout for tools that will help with the "DO" part - not just organizing to get things done, actually getting things done. For instance, I will now get a Pomodoro timer going if I need to really focus on something for a while. And I sort of incorporated some concepts from the Do It Tomorrow methodology. Still, it seems like there is something missing between the GTD lists and actually working on something.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Part of what has been keeping me going for the past two weeks has been problems with the MINI WUF. A couple weeks ago it threw a CEL and start idling rough after running for a while (e.g. at the end of my daily commute). Got it in to Flow MINI of Raleigh. Leak test was negative, so they started breaking things down and discovered a broken timing chain guide rail. That meant leaving it for a few days for repairs. Besides doing the whole timing chain "cartridge" (the MINI term) replacement, they also did a walnut shell blasting to cleanup the carbon buildup. And in the course of the repairs, replaced the leaking valve cover gasket (so one less DIY repair for me).
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
This test has pulled photos from an album I created on Facebook for one of the pages I admin. The downside is that I tend to not post photos so much on Facebook. I usually just upload them here to the blog. Starting to test a couple other services - Fotki and 500px. Although it looks like my options for WP integration may be somewhat limited with either of those.
Sunday, May 06, 2012
Alas, things recently took a turn for the worse. First, the telephoto lens has gone missing (which may not be entirely bad given the problems noted above). But, the night my son was attending his eighth grade dance, I discovered I could not zoom the normal lens out. So, once it got to 55mm, it was stuck there. And, when I went to process the photos, they just did not look right.
Saturday, May 05, 2012
For me, the first challenge was figuring out what to do about the antenna. I really did not want to put it on the outside of the MINI. But, I still am not sure whether I even have a satellite antenna built-in to my regular antenna housing. I am thinking not, but the only way to verify that would be to get underneath the carpet under the passenger seat – a job I'm not really willing to tackle. So, I ended up putting the antenna up at the leading edge of the dash (where XM says it should not go). While testing that, I've just had the radio hanging on a vent and then for a month, I've wedged the bracket underneath the speedo trim. The radio has been prone to falling and is a challenge to hit the buttons since the plastic mounting brackets are so flimsy. And, I've had to put up with all the wires hanging around (I did tape them together a bit, but still).
Satisfied with the antenna reception, it was time to get the radio mounted a little more permanently. And since I prefer non-destructive mounts, this was going to be a challenge. The first thought was to somehow add it to the CravenSpeed mount I already have for my GPS. And that could be done according to CravenSpeed if I were willing to plunk down the $$$. But then I ran across a member of NAM who had made his own bracket and that prompted me to pursue the same.
I already had an idea of where I wanted the radio be located. Next to the tach at about the 9 o'clock position when looking at the steering wheel, within the circumference of the steering wheel (see the circled spot in the pic). This would keep it close to my normal lines of sight when driving, it would not be readily noticeable or apparent from inside or outside, and it would not block the air vent.
I visited Lowe's and found a sheet of 16 gauge steel. This seemed to be stiff enough to hold the radio in place and not flex much (if any) when I change channels. I also got some M4-.70x10 hex cap screws, some washers, and some wing nuts. Even with a can of matte black spray paint, total cost was only around $10.
The first step was to get a piece of cardboard and rough out the dimensions and shape of the bracket. The plan was to use the two lower screws on the back of the tach (which are also used to hold the CravenSpeed mount on) and just extend the bracket straight out from there. After a couple rounds of measuring and testing, I had the basic shape set. The short leg will extend down and provides space for the radio bracket to connect.
I transferred template shape to the steel sheet and used my Dremel to cut it out. With a metal cutting blade, that worked surprisingly well. I even managed to get the edges and corners sort of rounded off. Just remember – wear some eye protection. As you can see, quite a few sparks were produced in the process.
With the piece cut, I was finally ready to move the tach off the steering column. That proved to be more difficult than I remember when installing the CravenSpeed mount, but I managed to get it. I then measured the distance between the screws (3.75 inches iirc) and got them marked on the cardboard template and on the steel bracket.
The sat radio model I have (an XM One I believe) is actually composed of two pieces. One is the head unit itself which is just a little smaller than a typical GPS unit. The head unit slides into a “base”. From a marketing/functionality standpoint, this means I could buy a similar “kit” for another car and just move the radio between vehicles or I could buy a kit for the house and use the radio in my house. The base has the connectors for the power, audio out, and antenna along with cutouts for brackets. It also has a variety of slots cut into the back of it so it can be put on a variety of brackets. This includes four key hole type slots where you would put a screw or bolt head in the hole and then slide the unit down onto a narrower portion. I measured these holes as well and transferred them over to the bracket. Then it was time to drill – carefully so all the holes would be in the right place. This involved using the Dremel to start pilot holes and then a good metal bit for the heavy drilling.
With that done, I hit the bracket with some matte black spray paint. Once dried, I put the four bolts on and slid the radio bracket into place. I decided to use wing nuts so I could tighten/loosen them by hand. So far so good. Next, it was time to attach it to the back of the tach. This would be the moment of truth as far as whether I had rework ahead of me. Great news – the holes lined up perfectly. Unfortunately, I think I stripped one of the screws when putting it back in. Pretty sure it should all hold together though.
I then spent some time getting the wires run up under the dash and to the unit. Had a bit of a scare when I couldn't get the power connection in because the bracket was just interfering with the connector. But I was able to loosen the wing nuts (glad I used them and was able to use my hands – very quick) and there was enough play to get everything situated and connected. The last step was to get the tach screwed back on the steering column and then figure out how high I had my steering wheel set.
With everything set back to how it was, I powered the unit up and had a nice connection. I will say that with it installed, there is a little bit of flex when I push on the unit – more than I thought there was going to be even when working on the steel. However, in using it for about a week now, I don't see it as an issue. There is a very small bit of flex present when I hit preset buttons 1-4 (these are at the far left end of the unit). But for 5-10 and the channel up/down buttons, it is nice and solid. The biggest drawback is the screen of the radio is hidden behind the steering wheel, so I have to move my head a little bit if I want to see the artist/song info. I can live with that. The only task remaining is to order a hardwire kit for the power so I can free up my cigarette lighter. Short of that, I am back to a nice, clean, wire-free dash.
Monday, April 09, 2012
Traditionally, the event includes a run up Hwy 66 going north out of Winston-Salem. This was one of Bullfrog's favorite routes. I'm sure anyone who has driven it understands why. This year, instead of going to the summit of Hanging Rock as we have done the past couple years, I modified the route a bit to take us to the summit of Pilot Mountain, an iconic view on Hwy 52. From there, a bit of country driving took us to Yadkinville. This let us support a local business - Nate's Place - with our lunch business.
I counted 23 MINIs at the end. Total number may have been a couple more as we had one join us during the route and one drop out (that I know of). Unlike some of my events, we had no U-turns and no unpaved roads.
As far as the video goes, I tried my hand at some time lapse with this one. Set the GoPro for pics every 2 seconds. Captured a total of about 2500 pics, but after five minutes I moved the camera, so I tossed the first 600 or so. Finally broke down and got Vegas Movie Studio (the cheapest version I could find) to edit videos. It was basically one click to import the whole series as a time lapse (though I'll need to learn how to adjust the frame length in the future). For this video I broke it up into three parts, but the full 1:15 time lapse is on Vimeo. Besides the in-car video, I threw in a couple videos and pics shot with my HTC EVO (wife had my Nikon camera at the beach). You might note the shakiness of the hand held bits. I do have an idea to fix that in the future. Will post up if I pursue it.
Enjoy the video!
Saturday, March 03, 2012
Since I passed through the 100k mile mark and was due for a change, I decided to look at some other options. Lots of folks on the MINI boards run either the MINI oil, the recommended Castrol European blend 0W-30 oil or Mobil1 0W-40. Then there are those like me that went outside the fold and run something like Royal Purple or Amsoil or a few other smaller brands.
One oil I rarely see anyone using is Pennzoil. According to MINI, the Pennzoil Platinum European Formula Ultra SAE 5W-30 is "approved" (along with a Valvoline oil that I never see anyone running either). However, upon checking the Pennzoil site, I discovered that there is no longer (if there ever was one) a product that matches the name that MINI provides. It looks like you can get either Platinum or Ultra, but not both. In the Platinum line I found a 5W-30 blend that meet the ACEA A3/B3 and BMW LL01 specs. In the Ultra line, I found Pennzoil European Formula Ultra 5W-40 which meets both of those specs and per Pennzoil, is the recommended oil for my MINI. And for those interested in marketing tie-ins, this is the oil used by Ferrari. This second oil in the Ultra line is the one that I decided to go with.
One challenge though is that these oils cannot be found locally. So, I had to order some. Fortunately, Amazon carries it in a six pack (so I have a quart+ left over if I need to top off between changes) and I got free shipping as a Prime member.
Anyway, I'll try to remember to post back again on how it does.
On a slightly related note, I had ordered an air filter through Amazon as well. Unfortunately, it was not the right size despite Amazon thinking it would fit. I submitted it for a refund which processed with no problem and they even said I don't have to bother sending the incorrect filter back. Of course, I think the refund may bounce because of the change in banks that is occurring this weekend. Always something.
Monday, February 06, 2012
As I mentioned in my last post here, for the new year I was starting a new reading plan which, if I make it through it, will result in me reading 3660 chapters of the Bible in 2012. It has occurred to me that reading the Bible on a daily basis is like maintenance for my soul (or maybe spirit is more accurate as Pastor Mark and I discussed in Sunday School one morning - but that is another story). But maintaining my soul is a little bit different in that it is not something that I can attend to every once in a while. Even a little bit, like once a week, may be beneficial, but quite probably not sufficient to keep things really running well. So in the case of my Bible reading, as our Lord's Prayer alludes to, I need to have some "bread" on a daily basis.
As I noted when I first started Horner's plan, reading on a daily basis was not going to be stretch for me as I was already reading almost daily. Where it would stretch me though was in reading so many chapters and in reading from so many different parts of the Bible on a regular basis. Reading ten chapters a day (or night in my case as I like to close out the day with my Bible reading - really the only time the house quiets down) has resulted in me spending more actual time in the Bible. In my past reading plans, a lot of times it was only three or four chapters and I could oftentimes get through it in 20 minutes or so. Reading the ten chapters is really keeping me in the Bible for a good hour now.
As far as reading from so many different books, I'm still getting used to that. Every now and then I'm seeing connections/parallels. Alas, I really need to start keeping a journal at hand as I read and jot down notes. I figure I'll get to that shortly now that I'm starting to get used to the whole system.
Finally, this post is written mainly as a checkpoint as I have passed through the 10% mark today. Yes, I've made it through 370 chapters already (10% was really at the 366 chapter mark). Thus far I have read the following books in their entirety since January 1st:
- I Corinthians
- I Thessalonians
- II Thessalonians
- I Timothy
- II Timothy
- I Peter
- II Peter
For both Proverbs and Acts, since they are the only books in their respective list, I have started reading through them for the second time.
So, off to a good start with the plan.
Saturday, February 04, 2012
I "celebrated" the occasion by performing some maintenance. First up was rotating the tires. The Conti DWS tires are holding up remarkably well so far. Rears were at 10/32nd of tread and the fronts were at 9/32nd of tread. That's on about 5,500 miles. At that pace I think I can squeeze out the 50k miles they are rated for.
Next up was flushing the brake fluid. Made the switch from ATE Super Blue to some Motul 600 just so I'd be able to see when the new fluid had run through. This proved to be a little more challenging that I thought as the blue fluid just mixed with the Motul (which is gold color) to make things kind of light green for a bit. Think I got it all though, but I did go through both bottles of Motul, so I don't have any extra on hand. I did note that the ATE still looked pretty good. When I switched to it, the MINI fluid was a dark, murky brown. As I got the ATE out, it was maybe a little darker than new, but otherwise looked good.
Finally, I did a Seafoam treatment. This was the third one I've done and is the first time I got any smoke. Just a little bit when initially administering the Seafoam.
Once all the maintenance was done, I took off a couple grille badges and installed a MINI Mileage Club badge for 100,000 miles.
A final note, when I was last working on my MINI, the jack I had sprung a leak or something and would not hold up the MINI any longer. I ordered a new 3-ton jack from Harbor Freight (now I should be able to lift my wife's vehicles as well, since they are always big and heavy). Gotta say, this new jack is a monster. It weighs 75 pounds. But it gets the job done.
Thursday, January 05, 2012
Near the beginning of the video, you'll note we passed by the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant. That was the inspiration for BlimeyCabrio's dubbing the original route the Tour de Steamplumme. We ended in downtown Fuquay-Varina at the Aviator Brewing Company Smokehouse. If you pay real close attention, you might spot the bear mascot that was in Fuquay.