Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Receding Tide of my Ocean of "Fail"

So, it's finally the end of a stressful, difficult work week. As mentioned in the previous post, it started poorly and went downhill from there. There were a few bright spots, though they tended to also bear the signs of my week of pain.

The office where I do my day-to-day paying gig is on the small side - I think we top out in the low 40s with regards to head count. As often happens in an office that small that doesn't have a lot of turnover, it's really become somewhat like a large family. One of the sweetest co-workers I have is pregnant with her first children, a pair of twin girls. An event like that doesn't go unnoticed in a small office, of course, and we had a big baby shower on Wednesday afternoon. I can unequivocally say that it was absolutely the best baby shower that I've ever been to. Of course, with that sample set being a collection of precisely one, I could also unequivocally say that it was absolutely the worst baby shower that I've ever been to. I won't though; in this case I'm going with the oceans being half full.

As it turns out, there was quite a bit of the extremely tasty cake left and most of the office had counted on enjoying leftovers on Thursday. Unfortunately the remaining cake had mysteriously disappeared overnight. Rumors abounded (which fit in nicely with one of my long-standing traditions: Start a Rumor Thursdays) as to where the cake could have gone. Had a greedy co-worker absquatulated with it? Had the night cleaning staff accidentally thrown it away? All eyes turned to me. No, wait! They weren't accusatory eyes - they were hoping that I could help solve the mystery because I have access to the video recordings that visually document all of the comings and goings through our three doors. This coming at the tail end of a rotten week, it should come as no surprise that I was met with another big wave of "fail" when I went to retrieve the video. Unbeknownst to anyone, the very camera trained on that DOI (Door of Interest - it's a criminal forensics term that, well, I just now made up) had fried during the height of a thunderstorm that passed through last Saturday night. The Mystery of the Vanishing Cake will therefore never be solved.

I had high hopes for Friday, though. I had made an appointment with a dermatologist weeks ago to have this irritating bump on one of my knuckles looked at. It's grown to the size of an M&M (the chocolate ones, not the even larger peanut ones) and is starting to get in the way of things. I'm constantly bumping into things with it while I'm working on the airplane, and given that this is the finger that I use for non-verbal communications when I feel that I need to share an opinion about someone else's driving skills, it's becoming unsightly to others as well. I was anxious to finally start the process of having it removed.

This was my first visit to this dermatologist. The wait was thankfully brief since the waiting room magazines were anything but entertaining. It's not often that I get a chance to browse through The Skin Cancer Journal, and for that I am thankful. I am of the opinion that they could put something out there with more of a general appeal, though.

As I was shown to the examining room, I was told that I would first be visited by a student doctor. I'm normally okay with that, although a few years ago I did find it somewhat uncomfortable to have a young female student attending my vasectomy. I think that pretty much stretched the bounds of professional medical decorum well past the breaking point. I'm going to put my foot down if the same thing happens at my colonoscopy.

Anyway, the student doc soon came in, and again it was a very cute young lady. This was just fine by me in this case since I figured getting my finger looked at probably wouldn't require me to drop my pants. There was one moment of discomfort, though, when I had to decide whether to show her the finger standing proud all by itself and risk a slap, or just show her my entire hand and let her find the offending (heh!) digit all be herself. In the interest of propriety, I went with the latter. She must be a pretty advanced student - she found the problem easily.

She left the room and a few minutes later returned with the actual doctor and another young cutie who would be there to enter notes into a laptop computer. The doctor herself was quite a looker as well, and had the additional attractive element of not being young enough to be my daughter. Having been alerted by the young student doctor as to where to look for my malady, she was able to go directly to the problem area. A few moments of squeezing and peering later, she rendered her verdict: a digital mucoid cyst.

"Hmm," I thought, "how very modern of me to have a digital cyst. Why, back in the day of vacuum tubes, this thing would have been as big as a warehouse!"

In layman's terms, my understanding is that digital mucous cysts (DMCs) are benign ganglion cysts of the digits, typically located at the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joints or in the proximal nail fold. They usually occur on the hands, although they have also been noted on the toes. The etiology of these cysts is uncertain but may involve mucoid degeneration. Often, these cysts are asymptomatic and do not require treatment. When treatment is indicated, medical therapies and surgical interventions of varying magnitudes may be attempted. Recurrence is common.

She explained it in much more technical terms, of course, but I was able to simplify it for you, I hope.

Her diagnosis apparently having taken only three of the available twenty minutes, she decided to see if she could drum up any more business. A quick look at my fingers showed traces of osteo-arthritis, but there being so little to be made on such a common and commoditized illness, she felt compelled to search further. Now keep in mind that I was in a small examining room with three very attractive women when you consider what my response was to what she said next.

"Could you stand up and drop your pants to your ankles?"

Gulp.

This was shaping up to be more humiliating that the Las Vegas show girl incident, albeit with a much smaller audience.

I did as I was told and she pronounced my legs to be just fine. I sat back down, thrilled to my exposed toes to be done with that. It was then that she asked me to remove my shirt.

Removing my shirt is, to me, actually worse than removing my pants, particularly in front of women. Not to lapse into bragging, but I really haven't any serious deficiencies south of the belt. Going the other direction, though, well, that's not as good. I'm so slight of build that I have to shop for muscle shirts in the 'Boys 8 to 10' section at Walmart. And if there was an antonym to the word "hirsute," my chest would be used as an example in the dictionary.

As she rubbed her hand lightly up and down my chest [shudder, suppress moan] she mentioned that the red spots on my skin weren't a rash, but were small ruptured blood vessels and that I had likely had them for my entire life.

"So," I said, trying to maintain a modicum of self esteem, "those would be what suppressed the growth of chest hair?"

"Well, no, but you should consider yourself lucky; I get men in here spending hundreds of dollars to have chest hair removed," was her reply.

"Really?" I replied. "I've spent easily that much rubbing gobs of Rogaine on it."

That elicited what I considered to be an inappropriately weak chuckle. When I get nervous and crank my BanterAmp(tm) all the way up to 11, I expect guffaws, or at least hearty laughter. Desperate to restore dignity, I had to pull out the big guns.

"I used to call it my Japanese Hope Chest," I told her with a completely straight face.

"Really?" she asked quizzically?

"Yeah," I said, "it looks Japanese, but I hope it gets better."

That did it. All three of them laughed so hard and for so long that I heard other people out in the office asking them what happened in there after they had gone back out to finish up my paperwork. Fortunately the answer wasn't anything to do with the pants-dropping business.

So there was that. I guess that will have to do if I'm looking for a good end to a difficult week.

I was anxious to get back to work on the plane today, but with the foreboding promise of a relative humidity higher than the temperature I thought it would be a good idea to get an early start. That proved to be exactly the right thing to do; by the time we decided enough was enough, the benign sounding 84 degree temperature was far outpaced by the dank 88% humidity.

It was nice early on, though, and Pete and I got a lot done. As you may recall, the big job for the day was to be the drilling of the flaperon torque tubes. That starts out with the requirement for a .063" spacer which you may also recall that I had planned to build up out of some feeler gauges purchased from Harbor Freight to replace the one that I had carelessly lost. That plan was mooted, however, by a text message received from Kyle, lead kazoo player for the infamous Jackson Two. He's up at Oshkosh for the big fly-in and had a chance to talk to some folks from Van's. The question on everyone's mind these days has to do with the new avionics: when, and how much. The answer to the first question was "soon." So soon, in fact, that they are no longer taking orders for the older D-180 kit. That means that the instrument panel that I currently have is obsolete. Conveniently, it is constructed from .063" thick aluminium. Rather than ruin a brand new set of approximately sized feelers, I just cut a chunk out of the old panel.


The spacer was slid between the two tubes and a clamp used to hold everything in place for the first drilling.


The holes are match drilled with the 12" #30 bit.


The whole deal gets pulled out of the plane to allow for the drilling of the two holes on the bottom. That required the removal of the wings, which I was only able to do because Cadillac Pete had agreed to join me for a few hours in the sauna.

The #30 holes are just starter holes; the final drill is with the #12 bit. And where is that bit? It's in the airplane, holding the flaperon bellcrank in a neutral position because I was never able to find the AN3-21A bolt called for in the plans.


This is what 88% humidity looks like:


Once the holes were drilled, I had to bolt both of the tubes back into place. It was definitely getting sweaty by then - I tried to keep myself cool by putting a fan in the plane to keep some cooling air blowing across me. Even so, it was getting uncomfortable enough that my concentration was suffering, and my fingers were slippery with sweat. That caused a lot of dropping of nuts and washers. I think we spent more time trying to find and retrieve dropped parts than anything else.


It was a real treat trying to get washers into place on this particular tube.


When that one was done, I went to install the corresponding candle stick, but came up one washer short. There was only one place it could be, thankfully, since the area into which it could have been dropped was bordered by four walls. While that was helpful, it was not sufficient. Even searching with a flashlight and mirror showed no sign of the missing washer. The "drop area" was small, but it was also full of wire bundles and other things that could block sight of the small washer. Because the floor slopes towards the front of the plane, everything that I had dropped down there previously had rolled up against the forward bulkhead. Pete suggested that we remove the scaffold that is holding up the tail to encourage the washer to slide back to where we could see it.

That was a great idea except for one thing: there is a bit of a painted-into-a-corner issue with the scaffold ever since we installed the horizontal stab. With the stab in place, that scaffold can't slide back out from under the plane.


Not ready to give up on his idea, Pete suggested that the scaffold could be moved out by tipping it onto its side while one of us supported the tail and gently set it down on the hangar floor. Well, that worked pretty well, with one notable exception:


While Pete relaxed under the airplane, I went back to look for the washer. There was still no sign of it, so we lifted the plane back up onto the scaffold. At that point I had given up on finding the washer, but still felt the need to make sure that it wasn't in the airplane. I have plenty of spare washers, but I can't stand the idea of one floating around loose in the airplane. My idea was to use compressed air to blow everything down in the drop area around - surely 80psi would be enough to force it out into the open if not into an eye, given the week I'd had. A few minutes of blowing area around in there proved to my satisfaction that the washer was not in there.

We removed the tubes from the left side and did the drilling in those uneventfully. When it came time to put those tubes back in, I let Pete take care of it. He's left handed, so it's easier for him to work on that side of the plane.


At one point he asked for a confirmation of the number of washers and their positioning on the first torque tube, and I confirmed that there are three washers, two inside the bracket and the third under the nut.

That's when it struck me.

Here, take a look at this again:


See the washer under the head of the bolt? That, my friends, is the "lost" washer that we spent so much time looking for! I'm thinking no amount of compressed air was ever going to blow that loose!

They work!



As Pete was finishing up the re-installation of the torque tubes, I busied myself with the first steps of installing the rudder cables. They get fed in through some of the big plastic bushings that were placed in the fuselage bulkheads ages ago. As they reach the tunnel, the plastic protective tube gets passed through a hole that has no bushing, finally explaining to my great relief why those particular holes never received bushings. That's one of those little mysteries that had be going back and reviewing the plans half a dozen times trying to figure out how I missed the step where those got installed.

The downside here, though, is that the hole is blocked by a stack of ground wires:


That's not a huge problem; it seems that those wires are going to be removed anyway so that the screw holding them in place can be replaced by a bolt.


I was about done for the day, so I just loosened the screw enough to allow me to move the wires out of the way and feed the plastic tube through the hole. I was kind of irritated that a bolt wasn't used to hold those wires in the first place, but that was probably the sweat talking. It was getting too muggy to be fun anymore, so we started cleaning up the shop.


I did notice one thing, though. As I moved the control stick to the right, there seemed to be some resistance just before the controls reached the stops. I tracked that down to the clamp that holds the supply and return fuel lines together.


That was easily fixed by loosening the clamp and sliding it out from under the fuel lines. That was enough work for the day and I headed home to spend the afternoon getting back in touch with my sedentary side.

1 comment:

cthomas said...

Great posting! :) It made me chuckle too. Those little washers are tricky to get installed; My dad, brother and I each had to go fishing for them with a telescoping magnet before getting it done correctly. chuckbuildsaplane.blogspot.com

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