Monday, November 28, 2011

Cool, man!

What's cool? Well, we'll see.

First possibility: I've crossed a line in the arena of marital infidelities: I am now sneaking around with a car dealer. Yes, my unbridled lust has led me astray. I have to cleanse my conscience with a full confession: I test drove a Mustang. As thousands (if not millions) of men that have gone before me have rationalized, how can something that feels that good really be wrong?? So what's "cool" about that? Well, this: that car goes like stink! The dealership I went to is so large that you don't have to test drive on public roads; rather, you go to their test track where, in the words of a very naive salesman, you are "free to drive it any way you like." I'm not sure he knew who he was talking to... 85 mph down the straight and hard on the brakes into the hairpin turn, the smell of a brand new engine baking off whatever anti-corrosion gunk they put on there pungent in my adrenalin-flared nostrils, Co-pilot Egg screaming in fear as her woefully short life flashes before her eyes... now that's a test drive. And the best thing about it? That would have to be that I was not driving the car that I will eventually buy! I'll be ordering mine from the factory.

But that's not what's cool. Here's another possibility: I ordered the powerplant kit and it should be here in no more than three weeks! All I have to do is finish up the fiberglass work on the canopy and I'm ready to go!

Cool, yes, but still not what I'm referring to in the title. As it turns out, I'm referring to "cool" in a thermal sense, as in "it sure has gotten cool outside." So cool, in fact, that I've run into a problem with the fiberglass work. I discovered the problem a few days ago when I went out to the hangar to sand off the umpteenth filler coat and found that rather than generating a fine white clinging powder, the sander was actually just moving goopy epoxy/microballoon mush around. The epoxy hadn't cured fully after two days! Too cold, it would appear. I gave it another day, but to no avail. I failed to get this job done before the end of the fiberglassing season.

Truly unfortunate, that, and by no means cool.

In the hippy sense, not the thermal sense.

There was nothing to do but remove the canopy and take it back to the subterranean lair for further work. I had thought getting it broken loose from the airframe might be the hard part of the job, but the liberal coating of wax did the trick. The real difficulty was drilling through the fiberglass to get at the pivot bolts. The problem there was Van's instructions regarding the method for doing so: drill a 3/8" hole centered over the bolt. This is, of course, impossible because as soon as the pointy end of the bit breaks through the fiberglass it runs into the unyielding head of the underlying bolt. What I had to do instead was to use a #40 bit to drill holes around the bolt head and then use a pointy sharp grindy thing on the Dremel tool to finish cutting off the resulting cap.

After that it was an easy job to load the canopy up in the trusty Vera Cruz and haul it to the basement where it sat for a couple days while the fiberglass steadfastly refused to set. Why? because it's too damn cold. Why? because the furnace picked that very day to stop working. Because of that, the last couple days have been filled with my ham-handed attempts to wrestle the furnace back into compliance. The problem appears to be with the ignitor, the replacement of which in a customer-friendly world would be as easy as replacing a light bulb. After all, they know that these things wear out every 3-5 years, so why put a bunch of steel pipe and some kind of electronic valve right smack in the way of removing that stupid ignitor?

I eventually managed to get the thing out of there and a replacement ordered, but even with $40 of Next Day shipping charges I won't have it until tomorrow, at which point the furnace will either be fixed or will have to wait until Plan B a day later, which the confidence-depleting Co-owner scheduled in advance with a professional repair outfit. Actually, I think that was a great idea - if I manage to fix it, she'll just cancel the appointment. If not, we will get to test the theory that I used to talk myself into attempting this repair in the first place: no matter how badly I mess up this furnace, I can't do any damage that sufficient money can't repair.

Hey, it's just a theory!

And when you get right down to it, the indoor shop isn't a bad place to work, really.

Except for being in the shadow of this %$#@* piece of *#^!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Why I Didn't Build a Glasair

Nice looking plane, right?

I might even say "gorgeous." Wonder why I didn't choose one of those to build?

I'll tell you later.

One of my weirder personal traits, at least on the topic of my ill fit into the world of Corporate America, is my tendency to forget to use my vacation time. Before I know it, it's the end of the year and I have a bunch of vacation days left. In the new "use it or lose it" world that many employers have adopted, this causes me to bundle up my remaining days around the holidays, thereby using the holidays as a kind of multiplier. So, over the next couple of months I will have a total of 29 days off. Still without an engine to install, I'm soon going to run out of work on the -12.


Not soon enough.

You may have noticed that the time between work sessions has notably grown longer - this is mostly because I'm not super enthusiastic about the current job. To put in bluntly, I am not enjoying the drudgery of "filling sanding filling sanding filling sanding.... repeat as required" on the canopy fairings. And this is why I didn't build a Glasair: the entire airplane is fiberglass.

Still, it needs done and with the next nine days yawning emptily in front of my like a great chasm of potential boredom, it's time to get back to serious effort. Pete has missed the work too, near as I can tell, so we arranged for a Saturday morning session. He arrived at the house bright and early and ready for action. Just not exactly the kind of action I was expecting. He suggested that we swing by Edwards Meats on the way to the hangar to pick up some of their wonderful smoked beef sticks. I had no objection to this in general, of course, but I did have to note that the airport is only slightly more than a mile from my house and Edward's is, well, more than a little out of the way:

There also the question of whether or not Mr. Edwards will deign to show up and open the shop on any given day, but the unique nature of freshly smoked beef sticks and, if you're lucky, freshly smoked bacon too, justifies the risk of a wasted trip. Well, "wasted" is too strong of a word; the scenery down in the southeast corner of the state makes for a nice morning ride either way.

We were in luck - the store was open!

This is the Bring Your Own Cow entrance:

They had no bacon, but I was able to get a pound of BBQ and a pound of Pepper Jack Cheese beef sticks, along with a pound of sliced jalapeno trail bologna. Yummy!

As we were headed back, I was inspired by the fact that one of the biggest Ford dealerships on the planet actually was on the way to the hangar. And I kind of wanted another cup of coffee. Hmmmm.... Do you think this place might have a Mustang on the lot?

Yep! They had a dozen of them. None, unfortunately, were convertibles, but they did have a coupe in the model and color that I'm after.

The miraculous new V6: 50% more horsepower and 25% better gas mileage than the old V6:

I suspect that the airspeed indicator is somewhat optimistic for the V6:

It's probably the same indicator that comes with the beautiful V8:

The salesman, who I had hoped to avoid because I'm not a serious shopper at this point, turned out to be quite a bit of help. You have to appreciate just how big this dealership is - they actually have two stop lights on the premises to control the traffic. Had the salesman not intercepted us, we would have trudged around for miles looking for the Mustangs. He was able to whisk us directly to them in a golf cart. That's pretty good service! He was very low pressure and seemed to enjoy just standing there jawing about Mustangs, and he was far more knowledgeable than the lackadaisical dinosaur I had encountered at the first dealership that I had tried.

It's good that I liked the salesman because I actually don't like the guy that owns the place. I used to race against him back when I raced karts and he is a rather unpleasant fellow on the race track. Far too aggressive for what was supposed to be fun, gentlemanly racing. Still... if they will cut me a good deal, I have no problem with buying from his dealership.

We finally did make it to the hangar where I sanded off the rough edges from the last filling session. It's actually starting to look pretty good. All it needed after this session was some light filler. Next time I sand, it will be with a finer grit paper. I'm pretty close to the point where I can put on a few coats of thin epoxy and call it done.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Buying, Not Buying, Selling, Not Selling

Fair warning: there is no real progress on the airplane to report. I'm still sanding the canopy fairing whenever the mood strikes me, and the mood has not struck for more than a week now. So if you don't care about the rest of my day-to-day stuff, you might want to just skip the rest of this post.

It's not as if there haven't been plenty of other ways to fill my time, though. As do nature and that buffer between you and the car in front of you on the highway, discretionary time abhors a vacuum. It's amazing how much time can be spent doing what at the end of the day appears to be a whole bunch of nothing. Case in point: Saturday was spent going to Sams Club to buy dog food. $800+ dollars later, we not only had dog food but a mountain of impulse buys as well, the most notable of which was a brand new caffeine delivery system for myself.

I've been intrigued by these fancy new Keurig K-cup coffee makers for awhile now. The appealing aspect of them is that they brew a single cup of vacuum-fresh coffee at a time. As the only coffee drinker in the house, and even then only on one or two days of the week, a machine that can solve the problems of keeping the coffee fresh, making only as much as I need, and doing it without the hassles of grinding the beans and dealing with the resulting mess is very compelling. But...

I had heard mixed reviews of these things. On one hand, there were plenty of positive testimonials from neighbors and co-workers that love them. On the other hand, there were those that said that the coffee was horrible; it was stated that the little brew cups do not contain actual "raw" coffee but instead were over-priced delivery mechanisms for what amounted to instant coffee. I've had instant coffee before, and there's a reason that I don't choose it over fresh brewed. So, I was at an impasse. Even internet research was unable to provide a definitive answer since there is a lot of noise about a class action suit that seems to indicate that Keurig is being sued for false advertising by saying "fresh brewed" when it's really using instant coffee, but after reading enough standard press releases I finally found a better researched article that provided the detail that the case was actually against a single K-cup provider that was marketing a low-cost alternative.

Sams Club finally solved the dilemma by having a machine set up to dispense free samples. Unfortunately they didn't think to provide any sugar so I had to drink it black ("This tastes like mud! Well of course it does - it was just ground this morning!") which is not my preference, but even so it tasted just like real coffee to me. At that point, I decided that I didn't care how they achieved the taste, as long as it tasted good. I bought one.

Once at home, I immediately brewed up one of the sample K-cups that had been included with the machine. With over 200 varieties available, I look forward to years of being able to sample new brands and roasts. Anyway, it was a fine cup of coffee. Once I had finished it, I satisfied my curiosity through the simple expedient of cutting open the used K-cup. Drum roll......

It was full of used coffee grounds. In other words, "real" coffee.

One of the interesting things about the machine that I bought is that it can brew three different sizes, one of which is about the size of what I would brew when making Espresso. I drink Espresso on those days when I need the caffeine jolt to satiate my addiction, but I don't want a lot of fluid volume because I'm going to be somewhere where rest rooms aren't available. Think flying, for example. With the small liquid volume of the lowest K-cup setting, I no longer needed my Espresso maker - it was just going to eat up valuable HCS (Horizontal Clutter Space, aka "counter space") if I didn't get rid of it.

I didn't want to just throw it away and we've sworn off garage sales, so I decided to bring it to work and just give it away. I thought I'd just anonymously place it in the break room with a little "Free to a Good Home" tag on it, but as is my wont, I got too clever about it:

After the fifth person came to my office asking if I was the one giving away the Espresso maker, I realized that putting together a clever sales flier had been pretty much self-defeating on the anonymity front.

One of my other little projects has been to sneak out of the house with Co-pilot Egg under the auspices of various plausible excuses ("we're going shopping for clothes," etc.) to try to test drive a new Mustang. The first effort fell victim to a very shoddily run Ford dealership. Their web site said that they had five on the lot; they had none. When I was finally able to wake a lethargic salesman sufficiently to ask when they thought they might be getting more, I got a non-committal grunt and the question, "Would you consider pre-owned?" Well, yes, yes I would, but only a 2011 or newer. To which I received a stumped look that said "Why so picky about the model year?" Which was just sad; I don't think I should have to educate a salesperson about the product he is (lackadaisically) trying to sell. He really ought to have known about the new V6 that arrived with the 2011 model year. After all, a 50% horsepower boost combined with a 25% better fuel efficiency is a pretty important change.

I won't be going back.

The most recent effort was last Sunday when Egg and I hit upon the brilliant idea of going to the Columbus zoo, which just happens to be more or less in the neighborhood of another Ford dealer. This one had three Mustangs on the lot, but the dealership was closed. On a Sunday. Which I have to say is astoundingly customer unfriendly. It's really all moot, of course, because I'm not buying anything of that magnitude until the RV-6 is sold. Which it is not.

The zoo was fun, though.

Unfortunately, budget cuts at the zoo have been devastating. Just look at how thin the animals are:

New to the zoo is the nearly extinct American Crane, notable for being both flightless and featherless. They were roaming around free on the paths:

Look at all of the facts about bears, but they still don't answer the most common question about bears:

"What question?" you ask? Seriously?? No one has ever asked you if bears sh@t in the woods? Huh. People ask me that all the time!

Speaking of bears, I had to wonder just where this bear's paw was and what it was doing:

I thought that this had to be the stupidest zoo exhibit ever, but Egg was fascinated enough with it to go back twice!

Egg has always liked the flamingos. Back when she was a stroller baby, she stood up in the stroller to get a better look and fell forward, right on her face. Doesn't seem to have done any permanent damage:

This one remembered and was hoping for a repeat performance:

See if you can pick out the newest baby gorilla:

Finally, something remotely airplane oriented in this post:

The polar bears were engaging in some horse play (so to speak). It was nice to see some activity; most of the other animals were spending their day in animal activities that I could have seen at home with the dogs, by which I mean laying around licking themselves.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Easier than I thought

I had thought that it would be emotionally difficult to sell the Miata, but as it turned out in the event it was something of a relief. In fact, I think I dodged a bullet. It started when I received a notification that I had an interested buyer responding to my ad on after only a few days running. The first email was pretty much along the lines of "Hey, glad you still have it, is there anything horribly wrong with it, and by the way your asking price is about $600 over blue book." That last part came as no surprise; I had pulled the $3,850 asking price out of thin air. I'm surprised it was even that close, to be honest.

After a reply that all of the major deficiencies had already been disclosed in the ad and the inclusion of an internet link to a few more pictures, I received a missive that positively exuded enthusiasm for buying the car. All that remained to be accomplished was the securing of a loan and a test drive. A visit was scheduled for a couple of evenings hence. On the eve of the test drive, I decided that a better impression would be made if I brought the car back home (it's been stored in the hangar with the RV-6 - its corpse wasn't even cold before an opportunistic Co-pilot Egg laid claim to its bay in the garage) and washed it up. After a good scrubbing and a drive around the block, I arrived back at the hangar and was surprised at being greeted with the smell of antifreeze. It's never exhibited that particular odorous trait before, so I was concerned. Things that I'm trying to sell have a long and sordid history of breaking at the last minute and I was afraid that the unfortunate trend was to continue. Story of my life, in glorious 3D and Dolby surround.

I didn't have time to diagnose the problem at the time, so I decided to contact the presumptive buyer and ask him to try to come a little earlier than we had arranged. I figured I'd tell him that there might be a problem, then drive around for fifteen minutes or so to get the fluids hot and pressurized; surely if there was a leak we'd be able to find it. I was hoping for a loose hose. After a nice drive through the country, we arrived back at the airport and popped the hood. I looked all around the radiator and the various hoses running to and from it, but was unable to find the leak.

"Here it is," said the buyer. "It's leaking at the head gasket."

"Ohhhhh, nooooooooo!" I thought. Having recently spent something on the order of $1,500 having a head gasket replaced on one of my other cars, I figured this was the end of the deal. With blue book at $3,200, I figured I'd be lucky to see $2,500 in light of this revelation. He hadn't walked away yet, though, and he wanted to talk price, so I steeled my nerves prior to hearing how bad it was going to be. I figured whatever he offered, no matter how low, I was going to take it.

"So," he said, "what with the air bag being broken and the head gasket leaking, I don't think I'm going to be too close to your asking price. How does $3,300 sound?"

At which point I opened the trunk, pulled out my sombrero, and did the Mexican hat dance.

Well, not really, but I was having a hard time adopting a stern, pensive face while I pretended to be reluctantly deciding whether or not I could live with such a ludicrously low offer.

"Well," I said thoughtfully, "I guess that's fair."

So, it's on to the replacement. There's been a rather interesting development on that front as well. I had been planning on finding another relatively low budget convertible, as you may recall, and had briefly considered an eight year old Ford Mustang. I wasn't thrilled about the comparatively high fuel costs of a heavy car being dragged around by an anemic V6, though. A discussion with the Co-owner on the topic has shifted my viewpoint.

Having used the Miata to keep 44,000 miles off of our "good" car, it is in great condition and has far less that the 101,000 miles on it than it would have had without the Miata bearing the brunt of my daily commute over the last four or five years. Having recently bought a nice, comfortable SUV, we no longer really need the four door car in the way we did before. The upshot is that she suggested trading it in the low-mileage sedan and getting a new sporty car rather than another old beater that would inevitably face the same end-of-life issues that claimed the Miata. With that in mind I started researching newer cars. As it turns out, Ford replaced the old V6 engine in the base model Mustang for the 2011 model year. The new engine puts out 50% more horsepower, yet improves the EPA mileage from a measly 24 mpg to a respectable 31 mpg.

Wow!! Mexican hat dance! Where do I sign??

So here's what I'm thinking about now:

Of course, I'm not going to do anything until 1) after winter, and 2) the RV-6 is sold. But it sure is nice to have a plan!

With all of that going on, plus being weeks overdue on a couple of game reviews for Gaming Nexus, I haven't done much on the airplane. As you may recall, I had slathered on a bunch of cake icing around the canopy to fill in the low areas of the fiberglass. I also mentioned that I'm not very good at icing cakes. That was no false modesty:

Well. That's really going to take some sanding, isn't it. Good thing I have a machine for that!

Even as I was sanding I could see that I'm going to need at least two more filler coats of icing. I did manage to scrape up a spare half hour to get a batch mixed up (thicker!) and spread on. I hope to get out again soon to give the new batch a light sanding prior to applying yet another batch. For as long as this is taking, I'm glad I decided to hold off on ordering the engine. I had thought this would only take a couple of weeks; it's shaping up to be harder that I had expected.

That kind of outcome was bound to come around again, eventually. Story of my life.