Friday, May 26, 2017

Manly Car Repair

We got the IS300!  At least for the weekend.  I wanted Heidi to drive it and see whether she liked it, in order to determine how much effort to put into it.  If she couldn't care less, then I probably wouldn't even bother painting it or straightening it.  Scott and I picked it up last night.  Britton had already left for Utah and opened remotely the garage door for me to get the key.

My initial observations are as follows:
1.  Transmission is getting tired.
2.  Left front wheel bearing is noisy and needs attention soon
3.  Check engine light is on for the following codes: P0174, system too lean, bank 2, and P0440, EVAP system.  It's most likely the rollover valve.

Early this morning I opened the hood and had a look around.  I filled up the radiator, shook a bunch of crap out of the air filter, and cleaned the engine bay a bit.

At lunch today I jacked up the rear end to have a look underneath.  That stinking rollover valve is way up in there.  I'm disinclined to remove the gas tank to do it and more inclined to just remove the rear seat and cut a hole in the floor.  Scott shined up the wheels while I vacuumed the interior.  I wanted Heidi to feel like it was a nice car, because it is, after all, a Lexus.

The CEL also may be on for a bad MAF sensor and a bad gas cap.  Britton replaced it with an after-market one and the forums indicate that they're no good.  I don't know about haphazardly replacing the MAF, though.  I could build a smoke tester and see whether it's leaking at the rollover valve as opposed to some other vacuum hose.  But given the amount of posts dedicated to the rollover valve, it is unlikely to be anything but that.  But you just never know.

Last night Drew came over with his Sienna so we could put on a tow package.  I let him do most of the work, including using the air ratchet.  This morning, his wife thanked me and I told her that he did most of the work.  She said, "Yeah, right.  But he said, 'Danny's got all the tools.'"  Yeah, manly car repair night!

Don stopped by the office just to say hi.  He said he saw me scavenging for parts off of Deer Valley, so I had to tell him what Scott had said:  "Local dentist seen scavenging for parts..."  He got a good laugh.

Tonight I drove out to Clayton in the van to drop off Scott and pick up Kira and Blakey from swimming.  On the way back, there was a motorcyclist in front of me.  I caught him/her.  You could tell from the way he/she (The rider was either female or a really small dude, but I'll just say him from now on) was leaning that he was inexperienced.  He tried to ditch me but I kept on his tail.  It was a bit obnoxious of me and I thought, "This guy is obviously at the limit of his skill and he still can't outrun a minivan, but I'd better not aggravate him because he'll do something foolish and crash and then I'd feel guilty."

He even turned around, as if to say, "I can't pull over to let you pass, I can't ditch you, but you don't need to prove your dominance anymore."  Yay for minivans!  Ha ha.

I had burger club on Wednesday.  I rode the VFR out to Discovery bay.  I was up to 95 on four east and the VFR was running great.  It felt awesome!  Yeah.  Okay, that's all for now.  Yay for holiday weekend!  Sweet.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The spectrum

I like what I do.  I like to keep up with peoples' lives while providing a service that gives me a good quality of life.  This week I was talking with a patient about my old piano, a 1959 Baldwin.  She asked whether it sounded old.  I said, "See for yourself," and played a recording I'd done on it.  My favorite composition at the moment is Feb 19 2017 ver 3.

My piano is in tune and sounds great, but she said it sounded old.  Whatev.  Then she said, "This is you?  Had you practiced this?"

I explained that I just come up with the stuff and record it, and sometimes the transitions are rough.  But I listen to it over and over and think, as I'm listening, "I should do this [chord progression] next.  And then I do!  So at least I agree with myself."  Then I make another recording.

She said, "Your brain has a very interesting way of thinking."  No, that's not what she said, but it was a nice way of saying that my brain works differently than most peoples'.  I was like, "Wait a minute..."

But it's true.  My brain is different, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I was talking to Steve about my car and he asked whether I was on the spectrum.  Though I've never been professionally diagnosed, I believe I have some form of Autism.  Thank goodness for my music and for my earplugs.

I was talking to another patient who deals with anxiety.  I deal with it, too.  I said, "Sometimes I wake up and my heart's pounding with no apparent cause.  I feel like this dark cloud is hanging over me and if I give in, it's gonna crush me."  He said, "Exactly.  And people who don't deal with it just say, 'Oh, don't worry about it.'"

I told him that the music helps me and I have to have it on all the time.  He agreed, saying that if it's not on, then his mind starts to race.

Kira and I had the daddy daughter dance on Friday.  She wanted to hang out with her friend the whole time, so I talked with the dad.  We went to frozen yogurt in his M3 afterwards.  It is the V-8 version with dual clutch automatic transmission.  I didn't like how it went from stopped to moving, but the shifts were crisp.  It was fast, but not amazingly fast like I'd expected.  But the thing that bothered me the most was that you could feel every imperfection in the road.  It was super bumpy.  It's more of a track car and less of a daily driver, in my opinion.

The next day I took Kira and Blake in the Lexus to the meet.  We took Marsh Creek road, which I usually do in the van.  It was waaaaay smoother in the Lexus and I didn't have to brake once the whole way.  I'm pleased with my new tires.  I'm pleased that there's enough torque to go up over the hills in 5th gear at 1500 rpm.

Oh!  The other day I was seriously considering switching the van's JL amp with my Lexus's cheap Boss amp.  I think the reason the JL didn't power up in the Lexus is because the battery was below the threshold voltage, which I didn't know at the time.  But when the van's battery failed, the JL wouldn't power up.

Anyway, I decided to just work with what I had.  I had had the amp's low-pass cutoff too low, so I switched it to full range and then used the low-pass cutoff on the crossover at about 55 hz.  Then I turned up the 45 hz bass boost.  When the sound is right, you feel it in your chest and not your head.  If it's too heavy at 100 hz it's just annoying.  There are a couple of songs that I use as a gauge and they all sounded good with the new equalization.  I love my subs.  I think part of the reason most people couldn't care less about a sub is because they're not on the spectrum.  Well, I've found an inexpensive mechanism that makes me happy.

Okay, that's all for now.


Thursday, May 18, 2017


Ga was Walt's dad.  He owned several nurseries in New York and retired in Malibu, CA.  Everyone commented on his work ethic.  When Walt died he gave me the highest compliment he could have given me.  He said, "You remind me of my father."  I asked why, and he said, "You work hard and you save your money."

You would have to know Ga to appreciate that comment.  He immigrated from Germany and bought a used bike his first day in the U.S.  He took care of people's yards and then bought a nursery.  When that was successful, he sold it and bought some land to build another nursery.

Storefront of one of his nurseries in NY, see his name on the glass?

This morning I got up early and worked in the yard.  I sawed off a broken limb and cut it up to put into the green recycles.  That took a while because it was a big branch.  Somehow now that I write it, it doesn't sound too impressive.  But I thought, "Ga would be pleased."  I never knew Ga.  He died before I came to California.  But I feel like I know him because of the history that Heidi's cousins did.  

Yesterday Scott asked if Tyler had a whole heart, would he be more competitive than him?  I said yes.  Scott was incredulous.  I said, "You're lazy.  You don't try hard.  You could be fast, but you don't put in the extra effort.  When Tyler jumps in the pool to race, he has this look of sheer determination.  You don't.  Just sayin'."  I want him to have in his mind that he's gonna prove me wrong and be fast and competitive.  Cool.  Now I think Kira might be our strongest athlete.  We'll see.  

Okay, time for my lunchtime nap.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The garden

Finally, my sprinklers are working right.  There were some loose connections that I repaired last week and I reprogrammed the machine.  Now that we're out of the drought, I can feel good about watering my yard.

Another few days and the raspberries will be ripe

Apple tree

Two varieties of tomato
Today Blake, Scott, Mister and I rode bikes out to Scott's favorite store, Tractor supply.  First we went to the bank to cash his birthday check from Grammy.  Then we went to Ace to get some popcorn.  Finally Scott got his BB gun at Tractor supply and I got a peach tree and some compost.

We ate at a taco truck and that was Blake's highlight of the day.  While at the bank, I withdrew some cash.  The lady was milking it, Mister was just running around, and I wanted her to just hurry up and give me my money.  She asks me if I'm interested in a home equity loan, auto loan, or something else.  I said, "I have no debts."

Well, that was only partially true.  I still owe on my mortgage and my student loans but I have no credit card debt and no auto loans.  I just wanted to jet.  Scott asked why I don't just pay off my student loans.  I said, "My money makes more in the stock market, I get to deduct the interest on my taxes, and having that expense lowers the profit of the corporation so I pay lower taxes."

This was from a few weeks ago when we replaced the battery in the van.  Blakey was doing righty tighty, lefty loosey.

I'm kinda burned out from all the bike riding.  We just finish din din, the kids are generally in good spirits and I'll see if I can get them to bed at a reasonable hour.  Thanks.

Lexus LC500

Yesterday I went to the Lexus dealership to get some splash guard clips for my GS400.  My parts weren't in stock and had to be ordered, but since I had a few minutes before it was time to pick up Kira, I strolled around the showroom.  No one asked me if I wanted to buy a car.  Outside, I saw this:

It has a 5.0 liter naturally aspirated V-8 with 470 hp.  It looks cool.  I went around the back to the service bay because I wanted to see how the shop operated.  I stood there for a while with my hot cocoa before anyone acknowledged me.  Off to the left was a trash can full of parts and I spotted a moulding piece with a bunch of body clips that I need from time to time.  Cool!  Free parts.

Finally a tech greeted me and I asked what they were doing on the LC500.  Nothing, just getting it ready to put in the showroom.   It sounded great.  It had a real throaty growl, crossplane crank rhythm, and sounded a lot like the 2004 OHC Mustang.  I asked one of them what his dream car was and he said, "Well, it was the IS-F, but now I'm thinking it might be this," pointing to the LC.  I asked if I could have the trim clips and the guy pulled them off and gave them to me.  He was a little younger than I was.

Outside was another salesman standing by the LC.  He asked me if I wanted to buy it.  I said, "I don't know.  I wonder how it sounds on the freeway, because some of those American V-8s have an obnoxious drone.  What do you think?"  He said it you could hear it if you "got on it," meaning stomped on the gas.  I was prepared for him to tell me that I couldn't afford it (I was dressed in my shorts and t-shirt) and I had in my mind what I'd say, but he never did.

Most people think when you buy a new car that you need to dress up.  Bill Cosby, before he was in trouble with all the ladies he'd wronged, said you dress up like a bum to get a lower price.  You have to strike a balance though because if your clothes are dirty and you look like a slob, then they probably will avoid you.  The salespeople are trained to at least ask if you need assistance.  Finally I said, "Is that IS300 for sale?"

He said it belonged to one of the girls in the showroom.  I went back inside and asked the only saleswoman whether that was her car.  No, she drove an Acura.  I said, "Isn't that a conflict of interest?"  She said, "I'd like for someone to buy me a Lexus."

People, people, people.  That's why you don't buy new cars.  They're too expensive and depreciate too fast.  I told her about my GS and I don't think she was impressed.  I didn't even care.  Just ask the millionaire next door:  Millionaires don't buy new cars.  We in western culture are trained to think that those driving new cars must be successful and that we'll be successful if we keep up.  It's complete and utter rubbish.

I feel secure in my place in society.  I could buy the new LC500, but I'm happy with my GS.  Scotty Kilmer had a funny youtube video on why you shouldn't buy a Mercedes.  He was able to articulate what I already know, which is that they're engineering disasters.  He said to stick with Toyota.  Nice!

Okay, I gotta get breakfast going and do my silly exercises.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

I write the book

I write the book on making things last.  Oh, there's not a book?  There is now.  My blog.  Dad called last week to say that his Lexus started to chug and act fuel starved.  I went through several scenarios with him but they all involved the check engine light, and his apparently didn't come on.  I think it's the fuel pump.

Then I was talking to Mom about it and she says that she expected it to last at least 100k miles longer.  It has about 180k.  I said something to the effect of, "I don't know whether it's the climate, and the freeze/thaw cycles, or whether you're using cheap gas.  Are you using cheap gas?"  Yes.  The cheapest.  My theory is that the cheaper gas burns hotter, which results in more carbon build-up, which then affects the seal of the piston rings, which leads to oil consumption.  Maybe I'm wrong, but based on the mileage of my vehicles, I'd say that my usage of high-octane gas has been successful in preventing catastrophic engine failure.  I'm not going to do the math to determine a break-even point, but in my mind, spending $3 more at the pump to ensure my car goes 100k more miles is the equivalent of at least 7 years driving, and that's significant.  In my mind, if you can maintain your car for less than 1000/year, not including gas or insurance, then you're doing well.  So if you buy a car for ten grand, you should expect to drive it for ten years.

You can mock all you want but I write the book on this.  I will get my money's worth out of my Lexus in seven months and that assumes a depreciation to zero and it will be worth at least 80% of what I paid for it, so that's pretty good.  Plus, after a time, I think it will start to appreciate because the GS400s are like unicorns in the VIP market.  But we'll see.

Maybe it's my driving habits: easy acceleration, planned braking, swinging wide for a turn and then cutting in tight.  Who knows?

One other thing Dad said was that his neighbor recommends buying cheap conventional oil (rather than synthetic, which I buy) and changing it more often.  I said, "Why, does he have a couple of high-mileage vehicles?"  No.  Therefore, he doesn't write the book on how to keep high mileage vehicles running well.  I do.  But what would I know?  I'm just a kid.  Ask me in thirty years.

No one's gonna read my book.  Miles said it well:  "No one cares."  True.  But this is important to me, so I write about it.  Besides, God said to magnify your talents.  This is a talent I have.  So there.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wishy washy

It seems all the clean-titled Lexus IS300s I've been looking at have sold.  That or their ads have expired.  Sigh.

So I told Britton in church that I might not be totally over the notion of taking over his car, but that we should wait until August, transfer the title and register it as non-op and just see how Heidi likes commuting in it.  Then we could consider straightening the body and painting it.  He's fine either way but then today I found a dark grey 2003 IS300 with only 102k miles and a clean title.  It's perfect.  The price isn't unrealistic either.  I already texted the person.  We'll see.

Why so wishy washy?  I don't know, probably because I think it's a bit superfluous and hypocritical because I preach penny pinching and frugality and living with less.  You know?  Yeah.  But then I also think, I'm gonna die with all this money, not having enjoyed it that much.  So why not the IS-F?  Because I don't think it would make me any happier.

I was telling Britton about almost getting scammed on the craigslist phone deal (BTW, Scott found Heidi's phone under the couch!  Ha ha!  Now she wants to sell the newer one and keep the old one.  I think she should keep the new one and give the old one to the kids, but whatev), and how it wasn't about the money, because I have more than $280 to my name, but I just don't like wasting my money.
The Lexus guy just wrote back.  I felt a heaviness in my stomach.  It's not the right one.  Blast!

Also I was reading on this financially independent guy's blog about how he doesn't buy Apple products because they're too expensive.  He and I disagree.  I buy only Apple products, used, because they're less expensive, work better, and last longer than their new Windows/Android/Samsung counterparts.

One of Heidi's co-workers was asking me about speakers, and how he's considering this particular brand with which I was unfamiliar.  He said they were a grand per pair.  I said, "Wow, that seems high.  Why not just get some real nice used ones on craigslist?"  He wasn't having any of it.  I said, "It's the best because the wives say, 'Get these ugly things out of here!'  and the husband is like, 'but I got these in college!'  I sold my JBL's on craigslist for only $50 and they were THE BEST."  Heidi was telling him, "You must not know Danny very well.  He buys real high-end stuff but isn't willing to buy it new, so he buys it on craigslist.  He thinks it lasts longer."  Yes, it does.  Case in point:  The Vermont Tubbs bunk bed set.

But back to the speakers.  I said, "Just listen to them and buy the ones that you like,"  I gotta tell a story about my speaker-browsing experience in San Francisco as a poor dental student.  I went to this high-end store on Post and Steiner and said that I have my iPod, and could I plug it in to see how my songs sound on their speakers?  The guy was like, "iPod is junk."

"Do you want my business or not?"  I said.

He simmered down and I plugged in my iPod.  Their speakers sounded okay.  Just okay.  The ones I had built sounded better, and the planetarium speakers I got from BYU sounded better, but whatev.  I asked how much.  "ninety nine ninety nine," he said.  "Each."

I thought, "Oh, two hundred bucks for the pair isn't too bad."  Wrong.  It was ten thousand dollars each.  Twenty large for some speakers that were mediocre at best.  What are we paying for?  Some famous guy's set of speakers?  The proof is in the pudding.  These clearly did not deliver.  I thanked him and left.  Wow!

We had fathers and sons on Friday night.  It was super fun.  All of my friends were there and the food was great.  It was cold, though.

Blake, Tyler and Scott came with me and Heidi picked up Blake and Tyler at about 9:30.  Scott and I slept in the tent and had to leave early the next morning for his time trials.  The pool's sound system is two twelves or fifteens and sounds decent but in my opinion needs a subwoofer.  I wear my earplugs at meets anyway but it would just be nice to feel the bass.

You know who had the best sound systems in the world?  BYU.  Those guys didn't skimp on the bass.  The X-arrays were a $30k roll-around system with four main drivers, each housing two fifteens and a horn tweeter.  The subwoofer was a large cabinet with two 18 inch drivers.  You could feel the bass pounding from over 150 feet.  The most impressive was Cougar stadium, though.  You could hear it clearly from at least six miles.

I was gonna post a photo of the x-arrays, specifically, me rolling the system out of Cougar stadium, but I couldn't find it and it's time to put the kids to bed.  So, bye.