Wednesday, July 26, 2017


We made a post on Next Door about old HO trains.  Last night someone responded and I wasn't sure what to expect, but they were only a few minutes away, so why not check it out?  

All the kids came with me.  The couple was real nice.  They had a huge tub with four locomotives, twenty or so cars, a bunch of track, bridges, scenery, and miscellaneous building materials.  One of the locomotives was a pretty nice Athearn.  I was most interested in the rolling stock but said, "This is worth more than I have."  I only had $74 on me, so I offered that, and he took it!  Score!  I haven't calculated the value but I estimate it to be about $600 of stuff.

The boys engaged in building up the layout.  Scott is working on a bridge and Tyler claimed the new Athearn as his own.  Late last night I took it apart, hard wired the motor to the chassis, and verified function.

Kira asked me out for a date.  She wanted to go to Digger's on the CM400, so that's how we went.  It was fun and she wanted her picture taken.  The bike fired right up and ran well.  Good times!

When we got home, Mister greeted us.  He likes to point at stuff and say, "Hot."  He knows to not touch the motorcycle but for some reason he grabbed the exhaust pipe and burned himself even though I couldn't see where his hand was burnt.  For the next four hours, he cried with his hand in a glass of cold water.  We didn't get to bed until after midnight.

I still feel like a good dad, though, on account of the trains and date night.  Heidi was most displeased, though.  It's easy to critique everyone else's parenting abilities.  When you're the one doing the parenting, you don't need to justify anything.

Also, we have a plan to phase out of my Monday gig and into another one.  I'd like to give more details now but you'll just have to wait.  I'm pretty  excited.  I'm also stoked about my upcoming reunion.  People have been posting funny photos from the past.  One was of Morg and me at 67 Harris Hall.  I had on my Wendy's apron and hat and was standing at the stove with my pressure cooker.

I like to think that I've matured, but this is evidence that I'm still the same.  Now I wear a Williams Sonoma apron.  Good old Morg, I haven't talked to him since freshman year.  Wow, what a slug I am.  

Anyway, I'm feeling good about my life right now.  I've had my anxiety under control for the past while.  Last Monday I did three endos, one of which was a four canal lower molar.  I don't know what's made the difference with anxiety but I'm glad it's not been so bad.  

I've been watching a moto GP racing documentary on Prime called Hitting the Apex.  It's kinda boring so I only watch a few minutes at a time.  The bottom line is that motorcycle racing is dangerous, takes a certain kind of personality, and that anyone can win on a Honda.  Take Valentino Rossi, for example, the Italian world champion at least nine times over.  He rode a Honda to many victories, switched to Yamaha, and then switched to Ducati.  He said, "Anyone can win on a Honda."  While he was with Ducati, he didn't win a single race in two years.  His dad said, "We thought he was getting worse.  Then we realized the bike was getting worse."  He then switched back to Yamaha and did better than he did with Ducati, but if he didn't win, a Honda did.  Go, Honda!  

Okay, bye.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The motorcycle that wasn't

On Monday I worked in Vacaville.  On the way home, I checked out Heather's husband's motorcycle:  a 1985 Honda Shadow 700.  I took it for a spin up the street.  I quickly turned around and said, "I'm going to pass.  There are couple of things with the front end that I'm not willing to deal with."

The handlebars were bent and I think one of the fork tubes may have been bent.  True, I could have fixed those things, but I don't feel like this particular bike is worth that kind of effort.  I did like the torque of the V-twin, though.  But I liked better how my VFR handled.  Her husband was cool about the whole thing and I was glad to have been able to ride it, because you know I was considering getting it as a quick flip.

Instead, I've been working on the trains.  I had to order another power supply since the cheap Life-Like one failed yesterday.  I tried to take it apart but it's non-serviceable.  As such, it would get destroyed during disassembly and it wasn't that great of a transformer anyway.  So I bought a nice used MRC tech II on ebay.  Nice setup!

Okay, it's time to go.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mechanical projects

Hey.  I finished the chimes for today's singing time.  I mean, at least enough for the songs we're going to perform.

Yesterday I worked at Steve's.  We took his 1979 Triumph Spitfire 1500 to lunch.  I drove.  It didn't idle very well and you had to keep the choke on so it wouldn't kill.  While he made his bank deposit, I checked out the engine.

It's a twin carb four cylinder and the shop had just put in a new engine.  The throttle cable was the wrong size, so it was loose.  Then I started to adjust the idle limit screws.  I had left my backpack in my car and didn't have any pliers.  I tried to open the trunk to see whether there were some tools, but I couldn't get it open.  Also, neither of the doors opens from the inside or out, so you just have to jump in like Beau and Luke from the Dukes of Hazzard.

A few people drove by while I was working on it.  Not a single one asked what I was up to, or whether I needed help.  All I needed was a set of pliers.  It'd go like this:

"Hey man, whatcha doin?"

"Adjusting the idle."

"The idle?  What's that?"

I guess that would be what a millennial would say.  A Boomer would know what the idle is.  I thought back to when Bryce pulled over to help a stranded motorist who was asking for money for a tow.  Bryce was like, "Oh, this thing's running real bad.  Look, you've got it way too rich.  Here, let me adjust it...There, now it's running real good!"  And the guy was upset that Bryce saw through his scam.

Ultimately, I was able to adjust it with my fingers and got it to idle predictably.  I still need to adjust the linkage between the two carbs but I can do that.  Steve wants me to fix it up for him.

If I do that, I might not buy Heather's husband's motorcycle that he crashed and is selling on the cheap.  It's a shadow 700, and I'm sure I could fix it up and flip it at a profit.  I just don't know if I want to.  We're getting Britton's Lexus in less than a month.

Oh!  Did I tell you about my junkyard excursion on Friday?  I got a front left control arm for the IS300.  I had gone on Thursday with the CM400 to scout out donor vehicles.  The IS300 cross tour was still there and I asked the owner how much for the control arm.  He said $40.

I said, "That's okay, I can get it for cheaper on ebay."

His eyes widened and he said, "Oh, you wanna do 30 or 25?"

"25," I said.  I returned with the GS400, my socket set, a jack, and the ball joint separators.  It was real hot but I got the part off and it seems to be in good condition.  Yay for junkyards!  I was going to get a wheel but I pulled parts from the cross-tour and it seems to have wider rear wheels.

Okay, I gotta get the day going.  Bye.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Hay.  Yesterday Scott, Mister and I went to Just Trains in Concord.  I am happily surprised at how much the kids are into the trains.  We've been purchasing used rolling stock because it seems you get the best bang for your buck.  You can get a lot of cheap TYCO cars on ebay but by the time you factor in the shipping, and that the cars are of low quality, it's about a wash to get nice Athearn cars with better couplers.

We made the hugest layout ever.  It's about 32 feet around the piano.  I even bought some of the nicer nickel track to replace the crappy stuff we'd been fiddling with over the years.

Scott seems to have inherited my knack for understanding machinery and takes pride in maintaining his stuff.  Mister might have that, too, since he doesn't destroy the trains.  Blake, on the other hand, couldn't care less about the trains.  When he gets angry, he goes and kicks the trains and rails and they go flying across the room.  That angers me and he gets a time-out.

I have some more items in transit: an old Athearn locomotive for Tyler, an Athearn caboose, and some used Tyco trucks (to repair our existing cars).  It's been real fun.  Even at lunch today, I was working on the rails.

Heidi and I had another chat about her work.  Like, should she coach in the fall?  I said sure since it makes her happy.  She said that Walnut Creek is so far, and maybe she'd just work here instead.  Could it be that she no longer wants to move to Walnut Creek?  I don't know.  I'm not going to push it.  I've just been trying to live the dream and bloom where I'm planted.

The market's way up.  WAAAAY up.  I like it because it makes me feel secure.  Weak, I know, but that's how I feel.

Oh:  I bought a drill press.  I'm really into my calling, which is the primary chorister, and in order to celebrate Pioneer day, Camille uses the hand bells.  You can purchase them already made for $30, but I need them this weekend.  I had to make them myself.  Observe:

It's a cheap China Freight unit, but it works for me.  I purchased the galvanized conduit tubing for $6, then cut each piece to length and drilled a hole for the string.  They sound good.  The kids should like it.  I've wanted a drill press for a while but have been able to work around with the cordless drills.  This project, I felt, would justify a drill press.  And I'm happy about it.

Okay, bye.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Yesterday was pentathlon.  I'll post pictures on Heidi's blog.  But first I gotta write some thoughts.

First, I don't use instagram, but for some reason, I get emails talking about what my "friends" have posted.  This picture came up:

It had over a million likes.  I looked at the poor car and thought, "Why is she just standing in front of it instead of opening the hood?  It was probably a head gasket failure.  Wait, is that blue smoke coming out of the exhaust?"

Then I commented on this person's instagram, "Is that a Cressida?"  No one responded.  They were too busy cooing over Selena Gomez, but I'm pretty sure it's a 1991 Toyota Cressida with the 7M-GE engine.  Unfortunately, those were prone to head gasket failure.

But I don't understand what this ad is trying to sell.  Clearly I saw right past the model to what I feel is most important:  The distressed car.  I'm sure 90% of the target audience doesn't even notice the car, or that it's smoking, but looks right at Gomez.  What's in the bag?  Or is she selling the dress?  I don't know.  Why did they choose a Cressida?  Eh, who cares.

I took Kira home from the swim meet while Scott and Blake stayed behind.  Soon after I got home, Scott called me up because he was having a melt down.  He asked me to come and get him.  I didn't want to make another trip because Heidi would be leaving shortly after I would get there, but I also didn't want to be the parent that didn't care.  So I put Mister in the Lexus and drove back out to the pool.

On Marsh Creek road, two motorcyclists charged up behind me.  One passed me on a blind double yellow.  Foolish, but whatev.  The other one stayed behind until the car in front of me slowed me down.  The bike behind me passed me and the car ahead on a double yellow.  I looked onward and saw that the two bikes had passed one more car but were now going real slow.

Then, no more than 10 seconds later, we saw two stopped cars.  Two other cars swerved and then stopped abruptly.  I said to Scott, "He must have crashed."  Sure enough, the second motorcyclist had gone over the cliff on the right.  His bike was about twenty feet off the road and ten feet down the hill.  He seemed to be okay, as he and the drivers of the other cars were walking around the fallen bike.  We saw his buddy do a U-turn to check on him.  We drove on through; there seemed to be enough help.  I wonder if he wishes he'd just stayed back instead of trying to keep up with his buddy, passing cars illegally and foolishly.  We may never know.

We've been into the HO trains at home.  Scott bought himself an old steam locomotive from Just Trains.  I owed him some babysitting money and he was pretty stoked about it.  I'll take a picture when he's feeling better.  Mister seems to enjoy them the most.  Here we have two Athearn locomotives:

Okay, I gotta post to Heidi's blog and get the day going.  Bye.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


My neighbor was cleaning out his oven with a metal-core pipe cleaner.  Somehow, he electrocuted himself and blew the oven.  He's fine, even though now the oven doesn't work.  They called the repari guy who quoted them $2000 for a new oven/microwave combo unit.

I said, "Why don't you just get one on craigslist?  I got mine for $30."  His wife was adamantly opposed to craigslist, or even fixing it themselves, so I dropped it.  I just couldn't get over it.  If I blew the oven, the first thing I'd do is take it apart to see why it wasn't working.  There's always an explanation.  And even if I couldn't fix it, I'd find one on craigslist.  There's no way I'm spending $2000 on a low-tier oven microwave combo.  I don't even know if I'd spend that for a Thermador or Wolf stainless unit.

I talked to Heidi about it.  She's like, "You stress so much about money that you miss out on life," or something like that.  No, I don't stress or miss out on life.  I just find more "useful" ways to spend my money.  I was telling Maggio that I'm not cheap, I'm frugal.  He still thinks I'm cheap, and that's fine.
I think I'm alone in my campaign.  No, that's not true--there are online these young financially independent early retirees who keep funny blogs.

I was even trying to explain to Christine how I have to reconcile things in my head.  I don't think she was having any of it.  But it works for me.  I said, "You can't always buy brand new things and then complain about being out of money."  That reminds me of when I was fixing some problem in the condo we used to own.  The boyfriend of the tenant was telling me about how great his Lexus was, and at the time, I had the Riv.  I agreed that his Lexus was great.  He said, "You're a dentist!  You make good money!  I'm poor and I have a Lexus!"

I said, "Maybe you're poor because of this Lexus."  It cost 45k.

Scott has enjoyed hanging out with me.  He likes hearing about my life.  We drove past the office in Concord where I used to work.  I told him that I hated working there, that sometimes I'd have long lunches and had time to go home, but I'd stay there since going home meant dealing with the ever-screaming Tyler.  Boy, those were hard times.  I remember wanting to buy some parts for the train which were going to be about nine dollars and being worried about making the mortgage payment.

So that brings me to my next topic:  the three year plan.  I'm fine where I am but I'm trying to get geared up in case we really do move.  I calculate that in three years, I'll owe less than 287k on the home.  If we switch from a 15 to 30 year plan, it will easily be cash positive.  Right now, on its 15 year mortgage, we would lose at least $800/month if we rented it at market rate.  Heidi thinks we should just use our savings to cover the difference.  I think we ought to refinance it and then make it just slightly positive (meaning making higher payments to shorten the life of the mortgage).  So I'd say if we can get a 30 year at 4%, then refinancing might be better.  Who knows?

It's fun to make goals and predictions, though.  Like I always say, we'll find out in 30 years how we did!  Okay, patient's here.  Gotta go.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Double manly car repair night

Chris and I had scheduled a time to do the brakes on his step-daughter's Lexus.  Then Nesar called and asked me to help him with his Prius's wheel bearing.  I set up some appointments at the Nitroblue Precision Repair Shop and there was some overlap, but we got both cars done!   When Chris asked, I said, "My shop is always open sometimes."  Ha ha.

Photobomb by Mister

On the Prius, the hub includes the bearing and bolts onto the spindle, which is straightforward.  On the youtube videos, the hub would corrode to the spindle and they had to get aggressive to remove it.  Five slams of the slide hammer took this one off.  Nice setup!

Chris took the Lexus to some oil change place who recommended he do the brakes.  We took off three wheels and examined the pads and there were at least 3 mms left.  I asked, "Were they squealing?"

No, and he says they even recommended new rotors.

"Were they grinding or shaking when you braked?"

No.  Hmmm.  Plus, they quoted him $500 to do it.  Weak.  So my endeavor with manly car repair night, in addition to hanging out with the fellas and listening to the tunes, is to empower people to do stuff on their own.  At this stage of my auto mechanics career, I have most of the tools to do everything I want.  Nesar rented a slide hammer and bearing puller, and that is something better rented than owned since I use it less than once/year.

Rummage was in town for some training, so he set up a din-din at the Cheesecake Factory with me and Maggio, our roommate from our Baker Beach apartment in San Francisco.  It had been a while since I'd seen Maggio and it was fun catching up.  I rode the VFR out and she was running fab.

Guaranteed to plug your arteries or your money back.

Mike was like, "Dentists make a lot of money, right?"

"I make enough to be comfortable," I said.

"But that's a lot, right?"

"I'm comfortable not because of how much I make," I said, "but because of how I've chosen to live."  Then he brought up some of my money-saving measures as a student and I chirped in that I still eat beans and rice.

I considered life in Walnut Creek while I was there.  The people-watching is great.  I form profiles in my head about various couples:  Young software engineer with runway model and a child in a stroller that cost twice as much as the CM400.  I like wearing my Alpinestars since for some reason, people treat me like riff-raff.  It's so curious.  I asked one of the staffers, "Where's the can?"  It was a line from Smokey and the Bandit.  The guy hadn't heard the bathroom called "the can," and he chuckled.  I didn't think too much since I was still in my Alpinestars.

Rummage liked that I keep a journal and talked about how much work it is.  It takes work, yes, but it's enjoyable.  I think anything worthwhile takes work.  Manly car repair night, for example, is work.  But it's fun.  I like what I do professionally, too.  I have a pretty good gig.

Okay, bye.