Thursday, June 30, 2005

Hotel Edith

Last night I attempted to sleep aboard Edith. I've been meaning to do it for some time to test out the accomadations for camping, and just to sleep on 'my' boat. I have visions of gently being rocked to sleep by the waves and tides on the Petaluma River, and waking up at dawn to the honking of Canadian Geese. Thankfully most of that was true. It had been a hot hot day, and even in the cool of the night the boat remained pleasantly warm. I unpacked my sleeping bag, pad, pillow and laptop (gotta watch movies right?) and settled in. Occasionally one of the big push-tugs from Jerico would rumble past and provide a little additional wave action. I was fast asleep in minutes. But by 2:30 I was back home in my own bed. Dang.

The problem it turned out was two fold: I'm a softie and my boat is stinky.

I'm a softie: There's no padding on the'bunks' in Edith, and while I have a sleeping pad, I've gotten soft in the passing years and woke up stiff and sore at 2 am. Not enough hip padding and the bunks are lightly tilted the wrong way so your head is just lower then your feet. These problems are easily fixable, and I intend to give it another shot with addditional foam and maybe adding more weight to the bow (she's not on her water lines anyway since we removed the fuel tanks).

In answer to Laurel who raised a good question: if the bed is the wrong angle why not flip around? Because then my face will be up under the deck and if I sit up I'll smack my face into an oaken beam. And I like my pretty face. I suppose I could adapt and learn to scoot down before I bolt upright in bed, but I didn't want to take a chance last night.

Stinky Boat: Since we removed her fuel tanks we've resorted to a small 3 gallon tank on the bridge (in the cabin) and whenever we top off a little diesel or biodiesel gets spilled and then wiped up. We keep her closed up tight most of the time especially with the out of season rains we've had, and she hasn't been cleaned since River Cleanup Day. So her cabin was pretty fumy. I open the portlights and kept the door open for a while, but closed it when I was ready for bed and when I woke at 2 I was a little woozy. I can't be sure if this was because of the fumes or because of the 'gentle rocking' but I decided that I'd decamp for home until I've given her a thorough scrub and clean the detritus out of her. Again a solvable problem (maybe) and something that I'd like to attempt again soon.

Also it would probably be wise to attempt this on a non-work night. But the idea hit me last night and I wanted to sieze the opportunity.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I guess that's why it's called work.

Or: Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays.

Sadly my working life has begun to resemble Office Space in serious ways, except I can't tell which character I am. I think I'm either Mike Bolton or Samir. I spent almost this entire weekend working, but for that I blame my suprisingly robust sense of honor. I told them it would be done on time, and damn it, I'll do everything I can to make that so.

In other news I'm getting a promotion, so maybe it will be somewhat worth it, because frankly it is way to depressing to have grown up and become a guy who hates his job. It's too cliche.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005


Aaack! ok ok. I just got home from work, and in my mailbox was a package. Well, an envelope, but it was one of those biggies. I forget how exciting it is to recieve actual, physical, mail from people. In it was a zine about tea, and a lovely card, and another zine which is a reprint of Mother Earth from 1914 with an essay by Emma Goldman. My friend Jaime had promised to send me this zine some weeks ago at the Free Mind grand opening and I'd been anticipating it greatly.
See I love tea. I believe she has called me a tea freak, but I prefer to consider myself more of a jonny tea-seed, or teavangelist. There is nothing like a good cup of tea, and I'll be the first to admit I have a healthy dose of tea snobbery. I like my tea black, strong, and not at all flowery. People like herb teas, and other lesser greens and blacks, but for me nothing beats a good thick cup of Irish Breakfast, except for perhaps a particularly smokey Lapsang Souchong. And I like to think that I've inspired others to start drinking tea by my interest and endless nattering about how good it is.
So Jamie sent me this zine and I began reading it. It's good, clearly whoever put this together understands the tea thing. I wish I'd known about it before as I would've love to contributed to it, but alas. As I'm reading it I notice it's dedicated to Vadellia and Scottyj. Hm. I don't normally refer to myself as ScottyJ so I don't immediately put it together (note to those in the audience who are snickering at my slowheadedness: I didn't realize that Jamie helped put this zine out). Allow me the egocentric indulgence of quoting the dedication, as I don't think I've ever had something dedicated to me before:

"The love of tea, tobacco, the high seas and flowerfields. All one needs is a little bit of conviction, desire, passion and patience. This zine shares the magic of tea, dedicated to two of the biggest dreamers an sweetest tea drinkers I know, you've taught me so much. Thank you. "

Whoa, I think to myself. It's eerie how much this 'other' scottyj sounds like me...yes the penny still hasn't dropped. I keep reading and come to "Tea Freakdom Theory" which I will republish here:

"Now, this may not hold true for all tea freaks, as with most things truth is whatever your brain thinks is real, (((Actually the line is "whatever your brian thinks is real" which is a better line really))) I think this is a pretty good theory: People will not become obsessed with tea unless they are former coffee drinkers who have quit coffee (for whatever reason). let me tell you of my reasoning, through noticing patterns. Scottyj. When Scottyj and I meet he was always talking about & drinking tea (really I was puzzled and thought it was a bit over the top) tea was brought up in conversation, more than that average person might want to chat and drink and chat more about tea. I didn't really understand & I still might not fully cuz I never asked, but this is only an observation. So one day when we were hanging out I noticed a tatoo of COFFEE, yes a coffee cup on his forearm. (((Yup. I finally guessed it might be me))) I sound found out that he is an x-coffee lover turned true tea freak....I had no idea that two years and 1000+ soy lattes later I would know exactly what was going on. A deep understanding for the path that may lead some to tea freakdom, you either get it or you don't- Traits you'll find in coffee yearning tea obsessors: Always talking about tea. Excited about and know tea types. They feel really proud ordering tea at coffee shops. And again we talk more about tea than you might like. We ALWAYS REALLY want or at least THINK about COFFEE- it's true. And late at night you might find us on a solo mission at the nearby cafe 'sneaking' a latte or americano."

Now I love Jamie. But I actually have to disagree with her on the premise that tea-freakdom is merely covering for coffee-lust. I'll say this because I have gone back to the dark side. I drink coffee again, and lots of it, and can fairly assess both sides of the fence. I gave up coffee because i was suffering from some bad stomach problems that coffee was exasperating, but while that forced me into drinking tea more seriously than I would've, I found that I love tea more than I ever loved coffee. Sadly my freakdom is not a cover for a supressed desire, but the truly geeky embrace of tea on it's own merits. I drink coffee again because I can, but also because I've grown into a true tea snob. I'd rather drink coffee than a badly made cup of tea. And my tastes have become so rareified that it's nigh on impossible to find a good cup of tea. Laurel can make a good cup, Meredith can make a brilliant pot, but sadly that's about it. Everybody else, from friends and family to cafes, can't make a good cup of tea. Also, I can't make a good cup of tea at work, so I drink coffee. You need 3 things to make a good cup of tea: BOILING water, strong tea (Campbell's, Yorkshire Gold), and cold fresh milk. Without enought good tea, and BOILING water all you get is an insipid, watery, mess. It reminds me of Douglas Adams machine in HHG2TG that can make a drink that is almost, entirely, unlike tea. I feel that he was talking about American tea making skills here. I like milk in my tea, and while some may scoff, I think it's quite good. I urge you all out there to try a good cup of tea sometime, it's restorative effects are far greater than you might imagine. And to Jamie, thanks for sending me the zine, and dedicating it to me. I'm deeply honored, and pleased that my incessent babbling about tea managed to convert another formerly lost soul.
"What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea." -Syndey Smith

P-town, cars, fixing stuff.

Random posts today. I got my head off this weekend along with all the buckets of ancilliary components that surround it. I didn't see any obvious blowouts of the gasket or erosion of the head, so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that it's just warped. I think my only other possibility is that it's cracked which would mean I need a new head. Money is tight so I'm going to be taking my time on this project because as I tore into everything I saw lots of little things that need replacing such as rubber bits, water pipes, gaskets...I'm constantly flopping back and forth between just keeping this car running, and 'doing it right.' Of course 'doing it right' is really a range of options, but whenever I fix something it is always an internal war between speed and quality. I'd love to have the time and resources to really go over every piece and clean, repaint, get new nuts/bolts/washers, but as I learned in boatschool I don't have the paitence. As much as I want everything perfect I want equally to get it running. So it falls somewhere in the middle.

I was thinking last night about my obsession for fixing things and I was trying to figure out where it came from. I think it comes from certain characters and more importantly certain worldviews I was exposed to as a child. Growing up in the 80's there was a surfet of post-apocalypse stories around, no doubt influenced by the state of the Cold War. So I grew up with a certain sense that civilization was going to end and I think that there were two stories that heavily influenced my sense of who I wanted to be: Road Warrior, and The Stand. In both those stories there were minor characters who knew how things worked. They could take the pieces of the lost civilization and make them work for new purposes. They 'hacked' the technology of the past. From rebuilding the 'last of the great v-8s' to knowing that a dirt bike is better post apocalyptic transport than a car. These seemed like awesome powers to me then. Like mechanistic shamans in a way. I wanted to be like that. Or like Han Solo. Bombing around the galaxy in a ship that looked like hell but actually turned out to be faster and more deadly then it had any right to be. That was way cooler than simply having a fast shiny, ship. Which I think is why sports cars (porsches, ferraris etc) hold no interest for me. But show me a sleeper 2002, or Volvo wagon and I get all giddy.

But beyond the fictional characters, I can look to my family for a lot of the influence as well. I come from a line of craftsman and tinkerers. My grandfather was the liason between the engineers and the shop floor for JPL during the 60s and 70s. One of my earliest memories of him was when we were at his house in Orange County and he had popped off to his workshop to make us a couple of toys. He welded up some wire into to geometric shapes: a sphere and a cube. I remember glancing into his workshop while he was making them and seeing really bright blue light and lots of sparks. It seemed like magic to me. My dad has always had a workbench and projects around the house, and he was self-taught. I loved working with him as a kid or watching him work. He's built cabinets, decks, beds and he's masterful with trim. And he's entirely self-taugh for his father was not a handyman. All of these influences have guided me, inspired me to learn as much as I can about how everything gets built, and therefore how it all works. I feel we have a responsiblity to know about the technologies we depend on. Which is why I've also started playing with computers. Up until a couple of years ago I enjoyed computers for games, and email. I was reasonably computer literate, but not in how they work or what you can get them to do. I've found myself, semi-conciously embarking on the same type of self-education I did with cars. I've got some old cheap computers and I take them apart, try and fix or improve them and note the results. This has led me to linux, and websites like, and I love reading what people are getting these machines to do. It's an exciting time to be alive.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ahh friday

What a crappy week. I worked 30 hours in the first 48. And then the rest of it was rush rush rush. I'm so glad it's over. This weekend should be fun: tomorrow is a 2002 tech session here in p-town, with bbq so I'll be learning car stuff and eating meat. Two things I enjoy. Saturday night I'll probably start tearing into my car (actually I'll probably start tonight) to see how bad my headgasket problem is. Hopefully I'll have all the major stuff fixed by next month and it will be running super well. There's another 02 just up the street from my office that the guy might sell for super cheap. It's got some more mechanical issues (as in not currently running) but it's body is in much better shape than mine so if I can find a spot to park it over the summer I may try to swap out all the good working parts of my car into that one. We'll see. Sadly my car is riddled with rust that would cost thousands upon thousands to fix. So if you have a decent spot I can safely park a car for several months (i'll pay) let me know, preferably here in Sonoma Co.

Sunday should be a nice relaxing day with Meredith. Maybe a bike ride, maybe some work on her deck, maybe just lounging around eating popsicles and watching documentaries.

Monday night I'll be heading south to see Star Wars with my brother and cousin. I've not seen it yet, but I was sorely disapointed with the first 2. Maybe I've just grown out of Star Wars, maybe Lucas has outgrown his ability to tell a compelling story. Maybe it's hard to tell a compelling story when everyone knows how it ends.

In computer news I've got my various machines all running Ubuntu and now I need to figure out how to get them to consistantly speak to each other. I may do that after it gets dark.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


So I ate something that didn't agree with me and now I feel bad. Kinda dizzy. And my kitchen smell like cat ass.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Car Madness part deux.

Dang! I just got my car back from my new mechanic (Casey Motorsports) with the diagnosis I was fearing: Blown Headgasket, or cracked head/block. His estimate of $750-$1000 to fix it is way more than I can spend on this thing right now so it'll sit until I've got the time/$/parts to do it myself. I've never fixed a head gasket before so it'll be a good learning experience right?

He also noticed a ton of other little things that weren't right: Fuel injection system is missing parts, wrong coil, weird battery, etc...This is in addition to my already long to-do list:

# Strut Bearings*
# Trim (beltline, and rocker)*
# Dash

* Odometer/trip
* Fuel
* Clock speed

# Rattle (undercarriage)
# FI Tuneup
# Swap Taillight Lenses
# Install rear reflectors
# Petronix/Crane ignition*
# Bumper install
# Screw down grills*
# Heater valve
# Blower motor check
# Stereo clock fix
# Center console fix/cover

Sigh. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Of course I could just dump this car and get another one. Maybe save up some money (ha!) and buy one in the $3-$5k range which would be less rusted. It pains me to spend so much time and money on a car that still looks likes shit at the end of the day. But then I'm also like the cat-lady at the pound. I hate to see a neat old car just wear out.

Of course the other part of me says: Sell all your vehicles and just ride your bike. That is also tempting.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


New favorite show: Firefly (too bad I've already burned through all the episodes...but the movie is coming out this fall!)

New favorite online article: It's the Monkeysphere stupid!

New favorite linux distro: Ubuntu

Useful tools:
Best to-do list setup ever (for me)
thumbdrive PIM software, good, but windows.

Car Madness

In addition to the computer work which has been taking my nights, I've gotten my BMW back on the road and that has led to a flurry of little fix-it jobs. The major one was fixing the brakes. The calipers were dodgy and the driver's side front was dragging to the point that it had warped the rotor and gouged it pretty well (also the resultant heat had cooked the grease in the wheel bearing). I had hoped to have all the pieces in place to get it fixed before the BayArea02 Swap & Show but alas, it didn't happen. I went down anyway (it was in Palo Alto) and saw lots of shiny cars, and met a few nice people.
The parts finally came, and since the beginning of the month I've:
-replaced the discs, calipers, wheel bearings in the front.
-reinstalled the stereo/speakers & Center console
-Installed oil-pressure/temp gauges
-Oil change
-Trunk seal
-Refurbished the tail-reflectors, lenses and replaced the seals
-Refurbished the gauges (fuel gauge still not working, must be sender), fixed the turn signal dash light.
-Installed a driver's seat from a E30 M3
-Tune the FI by ear to get it running better (my ex-mechanic tuned it, and in the process destroyed it's drivability, and made it run far too lean, thus hot). It still needs some tuning, but I will take it to a place here in Petaluma and see what they can do for it.

I want to get it into good running shape (reliable, fast, good mileage) for some driving events coming up: California Melee; the Alpine 500 (which I missed just barely this year. Damn!)

Also I just want to do some general road-trip fun (LA, sierras, etc..) as this is the year I will take my first ever paid vacation. Yay!

Dusty old blog...

I don't know if anyone is still looking at this with any avidity, but I apologize for the long delay between posts. I've been busy with other projects and had a cluster of hardware/computer difficulties. That being said, I hope to add some more stuff here on a fairly regular basis (isn't that the comment that always dooms a website?)

So to start off, or perhaps to catch up, here's what I've been working on in no particular order:
A pair of little, old panasonic laptops (CF-25, CF-M32 sub-note) that Gary gave me. One had a broken DOS installation, and the other had a buggy win98 installation. I wiped them both and then worked (and worked and worked) to get linux on them. The trick as it turns out, is that the little guy (CF-m32), which is about the size of a paperback book has no floppy/cdrom so trying to get data onto it once you've wiped the operating system is very hard. I ended up taking thing to pieces and pulling the hard drive. After patching the drive to my desktop system and getting a basic Debian installation running on it, I was able to update/install over the network.

The CF-25 is an armored laptop (drive over it with your car, drop it, clobber someone with it) and it's pretty pokey. But it has a swapable floppy and CD-ROM drive, but still it was a challenge, as you can't boot from the CD-rom and there's no USB. Also during the many attemps to install something happened with the MBR that made it...resistant to any further monkeying. I pulled the same trick: pull the drive mount it in my desktop, and wipe the sucker spotless, then reinstall. Now it runs debian as well, albeit too slowly to be of much use (except at the command line, which I'm still shakey with). The upside is that I've learned a tremendous amount about linux, command line work, hardware, and general geekiness.

During all of this, Meredith's laptop decided to die (power-in came off the motherboard) so I pulled the hard drive out of my laptop and plugged hers in. This gave her some functionality so she could continue to work. Then my desktop winxp installation got seriously corrupt and took the MBR with it as well, so I did a re-install, and went with Ubuntu (an extremely user-friendly linux distro) and I like it.

Last weekend Meredith got a new laptop (due to a financial angel who co-signed for her at compusa) and I got my case back. So now I'm back to my old laptop (which seems so dodgy and worn out compared to Merediths shiny new Toshiba), but I still pine for a 12" Mac. Maybe if I get a raise this month.....