Category Archives: Uncategorized

Youtube and Things

I’ve started a journey that is sure to detract from the blog even more than Twitter has already done. I’ve started creating videos for YouTube. I’ve posted some videos on YouTube in the past, but I’m starting to create content that is somewhat… watchable? Well, at least entertaining to an audience. Now that is certainly a very small audience, but one that if they ever find it, will really appreciate it I think.

My content is a bit all over the place, so I was trying to think of a theme that ties it all together. I didn’t really want to box myself into making one certain kind of video. After a while I imagine that just feels like work. I don’t see YouTube being my primary source of income ever, so it better be enjoyable as a hobby. So I decided the theme should be “Being bad at fixing things, but succeeding anyway”.

The inspiration has just come from so many people that say, “I wish I knew how to do ____ like you do.” Well you can. You just have to tolerate being bad at it.

I’m now 24 hours into trying to create some system disks for my Macintosh SE/30. It’s been a video series that I started, did a really bad job re-capping the motherboard, but so far it’s working anyway! I’m sure that some people would see my method and cringe, even get angry that I’m “destroying” a classic computer. But if it works? Plus I think a lot of people would dive into whatever that thing is that they’re interested in, but there’s so much gatekeeping that goes on with the elitists in that field, that people are way too intimidated to even start.

Even if you don’t have all the experience, or the best tools, or whatever. Who cares. Take on a project and see how it goes. It won’t be perfect, but to expect your first project in something to be perfect seems like a pretty unrealistic expectation.

Just like making these videos. I know the sound and editing isn’t the best. But you publish them anyway, and hope that you learn something to make the next one better.

I’ve been enjoying it so far. It’s been a little frustrating at times, but most of the things you truly care about should frustrate you at times. It means you really care.

So I’m going to get back to this video. As for right now, to see the content just search “Matt Althouse” on YouTube. Right now I have 35 subscribers, so give me a boost! I think if this continues to be a focus I’m going to have to open a brand channel so I have a few more options with what to do with it.

Okay. Back to “work”, which by work I mean my hobby. Which is a pain in the ass sometimes. Like work.

The Van

Since I’ve been a single dad, I started thinking about picking up a second vehicle for hauling the kids around. I have the Silverado, which is an extended cab. The back is roomier than the extended cabs of yore, but on a long trip, that back seat is really cramped. Emma’s feet touch the seat in front of her no matter how far forward you move the front seat. So I started looking at older SUVs, and even minivans.

Looking cool wasn’t a priority. I really wanted something roomy and with the kids traveling 4 hours twice a month, I wanted something they’d be comfortable in. As I was browsing local listings, a couple of these vans would pop up into my search. But most of them were rusty, or busted up. So my focus kept going back to SUVs and minivans. I almost bought a Toyota 4Runner, but it already had 250,000 miles. There were several minivans in my price range, but the more I looked at vans, the more I kept seeing conversion vans.

Then suddenly, this van popped up on Facebook marketplace, and it was in Great Bend! I messaged the seller right away and even though the listing hadn’t been up for a day yet, he said he had 4 people coming to look at it the next day. Maybe… maybe not. You never know. But it was a nice looking van from the photos. So I made time to go look at it that night.

I had the kids wait in the truck while I looked it over. It was definitely old. 1993, but there was no hidden rust, all the fluids checked out. It started right up. If nothing else I figured it was worth the risk. So we bought it that night. The kids LOVED it instantly. So much room inside. They thought they could run around inside while I was driving, but they were a little disappointed when they found out that they had to stay buckled in their seats. But when we got the van back home, they got to unbuckle and roam free. They put all the shades up, and down, and up again, and back down, and then Dad told them to stop.

They loved the fold down bed. Again they were bummed that they couldn’t lay down in the bed while we were driving. But if we decide to go camping some time, this will be better than a tent!

The story of the van involved some long trips to Denver in the mid 2000’s for cancer treatments for the previous owner. Then the van set for a long time, like 10 years in a barn. So that’s always a little bit scary when a vehicle has sat for a long time. The biggest problem was the tires. As best I could tell by reading the codes on the tires, they were from 1998. Yikes! That’s some old rubber. They looked fine, but I didn’t want to risk a blow out with my family on the road. So the van sat for a couple weeks until I could get some tires.

I decided that I wanted to save a little money since I sorta blew my budget on the van itself. So I ordered tires online. I figured I could just swap out my own tires. When I was a kid I replaced my own bike tires all the time. WEEELLLL. This was a little harder. These tires were super old and had become “one with the rim”. I tried busting the beads loose with my shop press, and nothing doing. But after a trip to Harbor Freight for some tire changing tools, I eventually got it done. And still saved about $200 from going to a tire shop. I definitely worked for it though!

Much to my satisfaction, the tires didn’t leak air, and honestly below 70 miles per hour, they are balanced great (total accident).

Since then I’ve been driving the van quite a bit. I take the kids to school/daycare and they love it. The only other immediate problem I had was that the heater didn’t work very well. I pulled off the heater hoses and flushed out the cores with a garden hose and a bunch of brown nasty water came out. After that the heater worked AWESOME! Here on the last trip the heat started to fade a little bit, so I bet there’s still more sediment in the coolant that is getting caught up again. I might have to flush it a few more times as we go, but it’s easy to get to right under the hood and only takes about 20 minutes.

Non immediate stuff includes the “party/mood” lights. They blow a fuse instantly when you try to turn them on. So I have to try to find the short there. That’s going to be a little bit of a challenge. And the rear blower fan is seized up. That’s a pretty cheap part, but so far I haven’t found any way to get all the trim panels removed without destroying everything in the process. So that’s going to have to wait until the kids are gone for a little while before I attack that. I suppose that I could just go back to the truck for kid hauling purposes, but the front blower does a good enough job keeping everything nice and toasty.

So it’s been the butt of a lot of jokes. I’ve heard them all already. But it’s spacious, it’s comfortable, and it gets pretty much the exact same gas milage as the truck from what I’ve measured so far. There’s plenty to work on like any old car, but I kinda dig that stuff. I took the kids 2 hours to meet their mom this weekend, and Luke said he felt like he was in an airplane. Haha. Perfect.

Adventures from Computer Reset: Chapter 1

So I had a lot of items to choose from for my first project from my Computer Reset trip. I decided to go with one of the oldest machines I picked up. A Pentium I Micron Millennia from 1996. Now Computer Reset was a computer repair / reselling shop. So there’s a good chance that everything that’s in there is broken, and sure enough this one needs some help right off the bat.

When I opened up the case, I was surprised to find how clean it was inside. The volunteers at Computer Reset have done a lot of work, but it’s still far from the cleanest place on earth. I did see a few cockroaches scatter when I moved certain boxes, and a lot of stuff was covered in a varying degree of what we will just call dust. If you want to get more specific, your imagination is the limit. So when I opened this up, it was honestly cleaner than most of the PCs I work on for people in their homes!

There wasn’t anything too surprising or unexpected in here. It was a decently equipped machine for 1996. Plenty of RAM, CD-ROM, a Diamond Stealth 3d video card and a 10BaseT ethernet card. We didn’t get our first Windows PC until 1997, but even then this machine would have blown it out of the water. The only real problem it has is that the hard drive appears to be dead.

So swapping a hard drive is easy enough, except that over the years most of my IDE hard drives have either died, or been shipped off in old computers as hand me downs to other people. So I picked up about half a dozen IDE drives at Computer Reset, but I went through every one of them and they all appear to be dead. Some more convincingly than others. One actually started transferring files then suddenly started making a violent shrill sound that sounded like it was going to send shards of the platter hurtling into the room at any moment.

I got 5% through formatting the disk before it met it’s horrific end.

The inevitable doom of every spinning hard drive is something that in life, probably makes me contemplate my own mortality more than any other. You see, hard drives dying isn’t a new thing. I’ve had many die on me over the years but when one did, I always just went and got another spinning hard drive to replace it. They were ubiquitous. But now as more and more of them give up, and there aren’t really any to replace them that aren’t themselves already about to die, I can’t help but think about how no matter how normal and mundane every day may seem to be, there will come a day where you can never have a day like that again. It may seem normal, or even frustrating for my kids to leave the table a mess, smear applesauce all over it, and leave their toys around, but someday not only will that not exist anymore, but I won’t even be able to re-experience it again save for some pictures, videos and memories. Eventually, everything comes to pass.

That got pretty deep.

So after trying six hard drives including a 150 Gig one that showed up as an 80 Gig in BIOS here, I didn’t have any luck. The best I could get is that the install disc would create the MSDos partition and then hang on reboot. Once it did that, that drive was hosed (at least on this machine) I’m sure I could format it in a different machine, but I would have to get out ANOTHER PC that has an IDE controller in it and I haven’t been up to that task… yet.

Instead I ordered a compact flash to IDE adapter. I love the sound of spinning hard drives, especially these ones from the mid 90s, and the clicking of the heads. But as much as I love working on these things, I don’t want to wonder if I’m going to have a new project on my hands EVERY time I power a thing on. This should be reliable, and easily swappable to other machines. I can easily back up hard disk images on my server for most of these old machines that don’t require that much space at all.

So that’s coming Tuesday. I look forward to spending some time learning my way around that and getting it up and running with a classy Windows 95 setup and maybe even trying to play games or send a Tweet or two from the Micron Millennia!

Long Long Time

I still think about this blog from time to time. Believe it this is the first post of 2020 here. That’s pretty incredible. I’m not going to bother going back and recapping what’s happened since the last post. You can check out my Twitter @kartmaster for that. I think I decided to pop open the blog mostly because I wanted to write on the new MacBook Air.

I ordered this thing a while ago, and so far I’m pretty impressed. I’ve had some old Macs… back when they called them Macintoshes… But this is the first contemporary Mac I’ve ever owned. With all the new specs and what not. It’s an “M1” Mac, which is Apple’s basic processor that they use in the iPads and whatnot. Such a weird experience, because this thing is honestly fast! And I’m used to comparing mobile as slower. I know there’s going to be faster machines that come out in just a month or two, but for now it’s pretty neat to be able to use a machine that’s so snappy and responsive towards basically anything that I ask it to do.

Definitely still getting used to MacOS though. Everything is just sorta opposite that it is in Windows. Almost like one is trying to make it look like it’s trying too hard not to be the other one. Not saying who’s copying who. Haha. But other than the growing pains of learning a new OS, I’m getting along okay.

Also just got back from Computer Reset in Dallas! How cool was that! Just stack after stack, after stack of vintage PCs and stuff! I wish that I would have brought home more, but I was pretty happy for what I ended up with. Plus it was a fun trip. It’s been a while since I headed out on an adventure. I covered almost 1,000 miles in two days! Dallas seemed pretty cool. Definitely would like to go back there when time permits.

Man, I’m starting to drift off while I’m writing. I’m going to have to call it a night.

No. I’m not dead.

Mi Coche “Hermanito”

I need to spend some more time practicing writing Spanish.  I can read and listen pretty well, but when it comes to choosing my own words, I still have much work to do. So much to my vergüenza here’s a short blog in Spanish.  It’s really bad Spanish, but I’m trying.

Después mi coche negro y durante mis anos de escuela, tuve un coche rojo. Este coche no me gustó. Por supuesto yo estaba joven y tonto. El coche era muy confiable pero tuvo solamente una problema. Era muy feo.

El nombre oficial del coche era Pontiac 6000. Pero lo llamé “Hermanito”. O en ingles “Lil’ Brudder”. Se recibió su nombre de un dibujo animado se llamado “Homestar Runner” del internet. Hay un personaje perrito que tenia solamente una pierna y “el corazón del campeón”. Eso nombre lo quedó bien porque el carro vivó una vida muy difícil.

Se chocó mucho. Un pickup a la atrás. Una chica conduciendo en el nieve atrás también. Un trailer a la derecha. Y una cierva en frente. Pero el carro se mantuvo. Los gases del motor rellenado dentro del coche mientra conducí. Tenia que abrir las ventanas para respirar. Cuando la temperatura estaba tres grados y mis ventanas estaban abiertos yo sabia que era la hora para vender el coche.

Se vendó por 50 dólares. Un precio muy justo.

 

 

 

What I Miss About Old Computers (Part 3: Macintosh)

Few words feel as stuck in time as the word Macintosh.  Of course “Mac” was used to refer to these Apple machines even back in the 90’s before Macs were just Macs.  But it’s actually against the law to call any contemporary Mac… a Macintosh.

I never owned a Macintosh.  In my youth, everything was black and white.  Nintendo was better than Sega.  Chevy was better than Ford.  And PCs were way better than Macs.  But of course we all used them still.  Because they were the defacto computer to be used in education.  From sixth grade until I graduated, there was at least one Macintosh in every classroom.

Oh!  But before that… I should probably talk about my first Macintosh experience.

My friend Paul’s dad had a Macintosh… I think Performa something or other.  I can’t remember the model.  I would have only been like 10 years old at the time.  He kept it in his home office and I remember Paul and I hanging out in his Dad’s office, watching music videos on TV while we waited for his dad to finish installing… something.  I remember feeling like his dad was just swapping out discs and restarting over and over to keep us from playing on his computer.  It was this day that the legendary Macintosh startup chord was burned into my memories.

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Never underestimate the determination of 10 year olds, however.  Eventually, probably when Paul’s dad was exhausted, we swooped in and got to play some Myst!  Talk about the most cryptic and impossible game for small brains… I don’t remember really doing anything other than wandering around the island.  The visuals were pretty cool though compared to anything else you could see at the time.

Now, back to school.

In sixth grade, I remember powering through the assignments because if we got done early we could play on the computers.  Not really a great way to encourage thorough work probably.  But between those assignments I was able to build some pretty epic Sim City 2000 Cities.

These were LCII machines, which looked like the same form factor as the Performa above.  I think the LC machines were targeted towards the education market, but I’m not sure.  I’m far from a Macintosh expert.  The neatest thing to me, was how the games were all installed right on the hard drive.  This was something pretty uncommon in my experience, my hard drive at home on the 486 was only 40MB.  So only the most basic programs were installed.  Nothing as rich and detailed as Sim City 2000.

The time that I was in school was right around the time where “typing” classes were becoming “computer” classes.  We spent time learning the proper way to type.  Rules I still don’t abide by (screw you right shift key).  But we did a lot of exercises then on what was then the Macintosh Classic.  The little black and white all in ones that are so iconic and, I admit, adorable.

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Most of the teachers used newer Performa all in ones.  These are they style of Macintosh I would like to get someday.  I always, even then like the aesthetic of the whole computer contained in one piece.  These days I think that probably makes working on them, or expanding them a pain in the butt, but I’m not too worried about expansion.  And tearing it all apart and getting something working again is one of my passions, so I wouldn’t mind finding one of these, even broken and taking a shot at getting it working again.

One of these machines inadvertently taught me a lot about how CRTs work… we were playing with some magnets one time in class.  My friend Walter and I noticed that if we got the magnet near the screen we could distort the image.  Well these were pretty strong magnets and one of us, I can’t remember who, put the magnet right on the screen.  When we pulled it back, there was a permanently dark and distorted spot that stayed on the screen.  We tried everything to make it go away, but we damaged it permanently.  I think over time it slowly got better, but our poor teacher had to deal with that until she got a new computer.  I still feel bad about that over 20 years later.

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We were kinda turds back then.  At one point, one of the teachers removed all the games off the computers.  Well we copied them to floppies from other machines.  Put them back on the hard drives, buried them in obscure folders, and renamed the executables backwards.  We got good at looking up “pobeeb” and “mortselam” for some quick fun when the teacher wasn’t looking.

I remember only one Macintosh in school that had a CD caddy drive.  These kinda blew my mind even back then.  CDs were still new and cool, but I also was pretty used to seeing tray loaded CD drives on everything from stereos to computers.  So the caddy was pretty interesting.  You’d stick your CD-ROM inside a jewel case sized caddy with a little sliding metal strip.  Push that into the external drive, and viola!  You were in the future!

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Towards the very end of my time in high school the iMacs hit the scene.  Apple took pretty much everything to the candy colored scheme.  From the all in one iMacs, to the Power Mac G3s tower and the iBooks.  I thought they were pretty cool at the time.  And I still would like to have one to remember them by.  But if I had to choose, I really enjoy that classic 90’s off white style of the LC and Performa computers.

After high school, I never ran across Apple too often.  I did always enjoy their design, but as a college kid working at Arby’s, they were definitely way out of my price range.  I’ve thought about going back and picking up a decade old Macbook or something like that, but before that, I think I’d really rather dive into some of that pre-2000 hardware and relive some of those After Dark screen savers and filling up that trash bin.

So far… so good.

I had mentioned in the previous post that one of the things I really want to get back to is creating things.  Making things.  And thus far in 2019 I’m off to a pretty good start.  We built some under the stair shelves that turned out pretty great.  Not necessarily perfect, but I’m more than satisfied given the talent and tools that I had available.

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Overall since the holidays have wrapped up, I’ve been in a pretty good place mentally.  It’s so easy to stop and think about all the things you want to do, or want to have, then get sad that you don’t have them, or convince yourself that you’ve made the wrong choices to get where you are.  I think that’s a little short sighted.

Problem is that line of thinking has no end.  It’s a game with no way to win.  For example.  I want to build and make things, I also want to spend time with my family and have fun watching the kids grow up.  I want to fix up and restore the black car and the Jeep.  I want to play more games and get through some of them that I really enjoy.  I want to go see family more.  I want to ride ATVs.  I want to play D&D more.  I want to go on vacations.  I want to study Spanish. I want to stay home.

Choosing to do any one of those things, takes away from all of the others.  It’s the opportunity cost of making your choice.  Everything you choose to do comes at the cost of whatever else you COULD have done instead.  But I refuse to feel bad about these choices.  Because the option to do ALL of them was never an option at all.  You are only one person that can be in one place at a time.  To be disappointed that you can’t be everywhere with unlimited resources at all times is something silly to be upset about.

I’m putting my best effort into being thankful for the opportunities that I have to do any number of things.  To not be resentful of the experiences that I couldn’t have, but rather to be grateful for those that I did.

Old Film

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You ever have one of those things that you end up moving around from home to home that you live, but you always just end up tucking it away somewhere, only to find it the next time you move again? That’s pretty much how this camera has existed for as long as I can remember.  I couldn’t recall how old it was, or any of the pictures I took with it.  But I knew it had to be 10-15 years old.  So I finally took it in to get developed, fully expecting that none of the pictures would turn out.

Luckily, the pictures DID develop.  But unfortunately, there’s not much that’s juicy or even all that interesting in there.  Just the same, I figured I’d share what was in the time capsule.  Often what’s in the background is more interesting than the subject of the photo.

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Who is that cat?  I’m pretty sure this is my old cat Rosie.  At first glance it looks like my Mom’s cat, Fuzz.  But based on the other photos in this roll, this picture would have had to have been taken around 2001 – 2003.  Fuzz wouldn’t have been born yet.  Rosie ended up getting out of the house when I lived at the trailer park.  I searched and searched, but never found her.

That Video Chair is pretty legendary in my mind.  That was one of two matching chairs we had in Ingalls.  I sat in that chair for hours playing Nintendo 64, setting Mario Kart 64 records and perfecting my GoldenEye skills.  I can still hear the creaks of the wood as you rock back, and feel the ribbed upholstery on my fingertips.

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This is my roommate Aaron.  He and I worked together at Arby’s in Aggieville.  We hit it off pretty well as we had some common interests.  Video games, rock, well and that might wrap that list up.  He was a good roommate most of the time.  We would stay up WAY too late playing Grand Theft Auto on PS2, and would jam out once in a while with him on the guitar, and me on the drums.  Towards the end of being roommates he started hanging out with some new friends, and smoking weed and I had no interest in following suit.  My last vivid memory of Aaron was him trying to patch a hole in the wall he punched after his girlfriend broke up with him.

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I’m not really proud of my college aged self.  Had a pretty hard time adjusting to real life and trying to figure out how to make it all work.  This picture above is a pretty good representation of the perpetual state of my room, and also my state of mind at the time.  My room was always a mess.  To the left of that pile of crap behind the telescope was the door to my closet.  It would always have clothes, maybe dirty, maybe clean, just piled on the floor.  Makes me feel gross now thinking about it.  But also in that closet was my original N64 box and all my N64 game boxes.  Wish I would have saved that stuff now.

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Look who it is!  This is the first of many Andrea selfie’s on this roll.  Before selfies were cool.  What a trendsetter.  She must have just seen this camera laying around over the years, and figured she would snap a pic real quick.  What a babyface!  Peering through the green fog, this would have been sitting at the end of my bed in the trailer house.  Fun fact, Luke has the headboard from this bed in his room now as his first “big boy bed”.

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Another picture of Andrea!  But I would have taken this one.  Pretty sure that hat and shirt are still floating around here.  This would have been my apartment in Milford.  One of the few pictures I have of that place.  What a great place that was for me and my stage in life.  I’d screwed up some stuff bigtime, like maxing out credit cards and spending all my money.  But this place was $260/month ALL BILLS PAID!  The walls were pretty thin, but it was my first place all on my own, and helped in getting life straightened out.  And look at that N64 box!  If only I could reach into the frame and pull it out.

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When Andrea didn’t have school for a few days, she would drive up from Winfield and stay at the apartment.  This must have been an ambush photo shortly after she woke up.  Judging by the look on her face, this was probably a mistake.  This is a pretty good representation of the apartment though.  About as basic as it gets. I don’t remember using the oven a whole lot.  I don’t even think I could fit a full sized frozen pizza in there.  This place was so tiny, but again I miss it a bit for what it was.

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Andrea Selfie #2 & #3.  I think she would just snap these pictures as a way to say Hi to the future me when I got this film developed.  Mission accomplished.  I for the life of me can’t figure out where this picture was taken though.  And the background doesn’t leave much to go on.

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There she is again!  And this would be home #3 for this roll of film as this is the computer room in the Manhattan Apartment.  2005-ish.  I sorta remember that lava lamp lamp.  For whatever reason the lava would just dissolve into a bunch of tiny bubbles… not too impressive.  The 49ers decoration still hangs in our basement today, and the James Bond poster is now in storage.  After this picture was taken the camera itself would go back into storage and it would be another two years before another picture was taken.

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Home #4 for this camera.  We were just moving into our house in Ogden and probably found this camera.  Look, it’s the same lava lamp lamp on the right.  Luke’s headboard is leaning up against the wall.  Most of that junk has followed us to the present day.  If I’ve learned one thing in life.  Shelves are a thing worth investing in.

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Oh, look what else we found while unpacking.  Photo-Op!  Obviously!  This picture has waited a decade to be seen again.  Totally worth it.

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Things have gotten a little more organized in the Ogden house, and this past is starting to look a little less distant than the others.  Andrea still has the same computer desk, speakers and keyboard.  And through the window you can see I’ve already painted the Toronado, so this picture is probably late 2007 before winter sets in.  I wonder who the Christmas present on the desk is for?

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Hey, 5 years into the life of this camera and I finally make an appearance!  This is again in the Ogden house and in the computer room.  The poster behind the door is an autographed Disciple poster that we still have around here somewhere.  The T-Shirt I’m wearing is from our GameDay Quarterback remotes we would do with KJCK before the K-State games.  I got my tickets to the game by working the remotes.

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It’s Daisy!  She found a home with us while we lived at Ogden.  I’m reminded about how run down that old little house was when I see that fake wood floor leading to the living room.  The center of the living room actually bowed down to the point that the couch was literally leaning forward.  It was an itty bitty house, but it was something Andrea and I really wanted at the time was to say goodbye to apartment living.  It cost $700/month plus utilities, and I’m pretty sure the heat and air went straight out through the roof.  I have no idea how we made ends meet at that place.

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There’s Nala.  Remember that disgusting room earlier when we just moved into this house?  Well we’ve tidied it up a bit since then.  The big box on the right was for our TV that we thought would come in handy when we decided to move.  Pretty sure it took up so much space that we just ended up throwing it away.

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Here’s your classic up nostril shot.  Still in Ogden here in the living room.  I remember when we first moved into this house, we had a terrible bug problem.  Come to find out that window above the air conditioner had an inch wide gap that bugs were just flying straight in to the house!  We stuffed some towels in there, problem solved.  Same shirt, so I imagine the previous 4 pictures were probably all taken on the same day.

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Let the wedding planning begin!  This is the cake topper that would eventually be at our wedding.  I can still remember that excited feeling and wondering how life was going to change once we were actually married.

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The Toronado.  This would have been less than a year after I painted it.  Before the El Camino came a long.  I eventually just took to parking in the backyard because with the one lane driveway, the person who needed to leave was inevitably in the front.  You can see the tracks through the back yard from the previous tenants.  I wasn’t going to be that lazy.  I decided to at least walk back to the alley to my car instead of driving through the yard.

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Here’s Andrea’s old car!  When I first met her it was all the dark red color and I remember thinking she had a pretty sharp car!  Of course 2 deer hits later and it came to look like this.  A few years down the road and in another town, we’d repaint it black.  In retrospect I should have invested in a bottle of Round-Up for the sidewalk and driveway.

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Andrea Selfie #4!

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And the final frame on the roll.  I still have the same computer and desk.  And due to the age and exposure you can see time had started to eat away at this photo on the right hand side.  This last picture would have been taken in late 2007 or 2008, then the camera got hauled around to three more houses after this one.  And finally developed in 2017.

I admit, it’s all fairly unremarkable.  I had hoped I’d find some old photos of my Ingalls days or something, but it didn’t go quite far back.  If I had to guess, this was my last camera I had before I bought my first digital camera.  After that, this little disposable camera didn’t have much use and just ended up capturing randomness.

Still kinda miss that feeling of charging up a flash, hearing the click, and winding the film.  Then waiting for days to discover your had your finger in the picture or something like that.

A cool little time capsule to unearth though.

Looking Forward to 2017

For whatever reason, 2016 has been a weird year.  It was certainly a tougher year at work.  Feeling like I was working harder but not really doing a better job.  But then again, the job itself got harder.  A lot of times I’ve wanted to sit down and write on the blog, but all too often I could just think of things to complain about.  That’s not what I wanted to fill the blog with anyway.

But in 2017 I’m looking forward to some things.  First, the new baby that will be coming sometime in June.  I’m excited.  I think back to when we first found out that Andrea was pregnant with Luke.  We had tried for a while, then just decided, “whatever happens, will happen.”  That’s pretty much exactly how this one happened too.  And I remember thinking back then that I was excited, and knew my life was going to change, but didn’t exactly know how.

I feel a little better equipped, at least in the experience department this time around.  But all those same things keep coming back.  What will we have to sacrifice to afford him or her?  How will we find time on top of an already packed life?  Will they be healthy?  Feelings and questions that are pretty familiar.  But knowing we’ve gotten through it, and how fun and exciting it’s been up until this point takes a lot of that worry away.

That is definitely one of the things I’m going to be doing less of this year.  Worrying.  I used to be so good at not worrying.  Guess that gets harder the more you become responsible for.  When it’s just me, who cares.  I’ll be fine.  If I fall down, I’ll get back up.  For home and work, I still find it difficult to force that attitude upon others.  If I fail, now it affects more people than just me.  I might feel fine taking the risk and bouncing back from mistakes, but others may not.  I guess that’s part of growing, and leading.  Knowing that your choices do affect others.  How I can reconcile that with my own personal “Everything will be fine” perspective, is still a work in progress.

Without worry though, I hope for that to free me up to do a few more things.  You can call them resolutions I guess if you want.  For me, it’s just getting back to what makes me happy.

Strengthen my faith.  I’ve felt more negative this past year than any time I can remember since sixth grade.  One thing that really brought me peace was my faith, learning and growing my relationship with Jesus.  I used to be so confident in my thoughts and feelings.  But as I continued to give more and more of myself to the church in time and effort, I was only asked to give more and more to the church.  Finally I broke when I felt like I didn’t have anything more to give.  It didn’t weaken my faith in God, but certainly weakened my feelings toward church.

I’m still not sure where to go.  I have very little desire to seek out a church anymore.  But I do want to focus more on my relationship with Christ.  The best thing I can think to do is to make it a goal to read the Bible in its entirety this year.  I’ve quite a bit, though it’s been some time.  But I’ve never truly read the entire Bible.  On one hand, it’s a “just see if I can do it,” sort of thing.  On the other, you can’t get that much of God’s Word and not find some good in it.

Cook more.  Over Christmas I baked Snickerdoodles with Luke, and baked a Pecan Pie at Mom’s house.  I realized it’s something I really like to do.  Not good at it.  But enjoy it and it’s something I can share with others.  I want to try new recipes.  Taste things I remember from years ago, and also some things I’ve never even had!  The process of measuring, mixing, and baking, just feels very therapeutic.

Get organized.  Almost the entire year I feel like work was just flying by the seat of my pants.  I want to set some boundries.  I do a lot of things at work, and that ends up meaning that the work is never done when it’s time to leave.  I am only one person.  I know I’m good at what I do.  But much like the church discussion from earlier.  There’s only so much I can give.  My goal is to structure my day.  Leave that structure able to be flexible, but dedicate time every day to one of the many things I have to do.  Show, Sales, Production.  Find out what I can REALLY get done in a day.  Be flexible.  And when I can’t get it all done, start finding people who are as good, or probably even better than me and give them an opportunity to knock it out of the park.  I struggle with that last part, because I’m not the manager that gives out raises.  But I feel like I was always given my raises in my job, because I was always willing to do more without asking for more.  Suppose I should expect the same from others.

Write more.  This is such a great place to vent.  To decompress and really parse out my experiences.  Just writing all this has been useful.  Doing so on a regular basis I think could be huge for my mental health.  It strengthens my convictions.  It helps me articulate better in normal conversation.  It’s just a good muscle to flex.  Being a bit more contemplative and to off load many of these thoughts I think can really help.  Of course it takes time.  Time that could and perhaps should be spent doing other things.  I just have to believe that the value of it in the long run is worth the investment in time it takes now.

That’s probably enough.  I don’t want to get too carried away or nothing will change anyway.  It’s hard.  Hard to focus on what you really want to do when the rest of the world is screaming so loudly what it think you should do.  Who cares.  Who really freaking cares.  Suck it world.  I’m taking my life back.

Places and Things and Time

I like stuff.  You know things.  All the great advice for being happy though tells you not to put value into things, but rather put your value into experiences.  For me though, “things” tie me to those experiences.

Sure, it’s fun to get new stuff.  I enjoy it as much as the next person.  But I really like old stuff.  Things that have a story.  Things that bring back memories.  It’s not about the monetary value of the stuff.  When I’m gone, and no one cares about the stories anymore, all of my old stuff will just be junk.  And by the same line of thought, I don’t expect anyone else beside me to consider my stuff anything other than junk.  But let me tell you, I really enjoyed some old junk this past weekend.

Early summer in 1999 I quit my job at the IGA.  I worked all through the school year every year, and when summer came, I’d quit and soak up the long days with my friends Bob, Bef, Biebs, Chris and my girlfriend at the time, Andrea.  Ingalls, KS was far from the cure for teenage boredom.  So our cars and trucks gave us the freedom to break free of the predictable monotony of Ingalls and escape to things that at least by comparison were more interesting. We would spend nights and evenings fishing out at Dwyre’s sandpit, or Norb’s pond.  We’d drive to Garden to see a movie, or head to battle hill for an all night paintball battle.

Our good times were very much manufactured on the fly.  I remember one afternoon Bef in his 68 GMC and me in the 79 Caprice headed out to the Ingalls Airport and decided we were going to drag race each other there on the runway.  We rolled down the windows, lined up even with each other, and hit the gas!  The reluctant roar of both engines were followed by slow lurches forward, but all that mattered was who was going least slowest.  I don’t remember who won that race.  But I do remember one of the guys who worked at the airport running towards us out of the hangar shaking his fist and screaming something that I couldn’t quite make out over the roar of $30 worth of cherry bomb mufflers.

17 years later, the City of Ingalls and the Lions Club are organizing drag races on the runway at the Ingalls Airport.  And I still have that same Caprice.  They always say “you can never go back”, but damn… this is about as close as it’s ever going to get.  My stepmom, Carrie, asked if I was interested in going.  I played a cool “sounds like fun” attitude, but inside I was as excited as a 7 year old is for Christmas in November.  The day couldn’t get here soon enough.

Between then and now, plenty of life happened.  All of the work stuff and Luke’s school stuff, that I had expected, but Andrea’s mom’s health was starting to take a turn for the worse.  We decided that if she was willing, she could come stay at the house with us here.  We both knew it would bring a huge change to our daily life and what we’d grown to call “normal”.  As each week passed, she simply wasn’t getting better.  After a few scares and close calls, Jesus called her home.  Our life that had been less than normal, and for Andrea more challenging than ever, all of a sudden to a big punch straight to the face.

Working on the car had been an afterthought for weeks.  Instead I’d been building wheelchair ramps, juggling schedules to help with Luke so Andrea could go with her mom to appointments.  And taking evenings after work to get everybody out of the house so everybody wasn’t confined to the house until we all went crazy.  Suddenly, none of that mattered any more, but if life was now anything, it was less “normal” than ever.

A few days after her mom’s passing, Andrea said to me she felt like she just needed to get away and go spend some time with her aunt.  I told her to sleep on it, and if she still felt the same way in the morning, that she should go.  That next day she booked a flight to North Carolina to spend the week.

Luke went to stay with Andrea’s sister.  And I was a bachelor with one week to go before the race.  I had a pile of parts to put on the car, but nothing had gotten started.  At the time it just didn’t feel important.

The first night coming home to an empty house I mostly just sat and thought about everything that had transpired over the last 8 weeks or so.  8 weeks doesn’t seem like a long time when you think about life.  But it’s shocking how quickly 8 weeks can change your life.

Eventually my thoughts turned to the weekend coming up.  For a while with everything going on I did think about cancelling.  But I knew people were looking forward to it and even for Andrea it was going to be a pleasant distraction.  So I started tearing parts off getting ready for the new.

pulled apart

Ever since we got the car when I was 14 years old, it’s always driven like a yacht on choppy seas.  It started out I was just going to do an alignment, because the steering wheel was crooked and the wheels weren’t quite parallel just by looking at them.  But after I got the wheels up in the air I started checking out other parts.  The steering coupler in the shaft was worn out causing a big deadzone in the steering wheel.  The idler arm was toast, and so was the center link.  The tie rods weren’t terrible (must have replaced those at some point) but since they were less than $10 each… might as well replace them while everything’s apart.  Then I checked out the ball joints… after 37 years the original ball joints were still riveted in place!  So with the determination that the whole front steering needed replaced, I ordered up a pile of parts from RockAuto.com.

Parts.jpg

First thing I tackled was the wheel bearings.  Never done this job before.  Removing the bearing races was more of a challenge than I expected.  I remember the guy at Autozone asking if I wanted to rent a slide hammer to get the old ones out.  “Nah, I have a shop press.” I answered puffing up my chest.  “Oh.  Ok.”  He said.  What I found out is that the press is SUPER for installing the new bearing races.  But doesn’t really help you get the old ones out.  I remember thinking.  Boy.  A slide hammer would sure come in handy…  Nevertheless, I got it done by using the handle of one of my other tools and a rather large hammer.

bearings

bearings ready

With safety in mind I knew it needed a new gas tank.  One time when the drive shaft busted Dad pulled the car over on to the shoulder which angled down pretty good.  I noticed at that time that gas was dripping down onto the hot exhaust.  We played it pretty cool, but deep down I was ready to run.  Before we went out to the race, I knew I had to get that replaced.  Actually found a replacement gas tank at Autozone to my surprise.  And from experience I’ll tell you changing the tank on a 79 Caprice is quite a bit easier than it is on a 94 Blazer.

Next was the part that I dreaded the most.  Ball joints.  They just aren’t fun.  Grinding the rivets off takes forever.  And punching the rivets out is even more of a pain in the ass.  I end up using a combination of a screwdriver to pry up on the old ones and punching down on the rivets to get them out.  It just sucks.  Getting the lower ones out wasn’t difficult at all.  But pressing the new ones in was a nightmare.  They make the new ball joints bigger than the originals on purpose.  Thinking that after all this time a car has probably had it’s ball joints changed a few times and the hole it fits in has gotten a bit stretched out.  Well… since this old beast had NEVER had its ball joints changed, these new ball joints were a SUPER tight fit.  I kid you not, it took two whole nights just to get 4 ball joints changed.  You couldn’t pay me enough to be a mechanic every day.

After that I figured I was pretty home free.  Except that then I couldn’t get the tie rods to separate from the center link.  No problem.  I’ll just take the center link out with the tie rods still attached.  Except I couldn’t get the center link separated from the pitman arm that connects to the steering box.  I hammered away for probably 45 minutes.  Until finally I switched to a different sized fork, the one that I thought would be too big.  A couple solid smacks it came right apart. All about having the right too I guess.

tie rods.jpg

So after some cleaning, it was finally time to start putting things back together.  First the idler arm, the center link.  The spindles back onto the new ball joints.  The tie rods to the center link then to the spindles.  Before cinching everything down, one last look over everything.  Cranked down all the nuts and greased up the new joints and packed the new bearings.  The last part of putting it all back together was finally fun.

The Friday morning that I was supposed to leave, I still had to put in the new heater core.  I had gotten all the prep for that done at 4am, got a couple hours of sleep, and the new one went in with only a few problems.  I couldn’t use the original retaining bracket since the new heater core was slightly different than the original.  Nothing a few zip ties couldn’t fix.  No one will ever see them since it’s covered up by the heater box top.  Hehe.

heater core

Can you tell which one is new?

With everything finally put back together it was time to do the alignment.  I bought some neon orange twine and lined it up to be exactly parallel to the rear wheels.  I then set the alignment for the front wheels and some how, some way got each wheel set with just 1/8th of an in inch toe in.  I felt pretty good about it, and the car drives insanely better!  Now I just need new shocks….

With the work done and a quick road test from Andrea, it was time to hit the trail.  The car made it clear out to Cimarron with little fuss.  Dad got to take it for a spin around town.  I was happy for him to do so since he built the thing into it’s present form.  Except that every time I’m in the car with Dad… something breaks.  As we’re heading back to the house and Dad is gunning it around corners raising all hell across the town, I notice a CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK coming from the rear end.  We get home and I look under the car and can’t seem to see anything out of place.  Oh well.  If the car breaks on the track, we’ll figure something out.  Too late to do anything at this point.

I was up at 6am on Saturday morning.  Got my self cleaned up for the day and went to grab a cup of coffee.  The night before we’d fuel up the Black Car and the RV.  So pretty much all we needed to do was hop in and go.  We set out for the track around 8am.  When we got there there weren’t but maybe a dozen cars there.  Already though, they were cars all over the map.  From fairly stock cars to full blown track-only drag racers.  None of the workers really knew what was going on.  I thought this would be a pretty interesting day.

At-The-Race

Around 10am things started to get a little more organized.  We had a meeting with all the drivers who were there so far.  They made sure everybody knew this was just for fun, and to be safe so they’d have the opportunity to do it again.  Perfect.  This was going to be just my speed. And by my speed, I apparently mean slow.

fast cars

Sure.. I can beat these guys.

I will say, I have never driven anything faster or with more power than the Black Car.  But man compared to a lot of other cars there, sometimes it felt like I was just putting along!  Don’t get me wrong, it was still a blast!  I won I would guess 3 out of 20 races.  But I had fun every single time I went down the track.

It was such a cool feeling to pull into the box, light up the tires and smoke them.  Then back up to the line just like you see the big cars do.  Then everything after that happened real fast for me.  I’m sure after you’ve been at the line a hundred times, it all slows down in your mind.  But man from the moment they stage you to the moment the light comes on feels like a blur to me.  But then you hit the gas and go.

at the line

There’s definitely a skill to drag racing, and one I never mastered that day.  I spent most of the day trying to figure out how to get a good launch off the line.  I would spin my tires every time and the other cars would just drive away from me.  Maybe it was my tires, maybe it was my car, but I have a feeling it was the driver.  I saw cars with smaller tires than me get a lot better start!  So I do have a new respect for these drivers, as it’s more than just mash the gas and go.

I just enjoyed being there and being in the middle of it.  We love going to the drag races here in Great Bend.  But here I was really a part of it, even if not the star of the show.  I like to think there were people out there in the crowd rooting for me as the underdog.  It was fun to put the Black Car out on the track and see what it could really do.  It helps me decide the direction I want to take it in the future.  And it was just a great day to spend with the family.

Plus… I got to drag race on the Ingalls Airport runway again.

pit crew.jpg