Thursday, July 24, 2014

Adventures in Digital Piano Electronics Part 2: More Diagnostics and Repair

In the first part, I discovered a blown resistor, so I took what was left of the part to Radioshack in hopes of finding someone who could help with finding the part. Upon getting there, no one seemed to know what was going on, they just wanted to sell a device to read the resistor but we were thinking it probably wouldn't give an accurate reading if it was blown, so we left.

I went back home and looked around the motherboard for some clues to the blown resistor and figured I'd just buy a bunch of parts and see if I could find anything that matched. Nothing. However, upon this second matching game, I discovered another culprit: a blown capacitor. This capacitor was actually the constant to help with finding my unknown resistor variable in the busted piano equation. On the capacitor, it stated the size which was 470uF35v. Right next to it on the motherboard was the same size along with the number that I'm assuming goes with a schematic drawing somewhere in the Williams Symphony assembly archives. Next to the blown resistor was the same information part R54 100. I looked around for that same part number and to my luck found one! A little blue resistor with what looked like a Brown/Black/Black/Black/Gold scheme. Upon reading color coding of resistor bars, it corresponded with 100 and so long story short, I had more information as to what I needed.

I went back to Radioshack a few days later and told the guy I needed to return the part and asked if he knew if they had the specific resistor I was looking for and he said, "I don't really know about that stuff." Awesome. I kind of felt like Parker Posey in Best in Show when she's asking the guy in the pet shop about the Busy Bee toy and keeps getting all these other toys and the salesman is just confused as to what to do.

I wound up buying a resistor multi pack figuring my part was bound to be in there (as it did say it contained not one, but FOUR 100 ohm resistors. As for the capacitor, that was a pretty quick find. I paid and was short something like $6 for everything.

When I got home, I tested the parts out to make sure they worked and they didn't with the speakers on. I plugged in the jack and it worked! I looked back on the motherboard to try and figure out what was wrong and realized we unplugged the speakers to get access under the motherboard. It would work!

Next, I busted out the solder and soldered those parts in place, trimmed the excess and added a little more. They were pretty sloppy solders, but held up.



 Who solders in a dress? ME!

What can I say? This is my first time ever doing anything like this, so I'm happy with the results. Not perfect, but functional. My piano is now a beater!



 What's that sound? That's what winning sounds like! Digital Piano Electronic Repair was a success and my curiosity saved me a lot of money.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

24 Miles of Lemons



Endurance racing is difficult. Really, it’s not one of those things you can just go out on a whim and say, “I think I’m going to race blah,” and go out and do it. Granted, there are people in the world who fit into a small percentage of anomalies who can do that, but they don’t count. I’m talking about the average run of the mill, generic Brand X person. Chances are, when the average person goes out to do an endurance race, they train and will perform at an average to below average ability. It’s like this: we’re not going to be winning any marathons any time soon. 

With that in mind, I’d like to recap my most recent endurance race: the Troop Trot 39K Fastpack. What is that, you ask? It’s a trail race. That means it’s not being ran on a road or paved surface. It means it’s being ran on dirt, unpaved, rocky at parts, rooty at others, and full of hills. Oh, and ticks. Most trail runs come with a side order of ticks, free! There are no bathrooms, no porta pottys, and even though you are in the woods, if you do have to pull over to squat somewhere, chances are you’ll be spotted at some point. There’s wild animals. The plus side is there’s a lot of shade. The down side: if anything happens, it’s usually a long way to a medic station and due to the nature of the environment, something always happens. 

The Fastpack is all that and then some. Instead of getting the luxury of running 24 miles and getting to stop off at the aid stations for water and food, you have to supply everything yourself. Not really a big deal for a seasoned trail runner. Most of the time, on long runs, you bring your deal of water and electrolytes anyway. The kicker on this one: you need to bring the 10 scouting essentials with you. That means you’re also bringing food and water, carrying a sleep system, a change of clothes, pocket knife, compass, map, sunblock, rain gear, first aid kit, and a fire starter. So those pesky little 3.3 lbs (1.5 liters) of water your hydration pack weighs on that awesome little light weight Camelback you’re used to carrying is now more like 4.5 lbs (2 liters) in a day pack with an additional 5 – 6 lbs of weight from the pack and all the crap shoved inside of it. On a good day, you’re looking at just under 10 lbs. (I managed to get mine down to a low 8.6 lbs WITH water on race day!)

Still sound like fun? Perhaps. You see, it’s a miserable feat, but the challenge is where the fun lies. Torture testing one’s abilities in the past on endurance only goes so far. Yes, now it is time to up the game and see just how much the body can truly handle!

So, whenever I run, I tend to think about all sorts of random stuff to keep my mind preoccupied. Honestly, you can only stress yourself out focusing on the road and all obstacles ahead of you for so long. Somewhere along the attempted 24 miles of agony, I had an epiphany: this race parallels Roadkill. I know you may be saying that’s pretty far fetched and it probably is. I’m guessing somewhere in my deprivation of rest, hydration, food, and excess of sweating, sweltering heat, and state of running delusion, I may be going out on a limb here, or not. You decide.

This is pretty similar to 24 Hours of Lemons with the Plymouth Fury. (Please, watch it if you've never seen it! You're welcome.) Why this one? Probably because it is one of the most epic Roadkill fails complete with a lack of thought, preparation, and well, it’s an endurance race torture test.

Somewhere, there is this grand idea: LET’S DO AN ENDURANCE RACE! So what happens? Instead of taking a good performing vehicle, they take one that runs but needs work. It’s low budget. I run. I’m not in the best performance, but with a little tweaking I think I can do this. Operative word: think. 





So you do all kinds of crazy stuff in preparation for a race. They burn crap off the Fury. I set up these great and overly ambitious training plans. Instead of training, I gorge the night before on fried pickles, chicken wings, salad, and watermelon.



Of course, come race day, you show up completely unprepared. They barely pass inspection and have to do modifications, I think I’ve ran one 20 mile run in my entire training back in May. On a road. At night. It was flat. Not to mention I have yet to crap out all the junk that has been sitting inside my gut from the night before. Luckily, thanks to the running gods and Dunkin Donut's coffee, I managed to go 30 minutes before the start. I was so relieved I wouldn't have to pinch a loaf on the trail! Plus, I had the luxury of being able to use a bathroom back at the park... with one-ply toilet paper! WIN!



But you go out anyway. Adrenaline hits. You have this awesome state of euphoria. You’re racing! Even though I made a wrong turn a mile in and had to go back, I was still kicking butt! I was actually running about 2 minutes per mile faster than my expected pace, which was good because there were some difficult areas where I had to slow down severely. It was the second trail pee that was not so great where I thought I wound up getting my own pee on myself. Not cool. Literally, it was warm! It was also getting close to the color of a pale ale, so I just had to up my water intake. Some 8.5 miles later, I finished the first loop. The distance was off and it was longer than what was advertised, but I felt pretty good and kept going.

Yes... yes, we're racing.


Epic running fail moment: getting lost in the first mile and this nice gal pointing me in the right direction... some 3 miles away from where she's at.


What the eff?! This is what trail run nightmares are made of! Behold, Death Rock Mountain! It's hard to tell, but it's steep, covered in moss, and wet. Oh, did I mention there's a ton of FIRE ANTS on there, too!? If you don't fall to your death slipping on wet moss and sliding down the side, you'll fall on your butt and be eaten to death by fire ants! Fortunately, I survived...

Then, that moment comes. The moment shit gets real. You’re nearing the halfway point, thinking you’ve got it and you’re gonna make it. Then, shit hits the fan. You overheat. Performance goes downhill fast. You slow down to reassess and see if that helps. It doesn’t. You’re limited by your ego. Do you do the smart decision and pull over and stop? Or do you continue because you’ve made it this far and you’re damned if you’re going to get your first DNF (did not finish). Along the path, I remembered seeing some blackberries or black raspberries and used that moment to add up some more food that wasn't sweet or salty but just fruit. Really, I needed fruit. Oh, and I saw a deer.

My pack in all of it's glorious 8.6 lbs and my big ol' butt and all it's glorious 8.6 lbs (or more...)



The Lemons episode ends with failure. The car doesn’t finish. Freiburger bogarts the good racing time leaving Finnegan to get stranded on the track and require help getting picked up.

Mine? Well, let's just say there was an equal amount of failure. I was overheating bad and running low on water. My hips hurt, my knee, surprisingly was fine, and my feet felt good thanks to my new Saucony Peregrine 4's, but I was just exhausted. I kept thinking about how much I wanted BBQ and to see the car show and have a Coke or turbocharged unsweet tea if they had any. What I couldn't do was distract myself enough to continue another 8 miles.

I got my first DNF after completing 2/3 of the race. It's kind of heartbreaking to know you're that close to finishing and giving up, but it's probably best that I did so instead of risking repeat injuries and possible heatstroke.  I was hot as hell, tired, and hungry. I also didn't have nearly enough water left to get me through those last 8 miles and my health is worth more to me than the awesome medals up for grabs. I saw Perry as I made it in from the second loop with about 17 miles under my belt some 5 hours later. He was volunteering at the event and served as a voice of reason reminding me I was limited to my supplies, which at this point, were low.

I thanked the troop leader for putting on the race, chatted a bit and headed to the bathroom to take a hobo bath in the sink. I changed into my clean "dry" shorts. They weren't dry, though, thanks to my bootysweat soaking through the base of my pack. Also, at some point I got real poison ivy on my shoes or calf sleeves because when they rubbed against my clean shorts, guess who got exposed to poison ivy on their inner thighs by their bikini area and their upper thighs? That's right. I was extremely lucky to have not chaffed this time around, but I would prefer chaffing to the burning itching of the poison ivy and the fun hive like rash it left.

I didn't get a medal today, but my consolation prize wasn't too bad: BBQ and a car show! I'll call that a win, but the rest of the day was a major fail.


So, will I try to retrain, buck up, and do the Troop Trot 39K Fastpack next year? Probably not. I’ll most likely throw my pack in a corner somewhere to die. Instead, I'll just go back and do the 10K next year and tow out the Satellite. Jesse even said he'd do the 10K with me if I go, so, there you have it!

On that note, here's some car show pictures because, why not?
























Monday, July 7, 2014

That's What Friends Are For

When a friend complains about having a dull day, a good friend will send a detailed account of how they rode their bike at Flatrock on Saturday, went up a mini ramp of logs, didn't make it over all the way and crashed in place, landing on their taco, resulting in temporary pain. The real kicker? The account includes an animated gif depicting the incident. Yes, despite this being a fail, the recollection is a total win.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Adventures in Digital Piano Electronics Part 1: Diagnostics

Last week my Williams Symphony digital piano was acting kind of funny. A few days ago, I turned it on and there was no sound. To rule out the speaker didn't get blown out, I plugged in the headphones into the jack and was getting no sound there, either. I figured it must be something fried on the motherboard.

Really, I do have two options here: pay someone a lot of money to diagnose and fix it for me, or just do it myself. I know a lot of people who would go the expensive route, but for me, I would rather do it myself. Not because I'm cheap or anything, although I am sure Biggie's lady friends would be singing to me: Guess that's why they broke, and you're so paid. But really, I'm one of those people that is a little on the overly ambitious side and believes I can do anything if I give it my all. So, being the Fix-It-Felix type of person that I am, I took the top off and started to look around. I found the wires that led from the speakers to the motherboard and started eyeballing around looking for a fried resistor or something.

Seeing as the inside of my piano looks a little like this, I had Jesse come along for a second set (OK, third) eye. He spotted it right away. It was one of those so obvious it got bypassed things.

Anyway, I just need to go down to Radioshack and pick up the part and then I get to have Adventures in Digital Piano Electronics Part 2: Repair which will consist of removing the part and soldering it in place.



The fried resistor is the tiny little black/silver part smack in the middle next to the larger black thing that looks like a battery and the white barrel looking things. 


Look! There's a bunch of zip ties in my piano! It's mint!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

False Advertising!!!

An interesting bit of trivia: if you don't know me well, I am a runner. Not a good one but I do run. I had been spending too much time running and training for races that the purchase of the Satellite was devised as a foil to get me to spend more time at home. Well, as you can tell, from March to now, things have slowed down on the progress of the Satellite. Not because of the fact it has been raining a lot lately, which it has, but because race season is upon us! Specifically, trail season. So, that whole project car in place of running less thing isn't really working out quite well.

That's not to say nothing has been done on the car. I've been doing a lot of the same crap. Filling holes, repairing gaps, sanding, bondo to such a high degree of artistry and craftsmanship it is only comparable to David Freiburger's work with zipties. Har har. But really, I've taken the passenger side from fugly to functional.

I'm at the point where I don't care if it's gorgeous, I just want it driveable. You know, that whole ratty muscle car thing? I was watching The Way Way Back the other day and heard the greatest line where Sam Rockwell says, "Careful! My car's just the right amount of shitty," in cautioning his costar, who is putting his bike in the back seat. I died laughing. That sentiment was exactly what I was thinking I'd like my Satellite to be: just the right amount of shitty! Not mint, but not a total beater; just the right amount of shitty. So, we're talking a paint job that makes it look presentable, but not a good one. I'm a bit of  a Krylon junkie because it is cheap, available, and if someone hits my car in a parking lot with a shopping cart and dings my car, I'm not gonna give a crap because why would I complain about messing up a $15 paint job?

I know I have been flip flopping around for like three months on the color scheme: first it was going to be orange and black, then when I saw our neighbor had an orange 69 Nova I couldn't do that because it'd be weird to have two orange '69 cars on the block. When I got the interior parts and they were green, I thought white with black stripes, but discovered another older car downtown with the same exact paint job (which I have jokingly coined as my car's Arch Nemesis) and I couldn't do that because it'd be totally uncool to have two matching cars that close in a small town.


I toyed around with a buttery yellow and black, but then nixed that because it would be too much like the Oldsmobile's color and I can't do two of the same color schemes. Anyway, long story short after four months of photoshopping paint scheme ideas, I decided to go with a satin black body with a glossy lime hood and butt stripe.

That being said, I went to Ye Olde Walmart today and bought some paint. The black was an easy find. There's a real cheap generic brand that's only $0.99 a can, but I think I'll return those for Krylon simply because I'm convinced the cans are designed for left handed people as they don't work as well when I use my right hand. This can present a major problem. Plus it doesn't flow as nicely as the Krylon. Sometimes, it's important not to go cheap and lesson learned: you don't skimp on spray paint. Period. The next color was the lime. It looked perfect! Seriously, there was so much to love about it: Citrus Green. It says lime, it says green, it's a neon looking lime! I was so excited to see it on!

I took them home and after some priming, I thought, "What the hell, let's see how this is gonna look on the hood." I sprayed a little portion of the Citrus Green. I presented a philosophical concept: if I scowl when no one is around, will anyone know I'm doing it? It's not rhetorical: the answer is yes. I was super bummed. I hit it again with another coat and then sprayed by the fender with the black to see if the dark next to the light would change the way it looked. Nope.

Note: Looking at these photos now, the can totally looks yellow. I'm not sure why it looks yellow on screen but green in person. It's like some kind of bogus trompe l'oeil black magic or something!

My perfect Citrus Green was in fact a deceptive taxi yellow! It was such a bonk, I kept hearing the Price Is Right loser horn playing in my head. Not even close! That's not to say it looked bad. I mean, I do like how it looks and I don't think it'd look bad with the green interior, but really, it's not what I have in mind. I'm just real hell-bent on the lime green and black and this was kind of a major letdown. I'm just not feeling the weird citrus yellow. It strikes me as too chipper to sit next to the black.

Anyway, I returned the paint and plan on shopping around for the right color. In the meantime, he's a dirty little tease and looks pretty good either way. But seriously, though, I want my lime green.


Monday, May 5, 2014

There's Something About Prius, or How Not To Drive


The automotive harassment squad has been in full force within the last couple of days. Not once, but twice has my poor Focus almost become the victim of drivers incapable of utilizing their peripheral vision when deciding to change lanes. In fact, I’ll just say it is more like a blatant apathy towards checking if lanes are even clear to make a change. 

On Friday, a late 90’s model Honda Accord nearly clipped the front end off of my dearest Focus. Fortunately, I was able to use his sleek handling and my quick reflexes in a combination maneuver to veer onto the shoulder fast enough to avoid getting hit, but return soon enough to resume driving. After this car went from a high speed somewhere around 85mph to cut me off, they slowed down in their new lane around 60mph. Most people who speed to cut someone off usually do so because they want to continue going fast. I’m still trying to figure this one out.

Last night, a Prius Badass decided it would bypass all the slow traffic and cut from the fast lane over two lanes to get to the I-185 South. That means attempting to run into my car to get there. I learned something yesterday. A Prius is invincible. A Prius can defy all odds and laugh in the faces of the Car Gods because it is a Prius. Everything these environmentally elite vehicles with their low emissions lack in style and horsepower, they make up for in cockiness. Yes, after it attempted to pass me via trying to run me off the road several times over and me honking at him to not hit my car, he decides to floor it, repetitively thrust himself forward for extra speed, and make it very clear to me that if I do not slow down or move, he will hit my car. At this point, since my poor Focus has already been hit once before his first birthday, I decided to back down and let the Prius pass. I also continued to stay on my horn like a maniac, lovingly displaying finger gestures of contempt, and yelling at him, “F--- YOU, PRIUS!” repetitively until he was out of my sight.


Now, the one driver from Friday was pretty annoying. But, it seemed like with them, it was just a case of bad driving. The Prius Badass, on the other hand, well, let’s just say it was a case of elitist jerk. I am better than you. My car cost more than yours. Wherever I’m going is more important than where you’re going. Laws of traffic don’t apply to me. Laws of PHYSICS don’t apply to me. I am king of the world and you will move or I will make you move. Really, though, there’s no way that Prius could make my Focus move. Still, it was enough to anger me. If you want to change a lane, speed up and pass with a safe distance, or slow down and pass from behind. I’m still trying to figure out the logic on that one. Just remember, Prius Badass, your car may do well when it comes to being environmentally friendly, but it doesn’t handle tanks well. That’s all I have to say about that. Even a Gremlin is better than a Prius. I'm going to watch Mike Finnegan run over a Prius to make myself feel better now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Best Day Ever

I love me some Roadkill. Actually, our whole family does. It's kind of our fourth Friday tradition to hook up the HDMI and Jesse, Charlie, and I will park in front of the TV and watch Roadkill together. I love it so much, I do random stuff like this:


Jesse got a good laugh out of it and Charlie loves it. I somehow worked themes from the General Mayhem 68 Charger episode to decorate my kitchen. Go figure.

One day, while watching the Roadkill 3-Day episode of the LS engine swap on the Crusher Camaro, I started thinking about wanting to make my own fancy Roadkill shirt. I really wanted a shirt, but they didn't sell shirts. Finnegan made a joke about if people wanted shirts they could just make their own. I'm not against that idea. I wanted a cool graphic tee because I am a fan of cheesy graphic tees and their shows are full of amazingly absurd cars and catchy one-liners. (I guess that's what happens when you take two talented writers and let them banter while working on cars and drinking beer.)

So, I designed the Gremmie-Prius FAIL shirt. Then I designed the Fury MINT! shirt. I kept designing more and more shirts based on ideas I wanted to wear. Mike Finnegan wanted one of the shirts. Of course I was planning on getting him and David Freiburger shirts if I ever got these made. And I did.


In the middle of this, Mike called my cell and we spoke briefly about the shirts and a proposed business plan. He asked if I would be willing to sell my artwork to Source Interlink Media, which I told him, "No. I'm not selling the shirts or the art. But I will give you the art files free of charge, should you choose to print them yourselves." He was pretty excited about it, basically saying he had some ideas and my designs basically "nailed" what he had in mind. He got me in touch with their senior marketing director to deal with the business side of things. Somewhere after all of this, I did something I never did for a client: I got in my car and screamed like I just won the lottery. I had just picked up the best clients ever, even if I wasn't charging them a cent. I wanted to do work for these guys real bad and I got hired as a freelancer.

Now, I am getting a LOT of flack from everyone about this not-charging thing. Everyone is like, "If they can roll out money for building up cars, they can pay you for your work. They're gonna make a lot off these. First time do it for free, second time charge them, etc." To reiterate here - they did offer me money. I turned the money down. For me it was not about money. And really, I do appreciate everyone's concerns for me and wanting me to not get the short end of the stick, but really, in the end, my clients are my clients and should I choose to take on a job or not, charge someone or not, is ultimately my choice. Seeing my work in the world and in the hands of so many happy strangers enjoying it is worth far more than any one-time payment I could receive.

At the end of the day it comes down to this: these designs were never about me making money. They were about wanting a cool shirt. I got my cool shirts made. I'm happy. I love designing these things and for the Roadkill guys. They're great guys and they have a great show. For me, this design process is like a Roadkill project of my own - a labor of love. No one is paying me to do this. I do it because I like doing it. Mike and David work at Hot Rod and do Roadkill as a side project. I work full time and design on the side for fun. Sometimes, we lose money on our pet projects. Do you see the parallel here? Not everything is about money. Sometimes it's about the love of the craft.



There was a contract signed. Basically it was a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo saying what my fee was, that I was giving them permission to use my art, and I'd do revisions as needed, and our contract remains in effect until either party decides to terminate it. Just because I did not charge them did not make this any less of a legitimate contractor agreement.

I really hoped that things would have worked out a certain way per the phone call I had with Mike, but because things with Roadkill never go as planned or on time, they wound up getting a box from me with their shirts. In the true Roadkill spirit, I made a point of rolling up the shirts and zip-tying them together and taping the box with massive amounts of duct tape. As an additional packaging joke, I took the sides of the boxes and made them pre-fab To-Do lists with one column reading TO-DO and the other TO-BUY.


Today, I see this awesomeness on the Roadkill Facebook page and their Instagram. It was exactly what I needed to see as I've been in a bit of an inexplicable funk lately. So, I have to say, this was definitely the best day ever for me and I am very happy to see everyone's comments about the shirts. They're now available on MuscleCarMagSwag.com starting with the Muscle Truck design and there will be other designs later, but I'm not sure which ones they'll all be using as I've sent a bunch over. So, to end this on a happy note, a month long process has now come full circle and in the words of Mike Finnegan, this truly is the "best day ever."