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!