IROC AF/X Slot Cars

Back in the 70s when I was a teenager, I wanted a slot car track. I finally talked my parents into letting me build a track suspended from the ceiling in the garage. I designed a tri-oval layout that featured three banked turns and a road course inside. It all fit on two pieces of 4×8 that were cut and assembled into a triangular layout.

I had big plans for the track, with thoughts of landscaping it to give it a more realistic feel. Unfortunately, the fact that it was in the garage meant that anytime I wanted to play with it I had to talk my parents into parking both cars in the driveway. This didn’t happen very often, and the track never got used as much as I would have liked. I got far more race time going over to friends houses that had more accessible raceways.

Fast forward 35 years and my landlord at the studio, Rick Phillis got me hooked again on slot cars, racing them Tuesday nights at the fairgrounds on several different 6 lane tracks. After about 30 minutes of practice, Rick would start what he called the IROC races. For those unfamiliar with IROC, it stands for International Race of Champions. It was racing series started in 1974 that pitted the best auto racers from the Indy, F1, Nascar, Trans-Am and Can-AM series against each other in identically prepared cars.
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At Rick’s slot car track, the IROC races meant that every racer took turns running the car assigned to each of the six lanes. The combined score of all six runs then determined the winner. Since everybody had the same car when running each lane, everything evened out and it really did show who was the best driver. (Never me)

So after racing all winter I got hooked again and figured setting up a track would be a good thing to keep me occupied while I was recovering from the surgery. Once again the track is above the cars in the garage, but this time there is a floor between them so I don’t have to move any cars. We have a small room above the garage that was just being used for storage so it was the perfect place to set up a track.

Due to the layout of the room I had to design the track in a T shape. Since racing on 6 lane tracks was so much fun, I knew I wanted to go more than the normal 2 lane track. For the size of the room, 4 lanes was a good compromise. Along the back wall is an 14′ straightaway that leads into banked turn. Then a couple of tight hairpins before heading up the hill for the overpass. A steep descent then leads into a series of sweeping turns through the tunnel, followed by one more tight hairpin, and then a wide 180 degree turn that leads back to the straight.

track

While I was working on the track I decided to take the IROC concept a step further. Why not build 4 identically prepared cars? The first year of the IROC series, they used Porsche RSR race cars with the brand new ‘whale tail’. I had two choices of AF/X bodies to use for building my replicas. There is an ’73 RSR body but it doesn’t have the whale tail. There is also a later RSR body (I think it is ’78) that has a double wing tail. While the ’73 is closer to the IROC, I figured it would be easier to modify the later body to get the right wing shape.
before-&-after

When you have a fixed four lane slot car track it is helpful to have the lanes marked with tape so you can identify which lane you go back on after the inevitable crash. The standard colors for a four lane track are red, white, blue, and yellow. There just happened to be cars in those colors in the IROC series, so those were the colors I chose. I did some research on the web to find the list of colors, drivers, and their assigned numbers. (The numbers went with the drivers, even though they switched cars after each race.) Richard Petty was a given (my boyhood hero) and for the other drivers I picked my favorites from each of the racing series. From Indy I have A.J. Foyt in the red number 8 car, from F1 I have Emmerson Fittapaldi in the white number 1 car, from Trans-Am, Mark Donahue in the yellow number 2 car. The King of course gets the blue car, with the number 10.
petty

To build the cars, I first removed the top wing and then slightly reshaped the lower wing adding the lip in the rear. Then each car was painted the appropriate color. I used some ink jet decals for the the markings. These are a great item, and something I wish I had when I was building models as a kid. They are available with both a white background and a clear background. Since inkjet printers don’t include white ink, if the decal you want to make has white in it you need the white background. I needed both types and fortunately they sell a pack that includes a sampling of both.

So now all four cars are ready to go. The next step for the track is to get the lap timer set up.
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Kidnofax, Reneton and Polcical do not heal Polycystic Kidney Disease

Like most people I am baraged with emails on a daily basis claiming I have lost relatives that have left me millions, or I’ve won the lottery or any number of scams that seem so obvious to me it makes wonder why these people persist. Yet there must be enough people who blindly believe everything that is fed to them that even with all the warnings out there, these scammers are still successfully ripping people off.

I’m reminded of this constantly on Model Mayhem, a site I have a portfolio of my photography work on. This web site has a forum and every day some newbie posts an inquiry wondering if an email they received is legit. The post is usually from some naive model who has put their email address in their profile and they get contacted by someone who noticed their profile on Model Mayhem and wants to fly them to London for a major magazine cover shoot. Yeah, right, that’s how major magazines work. They’re going to hire some unknown model with 4 crappy photos on their profile and stick them on the cover. So the dufuses are definately out there.

After my experience with Prestige Camera, I’ve learned to thoroughly research businesses on the web whenever something doesn’t seem right. Not only the business itself but also any sites reviewing the business because Prestige Camera put a lot of effort into creating sham review sites that recommended Prestige Camera as a 5 star rated company. I later discovered the “review” site was a scam after my research revealed all of the sites they listed were in fact the same company, just operating under different names.

Well it seems this approach isn’t unique to Prestige Camera. I recently came across another scam that puts the disgusting practices of Prestige Camera to absolute shame. While Prestige Camera is just after your money, this herbal medicine scam is preying on people who have little hope, probably little money to spare, and may in fact be poisoning the people they fleece.

First a little background. My wife has a genetic disorder that caused two problems. First she started losing her hearing. In the process of trying to find the cause of the hearing loss the doctors discovered she was losing her kidneys due to a hereditary condition known as Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). There is growing evidence that both the hearing loss and the kidney disease are caused by the same DNA mutation. Fortunately her hearing loss was solved by bilateral cochlear implants, and as I write this, we are less than two weeks away from her transplant surgery. I am lucky enough to be a great match for her and I am the donor.

Hearing about our situation, a friend who works at a healing center and is a firm believer in the power of herbal healing, sent me a link to a product called Kidnofax. I visited the web site, and there were enough warning bells in their claims that I decided to see if there were any independent reviews of their product.

That lead me to a web site pkdhelp.com that listed three remedies. pkdhelp.com was registered by Towards Natural Health, shortly after the other domains, also through GoDaddy. This site just seemed too much like the review site I encounted with Prestige Camera, so I decided to look up the domain registrations for the three companies listed. While they were all registered by different companies in different countries, they all share some common factors. The first thing that really stuck out was that all three domains were registered May 11, 2009 with GoDaddy.com. Three different companies, in different countries selling competing products just happened to register their domains with the same company on the exact same day. That was enough for me right there to resolve any doubts I had as to the authenticity of their products. They also all use CCNow as their payment gateway. While CCNow isn’t a scam company itself, it is a useful tool for people who want to receive money and remain anonymous. It also makes it hard to get your money back once you realize you’ve been scammed.

So I emailed my friend back saying that the quick research I did seemed to indicate that Kidnofax was a scam. His response was that I was being brainwashed by the medical industry. Since this person was making recommendations to people’s health I was determined to show him some more proof. Since we’re trying to stay healthy before the transplant surgery, we didn’t have Thanksgiving with anyone. So I had all day to research and what I uncovered was truly disturbing.

Much of what I suspected was confirmed by One Sick Mother (OSM). In her exstensive blog, she has been posting about this huge network of herbal scams that Kidnofax is just a small part of. Not only has she done a tremendous amount of research and documented it well, her writing is very entertaining and so I spent the whole morning reading various articles on her web site.

Without duplicating what she has written about, I will provide a summary, and then you can view the More Info links below as a starting point.

First off, the scams aren’t just related to PKD. Each of the three companies have set up separate web sites for a long list of diseases from Adominal Adhesions to Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia. I guess they’re still working on the diseases for the letters X-Z. For each of the respective companies, the web sites are exactly the same, with the exception of the specific disease that they are targeting. Same ingredient list, same testimonials, same ad copy that mentions how this miracle product was discovered, etc. In fact on some of the sites the search and replace of the disease name missed a few places and the wrong disease is mentioned.

Since the domains were registered on May 11, 2009, I found it very odd that the sites had testimonials from users in several countries dating back to 2007. How did these people find and buy the product as the one email response I received back from them stated that the product is only available from their web site.

If you try to research the companies themselves you’ll find that the satellite sites don’t link back to the corporate sites. I’m sure they’re afraid that people might find the other scam sites if they linked them that way. I was able to find the URL’s for the corporate sites, but they don’t exist. They are either under construction or they’re an empty directory.

I did email a couple of them and got a reponse back for an inquiry about Reneton. As I suspected from reading user’s comments left on OSM, the reply came not from an IP address in New Zealand, but from a possibly forged IP address in Pakistan.

I communicated this information including the links to OSM to my friend and his response was that he would buy the stuff for me, he was so sure of its efficacy. I told him no thanks. Especially since OSM provided an analysis of some of the ingredients that included such nice extras such as rat poison.

Some of the other details that I discovered are listed below in the table. I’ve tried not providing links to the companies themselves because I really don’t want to promote them. So you’ll have to copy and paste the URLs.

The companies supposedly are located in either New Zealand, Australia and Denmark. However Gordon’s uses a private bag which is similar to a post office box, Healing Plants uses a virtual office, and Solutions by Nature uses a post office box. The photos on the sites that supposedly show their corporate headquarters aren’t the real locations, and in the case of Towards Natural Health, they Photoshopped New York’s skyline into something they thought would represent both Scotland and Copenhagen.

So after laying out my findings, was my friend convinced that these companies are a fraud, that there are unscrupulous people in Pakistan willing to grab your money and possibly ruin your health? Nope, he remained convinced of the power of herbal healing because he is convinced that the western medical industry is not the solution. And that is why these scams succeed. Because some people want something to believe in after modern medicine has failed them.

It’s a shame on so many levels that scams like this exist. I believe that some herbs do have some positive effects. I take echinacea at the first signs of a sore throat and sometimes it seems to have prevented an oncoming cold, or at least lessened the severity of it. Other times it had no effects. With over 200 types of the common cold, who’s to say if it’s really effective, just a placebo effect, or effective for some colds but not others. But modern quackery taints the entire alternative medicine industry. Preying on people who are already experiencing the physical, mental and financial stress from terminal diseases by offering them false hope is despicable. Selling them drugs that may include (depending on whether what you receive really is the formula listed on their web sites) compounds that are toxic such as rat poison.

If you see any of these companies advertising on Google you can use this form to complain. There isn’t much else you can do unfortunately except complain to search engines and hope the people that run them have some morals and will remove these sites from their listings. But I don’t even have much hope for that.

Reneton Kidnofax Polcical
Product Website www.renetron.com www.kidnofax.com www.polcical.com
Manufacturer Gordon’s Herbal Research Center Healing Plants Ltd. Solutions By Nature
Co. website gordonsherbal.com
(under construction)
www.solutions-by-nature.com
(empty directory)
Address Gordon’s Herbal Research Center
N312
Private Bag 92185
Auckland 1142
New Zealand
Healing Plants Ltd
9 Crofts Ave.
Suite V13
Hurstville NSW 2220
Australia
Virtual Headquarters
Google Street View
Solutions by Nature
PO Box 2175
Paleagade 7
DK-1231
KBH K
Denmark
Email contact@gordonsherbal.com support@solutions-by-nature.com
Response from wtl.worldcall.net.pk
[115.186.29.252]
(may be forged)
CCNow yes yes yes
Ingredients Wattle Bark 116.27 mg
Elephant Creeper 58.11 mg
Sweet Root 58.13 mg
Coral calcium 34.88 mg
Iron Compound 34.88 mg
Spanish chamomile 23.25 mg
Cloves 23.25 mg
Vermilion 23.25mg
Indian Bay-leaf 23.25 mg
Nutmeg 23.25 mg
Nux vomica 11.62 mg
Henbane 11.62 mg
Swertia Chirata Hum 15.90mg
Fumaria Officinalis Linn 15.90mg
Tephrosa Purpurea 15.90mg
Sphaeranthus Indicus Linn 15.90mg
Artemisia Vulgaris Linn 15.90mg
Zizyphus Vulgaris Lamk 15.90mg
Terminalia Chebula 15.90mg
Cassia Absus Linn 15.90mg
Melia Linn 15.90mg
Lycopodium Clavatum 15.90mg
Berberis Aristata DC. Ext. 15.90mg
Ashwagandha
Liliaceae
Gum Benjamin
Ammonium Chloride
Myrobalan
More Info Gordon’s Herbal Research Center scam Healing Plants Ltd scam Solutions by Nature scam

Replacing the Del Sol’s Headlights

After Lori’s accident with the deer I needed to replace the right headlight and turn signal. The first step was to remove the front bumper so I could fully assess what was going to be needed.

Not sure how to remove the Del Sol’s bumper, I turned to the Internet and found these instructions. The instructions were pretty good but I have a few comments on them.

First, start with the two bolts underneath the bumper. That way you can be under the car when the bumper is securely attached and you don’t have to worry about it falling down on you. I found that both of the bottom bolts had been partially ground off from making contact with low objects so removing them was a bit tough.

Next take off the two side screws. I found that the inner fender is flexible enough that you can push it out of the way and insert a philips head screwdriver into the cutout that Honda thoughtfully provided. You’ll have to feel around a bit to find the screw but it works.

Finally remove the top screws and you’re all done. It just lifts off from there.

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With the bumper off I found some of the plastic bits that broke off of the lights. I was hoping to just replace the lens and glue everything else back together but Honda doesn’t sell the lens separately. You have to buy the whole assembly, and the headlight assembly is $270. The mounting bracket was another $60 dollars, and the turn signal assembly was another $190. So over $500 just to fix the two lights.

At that price I thought about searching the local salvage yard but they didn’t have any in stock. The guy I talked to though suggested just replacing both the left and right lights with after market units.

So back to the Internet and I found these replacement lights that combine the headlight, the turn signal and the mounting bracket into one unit. Total cost with shipping and tax was just under $200.

They installed just as advertised. They’re actually a lot easier to work with than the OEM units. The Honda assemblies seem a bit over engineered.

The right side took some work getting it to fit only because the car’s frame had been bent from the impact. I also had to bend the frame for the driving light back to something that more closely approximated the original configuration.

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Everything went back together pretty smoothly, and then it was off for a drive to Kragen to get replacement bulbs for some of them that got damaged. On the drive back I realized that I should have bought amber bulbs for the turn signals. After getting home and taking a look at the lights, I realized that in order to change the turn signal bulbs I’m going to have to go through the whole bumper removal process again. A design flaw in the integrated units, but for the price difference I’m willing to do the extra work.

Maybe some day when we have more money I’ll repair or replace the hood and get it repainted. But for now at least it’s back on the road and if I can sell the driver side units on Ebay for half of the OEM price, I’ll be $50 ahead.

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Strike Two

When I got home from the fire department drill last night the garage door for the Del Sol was open, which I thought was kind of odd. When I got into the house, Lori told me why. She had hit a deer on her way home on Hwy 211. She seemed shaken but she was totally ok.

After seeing my last experience with a deer strike where it totaled the car, I was fearing the worst. Especially since just last week in a budget cutting move I had decided to drop the collision and comprehensive on the Del Sol.

So I was quite amazed when I got a look at the car. The damage is minimal. The headlight is broken, but still works, the turn signal light is broken but still works, the driving light got pushed back and for some reason doesn’t work, and the hood is a bit buckled but that may resolve itself when I get the headlight back where it’s supposed to be. I guess there are some advantages to driving a low slung sports car. The contact point would have been with the deer’s legs rather than its body. Lori was also very lucky in that she caught the tail end of the deer as it was crossing in front of her from left to right.

In over 30 years of driving, Lori has been the safest driver I know. She’s never had an accident, nor has she even received a ticket. (oh wait, there was that little touch and go in our extremely narrow garage in South San Francisco) But she has been unfortunate to cross paths with deer twice.

The first incident came during our honeymoon, and any of you who have known us for a while have probably heard the honeymoon story. It’s a long story, filled with all kinds of disasters, from a skiing accident that left blood stains in the snow, to setting her bathrobe on fire. But the deer portion of the story is that we went out to dinner for her birthday and on the way home I let her drive the ’69 El Camino that we had just recently bought. Honeymooning on a motorcycle in the middle of the winter wasn’t an option.

So on the way home out jumps Bambi and before she even has much of a chance to react, there’s an impact. Bambi jumps back up and disappears into the woods. Lori pulls over and wants to go rescue the injured Bambi, bless her animal loving heart. But it’s pitch black outside, and we’re in a wooded hilly section and for all I know, it could be a 100 ft. drop off the side of the road. So I had to hang onto her to keep her from going over the edge.

Then a bunch of other disasters happen and finally we decide to cut the honeymoon short and we head home. More disaster ensues. We get home exhausted and I call my mom to let her know we’re back. She wants us to come over and open our wedding presents. We are not the happy couple at this point and so it takes some sweet talking from mom before we finally acquiesce.

One of the first presents Lori opens is a little brass paper weight in the shape of a fawn. She breaks down in tears, leaving everyone else but me with a puzzled expression on their face.

So last night I asked her if maybe she was ready to give venison another try. The next deer that decides to make a dessert out of her Taboo roses, better have a good escape plan.

The Front is Finally Done!

In May of 2008 I started the long process of painting the house. I decided to tackle the front first, because it is of course the most interesting side of the house, but also the porch was new construction and really needed to get some paint on it.

Lori and I chose a color scheme that included the four colors on the barn, with some more added to the mix. In the end I applied 9 colors plus some gold leaf on the gables.

Because of the amount of prep and restoration needed to the gables and bays, plus the short painting season and being out of town so much for Lori’s cochlear implant surgery, it took me until today to finally finish the work on the front.

It feels really good to get that accomplished, but the scaffolding is already set up on the south side to start the work there. My plan was to finish the front and then enjoy the rest of the summer, but it’s starting to look like I might not get much painting done next year so I figure I better make use of some of the late summer and early fall where we typically get some of our best painting weather.

At least now when I get depressed with our yard, I can go sit in front of the house and pretend it all looks that nice.

Windy Ridge

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Ferndale, so location scouting was as much of an excuse as I needed to get the KLR650 out of the garage and load it up with camera gear. Last month on our hike to Punta Gorda, I was regretting that I had left my polarizers in one of my other camera bags, so I thought I’d make a return trip out there. I also wanted to explore Prosper Ridge Road and Windy Point Road a bit to see how close they would get one to the light house.

Prosper Ridge Road is a fairly smooth gravel road, the kind of road I ride the KLR on a lot. But turning off onto the unmarked Windy Point Road I wasn’t sure if it was the road or a private ranch road. Shortly after turning off I passed a sign saying 4 wheel drive only. The good news was that it was a public road. The bad news was that my ride was about to get more difficult. The road became a deeply rutted two track with lots of loose rocks, and then I could see that it dropped sharply down the hill.

I debated trying this while riding by myself, but it’s always easier to proceed down than try to turn around in such situations, so I slowly picked my way down. I figured this was why I traveled with a SPOT. I finally arrived at the parking area at the bottom of the hill and peeled out of my now sweat soaked jacket.

First let me say there is a reason they call this area Windy Point. It truly lived up to its billing, and each time I parked the KLR I had to make sure it wasn’t going to get toppled in the wind. I think that alone rules out this area for photoshoots. Been out in this area twice and both times the wind has made it hard to stand at times. That doesn’t make for successful photoshoots. So as pretty as this area is, I’m crossing it off the list.


But there are other reasons to come out here. The views are just stupendous. Even on an evening with no clouds and an offshore fog bank ruining the sunset, it was still gorgeous as the land shows little effect from man’s settlement. It was also interesting to see how much the rocky shoreline had changed in the few weeks from my last visit.

My first visit I noticed several of the tidal rocks covered with a bright green mossy looking growth. But this trip I realized that the growth was the beginning of the summer crop of algae, and it had turned to a much less photogenic shade of brown. The areas of the rocks that weren’t covered with aglae, were densely packed with mussels. It was hard to find areas to walk through the tide pools without crunching them.

Since the sunset wasn’t much I packed up a bit early and headed back up the beach to where the KLR was parked. By the time I left the parking lot it was getting dark and I rode through a violent bug storm, the likes I haven’t seen since my last visit to Teluride. Taking advantage of this wealth of flying food, birds were swooping in from left and right, not realizing that the reason they could so easily spot the bugs was that they were being illuminated by a fast approaching dual sport motorcycle. The first hit came from the front on the helmet. A minute later I felt the second strike on the side of the helmet even though I tried desperately to dodge the incoming. Another minute went by and a third bird got more than it bargained for, bouncing off of my Kilimanjaro jacket.

Once I got back to Mattole Road the bombardment halted. But that wasn’t the end of the animal threats for the night. Just as I got back to the coastline section, the feeble KLR headlight (on high beam even) gave me a split second warning that two cows were out for their nightly jog down the middle of the road. Just after I got my breath back from that one a rabbit darted out from the left but wisely decided to retreat before he became less three dimensional. After I started the climb back up I had a raccoon pull the same stunt. Shortly after that the wind started really picking up and it was a race to see if I could beat the fog rolling in.

I soon lost that contest and found that a curvy bumpy road at night in the fog with a terrible headlight will decrease your fun and speed. Especially when you encounter a large owl trying to take off in your path but the wind is preventing an efficient departure. A lucky duck from me saved an otherwise unlucky owl. Of course the ride couldn’t have been complete without an appearance from Bambi, but at least she had her self preservation in mind and she quickly scurried off in the right direction.

By the time I started down the Wildcat into Ferndale it was so drippy I had to have my visor open to be able to see anything. But I did make it home safely despite everything that nature tossed in front of me.

Punta Gorda Lighthouse

After getting back from the rodeo on Saturday we started planning what we were going to do to entertain Derek and Lauren on Sunday. We suggested Fern Canyon, but Derek said Lauren liked long hikes, and after our snowshoe trip last January, I knew she was up to it.

Reviewing a best Humboldt hikes article we had saved from the paper a while ago I remembered about Punta Gorda Lighthouse, a hike I’ve wanted to do since hearing about it. So Sunday around noon we left for the drive along the Lost Coast Loop and made the detour on Lighthouse Road to Mattole Campground. Derek was a bit bewildered that the road stopped at this point. I pointed out that’s what happens when you keep traveling west, eventually the Pacific Ocean proves to be a major hurdle for road building.

The hike from the campground to the lighthouse is about 3.5 miles. We had a nice 3 mile hike out, enjoying the tidepools and collecting shells along the beach. By the end of the trip Lauren had all her pockets and most of ours filled with her collection. At the 3 mile mark major exhaustion seemed to set in and as the wind was picking up we huddled behind a rock for a rest. I went down the beach to the look around the next point figuring that if I didnt’ see the lighthouse we’d turn back. Well the lighthouse came in to view, so we decided to push on.

Before we got to the lighthouse we came across two cabins. I don’t know who owns them, but I sure wish I did. They would be a great place to spend a weekend.

We finally got to the lighthouse and spent some time exploring what’s left, which isn’t much. But the most interesting thing is the stairway, and more specifically, the opening to the light room itself. There must have been a requirement that you had to be a skinny person to be the lighthouse keeper. In order to gain access I had to push my camera bag and tripod on ahead of me.

By the time we turned around and started heading back, the wind was really howling, at times almost knocking us down. On the trip south we walked the beach all the way, going back north we found a trail further up the beach that in some parts was more packed and made the hiking a lot easier. 7 miles of flat walking sounded easy, but throw in that most of it you’re walking across sand, and then add in the 40 mile winds on the way back and we were all pretty exhausted by the time we got back to the car.

We continued on the loop through Honeydew and the Avenue of the Giants, but we were all too pooped and we were running out of daylight so we didn’t do any more hiking.

We got back to Grizzly Bluff just as the sun was making a beautiful departure, and then picked up a pizza before heading home. A great ending for a nice day away from the house and yard.

Repairing an Antique Rim Lock

Since we’re going to be hosting some out of town guests this weekend for the Bionic Woman Variety Show, Lori’s been hard at work cleaning the guest bathroom. Calling it the guest bathroom is a bit of a misnomer. It’s mostly seen duty as the Knowlesville Recycling Transfer Station, where we keep our plastic, metal and glass until we take it to the dump. 

This room, like just about every other room in our house, has a door that does not latch. We don’t throw deadbolts for security, we throw them so our doors don’t blow open in the wind. This is part of what you deal with when you decide to live in a house that is 120 years old. We’re used to it, but I got to thinking it might be a bit too rustic for our guests so I thought I’d investigate this lock and see what the problem was.

One of the great things I look back fondly about my dad was that he was a great Mr. Fixit. I remember him doing all kinds of repairs around the house, and more often than not dad was able to get things operating again without having to call the repairman. Probably because like most men his age, growing up during the depression stressed the importance of repairing rather than replacing.

I like to think that not only did I inherit his desire to fix things, but maybe also the toys I played with at an early age like Legos and my Erector Set taught me how to problem solve mechanical devices. So before any broken device gets tossed in the dumper, I feel it’s my responsibility to do a thorough post mortem to see if the patient can be revived. Sometimes it’s just an artery that clogged, like Lori’s sewing machine the other day that was filled with so much lint parts were refusing to move. Other times I need to resort to transplant surgery, ordering new parts and installing them. Then there are times where the parts have gone missing, and I have to create artificial replacement parts. This ended up being the case with the bathroom door lock.

I like the way old things are put together. Back in the good old days they used screws. This allows you to disassemble them without breaking them, and to be able to put them back together again. Nothing stops Mr. Fixit quicker than modern cases that have either been snapped together with one way snaps, or worse with glue. So very quickly I got the lock apart and looked inside. Ah, here we go, there’s a broken spring. I just need to replace that and we’ll be done.

Thing was, I couldn’t figure out where the broken end would have been attached. So I figured out there on the Internet surely I could find the answer. First I had to figure out what this type of lock was called as it was escaping me. So I went to one of my favorite old house hardware sites Crown City, and looked at their lock section. Rim lock was what I was looking for. So I did various searches for repairing rim locks but came up empty.

I figured springs were cheap so I went down to Nielsen’s and bought a couple of springs that were close to what I found in the lock. I then tried to make these springs work but something just didn’t seem right because there wasn’t anything to attach the spring to on one side, and the other side provided a dubious connection at best. I kludged it the best I could and assembled everything and tried it out. It worked! The first time. Then I could tell that something came loose inside.

So I tried it again, this time with a bit of oil, and it worked a bit better, but after about three turns it stopped working again. So I opened it up once again and just stared at it.

That’s when I realized that the broken spring had been a red herring all along. It wasn’t supposed to be coil spring that made the bolt extend, it was supposed to have a leaf spring, just like the spring on the bottom for the dead bolt. I doubted that I could just go back to Nielsen’s and find the appropriate leaf spring so I hunted around to find something that was straight and strong but springy. Thankfully we had a pile of coat hangers waiting to be thrown away and the brass wire proved to be just the right ticket.

 

Coat hanger fix

Coat hanger fix

Cut to the right length it fit perfectly, and the lock is back in order. So a small scrap of wire coat hanger saved me from having to replace the lock, which of course Crown City would have been happy to sell me a new one at $70. So thanks dad, you taught me well.

Bothe Napa State Park

So here it is, 7:52 in the morning at our campsite, and I’m logged on to the Internet. Trying to get this posted before my laptop runs out of juice because we used it to watch Long Way Down last night.

This is day one of our Memorial Day trip and I’m using this as a test of being able to play and work. Not that I’m doing any work but the concept will be liberating in the future.

Last night we heard a tom turkey gobbling his head off. Fortunately he went to sleep about the same time we did.

I really need to make a checklist for camping. Between Blake and I myself we forgot a few things that would have been helpful. As soon as I got to the camp I was reminded that bug spray is a good thing to have while camping. Fortunately when Blake arrived an hour later, he had some. Between us we have most of what we need, and we can pick up the rest along the way.

2 Week Update

It’s now been two weeks since Lori’s activation date and it’s been two of the most interesting weeks in my life. Trying to describe how I’ve felt has been hard. I can only imagine that it must be close to the excitement that parents go through when their child begins to crawl, then walks, and then talks for the first time.

Some definite highlights:

Lori and I were walking to some friends house for breakfast. Up on the telephone wires some birds were declaring their happiness in living in such a beautiful town as Ferndale, especially on such a fine morning as it was. Lori was able to hear the birds and I rejoiced. This had a lot of meaning for me because on her gradual trip to deafness, one day that stands out among the others was another walk. This time we were walking alone up Williams Creek Road. I had brought a note pad along because this was before she got her hearing aids. I realized that if she couldn’t hear me, then she couldn’t hear the birds, and it hit me hard how much pleasure had gone out of her life. But now the birds are singing again, as they should be.

Another thrill was the moment Ricky climbed up on the back of the futon right by her head and she recognized that Ricky was purring. That’s one sound I know Lori really missed. But now the cats are purring again, as they should be.

We watched a couple of episodes of Fawlty Towers the other night. Since we were streaming them from Netflix, there weren’t subtitles, but Lori was able to get most of the dialogue. Which given that the actors all speak with English accents (or in one case Spanish), that’s pretty good. But now John Cleese is funny again, as he should be.

Best of all, we were watching a movie a couple of nights ago, and it did have subtitles so we turned them on. But what was so wonderful was that I could talk to Lori and make comments about the movie. Aside from not having your feet glued to the floor in a theater, isn’t being able to talk during a movie one of the things that makes home theater so great? I really missed being able to make witty remarks and enjoy Lori’s laughter. But now hopefully I’m funny again, and I guess that’s as it should be too.

In the last two weeks Lori and I have been explaining this amazing technology to lots of friends. So I decided to do a bit of show and tell today. If anyone has kids in school that would like to bring in the real bionic woman, I’m sure Lori would be cool with that now.

Lori wearing her cochlear implants

Lori wearing her cochlear implants

Initially, when I showed Lori the info on cochlear implants, she was pretty disgusted with the idea of wearing something stuck to her head. I tried to explain to her that these days people are going around with all kinds of bluetooth devices stuck to their heads, and that people would barely even notice it. Then we went to a picnic for people considering getting the devices and they put pink dots on the nametags of those that already had them, because most of the women were able to hide them. With the way she normally wears her hair, the coil and the processor are barely seen.

Med-El Speech Processor

Med-El Speech Processor

If Lori wears her hair back, then you can see them, and this is what you’d see. The circular disc is the coil. This has a magnet in it, surrounded by a coil. The magnet sticks to the implant. The implant sits under her skin, and it has a probe with electrodes that was inserted into her cochlea. The electrodes directly stimulate the auditory nerves. The coil transmits both the power and signal to the implant through radio waves. The implant has no battery power of its own.

The part that rests on her ear is the processor. It has microphone and takes the sound input, does a bunch of processing depending on the program and maps loaded into it, and then sends the resulting digital signal to the coil. Lori can choose from 4 different programs. When she visits Stanford, they load the programs by connecting the processor to a PC. Yep, Lori’s hearing is being controlled by a Windows program. Let’s hope she doesn’t pick up a virus. (True to form, during her last visit, the computer had to be rebooted.)

Ears to go

Ears to go

As I mentioned earlier, each implant comes with a complete backup and some nifty accessories. Here’s the James Bond case they ship everything in. Since she got two implants she got two cases, but I was able to consolidate it enough to get everything into one, which will make traveling a lot less conspicuous.

Accessories

Accessories

Open the case and here’s some on what you’ll see. On the left is the remote control. The remote can be used to chang the volume, sensitivity, and the program for the left and/or right ear. There’s also a few other buttons that will perform something in the future but the audiologist didn’t mention what that was yet. Very James Bondish. The cool thing is that since Lori got two kits, one for each ear, there’s an extra remote. I’m envisioning all kinds of practical jokes based on this spare remote. I’m also thinking that most men would love to have a remote that silenced their wives from time to time, but that’s a different subject.

To the right of the implant are the accessory covers, in six different fashionable hues so that when Lori gets tired of sienna, she can change to blue or red, or to match the sky in Ferndale, grey.

The cable plugs into the bottom of the processor and can then be plugged into a battery powered sound source like an iPod, iPhone, or an FM transceiver, such as movie theaters use for the hearing impaired. Med-El currently has two cables available, this one doesn’t cut out the ambient sound so she can listen to her music on her iPhone at work and still hear people talking to her. In one of the books we read, the author felt very funny carrying around a Walkman (written before the iPod obviously) and not wearing a pair of headphones to go with it. 

The good news is that Lori is already finding some music that she enjoys. Not that it sounds anything close to hi-fi, and it never will, but the fact that she’s even finding it tolerable is great at this early stage of the re-learning process. So music is making her happy again, and that’s the way it should be.