Friday, July 30, 2010

Stop selling weed

So my neighbor was texting and calling me all evening about the fact that cars kept pulling up in front of the house across from his, someone would come out of the house, sit in the car about two minutes, then go back in the house as the car drove off. Yeah, I had to agree it sounded like some shady transactions were going down. After six cars came by in an hour, I finally walked down the street knocked on the guy's door and told him that the entire neighborhood had noticed what was going on, and if it happened again, I was calling the cops. He said, "Oh yeah, no problem. It's cool."

I'll let you know tomorrow if I have to call the cops.

I don't know if I'm the person everyone on the block turns to because I'm the craziest or if they figure, I just don't have any kids, so I'm expendable.


I have a love-hate relationship with tires. I like being around tires. I love the smell of new tires. I love the smell of melted tires at the autocross track. I love the super soft and bouncy shredded tire bits they use at the rock gym to cushion your falls. What I don't love is paying for them, and that after over 100 years of tire technology advancement, they still require air, can be punctured, and wear out.

If you hadn't guessed, I had to buy tires today. I hadn't really budgeted for tires for another six months or so. This set lasted a full 19 months. That's an improvement over the first set, which only lasted 14 months. That's the one downside to performance cars like the Porsche. The only tire option is the super sticky low profile tires. They're softer than normal tires to provide better grip. However, that means they disappear extremely fast. If you're going to buy a Porsche, you can buy cheap parts online and turn the wrenches yourself, but make sure you budget for the tires.

It's not all bad news, though. The car came with tires on it, which were slightly too large in the rear. I'm not talking about they were large and rubbing. I'm talking they were 5cm too tall in the sidewall. That 5cm was enough to throw off the speed sensors monitoring the front and rear wheels, which in turn made the traction control computer believe the car was out of control. In turn, if you hit the clutch, it would keep the idle up around 2000rpm thinking you were making emergency manuevers.It took me over a year, hundreds of dollars and thousands of posts on car forums to finally solve this riddle. All of that just because a tire had a 40cm sidewall instead of a 35cm sidewall. Go figure.

I'm about to update my car's maintenance record and file this receipt. I'm crossing my fingers for 24 months this time.

I'm wheeling, but I need to work on my dealing

Well, it's that time of year when all the camera makers wow us with their new wares. The last couple years have been pretty boring. However, this year everyone has 12x compact travel zoom cameras with 720p HD video. Sony has a new prosumer camcorder with an interchangeable lens system. Panasonic even announced new 3D lenses for both their 4/3 system and their camcorders. It's exciting again. Somewhere in all this commotion I found myself on eBay placing bids on a Leica V-Lux 20 travel zoom with GPS tagging. It's been out a while, but it ranks at the top of the travel zoom class with the new Samsung. However, Fujifilm has a new EXR travel zoom slated to arrive soon that might blow both of them away. I was completely caught up in the idea of a compact travel zoom that could reach out and snap incredible photos of pelicans sitting atop buoys and dolphins spouting across the bay.

However, the way travel zooms attain their immense magnification is by using a small sensor. The smaller the sensor, the less glass you need to create a large zoom. I hate small sensors. They're bad in low light. I started getting all torn up inside over wanting this tiny camera with a big zoom, but not wanting another tiny, noisy sensor. Then as I was searching craiglist for a possible deal on a Leica V-lux 20, I found a guy selling a Leica Digilux 3. That was the Panasonic-based 7.5mp SLR they made a couple years ago that uses micro 4/3 lenses. I thought to myself, this is much more practical if I'm going to spend money on a camera because it has a larger sensor, tons of lenses available for it, and I can use it in a professional capacity. However, he was asking way too much for it and wouldn't come down on the price. Then I started looking at Leica's current crop of cameras. I kept coming back to the X1. It has a huge APS-C sized sensor in it even though it's a compact. It actually shares the same sensor as the Nikon D90. The downside is that it has a non-interchangeable fixed lens. At first I was both disgusted and annoyed. I mean, I understand how to shoot with a fixed lens. My first camera, a Canon AE-1 had a fixed 50mm lens. My phone has a fixed lens. It has a place. However, the Canon could take a zoom lens. The phone is a freaking phone -- the modern equivalent of a 110 throwaway camera. Why would you build a $2000 camera with a fixed lens that can't be swapped out? Why?!!!

But as much as the idea aggravated me, I kept finding myself looking at the X1 again and again. The manual controls are on dials, not hidden down in menus on the screen. The lens is so high quality. The sensor creates image quality only found when lugging around a big DSLR. The round pop-up flash is such a cool design element.

Suddenly I found myself placing bids on the X1 instead of the V-Lux 20. It makes no sense because it's the opposite of what I was wanting. However, my eBay patience paid off. Eventually, one of my low-ball bids won.

From BlogPhotos

There's a Leica X1 on its way to my house. Expect a thorough review next week. I don't know if I'll keep it or resell it, but I'm going to try it out.

Unfortunately, I'm not having as much luck selling things as I am buying things. I listed the remains of our salvage Kubota on craigslist for $200. I've gotten two hits on it.

From BlogPhotos

Andy the Asian farmer and his girlfriend came by tonight to look at it, but he won't go above $100. I was insisting on $125. Everytime I looked at it sitting there with so many good, useable parts -- injectors, injector pump, glow plugs, water pump, fuel pump -- I just couldn't give it away for $100. However, as soon as Andy left, I thought, damn, I have this engine still taking up space in my garage and not $100 in my pocket. I'm thinking I should have just taken the money and gotten it out of here.

That's the point of being a wheeler dealer. You have to be able to sell as well as you can buy. I've never been a good salesman. I get attached to stuff. Plus, I feel guilty trying to convince someone to spend money on something they don't need. But geez, there are so many good parts on that Kubota.

After not selling the motor, Ben and I did some cleaning on the garage. I might actually have my car in there by the end of the weekend. Unfortunately, I somehow slashed open my foot while cleaning.

From BlogPhotos

It doesn't look so bad now, but it was bleeding profusely at the time. The question is, how did I do that? I was wearing flip flops, but it's not like anything jumped out and stabbed me. I was just walking around picking up trash and sorting out paint cans. Then ... I realized my foot was hurting and covered in blood. Go figure.

I've got to get the oil changed on the Porsche in the morning. Then it looks like yardwork is imminent. Boat work on Saturday. Back to housework on Sunday. Good times.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Birthdays, baths and progress

It was not only my boss's birthday, but also that of my neighbor. We congregated across the street for cake. That makes cake twice today, but my glasses are still hurting my nose.

The ramifications of all the cake will probably hit me later in the week, but I was still light enough to trample Ben in a pull-up contest this evening. I got 11 to his 8. Only one person can be #1 son.

While I made no direct physical progress on the garage, I did have an Asian farmer named Andy call me about the Kubota. It seems he needs some parts for his tractor. He only offered $125, but hey, he said he'd pick it up tomorrow. The key factor is getting it out of the garage.

I also posted Ben's Mustang engine and car parts on craigslist this evening. He's anxious to see if anyone will bite on that, so he can upgrade to the DOHC Cobra engine. If there's no interest, it kind of puts a damper on things ... unless we build another car for THAT engine. However, that would kind of ruin my dream of parking in the garage for the first time in years.

Other than that, I did some cleaning and watching terrible movies on Netflix while I did abs and elliptical. I've got to dig myself out of this fitness hole I dug while on vacation.

I'm missing the boat. I'm not too enthused about finishing the sanding this weekend, but I'm dying to be down there. I found the missing whine rack for the pantry in the garage, and if it will finally quit raining tomorrow I'm going to finish repainting the pieces of the medicine cabinet. Nobody wants to put their toothbrush in a medicine cabinet with stained, moldy walls. I've got to get it a nice hygienic white. I still haven't found a source for the mirrored sliding doors, but I can always resort to wooden doors and hang an actual mirror somewhere, I guess.

One more day of work this week. I've really been blanking on the design for the Ocean Star Gala. I need some inspiration. Hopefully something will come to me in the morning.

Oh, and the most amazing thing happened. Dixie Belle must have really missed me because tonight when I said, "BATH," instead of hunkering down in her bed, she walked right into the shower. I was dumbfounded. She got a good scrubbing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My nose hurts

I got new glasses last week in an effort to both see better and to stop looking like a hobo. I think I've had success in both those areas, but damn the bridge of my nose is sore. I cannot get the little pads situated right. I keep bending, adjusting, tweaking, rebending. Unfortunately, the bridge of my nose just keeps getting more and more raw and irritated. I had to switch back to my hobo glasses last night to look at the comoputer long enough to finish editing the wedding video. Then this morning I switched back to the new frames, and my nose was dying before I even made it to work.

I haven't resorted to a band-aid across the bridge of my nose yet, but as I didn't bring my old glasses to the office with me, I may have to before the day is over.

It's my boss's birthday today. We surprised him with some balloons this morning. I'm sure there will be cake this afternoon. Cake will probably help my nose.

Wedding highlights

My guerrila filmmaker video of the wedding. I tried to cut out most of the shakiness, but have you ever tried to shoot OVER the hair of women in west Texas?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meet the Texans

It's another rainy day here in Houston. That's ok. I don't mind rain during the week as long as it will clear off, so we can sail on the weekends.

I got roped into going to a Meet the Texans luncheon. I don't watch football ... at all. I don't know the names of any of our players. Hopefully the food is good and the cheerleaders are there or this is going to be a very boring lunch.

Since I have to rebuild the table in the boat, I came up with the idea of actually lacquering a chart into the top of it -- more for decor than actually charting. Since I don't want to pay for a chart that I may destroy with glue and lacquer while attempting this, one of my friends sent me this handy site.

Round two of garage cleaning tonight.

Waiting on the dog

The dog has a bit of the runs this evening. She got the carpet right beside the elliptical trainer while I was working out. She hasn't had an accident in over a year, so I didn't get onto her about it. However, I have put her outside for a few minutes before bed hoping she'll be able to squirt anything else out now, so I don't have to wake up to more green pup slushies.

I also decided to sync my phone tonight. It decided it needed to update to OS 4.0.1, so it's been out of commission for the past two hours. That's the downside to having computerized phones or using computers as a media center. They always decide they need to update just when you want to make a call or watch a movie.

I worked on the garage for about two hours, but I made very little visible progress.

From BlogPhotos

On the upside, this side of the garage is now traversible whereas before it was not. I also got the Kubota diesel listed on craigslist for $200 or best offer, but I haven't gotten any response yet.

Ok, I'm tired of waiting on the dog. I'm going to let her back in and hope there's no more accidents. Goodnight.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back to work

Back to the city. Back to the job. Back to the hustle bustle. Back to the list of 15,000 things I need to get finished.

It was nice getting away for a few days. The only stress was showing up to the wedding on time. We succeeded at that. Everyone involved said, I do. It always makes for a nicer matrimonial ceremony when that happens. We then rocked the Elk's Lodge for the next four hours. However, my Baptist grandmother insisted on being taken back to the hotel after 15 minutes because she just couldn't deal with the fact that people were both drinking and dancing.

I needed a reminder of where I came from. I'll think twice before turning my nose up at something again.

My dog survived the neighbors -- or vice versa. I was worried that after spending four days in a household with children and other dogs, she wouldn't want to come home, but she was very glad to see me. She slept halfway on top of me all night.

My first order of business upon return was to order all the parts to do the brake job on the Porsche. Thanks to eBay new pads, wear sensors, and rear rotors are all on the way. (I did front rotors last brake job.) eBay makes huge difference in parts cost. For instance, I can order one brake wear sensor from Porsche for $18 or I can order four from a seller on eBay for $24. Pads and rotors also come out about half price although the brand names are not something you find in stores. However, the previous pads haven't disintegrated and caused any catastrophic accidents, so I figure it's safe to use them again.

Now I'm faced with the real challenge -- cleaning out the garage.

The only boat parts remaining are the seat cushions, the leftover plywood, the sick British Seagull and the salvage Kubota engine. I guess tonight I will compile the Kubota parts and put it on craigslist to see if we can make at least a little bit of money off of it. The mechanic who swapped us the British Seagull for the Westerbeke asked for first dibs on it. However, considering the sad condition of the seagull, I'm not sure I want anymore trades from him.

I've promised myself no more spending money on the boat until I get all the interior woodwork finished. I THINK I can do it in one more weekend, which probably means I need three more.

Looks like it's back to Paris the second week of October.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dance off!

The organized chaos of my cousins' kids dance off.

Friday, July 23, 2010

It's a long road to Plainview

I spent all day driving north through Texas. Google maps sent us the back route, so we spent a lot of time on two-lane roads, but we had very little traffic.

We stopped off at a Dairy Queen somewhere for dinner and I "got my hair did" by their buffalo.

From BlogPhotos

Once you hit the great plains you can see for miles. I don't remember all these windmills being here when I was a kid.

From BlogPhotos

Anyway, we made it to Plainview in time for dinner with the extended family as well as the extended-extended family to be. There were a lot of children in that Little Mexico restaurant. I was warming up to the idea of kids. Maybe now, not so much.

Afterwards we got a tour of the Elk's Lodge with a preview of the reception decorations.

From BlogPhotos

Then Ben slapped a mosquito on his nose that exploded everywhere. It was pretty gross.

From BlogPhotos

I spent the rest of the evening wishing my sinuses weren't still killing me from the sawdust and watching other people try to cope with their children.

I also vowed to get my initials on this water tower before I leave town.

From BlogPhotos

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A little progress and a lot of sawdust

I’m back in the land of Internet. My two-day foray into refinishing the interior of the boat didn’t go as well as I planned. I severely underestimated the time as well as the mess involved with sanding down all of the interior trim.

It was a late start Monday and getting dark as I arrived at the marina. We left the boat an absolute mess Sunday, so I had to spend some time cleaning up just so I could walk through it. Then I installed the salon shelves to both get them out of the way and to create some space where I could set things while I worked on the trim.

From Starwind 27

Most of the larger boats I’ve seen actually have little cabinets/closets behind the seats, so we may eventually do that, but for now the shelves are a big improvement.

Tuesday morning I got up early to enjoy the cool of the morning and to try out the new percolator. This was actually a double test. I wasn’t just trying out the coffee pot, I was trying out the alcohol stove for the first time. I would have probably tried it long ago, but the legend of the lady who burned her boat down with the alcohol stove had been told to me by about five different residents. Of course, I’ve got a stainless steel pan under the burners. Even if I leak alcohol, it still has to fill up the pan before getting to anything flammable. I bravely poured some fuel into one of the burner and lit her up. No problems. The stove worked great. The percolator worked great. For the first time ever, I enjoy a nice big cup of coffee on the boat.

From Starwind 27

Note in that photo that the cupboard is in pieces. The original top had rotted away, so I ended up making a new one. It was tricky as the old screws didn’t want to be drilled out, so I ended up having to cut them off, but I finally got that put together.

From Starwind 27

Then I started sanding. Some of the more worn trim pieces went fast, but anything that still had lacquer on it took forever. The lacquer would gum up the sandpaper rendering it useless after just a couple passes. Then there was the dust ...

Normally I sand things outdoors or in a large garage. I was sanding most everything inside the boat because it would cause too much damage to most of the trim to drill out the screws and remove it. Despite having the hatches open, the sawdust was creating a thick cloud that made it hard to breathe. After a very slow first hour that involved frequent trips outside for air, I went to Home Depot and got a respirator. Unfortunately I’m still coughing up weird things and blowing black chunkies out of my nose. Lesson learned.

Since I had to work with the companionway open, the AC wasn’t doing much to cool the boat. About 4 p.m. I realized I had dry mouth and felt nauseous. I really hadn’t stopped to drink water all day. I’d just been sanding and sweating. I stopped working, made myself drink some water and then collapsed under the A/C in the v-berth. Despite the bed being covered in sawdust, it didn’t take me long to pass out. That was the end of work on Tuesday. I woke back up around 8 p.m. feeling much better and took a neighbor on a beer and dinner run. Then we sat around for a couple hours talking about boats until the splashing fish just could not be ignored. Something big was chasing the smaller fish around, so we all grabbed our poles in hopes of catching it. No luck. We all got stupid little catfish. However, a gar has taken up residence by the boat and was cruising along the dog. I draped my minnow over his head as he swam by, and he took it right off my hook. Then when we dumped our minnows back in the water, we watched him cruise back by, eating them like popcorn. It was a very cool sight. It was one of those moments that I knew I would have never experienced if I hadn’t turned to the life aquatic.

I was back in bed by 10:30 and again had no trouble falling asleep despite the bed being covered in dust. Unfortunately today my sinuses are killing me, though. I should have probably shaken things out.

I didn’t feel like cleaning all the dust off the stove and the coffee pot to make coffee again. I went with water and lots of it this morning. I finished sanding the last bits of trim in the salon and then spent the better part of an hour vacuuming up as much dust as I could. Then I realized I hadn’t even gotten to the 12 large trim pieces on the walls under the windows. Nor did I make it to the head or the V-berth. I had envisioned not only sanding, but also staining and sealing everything. I was rather disappointed with my slowness. However, I’m sure motivation will return in a week or two.

I’m doing laundry and packing for the trip to Lubbock. My cousins have children I’ve never met. That’s probably an indicator that I should visit the family more often.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where did the day go?

It's my first "official" day of vacation, and I feel like it has slipped away far too fast with nothing accomplished.

I had wanted to go sand and stain interior trim on the boat, but I awoke to a torrential downpour, so I stayed in bed for another hour or so.

The one thing that has been lacking on the boat is coffee. I didn't want to buy a regular AC-powered coffee maker because hopefully I'll be waking up anchored out in paradise rather than tied to a dock with shore power soon. That put me on the hunt for a percolator that I could heat on the alcohol stove.

Wal-Mart showed them online, but they were nowhere to be found in the store. Target had one, but it looked like it was made of tin and could be crushed like a Coke can. This morning I finally went to REI. Sure enough they had several to choose from. I went for the one with the insulated grip -- not burning myself is key to enjoying a cup of coffee.

From BlogPhotos

I look forward to trying it out in the morning.

While I was there I also grabbed a wetsuit for my laptop. I wish I had one to match, so we could have posed together in this photo, but you'll have to be satisfied with just Mr. Lenovo's sexy pose.

From BlogPhotos

However, most of my day was eaten up by the mall.

I don't actually go to malls if I can at all avoid it. However, a couple weeks ago the RayBan logo fell off the side of my glasses somewhere. I could care less if there was a logo on my glasses. I would actually like glasses better if they were sans logo. However, this thing was embossed in the plastic, so now there's just a big weird-shaped hole in the side of the earpiece. It makes me feel like I look like a hobo.

I checked with LensCrafters if they could fix it, but they said they don't fix logos and that my glasses were 2.5 years old, so I don't even have a valid prescription for new glasses.

I tried to resist because I didn't want to spend the money, but I finally broke down and went to the eye doctor today. She ever-so-slightly changed my prescription, and I don't know if it's that correction or if these new glasses are just so clean and unscratched, but wow, I can see really well.

I went with metal frames again. I tried to talk myself into the black plastic hipster ones, but those things never sit on the bumpy bridge of my nose right and slide down my face when I start sweating. Plus, I'm too old to be a hipster.

Somehow an eye appointment and glasses takes three trips to the mall. Seems like it should just take one, but I had no desire to walk around the mall and window shop for multiple hours at a time.

In between mall trips I did some updates on the big computer since it's been having some issues. I couldn't really do any work on it because it would say memory error, go blue screen and reboot itself every 15 minutes. I finally tracked the issue back to a Norton360 update that totally boofed to OS. Norton was aware of the issue and had a download available to fix it. I then ran a backup and made a new system disc -- just in case. It hasn't blue-screen since the fix this morning, so hopefully that issue is over, and I can get back to some video editing.

Ben bought one of those pull-up bars that you hang in a doorway last night. He's getting into Jiu-Jitsu again and wanting to work out more. I've done WAY too many pull-ups today. It's in the hall, and I try to do at least five every time I walk by it. I know I'm going to be hating it tomorrow when the soreness hits.

So now that I can see and things are wrapped up here, I'm going to head to the boat. I can't decide if I'm taking Dixie Belle or not. I hate leaving her here since I already left her home this weekend and I'll be gone to Lubbock for the wedding Thursday - Sunday. However, it's still raining on and off and waiting on a dog to poop in the rain isn't my favorite way to spend time I could be working. I think she may have to entertain herself here at the house another night or two.

By the way, I was flipping through photos from the weekend, and I'm starting to look noticeably less fat. Today starts week seven of diet and exercise. Maybe by the end of week eight the last remains of those love handles will be gone.

From Starwind 27

A succesful weekend

It was a late start getting to the boat Saturday, but we finally got down there around 7 p.m. The marina social club was hanging out the pool and despite the temptation to stop and have a beer, we got right to installing the new bulkhead.

It fit, but just barely. We probably spent over half an hour tapping it in with a mallet and a wooden block to get it seated. However, it's definitely not going anywhere now that it is.

From Starwind 27

With both the new bulkheads installed and matching, the cabin looks so much nicer. Unfortunately, we did not get the table reinstalled. Upon inspection I found the plywood panels to be completely rotten. We could have just epoxied up the broken end and ignored it, but rotten moldy stuff makes your boat smell like rotten moldy stuff, and we've been fighting that odor for a year now. Plus, I'm not entirely thrilled with the table design since it flips down and blocks the door to the head. Seems to me if you have people over eating and drinking around the table, the one thing you are guaranteed to need access to is the head. Unfortunately I haven't come up with any better ideas yet -- unless maybe we suspend the table from the ceiling and move it up and down with a pulley system. (Yeah, right!)

The old folks apparently partied all night Friday, so by 10:30 everyone had disappeared. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to show off my new boat guitar, but oh well. We finished the night with a little fishing -- and I say a "little" fishing because we only caught little fish. All I ever catch in the marina is catfish. There are five different kinds of fish I can't identify jumping out of the water, but I'll be damned if I can get anything except the catfish to take my bait or my lures.

From Starwind 27

I didn't sleep Saturday night. I had a run-in with some fire ants at the salvage yard on Friday. I'm not sure why the bites suddenly got so bad, but they all blistered and swelled up Saturday afternoon.

From BlogPhotos

The bites all over both feet tortured me all night. I was up by 5 a.m.

From Starwind 27

I watched the sun come up over the Kemah bridge and did some more fishing with the Ba-Donk-A-Donk saltwater lure the old guy at Wal-Mart sold me. I think a smaller fish tried to mate with it, but not a one actually bit it.

I woke Ben up at 7 a.m. to climb the mast as it is already brutally hot by about 8:30 in the morning. It was his turn to climb. The trip up was a success. We now have a working anchor light. However, there will be one more trip at some point. We still haven't bought another wind indicator. When we finally do that we'll have to climb it again.

From Starwind 27

Despite getting smacked in the head with the boom a few weeks ago the first time I tried to take her out, Nikki joined us again for our morning sail. This time, she kept low.

From Starwind 27

Unfortunately, this wasn't a smooth trip for her either. The motion of the ocean got to her, and she ended up seasick for half the trip.

From Starwind 27

There was a huge storm system that moved in behind us, so we were stuck in the bay waiting it out before we could go back in. Thankfully I found a couple dramamine in the first aid kit for her. That helped.

From Starwind 27

The boat performed beautifully. We saw a few dolphins. Nobody threw up. I think that makes it a succesful weekend.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My new goodies!

My day has been drastically sidetracked off schedule. I was planning to be at the boat this morning by 9 a.m., but it's almost 3 p.m., and I'm still at the house. I had a couple beers with the neighbors, and then we tried out their new foosball table. It turned into a neighborhood championship tournament that didn't end until about 2 a.m.

I'm now finally functional, so I'm about to load up the truck with the new bulkheads and take off for the marina. Even more exciting than the new bulkheads are my other goodies.

Behold, the $26 ($61 after shipping) eBay boat guitar.

From BlogPhotos

I had to re-epoxy the neck last night, but I put some strings on it this morning, and it seems to be good to go.

Then to alleviate the number one complaint from every person who has ridden on the boat, I found this at the salvage yard for $20.

From BlogPhotos

I checked the price online. They're $62.95 new, so $20 was a pretty good deal. If it doesn't fit my binnacle guard the guy said I could bring it back and trade it for some bumpers or something.

Off to sweat in the summer heat! Be back tomorrow night.

Friday, July 16, 2010

This is what happens ...

when I paint in the dark.

From Starwind 27

I'm about to go fix that. I just have to make a run to Home Depot for more brushes.

I'm also going to mow the yard today. I don't really have a choice. Dixie's starting to get lost in the grass.

Despite it being my first day of vacation, I did manage to get myself out of bed at 8 a.m. and do an entire weight circuit. I even increased my weight on lat pull-downs. I think climbing the mast a couple times last week helped me over the plateau.

I was thinking about how I'd work out on the boat if I was living on it for an extended period of time. Then I was looking at the pulleys and cables on a weight machine and realized a boat has pulleys and cables all over it. All I'd have to do is hook an anchor on a line, run it through a hanging block for pull-down exercises and run it through a deck block for curling type exercises.

Would I ever do that? Nah, I'm way too lazy.

Going to give Dixie her monthly bath because she's stinking up the bed, and then I'm going to head over to the sailboat salvage yard to see if I can find anything I can't live without.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Is this my legacy?

I made a few YouTube videos about a year ago showing how to do some basic maintenance things on the Porsche. I never got a crazy amount of hits like the baby dancing to Single Ladies, but I've accrued several thousand over time. What makes me feel really good are comments like this:

From BlogPhotos

I like to think my efforts put a little bit of self reliance back into the world.

Getting that comment this morning almost makes me excited over the fact that I need to do a brake job ... almost.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Temptation of the Dixie Belle

Dixie likes to sit in the front yard while I work in the garage. She has previously darted across the street after squirrels or run after other dogs, but she's getting better and better.

Tonight she was faced with this:

From BlogPhotos

I thought she was going to dart after the two frolicking squirrels. They were being really loud, and she was very interested in them. Then the cat came along stalking the squirrels, and I was SURE she was going to go jump the cat. However, she did not. She just sat and watched.

Good dog.

I'm sick of varnishing

I took stock of the salon shelves I varnished in the dark when I got home from work today. I now know that if I ever go blind, I should not attempt to make my living as a painter. However, I hit the sides that are going to show with the sander and put one last coat on them.

From Starwind 27
From Starwind 27

Then it was back to the garage to get some varnish on the bulkheads.

From Starwind 27
From Starwind 27

I'm not using any veneer on my boat. I hate veneer. I think it looks cheap and cheesy. However, I am a little irritated that I have so many different wood grains. The two big bulkheads are from the same sheet of .5" marine ply, so they'll match. However, the v-berth bulkheads are from two different sheets of .25" ply. I think one was birch. I'm not sure what the other was. They're stained the same color, but the the grain isn't going to match. I think I'm just happy they're not rotten.

I've got to put two more coats of varnish on them tonight. Then tomorrow they get flipped and I'm putting white epoxy paint on the sides that face the head. It's the stuff they use on guitars and appliances. It makes a really nice, smooth washable finish.

Speaking of guitars, my bargain boat guitar shipped today. It would be really sweet if it got here in time for Saturday's jam session.

I'm over the Piver. I found a 1969 36' Columbia with all new everything for $5k. There's only two catches. One is that the all new stuff hasn't been installed. The second is that it's sitting on a lake in the middle of Georgia. We could probably flip the Starwind for enough to pay for it, but trucking it back to Houston kind of ruins the adventure of it all. It would be much more comfortable inside though.

However, since I was taking part of next week off anyway to go to Lubbock, I think I'm just going to take all of next week off to finish as much of the boat interior as possible. Maybe if we actually have it looking nice my lust for larger boats will die. If not, at least it's ready to sell.

However, I have to do this again.

From Starwind 27

Not real excited about it.

Lusting after the Piver

That sounds dirty.

So back in February this guy with a 50' trimaran moved in across the aisle from us at the marina.

From Starwind 27

It's hard to really accentuate how big that thing actually is. I got a tour of it 4th of July weekend and after spending every weekend in our claustrophic little 27' monohull, it felt immense. The owner built it back in 1981 and has finally decided it's time to sell. I think he was hoping I'd bite, but he's asking $250,000 for it. Maybe he didn't hear me when I told him we paid $1,000 for our boat.

Anyway, as I was surfing through eBay looking for deals on winches and canvas, I came across this ugly son of a bitch -- a 40' Piver Trimaran.

From BlogPhotos

It can be yours for only $3700 to the seller and $480 to the marina in Florida.

Now don't get me wrong, I love our little boat. I've put an entire year of blood sweat and tears into resurrecting it. I'm not wanting to sell it. The problem is, it's still a little boat. I know people take 27' boats to the Bahamas occasionaly, but it's never going to cross an ocean. A 40' Tri could definitely cross an ocean. Plus, the 50' tri charters as a party boat for $1700 a day in Kemah. I'm wondering if we couldn't slap some paint on it and do some chartering.

I wish I had enough money and vacation to buy it, sail it back to Texas, and then just part it out if it wasn't worth saving. I could do that or rent it as a lease property to a live-aboard. I don't know. I'm sure there's a way to make money off of it somehow.

Actually, it's not the making money that's even drawing me to it. I'm just trying to use that to justify the purchase. What's really drawing me to it is the adventure of flying out to Florida and sailing it back to Texas. I need some adventure.

Varnish in the dark

I had to make a stop at Home Depot on my way home from work to pick up more urethane for the shelves and bulkheads. I actually ran into someone I know, which never happens in Houston, so we caught up while walking the aisles of the home superstore. Of course, that lengthened my stop. Then when I got home Ben had started watching The Royal Tennenbaums. I don't know if it was boat burnout or my attraction to Gwyneth Paltrow as Margot Tennenbaum, but I got caught in the TV trap for an hour.

It took all my willpower to rally the motivation to get to the garage and saw out the small port bulkhead. However, I got it done and then stained both the big and the small bulkheads -- but not without tripping and splashing stain on the sidepipes of the Cobra. I feel kind of bad about that, but I'm not the only one with clutter all over the floor of the garage that contributed to the trip.

Once the bulkheads were stained, I walked around back and started slathering the shelves with more urethane. Unfortunately, it was already dark. I put two coats on those things in the dark. It should be very interesting to see how they turn out tomorrow. On the upside, they don't have to be dry until Friday, so I have two more nights I can sand and varnish them ... unless it rains. There's just not room for them in the garage.

If I stay on task the bulkheads will get sealant tomorrow and then white epoxy paint for the sides that face into the head on Thursday.

I did manage to crank out 20 minutes on the elliptical after all the panel painting. I think this is week six, and I'm really feeling my motivation dwindle. I'm not looking chubby anymore, so the drive to lose the weight is gone, and now I just really want some nasty fried food. I must stay strong and think of it as my lifestyle, not a diet.

To avoid online shopping for the rest of the day, I did then next best thing. I emailed my mom. I basically ordered up all the old snorkeling gear, binoculars, and other camping stuff that was sitting around my parents' house. She was actually thrilled that I wanted it since they're about to move to New Mexico. Hopefully I can pick it up from them when we all meet in Lubbock for my cousin's wedding next weekend.

I'm just ready for the weekend to get here, the bulkheads to be in the boat, and to be back on the water.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

You know you're tired when ...

... you go to warm up lunch and attempt to pre-heat the microwave.

And on that note, here's an intriguing article on caffeine and how it works:

Online shopping sprees

I need to quit the online shopping. Last month I ordered a bicycle handlebar cell phone mount, which I installed on the binnacle guard of the boat. It was $18. That was a good purchase. I can put my iPhone (and Ben can put his Droid) in it and use the Navionics app to navigate back to the channel in the dark. I don't know if the $10 Navionics app counts as online shopping or not. I mean, I did buy it online, so I guess it does. Either way, that was also a very good purchase. It's not too accurate with the boat's exact speed, but it does a great job of tracking our course and it helped me blindly find the tiny channel into our marina twice at night. I highly recommend it.

However, this month I've started going a little crazy. I decided I needed a crappy guitar to leave on the boat for the Saturday night guitar jams, but I hate playing crappy guitars, and I couldn't justify paying $200 for another crappy guitar, so I turned to eBay. I found a cosmetically challenged Epiphone Dove, which is a marginally crappy $300 guitar for $26. After shipping it was $61. Did I really NEED it? No. Was this a wise online purchase? We'll see. Who knows? Maybe it will play great, and I'll be the awesome guy with the awesome guitar on his boat. I guess even if it sucks I can still use it to paddle the dinghy. I'm regretting that purchase a little bit.

Then I visited the bike accessory store again. There are tons of bike accessories that bolt onto the handlebars -- handlebars which happen to be about the same diameter as the various rails and guards on a boat. Yesterday's purchase was a camera mount. It was only $3.95 with free shipping. However, I'm regretting this purchase a little today. Do I really trust any of my cameras to a $4 mount? I had imagined putting my video camera on the rear rail and getting some great sailing footage. Now all I can think about is a $1,000 HD camera either being overswept with a wave and rendered junk or falling off and being lost at sea. However, I do have a dive case for my little Fuji. It won't be 1080p, but I'll get some kind of video.

Now I find myself looking a binoculars online? Did you know that 7x is the preferred magnification for marine binoculars because it's too hard to get a steady image on a moving boat at magnifications higher than that? Yeah, I just learned that. So there's tons of rubberized waterproof, fogproof compass-laden binocs on ebay for $99. Then there's the ever-so-classic out-of-production Leica binocs that start around $150. Yeah, they're old, but they're Leica. I've lusted after that brand for a decade now, but I still can't afford one of their damn cameras. I mean, how do you justify $7000 for a camera body, and then another $3000 for a fixed lens? I mean a $900 Nikon DSLR is still going to give you a cleaner digital photo AND the ability to zoom. I like zooming. But geez, the Leica design is so amazing! So no, I'll never get to own a Leica camera, but I could have Leica binoculars on my boat. They won't be waterproof or fogproof, but they'll be Leica! Then if I just move up to the $200 category, has some seriously heavy-duty looking ATN Omega binoculars with a compass. I don't know that they're any better than the $99 binocs on ebay, BUT they come with a free ATN 8x Golden Eye Monocular. I was hoping it would look sort of like an old-school spyglass, but it is actually a little waterproof, rubberized, pinky-sized monocular -- and it has a James Bond name. Yeah, I'm a sucker for spy stuff. Would I ever use it? Probably not.

So after perusing all this binocular stuff I'm checking my bank account and slapping myself. Spending a misappropriated $4 is one thing, but getting all hyped up on online sales and blowing $200 is another thing altogether. I need net nanny on my computers that will allow free porn but block all shopping. I've already got to buy another can of urethane varnish and about $20 in assorted bolts just to put the boat walls and shelves back in. Maybe I should get that all finished before I start worrying about binoculars.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My dog gets stuck on the counter

My little dog, Dixie Belle, actually likes the boat pretty well. She spent the four-day July 4th weekend on it with no incidents. However, everytime I left the boat, when I returned, I found her like this.

From Starwind 27

The two steps up to the counter are pretty big, but the countertop is the third step up and out of the companionway. It's almost a completely vertical step. Dixie can't quite negotiate it, so when she tries to follow me out, she ends up on the counter --- and there she stays. lol

From Starwind 27

Two steps forward, three steps back

The boat was just a pile of frustration this weekend. I left the house at 7:15 Saturday evening expecting to spend a nice evening watching the sun set and doing a little work before meeting up with my marina friends for a drink and maybe some guitar playing. Nope. Houston traffic struck when I least expected it. I-45 was completely shut down, so a one-hour drive turned into a 3.5-hour drive.

The upside is that apparently my new marina friends actually like me because they called twice wondering where I was and if I was coming. It wasn't until we got there that I found out they had actually invited about a dozen 20-somethings that they had met at a local head shop to come hang out on the boat and enjoy the weekly guitar jam. It was standing room only, and these hippies were into it. I'm not sure I ever had that many people turn out to one of my real shows.

I played guitar and drank rum until about 2:30 a.m. then promptly passed out. I should have not have stayed up so late because I didn't wake up until 10:30 Sunday morning, which is already the full heat of the day. However, despite the heat I still climbed the mast and fixed the steaming light. Unfortunately, I was so hot and sweaty that I didn't bother going all the way up to fix the anchor light. I figured I'd have to climb it again to fix the Windex when we get the parts for that, so why climb it twice?

By this time I'd already made a West Marine run and a lunch run, so it was approaching 2 p.m., and Ben still hadn't shown up in the truck with the plywood to replace the starboard bulkhead. My plan had been to unbolt the old one, go trace it onto plywood, then bolt it back in and go sailing. I could do the carpentry at home and enjoy an afternoon on the bay.

Yeah, that didn't happen. It took the better part of two hours to get the old wall out. We had to cut several bolts off because the nuts wouldn't budge. Then the wall came out in pieces -- that ended any chance of putting it back in for a sail.

From Starwind 27

It was heartwrenching to go from having a functional, moving sailboat back to a floating work in progress. Obviously the wall had to be replaced sooner or later, but I think Ben had it right when he said, "If we ever buy another boat, we're just gutting it completely the first day." This process would have definitely been shorter and probably cheaper if we had just yanked the motor and done all this woodwork at the beginning instead of spending months trying to fix the old diesel and doing the carpentry piece meal whenever we finally HAD to replace something.

Just to feel better about actually accomplishing something I did rewire the battery selector switch. Eh, it's something ...

It's magic

Saturday I took a day off boat work to go see the Magic exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Apparently the cup and ball tricks, which involve palming small balls or stones and moving them back and forth between three overturned cups, were the earliest recorded magic tricks. I found it interesting that one guy actually wrote a book explaining the difference between performance magic and witchcraft because uneducated villagers had a tendency to cry "witch" and kill traveling performers. It was also quite interesting to find out that Napoleon sent the French magician Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin to perform in Algeria for the dissenting tribes there. Apparently Houdin's magic scared them into falling back in order for the French.

I also got a close-up look at the Corpse Flower, Titan Arum, while we were there. They only bloom every 25 years or so, and this is the first one to bloom in Houston. Unfortunately, the bloom wasn't open yet. That may not have been so terrible since the flower apparently smell like rotting meat.

From BlogPhotos

We be jammin'

Despite all the frustrations, I had a surprisingly nice weekend.

I was all prepared to go pick up that speaker cabinet for my old amplifier after work on Friday when I got an email from the seller saying he had a better offer. Knowing I didn't NEED the cab and that I'd lived 11 years without it, I told him that I understood and let it go. This made me surprisingly sad. I was actually a little depressed when I got home from work. I had been so excited about playing guitar again for the first time in so long, but my passion had been quenched with that one email.

I did a little work on the shelves I was building for the boat's salon, and I shot an email back to seller and said, "If the guy no-shows, call me, and I'll do $100." I got an email back 15 minutes later that said the buyer had postponed picking it up until Saturday, so if I could bring $100 cash immediately, it was mine. Needless to say, I jumped in the car, hit the ATM, and picked it up. I then spent the next four hours playing guitar.

The cool thing about this speaker cabinet -- other than the fact that it matches my amplifier -- is that you can put the amp on one side of the room and the cab on the other, and all the effects bounce back and forth in stereo. If you turn on some delay, the echo actually bounces back and forth, it's so cool. Plus, the Leslie rotating speaker effect really sounds like it's rotating. Good times.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Please don't stop the music

I haven't played music in a long time. I think the last show I actually played was in 2007. I still stumble into open mic every couple of months just to say hi to my musician friends, but I usually don't even play while I'm there just because I haven't practiced in so long. However, in the past week, everything seems to be pointing me back to music.

Last Friday I went out to my friend TJ's show, and during the last set, he unexpectedly called me up to the stage and left the band to my lead. We ended up kicking through some Zep, some Tom Petty and some AC/DC that I was surprised I even remembered. I had a blast, but I just wrote it off as one of those, "remember the old days" moments. Then Saturday night I was down at the marina, and a bunch of neighbors invited me over to have a drink on their yacht. Suddenly I was handed a guitar and spent the next two hours entertaining the group. Again, I thought, that was fun, but I still haven't bothered to play any music at home this week.

Well, today I was searching craigslist for spear guns and somehow my search brought me to an ad for a Line6 speaker cab. I bought the amplifier for that speaker cab in 1999, but being a poor college student at the time and a poor writer for many years thereafter, there was no way I could afford the matching cab as well, which Line6 eventually quit making. I hadn't thought about it in years. Now here it was. The guy wanted $60 for it, so I emailed him to see if he still had it, and he said come get it.

Maybe it's all just coincidence, but maybe it's a sign. I feel like someone is behind the scenes working very hard to get me to play some music again. I guess I'll go pick up this speaker cab after work and play some guitar tonight.

More rain

It's been a dreary couple of weeks in Houston. We've had a deluge of rain thanks to hurricane Alex and this week's subsequent tropical depression. There's worse things than being wet, though. I saw pictures from an employee in Monterrey of the damage there due to the flooding and runoff from Alex. They've actually changed their office schedule due to the infrastructure damage creating complete commute mayhem.

Thankfully the weather did clear for Independence Day last weekend, so we were able to get some sailing in and anchor out to watch fireworks in the bay. I have my fingers crossed that it will do the same this weekend. I'm finishing the stain on the shelving that installs in the salon along the backs of the couches. Once that's in I can start looking at putting new cushions in the salon.

This weekend we have three projects:
- wire the second battery into the battery selector switch;
- climb the mast to install light bulbs in the steaming and anchor lights;
- remove the two remaining original bulkheads, trace them onto new plywood, and then bolt them back in.
Wiring the battery selector should be a five-minute job. At one time both batteries were wired in, but something about letting battery leads sit underwater for years at a time makes them corrode away.

Climbing the mast is never exactly easy, but I'm determined to make those light sockets work. They're both giving me voltage, so there's no reason they shouldn't be lighting up a bulb. The fact that Ben already failed at this task several months ago makes me even more resolved to succeed.

We were going to just wait on replacing the last two bulkheads as they weren't rotten like the other two were and I'm really sick of carpentry, but as a guest on our boat managed to rip the folding table off the wall last weekend, we figure we'll go ahead and do it.

Of course, just as it seems the boat repair is coming to a finish, the Porsche is groaning. I can't tell if she's just low on power steering fluid or if it has something to do with being soaking wet for two weeks. Now that the boat project has mostly been cleared out of the garage, it may be time to put my foot down regarding Ben's mess and the Cobra project. I mean, come on, I've been cool about him building that car in there for the past three years. At some point it seems reasonable that I do deserve to be able to park my own car in my own garage. The Porsche is also due for an oil change, rear tires and my brake wear light came on a couple weeks ago, so all my August "fun money" seems to be gone already. I know "there is no substitute," but I do wish there were substitute tires and brake pads that didn't cost me an arm and a leg when they only last two years tops. Of course, every time I start considering trading it for an SUV, I get all choked up, and owning two cars is just cost prohibitive at this point. Oh well.

I've been working on the July newsletter this week, but I've been bombarded with 10,000 little projects and last-minute requests, so instead of publishing promptly on Tuesday like I should have, it's just been dragging on and on. Drives me crazy.

I'm going to go see the Magic exhibit at the Museum of Natural History tomorrow before it leaves town. Hopefully it's not cheesy. The old-school magicians were so cool. Modern magicians are a joke. I blame it on Las Vegas.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The boat with no name

I'm utterly embarrassed at how out-of-date my blog has become. Seven months without an entry is pretty bad.

To pick up where I left off, I ended up in Paris twice in January for work, which slowed down progress on the Westerbeke. We were between a rock and a hard place with the marina situation. We had a new one lined up at the same rate we were currently paying, but they only accepted boats in working order -- in other words, we couldn't be towed over, we had to motor there under our own power. Paying one month of the new over-inflated month-to-month rate at the current marina was going to be more than the cost of a used outboard, but I just wasn't in town to do anything.

In the end, things worked out. Just before our lease was up, the marina called offering us a much more reasonable rate if we didn't leave, so we signed a deal for another year.

By the end of February, we called it quits on the Westerbeke. We had rebuilt the starter, rebuilt the injector pump, rebuilt the injectors, replaced the glow plug solenoid, lapped the valves, replaced the head gasket and made a slew of other various repairs to no avail. Even with a shot of ether, it wouldn't even kick like it was going to start. Since the Westerbeke 10-Two hadn't been manufactured since 1987, parts for a rebuild proved to be prohibitively expensive.

I set about looking at options for a repower with one thing in mind -- I wanted our next engine to still be manufactured with readily available, affordable parts. The answer presented itself in a salvage Phasor engine. The Phasor is a Kubota-based marinization very similar to a Beta Marine. The Phasor 2 cylinder, 13 hp diesel I procured is almost a twin of a Beta Z482. And the best part is, the Kubota Z482 engine is still being manufactured and is in wide use in a giant range of applications all over the world today.

Instead of rebuilding the Phasor we decided to just order a replacement Kubota Z482 and then moved the marinized parts, mounts and transmission over to the new motor. This worked remarkably well although we found none of our salvage gauges worked. We've had the boat running for over a month, and we're still waiting on a special order tachometer to come in. Do you know how hard it is to find a 4000 rpm Faria Chesapeake SS black face tachometer with hour meter for a mechanical or alternator sender? The ones with white faces or magnetic senders are a dime a dozen. Had we known this before purchasing our other gauges I guarantee they would have been white. Too late now, though. We have to match, and matching means we keep on waiting.

We ended up trading the old Westerbeke on craigslist for an even older but running British Seagull outboard. Briefly we had not only an inboard, but also a backup outboard. However, the Seagull stopped starting soon after we got it mounted, so it's now in the garage waiting to be pulled apart.

Long story short, the Starwind is now fully mobile, and we've spent the last four or five weekends sailing around Kemah. We haven't attempted the six hour trip down to Galveston yet, but I have a feeling that could happen this weekend or next.

After a year of non-stop work on the weekends, it's nice to sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Now comes the important part -- we need a name. Ben and I can't seem to agree on anything. The name is pretty important though because we were planning on having a naming party in early August. Anyone have some ideas?