UFO !

Alien Invasion, Nobody Cares

The rental agent at Thrifty was anxious for us to upgrade to a new Chrysler Pacifica he had on the lot. I said, “Do you mean the big station wagon?” He didn’t see it that way.

UFO!

It is a very luxurious vehicle. The tailgate opens electrically with a keyless remote.

Outside of Toronto on the 400, there is a large UFO parked that nobody seems to take notice of. The people of Toronto must be hypnotized.

Bass Pro Shops
At some point, I realized that I forgot my fishing reel. Fortunately, Bass Pro Shops had opened up their first Canadian store last November. It is 140,000 square feet. I am impressed. I vow to sell SUNW and buy stock, later to find out it’s still privately held. Cabela’s isn’t doing that great anyway.

The fishing department has about 100 reels on display so you can pick them up and try them out. I go to the reels locked in the display case and point out the Shimano Stella to Chris. I tell her she has to buy me that one because she made me come to Canada.

Bass Pro Shops has a large aquarium, that rivals one at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. There are many large fish. I see at least a couple of 12-15 lb. rainbow trout, bass, etc.

Pacific Grove to Chicago

We left Pacific Grove at 4:30 PM, PDT, even though our flight didn’t leave San Jose until 10:50 PM.We were going to have dinner in San Jose at a Chinese restaurant in a strip mall, not too far from the airport.

ORD

There were two restaurants right next door to each other and we decided to eat in the one where the most people were going into.

Another time, we had eaten at the other restaurant and received such a foul smell of shit for a few minutes, we couldn’t figure out what was going on.

Dinner

We ordered scallion pancakes, beef clay pot, Singapore style noodles and smoked pork with scallions. The restaurant was crowded. While we were waiting, the same odor came for about two minutes and then left. It was very disconcerting. The food was great.

It was now 7:15, a few hours too early to head to the airport, so we decided to go to Fry’s, because it was hot outside and we could walk around looking at stuff in air-conditioned comfort. Fry’s had closed at 7:00.
Sikhs

After filling the tank on the rental car (buying a Chevrolet Aveo is not recommended) we went to the rental car return at the airport. All the big rental car agencies are spread over one gigantic lot. After dropping off the car, we waited for the bus to take us to the terminal an noticed everyone driving the Hertz cars away, after the customers returned them, were wearing turbans.
SJO – ORD

The flight was very crowded. I slept for about an hour and a half. We arrived at O’Hare at 4:45 AM CDT and walked to the terminal where our flight to Toronto would leave at 6:30 CDT. There were 15 people lined up at McDonald’s. I told Chris we should get some frys.

HP Pavilion f1703 Flat Panel Display Blackout Solution

Disclaimer:

DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK!

I am not responsible for any damage you might cause to your monitor or yourself by following these instructions. If you open up your monitor case to this point, you will probably void your warranty.

CAUTION: There may be HIGH VOLTAGE present. Disconnect all power during disassembly. Inverters can generate high voltages.

If this repair is too daunting, HP has offered an extended warranty in this HP Support document. Thank you, tsmitty, for this link to HP Support. (Jan. 23, 2009: HP has discontinued this offer)


My HP Pavilion f1703 LCD Monitor suffered the same blackout symptoms as other posters in the CNET forum. After powering on, the display would go black after a few seconds. It was not the power supply in my case – I tried another working power supply with the same result.

It was also not a software problem, e.g., XP SP2, power management, screensavers, etc. In my case, it was a hardware problem, as I tried the monitor on a different machine with the same result: power on, brief display, then black. It also exhibited this behavior with no cable connected to the monitor.

I noticed the screen was faintly visible under bright light and realized that the backlight was not working. It seemed unlikely that the fluorescent tube would fail – I have had my Toshiba Portege 7200CT notebook computer on for 5 years, running SETI@Home.

Since the monitor was out of warranty, I decided to try to repair it myself. This is not a step-by-step procedure, but an general overview of how I solved MY problem with this monitor.

After reading the posts, it seemed that there must have been a loose connection on the circuit board that drives the monitor’s backlight. I especially noted gromit588‘s post about disassembly and followed the instructions. gromit588’s experience must have shorted some connection closed to fix the problem. I found that it did not help me, so I looked for bad (cold) solder joints on the backlight inverter board.

After a close inspection of the board, the bad solder joint was obvious. The bad solder joint on my board was on one of the coils – the bare pin on the coil was sticking through from the component side with very little solder on the pad on the circuit board. I resoldered it and that fixed the problem. There may be other cold solder joints at different locations on YOUR board. You just have to inspect each joint carefully.

This is a view of the monitor disassembled from the case:

Bezel Removed

This is the component side of the backlight inverter board:

Component Side

This is the solder side of the backlight inverter board with the bad joint circled:

Solder Side

Close-up of the backlight inverter board with the repaired cold solder joint circled. Inspect the board for cold solder joints – they will be fairly obvious. It’s possible that the cold solder joints on YOUR board are in different locations on the board from the one circled here: (Jan. 23, 2009: If the cold joints aren’t obvious, I recommend using a 10x magnifier, or just reheat the solder joints on the components that have white glue holding them to the circuit board, see fig. 2)

Close Up

 

Alfa Seats

SEM Colorcoat

I bought these vinyl seats for my 1979 Alfa Romeo Sprint Veloce in 2002 on eBay for $99. They had no rips or tears but looked dirty.

Alfa Seats

At the local automotive paint store I bought three cans of SEM Colorcoat 15093, Light Buckskin for about $10/can (13 oz). There were also SEM cleaners and surface prep. The guy at the store said just to use lacquer thinner, which I did. Two and half cans later they looked OK. I painted them in July 2002 and they have held up very well – no cracking or chipping.

Colorcoat seems to be more of a flexible paint, than a dye. The driver’s seat shows dirt but it cleans off with Simple Green. The apparent unevenness in the color in the photo is due to the lighting, rather than the application of the paint.

New Braunfels

SmokeI am writing while I have some brisket in the smoker that I know is going to turn into cardboard. My friend David Burnett always carried a bottle of Tabasco with him. He said if it’s gonna taste like cardboard, it might as well taste like hot cardboard.

The two little pieces of brisket are less than two pounds each and are turning into jerky. I can sit out in the “side” backyard with my Macintrash and write while I”m watching things not work on the barbecue.

I have been looking at smokers since we moved out here and reading the BBQ FAQ. It was mainly vicarious. There aren’t any good barbeque places around here: a soul food place in Seaside has baked ribs and the two pits aren’t anything to write home about. Sometimes when we go up to Oakland we try the known places – Chef Edwards, Doug’s, Flint’s, etc.

Smoker setup

I had been looking at the New Braunfels Black Diamond, a smoker that I thought wouldn’t be too ambitious. Of course I procrastinated. My first excuse was that we didn’t have a vehicle large enough to put the box in. (Once, when my friend Chuck was here from Santa Rosa, we went to Home Depot in Salinas. It was sort of a busman’s holiday, since he works in a hardware store. He has an SUV but I couldn’t make the commitment that day.) About two years later, Chris was borrowing her friend’s truck. We went to Home Depot again and she bought it after a detour to In-N-Out in Salinas. We brought it home and it stayed in the box for about three months while I researched hooking up the gas.

I saw “Big” Jim’s Lazy Q Smokers and being lazy, this was the way to go. Lazy-Q uses propane as a heat source and then for the wood flavor, chunks of your favorite hardwood are burned in an open container to make the smoke. This way, there’s no fire to continuously tend to for the 3 to twelve hours it takes to smoke this crap.

Essential Tools

One day Chris decided to take open the box and started putting it together, forcing me to start working on the heat source. Unfortunately, I waited too long to buy the smoker. New Braufels was bought by Char-Broil. So instead of having a real Texas smoker, I have a Chinese smoker with real bamboo fittings. It isn’t made as well as the New Braunfels I saw a few years ago.

For the fire, I bought an outdoor deep fryer burner from Ace Hardware. I had to hack-saw off the burner from the stand. Then I had to get some copper tubing and fittings to hook up the propane hose. To get the propane fittings to work with the tubing I had to get a tube flaring kit. This was beginning to be a pain in the ass.

Dutch OvenI bought a dutch oven to put the wood in. I’ve seen some pictures on the internet where people just use an empty coffee can – I guess that works. I thought about using our Lodge 5 quart and then buying a 7 quart to use in the kitchen because when I’m making arroz con pollo or something it never seems big enough. After all, I was just going to be putting wood in it so it would smoke. I ended up getting the 7 quart dutch oven from Amazon, so I wouldn’t have to run around looking for it.

I got the propane tank from Costco and I can actually get it filled at the tool rental place that isn’t too far from here.

My first attempts were with pork ribs, which are sometimes $1.99/lb at Costco. Actually the best pork, beef and seafood we get is at 99 Ranch (which for some reason we call Ranch 99), the closest of which is in San Jose. It’s a big Asian supermarket chain in the west. You wouldn’t believe how well trimmed the meat is.

The Result

Pork ribs seem to be easy to cook. I make a rub with all the bulk spices and shake them up in an old chicken liver container. Usually I just grab whatever is in front, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, oregano, salt, pepper, sugar, sometimes MSG and brown sugar. I tried the mustard rub before putting on the dry rub because they say you end up not tasting the mustard and it makes it stick to the meat better. It didn’t seem to make any difference so I just use the dry rub.