Businessmen have a different set of delusions from politicians, and need, therefore, different handling. They are, however, much milder than politicians, at the same time allured and terrified by the glare of publicity, easily persuaded to be “patriots”, perplexed, bemused, indeed terrified, yet only too anxious to take a cheerful view, vain perhaps but very unsure of themselves, pathetically responsive to a kind word. You could do anything you liked with them, if you would treat them (even the big ones), not as wolves or tigers, but as domestic animals by nature, even though they have been badly brought up and not trained as you would wish. It is a mistake to think that they are more immoral than politicians. If you work them into the surly, obstinate, terrified mood, of which domestic animals, wrongly handled, are so capable, the nation’s burdens will not get carried to market; and in the end public opinion will veer their way.

– John Maynard Keynes, Letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt

Growing Sage

What. Two blog posts in one day. This is unprecedented. Not since my first day on livejournal where I made 30 posts in two hours have I had this level of blogging activity.

I’ve been making a reasonable amount of my own sausage lately (That should be another post, as soon as I’ve got the recipe down just right!), and one of the key seasonings I use is sage. At the moment I’ve been bumming it off my in-laws, since they have a pretty good-size bush, but I’ve finally decided that I should grow my own, for easier access, and heartier harvests. A quick trip down to Home Depot later, and I had everything I needed.

I don’t think I’ve grown anything since my Grandmother came out to visit from England, more than ten years ago now. I have very fond memories of her teaching me how to pot and transplant plants, and my parents’ back garden filled with flowers. She called them “Bizzie Lizzies”, I think – I have no idea what they’re called here in America, or if that’s even the official name in England! We spent a couple of days working on the flowerbed, and my sister and I picked out the colours we liked. We ended up liking all of the colours between us, so the flowerbed threatened to be a riot of disorganised colour, until Grandma pointed out that we could arrange them in a pleasing pattern. The end result was quite nice, and I think quite a few of the flowers kept popping up for many years – I’ll have to check to see if there are any left when I’m next up at my parents’.

Okay, fine, I’ll take five seconds on Google. It looks like “Bizzie Lizzie” is the common name in the UK, the proper name being Impatiens walleriana. Pretty, anyway!

So – sage. It’s all potted and planted now, three plants per pot, and hopefully most of them will flourish, so I can make huge quantities of well-seasoned sausage. Home Depot only had “Golden Sage”, so I got six of those. It smells great, and it’s the variety I was most looking for anyway. If I remember, I’ll take pictures and update on the progress every so often, along with anything else I add to the garden. I still have about a third of a bag of potting mix left, so I’m tempted to go and get something else… maybe some basil? That’s always nice to have fresh… but I chose sage because it’s apparently hard to kill, and I don’t think that’s the case with basil. Oh well, we’ll see!


Weight loss re-commences!

So I took a bit of time off diet while my wife was pregnant, and then for 4 weeks after our daughter was born. It’s gone on far too long now, and I’ve put on far more weight than I’d like. So I’m getting cracking on keto again, and I’m going to do it properly this time. I’m going to track all of my food in MyFitnessPal, the works. They provide some embed-able badges so that the internet can track progress, and I figured I could put them up here. My goal weight is 132lbs away, and I hope to get there before I turn 30. So I have nearly two years. This will be ambitious, but I’m really fed up with being fat, and hopefully putting this on the internet where anyone can see it will provide some modicum of motivation to stick with it.

It looks like the small badge isn’t formatted properly for 3-digit weights, so here’s the medium ones instead. Wish me luck!

New Year’s Resolutions 2014

I’m a few days behind when I’d normally have my resolutions out,so it’s about time I got on with it!

Resolution The First: To be able to make this exact same resolution next year.
Resolution The Second: To acheive a peak weightloss of no less than 55lbs, and to end the year no more than 15lbs over that weight.
Resolution The Third: To swim no less than ten thousand nine hundred and fifty lengths of a standard swimming pool; this amount is an average of 30 laps per day over the entire year.
Resolution The Fourth: To write no fewer than one dozen blog posts of adequate substance over the course of this year.
Resolution The Fifth: To listen to all voicemail within a week of receiving them.

That should do for now – I may edit this post later if I think of any more to add.

Happy New Year everyone!


So that hike I was going to do, I did! I then got too busy and lazy to write about it for a few weeks. We went from Mountain Home Inn up to the peak of Mt. Tam, around the top, and then back down again. One of my friends brought a coffee for the trip up, because of reasons:


It started out foggy:


Our first leg was up Hogs Back, which exhausted all of us with its vigorous incline, but at least visibility slowly improved:


Here’s the route we took:

p.s. Did you know Google does trails? Neat!

On Fern Creek trail we found a secret grotto water tank covered in ferns, above a creek. Who would have thought the trail might have a sensible name? This was a really gorgeous little spot, about halfway between Old Railroad Grade and Old Railroad Grade:


Not too long after that, we got to the top, had lunch, had a chat with the volunteer fire lookout who was up there. She had heard our entire conversation up to that point. She told us that eavesdropping is one of the best parts of the job. 😀

We then did a quick loop around the top of the mountain to take photos, including some new online dating pictures for the single guy who had never been up there before. He’d lived in Marin for about a decade, and had never been up there. Amazing. Oh well, fixed it!

Then we went and played on the Gravity Car they have at the little museum up there, including crawling all over it working out how the brakes worked. Take engineers up a mountain, and they’ll find the only piece of machinery around and analyse it. 😀


Finally, here’s a picture of some poop full of berries. We saw quite a bit of this:



Total distance hiked was about five miles, with an ascent of about 1600 feet. I’m very satisfied that even at my weight, I was pretty much able to keep up with my two fittest friends, both of whom were also thoroughly exhausted by the climb.


Next post will be part of the exhaust gasket replacement, which didn’t go well.

Exhaust Gasket Replacement – part one

A few months ago my Saab 9-3 failed smog really badly. I didn’t even know that there was a category below fail, but apparently there is! “Gross Polluter”. After a bit of diagnostic work, including replacing the O2 sensor, my father-in-law and I made a discovery: The exhaust gasket is leaking, causing an excess of oxygen to reach the O2 sensor, causing the ECU to run the car rich, causing massive failures on hydrocarbons. It took a little while to work out that chain! The exhaust gasket was replaced when the head gasket was replaced eighteen months ago, by my typically very reliable mechanic. Unfortunately they massively failed to tighten the nuts holding the exhaust manifold to the head, eventually causing the gasket to fail and leak. The nuts weren’t even hand-tight! Unfortunately cranking them down by hand didn’t solve the problem, so the whole gasket will need to be replaced. Since the faulty work was six months out of warranty, I couldn’t get it fixed for free. The mechanic offered to discount it by several hours, but the bill would still be $600. Surely this can’t be that hard, right? This is a record of my attempt at fixing it myself. My father-in-law, who has taught me most of what I know about mechanicry, is out of town, so I’m going to give it a go myself, and see what happens!

First up, the offending piece. Below is the gasket that’s being replaced. You can see the carbon marks above the middle two cylinders – this is where the leaks happened, and it’s where the gasket has failed.


First step is to remove the heat shield over the exhaust manifold, and then to pull away the top of the airbox. You can also see I’ve stuffed a rag into the turbo inlet, to stop anything from getting in there and damaging it:


Then, in order to gain access to the pulleys on the left side of the engine, the bottom half of the airbox has to come off. In theory, this is so that the power steering pump can be removed, but that’s hard work, so I didn’t bother. The airbox came off easily, though, giving me plenty of room where I didn’t need it:


While fiddling around with this, I dropped the wrench and made a handy discovery! If you have a metal drip-sheet under your car, stuff you drop through the engine will fall onto it, and you can just slide out the pan to collect stuff!


I managed to get all of the studs off using the two-nut trick, except for this one behind the power steering pump:


Eventually got it out by making a lot of very good dexterity rolls:


Once it was out, I looked to be in pretty good shape. However while fiddling around with that last stud I made this discovery… there looks to be a gasket between the turbo and the exhaust manifold! No one told me about this! Once I get the pieces apart I’m going to have a good look at it and figure out what I need to order.


At this point I proceeded to try to yank the exhaust manifold off using a combination of brute strength and a lot of wiggling pieces. If someone else was taking pictures, I’m sure some funny-looking pictures would have resulted. But since it was just me out there, imagining this is left as an exercise for the reader.

Once I’d struggled with the exhaust manifold for a little while, I was getting kind of grumpy, so I wiggled the old gasket out so I could get a look at it. I tore off one of the cylinders while I was getting it out, but here’s what it looks like, next to the new gasket for comparison. Note the huge carbon deposits around cylinders two and three, which were the loosest:


While I was standing around feeling unjustly accomplished, I finally figured out what the guy down by the laundry room was doing. He’s painting his car:


And yes, the top of my car is in desperate need of new clearcoat. That was quoted at $800 – maybe one day!

I went inside at this point, and read up on how to do this without removing the turbo completely, which is what the repair manual wanted me to do. One site recommended detaching the stay connecting the turbo to the engine, as well as the downpipe, I don’t have a jack or jack stands, so this was going to be tricky. Everywhere on the internet was in agreement that the power steering pump needed to be moved, though, so I figured I’d better give that a go.

I got a long ratchet extender wedged into the auxilary drive belt tensioner… hole… thing, and gave it a good pull. This loosened up the belt enough that I was able to slip it off the power steering pump, like so:


Now, to get it detached. This was a real pain in the ass. There are three bolts – one over by the intake manifold, that was a piece of cake to ratchet off. Another one you can see above, right behind the pulley. This one was pretty hard – I managed to get the round end of a 13mm wrench over it, just, and managed to make 1/12th of a turn with every pull. There just wasn’t room for anything more than that, and certainly no room for a ratchet, because of the proximity to the pulley.

The third bolt is below and behind the pulley, and was also one that I could only turn 1/12th of a turn at a time. But this one was also really hard to get positioned, and because it was now holding up the whole pump, it never got hand-loose, so I had to wrench it nearly the whole way off. Oh well, eventually I got it clear, This gave me a couple more inches to work with on the left side of the manifold, as you can see here:


So I got right back to tugging and prodding and leaning on the turbo to try to move it down, but I just couldn’t get the manifold to clear the studs on the top of the turbo. I got lucky when I un-did all of the turbo nuts – one brought a stud with it! This gave me the idea that I could just get the other three studs out, I could slip the manifold right off. I couldn’t use the same two-nut trick I did on the engine block studs, unfortunately, since there just wasn’t enough stud sticking out of the turbo. I tried and tried, but the nuts were almost exactly the same height as the exposed studs. I read about what to do online, and somewhere helpfully advised that I get half-height nuts, which should make it work when you don’t have a lot of exposed studs. Okay, great – where do I get those?

First I called my local auto parts store. They told me that they were out of stock, but that they could order them for Tuesday. I didn’t really want to wait until Tuesday, so I called my next-most-local auto parts store. They didn’t even know what I was talking about. The third-most-local told me I had to go and look through their nuts section myself. Okay, fine. So I jump-start my other car (Which needs a new battery… I should really get on that…), and head on over. I leave the car idling outside, so I don’t have to jump it *again*, and head inside. After a bit of browsing, I finally figure out that the 13mm nut that I needed is what’s known as an M8 nut. However, I don’t know if I need a 1mm or a 1.25mm thread. So I buy both, thinking that they both looked a little shorter than what I’d been using from the turbo, and it must be one of them.

I got home, and found out that yes, they were a bit shorter! Also they’re the 1.25mm thread. So I set to work again, trying to get the studs out. I try and try, and just can’t get it to work – I only have about a turn and a bit on the top nut, and I don’t have any more room to work with. This isn’t going to work. I’m going to need to take the downpipe off the turbo, which the internet says should give me enough wiggle room to get the manifold off.

Okay, so, let’s take the downpipe off. I can get the top two nuts, because they’re on the top, but the underneath one can’t be reached easily, and I have no way to hold the car off the ground to get at it. At this point my back hurts, and I’ve been at it for about five hours, so I think it’s time to call it a day. I’ll have another crack at getting the turbo off tomorrow or Monday – I can probably borrow a jack and stands, so I can get under there and unhook things. Here’s hoping I can get the turbo loose without having to drain my coolant, or worse – my oil!

Tomorrow I’ll probably make a post about hiking, but it probably won’t be very interesting unless one of my friends gets eaten by a bear or something. Which may well happen, because as we all know, there are bears outside.