Tactical Assault Compact Sedan

We are weird when it comes to being car consumers. When Jennifer and I started dating, I was driving my first car which was the 1983 Honda Civic Wagon that my parents had bought new, and Jennifer was driving a 1993 Ford Taurus. I wrecked the Civic and wound up buying another one almost just like it. The ‘new’ Civic was also a 1983 model, but it was in far better shape, and was an attractive silver instead of the metallic brown that my parents had passed down. We wanted to get out from under the payment on the Taurus before it was worth less than what we owed on it, so we sold it and purchased Jennifer a 1982 Datsun 280ZX 2+2. Her dad thought we were crazy. Heck, half the people we knew thought we were crazy. They may have been right, but we were having fun.

I wound up getting a 1982 Civic hatchback by a weird twist of events, which after some modifications, was running so hot that I couldn’t keep it in head gaskets any longer, so I swapped the motor out for a 1.8-liter from a 1979 Accord. It received a Weber carburetor, cowl induction hood scoop, and a very abbreviated exhaust system. It breathed fire, sounded like an angry hornet, and would spin the tires at 60-mph. The Wagon got put on the back burner when its clutch started slipping and the CV joints started clicking. I knew the syncros were worn and the rings were starting to leak, and I intended to do the work, but couldn’t at the time. It was joined by the hatchback for reasons that I can’t recall right now. We had other things going on and I couldn’t really give them the attention they needed at the time.

The Hondas eventually left my life. Jennifer’s 280 got T-boned by some idiot driving a brown Buick in the rain with no lights. We bought a 1991 BMW 318i convertible off the credit union’s repo lot. That car had 250,000-miles on it when we brought it home, and we put in excess of 100,000 additional miles on it before we passed it on. Shortly before we got rid of the BMW, we were shopping for something a little less used, that would be practical for our family. We wanted something with four doors that had more leg room in the back than our convertible. We wanted something with some pep. Understated looks would be good, with overstated gear under the sheet metal.

I was working at the Ford dealership at the time, and some guy had just traded in his 2004 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec-V in on a new pickup. It was black. I’ve always hated black cars. This is the little, unassuming Sentra body with the tuned version of the Altima’s engine shoehorned in, mated to a six-speed close ratio gearbox. I saw a technician driving it across the lot. It even had the optional Brembo four-piston brake calipers! So, I asked about it. The used car manager quoted me a price that was allegedly 10% over what they had in it. The mileage was low enough that it still had factory warranty, and the price was low enough that we could afford it. We consolidated some old credit card debt into the loan. I decided I could live with black.

Originally, I vowed to never fall behind on maintenance and always use synthetic fluids, and make this car last forever. That was before all of the accidents. We had most of the body damage fixed, but had an emergency come up that we wound up using insurance money on instead of bodywork. The car still ran good and we had just barely had to do anything mechanical in the 100,000-miles we’d had it. And just before the 150,000-mile mark, the engine blew.

As it turns out, Nissan had had problems with the ‘pre cat’ on this particular engine. In an attempt to make good even better, they had mounted an exhaust catalyst in the exhaust manifold, with the thought of it getting to temperature faster, thus increasing efficiency. Since this was the tuned-up version of the engine, the computer is programmed to run the fuel/air mix a little richer, thus the exhaust will pop and backfire from time to time. When it was popping into this forward-mounted catalyst, some particles of ceramic were blown back into the combustion chamber, and destroyed the rings in short order. I located the necessary parts to rebuild the engine in our driveway, committed a week off from my work, and borrowed Grandpa’s pickup.

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Everything came apart more easily than I was afraid it would, even if I did have to borrow an air compressor and impact wrench from a neighbor, who just seemed tickled that I’d ask to borrow such things from a total stranger.

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The timing marks were a mystery that I eventually unraveled, but there was some head-scratching first. It seems that not even the fanbois in the Sentra forums can make much sense out of them.

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That little sprocket with the chain on it is the balance shaft. I pulled that out and didn’t reinstall it. The Sentra kids on the internet say that it robs power and doesn’t help much with anything. I haven’t missed it.

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You might be a car guy (or gal) if this is a familiar sight. The weather was beautiful for most of the week.

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Not only are the main caps fully girdled, but the whole engine is glued together with gray silicone. There are literally like three or four actual gaskets in total under the hood. I was dubious, but it hasn’t leaked since the rebuild, so I guess it really does work.

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I honed out the cylinders, but nothing was in need of machining. Thank God! The head gasket came off cleanly enough that I probably could have reused it.

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The shop manuals say to separate the head and intake manifold. I didn’t find this to be necessary, so they stayed mated up.

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Teen Bot helped. I think he got bored at times, but it was a very educational experience for him. He thought reinstalling the pistons with the new rings and bearings was interesting.

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I said it would take a week, and it took a week. That’s the first time that has ever happened to me on any project. The car now has around 10,000 miles since the rebuild. It has more power now than it ever had before. There are a couple of things it still needs including a motor mount insert, a new radiator, and a muffler. With the many hours behind the wheel and many miles traveled in various cars with nothing but straight pipe, I finally actually got pulled over for the lack of muffler a few weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Jennifer called me and said that the car had done something strange. There was a pop, and an acrid smell, and the dash lights all went out for just a second. Hmmmm… She brought the car back and I poked around at it. Apparently, the alternator had gone out. This is a close-up of the side of the alternator, and you can see the stator windings inside of the case:

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Toward the right, you can see the wire is reddish and coppery in color like it’s supposed to be. Toward the left, it’s blackish and burned looking because it’s all burned up. That’s not good. The local parts houses could order an alternator to fit for around $200.00, but we found one online for more like $50.00. It hasn’t arrived yet, so I’ve been hooking the trickle charger to the battery overnight until I have the replacement part in hand. Jennifer called me again this morning to tell me that she was stranded with a car that would not run.

I arranged to borrow a spare car from my parents, retrieved Jennifer, pulled the battery, dropped Jennifer off at work and the battery at the auto parts store to have it charged on their commercial charger. My friend Sean called and offered to come and help (God bless him). We ultimately got the battery back, replaced the terminals which were badly corroded, and reinstalled it into the car. Upon arrival back at the house, I figured out what the most recent problem was. If you hook your trickle charger to your car battery, but mistakenly bump the control switch to “6V”, that battery will never charge. *facepalm* I figured I’d see the replacement alternator by now, but I’m nearly certain I’ll have it by this weekend. At any rate, the drama is getting a little old.

And, on a Lighter Note…

Since I have no intention of this becoming a gloom-and-doom blog, I have been attempting to balance my enraging/disturbing/worrying entries with lighter hearted ones. To that end, my brother, Microcosm Overlord, has been selling everything that’s not nailed down lately. His wife works part time, and he is currently unemployed with no unemployment benefits. In order to pay the bills and have a little scratch left over, he started selling some surplus belongings on Craig’s List and ebay. Then, he got hooked. Now, he’s telling me that the water is fine, and there will be punch and pie if I join in. Maybe. Anyway, this new… *ahem* hobby of his has led to some hilarious interchanges, such as the following:

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Why he even thought to send that first pic is anybody’s guess, but bravo! I had to twist his arm to send me the image files so I could stitch them together and post the thread here. I hope this gives you a giggle, as it did me.

And, Speaking of Domes…

Jennifer and I have long talked about setting up a rudimentary greenhouse in the back yard. The growing season here in Oklahoma is such that a greenhouse is highly useful for getting a head start when late frosts can be unpredictable. Currently, we do still live in town (much to our chagrin), and city code limits building construction without a permit to 100-square feet and without a permanent foundation. In the past, I’d thought about framing in something with used lumber or pipe, and wrapping the whole thing in heavy gauge Visqueen, or similar clear, plastic sheet. Recently, I began thinking about framing up a geodesic dome out of 2x4s or 2x6s, with the clear plastic stapled to the inside and outside of the framework. That would give plenty of light passage with 3.5″ or 5.5″ of airspace for natural insulation – probably plenty to buffer against those last few late frosts in the beginning of the Spring.

Shortening pi to 3.14, and working out the math, I find that a 11.2-foot diameter dome would be precisely 100-square feet, so I’d likely want to take the footprint down to an even eleven square feet, just to stay on the safe side. That would give us just about 95 square feet that we could use for sprouting seeds, growing things that are otherwise difficult to grow here, and even stretching out the Fall growing season to a degree. Using this nifty utility, I can see that an eleven-foot diameter, 5/8 dome can be made with 165 boards of just over two feet, using 61 joints. If my math serves me, that would give us a ceiling height of about 6.5-feet in the center, which is plenty for us short people.

This guy got the same idea, and built himself a nice little greenhouse dome, and he even worked out the angles that the boards should ideally be cut to. It looks like there are all sorts of choices for fancy hardware connectors, but the gentleman mentioned above industriously used steel strap and PVC pipe for jointing. In fact, there are lots of organized resources for anyone who might want to build a dome. Given the size of the lumber that this project would require, I bet I could get used lumber for next to nothing if I keep my ears open. In fact, I wonder how close to free I could build this bad boy. I may have to go haunt Craig’s List to see what’s available…

Water Dome 2.0

Years ago, when we were teaching the cat to use the toilet…

I’ll let you soak that in for a minute.

…yes, we taught the cat to do his business in the commode instead of a box of grit. See?

Anyway, at some point in time, he decided that the water in the water bowl wasn’t fresh enough for his taste. He started to find more creative places to do his business to keep his newly preferred water (toilet bowl) as clean as possible. We got to the point that we were changing out the cat water twice a day and he was still drinking from the john and pulling towels off the rack to pee on. Yuck! Something had to be done. So we bought The Water Dome.

This was a contraption that we found on clearance at the local franchise of whatever chain pet store we happened to be frequenting at the time. It cost something in the neighborhood of $15.00. I have been unable to find anything else quite like it, even in imagery only. It was a clear acrylic dome full of water that would trickle from the top, and dribble down into a shallow tray underneath. It worked like a charm. Emerson began drinking from the dome and using the toilet like clockwork.

Previously not having a care in the world where the water came from, so long as there was water, Ferrule discovered what he never knew he was missing in The Water Dome. He loved The Water Dome. Physically. Being half siamese and half bengal, Ferrule is an odd one. His mannerisms are not like many other cats you are likely to cross paths with. When he loves, he does so with grand gesture. And, he had a ritual when he took a drink. He would court The Water Dome and speak to it, informing it of his intentions. He would then rub against it affectionately. After he had buttered it up with his attentions, he would then take a sip of water. At that point, fairly well soaked, he would find Jennifer so he could sit in her lap and drip on her.

Needless to say, The Water Dome got clogged with cat hair and croaked after a few months’ use. And yet, it had been worth its weight in gold. We tried to clean it out, taking apart the pump to free it of all debris. But, its spirit had passed on. As precious as a pet water circulator had been to the household, we rushed straight out to purchase another. We never did find another one like The Water Dome, but we found a Petmate fountain for around $30 and took it straight home for the cats’ inspection. Ferrule never loved the fountain like he did The Water Dome, but they both accepted it as the utility that it was.

As we added our chihuahua, Heidi, and another cat, Chance; the little Petmate was strained in its duty. We topped it up when it ran low, and we cleaned it religiously to keep it running. But, it was never intended to support the load we had it under, and two days ago, after many years of service, the inevitable happened. The now mineral-stained Petmate finally gave up the ghost, and no amount of hair removal or swearing would bring it back.

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Believe it or not, all those colorful stains are from our hard water. I’ve chipped that crap off of that fountain before, and it likely had a hand in the destruction of the pump. In case you were wondering, the Mayans were predicting the end of our pet water fountain, not the world. I have spent the last couple of days looking at these things on Amazon and other sources. Years ago, we bought this unit for around $30. Years ago, I scoffed at paying upwards of two dollars per gallon for gas. Years ago, I purchased a one horsepower food waste disposer for around $90 that can’t be replaced for $300 today. Oddly, I do believe that we could get another pet fountain for around $30, but I’m not convinced that it would last.

But, I did have a spare water garden pump that I purchased at the koi shop to use in our rain barrels. As it turned out, it didn’t have nearly enough oomph to circulate water from the barrel. When I purchased this pump, it had been sitting on the shelf so long that I paid a fraction of the $65 scrawled on the yellowing cellophane in black marker. I didn’t have the heart to return the pump when it wasn’t going to work in the barrel. But, we had this extra pump. So, Teen Bot and I inspected the garden pump and compared it to the pump that came stock in the Petmate. The difference was shocking. We probably could install the water garden pump in the Petmate chassis, but it would be about like shoehorning a Chevy big block into a Volkswagen. Needless to say, it would have required some massive modification.

This morning, I woke up with inspiration! Once Teen Bot was up and around, we collected a disposable Rubbermaid dish, an empty one-gallon water jug, and some vinyl hose that I was going to use to pad a leather storage rack at one point in time. I wedged the hose onto the nipple on the pump and ran it into the top of the water bottle, so that it would overflow the jug and dribble out into the tray below. I trimmed it so that it would just go into the top of the handle. That way, if we lost power, it wouldn’t siphon the jug onto our bathroom floor. And I figure, if this setup gets too nasty with cat hair and mineral deposits, the pump is the most expensive component on the contraption. Everything else can be discarded and easily replaced. The entire system holds just over two gallons. I present to you Water Dome II:

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Magnificent, isn’t it?

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But, what will the water critic think of it? That’s the real measure of the success.

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“LOL! WTF is that supposed to be?”

No, really, Emerson. Give it a try!

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“YHGTBSM. You have finally lost your mind, hooman.”

Just try it please.

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“Well, it smells okay…”

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“Haz to make sure nobody’s looking when I try this silly thing…”

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*sip sip* “Hey, that’s not bad!”

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*slurp slurp slurp*

And, he likes it! I suspect he was waiting for a replacement, because he stayed like that at the trough for several minutes. So anyway, I was able to avoid spending money on a new pet water fountain, this thing will likely outlive a store-bought unit by a factor of ten, our picky cat approves of it, and if it gets too gross, we won’t feel too bad about pitching the whole thing. I’m calling this one a solid win.

Jumped. The. Shark.

I know I’ve been hitting the politics pretty hard and heavy recently. Let’s take a break from some of that, shall we? Teen Bot pointed me to this YouTube video, and I must say that it did induce some laughing out loud in a very literal sense. So, please do check it out. There are more than a couple of familiar faces in this little production. I hope it brings a smile to your face as well.

Srsly. I wish life could be more light hearted and silly.

Open Carry – First Day in Oklahoma

As you have probably already heard, Open Carry went into effect today in the State of Oklahoma. I don’t intend to do a whole lot of OC, but I have been preparing for this. I’ve sold several OC specific rigs to other Okies in the last year. I made a matched pair of ostrich, horse, and stingray paddle holsters for my Performance Center revolvers, and have a black belt with red stitching to match them. Jennifer got a new, red, metallic, patent leather holster to fit her FN with a CT Rail Master and a matching double magazine carrier and belt. She also got a black holster for the same setup with flat dark earth stitching to match her pistol. Today, I’m wearing my M&P45 in black basket weave with matching magazines on the off side. I think they probably set OC to go into effect on November 1, because it’s usually too cold to not wear a cover garment this time of year. Joke’s on them though. It’s absolutely beautiful out! Before the sun was up, I took out the trash and rolled the dumpster to the street, carrying openly. Nobody was out and it was dark. Nobody noticed. Twice today, I checked the mail with my gun uncovered. Nobody was out. Nobody noticed. So, this historic date remains boringly non noteworthy. If I was trying to make a statement, I’d be quite disappointed. Frankly, if I wasn’t the holster maker, I might very well not ever Open Carry. I don’t know for sure. I figure I probably will from time to time, but not indiscriminately. As I go about my daily life, I prefer to stay far more under the radar than that. Even so, experience tells me that most people wouldn’t notice even with the gun hanging out under their noses in plain sight. It should be interesting to see how this works moving forward.

KTKC – Many Thanks!

You people are truly awesome. AWESOME. Twenty-four hours ago, I had not generated a single donation for the cause. I appealed to my readership in my frustration and have seen $150.00 $160.00 come in since then. With sixteen days left in the month, if we can keep this pace, we could raise $2400.00, which is very nearly $2560, which is over* half of the flippant goal I put on my page. You have no idea how happy that makes me. Big, big thanks to you all. And, if you haven’t donated yet, please do. Every bit helps – even five or ten bucks at a time will add up in a hurry. Please do give however much you feel called to.

*corrections made, as I got a donation while writing this entry.

Overheard on the Back Porch – KTKC

Me: “It suddenly occurs to me that I’m wearing a Scottish kilt with U.S.G.I. combat boots and a BDU shirt, and pointing a compound bow across the back yard. You’ve got to be some kind of weird to find yourself like this.”

Teen Bot: “Or, some kind of AWESOME!”

Me: “Thanks, buddy.”

*Sigh.* The kid is 13.5. I have no delusions that he’ll always think I’m cool. In fact, I’m honestly surprised every time something like that pops out of his mouth anymore… Kiltpic!

Please donate!

*My spotter couldn’t see where I hit in the above pic. I don’t think that I went off paper, but won’t rule it out as completely impossible either, as I wasn’t familiar with the gun. As unlikely as it is, I think I shot through someone elses prior hole by luck.

Holsters 4 Heros

The girls pushed me into this. Jennifer likes to brag about nice thing that I do way more than I like to. Anyway, it’s no secret that I have done my craft for the benefit of the troops at one time or another. More and more often, I have our men and women overseas contacting me to inquire about a custom holster for their issued M9 pistol. I hear the issued holsters are pretty crappy. Anyway, I would really like to be able to not charge these brave people who are serving – I’d like to make them a holster and ship it. Unfortunately, not operating at a loss is more important in my business model than supplying holsters to the troops. Bills get paid better anyway. I was chatting with Erin and bemoaning this very fact. Currently, I’ve been working with several individuals in our armed forces who are looking for new rigs. I was telling her about a woman in particular in Afghanistan who needs a different holster. Erin said that as generous as people have been to her, she would be more than happy to help pay for this young lady’s holster. And then, an idea was born. I ran the idea past A Girl, as this is kind of up her alley. She loved it. And the idea became a plan. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to have to do legally, but my plan is to offer the custom M9 holsters for sale, but treat the troops like their money is useless. I’ll accept donations from anyone who cares to sponsor an M9 holster, and I’ll keep a list of those who are serving that have expressed interest in a holster, and basically have a random draw for the next recipient if the list of interested gets too long. Is that too vague, or too specific? Is there anything I should be thinking of differently about this? Any of you law savvy people know of anything that I need to be careful about with this thing? I want your input. So, bring on the flames. And the advice. And start donating.

Good Times

I revealed earlier that there was some disappointment last weekend. On Monday, MattG, Lawdog, and Phlegmmy came back through to pick up cars and continue on home. The last couple of winters have been sufficient to cycle the peach pits, and although our last peach tree died, there were quite a few sprouts in the yard this spring. Last summer was brutal enough that it killed all but one of the peach sprouts. The reason this works into the story is that we’ve been looking for homes for peach trees. Lawdog and Phlegmmy took three of them and MattG took one home as well.

MattG is insane, by the way. It sounds as though he took off exactly enough time to make the NRA Con. As in, the limiting factor for his arrival at my place on Friday was when he could get off work, and the determining point on when he had to get back home was when his next shift started. So on Monday, he had just enough time to exchange pleasantries, take a red Solo cup full of peach sprout, shoehorn himself into his Civic clown style, and split. Phlegmmy and Lawdog had places to be and puppies to pick up, but at least had enough time that we got to grab a late lunch with them. The food was pretty good, but the company was great! As much as I always appreciate our group get togethers with the bloggers and enough hardware to take over a banana republic, sitting down to a meal just the four of us was a rare treat. We got to enjoy the NRA Con vicariously, and Lawdog tells me that I need to have a booth next year. *sigh* Trade shows are so expensive! Who knows, maybe I’ll be moving enough cash to justify it by this time next year.

Schutenfest was an insane amount of fun, but I’m really looking forward to Phlegmfest. It’s so nice to just sit around and chat. It’s nearly impossible to replicate that experience on the firing line. Unfortunately. Perhaps I should invest more in silencers. Although they wouldn’t work very well on my ported, Magnum revolvers. Perhaps I should invest in a Nagant revolver and put a can on that. But, that’s a tangent of its own. Besides that, the shooting tends to be distracting beyond the noise associated with it. And that’s probably a good thing.

Moving forward, the weather looks pretty good for this weekend so far. We’re still up in the air on whether we’re going to try to make it to Borepatch’s deal. On Sunday, I was able to sight in my bow for twenty, thirty, forty, and fifty yards. I’m here to tell you, fifty yards looks a lot shorter through rifle sights! However, I was able to plant a four-shot group within a dinner plate sized group at that distance. If it hadn’t been so windy, I bet it would have been tighter than that. There are wild creatures that are in more peril now than they were last week. Unfortunately, Jennifer did something mysterious to wrench her back and has been appropriately pathetic since. I took her to the witch doctor chiropractor on Tuesday and she seems to be getting better, but the jury is still out as to whether she’ll be in shotgunning condition by Saturday. I have my doubts that she’ll be up for a full-blown blogshoot though. Additionally, if we can’t get our hands on a car that burns less oil, I don’t see making the drive.

Between meeting with friends on Monday, Taking Jennifer to the doctor on Tuesday, and Teen Bot’s state testing on Friday, I’m not getting much done this week. I’ve actually gotten a whole lot more done than I thought I would though. And I’ve got an engine to rebuild next week. I coveted MattG’s beat up Civic over the weekend. It shouldn’t take very long to overhaul the Tactical Assault Compact Sedan. If we’re lucky I bet we can pull it off in two days. Worst case scenario, I imagine we’ll have it back together by the weekend. We’ve got to get it back together so we can go meet up with our remote friends!