The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Plans for the long weekend

| August 31, 2007

Here's a pseudo-meme for everyone..

What are your plans for the long weekend?

Mine are:

  • sand the old paint off the porch railings, then paint said railings.
  • pull the carburetor off the tiller (again) and see if I can stop it from leaking by replacing the seat for the needle
  • see if we can find and patch the leak in the Lizzy's tire which keeps going flat (we've since taken it off the car, so it's only going flat in the garage)
  • now that I have more weedwacker line, I can finish up trimming around the house
  • I need to varnish up some miniatures. Liz and I have been painting some Battletech minis, and I've done some buildings, and they all need to be zapped with some varnish (2 coats of gloss to protect the paint, then a coat of matte to kill the shiny).
  • Make tiramisu and mint chocolate chip ice creams.

Update on zee auto

| August 30, 2007

(Previous post was here)

So, I heard back from the dealership, and the service manager said that the guy who said that 505.00 spec oil was used is neither the parts guy nor an actual tech. When he (the manager) went to the parts guy and said “I need oil to do a change on this car”, he was given Valvoline SynPower MST 5w30, which meets VW 505.01 specifications. This is what was used in the car, and what will be used after they change the rocker arm.

So, the other follow with whom I spoke was mistaken about the oil used, and this is all just a case of a faulty component. Also, as it turns out, it was not the arm itself, but rather the rocker arm shaft bolt. This let the rocker arm wiggle, and not actually trigger the injector as it should.

Now, the question is: is this for real or is it a CYA? Well, to be honest, I have to assume that they are being honest and this is what happened, for I have no proof otherwise. Furthermore, I can guarantee that, even if they are lying to me, they will never make this mistake again. Finally, even if the wrong oil was used, they will be looking over the cylinder head to make sure all is well (after all, they are taking it apart where something broke, so while they're in there, they'll check it), so if they notice anything they will fix it (because they can bill VW for it as a warranty repair).

Conclusion: The folks at Martin Nemer did nothing wrong, used the correct oil, and this was just simple parts breakage. I will use their services again. Hopefully, it was just a poorly made bolt, and that is the end of it.

2005 TDI PD Golf…

| August 29, 2007

So, to recap:
  • Car goes in for oil change and 40k service @ 39,00 miles (oil has been changed every 5,000 miles, except once where I went 7,000 because I was busy. Recommended change interval is 10,000 miles).
  • @ 40,000 miles, I start noticing a ticking noise. I try various things (fixing some screws which had come loose on the flash guard, etc). The ticking is in time with the engine, and only noticeable when accelerating.
  • @ 40,100 miles, the MIL (Check Engine) light comes on, and VAG-COM (the computer thingy) says “Cylinder 3 Misfire detected”.
  • It’s still under warranty I make an appointment and don’t drive it anymore, because I figure it’s serious.
  • While driving it there, the car really starts to shake around 2000RPM, so I keep it in lower gear and up around 3500 RPM. It starts to get a little scary. I keep waiting for the “pull over right now flashing MIL of doom.
This brings us to today. Car is at the dealership. I get a call, but am on the phone, so Liz takes it. It is a rocker arm, and they’ve ordered a new one. The tech remarks how he’s never seen one of these break before, and it must have been defective from the get-go. He orders up another. It will be done on Friday. I ask the Google what it knows. Apparently, these very rarely fail, though the main cause of it is insufficient or improper lubrication. Hmmm…. I call the dealership, Martin Nemer VW. I ask if they will change the oil after they replace the rocker arm to get out any particles which might have come loose. They will. This makes me happy. Then the real question. Me: What oil do you use in the TDI’s, just to check, because the previous dealership told me that this requires special oil, which is different than other TDI’s. Service Rep: We use either Castrol or Quaker state full synthetic 5W-40. Me: Can you tell me what VW spec it meets. SR: Sure can, let me go check. Me: … Wait… SR: Okay, this is Castrol.. synthetic… 5w-40. On the back it says.. yep, right here – meets VW 505.00 spec. Me: That’s great, but all TDI’s 2004 and after use the Pumpe-Deuse (PD) engine and VW requires use of 505.01 spec oil or they will void your warranty because it provides insufficient lubrication to the cam shaft and turbocharger and can therefore destroy the engine in only a few thousand miles. SR: Let me have my manager look into this and call you back. So, I call VW of America and talk to a customer rep there, explain the situation. They say that they will contact the dealership, find out what oil was put in the car and take appropriate action. Meanwhile, here is a thread which talks about this requirement, and links to the various VW technical bulletins. Here is a scan from the manual (not mine.. it’s in the car.. at the dealership) and makes it very clear what oil is required. Now, I need to be clear that none of this has been confirmed – the guy on the phone could have grabbed the wrong bottle of oil, and it actually was a mechanical failure due to manufacturing defect. Furthermore, I need to stress that everyone here has been very nice, including the folks at Nemer. So, I am not in any way dissatisfied or disparaging anyone, I am merely relating a tail. Also, in all fairness, I can understand this mistake on the part of the dealership. Remember – 2004 and 2005 TDIs are the only ones with this engine. They also were not sold in NY state due to emissions issues. Mine was an import, because I moved here from RI. As such, they probably don’t see any of these cars, and might not have paid any attention when using the 505.00 oil (which is correct for years
  • WARNING:Failure to use engine oil for your engine that expressly conforms to Volkswagen oil quality standard VW 505 01 can cause engine failure on the highway that can cause a crash and serious personal injury. Lovely.
  • Engine oil, topping off: It is recommended that the customer always carry a spare quart / liter oil which meets Volkswagen quality standard VW 505 01 in case the engine oil needs topping off while on the road. The spare quart of oil should always be stored in its original container that is securely closed in the luggage compartment. Make sure the container is securely stowed. Pop the hatch. Left side, white crate. Fire extinguisher, compressor, paper towels, and.. a quart of Castrol TXT 505.01, which also happens to be on the “approved oils meeting 505.01 spec” list. How about that folks?
  • Armed America

    | August 29, 2007

    As some of you may know, I am in Kyle Cassidy's () book Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes (page 134). Since it was new to the market, and I'm in it, I've avoided commenting on it until recently. Since Mark Vanderberg over at the Gun Rights Advocates Podcast asked me to do a segment on it for use in an Episode where he interviewed Kyle, I figure I might as well blog about it too.

    This is not the type of book you see when you think about a “gun book”. This is because (as Kyle says) it’s not a book about guns – it’s a book about people. What you find is that you see people in the book which you wouldn’t expect – the couple nearing retirement (with a machinegun collection), the staunchly anti-gun fellow (with a pair of his grandfather’s antique pistols which he has made into a lamp), the guy who doesn’t really seem to care one way or the other (but still owns a handgun from when he was younger and it was the cool thing to do). On the flip side, there are the people you would expect – the hunter (with walls of trophies and a fine hunting rifle), the guy worried about the government (and wearing a bandanna so you can’t see his face). I could see people criticizing the book for “not presenting a fair and balanced view about the gun rights debate”, and they might have a point there – namely that they miss the point of the book. Kyle keeps a lot of “editorial commentary” out of the book. There is a little forward at the beginning (where my cat Arthur is the very last picture on the second page) where Kyle explains the book and a bit of the history, but aside from that, the format is simple – there is a photo on the right side page, and the words of those photographed on the facing left side page. No comments, no judgment. It does not further an agenda, it just displays what is. I find this to be very useful, because it is, in a sense, empirical. These are photographs of people, and these are their words, you are left to draw your own conclusions. One could also suppose that Kyle posed people in order to further one side of the argument or the other. At this point, I should probably present a bit of an insider’s view to refute this. The process was simple – Kyle picked a room, Phil set up lights, we picked guns, and stood however we liked. Kyle took many pictures, and one of the made it into the book. The only thing which was at all staged (and it is understandable given Kyle’s weakness for felines) is that cats were often lured into the photo by strategically placed catnip. Indeed, I think that the photo selected of Liz and I had more to do with the placement of Arthur than the placement of us. 🙂 The only one criticism I personally have about the book is the print quality. After looking at the photos on the website on a high-quality monitor (Dell 2005FPW, which uses the same LCD as the Apple Cinema display, and was hooked to a Mac for the correct color profile… oh, and we looked at it on one of the Cinema displays as well..), you realize just how good Kyle’s photographs are. The printing in the book just makes them appear a bit dull and lifeless. They could be so much better had the printing been done a little better. Realistically, this was probably a bit of a compromise for the sake of commerce – at an Amazon price point of $20 and an in-store price of $30, it becomes an “impulse buy coffee table book”. If it were more expensive, say $50, I think you’d sell a lot fewer. Furthermore, there is always the possibility of another print run, with a “photographer’s cut” where the print quality is much higher, selling for $100 or so. I should also note that there are two similar groups of gun owners underrepresented here. The first are people who don’t want their neighbors to know that they have guns, and the second are people who don’t want the authorities (gov’t, police, etc.) to know that they have guns. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the beast. Many people have illegal guns. In New York state, you need to register all handguns with the police. Failure to do so makes that an illegal gun. If one were to have such a gun, it would not necessarily be the best idea to be photographed with it. It is the nature of the beast, but the unfortunate result is that we lose that aspect of society. In conclusion, I’d recommend this book for.. well, anyone. It is good for those curious about the gun debate and what kinds of people own guns. I’d suggest that any legislators looking to vote on gun legislation pick up a book and look at the people they are representing. I’d also suggest that anyone who holds a strong opinion on gun ownership pick up a copy and have a look at the people as well. As I said before, the book represents a good cross section of America, and I think that one can learn from it.

    Food, Cars, and Mechs

    | August 28, 2007

    Liz and I have started cooking together, embracing cohabitation in the kitchen made possible by division of labor. Sunday, we made venison enchiladas (I browned the meat, rolled them up and put them in the pan; she made the sauce), and yesterday we made pasta and sauce (she made the fresh pasta, I made the sauce with tomatoes and peppers from the garden, and garlic, onions and mushrooms from someone else's garden). It is a nice end to a day and is an enjoyable activity.

    Arnold (the TDI Golf), went into the dealership for another one of those “things which shouldn't happen but do”. This may be a continuation of the “glow plug problem” (check engine light comes on. Oh, it's the glow plugs. Replace. Repeat 3 times. Then they replaced the relay, and finally the whole wiring harness. This fixed things for 15k miles… until now), or it may just be a similar engine-related problem which (hopefully) will not take as many trips to get fixed. In this case, it is a check engine light which (when plugged in to the computer) says that there is inconsistent ignition. So, I drive it to the dealership. About 5 miles away, it really starts to shudder at about 2000 RPM, like it's going to stall. So, I keep it at about 3500, one gear down from where I would normally be and get to the dealership without incident… but it was a little rattling. Hopefully, it will be something they can fix for certain the first shot.

    We played Battletech this weekend! Is was fun. My Hunchback beat the snot out of Liz's Centurion. I used the trees to get close enough to just open up at close range. She went down, and I never let her get back up (shoot, shoot, kick, kaboom!).

    I also unburied enough of the utility room to set up my casting table.

    Anyway, the rice is done, so I need to go dish up some leftover enchiladas.


    | August 21, 2007

    Writing my own game based off the d20 Modern SRD is annoying me. The parts I don't like are the ones that everything seems to tie to.

    So, lets think about this from a different angle – I like Shadowrun 4th edition. It's gritty, realistic, and bloody. The game mechanics are not quite as simple as d20 Modern, but the core mechanic is simple and easy and they're realistic enough that they don't annoy me.

    Tonight I'm going to dig out my SR books and give them a quick read. Basically, I think it would be as simple as saying:

    • There are no metahuman races
    • It is 2007, and therefore there is an appropriate level of technology.
    • Money is $, not nuyen.
    • Making up your own equipment is easy.

    De-kerneling corn

    | August 19, 2007

    So, my father in law's corn is starting to come in, so we're picking it, taking it off the cob, bagging it, and freezing it. Now, growing up, we did this with a knife, sitting around the table. However, there is a better way – enter the Kernel Kutter. I'll have to get one for when we put in our own corn next year.

    The weather did hold and I did a bunch of sectioning of logs (good, hard sugar maple) with the chainsaw.

    Aaaand, my car is throwing a “Cylinder Misfire Detected” error. I don't know how this can happen in isolation. Sure, with a gas car, it's simple – spark plug. However, it's diesel. So, what are we talking here? Loss of compression due to: Piston rings? Loose injector? Loose glow plug? Bad injector (that should show a code though).

    We'll see. I need to do some research, but it's still under warranty so I can bring it in to fix it. Problem is, the dealership is 45 min away, which means it's a drive out after work, drop off car, let them fix it, then pick it up. Wouldn't be a big deal, except I just did this 2 weeks ago. Grrr…


    | August 19, 2007

    So, I'm kind of unimpressed by the Deepest Sender widget and am back to using the LJ web interface, which is fine, especially since FF now has spellcheck.

    Anyway, we've been reasonably productive. We should be getting new potatoes soon, the peppers are coming in nicely, and I got a recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds from a friend, since we have several very large pumpkins.

    Last week, I decided that I sleep too much (about 8-9 hours per night), so I've cut back to about 7-8 hours per night. I'm getting up an hour earlier, which allows me to spend about an hour playing video games in the morning. This actually does wonders for morale, because it gives me something to look forward to each morning. It has helped counter the general malaise and job dissatisfaction I've been feeling recently.

    I've also decided to make a go at my own RPG rules based on the d20 modern SRD. This will afford some level of compatibility with many of the published rule supplements out there, while “fixing” a lot of things which are wrong with it. Not only am I going to write it, but I think that I will publish it through in both print (and they can do spiral bound so that it folds flat!) and PDF formats. Maybe it will sell well, maybe it won't.

    Ordered a carburetor refurb kit for the tiller as it's slowly leaking gasoline. I think I nicked one of the seals while I was cleaning it.

    Also, my car has been making this odd ticking noise. I thought it was the crappy plastic skid plate just vibrating, so I pulled it off. Most of the mounts had ripped loose anyway. I need to get one of these skid plates. Much beefier. Also, I figure that I might get one of these, the idea here being that without a lift, it's a bear to get all of the oil out, because the car has to be level and I need to get underneath the car to get at the drain plug – easy on trucks, not do easy on this car which only has about 6″ of ground clearance (hence the need for the skid plate). The idea with these pumps is that you can suck the oil out of the dipstick tube, so you don't need to drain it. I tried this in an emergency overfill situation with Liz's car, but the pump we bought was a $10 Wal-Mart job and didn't really work. These units hopefully work a little better. Back to the point – I tick off the skid plate and the resonance went away, but the ticking was still there. I figured that I was just hearing the engine noise a little louder, since the skid plate was now off – until the check engine light went on. So, today I'm going to hook it up to the computer and see what it can tell me.

    In other news, we've finished the wardrobe and drawers we bought, so I'm unpacking the rest of my clothes, ironing all my shirts from being in boxes, etc. Liz has decided to paint the breakfast nook, which is not a bad project, and then we will probably start finishing the drywall in her closet (it was poorly done in the first place and needs to be sanded). I'll also fix the drywall around a light I installed (new light was too small for the old hole, so there is a gap which I need to fill in), and if the rain holds off, cut down some more stuff with the chainsaw. However, I don't hold out too much hope for this, so it's a good thing that I have a garage.

    I also need to weld up a broken bracket on the mower deck, and weld wider skis on to the feet for the snow blower.

    Oh, and replace one of the dimmers with a better 3 way + dimmer arrangement (whichever switch you hit goes through the dimmer, so the light level is always constant, rather than being dimmed from one switch and full on from the other).

    So, lots to do. 🙂

    Gaming stuff

    | August 10, 2007

    (This is partially a test of Deepest Sender, an LJ app which runs as a FF widget. I am not tremendously impressed – it gets clobbered if you use it in the sidebar and then open your history, which was the compelling thing about it…)


    Video games:

    I started playing Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn again. I'd forgotten how much fun this game was. Problem is, I was playing an “interesting” (read: dies easily) character – a bard/cleric, if I remember. If the character dies, your game ends. Finally, I just gave into it and remade the character as a fighter, restarting the game. If they're going to write an automated dungeon crawl, then I'll play the absurdly strong fighter.

    Tabletop games:

    • I've managed to convince Liz to try out a Battletech campaign. She likes Battletech well enough to play, and the campaign makes it a little more interesting.

    • I might have convinced her to play an RPG, if we can get her friend Sarah to play, and it's only them, and it's a setting that they like. Liz's problem with RPG's is that they end up just dragging on as we look up rules and bicker. I tend to agree, but am willing to put up with it.

    Anyway, In that vein, I am looking for simple, easy playing systems.

    First, I had a look at Fugde. Meh. Their core mechanic is simple (tally the +’s and -‘s and they bump your skill up or down for an end result) but I don’t know if it is any more simple than d20 (d20 roll + bonuses – penalties = result). Then I pulled out my d20 modern book. It’s not a bad system, except there are some big things in it which I don’t like, specifically: – the wealth system – classes – the way armor is handled – some other things which I don’t quite recall. Now, d20 Call of Cthulhu fixed most of this. Problem is, my d20 Call of Cthulhu book seems to have been misplaced. Since they’re out of print, they’re going for obscene prices on ebay. I’ve also been looking at True 20, which might actually work well. However, I need to do more research to ensure that it is really compatible before I go spending money on it. Basically “will my big book of d20 guns work with this system”. If it works, I’ll probably buy the PDF. I’m really liking these PDF’s – they’re cheaper, I can grab the tables from them and make a GM screen, and if I do buy a paper copy of the book, using the PDF keeps the Mountain Dew stains off it.

    Roll the old chariot along..

    | August 8, 2007

    (In case you don't get the reference, it's an old sea shanty. To hear it performed, try this version courtesy of the good lads over at the Dragon's Landing Inn Podcast).


    Grabbed some pickling cukes from the garden and found that the leftover brine wasn't working anymore. It seems that you can reuse it once… maybe. So, I found this recipe for refrigerator bread and butter pickles. Now, one should note that these NEED a refrigerator – they are not designed for real canning or food preservation, but are merely a long term seasoning. I'll let folks know how they turn out.

    Also, I've unburied the food dehydrator from the move and tossed a handful of chile peppers in it for drying and long term preservation. Those Super Chile peppers are indeed prolific and I'm getting 3 or 4 off the plant a day – which is more than I use (1 or 2 is plenty to spice up 1lb of meat for burgers). So, dry them out, stick in a baggie and they should keep for quite awhile.

    Work has been a pain lately, especially today. Since I'm not going anywhere tonight, I figured I might have a pint or three to take off the hard edges. As I was headed to the fridge, I realized that I'd not visited any of the families Scotch or Whiskey lately. So, I opened the cabinet. Wow, I have quite a few in there… Macallan Cask Strength (Scotch) Ardbeg 10 year old (Scotch) Balvenie (Scotch) Jamesons (Whiskey) Read Breast (Whiskey) Knob Creek (Bourbon)

    I want to say that there were more, though I don't recall what they were, and don't feel like walking up to check.

    So, I poured myself a glass of the Balvenie, tossed in some ice and a squirt of water (I find that it lets the flavors dance on the tongue a little better) and I'm happily sipping away.

    I'd forgotten how good that stuff was.

    Hmm.. it would appear that the storm clouds rolling in will relegate my plans for tenderloin to the convection oven… That's a shame. Electric ovens don't impart the same flavor as about 45 minutes over charcoal with some applewood mixed in.