Thursday, June 25, 2009

The New Frugality In Action: Columbus Firefighter Sweeps Horse's Ass Awards

We're reliably informed that David Santuomo, a firefighter with the Columbus, Ohio fire department, decided that he and his sig other would take a vacation.

In order to practice the new frugality we've been hearing so much about lately, Santuomo cobbled up a silencer for his rifle and then proceeded to assassinate his two dogs in the basement of his house rather than pay to have them boarded or supervised by neighbors.

He dumped the bodies in a dumpster behind his duty station and bragged to friends about it. The entire affair came to light via an anonymous tip. How much you wanna bet it was one of his mates at the fire station?

It is said he fired 11 shots, which tells you he doesn't know doodley squat about killing dogs or anything else for that matter. A single shot at the base of the skull is sufficient.

Well, nevermind. He pled guilty to animal cruelty and manufacturing a criminal device (a home brew silencer) and was sentenced to ninety days, to be served in ten day increments-which means he'll have to explain it all to a new group of cellies at least nine times.

The jury's still out over whether he gets to keep his job. Anyone that stupid doesn't need a cushy city job.

Talk about giving self respecting criminals a bad name-there oughtta be an entrance examination.

Mark Sanford UPDATE

Seems that in reality Mark was steppin' out and hound doggin on the little woman.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

They Always Kill Their Children First

We here at the Dougloid Towers have been watching events unfold in Iran, as a crooked election looks to be on its way to a done deal-at least, for now.

I suspect the great tide of history will wash these rascals out of office-maybe sooner, maybe later, quietly or kicking and screaming, but go they will.

One of the things that's notable is that the Boss Hog in Iran these days is always and forever being referred to, even in western news reports as "The Supreme Leader".

One of the telling hallmarks of oppressive government is its penchant for referring to the chief power wielder in such laudatory and self abasing tones: El Caudillo, Maximum Leader, Il Duce, Fuhrer, The Great Helmsman, Dear Leader, Great Leader, and so on.

It appears that although the Iranian state and its thugs and goon squads have succeeded in stifling dissent for now with a combination of prisons, truncheons, and rifle bullets, they've got to know that that is a temporary fix for what ails them, and that is that they stand foursquare against the inalienable right of people to a government of their own choosing that respects the rights of man and the essential dignity of all people.

The picture, of course, is of a demonstrator in Berlin holding a photo of Neda Soltani, gunned down in a Teheran street by the Islamic Republic's gunmen and thugs.

Shame on them.

They can no more hold back the press of events than King Canute could command the tide to halt. Parenthetically, they're proof positive of the abysmal failure of Islamic government to show the world that it's an idea worth considering. Every day, with every tweet and pirated video from a cellphone, the word's getting out.

I am in mind of the last letter Thomas Jefferson ever wrote, to Roger Weightman in late June of 1826. Jefferson was to die less than two weeks later.

Respected Sir

The kind invitation I receive from you on the part of the citizens of the city of Washington, to be present with them at their celebration of the 50th. anniversary of American independance; as one of the surviving signers of an instrument pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world, is most flattering to myself, and heightened by the honorable accompaniment proposed for the comfort of such a journey. it adds sensibly to the sufferings of sickness, to be deprived by it of a personal participation in the rejoicings of that day. but acquiescence is a duty, under circumstances not placed among those we are permitted to controul. I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. may it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the Signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government. that form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. all eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. the general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view. the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god. these are grounds of hope for others. for ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

I will ask permission here to express the pleasure with which I should have met my ancient neighbors of the City of Washington and of it's vicinities, with whom I passed so many years of a pleasing social intercourse; an intercourse which so much relieved the anxieties of the public cares, and left impressions so deeply engraved in my affections, as never to be forgotten. with my regret that ill health forbids me the gratification of an acceptance, be pleased to receive for yourself, and those for whom you write, the assurance of my highest respect and friendly attachments.

Th. Jefferson

Where's Waldo, Reloaded

Let me first preface this by saying that political events in South Carolina are ordinarily of little importance to folks on the prairie, but this is different.

The governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, disappeared for five days last week and didn't bother telling his staff where he was going-or his wife or anyone else, for that matter. Turns out that when his staffers said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, they didn't know where the heck he was either.

All anyone knew was that he'd dumped his state provided Suburban at the airport.

Sanford showed up in Atlanta and breezily informed stunned onlookers that he'd been in Buenos Aires-that's right, the one in Argentina, and he was surprised that anyone had noticed, let alone had any concerns.

Sanford is being talked about as a potential GOP candidate for the Big Show in 2012. I don't know about you, but I'd want to know that the chief executive, chief law enforcement officer and commander in chief for my state is, at all times, ready to take action if it is called for without worrying about where he is.

A couple questions, Mark.

What action would you take if your secretary or gardener decided to spend the week in Argentina, leaving their duties and obligations in a heap in the airport departure lounge?

That's right, Mark. You'd fire them, and you'd be justified in doing so. You simply don't down tools and wander off the reservation.

What should we do with you?

Photo courtesy Esquire.

Fixing Stuff, or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Transistor

A journeyman musician of my acquaintance left a Music Man guitar amplifier here for repairs and I finally got around to digging into it last weekend. After some routine maintenance type repairs that any 30 year old amplifier would need, I figured I couldn't avoid troubleshooting any more.

The procedure for setting the power tube bias voltage level is to measure the voltage developed across the two resistors in the picture and adjust the level with the potentiometer that is in the tip of the picture.

Doing this revealed that there was no voltage being developed on one tube. Releasing the circuit board from captivity revealed that one of the bias transistors had a broken lead.

At least I had the common sense to order up some integrated circuits and bias transistors while I was dithering over what to do.

It works great.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

All That Jazz, or, How I Became Qualified to Fix A Refrigerator

Herewith is presented a cautionary tale for folks who own an Amana ABB1927DEQ refrigerator with the freezer down below.

The problem began when the freezer got iced up and the refrigerator compartment stopped cooling. I figured that the freezer door had inadvertently been left open. It was in need of vacuuming all the previous owner's collection of cat fur out of the vents and off the heat exchanger coils and defrosting for a day.

A week later, we were back with the same problem and this time I figured I'd have to get it right or face the prospect of buying a new fridge.

The conventional wisdom suggested that the fault lay in the auto defrost system, in particular the timer.

Let me explain.

When frost free refrigerators came on the market the defrost cycle was controlled by a mechanical clockwork timer, and that's about how things went for 30 years. Then we entered the brave new world of adaptive defrosting, which incorporated a small circuit board with a proprietary integrated circuit made of unobtainium. The idea is that the refrigerator learns your door opening habits and adjusts the defrosting cycle accordingly.

There is, in addition to the control mechanism (timer or Jazz board) a limiting thermostat (pictured) that ends the defrost cycle if the temperature rises above a set point, and a heating coil that wraps around underneath the cooling coils. Any water thus generated during this cycle is drained off to a small pan for evaporation.

I don't know about you, but I'm not real happy having something that spends its days in the kitchen ruminating on my habits. What's it going to do? Tattle on me to some group of militant vegan energy cops in earth shoes if I slide in for a midnight snack?

Well, nevermind.

In order to do this you have to gain access through the freezer compartment. Removing the baskets, the door, and the slides is simple and easy to do with a small (1/4 inch I think) nut driver. Once the rear panel is exposed it can be removed. Remember everything's plastic and it snaps apart and together, except for stuff that is held together with sheet metal screws.

It also helps to have a schematic diagram handy. I found this one on a website that sells refrigerator parts.

Once the back panel of the freezer compartment is exposed you will see the defrost terminator pictured, and the heater element which is a black insulated thingy that goes around the lower parts of the coils.

With a multimeter you can check the heater from one end to the other. If the resistance is infinite, the heater element is broken and needs to be replaced.

At the same time you can test the defrost terminator by connecting a multimeter to it and then immersing it in a mug full of ice water and salt. If the terminator goes from infinite resistance at room temperature to about 55 ohms it's working properly. In my case the resistance never changed, so the terminator was bad-although it would have let the defroster run all the time, so that wasn't why this fridge iced up.

If you've eliminated the defrost terminator and the heater coil as the sources of your problem you know what's coming because either the timer is bad or the Jazz board has failed.

Opening the upper door there's a panel that houses the temperature selectors and the Jazz board. Popping it open (all plastic, snaps together) exposes the board which is actually two boards permanetly held together with a flat cable. It's easily changed by removing the connectors (white) and opening the plastic tabs.

A new board cost me $83 plus tax and a defrost terminator was about an additional $25 at Allparts in Des Moines.

You can install the defrost terminator thermostat as I did by cutting the wires and using crimped on butt connectors. Tie everything up out of the way with some tie wraps.

Once the Jazz board is installed and the rest of the refrigerator is reassembled you can power it up.

You have to program the Jazz board, and an instruction sheet should be provided with the replacement part. I've reproduced it for you.

Parenthetically, some engineer at the Maytag works where this thing was made must have had a few laughs naming it a Jazz board and using a proprietary integrated circuit that can't be found or duplicated.

Jazz indeed. I hope that person enjoyed losing their job when Maytag closed its doors forever.

Karma is truly a bitch, as they say.

It's been a week or so, and it hasn't iced up again so I'm declaring this one fixed for now.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Koko Taylor

The last moments of Flight 447

We're told that the last fifteen minutes of automated telemetry tell a stark tale of the last fifteen minutes of Air France flight 447 that went down over the Atlantic.

At this point it looks like they flew into a wall of thunderstorms.

I remember my old flight instructor Martin Englebreck telling me about a scud running trip he took to Indiana in a C172 one summer day when the thunderstorms start firing up around 2:00 PM. He'd been dodging them for a couple hours until one came along that he couldn't avoid and couldn't turn back from.

Martin said he'd gone in at about 6,000 feet and it was like being in hell's own freight elevator. The thunderstorm spat the C172 out at about 27,000 feet and it had gotten there at an astounding climb rate. Of course the C172 had some pretty significant hail damage and skin wrinkles but the people at Wichita who put it together had built well.

Martin was a lucky man that day, and he knew it.

The moral of the story as he taught it to me is always have a way out, even if it means retracing your steps.