Friday, November 21, 2008

The SUV and Ignition Coils

We bought a new Ford Expedition in 2003 and have enjoyed owning it for the most part. A year or two ago, the 'check engine light' came on. We took it to the dealer to get it checked out since it was under warranty.

It turned out one of the ignition coils was bad and that our warranty wouldn't cover it. I think it was around $90 for the diagnostic (it's more detailed than what Auto Zone does for free) and about $150 to have them replace the ignition coil.

One of my brother in laws bought the same Expedition and had told me about the ignition coil problem. They last about 50-60,000 miles. So I was at least aware of this nice feature in the Expeditions.

When I checked the local auto stores for the price of these coils, they ran around $50 a piece (8 cylinders times $50 = ouch!) I then went on the web looking for them and found a place that would sell me an 8 pack for about $10 a piece. I ordered them, assuming they wouldn't be as good as the $50 ones.

I now go to Auto Zone to have them run the diagnostic for free.

I just replaced the #6 cylinders' ignition coil for the 3rd time. I decided to replace the spark plug too in the hopes that it was causing the coil to fail. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

Replacing the ignition coil is a pain since there is a 7mm 1.5 inch bolt that holds it to the engine. I can't get a regular 1/4 inch drive socket and ratchet on the darn thing. The whole socket and ratchet are too tall to fit under all the crap above it. So I devised a solution, I use the socket, a short 1/4 socket driver that has a 1/4 inch hex head on the other end. I then use the 1/4 ratcheting box wrench to turn it. I don't I described it too well but it works.

Replacing the spark plug was pretty easy except for having to go get a spark plug gap tool - I couldn't find any of the ones I own. Getting the socket off the new plug after installing it was a headache. I spent about 5 or 10 minutes pulling on the darn thing with needle nose pliers. The spark plugs are about 6 inches down a little hole in the block.

Overall, this experience was not nearly as bad as the ride home the day before.

Now I get to work on the motorcycle and see if I can get it to charge the battery. I really don't wanna spend a bunch of money replacing the stator etc....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

My 2.5 hour trip home

What an afternoon I had yesterday. My motorcycle wouldn't start when I left work.

They have a jump start pack thing here at work (I've used it a few times before) so I went to security and borrowed it.

The bike started right up and I returned the jump starter pack.

The battery was so dead that the bike didn't want to remain started unless I kept the rpm's up around 4k. I made it about a half mile away before it died. It's a little tricky keeping the rpm's up and breaking and signaling for a turn.

So I called McCarn and he brought me the jump start pack and I made it about 3 miles. I called McCarn again and then I made about 10 or 11 miles!

It died in stop and go traffic on Broadway Extension.

By this time Laura was home so she came and gave me jump. I made it another 2 miles to Bryant and Memorial before it died at a stop light.

After restarting the bike, I made it all the way home!

What a pain in the arse. I'm going to get a ramp today, so that we can load the bike into the truck easier.

So there is a problem between the stator and the battery. I guess I'll make sure all the connections are good. Maybe I'll get lucky and something will be lose.

If something isn't lose, I'm not sure if I'll try to fix it myself or let someone else do it. Looks like you have to practically remove the engine to replace the stator.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Close encounter with MUMPS

I just read part of a blog on thedailywtf that brings back memories.

When I got laid off from my first programming job in Dallas back in 1990, I went to several interviews looking for a job. One of the interviews was with a company (I don't remember the name but I think it was in Plano) that was looking for a MUMPS programmer. No MUMPS experience necessary.

The interview was one of the few I've had where I was interviewed by the project leader and the developers at the same time. The interview went well. They always had to train newly hired programmers on MUMPS since it was a fairly rare language.

They called me later to offer me the job. I think I was offered around $30k. Luckily though, I had gotten an offer from the Dallas Times Herald for more money and using the same stuff I was used to using (HP-3000, Cobol, Powerhouse, etc). So I turned them down.

The DTH gig was great, until the Dallas Morning News parent company bought the DTH 16 months later and I got laid off again.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Beginning of the End

Barack Obama is the President Elect. This marks a new milestone in our country's history. For the first time, a non-Caucasian has been elected as President. To paraphrase a cigarette ad from the 1960's, "We've come a long way baby"

Voter turnout was the highest it's been since 1908 at 136 million or 64% if Michael McDonald of George Mason University is correct - see the AP story.

It will be interesting to see what Obama does. Will he really increase taxes on the wealthy and will taxes for regular people be cut or stay the same? Will there be more gun control? Will he be able to get the US out of Iraq and Afghanistan quickly? Will he be able to be more fiscally responsible than the previous administration?

So, is this the end of government spending gone crazy and the beginning of more equitable America? I hope so. I hope big business will no longer be given tax cuts for outsourcing to other countries and allowed to rape the environment.

...not really related but...

I have wanted the US to do away with the Electoral College for several years now. I think it gives people in low population density areas more than 1 vote a piece (I tried verifying this but haven't found anything yet. I did find this article which describes the Electoral College pretty well though). Obama won 331 votes and McCain won 163 votes. But the popular vote was much closer - 52 to 46 percent. The Electoral College percentage was 67 to 33 percent.

In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election. This is a great reason to do away with the Electoral College. Another good reason from Wikipedia:
"The electors generally cast their votes for the winner of the popular vote in their respective states, but are not required by law to do so."
I guess this almost never happens but there's nothing we can do if it does.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Haskell Alumni of Oklahoma Scholarship

We found out Thursday that Susan had been awarded one of the two $500 scholarships from the Haskell Alumni of Oklahoma Association.

This was great news, especially since she hadn't even applied for it.

One of the alumni members (Carmen Ketcher) knows my mother fairly well. It was my mothers talk about Susan that got her the scholarship.

The alumni association was having their yearly reunion on Saturday so Susan and I went to the Executive meeting that they had in the morning. We got to meet Carmen Ketcher who nominated Susan for the scholarship. The president of Haskell was there.

Carmen will award Susan with the scholarship later this month in an assembly at Haskell. I'm sure there will be lots of other people receiving awards and scholarships at the assembly.

We ran into Clarence Hill in the lobby of the Holiday Inn. He's a fellow programmer here at *&^%$. He was there for a meeting for his church. It's a small world.