I found this picture farther back in the files.  It has my mom’s name written on the back, but there is no date.  It is a perfectly timed find as today is her birthday.

I’m guessing this was her commissioning picture.

Based on the ensign insignia, when the WAVES were established, and her saying she was in one of the first classes to receive commissions, this picture was probably taken in late 1942 or early 1943.  She would have been 24 years old.

She received a bachelor of science degree in organic chemistry in 1940 and according to some documents I found on the internet, she was part of the faculty at the US Navy Academy in Annapolis.

My mom, on the faculty of a place she wasn’t allowed to attend as a student, that makes me smile.


Happy Birthday mom.  I’m glad you are now free of the shackles of dementia.  Fair winds and following seas.




dad_captI was going through my parents’ stuff that I had taken to a climate controlled storage unit and I found dad’s “brand new captain” picture.

Dad enlisted in the marines in 1934, was commissioned in 1950 and was promoted to major two years before he retired in 1964.

He is now guarding the streets of heaven.  He was 91.



In today’s mail there was notice that our dog’s license needs to be renewed and that a certificate of rabies vaccination must be provided to renew the license.

That means that I will soon be receiving my own rabies vaccination notice.

“Me and my dog.  We get our rabies shots at the same time.” (sic)


In reality I will probably get the  RFFIT, which is a blood test that is used to estimate my body’s ability to fight off the rabies virus.



At the insistence of my daughter, the 20 year old friend of hers that bought my mom’s car called and asked my opinion on the cost of some maintenance that was recommended by a repair shop…..

The problem was “the car runs badly, but only when I’m in a parking lot or stopped at a traffic light.  The rest of the time, it’s OK.”

The shop recommended

  • Replacing the spark plugs  $240 labor, $60 parts.
  • Replacing the spark plug wires, $240 labor and $70 parts.
  • Replacing the weak battery, $50 labor and $300 parts.

The shop also recommended some optional preventative maintenance items.

  • A transmission system “flush”, $200
  • A power steering system “flush”, $100.
  • A cooling system flush, $100.
  • A fuel system flush,  $100.


The lady said she gave my maintenance records to the shop.  I made those records and they show that

  • The battery was replaced four months ago.
  • The transmission was serviced four months ago.
  • The power steering system was flushed four months ago.
  • I had to replace the radiator in July 2017, and I flushed out the cooling system at that time.
  • The fuel system was checked and the fuel filter was replaced ‘just because’ in July 2017.


I told her to drive away from that repair shop, to never set foot in there again and to bring the car over to my house.


I went ahead a replaced the spark plugs and wires.  Since the back three spark plugs and wires are difficult to access (requires removing a bunch of hoses, components and wires), I went ahead and used the more expensive platinum electrode spark plug wires and very high quality spark plug wires so this won’t need to be done again for many years.

Once all the stuff to access the spark plugs is removed, putting in new spark plug wires only added 10 minutes of time when compared to reusing the old wires.   My guess is they quoted her a price to, “take it apart, replace the spark plugs, put it all back together, take the same stuff apart again, replace the spark plug wires and then put it all back together again.”   That is something only an idiot would do.

In reality, the spark plug wires and spark plugs were in decent (but not perfect) condition and this could have been deferred for another few years.

I checked the battery under full load and it is as good as a new battery.  It was not “weak”.


Oh, yes.  The poor idle problem.  It was none of the stuff they recommended.  It was a cracked PCV (emission) hose.  The PCV hose for a 1994 Buick is a weird custom “thing” that is not easily replaceable with generic components.  However,  General Motors used that same part in many different cars, over many different years, and the part is both easily available and very cheap.   The first auto parts place I called had one in stock for under $9.00.  Since the “rubber” sections in that part had degraded, I went ahead and replaced all the other “rubber” parts in the other vacuum lines.   It took just 15 minutes to do this and considering the low cost of vacuum lines, it’s worth the time to do this to prevent future vacuum leaks.

So, here is what it cost:

  • Slightly more than 3 leisurely hours, including getting the parts.
  • $29 for the spark plugs.  I used the more expensive platinum ones that should last “forever”
  • $31 for the spark plug wires.
  • $9 for the PCV hose.
  • $3 for some vacuum hose

Since she had given the shop person the maintenance records, my guess is that they saw a 20 year old college girl with a 24 year old car and went from there.  That annoys me and I called the repair shop to let them know this.  I was not rude, nor did I talk loudly, but I was very clear in expressing my annoyance.


This is why I insisted my daughter understand how to do the work and what it takes to do it.  Even though she doesn’t have the tools (or the room) to do the work, she still knows when “something isn’t right”.


Detoured Project

It didn’t take long for me to have to put the Gonset project aside to take care of something more pressing.

I have a 1957 Jeep FC-170 truck like the one pictured here.    When I bought it, I knew that it needed a huge amount of work, so it too is a project.  I fixed just enough of its problems to make it capable of being driven safely–braking, steering, fuel and ignition systems–and deferred the rest until I had more time.

The electrical system was a complete mess and only moderately safe.  Wires were just twisted together with tape wrapped around the connections to cover the bare spots in the wires.  I replaced the duct, bandage and masking tapes with electrical tape but otherwise, I did not change the wiring.  It was better, but still not perfect.

While driving the truck home from a car show on Saturday I noticed the headlights were quite dim and “orange” instead of the more usual “almost white”.

So, today I started on this project.  My measurements indicated the headlights were only getting about 1/2 their design voltage—3.8 volts instead of about 6.5 volts (the Jeep has the original 6 volt electrical system).

Automotive electrical wiring systems are hidden and require lots of bending, stooping and twisting to access.  My body was bent in enough different ways that it reminded me of the old joke, “I used to date a contortionist, but she broke it off.”

Anyway,  after about 4 hours making voltage measurements, tracing wires, fixing wire connections and replacing a poorly working headlight switch, the headlights are now receiving the correct voltage.  Wow, the lights are bright again!

I also added in-line fuses in critical places so even though the wiring is still a mess and not as reliable as I would like, it is at least safe.

Eventually I’m going to replace the wiring and do the job both neatly and correctly.


Energy and Projects

I had quite a bit of energy soon after I retired, then that energy disappeared and, finally, it’s now coming back.  I’m wondering if it was just some sort of inertia that kept me going at first.

Over the years I’ve been collecting project stuff for the day when I retired and now I realized I have  enough stuff that it is difficult to find the space to actually work on the projects.   So, I’m starting on projects that don’t take a lot of space to complete, but will free up additional space when the project is complete.

A long time ago, before my employer moved my office across town and my commute went from 40 minutes to 3 hours, I had been working on a Gonset Communicator III.  It is a 1950s era portable ham radio transmitter-receiver that was intended for short range emergency and event coordination communications.  This article in  Wikipedia  gives some technical history on the radio and includes some pictures.

Now that I’m retired, that will be the first thing I finish.  Right now, it is in multiple pieces; the cabinet, the power unit, the transmitter and the receiver.  When it’s finished, it will free up enough room to allow me to work on other projects.

If one is interested, the process is the usual– clean the unit, check the vacuum tubes;, check for failed or out of tolerance components,  ensure the internal adjustments are set correctly and reassemble.

Since this is a hobby, this will likely take some time to complete as just about everything else has a higher priority.

Dracaena “Corn Plant”

In August, 1983, when my fiancee was recovering from her surgery, a friend gave her a corn plant.

When she got out of the hospital, she and the plant came to my house and I took care of both of “them”.  When she went to hospice, the plant went with her and I took care of them there.  After she died, I brought the plant home and continued to take care of it.

Recently the plant started to get brown leaves and despite my best efforts, it died.  I hoped it would sprout up from the roots, but it did not, so today I threw it out.

The plant lived for 35 years.  My fiancee lived for 21 years.