27 September 2006

Back Into Anything Hard Lately?

I was searching for something else and I found these 50W halogen back-up light bulbs for the Tahoe/Suburban/Yukon/Denali. The stock ones are 27W, so these are nearly double the brightness... Or so it would seem on paper. I'm not convinced these are 2x brighter, but any increase in brightness would help. All of these SUVs have factory tinted rear windows which makes for dim viewing at night. At every chance that I can, I prefer to back into the parking space when I park the Tahoe. Here's a better price.

This way, I can see what I'm about to hit.

Nikon To The Rescue!

I have to say that in this current day of corporations screwing consumers, I was recently on the winning end of a touchy situation.

In 2003, I bought a Nikon Coolpix 5700 digital camera. At that time, the model was a year old and had already been on the cover of every photo magazine. With 5.0 megapixels and 8x optical zoom + 4x digital zoom, this was the most complete camera to help me upgrade from a nice Canon film camera I'd been using.In August, the camera suddenly began creating the most convoluted images I'd never before seen. Changing the battery and the memory did not help. This image is an attempted self-portrait in the bathroom mirror.I searched online and accidentally found a Flickr User's Group for this specific camera model. Surprise. Wish someone had told ME. Another user had posted an image that looked similar to my own and this led me to the Nikon Europe website where a voluntary recall / repair program was available --- even for cameras that are out of warranty. Apparently, the CCD made by Sony was defective in a small number of known cases.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Nikon and all others. I was saved about $260 for that repair.

The camera was returned repaired in one week. Out Effing Standing!!!

That's Why They're Called Shocks

2002 Tahoe LT with Autoride suspension. This becomes the z55 option. I had never heard of this z55. I've heard of the z06 Corvette option. I've heard of the z71 off-road option for trucks and Tahoes. We're all familiar with the legendary z28 option for Camaros. I now wish that I had never heard of the z55 option for the Tahoe.

Autoride real-time damping system

Tahoe’s Z55 suspension includes the Autoride bi-state, real-time damping system. This advanced system provides an extremely refined ride with greatly reduced body motion. It delivers instant suspension response to wheel speed, body position, vehicle speed, steering angle and braking.

Autoride is a semi-active, two-position damping control system that responds in real time to road and driving conditions, based on body and wheel motion sensors. There are also steering, engine torque, brake, and speed sensors. Each corner features independent damping control. Autoride’s air-lift/auto-leveling system includes an air bladder in the shocks. An integrated air pump automatically adds air to raise and level the vehicle’s ride height when carrying passengers or a heavy payload. Conversely, air is bled from the shocks when the payload is removed, returning the vehicle to a level ride height.


The most expensive set of shocks for any version of this vehicle. Why? Because they electronically adjust, and there's a ride-height adjustment made to keep the vehicle level when loaded down or when trailering. This preserves the handling characteristics & maintains safety.

$481 per shock at list price. That's correct. $481 each. For that kind of money, I should at least see a big-ass sticker on the vehicle, shouldn't I??? The z71 option package provides Bilstein shocks, a scraper plate under the truck, a different front air dam with round fog lights (instead of rectangular) and a roller on the back of the roof rack (so, if you loaded a canoe, it wouldn't scrape, it would glide toward the front of the roof rack) 0h yeah, you get a big-ass sticker on the side of the pickup and a badge on the Tahoe/Suburban.

Only GM and AC/Delco make these shocks. Monroe makes something close, but for the savings of $65 per corner, I didn't want to bother. Thanks to our great friends: John Hausmann, Wally, Anthony, etc. at WheelWorks on Saratoga Avenue in Campbell, we were able to select shocks from AC/Delco. Doing this puts a lifetime warranty on the parts - from WheelWorks. If we used the GM shocks, it would be a 1-year warranty. That was huge!!

So - shocks, brakes, rotors, brake fluid flush, etc. + labor = about $2,500. It doesn't feel like a $2,500 improvement.

More later.

Shilling Again

Had some down time with that broken finger, so I decided to clean the Tahoe. Found a couple of great products. Napa Auto Parts sells an excellent stainless steel & chrome cleaner/polish called Blue Max 3400. Best I've used - thanks to Curtis for this can o' wonder polish! It's sold in a metal cylindrical can the same size as motor oil. An unrelated backstory from '04 can be found here.

Meguiar's makes an excellent leather & vinyl cleaner they call Gold Class. If you take your car to the car wash and they use ArmorAll on the interior, they're not cleaning the surfaces, they're simply making them shinier. That ArmorAll stuff gathers dust, etc. and never gets the car clean. They also have a two-stage cleaning and conditioning set of products for leather. Why? To double their profits, I guess. Just get the stuff in the black bottle.

Gotta Light?

The best bang for your buck small format flashlight is the Streamlight TL-3. This is an incandescent light (opposed to LED) that runs on 3x3V Lithium batteries. The output is about 175 lumens. With a focus-able beam, you can actually illuminate whatever it is you need to see & carry this in your pocket. By comparison, a Maglite minimag is about $10 and puts out about 17 lumens. The TL-3 also fits perfectly in the little space behind the cupholders in the console of the 2002 Chevy Tahoe.
Anyway, trust me that this is a great light. Replacement bulbs can be ordered for about $5.42 and batteries in bulk for a dollar each.
Check it.

Parts is Parts

Bought a Lexar 2GB Firefly flashdrive at Fry's for $34, after rebate. Best deal I found on 06 SEP 25th.

Bought a Iomega 250GB external HD at Fry's for $70, after rebate. Best deal I found on 06 SEP 22nd.
A week earlier, I bought a Seagate 300GB external HD for $140. and then returned it for the above.

Keep the Rubber Side Down

Finally!!! I received a pair of Wilderness Trail Bikes' 2.55 LT Weirwolf tires. Hard to find. When they are found, they're too expensive. I won an eBay auction for a pair + two Kenda tubes for $90, shipped. The "Team" tire can be found listed for $64.00 here. The "Race" tire is found for $45. each. Essentially, I paid 45. each and received two tubes, tax, shipping for free. That's the difference.

These tires have a huge casing for a good-sized contact patch on the ground and short knobs for light weight. They're called 2.55, but that's not the tire's width. It's a 58/55 size. DNA rubber compound, kevlar bead (instead of heavier wire), and these are the tires of choice for many people who are paid to race mountain bikes. I installed them this morning.

Replaced my Larsen TT 2.35K with the 2.55 Weirwolf. They are about the same size tire. Excellent low weight and low rolling resistance and large contact patch. Need more miles to give the final final, but I did some leaves/rocks over hardpack and the ride was solid!!! More later.

Pseudonyms in Everyday Life

Most of you are aware that
Mark Twain's birth name is Samuel Clemmons.
Muhammed Ali changed his name from Cassius Clay.
Cher, Madonna, Moby, anyone in show business except Arnold Schwarenegger is suspect.

I use pseudonyms for online forms and for magazine subscriptions. It's generally considered a bad idea to use a pseudonym for a sweepstakes, raffle, or other giveaway. You might need to prove your identity to claim the prize.

Meanwhile, I track who sold "my name" to whom - when junk mail starts to arrive in a newly-issued pseudonym.

Here are some of my faves:

Lisa Carr
Earnest Complainier
Anita Vacacion
Bill Melater
Wa Ching Yu
Helen Waite
Jeff Leopard
Sohorney Weaver
Steve Dore
I. Ron Maiden
Rose Schambeaux
Charlie Davidson
Dick Hartigan
Eaton Dabussy
Meagan Vegan

Positive Affirmations

Oh, sure. This from a guy whose idea of twice-daily positive affirmations is reading the Champion logo printed on the toes of his socks.

Fry's Electronics

The best prices and the worst service. I actually heard this from a guy standing at the next cash register while I was buying an external hard drive.

My N3010 Fujitsu notebook computer died. Before it died, it gave me messages and crashed. It was giving me several similar -yet different- blue screen error messages. "IRQL Not Less Than or Equal". "Driver Failure at 0000XAD22432". I took photographs of these screens and did online research to update the drivers. That stabilized the machine for a little while. It would only crash after returning from sleep mode, while connected to our wireless 'network at home.

While attempting to backup the data, it finally died. Specifically, the Toshiba 40G hard drive died. Again. Bought new January 15th 2004, at Fry's for a great price, I also bought a 3-year extended warranty for $250. In August of 2005, the hard drive failed and the total repair price was $287. Covered.

Each time, they cannot locate my extended warranty in their computer. They find that I bought a N58, but cannot find the N3010. I tell them I bought the N58 and returned it for the N3010 because they had a better deal about 3 days after I purchased the first one.

That wasn't exactly true. Apparently, Fujitsu placed a N3010 into a N3010 box and labeled it so. Then, Fry's put a N58 label on that box and that is what I bought. In their computer records, it appears that I own a N58 when everything else correctly says N3010. PITA.

August 30th 2006, Toshiba 40G hard drive failure again. Two weeks sitting at Fry's, with no progress, I continually asked about it and finally, the hard drive was repaired September 15th. About $287 again. Covered. So far, that extended warranty was a good purchase.

I p/u the repaired computer and take it home. I fire it up and almost instantly, I get the same blue screen message. I capture and save that image and provide it to Fry's service team.

By this time, I have learned the personalities and capabilities of nearly everyone in the service dept. of the Campbell store. Anis is the mgr. David is the only caucasian. Atabak is competent. Ian is a complete idiot and cannot pronounce the words "I don't know". Chris DiPietro is technically competent and walked me through the store to complete the entire process, getting an external HD, researching online which mfr. actually produced the drive inside the case, cutting in line at the cash register, etc. - just like at Nordstrom. Philip replaced the HD, but I never had contact with him. Chris Rios is the dept. supervisor and is only useful when Anis is not there. I prefer to start at the top with Anis.

So, after they "fixed" the computer but didn't test it, or didn't see the blue screen error message that I did --- I was asked if I was taking the machine to another Fry's since they didn't do such a great job the first time. No. Now that I have taken the time to learn each employee's aptitude, why start all over again at another location?

Now, the computer has either a bad motherboard or bad memory. Only those two things. When I bought the machine, it had 256 or 512 of memory. I can research this later. I bought 1G of RAM for them to install - and paid Fry's to do this to preserve the warranty. At that time, the memory aisle of that store was laid out differently. I remember the service technician guy walking me over to that dept. and selecting the correct memory for the computer. Something to do with the speed has to be the same. I was looking at the 1G RAM package and the specs on my computer and they don't have the same speed. Now, the manufacturer is going to see the "aftermarket" memory is not the correct speed. Crossing my fingers that the mfr doesn't blow up over that.

Distal Phalange

It happens. On the way out of the house to go to work one day, I found a flat tire on my truck right where I parked in front of the house. Turned around, changed into "dirty" clothes and began to change the tire. To begin, the bottle jack that is supplied with a new truck is useless. But, that's not the reason for my mistake.

My Mistake: While lowering the spare tire from beneath the Tahoe, it takes two hands to unhook it from the support cable (if you've ever done this, you'll know) and the tire/wheel slipped out of my hand. As it was falling, I had a split second (otherwise known as an "ohnosecond") to get my other hand either out of the way of the falling wheel, or completely flat against the ground and brace for impact.

Would you believe I almost did it? The longest finger just didn't get flat in time. The very last bone on my middle finger broke upon impact. That's when I called AAA. Until then, I wanted to get acquainted with the procedure in case I needed to when far away from home. Before this, I said to myself "Why call AAA when it's not an emergency?" At 90F sweaty degrees, trying to get to the office, with a swollen finger and a pissed-off attitude, it was now an emergency.

When the guy arrived, he set aside the bottle jack and pulled out a $20 floor jack from Kragen's. He has a truck, also, and this is one of the first things he did: Replace the factory jack with a real jack. Once I got going, that's the first thing I did.

The result is endless frustration as I had a brace on that finger until today. Typing was a chore. Everything else was complicated.

I'm back.