Monthly Archives: August 2005

(Mountain) Biking




CONGRATULATIONS to my brother ***Corey|*** for finishing 57th out of 600 in the annual ***Mount Washington Bicycle Hill Climb|*** yesterday.

The Official Race Results can be found ***here|***.

For those of you (myself included) who would never dream of riding the 8 mile long road up the highest mountain in New England even once…Consider this: the photo to the right was taken last month during Corey’s PRACTICE RIDE. So now he’s done it twice! Pics from yesterday should be available soon. I’ll keep you posted.

Gallery 2

***Gallery|***, the software that powers our ***photo gallery|***, will soon be releasing version 2. I’ve been testing out the latest preview builds, and it is pretty sweet. The look and feel are quite different from the current version of Gallery. It’s much faster and more robust, and has a lot more power for managing photos. You can head over to our ***test gallery|*** to see for yourself how it looks. Let me know what you think!

Compressor Installation Lessons

fff|ggg|camry_compressor_installation/P1040531|Alternator and Compressor|ggg|fff

On Friday, Northeast Autolab finished up the process of installing the new compressor. The air conditioning works again, blowing nice, dry, cool air. Naturally, this would be the week that the temperatures start to drop… but at least it’s fixed!

Here are some things I have learned in the process of fixing the compressor:

  • To remove or install the compressor, you must remove the drive belt. This is accomplished by moving the alternator, which is mounted on a pivoting arm, thus loosening the belt for removal.
  • To move the alternator, simply loosen the pivot bolt, loosen the adjustment lock bolt, and turn the adjustment bolt. Tightening the adjustment bolt moves the alternator up and tightens the belt. Loosening the adjustment bolt moves the alternator down and loosens the belt.
  • As tempting as it may be, it is not necessary to whack the alternator to get it to move down further.
  • The compressor mounts to the engine block with three bolts. Two of these are fairly easy to get at, one not as easy.
  • There is a plate attached to the old compressor that must be swapped over to the new compressor after the refrigerant has been evacuated.
  • This cannot be done when the new compressor is already mounted. So if you went ahead and mounted the new compressor yourself, the auto repair shop will need to undo everything you did and redo it after they have recharged the system.
  • Luckily, if you have the work done at Northeast Autolabs in Beverly, Massachusetts, they will do very efficient work and not charge too much for the repairs.

Northeast Autolabs also installed some dye in the refrigerant so that if we have any future A/C problems, they can easily look for a leak in the system by using an ultraviolet light.

I am feeling pretty good about my current level of knowledge of car maintenance. I like knowing what exactly is going on under the hood, and I’m glad that I no longer feel the need to just nod and cough up the cash when a repair shop says “Your car needs to have this fixed” and “It’s going to cost this much”. Too many people are under the unfortunate impression that when a mechanic tells gives them a diagnosis and a cost estimate, they have no choice. If I had taken the Camry to the dealer, I could have paid well over $500 just for the factory new compressor they would install, not including labor and the cost of recharging the refrigerant. Instead, I bought a rebuilt compressor (which will be more than sufficient considering the age of my car) for $150, and paid $110 for the labor and refrigerant recharging services.

Post-Processing Photos

fff|ggg|post_processing/stbasils2|Saint Basil’s|ggg|fff

One of the digital photography techniques I have been slow to adopt is post-processing. Put simply, post-processing is a set of techniques with which a photographer can manipulate photos after they come out of the camera. Dull photos become vibrant, dark photos become bright, blurry photos become sharp, crooked photos become straight. Rarely does a photo come out of a camera look like those amazing ones that you see in magazines or in the web’s best photo galleries.

I take so many photos that I don’t have the time or energy to go through post-processing with all of them. But I have recently been trying to learn some techniques to give photos a bit of extra “pop”. ***Mauricio|*** of the ***BBR|*** digital imaging forum recently posted a ***tutorial|;14125972*** on some techniques he used to get a really terrific looking photo. I’ve followed a few of his techniques and have put together a ***sample gallery|*** showing photos before and after they have been post-processed. Most of the improvement comes from simply bumping up the saturation a bit, though I do also twiddle with color balance, curves, and sharpness. (Maybe I should bump up the saturation level on my camera? I know that I have a setting for that, and right now it’s set at “standard”…) Anyway, take a look at the ***samples|*** and let me know what you think!

Also, this raises a question. What would you folks, the readers of our blog (and, hopefully, also the viewers of our ***gallery|***), rather see when we upload photos: The full selection of photos with little or no post-processing? Or a smaller selection of ‘choice’ photos, with post-processing? In a way, I guess it comes down to quantity versus quality. Or perhaps both? Maybe I could revive the showcase gallery and take some of the best of the best, post-process them, and put them up for even more jaw-dropping effect?

NH/VT Weekend

fff|ggg|mount_ascutney/P1040467|Peter cooks a hot dog|ggg|fff

On Saturday, Becky and I traveled up to Claremont, NH for ***Jeremy and Angela|***’s ***volleyball party|***. We had a very nice time, and along with Jeremy and Angela we got to see Jeremy’s parents, along with our fellow ***Gordon|*** alum ***Elizabeth|*** and her friend ***Jenelle|***. Volleyball was just part of a day that also included horseshoes, jai alai, bocce, and (later that afternoon back at The Biggses) catching up on back episodes of ***The Shield|***. Angela did an excellent job as the hostess, getting the party all set up and all of the food prepared. The food was delicious, of course. 🙂

Saturday evening, Becky and I went camping at ***Mount Ascutney State Park|*** in Windsor, VT. Jeremy and Angela came along with us and helped set up the tent and get the campfire going. We enjoyed having them over to our “pad” that night.

The activity of the day for Sunday was hiking. Mount Ascutney has four trails which criscross the mountain and lead to the summit. We chose the Windsor Trail, which turned out to be one of the shorter trails, but also the steepest. It was just up, up, up all the way! Becky and I were very exhausted by the time we got to the top, and we had gone through a one liter Nalgene and a 20 oz bottle of water before we even reached the top. Yikes! We had hoped that there would be some source of water at the top of the mountain, perhaps at the parking lot just below the summit, but alas, it was not to be.

***Corey|*** was also at Mount Ascutney so that he could practice for the ***Mount Washington Hill Climb|*** bicycling event. We started hiking at the same time that he headed over to bike up the mountain. Unfortunately, his chain broke before he had gotten very far, so he came back down and drove around the area for a while looking for a bike shop. He couldn’t find one, so he drove back to where our car was parked and ran up the mountain to find us! Becky and I were astounded when Corey bounded up the trail to meet us before we reached the top! That guy is in some killer shape, I tell you. As an aside, after the hike, he headed back to Boston to play in a league championship soccer game! Yikes!

Anyway, it was nice to have Corey with us for the end of the hike. The summit of Mount Ascutney has a metal observation tower and a number of radio antennas, as well as a lookout point from which hang gliders launch. There were some very nice views of the surrounding area, even with the heavy fog.

Unfortunately, after reaching the summit, a rainstorm started pounding us… luckily, we were able to bum a ride off of a nice but crazy lady at the parking lot near the top of the mountain. She took us back to our cars where we were finally able to get some water inside us, dry off the water outside us, and eat lunch. Even though we didn’t hike down the mountain, we still felt accomplished having taken such a tough trail.

You can see photos of Saturday’s party ***here|***, and photos from our hiking adventure ***here|***.

blacklist_to_modsec looking for a good home

Just FYI: I am no longer actively using or maintaining the ***blacklist_to_modsec|*** script. I am currently using ***Brad Choate|***’s ***SpamLookup|*** to block comment and trackback spam, and it’s working wonderfully.

If anyone is interested in taking over ownership and maintenance of blacklist_to_modsec, please let me know. Otherwise, this is the last you’ll hear about it.

***Timothy Appnel|*** has offered to take blacklist_to_modsec off of my hands. Contact him for any further information on the project.

Adventures In Auto Repair

fff|ggg|camry_outside_shots/200205061717085_G|The Camry|ggg|fff

I enjoy driving. I like to get in the car, hit the road, and drive anywhere. Down to the corner store or across the country, it’s all good. As long as my car is working, that is. For you see, as much as I enjoy driving, I do not enjoy dealing with the mechanical side of owning a car.

When I first received the Camry from Pop-Pop (happy birthday!) in the spring of 2000, I would simply take it to the Toyota dealership and have them take care of all of the repairs. After a few years passed, it became readily apparent that they are overzealous in their estimation of needed repairs, and that they greatly overcharge for parts and labor.

The next step was to find a trustworthy local mechanic. I found a few good places in Beverly – Northeast Autolabs and Auto-Dyne, both within walking distance of our apartment. They charged less than Toyota, and were honest in their appraisals and estimates of the work that needed to be done. But even the local mechanic can be expensive, particularly if they’re installing factory-new parts.

Thankfully, my father-in-law Ken has stepped in within the past year or so to advise me on matters of auto repair, and in fact to do many of the repairs himself, as long as he has some free time and the necessary parts. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few bits of knowledge and have developed enough confidence to start fixing things on my own. What follows are some of my recent experiences and ‘adventures’ in auto repair.
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Bit O’ The Vineyard

fff|ggg|vineyard_20050806/P1040363|Cross at the Tabernacle|ggg|fff

This past weekend, Becky and I took a trip down to Martha’s Vineyard. As always, there was good food, trips to the beach, chatting, sleeping, and relaxing. Very nice as always. I took a bunch of photos related to a super-secret project I’m working on. (Oooooohhh…) The rest of the photos can be seen ***here|***!