Thursday, April 30, 2009

Drunken Monkey - Sushi in Truckee

As the new kid in town, I am eager to try out the local kicks. The Rock is a small business plaza close to our house with several restaurants, including the recently opened Drunken Monkey. The Rock is best known for its flagship restaurant the 50/50 Brewing Company. Being very successful, they went and opened a second restaurant in the same plaza, the Drunk Monk (he he). The other night my wife and I decided to try out this very close by eating establishment.

The first thing that I noticed was how full the place was for a Wednesday night. Typical Tahoe/Truckee restaurants are dead on Wednesday nights which cater towards the tourist crowd. But the DM had every table filled, I took an extra look around trying to get a feel of the local population. This was not the typical local Truckee crowd, but more of the Truckee Yuppies.

It was mixed blessing having the restaurant so busy, for we sat at the sushi bar, and was served by the head chef Sam. Sam was a real live, Japanese sushi chef. I think he is the only one in all of the greater Tahoe area. I started the meal with an order of miso and hot tea. To my surprise I was asked which tea variety I was interested in. Though the quality of my wholong was average the fact that I had a selection was amazing. The thing about Sushi is that there is only sushi and bad sushi. Mother nature makes the fish, and only the lack of freshness makes it bad.

What is unique about this restaurant is that the menu has many entries, rather than just sushi. I ordered a Tofu and Shitake Mushroom Nabe, and Leslie a roasted garlic clove for starters. Then some pieces of Nigri and some rolls. The food was simple but well put together. The fish was fresh and tasty. We did not order very much and our bill reflected so. I did try to order the monk fish liver, but they were out.

Overall I would say that this place is worth visiting. Food is good, prices are average. There are some interesting thing on the menu, and the attention to detail is superb. The restaurant has a very trendy bay area feel, and is popular with the locals. Service however is typical Tahoe/Truckee. If you don't know what that is then don't worry about it...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Moving - Backing Up A Trailer

The last two weeks my life has been completed engulfed with one overwhelming task: Moving. The fact that I own a truck and have owned a truck for 15 years make this task even more difficult for two reasons.

1-because I have the capacity I am willing to move myself with my truck. If I did not have the ability I might rent a large truck and/or hire people to do the moving.

2-because of the truck, I can easily transport and thus bring home large items. "Hey Bill you want a _____? Sure throw it in the back of the truck." That conversation has been had many times. Having a pack rat, just in case mentality does not help either. The combination of that mentality and many hobbies, is a recipe for moving hell.

Several years ago, I did make a purchase that was for the sole purpose of moving. A little 4x8 trailer. I have used it for 6 moves now.

This thing is great. Combined with 4 foot tall sides, it really increases my load carrying capacity. When not in use the sides come off, folds in threes and stores upright on little casters. This item often comes on sale for much cheaper. I added a spare tire, and tongue jack. One major gripe is its difficultly to back up. Never having the experience of driving a trailer, backing maneuvers have always been a daunting task. A small trailer is more difficult to back than a large one due to the fact that it does not want to "come around" very easily. I will share what I have learned with backing a trailer.

Step 1- Initiating the turn. The trailer will move in the opposite direction the truck moves. Someone once told me a trick: Place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. What ever direction you move your hand is the direction the trailer will move. I however can not get use to this. Instead I keep my hand on the top of the steering and move my hand towards the mirror I don't want to see the trailer in. It is just a mental assistance I use.

Step 2- Follow the arc. Once you initiated the turn, the truck must follow the arc started by the trailer. This will require you to direct the truck in the opposite direction from what you used initiated the turn. Then you use the step 1 technique to adjust the direction of the trailer.

If you come close to jackknifing or can not get the trailer to come around, just pull forward and start over again.

This is a total clutch burner if you have a manual transmission vehicle and are backing up hill, like I have been. With alot of practice you might become a pro. But I think this skill is more like skiing; despite any amount of practice, some will never be a pro at it.
Additional note on the HF trailer-Harbor Freight tools, also known as the Chinese Tool Store, has several of these trailers. There are in fact two trailer that look almost identical. The only difference is there load capacity, which is limited by the wheels and tires. The one I have listed has the 12" wheels, and the 1195lb load capacity. There is one which has the same chassis but only 850lbs. It has 8" inch wheels. The wheels and tires are therefor the limiting factor. In fact it is limiting in several ways. The primary being speed. These trailers are limited to 55mph as is all towed vehicles in the state of California. So NO you can not travel down Interstate 5 at 70mph even though that is the posted speed limit. Another lesser known fact is that pressure requirements of these tires. They are high, 50-60 psi, I have seen this type of tire saying max pressures upwards of 80 psi. Fully loaded and under pressure, I broke the internal radials of one tire and created a very dangerous situation once. Keep the tires inflated properly and have a spare.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Limey - 1977 VW Rabbit -SOLD

The Lime sold today and is moving on to greener pastures. Well not really greener but at least warmer. I heard the guy drove up from Arizona and loaded it up onto a trailer. Man you guys really like your V Dubs.

1977 VW Rabbit
German built
Round headlights short tail
1.6 liter 4 sp
Pre smog cam
Bali green
Power Nothing

What more could you want in a car. A friend of mine is trying to sell his car and asked if I would post some pictures for him. $100 FIRM! Runs good. Fires up every time. I have whitnessed this. Extra set of summer tires. Send me an e-mail or leave comment if interseted.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bike Multi tool - 15mm nut

A friend of mine recently presented me with a question: What tool would you carry to remove a non quick release rear wheel of a bike? This seems like kind of an odd question with an easy answer: a wrench. But if you really ride bikes you would know this is not so. This is because most fasteners on a bike are Allen type, which require small tools. With almost all wheels being quick release the need for large wrenches have almost all but vanished. These days most cyclist carry a multi tool, a Swiss army knife of bike tools, which do not include a 15 or 14 mm wrench for removing nutted wheels.

With single speed bikes however, nutted wheels are still in demand. Some think that with the extra torque generated by only one gear, extra holding strength is also required. Thus the need for a large wrench.

-My first thought was the "Cool Tool". This was one of the first bike specific multi tools. Now the design is owned by Gerber.

It not only has a crescent wrench on one end, but a 14/15mm socket attachment. This is the tool that I carry, and have owned for over 10 years.

-Having a bunch of old tools in my bike bin, I then thought of this ol gem. It has various sizes of socket like fitting including a 15mm. But having destroyed one in the past, I am not sure that it can deliver the torque requirements of a 15mm rear axle nut (30is ft/lbs according to Park Tools).

But maybe I just had a crappy one, and one of better quality would work.

-The next tool to hit my brain was the stubby wrench. Maybe this would be a good alternative to a full size wrench. All the reliability, half the size. You wouldn't need to change up your trusty tool kit, just have a little addition. And they are so cute to boot.

-But if you are going to be caring a wrench for a single purpose, you might as well make it specific purpose, yet multi use; does that make sense at all. Introducing the Park tools single speed spanner. A 15mm stubby wrench with a six point socket, tire lever, and a bottle opener.
This little guy sells for under $15 dollars, and seems built for the job.

This is a good time to throw in a short discussion on "points" of a socket. What six point socket vs a 12 point one. It is the number of possible contact locations the tool/socket can have with the nut/bolt head. A hex head nut has six sides, and thus the true maximum contact points is 6. The stubby wrenches shown above are of the 12 point variety. This does not mean that it contact the nut in 12 points but has 12 possible contact locations. This allows more indexing possibilities if you are working in a tight spot. A 12 point wrench will slip over the nut every 30 degrees apart, whereas a 6 point will only do so every 60 degrees. A open end wrench only contacts the nut in 2 points, and like the 6 point, govern by the hex pattern, indexes every 60 degrees. So which is the best? Generally a 6 point socket provides the most "grip" on a nut. Each of the six points grab more of the corner than a 12 point would. However if working in a tight spot a 12 pt might be necessary. A open end wrench is generally the worst, and most likely to round out your hex corners, but in some applications they are necessary when you cannot slip a box end or a socket over the end, such as a sensor with a wire or a nut on an all thread. If a high torque application of this type is required a flared nut tool or a sensor socket can be used, 5 point. But we will save that discussion for another time.

-Finally a little bit of warning. I would stay away from multi tools that claim to have a 15mm wrench, such as this one. I doubt that the 15mm cut out in the piece of steel will hold up.
So good luck Rob, and let me know what you choose.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Time 2 go - Spa 2 Go - 6 of 7

I have a feeling that the days are limited for the Spa 2 Go. I will be moving into my new house and it already has a spa. One that is not inflatable too. Don't worry the new-to-me spa is currently broken, so it not like I have it that good. From monitonring this blog, I see that the Spa 2 Go repair articles have drawn quite a following for all over the world. Cheers mate.
But before I go I will at least write a bit on spa chemicals. If I had my chemical levels correct I do not think that I would have had the temp sensor corrode on me.

If you have a question you want to ask, feel free to e-mail me.

I also have an extra temp sensor. Remember I thought that only one was bad, but I changed out both. I hacked the plug but you can reuse yours in the same fasion that I did mine. Contact me if anyone wants this sensor.
The extra sensor is GONE! I just sent it off to the reader that posted the temp resistor sensor fix.

New House- It's Official

What a long crazy month! Finally we are home owners. Our escrow was actually 37 days. Here are some highlights.

The offer- We were sortta competing for this house with another offer, the amount of which was unknown. We still paid below asking price. But we were never certain there was another offer.

Septic-The Sellers agents canceled the septic pumpers inspection. We
found out the tank was badly deteriorating, based on the pumpers note in 2003. Negotiate to have tank replaced prior to close of escrow.

Inspection- Inspection yielded more issues. Most of it was just poor upkeep. Because the bathroom and kitchen were remodeled, we were under the impression that the place was in better shape. More negotiations.

The last part was getting the septic done, and the house cleaned.
Now that all that is over, I am past the negatives and ready to enjoy my new house. Great location, good price, large yard.

But before I enjoy it. I have to move in to it. That takes place the rest of this week, the weekend, and next week. If anyone wants to visit in the future, secure your place by visiting before the month is over!

How can they sell it for SO cheap?!

Do you ever ask yourself that question? I just received a phone adaptor cable, which I ordered from E-bay. It cost me $2.65, shipped from Hong Kong!!

This type of thing put consumers like me in a difficult position. By purchasing such products, I am most likely supporting poor manufacturing processes, and unsustainable use of natural resources. However when comparing cost, there was no way I was going to pay $30 for the same part from a local vendor, who most likely obtained his merchandise from the same source. A slight justification is that my part appears to be blemished; the case and plug are mounted upside down.

I almost titled this post: The Raping of Mother Earth. You see this type of stuff happening all the time, when walking through the isles of Wal Mart or the Dollar store. Microwave ovens for $20, DVD players for $40. We all love to get a great deal, but at these prices, these items become disposable.

So what is the right thing to do? I do not know. I am writing this to bring awareness to the issue. There is a cost to everything we buy. If the price we pay is not equal to the cost of the materials involved in making it, the difference is paid for by our planet.
UPDATE: Last night I watched a littel video that discribed what I was talking about exactly. Though a little over the top in some of its remarks, the video makes a good point.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Fast and Furious 4

I am a sucker for car movies and for sequels. So it is not surprising that I went out and saw this movie. Should you go see it? Well are you a sucker for car movies and sequels?

With the return of Vin Diesel, this movie picks up where the first one ends, and in some ways should almost be considered F&F 2. With the character development and background established, the writers of F&F4 attempted to make a more serious drama flick. It kindda worked. The dialog is rather cheesy, but the action makes up for it.

I went into the theaters with low expectations and walked out satisfied.

Of course I had a few gripes about the movie.

-I hate the fact that they removed the drive axles from the front wheels making the AWD Nissan Skyline a RWD car. The ridiculous amount of throttle induced oversteer made Paul Walkers character look like a rookie barely keeping his car from spinning out. A good driver can still drift an AWD car, however to get that kind of tail happy action at low speeds they had to do what they had to do.

-Having experienced early model American Muscle cars, a street race with a modern import would be a blow out due to handling. Same could be said for the offroad scene against a 300+ HP (stock)AWD Subaru WRX STI. What made it even worse was the undercarriage shot of the flipped car, showing the stock 60's/70's leaf spring rear suspension.

The most exotic car of the whole film however was the Lamborghini LM002. It makes only a quick appearnce as the head bad guy races through the streets of Mexico followed by two Suburban type trucks. A telling view of it appears as it pulls up to the church. To see find out more about the Rambo Lambo:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ski Pulk

So I told you it was coming. My gear sled in all of it's glory, and its associated story. Just look at it schlepping heavy loads across vast frozen distances. This whole thing started at the very place this picture was taken about five years ago, some ideas take longer than others to fully cook up.

My wife to be told me that she had never been winter camping. "What you grew up in Colorado, don't your parents make you survive a week in alpine conditions with nothing but your underwear, britken stocks, and a pack of rice cakes." I guess not. So I decided to take her back country camping and skiing. I have gotten lost in this area enough to know it well, and was comfortable taking her. So armed with my 1.5 seasons of skiing skills and her 1.5 seasons of tele, we hit the back country.

While thinking that this was going to be a gnarly wilderness adventure, I was a little shot down when I saw the well established tracks across the lake and the many people out. I was most impressed by a group of four skiers. They all had the fattest skis and skated across the lake with dazzling speed. They each carried a day pack and one guy dragged a sled, which they would switch off dragging.

A few year later on a hut trip in Colorado, a member of our group had a nice sled which he used to carry his load. OK now I got to try this. So I started construction of my own.

Like any good project research is the first step. I was a bit disappointed with the Internet. I know gear sleds or pulks is a standard piece of equipment for Arctic travel, and from what I have seen those sleds looked professionally built. But I never found a company that made them. I also knew that my hut trip mate's sled was purchased at his local gear shop. Yet no mention of it. The only lead I got was from the Ski Pulk Man from He sold his homemade sled or any part of it. It seemed well built, but it was pieced together from fancy hardware store parts, and a lot of time and effort. He also has a PDF book that tell you how to make your own. You got to love guys like that who share their knowledge so openly.

From my research and observations there are five main parts of a good gear sled: The sled itself, Fins to help it track, pull poles for control, brake to keep it from pulling you back, and a tie down method.

The Sled- Any toy sled will work. However some are better suited than others. My sled is a local drug store spacial. It was in fact given to me at the seasons end, when a friend of mine was cleaning out her ski lease for the season. The Ski Pulk Man recommends his favorite brand. The ideal sled is wide. This will help with the side hill roll over.

Fins-For the last few years, every time I saw a sled of any type I paid special attention. This included rescue sleds used at ski resorts. If you look at the bottom of these sleds they have large fins or skegs, that run almost the entire length of the sled. Not all gear sleds have them though. The reason being that a gear sled is best used on relatively flat surfaces. A fin helps the sled track on side hills. The fin also adds "noticeable drag" according to Ski Pulk Man. I did not get a chance to compare with and without. An option is to have a retractable fin.

I made mine by simply riveting a 6 inch section of aluminum angle iron. The leading edge was beveled to aide in snow penetration. The sled was pre-drilled for each pop rivet and I used rivet backing (or small well fitting washers) for each.

Since I want this to be an all terrain sled I opted to include fins.

Pull Poles-If a sled was limited to flat terrain poles would not be needed, and cord would have sufficed. However a rigid connection is required to transmit drive input into the sled. It also keeps the sled from running into the driver on the downhills. This is where things can get really fancy. Instead I opted for a very simple cord within 1/2" PVC pipe system. Upon initial test I found that 5' of pipe was just not enough. Five feet because I cut a 10 foot length in two. You need about 6' otherwise your sled hits the back of your skis. So in total I have to buy three 10 foot sections. If you have snow shoes a shorter section will be OK.

I cord I used at first was switched out with webbing. I found the stretch of the cord I was using to be unacceptable.

I spent some working out the attachment for the webbing. Simply drilling holes in the plastic sled and hauling heavy loads through it did not seem like a good idea. So after many trips to the hardware store I came up with this: an eye bolt and two cable clamps. This would distribute the load of each pull location to four holes. The clamps need to be enlarged a bit with a grinder in order to allow the eye bolt shaft to seat correctly.

Brake-I imagined climbing a steep grade while towing the sled, slipping and having the sled drag you down the hill. So I devised an uphill "parking" brake. Of course this is actually pretty standard and I have seen it done before. I had a section of aluminum diamond plate, which I fashioned into a cleat. Then mounted it to a hinge and the hinge to the rear section of the sled. You can see it in the first two pictures. When traveling forward the cleat simply drags over the snow, the hinge allowing it to flow over uneven features in the snow with ease. but when the sled starts to slide backwards, the cleat digs into the snow until it is vertical and acts as a brake. Quite effective. I drilled a hole in the cleat so that I could tie up the brake when traveling on flat surfaces.

Tie down- Even more options exist with securing your cargo to the vessel. Either with bungee cords, or webbing, this is critical. I found this out, not only on my test run, but when I flipped the rig a few times. I found a small dock cleat , which I used to secure my lashing cord. I drilled many hole along the top edges of the sled and fished the cord through. Nothing fancy.
To finsih off the set up I pulled off a hip belt from a pack and secure the webbing to it.
A tip is to load the heavy stuff along the bottom of the sled. This helps keep it from being tippy..

In researching the definition of the word "Pulk" to satisfy the curiosity of a reader, I have come up with this.

A Pulka (Swedish) / Pulk (Norwegian) / Pulkka (Finnish), from Sami language bulke, is a Scandinavian short, low-slung small toboggan used in sport or for transport, pulled by a dog or a skier. The sled can be used to carry supplies such as a tent or food, or transport a child or other person. In Norway, pulks are often used by families with small children on skiing trips (small children being pulled by the parents).

It was not easy to find an answer since "pulk" was not defined in a standard english dictionary.

I also found another site This has a few more links to commercial gear sleds.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Watch Battery Replacement

Don't you just hate it when your watch dies, and you need to change out the battery. When I lived in Ventura I use to go the Seiko Man, in the Vons shopping center, on Telephone and Victoria. He was cheap fast and easy, and he sold stuff like fart bombs and snap caps. Crazy ol perv from Thailand. But then I moved, and it was no longer that easy. So I started doing it myself. Some watches I could pop off the back cap and go the the drug store and get a replacement. Some watches you were not able to pop off the cap, and thus Jeweler time.

That was until I bought the right tool. Like a monkey with a stick, I can now change my own batteries. Woopie.

I am sure I paid more for this than $3.99. And at that time still thought it was a tool worth having.

More on the "how can they sell it for so cheap" later.

The Seiko Man has since left the Vons shopping center. He now does his kick ass watch repair in the Firehouse (?) Plaza, Telephone and Main. Over the many years that I have gone to him, he has done many battery changes, but he also does some real work, like replaced the crystal on a few watches, and the wind up/time set knob on my non battery watches. It's a shame though, that I have not seen a naked lady lighter at his new shop.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

McDonald's Cheeseburger Variants

The cheeseburger, an American Icon. Mickey D's has been selling this bad boys ever since they first opened their doors in Des Plaines, Illinois 1955. Though the rest of their beef sandwiches are a variation of the cheese burger, two more recent variations have captured my attention. The double cheeseburger, once the corner stone of the eight member dollar menu was pulled off the line up. It appeared that they were not able to make a profit selling the double cheeseburger for 1 dollar. This is in light of the fact that a regular cheeseburger sells for $1.09. Now the Double Cheese sells for a reasonable $1.19. However to prevent a public out roar the double CB was replaced with the McDouble. The McDouble is a Cheeseburger with an extra all beef patty, or a Double Cheeseburger with only one slice of All American Cheese. I guess that one slice of cheese broke the bank.

It is however interesting to note, that a cheeseburger with two patties sells for 0.09 cents less than a single patty burger. The only downfall to this is that each all beef patty contains 0.5 grams of Trans fats. Thus the McDouble has 1 whole gram of the bad stuff.

This is one of those rare situations where you get more, by paying less.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bob Trailer - Build your own.

If you have been a cycliclst long enough, you most likely know about bicycle trailers. One of the most famous one out there is the BOB trailer.

It is rumored that the name BOB stands for "Bring Own Beer", and that the trailer was designed to carry a keg. I am very familiar with the product. Not only do I own one, but am a sponsored rider. Sorta.

Bob trailers were originally started in San Luis Obispo, where I went to college. At the time of my senior project, I was working in the engineering project lab, the student machine shop. One afternoon, in walks a man who is poking his head around. My senior project was a gas power assisted recumbent bicycle. He immediately took interest in my project. I informed him that this was a restricted area, and he informed me that he was the owner of BOB trailers. We got to chatting, and i told him how I planned to ride my contraption from Ventura California to Las Vegas self supported. Do you want a sponsorship he asked.

My sponsorship included a BOB trailer, gear bag, T-shirt, stickers and pamphlets. The trailer was a broken late model prototype, which after seeing the miles of welds on my recumbent, he was sure I could fix. He told me that I could take this sponsorship as far as I wanted to, and that was the last time I spoke to him. I did however help show off his product on my trek. I wore his shirt and talked up his product to who ever would listen. I also plastered BOB stickers on every flat surface between Ventura and Vegas.

Fast forward 8 years. I get an e-mail one day from my buddy Ralf who did the trip with me. He asked if I still have the BOB, and was wondering if I was willing to sell it to him. Though it gets used only a few times each year, usually loaned to others, I was not willing to part with it, he could barrow it any time he wanted though). The main reason was the shipping to Michigan part; seemed to be a hassle and anti bike trailer purpose: CO2 footprint reduction.

These trailers are not cheap, with a MSRP of $289 for the basic trailer. Ralf decided to build his own.

Though almost all homemade, a critical part was needed to be purchased from BOB. The skewer. Also upon test rides it appeared that the skewer to trailer connection was a little weak, and that it might be a good idea to purchase the entire front triangle assembly.

Last I heard BOB trailers is based out of Bosie Idaho, and they sell way more baby joggers then they do bike trailers.