Frog Van, Right Spanner - Part 3

Continuing my work on fixing the Frog Van, today I've removed both the inlet and exhaust manifolds to reveal the damage to the gasket (see image below).

Manifolds removed with the metal gasket still in place.

From the image above, the circular holes are for the inlet manifold whilst the square holes are for the exhaust manifold. Around the square hole on the far right, the top of the gasket was severely damaged with an obvious leak.

Having never seen a new version of this gasket I'm not sure if it is simply a metal gasket or a metal gasket with a black coating on each side? I've since watched a few Youtube videos on changing a manifold gasket where all the gaskets are metal only. Leading me to believe that possibly, the person who installed this gasket, coated it with a product called 'gasket goo' on both sides. 

Which may have been fine except, with all the overheating trouble the Frog Van has had in the past, the heat may have been more than the product can take and the 'goo' has burned away. However I won't know for sure until I get the new gasket - which I've ordered from a local parts retailer and should have by tomorrow.

I don't know if I'll get this finished tomorrow. I've got another problem of a bolt that's broken off in the bottom of the inlet manifold that may not be easy to remove (another problem of not having the right tools to remove it). Crossing my fingers though. It would be great to have this finished and be driving by the weekend.

Frog Van, Right Spanner - Part 2

I don't buy spanner's that often so the price of quality spanners tends to be a minor shock to the system. I needed a 10mm fixed head spanner in order to continue work on fixing the Frog Van that I started yesterday.

Looking at the range of spanners in my local auto shop I could either get a high quality, single spanner in just the size I needed or, for two dollars less, get a pack of six cheaper spanners that includes the one I need. No brainer, right? (I bought the cheaper spanner pack).

Rather than go into a long blog post about disconnecting a few wires and pipes and undoing four bolts with my trusty new 10mm spanner I thought I'd just post a before and after picture...


Before (above): This photo is looking from above directly into the top of the carburetor (air filter removed). Notice all the pipes and wires around the top. I'm sure a skilled mechanic wouldn't be daunted but this is me and, as I said in my previous post, I'm not a natural mechanic. I know what the carburetor does but all that other stuff around it is almost a complete mystery to me.


After (above): This photo is the same section of the engine with the carburetor removed. Those four nuts you see on the corners of the blue gasket were the reason I needed a 10mm spanner. What you're looking at is the inlet manifold (the metal pipes that the carburetor was attached to) and, underneath that, the exhaust manifold.

Just looking at the after picture you can see near the top of the image where both manifolds are bolted to the engine block some fairly black deposits that shouldn't be there. It's not oil but carbon deposits (I presume that's what comes from burnt fuel?). That area should be clean like the front of the manifolds, where they are attached to the engine (middle left of the picture).

I'm hoping changing the gaskets will be enough to get a proper seal which in turn will hopefully solve the van's backfiring problem.

We'll see. It's slow going but hopefully it'll all work out.


Frog Van and the Right Spanner

I haven't written about my Frog Van for some time because it's been sitting under our back veranda waiting for some much needed repairs. The last time I pulled bits of the engine apart was to remove the radiator, which I had reconditioned then reattached.

Since then, apart from a dead battery stranding my sister and I in Kapunda, the van had been running particularly well. Well enough for me to trust it driving all over the place and know that it wouldn't break down. It still had problems with running on and backfiring but at least it worked.

When Enigma and I moved house in September of 2010 we used the Frog Van to move all of our furniture to our new home. It took a few trips over a few days but I reckon we probably saved quite a bit by not hiring a moving company (which we did price to see what kind of cost was involved).

Unfortunately on the van's very last trip between houses it died after progressively getting harder and harder to start and keep going. It turned out the problem was a broken part that I had broken and fixed earlier as part of replacing the fuel filter. I managed to re-fix it using the same glue that fixed it the first time but the van never really recovered and it's sat on our back veranda ever since.

I have had a look at it before now and really want to fix the leak it has in the exhaust manifold that should stop most of its back firing problem. However I'm not that confident when it comes to pulling engines apart. It all seemed a bit daunting so I left it in the hope that maybe I could afford to get a real mechanic to look at it.

Nearly twelve months later it's still waiting for a mechanic.

Today I've decided to give it another look. I'm determined not to let it get the better of me. A manifold leak is actually not that hard to fix. The trouble is, to get to it I need to remove the carburetor, which has numerous pipes and wires attached to it. Most of which I have no idea what they do.

I'm taking photos as I pull things apart so that hopefully I can use them to guide me in how it all goes back together. Necessary because I don't have a repair manual for the van and - try as I might - I've yet to find someone who has a copy available to buy. Actually if I had a repair manual I wouldn't be concerned at all about pulling things apart. Not having one is why this task is so daunting. I'm not a natural mechanic.

All those spanners (top left
and middle) don't even come close
to how many I have available.
My problem today has been a serious lack of the 'right' spanner. I've inherited more spanners than I probably will ever use from the owner of our house. You would think with so many spanners I'd be set but no. The size spanner I need is nowhere to be found - and nearly all the nuts in the engine are this one size.

Consequently I didn't get as far as I'd hoped because I didn't want to risk using the crappy shifter spanners I have, which are great for rounding nuts to the point of being un-removable.

Tomorrow I'm going to go out and buy just the right spanner I need and then hopefully I'll be able to get going again. I'll let you know how I get on.

Aliens Are Watching Us!

"Alien Landing" Art by TET
Aliens are definitely watching us. To illustrate, this is going to require some background on my last few trips to the doctor...

Late 2010 I was getting chest pains but couldn't see a specialist until February 2011 who promptly hooked me up to an ECG, sent me off for an ultrasound of my heart and had me do a heart stress test (which involves being wired to a machine and walking very quickly on a treadmill). Results were 'nothing'. Everything normal. I'm fit - apparently.

Since they found nothing I'm thinking, maybe the aliens have got to me with some kind of undetectable implant that's causing chest pains every time it broadcasts back to the mother ship? Don't believe me? Well, I'll continue...

Recently I've been getting cramps in the lower left side of my abdomen that have varied in intensity. Not excruciatingly painful but enough to raise some alarm bells and get me off to the doctor.

After doing the obligatory urine test - which came out normal - my doctor sent me off for a blood test and an Ultrasound scan of my abdomen.

The blood test was done by a nurse, who I swear you could replace with a robot and probably get a better standard of 'bedside' (or in this case 'chair-side') manor. I think she might be one of the aliens? The test revealed a potential problem with something in my liver but not something that would cause cramping.

The Ultrasound of my abdomen revealed nothing out of the ordinary either - well it also picked up some minor problem with my liver that I've apparently had since birth but has nothing to do with the cramps I've been getting.

Not finding much of anything relating to the cramps my doctor again sent me off for a CT scan of my lower torso. This was the first time I've had CT scan and I have to say, whatever that stuff is they inject you with that sends a warm flush through your whole body, I'll have every night just before I go to bed. Better than a hot chocolate on a cold winters night. The technician made it sound like that injection was going to have bad effects... but I digress.

Not surprisingly the CT scan showed a potential problem with my liver (nothing to be concerned about just yet but possibly something to check in a few months time for comparison) and came up blank on the cramps issue. No sign of an infection... nothing.

My conclusion is, the Aliens are definitely watching us. You see, this cramping in the lower left of my abdomen is obviously another undetectable alien implant causing pains every time it beams information back to the mother ship.

Aliens must be monitoring my every move but I'm onto them. It's the only rational explanation I can think of when, even big, expensive machines can't find anything wrong with you.

Well I'm pretty sure that's what it is anyway.

Ridley Scott Revisiting 'Blade Runner'

It is both with interest and trepidation that the news, Ridley Scott to Direct New 'Blade Runner' Installment for Alcon Entertainment, finds me. It's great that Ridley is back on board, as this definitely gives me some confidence. Especially after reading How Ridley Scott came to Direct the New 'Blade Runner'.

Although I didn't get to see the original in theaters, I've been a fan of this movie since it was first released on VHS video back in the early nineteen eighties. I'm also one of the minority (it seems) that likes the original theatrical release with Harrison's voice over. I also like the subsequent cuts of the film and own a copy of the Final Cut but I felt the narration made it feel much more like a detective story than an action/sci-fi film.

It's interesting that the producers are hoping to come up with something new and fresh but without Harrison Ford I'm not too sure. He was such an important part of the original film. That said I'm sure no one wants to see Deckard coming out of retirement a second time to chase Replicants.

Blade Runner is a film that has only aged because they put a date on when it was set - 2019. Unlike other films of its era the special effects aren't showing their age. Although Ridley has said the date doesn't matter, since the world is an alternate universe, it will be interesting to see if the fact that we're not too far from 2019 will influence when a new film is set.

Generally I don't have any expectations for what I'd like to see in a new film. My main hope is that they steer clear of the three book sequels to Blade Runner written by K. W. Jeter. Not because there is anything particularly bad about them - I've read the first two - I just don't think they'd really facilitate the 'fresh' approach the producers are hoping to take.

My main concern is, will a new film be able to stand up against the original. It has some very big shoes to fill. However, the fact that Alcon Entertainment, the production company for this new film, were also behind the film The Book of Eli gives me some hope. That film stands out quite well stylistically even if its look isn't completely unique.

Whatever they come up with I will certainly be going to see it.

Bert and Ernie - Officially not Gay...

...or anything for that matter. Sesame Street Workshop recently made a statement saying that Bert and Ernie were just  'Best Friends' and outing them as not having a sexual orientation as they are 'puppets'. The full statement, which can be found on their Facebook page reads as follows:
Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. 
Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
The statement is a response to a recent online petition and Facebook page requesting that Bert and Ernie be allowed to get married on Sesame Street as a way of supporting LBGT teens. The petition’s creator, Lair Scott, was inspired by the “It Gets Better” series of videos launched by columnist Dan Savage.

That's the history of this latest Bert and Ernie saga if you wish to do your own research.


And now for my commentary...

If you're looking for a thoughtful piece about why Bert and Ernie shouldn't be officially identified as gay I thought Graeme McMillan's blog, Official: Bert and Ernie Aren’t Gay (And Why They Shouldn’t Be), gives a compelling and well thought out argument.

From my point of view I'm just happy that Sesame Street Workshop isn't bowing to the pressure. Bert and Ernie just aren't gay, even if there are many hints that possibly suggest otherwise. Such as Bert and Ernie taking a bath together.

If the characters don't have any sexual orientation then taking a bath together has no real underlying meaning. They could be just saving water... they're obviously not that rich since they live in a one bedroom house. (take this paragraph as tongue in cheek. I'm not, for a second, trying to make serious argument).

However looking at it from the other point of view, if they're not gay, then does that mean they're straight? In 40 plus years I've never seen either of them have so much as a crush on any female character. I've never seen Ernie ask Bert to spend an evening out because Ernie's bringing home a hot date.

Perhaps there's something to this idea that they have no sexual orientation?

Then again perhaps there's another scenario. Some observers believe Bert and Ernie behave like an old married couple. Maybe they secretly got married years ago?

But if that were true why do they sleep in separate beds? (I hear you ask).

Well that's not unprecedented for married couples. Watchers of the seventies hit TV show Faulty Towers will know (if my memory serves me correctly) that the uptight Basil Faulty slept in the same room but in a separate bed from his wife Sybil.

It's something else to think about.

At this point I have to admit this isn't quite the direction I thought this article would go. I really just wanted to make a point about people projecting gay relationships onto male character friendships that haven't really been portrayed as gay. The classic examples, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Batman and Robin.

It's like the Seinfeld episode where Jerry protests that he's not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that) just because he's clean, neat and organised.

Please stop doing that. Stop trying to superimpose 'gayness' onto characters and people that just aren't simply because they display a few 'gay' characteristics from time to time and could be seen as gay.

I'd much rather see true gay characters developed for TV, movies, fiction etc. than have this 'retro-fitting' of established characters into a gay orientation. Retro-fitting 'gay' does nothing to help the acceptance of people who identify as such. If anything it inflames the people who struggle to accept gay relationships.

The TV series Modern Family, whilst I wouldn't say the gay characters are necessarily typical of gay men, at least makes an attempt to describe a real gay relationship in an 'average' family, living in the suburbs context. In terms of advancing the LBGT agenda for acceptance I feel that's a much better way to go.

I'd rather Bert and Ernie remain as best friends and, if Sesame Street ever did want to introduce a gay relationship... perhaps it would be better to do it with their human cast rather than the puppets - since people do have sexual orientation.

Jac Cat is Back - Art by TET

Jac's Back, Acrylic on Canvas
30x40cm, 4th August 2011
Buy Prints from RedBubble.
Jac's Back is my latest artwork and my first in just over a year away from painting (more than two years if you exclude the single horse painting I did in 2010).

At 30x40cm it's a small artwork but after so long not painting I didn't want to start anything too ambitious. Which was also the reason I chose to paint yet another version of Jac making one of his crazy flutterby leaps. Start with what you know.

If you're not familiar with my cat paintings you can see quite a few in my RedBubble Gallery where you can buy prints of my various artworks.

Jac himself is not really any one particular cat but these days refers to a style of orange and black stripe cat that I've painted many times. The name Jac is actually an abbreviation for Just A Cat and was given to the very first official Jac artwork, Happy Cat Jac, by the person who bought it.

Whilst painting Jac's Back I set up my video camera and filmed some of the process - which you can see in the video below.

Consequently this is also my first painting video filmed in glorious HD video. Unfortunately I wasn't able to film the whole process from start to finish like I've done in the past because of the amount of memory HD video requires. My camera and laptop computer just can't cope and I can't paint fast enough to reduce the file size either.

The style of the video is more of a music video than me explaining anything about the work. If you prefer my old style where I narrate the 'action' let me know in the comments below.

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