Monday, May 14, 2012

Alternators and retaining walls

One day last week after Andrea was done tutoring, she had a problem with her van starting. Thanks to my dad's expertise, we (well, he) discovered that the alternator was shot. How did we know this? After charging the battery for 20 minutes or so, the voltage across the terminals was 11VDC or so. With the car started, it remained about flat. With a properly functioning alternator, the battery should be at around 12VDC or so base, 14VDC when the car is running.* There's a voltage regulator that ensures the battery doesn't get overcharged*, and the alternator differs from vehicle designs of yore that used a generator: whereas the alternator can charge the battery at low engine RPMs, the generator cannot.*

In the interim, Mom let us borrow her Camry. I drove that, and Andrea drove my car. Why did I take the Camry? I don't know, but it has a sunroof. I personally would rather have a vehicle without a sunroof (it's one less thing to break, and I found that I almost never used the one that I had in my Jetta). The boys, however, loved it:

I had the alternator rebuilt by the folks at Red's Auto Electric on the east side of St. Cloud for $150. Last night, Dad and I installed it in about a half hour.

Since Dad was available last night, we finished up the retaining wall on the southwest side of the house -- a project we started but were never terribly ambitious about. Now we can finally finish that up, plant some herbs, and attempt to curb the erosion of our sand into the back yard.

Rounding out this week's news: the raspberry plants are growing well, Jacob's glasses almost got ran over by the lawnmower, Andrea has two weeks left of teaching. Life is busy.
*I may have misinterpreted facts here. All I know for certain is that the van didn't work, Dad is awesome at fixing it, and vehicles are wonky.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's not a zombie survival pack without a machete

I stopped by the Bloomington REI a few days ago with the sole purpose of buying a machete and some biners (as previously discussed). I've allocated two large and two small biners (and I have one extra of each size that I may throw in later), so I should hopefully be set in that area.

With a little practice, this could be me.
The machete is a Gerber Junior that I picked up for $20. It's a more dull blade than I was expecting. Definitely more useful for cutting firewood than for defense against the Zeds.

Okay, maybe not.

For now, I've temporarily located my gear in a small hydration pack bag that I picked up a few years ago from REI's scratch & dent sale. I expect I will need to upgrade the pack itself to my Kelty day pack, which has significantly more storage and webbing loops.

The running list for my pack so far looks something like this:
  • $2 for 10' of refrigerator hose
  • $20 machete
  • Two Black Diamond non-locking D-shaped biners at $5.50 each
  • Leatherman Surge multitool, originally purchased at REI scratch & dent for $12
  • 200' of Type III paracord; approximately $7 (1/5th of a 1000' roll from Cabelas)
  • Two small biners from Fleet Farm at $0.80 each
You'll note that it is not particularly cohesive -- just some staples. I expect it won't really come together for at least several more additions. Some of the next major points to hit are shelter, fire, food and first aid.