New Computer

A while back, my computer started giving me network errors when trying to access my local drive. This is not a good sign. Clearly, it was on the brink of disaster. So I bought a new computer. The old one lasted eight or nine years, and I hope its replacement will last at least as long. I truly hate upgrading computers. So many things go wrong; so many aggravations. So much swearing.

Last time, I spent the fifty bucks (or whatever amount it was) to buy software to make the migration easier. I think it worked pretty well, and I considered doing the same thing this time. I didn’t keep any notes on that prior process, but I have some vague memory of it doing some things I didn’t like. Not enough of a feeling to dissuade me, but enough that I spent some time looking at the actual scope of the migration problem.

The first thing I did was make an inventory of all the software I have installed on the old machine. First, I went through the Windows settings application for removing programs. I recognized pretty quickly that this was not a complete list, being that it lacked at least two programs I use fairly often. For several years, I’ve been using a program called Revo Uninstaller. I’ve found that it does a better job of uninstalling things than the native Windows program. Revo showed me a couple of things that the native app missed.

Given a good list of software, I faced the next issue. The old computer’s CD/DVD drive is broken, and the new computer doesn’t have an optical drive. Which will be a problem if I need to install software from a disk. (I later discovered later that the lack of any ability to read a disk isn’t the real problem when installing old software.)

Next, I checked my hard drives to see which programs I had saved the install files for. It has been my habit to keep these. Then, I went online to discover which programs I could download from the developers.

Given this information, I decided to do the migration manually. May God have mercy on my soul.

In the end, there were only three programs that gave me problems.

Least important of the three is a program I’ve been using to track my savings bonds. It is no longer available, the developers having moved the functionality to the web. I won’t go that route. I didn’t regularly track my bonds, but I think they’re all matured by now anyway, and I should cash them in and be done with it.

The next program in question is the one I’ve been using to make my videos. I can’t download it (short of buying the latest version), but I had the install files. However, when I ran the install program, it notified me that one of the files was corrupt. I recopied the file from the old computer and tried again, but no joy. This led me to searching the web for a replacement. I decided on Shotcut, a free open-source video editor. I’ve successfully made my first video with it, and I think I’ll be a happy user. But, even for the simple videos I make, I face a bit of a steep learning curve.


Finally, we get to Quicken. I’ve been using Quicken since 1994. I’ve upgraded several times over the years and am currently using Quicken 2015. Their business model has changed somewhat. They’ve switched to a subscription model. I’m not a big fan. For decades, I’ve been able to buy it, install it, and use it. I’d rather own than rent. Somehow, I don’t have the original install files. So I was a bad boy and found a copy of Quicken 2015 on a Russian BitTorrent site and downloaded it. I’m sure Intuit would claim I just stole something, even though I bought it way-back-when. So it goes.

I followed the instructions of the pirate version I downloaded and was off and running. Or, not so much “running” as “limping”. It got me to the point where I could register my copy with Intuit. After that, I got a message that, because Quicken 2015 is no longer supported, it wouldn’t update from the original release to the latest version (that I have on the old computer). And, of course, it wouldn’t let me run the version that I’d just installed.

Now that it was installed, I was hoping that it had finished doing whatever magic needed to be done with the registry. I copied the Quicken program folder from the old machine to the new and tried again. It fired up with a brand new (empty) database, which seemed like progress. After two or three tries to get it to open my database (with 26 years of data), I finally had success. This version of the program will “crash” the first time I fire it up each day, but it seems to be working just fine. It has been crashing on startup for quite a while now. I’m pretty sure it’s just trying to check for updates, and as it’s unsupported it just crashes. It only looks for updates once a day, so the second time I launch it, it works. I can find no setting that would allow me to stop it looking for updates.

One piece of software that I had no availability concerns was iTunes. I consider iTunes to be possibly the worst software I’ve ever had the misfortune to use. But I have an ancient iPod that serves me well, so I’m more or less chained to iTunes. This one should have given me no migration problems, as Apple kindly provides step-by-step instructions on the web. I followed these instructions precisely. It only took three tries to achieve success. I guess they just wanted to fuck with me: “You were expecting to see your music library here? Ha! Try again!”

One of the side-effects of downloading and installing the programs I use is that I get updated to the latest versions. Not everything updates itself constantly. I’m okay with this. Perhaps I should be paying better attention to those that don’t update themselves regularly. So far, I’ve only come across one update that has caused me any issues, which I resolved after a quick internet search.

I still have a few things to download and install, but I’m going to call this migration “done”.

I’m sure the family is happy that this process was fairly trouble-free. They expected to hear much more foul language.

The last thing I’ll whine about is this: Genae uses this computer, too. When I went to add her as a user, I learned that I can’t add users that Microsoft doesn’t approve of. That is, Microsoft won’t let me add a user to this computer, my computer, in my house, without their permission. I added her as a “family member”. There are two options for this: Organizer or Member. I will be the administrator of this computer, so I made her a “member”. She had to set up an account with Microsoft and had to provide her birthdate. Now, when I go into the users control panel, I see my wife listed as “child”. Given that Microsoft asked her age, they know she’s not a child. I really don’t like that I’m not in charge of who can use my computer. The best answer, it seems, is to remove her from my “family” and set her up as an “other user”.

With the new computer comes a new problem. I no longer have the excuse that my computer lacks the specs required to run various games, like Cities: Skylines or the latest racing sim. I will either have to devise a new excuse or succumb to one or more of these high-tech time wasters.

Photo Gallery

Even long-time readers of this blog may not have known I have an accompanying gallery of photos. Actually, the gallery predates the blog by a long time. I first started it when my website was self-hosted. When I moved to hosting by Godaddy, I had to stop using the software that ran the gallery and convert to one of Godaddy’s canned solutions. Then that solution had a major upgrade and I faced a manual migration.

I looked at the available choices and decided to go with the new version of the one I’d been using for a while. That was several years ago. In the interim, that one got abandoned by the developers and has been “in hibernation”. I’m not sure what that really means, other than it’s no longer supported. But it has been working, so I haven’t been too worried about it.

Bottom line, I have been neglecting the gallery. For the most part, it was just pictures of places I’ve been in RMNP. I’ve failed to update it with photos from many of my recent hikes there. And I’ve been to lots of other places and I want the gallery to reflect that. I had some nebulous plans as to how I’d organize it, but inertia was difficult to overcome. Also, what I had was inconsistently titled and tagged and I’d provided only about half the descriptive information I wanted.

I finally overcame the inertia. My first decision was whether to migrate to a new solution or not. I am accustomed to the old system, but it had a time worn appearance. Sure, it was unsupported, but one of the realities of using free solutions is that I could switch to something else and there’s no guarantee I wouldn’t be in the same situation tomorrow. I had a good idea of how much effort it would take to get the current one updated but I didn’t want to think about how much more it would take to migrate.

So the decision point comes down to how much effort do I want to put into this project to a) get on a supported product, and b) improve the look and feel and perhaps functionality of it. My choices are pretty limited: Coppermine, Koken, Piwigo, TinyWebGallery, and Zenphoto. After looking at some examples and some documentation, I fired up an instance of Koken and started playing around with it. It didn’t take long to decide to go with it.

I now have everything migrated, and have filled in most of the gaps that I had in my legacy project. I figure I’m somewhere between two-thirds and four-fifths complete. It will have three main areas: Landscapes, Cityscapes, and Machines. The first two are fundamentally complete. I still need to put some thought into how to organize, categorize, and tag the Machine area.

I’ve updated the blog pages that link to the gallery, but I haven’t done much more than test the links the other way, from the gallery to the blog. It has a look and feel that’s much closer to the blog than before, and I do like a few of the new features that are available, even though I did have to give up some minor functionality.

If you’re so inclined, poke around the new gallery. Feel free to leave a note here if you have any suggestions or complaints.

Helmet Art

I’ve been wanting to do something special with my helmet for quite a while. I figured a Colorado flag, but with the Lotus roundel in the center of the C instead of plain yellow. A couple years ago I had somebody lined up to do it, but he was always too busy. Six months ago or so I had somebody else slated, but that didn’t work out either. A few weeks ago I decided I’d do it myself. What’s the worst that can happen?

Two weeks ago I stopped by the Man Cave to purchase some vinyl. One of the guys asked what I wanted to do. I explained it to him and he went over to a rack of giant vinyl rolls. “I don’t have any yellow, but here’s some blue. And I have red in here.” I told him I didn’t need the yellow because I’d be using a sticker. He just gave me some scraps, no charge. Can’t beat that.

I was apprehensive about how to cut the vinyl so I watched some you tube videos. I learned about knifeless tape. It’s a kevlar strand you lay down, then put the vinyl over the top. Yank the strand out and it makes a nice cut. So I found some on eBay. 3M makes some, and somebody on eBay was selling a knock-off (made by 5M!). I found some genuine stuff and placed the order. Finally, I borrowed a heat gun and was ready.

First thing was to peel all the stickers off, take off the visor and HANS hardware, and clean it up as much as possible. It’s a bit scuffed up, but so it goes. Then apply the tape to get the blue stripes about right. I found a tiny frying pan the right size for the outside circumference of the C and used that as a pattern and cut it out with an xacto knife. All this was sized based on the size of my sticker.

I needed three hands to do this, so Michael helped. He worked the heat gun as necessary while I stretched the vinyl out. I’ve never worked with this stuff before, and I’m not a particularly artistic guy. But I figured the worst that would happen would be I waste some free vinyl and a sticker. I could always give it another shot later if I got close, or give up entirely if I did a horrible job.

The first stripe came out pretty good, until it came time to pull the kevlar thread through to make the cuts. It wasn’t quite as easy as the pro on you tube made it look. But I managed to get it to work before I gave up. The second stripe was a bit easier.

I cut my red circle in the shape of a Pac-Man. The Lotus Colorado sticker would cover the center part so I didn’t bother with any further cuts. Stretching the red (almost) circle didn’t go as smoothly as the stripes, but it’s not bad. There are a couple of small wrinkles and I had to do a little trimming because after stretching it, it was no longer perfectly circular. And the LoCo sticker has a wrinkle in it, too. But considering it’s my first time trying any of this, I’m quite happy with the results. It’s a helmet, and it will get more scuffed up in the years to come, so I wasn’t looking for perfection.

Yeah, I know the blue is the wrong color. I don’t care. I’m quite happy with the results.

Fitbit Charge 3

I bought my first Fitbit, the Charge HR, about three years ago. I got it more out of curiosity about my heart rate than obsession about tracking my steps. I particularly wanted to know what my heart was up to when hiking, and a general curiosity about my resting heart rate.

Weak point (repaired)

That first one lasted nearly a year. It’s demise was due to a weakness in the construction around where you plug in the charging cable. I emailed their support line, including a photo of the thing. I was thinking along the lines of, could I glue it back together? We determined, though, that it was still under warranty and they sent me out a new one.


The next one lasted just over a year. It failed in the same way. This time, though, it had the added problem of the neoprene (or whatever material it is) of the wristband separating from the underlying structure. First it developed a big bubble, then the adhesive failed all the way to the hard plastic of the face.

The third one met the same fate as the first two, surprise, surprise. I superglued the charging bit back together. For the first few days after that, it wouldn’t charge. But finally it got itself connected and has been hanging on since then. Shortly after the glue operation the neoprene formed a bubble and entropy has been increasing.

Silly me, after having two of these things more or less fall apart in about a year, I bought another one. I forget exactly what I paid for them, but it was in the neighborhood of $140. I’m a bit old-fashioned, I guess, in that I expect a watch to last for several years. Although I haven’t worn a watch since the advent of the cell phone, that last watch is more than 20 years old and still works. Yes, I know a Fitbit isn’t a watch. But it doesn’t have any moving parts and gets treated in pretty much every way like a watch does so I expected it to last more than a year. It certainly isn’t worth about three bucks a week to satisfy my curiosity about my heart rate.

And yet.

And yet, here I am, the proud owner of a new Fitbit Charge 3. It cost $150, purchased through Amazon, and I went the extra mile and paid the twenty bucks or so for a three year warranty. We’ll see how that turns out.

I ordered it before it hit the market. Shipping was delayed once, but it finally arrived after about a month. I opened up the box to find… an incomplete package. I thought I got only half the wristband, but it turns out they ship with both the small and large wristbands. I had the large one, but the Fitbit itself was missing. So I went through the return process. The replacement arrived this morning.

They’ve upgraded the way it connects to the charge cable. It looks like this new method will not suffer the problem of the earlier model. Also, the material on the wristband looks different. It’s probably the same stuff, but the texture is different and I’m hoping that they’ve addressed the bubbling issue.

Old (left), new (right)

First thing you do with these things is charge them. It took me five tries to get it to connect. The first couple I just didn’t have it properly connected. After getting the satisfying “click” of a proper connection, it still wasn’t charging. Eventually, it started working. I don’t know why it was so reluctant.

Next thing was to get it set up. That means using the phone app to connect to it. As I already have the app installed, this should be dead simple. I’ve done this three times before. Today, it took four or five tries. “Be sure bluetooth is activated” “Be sure the device is near your phone” “Be sure no other Fitbits are nearby” “Be sure your phone is updated” and so on. Eventually it made the connection.

So I’m up and running on the new device. I’ve only had it a couple of hours, but my first impression is it’s an improvement on the original. The display is bigger and shows more information without having to press the button. I’m not expecting great things – I wanted a direct replacement, no additional features (such as GPS). So I’m only hoping that it works as well as the last 3, but, of course, lasts longer.

The first one required that I push the button for it to record an activity. The second and third ones recorded my activity without my intervention. They were fairly accurate. Occasionally, it would take a minute to show me my pulse when I was particularly active, and every now and then it would record a pulse that was unreasonably high. But for the most part I was happy with it.

As to distance, the older model was quite accurate when I was walking on the sidewalks through the neighborhood. It overstated my distance when hiking, which makes sense to me. On a sidewalk, my stride is pretty consistent. On the trail I’m stepping over rocks and roots and my stride varies considerably. So the device tells me I’ve covered more distance than I really have. I’m confident that it has accurately recorded the number of steps I’ve taken.

Well, usually. The old one credited me with steps when I was driving. This didn’t have anything to do with driving a stick shift. I got steps in both the Lotus and the Chrysler, though I got more steps in the Lotus. I’m guessing it has to do with the firmness of the ride. Amusingly, when in the Lotus at the track, it records my activity as “Outdoor Bike”. Regular highway driving doesn’t get recorded as an activity. A session on the track gets my heart going about the same as hiking at 10,000′ above sea level, but regular driving doesn’t do much.


Solar Eclipse Preparation

I’m heading up to Alliance, NE, for the solar eclipse. We’ll be staying in a campground just a couple hundred yards north of Carhenge. I made camping reservations several months ago but have manged to procrastinate on all other preparations since then. Now that we’re just a week away, I figured it might be time to get things a little bit more organized.

I dug through the shed and found a tent I didn’t know I had. I was looking for the two man tent and couldn’t find it. Instead I came across a larger four man tent. I got it out and did a quick set up, so I’m all set there. Found the gazebo and a lawn chair, too.

I had been thinking all along that I wouldn’t bother trying to photograph the eclipse at all. My first impediment was that I don’t have a long enough lens. In addition, I don’t have a solar filter and I’m not likely to get a picture anything like as good as somebody who’s done this before. But then when I was chatting with Mike at the Warbirds show he said he’d be happy to lend me his 600mm zoom and convinced me to give it a try in spite of my reluctance.

I got online and found a filter I thought would work. It’s for a telescope but should work for his lens. I ordered it and when it arrived I was disappointed to discover that it’s too small. It’s too late to send it back and try to get one the correct size, so I’ll make this one work by taping it onto the lens.

Then I went into the back yard and tried to take my first picture of the sun. With the solar filter on the camera, everything except the sun is black. I tried for a few minutes was unable to even locate the sun through the lens. I did verify that the filter works as expected using my regular lens, where the sun shows up as a fairly small, unimpressive circle.

Center the white bit on the back panel and I more or less have the sun lined up.

I asked around for suggestions and Jim and Travis provided the answer. They said I could fabricate a little solar viewfinder out of cardboard that would do the trick. So I just put one together and went into the back yard and had another go at it.

My first sun photo. Nothing to see here…

I was thinking I’d need 1000mm of lens, and briefly considered buying a teleconverter. But this shot is at 600 and looks like it will be sufficient.

Being that we’ll have no moon next Sunday night, and we’ll be a couple hundred miles from any large cities, if the skies are clear we should have a nice view of the Milky Way. I will take a shot at astrophotography. Again, not something I’ve ever tried before. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, eh?

Small Claims Court

I was hoping that this entry would be the end of the story of the Ordeal of the Camshaft. We had our day in court but we don’t have the end of the story yet. It’s a cliffhanger!

Monday, July 24

This is Victor’s case, I’m just a witness. I’ve been called up for jury duty a few times, but never had to serve. So outside of traffic court I’ve had no dealings with the justice system.

We arrived in Judge Ecton’s courtroom at about 8:00am. A docket is posted on the wall just outside the doors. We were second on the list. After we seated ourselves in the gallery, the court clerk came by and did a little roll call.

Shortly after that the judge entered the courtroom. “Everybody rise!” He took his seat at the bench and gave a little introductory speech. This is not an episode of Judge Judy, or whatever court show you watch on TV. We follow some rules of evidence. There are no surprises here. If you want to introduce an exhibit into evidence, your opponent has to know about it and will have an opportunity to object.

Each side can make a one minute opening statement. Each side may call as many as three witnesses, and each witness is given ten minutes. Then there’s an opportunity for the other side to cross-examine. Then the first side can ask any additional questions that may arise from the cross-examination. The judge controls the stopwatch.

Those are the basic rules, but before we could get to any of that, each case was sent to mediation. This mediation took place in another room, with just the principal parties. As a witness I was not a party in the mediation. The judge instructed that there would be a minimum of fifteen minutes of mediation. If mediation failed to produce an outcome, both parties would return to the courtroom ready to follow the process above.

While Victor and the defendant were in mediation, and after a short pause, the first case was handled. In this case the defendant didn’t show so the plaintiff won automatically. The plaintiff was awarded his claim of $1500.

Then the first case came back from mediation. This was between a Mr. Benson and a Mrs. Benson. Mediation produced a result, and Mrs. Benson would pay Mr. Benson $1300. Because everything was handled outside the room, we in the gallery were left in the dark as to exactly what this was all about. The imagination runs wild: are they man and wife? Brother and sister?

I didn’t check the time, but it was more than half an hour before the mediator for our case returned to the courtroom, Victor and the Ehrlich Toyota people in tow. Mediation failed to provide an agreement, so we would come to trial. But one key point was not disputed: Ehrlich did not contest that the parts they supplied were defective.

So now the fun begins. I admit that I’m not a court reporter, not a stenographer, don’t take shorthand, and didn’t even have a pen and paper to take notes with. I was able to key a few short notes into my phone, but that was the extent of it, and I can’t type worth a damn on my phone. So it’s very likely that my record here contains some minor errors or omissions. I do feel that I’ve recorded the major points fairly and completely.

The woman in charge on their side was the one Victor had been dealing with over the several months this has gone on. I don’t know her position in the company, and managed not to record her name (surprise, surprise) but she’s not one of the owners. She was supported by one of their technical people and at the last minute was joined by one of the Ehrlich family. Between mediation and the start of the trail, Victor wondered aloud why he was dealing with her and not one of the owners. He went out into the hall for a couple of minutes to try to talk to him but returned unsatisfied.

We began with the short opening statements, Victor going first. Nothing particularly interesting was said by either party, with the exception of Victor being mildly chided by the judge. Victor had interrupted the judge. This is a no-no. When it happened I didn’t even notice it, probably because I have a tendency to do the same thing. Almost immediately after that, the judge cautioned Victor for making “inflammatory” remarks. These remarks had to do with our feeling that Ehrlich’s warranty policy was just a policy and didn’t carry the weight of law. It doesn’t absolve them of responsibility for the damage the defective part caused. After this mild dressing down, there were no more cautions from the judge, although I think Victor may have gotten close when he made the same point later in the proceedings.

Victor was the first witness. As he’s also the plaintiff, it obviously wasn’t the usual question-and-answer process one sees on TV. Most of our exhibits were documents, but we did have the damaged head and sprocket. He set the head right on the witness stand, although he never had to point out the damage that was caused by the bad cam. He spent a few minutes going over the events that led us here. He did a pretty good job, even though he seemed to me to be a bit nervous. He was then cross-examined by the defendant.

One of the key parts of Victor’s testimony relates to why Victor is the one with the claim instead of me. Essentially, I assigned the portion of the bill relating to rebuilding the head to Victor. He felt it was wrong to stick me with this bill and that he would make the claim rather than force me to do it. I think the Ehrlich people thought explaining this thought process was a weakness, and they brought it up later in a derogatory way later on.

Victor called me as the second witness. “Raise your right hand. Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” I do. No bibles were involved, and no swearing to god. “State your name, and spell your last name.” I took my seat at the witness stand.

Victor started with High Mountain Classic’s reputation. What was said about their work? After this experience, did my opinion of their reputation change? A few other questions of that nature. Then Victor had me read a few paragraphs from my blog, a printout of which had been entered into evidence as one of the exhibits. The judge said it wasn’t necessary for me to read any of it, as he’d be able to read it himself, but Victor had me read a key passage anyway.

Next up was cross-examination. Why did I go to High Mountain Classics rather than a Toyota dealer? What was the nature of the work I had them perform? Did I consider using parts other than from Toyota? Is my car a daily driver? Do I take it to the race track, do I race the car? I said that I never considered taking the car to a Toyota dealer. I’ve not known any Lotus owners to do this. I explained my thought process, that I considered going to Ferrari of Denver or to my usual shop (Peak Eurosport) but chose Victor after discussing the issue with him after a club meeting.

When it came to the specific work, the judge interjected some questions. I explained that there were issues with the hardening failing on the cams and that it was recommended that they are periodically inspected for abnormal wear. HMC performed the inspection and found wear was starting and recommended replacement of the parts. I made clear to the judge that the wear problem was totally unrelated to the defect in the parts where the burrs were sent through the motor, damaging the head.

I was a bit surprised by some of these questions. Why was it important to know if I considered other sources for the parts? I told how I came to the decision to use Toyota parts: I looked into the Stage 2 MonkeyWrench racing cam, but dismissed this because it would involve a lot of additional work. I felt that the known, good, Toyota part was the best way to go, and that Toyota reliability was a large factor in purchasing the car in the first place.

I also didn’t understand why they wanted to know if I raced the car. I said that I don’t have a daily commute, that I put an average of eight thousand miles a year on the car and that track days account for a small fraction of the miles. I told the judge that an HPDE day is not competition. In any case, it seems irrelevant to me. This is about the defective part wrecking my engine. I don’t know why they felt it was an important issue.

Van was the technician at HMC that did the work on my car. He was the third witness. Before the trial started we sat together in the back of the gallery and chatted. When I asked him how he got into auto restoration he quickly gave me his entire CV. It starts with him earning a BS in Auto Restoration. I didn’t know such a degree was available. He told me there’s just the one school that offers it. After graduation he’s worked in a number of jobs that sounded quite interesting, including a stint at Tesla.

So, of course, the first thing the defendant did was attack his credibility. Are you a certified Toyota mechanic? Have you ever worked on this particular engine before? Why didn’t you notice that the part was defective before installing it? Why didn’t you do the rebuild of the head? Van is, of course, an ASE certified mechanic. He routinely works on engines he’s never seen before. He says he followed Toyota’s procedure for replacing the part, and that procedure didn’t include anything about checking for burrs in the camshaft internals. Ryan was brought in because HMC was falling behind on the other projects.

Next there was a line of questioning about labor rates. HMC doesn’t use the flat rates. They bill for actual hours, not book hours. I suppose that was to call into question the amount of the bill. But this is misdirection as well, because the hours worked on the rebuild were not Van’s, they were Ryan’s, the certified Lotus mechanic.

Again, I’m somewhat puzzled by many of these questions. There is no dispute that the parts they supplied were defective. They seem to be trying to say that it wasn’t the defective parts that caused the problems, but an inexperienced or incompetent mechanic. (Van, is, of course, neither.)

Ehrlich’s only witness was the woman Victor has been dealing with through this whole process. She emphasized that all the receipts have a disclaimer on them, saying that their warranty does not include implied merchantability and does not cover any labor. During my testimony, the part of my blog that Victor had me read included the bit about all the cams in their stock were also bad. The judge asked if this was true. She said she didn’t know.

In Ehrlich’s closing remark, they proudly stated that had all this happened in their shop, they’d never think of sticking the customer with the bill. This, clearly, was in response to Victor presenting the bill to me with the full amount, which then had the rebuild backed out. I paraphrase, but they essentially said, “We would never leave the customer holding the bag.” And, yet, that’s exactly what they’re trying to do here. HMC is the customer. HMC bought defective parts that caused me extensive property damage, and they’re adamant that they’re not responsible. The didn’t seem to see the irony.

One of the final questions that came up was why Victor is going after Ehrlich rather than Toyota USA or Toyota Japan. Here’s the one place where I thought Victor’s response was weak, but I couldn’t help him out. He said that he was afraid it would cost too much to pursue a giant Japanese corporation, didn’t want to go out of state or out of the country. Ehrlich said that Toyota USA has people here in Denver, so none of Victor’s fears are valid. My answer would have been that we hadn’t had any dealings with Toyota USA or Toyota Japan: we’ve been dealing all along with Ehrlich.

This question, in fact, is the only part of this whole suit that bothers me. Before we started down this path, my research indicated that if we were to go after the wrong party, we could win the case but still never get compensated. If there’s something in the law that we don’t know about (and we don’t know much), we could very well be going after the wrong party.

I don’t know anything about the law, but here’s how I reason this part out. I dealt with Victor, not Ehrlich. Victor dealt with Ehrlich, not Toyota USA. Ehrlich’s transaction was with Toyota USA, who presumably had a transaction with Toyota Japan, who may have had a third (sixth?) party like Denso actually manufacture the part. It’s a chain of command and you can’t go out of sequence. If Victor had stuck me with the bill, it should be obvious that I’d have to make a claim against him and no one else. In fact, it’s generally the case that the chain above Victor is invisible to me. I have no idea, for example, where Peak Eurosport gets their parts.

So Victor has a loss caused by a bad part. And just as the chain of transactions above Victor are invisible to me, the chain above Ehrlich is invisible to him. He can guess, just as I’ve guessed, what that chain looks like. But he can’t really know. The only party he can go after, then, is Ehrlich.

Victor’s only remedy against Ehrlich is this small claims proceeding. Ehrlich, on the other hand, certainly is in a different situation. Had they done the right thing and paid a warranty claim to Victor for the work, they can surely make the claim from where they got the bad part. And we’ve seen that this relationship exists and works. The engineer that came to HMC to inspect my car was from Toyota USA. It was this engineer that authorized the replacement of the defective cams. This is the undisputed fact: Toyota USA admits the part was bad.

It’s a no-brainer that Ehrlich would pay Victor and make a claim to Toyota, because Toyota admits the fault. So why doesn’t Ehrlich do the right thing? Why make Victor take them to court? I can only assume that the claims resolution mechanism in whatever agreements and contracts exist between Ehrlich and Toyota USA do not allow for payment of damages unless one of their guys does the work. You’d think there’d be some sort of arbitration mechanism. Doesn’t anybody in this chain have any general liability insurance that covers this sort of circumstance? I’d hate to think that the only remedy is going to court. Yet, here we are.

It was approaching noon when we headed out the door. It had taken quite a bit longer than I had anticipated. The judge did not come to a verdict. Not knowing how it all worked, I was a bit surprised. I expected an answer. As the man said, this isn’t Judge Judy. It only makes sense that he should have some time to go through the exhibits and review the testimony before making up his mind.

Leaving the courtroom I was unsure of how things would turn out. But after writing it all out here, I feel pretty good. Ehrlich is the only party we can logically go after. Toyota accepted from the start that the parts they supplied were bad. That’s the key piece. Ehrlich’s only defense was misdirection. I made a mistake in not taking it to a Toyota dealer. I abuse the car by racing it. Van can’t possibly fix a Toyota engine. HMC wasn’t qualified to do the work and had to call in the Lotus mechanic. Victor is going after the wrong people. None of this is true, and none of this changes the fact that all the parts they supplied were defective.

I think chances are good that Victor will win. So the question now is, how long before we get an answer? I will, of course, share the results of the case when I learn the verdict.

The Muffler

When Victor called me last week to discuss the case, he mentioned that he saw the video of my exhaust barfing out its insides. I told him half the shops I’d talked to about repairing it had never heard of repacking the exhaust and that said they could send it to Canada for repair. Victor said they do this sort of work all the time on the Bugattis. It only makes sense: where do you go to replace the muffler for a Bugatti 39? Victor had me bring my exhaust with me so I could give it to him to fix. Rather than repacking with fiberglass they’ll use steel wool. It will sound a bit different, but it should last longer.

When I handed it over, I shook it a bit and we could hear the innards rattling around. They both knew immediately what had happened. Through the center of the can there’s a perforated steel pipe. This pipe has rusted away and could no longer hold the packing. (Rust? It took me half a beat. Water is one of the main outputs of combustion.) They’ll cut the end off, replace the perforated pipe, pack with steel wool, weld it back together and I’ll be on my way. I told them there’s no need to hurry as I’m fine running the stock exhaust for a while.


Thursday, October 6

I’d been to the Great American Beer Festival before. That was at least twenty years ago. We bought tickets at the door. The tasting glass was actually glass. You could get as many samples of beer, one ounce at a time, as long as you had the glass. Sometimes people dropped the glasses – the sound of the breaking glass had a ringing quality that allowed it to be heard over the general hubbub of the crowd. People at the epicenter would call out an “Oooooh!” that rippled through the hall. No more beer for some poor guy. This occurred with increasing frequency as the night progressed, as you might imagine.

All they had was beer; there was no food. This was back in Currigan Hall. It was just a big open space (the world’s largest rigid space frame when it was built in 1969). There was a balcony that went all the way around the inside, just a wide corridor, really. Nowhere to sit, but you could lean on the railing take in the spectacle of the next dropped tasting glass. We found a vending machine up there, Funyuns and other long shelf life pseudo-food.

That was then. Things are different now. I haven’t even tried to get tickets as they sell out so fast. This year I’m told it took sixty-seven minutes. Sixty thousand people will taste nearly seventy-five hundred different beers. It’s the largest beer festival in the country, attended by people from all over the world.

Jason was kind enough to give me a ticket this year.

I don’t make it downtown very often. Last time was for the Bronco’s parade back in February. Genae and I took the bus, the Flatiron Flyer, to Union Station. That probably would have been the easiest thing to do tonight but Genae suggested I make an adventure of it and take the train instead. We have a few free passes, so what the heck.

After an early dinner I headed to the train station. I didn’t know exactly where it is, so I just punched the address into the phone and set off. Naturally, it took me to where they’re still building another parking lot, on the wrong side of the tracks from where I needed to be. Finally in the garage, I get a prime end spot next to the stairs. As I’m stepping out of the garage, I hear a train whistle. There’s the train, pulling into the station. Several minutes earlier than I expect. On reflection, it must have been sitting there the whole time as this station is at the end of the track (for now). It wasn’t pulling into the station from the east, full of commuters, it was coming from the west, empty.

I didn’t exactly run to the train, but I did pick up my pace a bit when a fellow ran past me. I needed to validate my free ticket. The guy who ran by me was working one of the credit card machines. I looked at the other but didn’t see anything about validation. I asked the other guy if he knew how to validate my pass but he didn’t. We got on the train, sat across the aisle from each other. How much trouble could I get into for not having my pass validated?

It’s a nice car, brand new. We sat a while before the doors closed and we departed. I never went through a turnstile so I assumed somebody would come by to check for tickets. I chatted with my fellow passenger. He, too, was headed to the festival. He’d spend the evening there with his son, then Uber home to Erie. Before long our conductor arrived. I told him I failed to validate my pass. He told me what I should look for next time and took my pass, which he immediately gave back to me.

When we got off the train we immediately met two women who asked us if we knew how to get to the beer fest. “We think we know where we’re going. You’re welcome to come with us.” On the train he had asked me where we needed to go. I said I thought it was 14th and Champa. We’d hop on the mall shuttle and head that way. Of course, half the people on the shuttle were going to GABF. Turns out I was off by a couple of blocks. The entrance is on 14th at California.

There was a line of people, four abreast, going through the glass doors. My train companion headed to will call and I went to get in line. At first I thought it was maybe fifty feet long. But it took a jog around a corner. Then underneath the building, past service entrances, along the single row of parking, almost to 12th Street. How many people in a line two and a half blocks long and four across? And the place has been open for about an hour, so how many people were there already?

Mercifully, the line moved pretty quickly. As we made our way toward the front a steady stream of people passed us on their way to the end. Lots of guys had necklaces made of pretzels. Take a bite of pretzel between samples to clear the palate. Judging by the number of pretzels, some of these guys were serious. Some were not so much necklaces as bandoliers, reaching from left shoulder to right waist.

Once inside I headed over to say hi to Jason. His team was pouring last year’s medal winners in the back corner of the entrance hall. I had my first sample right next door, the Bleidorf Kolsch from Periodic Brewing.

I downloaded the GABF app a few days ago but haven’t played around with it. I was thinking I’d be able to check off the beers I’d sampled. Instead, it gave me all sorts of sliders. I’d have been happy with a checkbox or a 1-5 star rating. It also wanted me to sign on to Facebook. Too much bother. Instead, I grabbed a pen from Port City Brewing and circled all the beers I tried in the 32 page beer list we got at the door.

My plan, more or less, was to stick to lighter beers for the most part, avoid standing in line, skip Colorado brewers and anything I can buy at the store, and walk every mile of the show. I also wanted to keep in mind the train schedule; my choices were 9:21 and 10:21.

I’m a lightweight. I sampled only a fraction of a percent of the available beers. I tried a variety of fruit beers: watermelon, black cherry, blueberry, peach. I like my fruit beer to be subtle. These were all pretty “in your face” except the blueberry. The only dark beer I tried was a chocolate chipotle – the chocolate was just undertones and the chipotle a smoldering aftertaste.

By the time I’d made a couple laps of the place I decided I’d had enough and made my way out. I arrived at 16th Street about sixty seconds too late to grab the shuttle. I expected to see another one soon; I expected one to pass me before I walked the length of the mall. This was optimistic: I never saw another shuttle. I made it to the train station at 9:24, missing the train by three minutes.

My free pass also works for the bus. When I texted Genae to tell her I’d be waiting nearly an hour for the train she suggested I take the Flatiron Flyer and she’d pick me up and shuttle me to the train station to fetch my car. Seemed like a lot of bother, and it kept her up after her bedtime, but in the end it saved me ten or fifteen minutes. And saved me pacing up and down the platform for an hour as I didn’t see any benches.

I enjoyed the evening. The beer festival isn’t something I need to do every year but it was fun and interesting.

Broncos Victory Parade

Tuesday, February 9

It’s a bit odd, as a fan, to say “we won the Super Bowl!” Of course, as fans we contributed very little. We didn’t go to any games; the team couldn’t hear us cheering them on. But we were carried along with the team on their emotional roller coaster: happy when the team won, not so happy when they didn’t.

Timing is everything. My gig in San Francisco ended just as the city was getting ready for the big party. I was gone before they had everything set up at the end of Market Street. Being there for the preparations was a bit of a vicarious thrill. Okay, thrill overstates it a bit. But I did have a sense of being included in something big. Being there before the game, watching them put up the giant Lombardi Trophy on the building across the street, got me more excited for the game.

Every winning team gets a big parade when they get back home. When the Broncos won their first Super Bowl we were in Phoenix so we missed out on everything. They say 650,000 fans turned out for the parade after Super Bowl XXXII and half a million came out for the one the next year. For this year’s parade, they were expecting similar sized crowds. Genae and I decided we’d join in the fun.

I’m not a huge fan of large crowds. As large crowds go, Broncos games themselves aren’t bad. For most of the people at any given game it’s not their first time there. They know where to park, how to get in and out of the stadium. Things are pretty orderly. Concert crowds generally aren’t as good. Ingress and egress are often in the dark, more people have navigational problems.

A parade crowd of half a million people is the equivalent of four Broncos games and ten arena concerts at the same time. The largest mass of people would be in Civic Center Park. A bus to Union Station was our best option. There was no possible chance of parking anywhere near downtown, and we don’t have a convenient train. We felt our best strategy was to walk to the Park N Ride, take the Flatirons Flyer to Union Station, and stay as close to there as possible.

The weather couldn’t have been better – bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, calm. We left the house earlier than our original plan, which turned out to be a good decision. There were about a hundred people lined up there before us. The Flatiron Flyer runs about every fifteen minutes.

The first FF1 arrived a couple of minutes late and took on only about a dozen passengers; standing room only. It’s a nice bus, a coach. The driver closes the door, tells the guy still on the stairs to move behind the yellow line. Everything in order, he starts to pull away from the curb. Unfortunately, an alarm is sounding: beep, beep, beep. He stops, opens the doors, closes the doors, tries again. Beep, beep, beep. Pushes some buttons. Gets on the phone. No, not a cell phone: a handset like from an old pay phone. The pear-shaped driver gets out, opens a couple of access doors, fiddles with this and that. Gets back in. Beep beep, beep.

Before long a supervisor showed up and the bus was quickly on its way. By now, some people had given up on waiting. Others ventured on to local buses to get down to Colfax. Through attrition, we’d moved up and were perhaps sixtieth in line. At a dozen per bus, we’d be here quite a while. We discussed our options. Maybe Michael could take us down and drop us off. We could get an Uber – one was seven minutes away. Or we could wait.

We waited, and our patience paid off. The supervisor announced that he had four empty buses on their way here. The next bus was, indeed, empty. When we boarded, the driver kept his hand over the money slot. We’re getting a free ride – that saves us nine bucks. A nice coach, appointed almost like an airliner: overhead bins, cloth seats, fan and light (but no tray). We were underway without any drama, fifty-six people dressed up in orange and blue.

Genae likes the navigator app on her phone almost as much as she likes checking the weather radar when it’s stormy. She shows me the map: a red spider-web. Everything going downtown is congested. Even so, it didn’t take too long to get to Union Station. I had never been there before. They recently finished the big underground bus station, but it was all new to me.

This is a bigger bus station than I expected, a concourse with at least ten gates on each side. We follow the crowd up the escalator and out onto the plaza. Amtrack and light rail lines terminate here from the north. The crowd flows south toward 16th Street. Normally, you can catch the Mall Ride here but today the Mall Ride is out of service. All their buses are lined up two by two, filling the concrete apron.

People are pushing strollers, pulling wagons, carrying children. The flow of people, a moment ago organized and directed in the bus station, like blood pulsing in a vein, is now more random. We went to the front of Union Station. People were lined up ten deep here so we went back to 16th and down a couple blocks to Larimer. Here it was only about six deep. We weren’t going to find anything better anywhere else.

We were in the second rank on the sidewalk, with three or four more between the curb and the barricade. The people in front of us had kids; the father wearing the daughter’s tiara on his baseball cap. There were strollers parked along the curb, and there were a lot of kids. There’s a stream of people behind us.

A guy comes up from behind me, says “Excuse me”, wanting me to move out of his way so he can get to the front. I ask him where he wants me to go and he has no answer. I turn my back on him. A few moment later he shoves me then steps in front of me. He now sees the strollers and kids blocking his way.

I said, “I know how you can get in the front row. Get here early.” He gives me a blank stare. “Oh, that’s right. You didn’t get here early. Too late for you.”

No more blank stare. “I’ll kick your ass!”

I chuckled. “Really? You’re going to kick my ass in front of all these people?”

“You could have just gotten out of my way.”

You could have just not been a dick.

Undeterred, he worked his way to the front. The guy next to me, not tiara guy, is with his wife and young daughter. “Good thing for him my daughter is here.”

Every now and then, a couple of police motorcycles would pass slowly, lights flashing. The crowd would get excited then realize it was nothing. There was something going on across 17th from us. A few minutes later some paramedics wheeled out a guy on a gurney. Finally, at about 12:15 we could see the first fire truck over the heads of the crowds. The parade was under way!

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How do you get the job cleaning up after Thunder?

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Engine 18 – Kubiak, Manning, Ware, Mrs B (with trophy), Miller

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The receivers

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How many people in this picture don’t have phones?

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Eng77ine – Karl Mecklenburg

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My Arvada tax dollars at work! We got a better deal than Littleton!

After the last truck went by, we spilled past the barricades. The general flow was to follow the parade. We swam upstream, back to Union Station in search of lunch. We stood in line for fifteen minutes at Acme Burger. After placing our order, Genae went off in search of a place to sit while I waited for the food. I waited so long she thought I’d wandered off. I kept thinking our order would be up soon, then I realized how many orders they had lined up. And more kept spilling off the printer.

It was easy to spot our order come up. We ordered onion rings, which turned out to be unique. After the rings, the cook put up a burger, told the guy assembling the orders what it was – “original, no onions, no sauce”. So that’s our rings and Genae’s burger. But the burger ends up in someone else’s order, and my buzzer hasn’t buzzed. Another burger gets put up: “Western burger.” That’s mine. My buzzer buzzes. They’ve messed up. My burger and our rings are in the bag with an order of fries.

I tell the clerk it’s wrong, he looks at the ticket, calls out “I need an original, no onions, no sauce.” The cook responds, “I already gave you one.” “Give me another.” So we get a bonus order of fries. It took us a half hour to get served. I heard quite a few people ask for their money back. But what can you expect when there are a half a million people nearby?

Back at the bus station we found ourselves queued up for the FF1 behind about a hundred and fifty people. We considered jumping to the end of the Longmont bus queue when they were boarding but we remained patient and were again rewarded. “I have two buses for FF1!” One was a regular local bus, the other was a coach. We got on the coach. Again they weren’t taking any fares. When we rolled out the driver announced that today was a free day until 8pm.

Watching the news reports, I couldn’t believe how many people showed up. Initial reports had the number at a million. Now they’re saying it’s more like 780,000. Either number is mind-boggling. There are only about five million people in the entire state.

Lake Haiyaha addendum

One thing I forgot to mention…

On the hike out, I paused to catch my breath. A little bird, a gray jay, approached. First it landed on a tree branch six or eight feet away. Then it hopped to a closer branch, and then to one just inches from where my right hand rested on my trek pole. It sat there a moment, then flew away. It quickly returned, and repeated its movements.

Next, rather than flying away again, it flew up to look me right in the eye, hovered momentarily about a foot from my nose then returned to the branch. It did this hovering maneuver twice. I’m quite accustomed to having birds come begging when I’m eating, but this was a bit unusual. I don’t know if it was looking for food, or if this was some sort of defensive move. I understand they rear chicks in winter. Was our track close to its nest, or was it just curious?

Last Week’s HPR Video

I’m not the most creative guy when it comes to putting these track videos together. I have three basic types – a lap, a highlights reel, and ‘passing fancy’. This time I opted for the latter – nothing but making passes and getting passed. Every pass from all three sessions.

When I was driving, I never realized I was ever more than fifth car in line. But studying the tape, I see I was 18th in line at one point. That’s a lot of cars on track. I also couldn’t help but notice that every time I make a mistake, it messes me up for three turns. Something to work on.

Obviously, passing cars is more fun than getting passed. I admit to enjoy passing Corvettes and Mustangs, BMWs and Acuras. But for some unknown, irrational reason I really get a kick out of passing Porsches. Boxsters, 911s, 944s, doesn’t matter. I really like passing Porsches.