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Saturday, December 17, 2016

I am so outraged ... I must continue blogging

Recently a turn of events so outrageous has occurred that has thrust me back into blogging.

               The Problem Item

Yes you guessed it I am talking about the situation with the threads on Fender Guitar tremelo arms.

OK I admit this is partly my fault. I removed the tremelo arm on my guitar because I did'nt ever use it.  Then fast forward 14 years and I want to play a song that requires one. Now someone the original arm got swallowed by the house and  I need to acquire a new one. No problem, Jeff Bezos to the rescue. $8 and 2 days later the new part arrives..and it does'nt fit, the thread size is too big.

An hour of internet research later I find out that fender produced 3 different thread sizes for guitars manufactured over the last 14 years. I return the item to Amazon and amazingly they return my money and tell me to keep the item:) It must cost them more to receive it back than the $8 refund.

So after my internet research and some engineering measuring I think I have located the correct part at Guitar center. Run to Guitar center No luck. Wrong sizes again, this time too small:(

Now I am really frustrated. I realize I can re-machine the last possible thread size onto the Amazon arm. Voilo, it worked. So here's the bill, I will send it to the Fender Guitar Company. I will estimate using methods similar to any business (car repair shop, appliance repair my company's service department etc.) Service rate is $100 an hour.

1- hour diagnosing problem - $100
1 - hour driving to guitar center to acquire and return part - $100
36 miles at 0.60 a mile - $21.60
30 minutes to machine new threads + shop charge - $50 + $25 (Now I am forced to provide a solution because the customer is mad and I cant leave without fixing their issue)

 Total $296.6

Cost of brand new guitar $299

Fender could have just shipped me a new guitar and come out even.
This cost could have been avoided if Fenders Design department could have just standardized on a single thread type. Imagine if 1000 guitars a year ran into this problem and its a warranty item. It would cost the company $100,000s dollars a year every year because 3 engineers couldn't agree on a thread size.

In my case I spent 2 1/2 hours of my time and only $3 in gas and I got the part for free.Thanks Jeff Bezos. Jeff can afford it he is worth $30 B dollars. It brings to mind what would Jeff Bezos have done in this situation...Probably just chucked the entire guitar in the rubbish bin and told his assistant to order him a new one. Alas the $299 solution.  But I saved a guitar from ending up in a landfill.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

...and this is really crappy

This blog is turning into "how to fix all the stuff in your house that's broke:. Latest casualty shown above. It was making a gurgling noise and by my standards for what needs mending, its making a noise, its making a smell, its emitting smoke,or its vibrating. (I know this could describe me most of the time)  and I need a lot of mending these days. But if its gurgling I am thinking it might explode one day and we especially don't want that!

First attempt to replace the flapper valve failed to quite the gurgling. Second attempt, and this project also follows that golden rule that any home fix requires at least 2 trips to the hardware store. Still gurgling. So I spend my evenings watching toilet repair videos on You Tube. I cant believe my life has sunken to this. I bet Elizabeth Holmes doesn't fix her own toilets, heck shes such a god, I bet she doesn't even go to the bathroom.

Swapped the brand new flapper valve I just bought with another one. Gurgling finally stopped. But wait.there's a leak now. Turns out when you disturb an old shut off valve it can start to leak. One more trip to the hardware store, install new valve. Then another leak, reinstall new float assembly in which I had installed a component upside down (That one I had to re-read the instructions which I had already thrown away). Wait 2 days, another leak. Tighten new shut off valve. Finally good.

Now I have a great sense of satisfaction in completing the job myself and since I am not Elizabeth Holmes I must now leave you..I have to go to the bathroom.

Monday, April 25, 2016

This really sucks

Above is our Kirby Vacuum. Its as old as Carrot Chopper. It still has the best suction of any vacuum on the market. Recently is suffered a breakdown of some of it components. After researching the matter thoroughly, the RQ and I decided to attempt to repair it ourselves. We were able to bring it back up to like new conditions with about $80 in parts. This vacuum is built to last and fully serviceable. As such it has given us 25 years of use and there is no indication it wont last another 25. Most consumer items today are built to wear out in 5-7 years and then be disposed of. This keeps the initial costs low, the sales high and the landfills full. The total life cycle costs end up higher and consumers get flooded with cheap low quality products. We need to change this cycle. The problem is how to convince a consumer that buying a $500 vacuum over the $250 vacuum is a better deal. But consider Over 25 years you would have to purchase 5 $250 vacuums at a total cost of $1250 vs $500 for the well built unit with say $250 in repair parts over this life time. That's a savings of $500 and 4 less vacuums in a landfill. And thats what really sucks!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Roger and Me too

I have avoided charity rides for cancer research even though I am a cancer survivor.
By the way, the support color for colon cancer is brown, and no one looks good in brown.
I am riding in the Tour deCure this year because my family has been effected by diabetes and I design products which diagnose it and I personally feel it is treatable and curable. I am riding on my company's team. I have ponied up $52 and I only need to raise $200 more. If you feel moved please donate.

Donate Now

If you donate $20 or more I will give you a free copy of my book which I am currently writing which chronicles my escapades in Indy Car. The book is due to be published later this year and has a working Title; "Roger and Me too: Adventures of an Indy Car Engineer".

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Edgar Winter or The Mind is a Terrible thing

I have been watching a new favorite band on YouTube , Phish. They are very talented and look like a bunch of middle aged soccer Dads, except the drummer who looks kike a Hawaiian tita and the bassist who looks like the Jeff Dunham character Melvin (You will have to do the googlin yourself on this one but let me tell you its worth it.) I saw them do this cover of a song from the 70's. I knew the song but couldn't pull the name of the song or the band from my memory. It was right there but I couldn't bring it.24 hours later while just laying in bed thinking about nothing, out of the blue I utter the word "Edgar Winter". The mind is a terrible thing.


..and I just couldn't resist

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Are you smarter than a Silicon Valley Billionaire

Pictured below is Elizabeth Holmes 30 year old Stanford drop out, billionaire, entrepreneur and celebrity. Her business does the same thing my business does. The exact same thing! I am confident that the innovations myself and my team have come up with over the past 10 years surpass anything her company has done. Her company is under FDA scrutiny for poorly accurate blood tests, my company is considered the gold standard in the industry.
I find it discouraging that
a) I am not a billionaire
b)   I am not featured in Forbes magazine.
c) After 13 years of continually taking on more responsibility and making huge contributions to the companies revenue and value I make the same amount of salary (adjusted for inflation)and am at the same level (Maybe one up) as when I started 13 years ago. I am basically just a guy.

I have come to realize that a billion dollars is the difference between the value of your work when you are the company founder and someone who just works there.

Its all in the Hips


I have been trying to increase my swing speed for years, here's how. If you go to you can see the instructions using their $280 device. I can do the same exercises with a resistance band I already own. My current swing speed is average 96 mph and my average carry is around 230 yards. The PGA tour average is 113 mph and 275 yards. I will do these exercises over the summer and report back my progress.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Its been a good year...?

The year in review:

On Christmas Evening 2014 we returned home from my in laws to find our freezer broken and our cherished stock of cranberry sauce (being saved for next Thanksgiving) about to spoil. This required an emergency midnight run back to Keuka lake with our foodstuffs.  Then I had to fix the freezer over the holiday.

We made the decision to go with a high deductible health plan so we could use some specific health care providers.  

Dishwasher broke, 2 weeks later the microwave broke.  I had to replace them both. (This might have happened last year..its all kind of running together)

The kitchen faucet started raining water into the basement. Delta faucet replaced the parts with defective ones from China. After hours on the phone and 5 different overnight deliveries I had a working kitchen faucet again.

About half a dozen shut off valves all started leaking and had to be replaced.

I literally replaced every valve and hose under the kitchen sink before it was dry again.

The garage roof sprung a leak and had to be replaced ($1600).

I jumped into Keuka Lake with my eye glasses on and they promptly ended up in the deep where they could not be found. Replacements cost $550. Had to wear my prescription sunglasses at work for two weeks. I was stylish.

There is a water theme here.

The riding mower blew a head gasket and turned into a bug fogging machine.

5 days before departing on our dream trip to Alaska I ruptured my Achilles tendon and had to have it surgically repaired. Alaska vacation cancelled. The decision to get the high deductible health plan now hurts worse than the Achilles injury.

and on Thanksgiving day we found out the frozen cranberry sauce had spoiled.

Now why do you say has it been a good year...

My mom graciously bought us a new riding mower, We can now mow the grass in half the time and it looks twice as good. The reduction in carbon emissions earned me citation from the G6.

My new eyeglasses are fantastic. I was struggling with my old ones in seeing the golf ball at address. I got specific  HD golf lenses and it took strokes off my golf score.

The week we were supposed to be in Alaska had terrible weather and we would not have been able to do any of the activities we planned. We did got a full refund and are going next year.

I have a much quieter and cleaner dishwasher, better microwave (Although the convection oven combined feature is making the RQ yell OWTH at General Electric.)

Brad made fresh better cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving and we enjoyed it immensly.

Turning negatives into positives is what it is all about...You have two choices
1) Complain about your misfortune and be miserable.
2) Do something about it and figure out how to turn it around.  In every negtive is an opportunity to be miserable or to be innovative.

...but the best part of the year is we are all healthy and happy, we acquired a new family member (Dude Ranch) and we count our blessings every day.

Here's hoping 2016 brings a healed Achilles, a thrilling Alaska adventure and no more new family least until I say so.! 

Back to the future

I have been a little sheltered the past 5 years. I have not done much traveling and am activities are generally limited to driving to work, working and returning home. I don't listen or watch the news regularly nor do I incessantly stare at my phone.  I was absolutely shocked when I took a trip to Switzerland via Toronto and I must have looked like I had just arrived from 1982. A few of the surprises.

Toronto has a toll road which monitors your usage by taking a picture of your license plate and sending you a bill. I still have not received the bill but I was in a rental car, so we will see if it gets back to me.

When I arrived at the Toronto Airport parking garage I saw a line of Teslas plugged into chargers while their owners traveled. They also provide valet service at the departure drop off and wash your car and store it in a nice glass enclosed area.

At the gate lounge area the usual uncomfortable airport seats were replaced by couches and arm chairs each with its own iPad for you to use. You could order food on the iPad and they would bring it to you. 10 minutes before my departure the iPad in front of me told me so and asked if I would ilke coffee or Tea before I got on the plane. Presumably it didnt know that would make me want to pee and that is not an urge I want to have when sitting in the center row in economy.

Apparently airlines have stopped serving anything resembling edible food during flights and economy seating has been reduced to less leg room than my knees need to not impale into the seat back in front of me.

Upon arriving in Zurich I was chauffeured to my meeting by a self driving car. I looked at the driver in horror as he had his hands off the wheel and foot off the gas and brake while we were traveling 100 kph in rush hour traffic.

The hotel elevator required I wave my room key in front of a little panel to activate it. Then the room door, lacking any kind of slot for the key required a similar wave in front of the knob. Then upon entering the room the room key had to be inserted in a slot to activate the light and climate control.  It was a miracle I made it into the room at all.

Everything is automated from ordering lunch at a restaurant to getting your boarding pass and submitting customs documents. Old people are standing at the kiosks yelling for help. "Miss, Miss where am I supposed to stick this form?"

Which begs the question. Why is technology putting hurdles in front of me that I am instinctively supposed to know how to over come?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

How many characters from this Blog does it take to change a lightbulb

Two and a half. Portman (Presently Handicapped counts as 1/2). Lil B and the RQ.

Somehow Saturn designed the Aura starting with the headlamp bulb and then assembled the rest of the car around it. Requiring the removal of 25 fasteners, the bumper, the wheel well liner and parts of the under body to access a part which requires replacement every 3 years!

This process requires removal of hidden bolts, special tools and quite a bit of patience and force. Muscles were pulled, Tears were shed, smells were spread, Swear words were sworn. After 6 hours of labor and using most of my pneumatic and power tools we managed to successfully change exactly one headlight bulb. No wonder car dealers charge $200 for this service!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Jordon Spieths Caddy better be careful

He is starting to look like the homeless guy Happy Gilmore turned into his caddy.
The resemblance is uncanny.

With the $2.15 million he made this year he can buy a lot of disposable razor blades.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Crap..I did it again

This time I was only playing tennis. Snapped the Achilles, made a loud popping sound. My tennis partner was nice enough to pick me up off the court and drive me to the ER. I kid you not when I showed up all they asked was my name and date of birth and told me to take a seat.  No insurance card no other information. "We have everything on file" they said. I wonder if they have a frequent flyer program?

GPS palooza

When Portman gets into a project. He really gets into a project. A desire to integrate an old Garmin GPS into an old car started an Odyssey worthy of an engineer who doesn't get his hands on stuff anymore but sits in meetings listening to Yentas Kibitz.  This post is going to require a judaic dictionary I am afraid.

The task at hand was to fix the annoying tendency of my GPS suction cup mount to come unconnected from the windshield at the worst possible moment and to eliminate the obtrusive power cord from sullying the usual sleek appearance of my simulated (ie plastic) walnut dash.

A few YouTube videos later I had my idea.

Voila. A completely integrated semi permanent GPS mount with the wiring hidden behind the dash. It detaches easily and turns on and off automatically with the car ignition. Cost $10. I had to consult the internet for how to disassemble the dashboard. Its very simple but requires inside knowledge of a secret place you press on the dash and utter a secret phrase such as arrrggghhh while you exert incredible force on your dashboard until just when you think you are going to break the thing in two it relents and separates itself from the connected part.

Then I remembered the GPS came with lifetime maps. Onto the computer. I connected the thing and a few downloads and Garmin help sites later and I have the latest maps stored on the GPS.

But wait..there's more. While searching for how to update the GPS I found a web site with street maps available for free. Garmin charges $79 for the things. I have a bike GPS which has non detailed maps and I wanted to update it and wouldn't you believe there is an organization which produces bike specific GPS maps which they will build for you. A few giga bytes of downloaded data later and I have detailed maps on my bike GPS for, you guessed it, free.

But why stop there. I also found a free app for my smartphone which has GPS maps which do not require a data connection. Perfect for that trip to Denali National Park where GPS service is non existent.  I will be hiking right past those iPhone sissys as they search for a data connection  and wonder why they cant find their way off the tour bus.

So now I have a GPS in my car on my bike and in my pocket. The only way I can get lost is in my own thoughts as the Yentas drone on.....

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Thats Do it Yourself, for those of you accustomed to repairing things with the Universal Tool (A credit Card).  I think it fair to say if it leaks, stinks, squeaks or sticks Portman gets busy. 

Leaks: Recently the connection to my hot water heater was dripping slowly. This is akin to Chinese water torture for Portman. A few trips to home depot and $20 in the swear jar later and its fixed! 
My outside faucet has been dripping for 18 years (since I bought the house). Despite the drip being no worse, Somehow, just recently it became imperative I get it fixed. I bought the replacement valve 15 years ago and never installed it. Hardest part of the job was getting over the procrastination. 

Stinks: My kitchen and bathroom faucets started emitting a foul odor when first run after about a day of non-use. After 4 months of fiddling with the water treatment system it turned out the problem was in the feed lines right at the faucet. The fix was to soak the hose in a Chlorine solution. Who knew! The fix for Portman still cannot be found.

Squeaks: My prize road bike started developing this creaking noise when pedaling hard. After replacing the chain, the bottom bracket and re-greasing and torquing every bolt I could find... The problem was in two tiny screws which hold the derailleur hanger on. They were loose. It took no more than a quarter of a wrench turn and about 2 minutes to finally fix. I needed the new chain and Bottom Bracket anyway..  Little B has been racking up the miles lately. As for Donald he has been racking up with miles with his lips!
Squeaks (or makes annoying noises constantly)