Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Overland Expo

I'm going to the Overland Expo this coming May in the Flagstaff, AZ area.  I've never been.  The description sounds interesting and I'm sure I'll enjoy it.  Although, Andrew St. Pierre White's youtube video from last year's expo showed the cold rainy and snowy weather that settled upon the event.  He said that 40 vehicles had to be pulled from the muck by a military vehicle.

I'm not a true overlander.  But I'm also not a true off roader.  That's reserved for the brave people who drive modified rigs over scary rugged terrain.  Heck, when I visited Moab a few years ago, I had a hard time finding trails easy enough for my taste.

I do like to spend days at a time living out of my car while driving extremely remote unmaintained "roads."  Maybe that's overlanding in the US.  To me, it's just a more interesting route than the interstate highway.

If you were planning to attend and haven't registered yet, then I suggest getting to it.  Several of the classes I wanted to attend are already full and are waitlisted.

After the expo, I'll head north into Utah and do some hiking.  I might take my chances at the walkin permit lottery for The Wave.  I hiked it back in 2005 and subsequently failed to win a permit on 3 other occasions.  I want to hike to the dinosaur footprints on the butte to the west of the Wave formation.  Regardless, I'll eventually end up at Zion National Park.  Any reader of my blog knows that I like visiting that park.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Books I've Recently Read

Apparently Noam Chomsky is a famous writer that no major publication wants to carry because his claims of neoliberalism in America are upsetting to the big companies that buy ads that fund those publications.  After reading this book, I can understand their concern.  They surely don't want mainstream America to embrace these views because that might jeopardize their profit.  Chomsky's perspective isn't mainstream, but is reinforced by a growing cohort who think the country's become a plutocracy.  All said, the book is a bit interesting as well as a bit dry.  Confessions of an Economic Hitman is a more engaging tale of neoliberal world order loosely orchestrated by the US.

The Invention of Nature
I really enjoyed The Invention of Nature - Alexander von Humboldt's New World by Andrea Wulf.  I've been wanting to read about the adventures of Alexander von Humboldt for a very long time.  It bothered me that my American public school education contained nothing about this man, who's name is plastered all over the country.  Living before the age of scientific specialization and the adoption of standardized fields, Humboldt pursued a holistic approach to natural studies.  He tackled the interrelationships between (what are now) various fields such as geography, meteorology, biology, botany, and more.  His books describing his travel to South America, Cuba, New Spain (Mexico), and even the US, were extremely popular and were an inspiration for many future scientists and naturalists, including Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel, John Muir, and Henry David Thoreau.  He even influenced the life of Simon Bolivar, years before Bolivar returned to South America to become a revolutionary leader and eventual President of Venezuela, Columbia, Bolivia, and Peru.

This short book by John Scalzi was more interesting than I thought it would be.  Set in the future, The Android's Dream is the name of a genetically engineered sheep that is required for an alien coronation ceremony.  All such sheep are being hunted and killed in order to prevent the coronation.  The last living thing with this sheep's DNA must be protected in order to prevent the alien race from starting a war with Earth.  A war we would lose.  The story is fast-paced and a bit complicated.  I enjoyed Scalzi's book Redshirts more, but I don't regret listening to this one.  Like Redshirts, The Android's Dream audiobook is read by Wil Wheaton.

This is a very interesting book that reads like a soap opera or a fictional movie as it jumps from character to character around the secret events of the atomic bomb development in the US.  It's all true though.  It's not a rigorous or comprehensive account of the bomb's development.  Instead, the book focuses on the involvement of a few people, some of whom I've never heard of.  I knew this going in, so I wasn't disappointed.  I enjoyed the book.  It was perfect entertainment as I listened to it while driving to Utah.


What can I say?  I like the Covert-One series of espionage thrillers and their protagonist: Colonel John Smith, MD.  Smith is an American James Bond like character, but with more intellect and less womanizing.  Some of the Covert-One novels are better written than others.  For example, I liked The Patriot Attack more than The Paris Option.  I listen to these audiobooks on long drives.  They're a great way to stay alert and fend-off the hypnotizing highway lane markers.



These books are currently in my queue: The Name of the Wind, The Three Body Problem, Foolproof: How Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Picketty's famous new book), and The Virtue of Selfishness (an old one by Ayn Rand).  That last one is a maybe.

Friday, March 25, 2016

2015 LR4 Oil Change

My previous 2008 LR3 came with 3 years of free oil changes.  My 2015 model only gets one oil change.  I decided to change it myself.  The new car doesn't have a normal drain plug and you don't have to remove skid plates to change the oil, so I wanted to see how easy or difficult the process is.

I used the procedure described by Umberto Bonfante in his youtube video.  I'm glad he shared that.  It was very helpful.  Here's a similar procedure described on an LR forum.

I bought the LR recommended Castrol Edge 0w20.  The price was very low at Walmart.

Below is the procedure that I followed.  I wrote down Umberto's procedure so I could have it with me in the garage on my iPad.  This is so I wouldn't skip a step.  I tend to skip steps.  I'm not a person you want performing maintenance on a submarine, unless you have an assistant following me around to ensure I don't skip a step.  That's one of the lessens learned by a US Navy sub captain as told in this good book: Turn the Ship Around.

Tools Used:
  • oil   (8.5 quarts, 0w20, Castrol Edge synthetic)
  • oil filter
  • filter wrench adapter
  • torque wrench
  • extension for torque wrench
  • mityvac pump
  • funnel
  • rags
  • bucket to place dirty filter


1. Remove plastic cover from engine top.

2. Loosen oil filter:  4 full turns

- helps the oil to evacuate
- use the torque wrench + extension + filter adapter

3. Prep the mityvac pump

- find the black tube end-piece: 
1-side fits the end of the big tube
other side fits the (smaller) tube in the car oil fill hole

- close the pressure relief valve on top the pump
metal lever

- set the Evacuate / Dispense Switch
short cylinder on side of pump cylinder
switch operates up/down large buttons on top/bottom
evacuate = down position

4. Remove Oil Filler Cap

5. Attach the small end of the black mityvac tube fitting to the central tube in the oil filler hole

- might need to push hard

6. Connect other end of mityvac tube to the pump

- make certain to press it all the way in, so it doesn't leak/spray when pumping

7. Begin pumping

- about 10 - 12 pumps to start the oil flowing

8. Leave it alone - let the oil flow out

- it should take about 10 minutes
- you'll see no oil in the plastic tube when done
- pump a few times to be certain

9. Disconnect hose from the engine

10. Remove Oil Filter

- unscrew filter housing by hand and lift out - flip over, watch for drips

11. Replace Oil Filter in the Housing

- pull the dirty filter out of the housing (yes, you'll get oily)
- clean interior of housing with a rag
- remove old o-ring from housing (might require a screwdriver or other pry tool)
- carefully install new o-ring in its place
- insert new filter into housing
- use clean oil to lightly oil the o-ring & smaller gaskets on the end of the filter

12. Install New Filter

- hand tighten
- tighten using torque wrench: 25 Nm (18.5 lb-ft)

13. Add Clean Oil

- use funnel
- add 8 quarts
- cap it

14. Check Oil Level
- DON'T START ENGINE (foot OFF brake)
- press Start button
- press right arrow on steering wheel
- select Service Menu / Oil Level Display
- might read: overfilled.  don't worry.  reading will lower after engine runs

15. Start engine and verify no leaks

- run the engine for a few minutes, then turn it off
- let the engine sit for 20+ minutes, then check the oil level again
- if needed, add a bit more oil, then return to step 14

16. Replace Plastic Cover on Top Engine

17. Clean Up

18. Pump used oil into jugs

19. Clean any spills on pump exterior

20. Dispose of used oil and filter



Here are a couple photos I took.




Afterward, I decided that I liked this procedure.  It was simple and straight-forward.  It didn't take very long either.  I reset the service indicator by following this procedure.  Oddly, my car never displayed "SERVICE RESETTING", however the process did supress the indicator I was getting (a short text message about service required in X miles).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tower Records

I recently watched the documentary "All Things Must Pass" about Tower Records; how it started, grew and collapsed.

I miss Tower Records.  I spent a lot of time there.  That was during the CD/DVD years, not during the vinyl years.  Tower was one store where I had to have at least an hour free or else I wouldn't go inside.  Because once I was inside I would lose track of time.  I'd just get lost in the racks.  It was a way to relax.  To forget my problems and focus on something I enjoy: music and movies.  When the last one near me closed, I went there several times with a friend to buy up discounted inventory.

I really enjoyed All Things Must Pass.  If you liked Tower Records, then you'll also enjoy this movie.  They've got interviews with the founders and early employees as well as famous people who've had a relationship with the store, including David Geffen, Elton John, and Bruce Springsteen.

Here's the IMDB page for the movie, and here's the official page.

"I spent more money in Tower Records than any other human being."  -Elton John