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Back To One

Okay, everybody back to one.

I was planning to go in early this morning, get a jump on my email and shadow Arthur as he escorted our client representative through our building. Instead, I was crawling around under a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix. It was very much a redneck scence. The car wasn’t exactly up on blocks. I used jack stands instead.

I was completing a “simple” job that I started yesterday evening. I set out to change the oil and replace the brakes. I was well prepared. I had 5 quarts of 5W-30 conventional motor oil, a new Wix oil filter, the brake pads for all four brakes and a brand new jar of brake grease.

It didn’t go as planned. The oil change went smooth. And the front brakes went well. I broke one of the back brakes. Specifically, I broke the cylinder in the left rear caliper. (Oh. . .THAT’S Why It Didn’t Work.) By the time I figured out I’d broken it, the auto parts store was closed.

That brought me to today. I had no way to work, so I borrowed my wife’s car and went to get the new caliper from the auto parts store. While I was at it, I decided to replace the rotor on one wheel. I should have planned for it before, but I didn’t want to delay finishing. . .too late!

Everyone makes a car payment. You either pay the bank or you pay the mechanic
– Lloyd V Bliss

. . . or you pay the auto parts store
– Rodney M Bliss

I actually made good time and counted it as a really long lunch. I still got company work done in the morning and the afternoon and of course, we have more maintenance going on in the middle of the night.

When I got done, I took the car for a test drive. It worked great. In fact, the car is running better than it has since I bought it a year ago. I considered what was recently done.

– Oil change
– New brakes (including a new left rear caliper and a left front rotor)
– Tires rotated so the best ones are on the front

And some other work was also done recently
– New water pump
– New thermostat
– New radiator cap (It might sound minor, but it really isn’t)
– New engine mounts

I also topped off the following fluids

– Brake fluid
– Coolant
– Oil (during the change)
– Automatic tranmission fluid

It was, in many ways, like a new, or at least new…er car. But, when I got it all put back together, it looked exactly like it had at the beginning. All that work and not a single thing to show for it. It looked like nothing had changed, and yet a long list of things had changed.

I’ve often thought how my regular job is a lot like these repairs. At the end of the day, my office looks pretty much the same as it did when I started. But, if I’m doing my job well, there should be many things that have changed. During the day, my desk looks worked at, but at the end of the day, like a good mechanic, I put all my tools away. They are waiting for me the next day.

Like a movie director who has just filmed a complex scene and now wants another take, everything is back to first positions, or “back to one.”

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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Oh. . .THAT’S Why It Didn’t Work

Good judgement comes from experience
Experience comes from poor judgement

I broke my car.

It wasn’t my fault. Well, it wasn’t anyone else fault, but it totally wasn’t my fault.

I recently took a road trip from Pleasant Grove, Utah to Moscow, Idaho, over to Pasco, Washington, back to Moscow and then on to Pleasant Grove. It was about 2000 miles. And my brakes started squealing at about the 500 mile mark.

Squealing brakes are actually a designed feature. Your brakes have asbestos pads that press against a rotor to stop the car. A rotor is a big metal plate about the side of an oversized dinner plate.

When your brake pads get low, there’s a piece of metal that will come in contact with the rotor. It doesn’t hurt anything, but that metal on metal squealing reminds you to take your car in and have its brakes replaced.

I was too smart for that. (I was too smart for my good, but I’m getting to that.) During the road trip the brakes started to get really bad. The went past the squealing to the grinding. Grinding is when the brake pad is totally gone and you have metal on metal, the metal brake pad on the rotor.

Today, I decided to fix my brakes. I had the pads already. I bought some brake grease, and I was ready to go. It can cost as much as $200 to have brake job done. I can do my own for less than a quarter of that.

The front ones went fine. To replace your brakes, you jack up the car. Then, you remove the tire. It’s a good idea to put jack stands under your car. And by “good idea” I mean, the same as “it’s a good idea to wear a helmet and use your seatbelt. Next, you remove the calipers. There are two very tight bolts on the back of the calipers. You will bruise your knuckles breaking those bolts loose. . .every time.

After you take off the calipers, you then remove the old brake pads and mounting hardware. You put some brake grease on the contact points of the new pads. You put them and the new hardware back on the car.

If you attempt to put the caliper back on at this point, it will not fit. The cylinder has been depressing as your brake pads wear down. You’ve now put new (wider) pads on and the cylinder is too far out. You place one of the old pads on the inside of the cylinder and use a C-clamp to push the cylinder back into the caliper housing.

It’s not hard. Well, the cylinder is pretty stiff, but the process is pretty easy. And if you’ve done one set of brakes you’ve pretty much done them all. Except for the rear disk brakes on a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix.

Front braks are always disk brakes. Rears can be drum brakes or disk brakes. Mine happen to be disk brakes. So, I did what book says. (I didn’t actually read a book.) I took off the wheel. I took off the caliper. I replaced the pads. And that’s where it all went wrong.

I couldn’t get the cylinder to compress. Noting I tried worked. I put the c-clamp. I tried bracing it with wood. I tried prying on it.

Finally, I called my neighbor. He’s my “car guy.” He brought over even bigger pliars and tools. We actually broke one of the tools trying to push that stupid cylinder down. . .and THEN we got smart.

We went to youtube.

The guy on the video took us through the process for changing rear disk brakes on a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix:

Remove the tire
Remove the caliper
Replace the pads
Be sure to not try to compress the cylinder, or you will break it. These cylinders screw back in.

And there it was. We quickly switched to the side we hadn’t touched yet. It screwed in nicely and we put the brakes back together. The side we had pushed on? Nope. Broken.

And now my car is broken for another day. A new caliper will be about $75. And I’ll have to work from home tomorrow.

I, along with my neighbor and his mechanic son, all now have the experience to show good judgement when changing the rear disk brakes on a 2006 Pontiac Grand Prix.

It was an expensive lesson.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

It’s May 18th And For Some Of Us, We Will Never Forget

It’s been 38 years and I remember it like it was yesterday.

May 18, 1980. I was 16 years old. It was a Sunday. My older brother and I were getting ready to leave from church. We lived in Lacey, Washington. Lacey is a suburb of Olympia, which is pretty much a suburb of Seattle which lies 40 miles to the North.

But, our attention that Sunday morning, all those years ago was South, not North. One hundred and twenty-five miles from Olympia, or about 100 miles as the crow flies is Mount Saint Helens.

Prior to its explosion, it was one of the prettiest looking mountains in the Cascade range. Located a few miles from Portland, it was a popular hiking destination. Mount Saint Helens had the longest “slide path” of any mountain in the Cascades. You could start near the top and using an ice axe for a brake, slide down for thousands of feet.

The explosion that Sunday morning blew about 1300 feet off the top of the mountain. Rather than a rounded dome, it now sports a mile wide crater on the top. The ash cloud went over 15 miles into the air. More than high enough for us to see it from our front porch in Lacey, Washington.

Looking South, we could see what looked like a bank of clouds. But, if you paid close attention, the clouds were alive, continuing to grown and morph in the clear morning sky.

Mount Saint Helens had been active for awhile. No one was surprised it blew up. The intensity was unexpected. The initial blast, in addition to blowing 1300 feet off the top of the mountian, flattened about 230 square miles of vegetation, mostly Douglas Fir, Cedar, Hemlock and other evergreens native to Washington. Over the next nine hours it threw more than 0.67 cubic miles of ash into the air. It had a force of 24 megatons of thermal energy. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima had over a thousand times less energy at 15 kilotons.

It killed 57 people.

The ash cloud would eventually circle the globe, but first it turned day to night for Eastern Washington. The ash fell like snow. But snow that would not melt. It got everywhere. Cars sucked it into their engines, clogging filters and freezing engines. It piled up on roofs, threatening to collapse them under its weight. It covered acres and acres of seedlings that were just starting to sprout. But, in a strange benefit, after causing so much harm, the ash on the fields turned out to be a blessing. The crops thrived under their thick grey blanket and grew bigger than ever.

I went to work for my grandfather the following summer in 1981, and as we drove farm trucks in and out of a field, the entrance would quickly turn to a dust bowl several inches thick.

Mount Saint Helens was the most expensive and destructive volcanic eruption in American History.

And it happened 38 years ago today. Those of us who lived through it will never forget it.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

I’m not sure if it was Arthur’s first Major League Baseball game. I know it was his first visit to PNC Park in Pittsburgh the home of the Pirates.

We had a bit of an adventure to actually get to the stadium. (In 500 Feet Your Destination Will Be On The Right. . .Some Flying May Be Required.) As we finally parked, it was a short two block walk to the stadium.

As we planned the trip to the game, Arthur asked about tickets.

Have you bought the tickets yet?

It’s a Tuesday night game. There will be no problem getting seats.

If the parking lots were any indication, there were going to be even more seats available than I thought. Most of the ticket booth windows were closed. I walked to the main ticket window and sure enough, had no trouble getting seats. We picked seats on the 3rd baseline, on the 300 level. They were probably more than we needed to pay at $19 per seat, but the ticket seller assured us they were great seats.

We entered PNC Park and it hit me.

It always hits me.

I’ve never played baseball, but I’ve been attending games since I was 13 years old and my dad took me to the old Kingdome in Seattle to watch the Mariners play.

Walking into the stadium, even before you see the field, is a full body experience. PNC Park, is a “retro” stadium. Build less than 20 years ago, but designed to look much older.

Sight? Check.

We had skipped dinner with the anticipation of eating at the ball park. I could smell the burgers and dogs. I had the Italian sausage with onions and peppers.

Smell? Check.

Taste? Check.

Even though it was a sparce crowd, we could hear the organ (Yeah, it’s a high-tech soundtrack, but it sounded like an organ.) We heard the mumble of the PA announcer grow louder as we made our way toward the inclined ramps leading to the upper levels.

Sounds? Check.

I stopped and bought a Pirates cap, a tradition I follow at every new stadium I visit. I opted for the old “pillbox” style, popular many years ago. It’s polyester, but feels like wool.

Touch? Check.

We wound our way up the first set of ramps, as we rounded a piller, there it was. An emerald field with a rust colored infield.

Wow

I turned to see that Arthur had stopped and was simply staring. And it was quite a sight.

Yeah, that view never gets old

We made our way to our seats. They were as good as the ticket seller had promised, with a great view of the field and a view of the river and city skyline on the other side of it.

It didn’t matter that we weren’t fans of either team. It didn’t matter that the Pirates were leading their division or that the Chicago White Sox were in the celler in theirs. It didn’t matter that we didn’t arrive until the fourth inning or that we had to leave in the eighth to make the three hour drive back to Columbus and our business meeting the following day.

We simply sat and soaked in the experience of being at the ballpark on an early summer night. The weather was perfect, the Italian sausage was delicious, the atmosphere was magic.

What a night out for baseball.

(Oh, the Pirates shut out the White Sox. I think the it was 4 or 5 to 0. Honestly, I wasn’t pay that much attention to the score.)

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Your Destination Is On The Right. . .Some Flying My Be Required

I don’t think the Google assist lady likes baseball. . .and I’m sure she’s never been to Pittsburgh.

I made it to the baseball game. It was a three hour drive through a massive thunderstorm and the last half mile was the most challenging.

I’m in Columbus for a couple of days on business. Columbus is not that far from Pittsburgh. Well, it’s a couple of hundred miles, and it’s two states away. (You have to go through a narrow stretch of West Virginia.)

But, maybe it’s living in Utah, but a couple hundred miles just doesn’t seem that long. Sure, you have to make sure you’ve used the restroom before you leave and you should settle in for a lot of sitting, but if it’s important, three hours isn’t too terrible.

There are several Major League Baseball stadiums within driving distance of Columbus. If by driving distance you mean three hours or less. The Tigers and the Reds are currently on the road. But, the Pirates are at PNC Park this week playing the Chicago White Sox.

The game started at 7:05, my flight landed in Columbus at 3:00. My coworker landed a few minutes earlier. We knew that we would have time to get to the game. But, it was raining in Columbus. And it was raining all over the upper mid-west. And it looked like it was raining in Pittsburgh.

If you are about to make a three hour road trip, you kind of want to make sure that the game isn’t going to be rained out. The weather app, which had earlier put the chance of rain in Pittsburgh at 80% showed a 50% and didn’t call for rain during game time.

We decided to chance it. We checked into our hotels and headed East out of Columbus. This isn’t the first business trip I’ve been on with this coworker but it was the first road trip. He picked me up at my hotel,

Do you want to take my car?

No, get in, I’ll drive.

I could tell immediately this trip was getting off to a great start. He didn’t even let me use my phone to give directions.

As we headed toward East Ohio the rain got harder. And then it got harder still. Through the rain streaked windshield we saw flashes of lightening and heard the distant role of thunder.

I anxiously continued to check the weather app, which continued to show clearing skies over Pittsburgh. The Google Assist lady continued to give us directions. Somewhere around the West Virginia state line, the Google Lady told us there was a twelve minute delay ahead and she recommended we take an 80 mile detour.

So, off we went through the backroads of Ohio and then West Virginia and finally Pennsylvania. We made good time considering the rain. As we got closer to Pittsburgh, the skies started to clear. As we came out of the tunner, we saw the river stretched out in front of us. And no rain.

There’s a stadium.

It seems kind of empty.

Yeah, you don’t think they would have cancelled it?

Oh. . .

What? Look to the right. THAT is PNC Park, the baseball stadium. That other one is Heinz Field, the football stadium.

We laughed as the Google Lady directed us to exit the freeway. And that’s when it got a little weird.

My coworker was navigating. Well, his phone was. And I’m pretty sure she had no idea where she was going. We circled the stadium like a hawk eyeing a tasty meal, but just not able to reach it. We soon found ourselves headed across the river and back through the tunnel. That was definitely not the right direction.

We circled around and made anothe run at it. We once again found ourselves coming out of the tunnel and headed across the river. The stadium lights bright against the fading evening light. The Google Lady continued to give us directions which continued to fail to get us to the stadium.

We found ourselves once again headed up the ramp toward the bridge and that stupid tunnel. In a final bit of useless advice the Google Lady offered,

In 500 feet your destination will be on the right.

We just started laughing. It’s true the stadium was to our right.

We could even catch a glimpse of the outfield grass. But, to get to it, we’d have to stop in the middle of the road and pretty much fly, like a home run ball in reverse, across the outfield wall.

We went across the river, but turned off before the tunnel this time.

Let’s ignore her. Once you get across the river just head for the stadium and we’ll look for a parking.

With the river to our right and the stadium somewhere in front of us, it was a simple process to wind our way close enough to find parking. We walked the two blocks to PNC Park and looked for the walk up ticket window.

It was only the fourth inning. Still a lot of baseball left.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Is It A Bucket List If It Only Has One Item? (A Post About Baseball)

There are 30 Major League baseball stadiums. Twenty-nine are in the United States and one in Toronto, Canada. Major League Baseball is actually two leagues, the National League and the American League. Each league is divided into three divisions, the Eastern, Central and Western. Each division has five teams.

The winner of each division, is not surprisingly called the Division Champion. The playoffs pit the three division champions from each league and the best two teams that didn’t win their division against each other. The winner of that series of games becomes the Conference Champion. The conference champions meet in a seven game playoff called the World Series.

There are seven teams that have never won the World Series.

San Diego Padres
Tampa Bay Rays
Washington Nationals
Colorado Rockies
Milwaukee Brewers,
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners

Last year, the World Series went to the Houston Astros. The city was still recovering from the hurricanes that hit earlier in the year and the World Series win was a bright spot in a year that had few of them. Of the list above, only two teams, Washington Nationals and the Seattle Mariners have never even been to the Fall Classic. However, the old Washington Senators, who played in Washington DC from 1901-1960 won it all in 1924. Leaving hapless Seattle as the only Major League City to never send a team to the Series.

On the other hand, of the 113 times the World Series has been played, the New York Yankees have represented the American League 40 times. They took the championship 27 times.

The longest drought between championships was the Chicago Cubs. They won it in 1908 and then didn’t win again until 2016, 108 years later. But, hey, anyone can have a bad century.

The championship series was cancelled twice. Most recently in 1994 because of a players strike. The other time was 90 years earlier in 1904. Apparently the National League champs, the New York Giants didn’t want to play the AL winners, the Boston Americans.

The 2018 baseball season is in full swing. My hapless Mariners are just a game and a half out of first place in the American League West Division. “If the season were to end today. . .” Yeah, Seattle still wouldn’t be headed to the playoffs.

I don’t have much of a bucket list. I’d like to see my kids grown. Maybe dance at a grandchild’s wedding. I have a couple of other goals that are just for me. But, the one sure thing on my bucket list is to visit all 30 baseball stadiums and buy a fitted cap for every team. Currently, I’ve been to eight.

Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners)
Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs)
Turner Field (Atlanta Braves)
Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox)
Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati Reds)
Ballpark at Arlington (Texas Rangers)
AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants)
Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

I’ve driven past the Rockies stadium in Denver and the old Comisky Park on the South Side of Chicago where the White Sox played, but never been in.

Tomorrow I fly to Columbus, Ohio for a business trip. My flight arrives at 3:00, but my meetings aren’t until the following day. It’s three hours from Columbus to Pittsburgh, where the Pirates play in PNC Park. I figure I can make it in time for the first pitch at 7:00pm. My only worry. . .they’re predicting rain.

Let’s hope they PLAY BALL!

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

A Note To My Most Important Reader

Today’s post is not for you. No really, you can keep reading if you’d like, but it’s really not meant for you.

Still here, I see. Okay, suit yourself.

I post Monday through Friday. It’s the practice I set up when I started this years ago. The downside is that if something exciting happens on a weekend, I have to wait until Monday. Mostly, it’s a story about camping or car repairs.

Well, today’s Monday and yesterday was an exciting day. A special day. A day worth celebrating. In the United States, yesterday was Mother’s Day.

I didn’t call my mother yesterday. The phone rang about 9:00am and she had a question about two of my sons who are planning a trip out to visit her this summer.

What is their birthdate? Oh, and your address. And should I put down your phone number?

We talked as people do who share a history and have similar interests. She asked me about Bitcoin. (I’m not a fan.) She was a CPA and a licensed financial planner. Through hard work and conservative investing, she made a lot of money for her clients and created a comfortable retirement for herself. I’m convinced that she won’t end up betting all her retirement money on cryptocurrency. But, she’ll put some of it in. . .probably.

I did a series of articles a couple years ago about “Lessons From My Fathers.” Mom was married a few times. At the time I didn’t consider what it would mean to my mother. I hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings, but I did. I apologized, as sons do.

My mother is an amazing woman. She has been dirt poor and fairly wealthy. In both wealth and poverty she was always the same woman: kind, generous, funny. She always claimed she couldn’t sing. But, she always sounded like an angel to me. She had to figure out how to raise at least three boys. In my family that’s kind of the best description you can hope for. I have two brothers and one sister. My sister has five brothers. My brother has three brothers and a sister. We’re all correct, and none of us are exactly right. My mother managed to keep all of that straight while raising us.

She went back to school later in life. She passed the CPA exam on her first try. She built a successful CPA firm in her adopted home town of Olympia, Washington. She then started an investment firm, earning her licensed financial planner certification. She cared for my dad, she doted on him really. Theirs was a unique relationship. To an outsider it looked like they bickered and quarreled. To those of us that knew them both, it was obvious they were clearly in love.

She cared for him all the way up until the day that he died. I still remember a trip to Denver that they took just shortly before my dad passed. I drove the seven hours from Pleasant Grove, Utah to Denver to help them put affairs in order so they could get on a plane. It was the last time I saw my dad alive.

She’s a remarkable woman and I’m lucky to be her son.

I know Mother’s Day is passed, but call your mother if you are lucky enough to still have her in your life.

I hope you love your mother as much as I love mine.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2018 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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