The joys of a clean installation

ted | chicago,driving,travel | Monday, December 29th, 2008

I’ve had Sirius satellite radio in my 2006 Golf now for two years and an in-dash touchscreen GPS for a year – the best two upgrades I’ve done to it. Probably. Unfortunately, a bit messy. I had the Sirius S50 on a Panavise mount to the right of the HVAC controls and the iPod cable strung out under the dash. Add in a RADAR detector and I had 2 items pulling power from the cigarette lighter, an antenna cable & audio cable to the S50 and the iPod cable dangling out. It was messy and frankly looked like poop.

old installation

My lovely wife gifted me with my headunit-specific Sirius tuner & bluetooth module for this year’s presentmas and I took the opportunity last weekend to put them in place and greatly neaten up this mess of cabling. It also didn’t hurt that it was almost 21C and I had my in-laws’ garage to work in.

So, first things last – a list.

  • Pull existing iPod cable into glovebox.
  • Install Bluetooth module.
  • Install & activate new Sirius module.
  • Run key sense power to headunit & all accessories.

So here’s what I did.

  1. Purchased a generic 12V automotive relay, heat shrink tubing and ancillaries. I brought my butane-powered soldering iron & silver bearing solder. Found the key sense power cable exiting the steering column, stripped off about 1cm of insulation with my pocketknife. Wrap new bare wire around this joint, solder in place, wrap with electrical tape. Make leads for positive 30x terminal (fused), ground point under dash & 12V out to units. Crip on spade connectors, fit everything up, shrink on tubing, test with multimeter.
  2. Discover that removing the glovebox requires removing the entire center console. Curse VW. Find directions, discover it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. And it makes cleaning the center consoles MUCH easier when they’re out of the car.
  3. Remove entirety of center console & glovebox, run iPod cable into glovebox.
  4. Replace entirety of center console & glovebox. Clean each part before replacing.
  5. Wire up everything and see if it works. Discover why Pioneer color-coded the IPBus connectors.
  6. Shorten all wire runs wherever possible, stuff under driver’s side kick panel.
  7. Put everything back together.
  8. Drink lots of Canadien Club & Coke Zero. LOTS.

I did the above across two leisurely days, including family socializing, eating huge meals and the usual holiday stuff.

So my car went from how it looked above (functional, but messy) to this, mid-installation:



To looking like this: a much, much cleaner installation. And everything works perfectly, as it should.



The car itself is mighty dirty still, and letting my bastard red greyhound loose inside it with muddy paws didn’t help anything. I still have nothing but good things to say about the Pioneer AVIC-D3 but with the addition of the Pioneer-specific Sirius, iPod & Bluetooth modules, it’s a much nicer package. It makes my little Golf TDI a much nicer place to spend 5 hours in ultra-dense fog on I-65, but that’s another story.

Oh, hi

ted | beer,bike,chicago,computer,driving,food,HAMLOG,house,junk,travel | Monday, December 8th, 2008

Yeah, it’s been a while. So what’s new?

  • Turns out the bike/car wreck was my fault, according to the eyewitnesses. Whoops. Needless to say, it has been handed over to my insurance company for them to deal with. I’m 99% physically healed but my ego is still bruised… as big of a stickler as I am for Same Road Same Rules Same Rights, I caused a wreck. Damn. I am making everything right on the car repair side and turning my mangled Raleigh Grand Prix into a parts bike for a road frame Charlie gave me years ago.
  • My Senator got elected to be the next POTUS which delights me greatly.
  • It’s cold here. And snowy. Just in time, too – I like seasonal weather.
  • We had Fakesgiving III/Bullshit Thanksgiving 2008 at the home of Pete & Miz Royal. Fried a turkey in the chilly 15°F weather, had a couple Manhattans courtesy of Mr. Scott Action (Anton LaVey Jr.) and a great time was had by all.
  • I’m keeping track of what I eat again. And losing weight again. I need to do this, badly. I’ve got two data points from this year. One where I signed up for fitday last year and one where I got weighed for a weight-loss contest at work in August. I’m back down near my August weight but have about 20 pounds to go until I’ve erased 2008’s ravages from my body.
  • Out of homebrew. For now. Apple juice should start getting really, really cheap soon which means it’s about time to make another keg of hard cider.
  • Work’s keeping me busy. One of my projects entails modifying some of our equipment, including getting the die set out of one of our presses, and nobody there has had it out before – fun, challenging and downright scary at times. You go elbows-deep in an 80 ton press and tell me it ain’t scary.
  • My buddy Markh is comin’ up this weekend with his special lady in tow, which excites me. I haven’t seen Mark much since I moved 700+ miles away. Funny, that.

In short, first I:

But now:

And soon I shall again be:

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose

ted | driving | Thursday, September 25th, 2008

1.8 miles left on my Golf’s warranty, and I’m about to go drive 9 miles home.


ted | bike,chicago,driving | Thursday, September 11th, 2008

I had to triple-check my spelling, lest I had swapped the D & R (link definitely NSFW). Honestly, no idea what’s going on with that as of yet, I was busy having a plain ol’ collision yesterday. Got hit by a Chevy HHR on the way home. Yes, I was on my bicycle. Aside from fresh road rash and some serious bruising, I think I’m OK.

I don’t recall what happened at all – I was riding down Kedzie Avenue, going down the hill in front of the Nabisco bakery and the next thing I know, I’m in an ambulance, signing the waiver so I can go home directly.

The cops on the scene were nice enough to give me a ride home (and they apologized for the uncomfortable hard plastic back seat) and I went straight on to the shower where I spent a good long while brushing asphalt out of my wounds. So far I think I’m OK, just some abrasions and a busted-up bicycle, but should any problems begin to appear I’ll be heading directly to the ER to get checked out.


Everybody in a car, please look twice. I’m tired of this happening.

Reading comprehension ain’t your strong suit, James

ted | driving,travel | Monday, July 7th, 2008

All comments on here go to a moderation purgatory before I get around to deleting all the ones that are ads for boner pills, real fake watches, official Windows 98SE floppies & noodie pix, I often find one or two from a real person. I’m still amazed anyone reads this, honestly, much less that they comment on anything. Turns out I may have struck a nerve with someone when I posted about how I wasn’t happy how two guys in a company truck were driving very dangerously and when informed of this, their employer made the decision to terminate them. Instead of letting his/her/its comment stay buried in obscurity at the end of that post that’s over a year old now, here they are for your reading enjoyment.

The first comment, posted at 12:49 AM on 2008-July-02:

I read your blog and feel that you should be proud of yourself. By your whining and bitching you got 2 people that work hard for their money fired. Yes they came to close to your bumper because you, the dick, decided to drive the speed limit. You should share your story with others that are not in your eco friendly circle. The rest of us trying to get home at 5:30 and we live way far away from where we are at 5:30 can truely apreciate the likes of you. I hope you get a DUI after having your white whine spritzer. F you you prick. Pat yourself on the back and think about the the mortgage and kids welbeing shots and all the other shit that didnt’t get paid because someone came to close to your Jetta that got 47 mpg because it went rediculaously slow on a major expressway. FUCK YOU, YOU PRICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And the follow-up comment, posted 3 minutes later at 12:52 AM on 2008-July-02:

IF you didn’t get it before, you are and asshole. If you were going below the speed limit on a major road at 5:30 the you should be flipped off, called names, etc. You are a prick that may have gotten 2 people fired for waiting for some prick to drive the speed limit. I hope some one makes you late for something very important to you. Take the side streets if you care so much. F U

Both comments came from “James”, who gave his email address as and posted from I can tell this is actually which means it’s someone in the vicinity of Elmhurst IL redback and on AT&T/SBC/Ameritech/IL Bell/AT&T network. So, “James” please permit me to refute your points. I won’t even begin to ridicule your terrible grammar, sentence structure or your obvious failure to read and comprehend. In rough order:

  • You claim I got two people fired. Not so. Their employer pulled the records from the truck’s built-in GPS recorder and based on that data, they (the employer) opted to terminate their employees. It’s true I was the catalyst for this investigation, but it’s entirely plausible that after a periodic review of the GPS recorder’s data, they would have then been terminated anyway.
  • You also claim they worked hard for their money, which is pure conjecture.
  • I have been categorized as “whining and bitching”, which is a matter of opinion. I feel I framed my email in the most professional matter possible. Driving like they did was extremely unprofessional, a fact corroborated by their employer.
  • Fortunately, we are both in agreement that they did come close to my bumper. Why they did so was not because I decided to drive the speed limit (I was actually going 10 mph over the limit) – I have no idea why. I was in the far right lane with an open lane to the left of me. They were welcome to pass me at any point.
  • I was trying to get home as well, safely. At the time I worked 32 miles away from home. You are assuming (again) they had a long distance to drive.
  • You aren’t the first person who’s wished harm or injury on me, but I think you are the first to wish me a DUI after having a “white whine spritzer”. I can’t tell if that is a humorous double-entendre or just your bad spelling at work again, but I don’t drink much white wine and never a spritzers. I also take pains to drive when I’m legal to do so. So, it’s doubtful. But I’ll keep you updated.
  • The drivers’ “mortgage and kids welbeing [SIC] shots” weren’t my concern before this happened and they aren’t my concern after it happened. It is again conjecture on your part that they had mortgages, children & imminent vaccinations.
  • I drive a Golf, not a Jetta.
  • IL-394 isn’t a major expressway and I wasn’t going “rediculaously [SIC] slow”. IL-394 is a standard two-lane divided state highway, not a limited-access interstate highway. As I stated before, I was already going 10 mph over the speed limit in a construction zone with a $375 minimum fine and points assessed.
  • I did get it before, thanks.
  • Apparently you weren’t. I wasn’t going below the speed limit on a major road at 5:30. I was going over the speed limit on a major road in the rightmost lane and still being tailgated badly. I did get flipped off and I’m sure I got called names, too.
  • I’d like to point out (again) that I may have been the catalyst for the GPS data review, but it was the employer that terminated their employee’s employment. Blame the Production Director if you want to blame anyone for the actual firing. Or blame the employees who were willfully and repeatedly tailgating, speeding, driving recklessly and doing so IN THE COMPANY TRUCK.
  • I’m late to plenty of things on my own volition, or due to trains, school busses, traffic jams, bad drivers causing accidents, etc…
  • The side streets don’t get me where I need to go. Were they an option, I might take ’em.

So, “James”, who might be, from, I can appreciate the fact that you think I’m an asshole. I’ve never considered myself otherwise. But honestly, you missed the point here. I’m guessing you’re one of the guys in the truck or a friend of a friend or something. Maybe a guy who has to drive a company truck all day, tired of us slowpokes in your way all the time. Any way you slice it, the guy driving the truck should be responsible for his actions at all times, especially when driving a company truck. Everyone is free to tailgate and drive like a moron in their own vehicle, but when you do so in a work vehicle, your employer’s name is on the line, not yours. What they choose to do with you is not my concern.

I guess I should also point out that it was in a construction zone. 21 highway construction workers died while on the job last year. While 2007 data isn’t available yet, the DOT says in 2006 there were 6,317 commercial vehicle crashes in Illinois.

And please, if I’m driving the speed limit in the far right-hand lane, for fuck’s sake, pass me on the left, be on your way, have a Coke, a smile and leave me alone.

At the Drive-In

ted | chicago,driving | Monday, July 7th, 2008

Not the excellent band that later formed The Mars Volta and Sparta, but a real, honest-to-dog movie where one drives in your car in front of a screen and watches a movie or two.

It’d been a long time since we’ve had an Us Night, so we made the executive decision to go to a movie. We’ve been hating on movie theaters for a while now – way overpriced, crowded, annoying jerkwads in the theater always talking on their cell phones, can’t bring in your own beverages, bad sound – so we opted to go to the Melody Drive-In. Yes, it’s in darkest Indiana, a solid 90 minute drive from Our Fair City. The drive-in gives you the freedom to have a much more pleasant moviegoing experience. To wit:

  • It’s cheap. $6 per person for two movies is a bargain, only second to Brew ‘n View at the Vic.
  • You can bring in whatever food you want. We stopped to get a pizza on the way there and had 4 sodas and 4 tallboys of OE “800” with us.
  • Cell phones and uncomfortable, sticky seats aren’t a problem since you can bring blankets, lawn chairs, milk crates or whatever you want to sit on. Some folks just sit in their cars. Some have recliners in the bed of their truck. You’re spread out enough that people in the next row or even right next to you talking on their cell phones aren’t a problem.
  • Distributed sound is better than monolithic sound. True, you don’t get Dolby Digital 47.23089 AC9 buzzword-laden sound, but you can either listen to the given speakers (classic!) or use any FM radio to make your sound as loud as you want.

We had a great time. Wall-E was surprisingly good and The Incredible Hulk was the usual yawnfest “we were able to cram some plot in cracks in the CGI” summer action movie and we had a thoroughly decent time of it all.

I remember, as a kid, riding past a drive-in theater that was projecting a movie and being amazed at the size of the screen. This had to be easily 20 years ago and the North end of Carrollton has sprawled along US27 at an alarming rate so I know the screen’s no longer there, much less the projectors or lot. Never got a chance to go to drive-in until last year and I think they’re great. Given the choice betwixt a standard theater and a drive-in, I’ll pick the one that lets me drink beer, eat cheap pizza and have a nice time the way I want – it’ll be the drive-in every time.

New jorb update, 2008 July

ted | bike,chicago,driving,HAMLOG | Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

Basically the new place absolutely rocks. We got hell of labs and equipment and new computers and good software and I’m learning a whole lot of new stuff. Interesting stuff. Challenging stuff. I leave home at the same time as I did with the old place but I get home 1.5 hours earlier – read that again – I have an extra 1.5 hours AT HOME that I otherwise spent in the car or rotting away in my cube. Fuel economy for this first tank is down from 44ish MPG to about 40 MPG, but I only need to fill up about every 25 days instead of every 7 – 10.

But that ain’t really why I want to talk about.

I rode my bicycle to work today. Left home about half an hour early and had plenty of time to cool off a bit, change and be at my desk at my allotted start time. I felt great – awake, energetic and not really hungry at all. It was only after my big mess o’ black beans & brown rice for lunch that I got The Hunger. Fended that off until it was quittin’ time at Tara, whereupon I changed back and rode home. Took about 45 minutes to get to work and 40 on the way home. It’s nice to be able to ride to work again – or hell, for the first time ever. I used to only ride home from GE, 12 miles through Atlanta rush hour traffic. Now I’m going to be riding the full 18 miles to/from work a couple times a week, weather permitting.

This is more than just saving diesel. This is about getting back into shape by integrating exercise into my work day. This is about arriving at work fully awake and energetic. Getting the new job was just step one in my five year plan. Riding to work at minimum several times a week during that time of year when it won’t kill me is back to my roots and back to how I want to spend my time.

And like my homeboy President Carter from Plains GA said,

Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense — I tell you it is an act of patriotism.

I like fixing things

ted | chicago,driving,house,junk | Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

I like fixing things.

I like things not being broken first and foremost, but if they are, I like to set them proper again. I especially like doing simple fixes on the cars.

The 2000 New Beetle TDI we picked up last year had a check engine light on for a bad glowplug – the common P0380 code. When Jason did the timing belt (only 20k miles overdue, stupid-assed previous owners) he swapped it out for a known good used glowplug. Eventually that GP failed again, so I ordered a new set of Beru GPs from TDIParts and Peter was nice enough to bring them with him to a wrenching GTG in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Didn’t get them installed that day, as Matt was nice enough to reset the CEL and it didn’t come back.

A few weeks later, the CEL came back.

At that same GTG, I installed a zerostart kilowatt coolant heater in my 2006 Golf TDI but didn’t finish wiring it up.

This past Sunday, 2007 Dec 09, I fixed both issues. I had to venture out to get a 1/4″ drive 10mm deep socket and a can of P’Blaster, but otherwise everything was completely straightforward, as such:

  1. Remove engine cover (2x10mm nuts)
  2. Remove glowplug harness. Pull hard, it’s on there but good.
  3. While engine is still warm, spray the base of the GPs with P’Blaster.
  4. Test GP resistance with multimeter. Notice GP in 3rd cylinder measures 24 megaohms while everyone else measures 0.3 ohms.
  5. Ponder if GPs are numbered backwards from cylinder order, such that cylinder 3 (3rd from timing belt side) actually has glowplug 2.
  6. Remove a GP with the deep 10mm socket.
  7. Put a TINY dab of antisieze on the new GP’s threads, gently place it in the hole and hand tighten. Make sure you don’t let any crud fall down in there. Tighten further using your hand on the center of the ratchet or with a torque wrench to 15 Nm (11 ft-lbs). That ain’t much. Be careful.
  8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 for the remaining 3 GPs, put the harness back on and start it up to listen for leaks.

Still need to get the CEL reset, but there might be a copy of VAG-COM in my future.

The Golf got the final electrics installed for the Zerostart and it works perfectly. It’s on a 1500W appliance timer to turn on a few hours before I leave for work. Tried it out yesterday for about 1.5 hours before I typically leave and the temp gauge was above the “cold” side at initial start, then dropped down a bit but was back up over them by the time I passed Western Ave. This morning with 3 hours of preheat, it was almost completely warm and only a slight dip in temperature once I got going. Thermosiphon really works well for circulation & having a car that’s already 60% warmed up by the time I start the key is great. Just need to get a reliable parking spot at work near an outlet and I’ll be a happy camper all winter.

A real world study in the economics of a diesel-powered automobile

ted | driving,the wrath of math | Friday, October 19th, 2007

Right now, diesel is more expensive than gasoline. This is normal for this time of year – busy shipping season for christmas gifts, harvest time, refineries gearing up to produce heating oil – and quite a bit different than previously in the year. At one point #2 ULSD was over $1/gallon cheaper than 87 octane unleaded gasoline.

But, folks have a hard time getting over this “diesel is more expensive than gasoline” stigma. Why they can’t do the math is beyond me, but here is an illustrative example.

I just filled up my 2006 VW Golf TDI at approximately the same mileage at which I would have to fill up my previous vehicle, a 1995 Volvo 850. I will use the lowest observed prices for both #2 ULSD and 87 Octane RUG and the overall fuel economy calculated over several thousand miles for both vehicles.

1995 Volvo 850: overall 26.3 mpg fuel economy

2006 VW Golf TDI: overall 43.4 mpg fuel economy

The lowest observed price today is $2.739 RUG; $2.899 ULSD. At these prices, the 850 would have cost 10.4 cents per mile for fuel. The Golf TDI costs 6.7 cents per mile for fuel. Even at $3.234/gallon for the AWOC B11 I normally fill up with (at least often enough to maintain a minimum of B2 in the tank at all times), the Golf TDI would still only cost 7.5 cents per gallon.

Keeping the Volvo would cost at least 2.9 cents more per mile, or 38.7% more than the Golf. Not to mention the two grand in work it needed immediately… and a car with 160k miles on it is going to start requiring regular replacement of non-trivial parts.

Remember folks, the price at the pump is irrelevant, what matters is the cost per mile.

Oh, and the Golf has gone 800 miles on a single tank. The Volvo did well to go 500 miles on a tank… a tank that was at least 3 gallons larger. 38.7% more per mile in fuel sounds pretty bad right now, and that’s with diesel that’s 50 cents per gallon more than gasoline. Just imagine what it would be like this summer when ULSD was a steady $2.999/gal and RUG was at $4.039/gal – actual prices I observed. (hint: the Volvo would then cost over twice per mile in fuel than the Golf… 122% more expensive)

tailgated by a truck, again

ted | chicago,driving | Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

Direct Transport? I forget the name on the side of truck, but it was from Chattanooga TN, white, with “004” on the back of the cab. I do remember hearing your horn quite frequently as well as seeing your lights flashing repeatedly, you jerk. If I offended your meth-addled brain by having the audacity to let a nice space cushion develop between the car in front of me in the slow traffic on I-90/94 through downtown Chicago on 2007 September 22, around 1100 – 1115, well, that’s too bad for you – the National Safety Council agrees with my driving tactic.

I only wish I had a camera or pen & paper with me that day. Normally right now I would be emailing your bosses pictures of your truck and a description of your dangerous, hyper-aggressive driving right about now.

But, lucky you, I had my car detailed the day before and had not put my usual assortment of flotsam back into my Golf. It’s a shame drivers like you give the other careful, cautious 98% of OTR drivers a bad rap.

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