Preparing to camp in Vermont; delving into the land of DSLR cameras

Recovering from the Maine trip: Dylan’s visit to New Haven

I had a load of fun in Maine, but beyond being tired from the trip itself, the clean up and then catching up on work and school communications and assignments saw me quite tired by the time the next weekend rolled around.  Luckily, I had planned for my old friend and roommate of several years in DC, Dylan, to come visit for a weekend – and we had a blast relaxing and gaming!

The big events for the weekend included Starcraft the board game:

The game comes with some fantastically detailed miniatures for each of the class factions...

The game comes with some fantastically detailed miniatures for each of the class factions…

The board is randomized each playthrough, and grows a LOT as more players join.  Also, the order system is uniquely clever - each planet has one space to place order tokens, and that means the orders are executed last one laid down  first... So good.

The board is randomized each playthrough, and grows a LOT as more players join. Also, the order system is uniquely clever – each planet has one space to place order tokens, and that means the orders are executed last one laid down first… So good.

Firefly the board game (sadly, Dylan took the sky from me):

Firefly in progress, making cargo runs of the legal and illegal varities through the 'verse

Firefly in progress, making cargo runs of the legal and illegal varities through the ‘verse

Sentinels of the Multiverse, a clever card game made possible by the online fundraising site Kickstarter, this game is completely original heroes and villains, in different settings, all done with cards (and is very quick to learn AND it has immense replay value):

Sentinels in progress with Firefly set up in the background, waiting to be played.  Dylan and I got our shit kicked in by some of the expansions' villains, yeesh

Sentinels in progress with Firefly set up in the background, waiting to be played. Dylan and I got our shit kicked in by some of the expansions’ villains, yeesh

… the Battlestar Galactica game with all three expansions included, which takes up most of a billiard’s table worth of space:

My friend Kelli was able to make it over to join us.  I turned out to be the Cylon, and I lost (but just barely)

My friend Kelli was able to make it over to join us. I turned out to be the Cylon, and I lost (but just barely)

… and the End of the Triumvirate, the good family fun involved in killing and backstabbing your co-consuls to take Rome and make it into the empire it was meant to be:

At the end, Kelli swooped in and took the military victory (though I was close at politcking my way to success)

At the end, Kelli swooped in and took the military victory (though I was close at politcking my way to success)

All told, it was a hell of a lot of fun (we also took a break from fun and games to go see the new Robocop with some of my friends from YDS, and that was more enjoyable than we were expecting!) and a much-needed weekend spent doing VERY little in the way of strenuous activity, or sleeping in 0 degree weather, or the like!

Work on the car

Near the end of February, I was idly searching Craigslist for rooftop accessories for my car, and I found a GREAT deal on a Bajarack Mule – made for offroading, it is a seriously well-constructed steel addition to the MFALCON.  They have several attachments for it, including the ability to lock fuel and water jerry cans into place onto the roof; they also make an attachment which allows for the transportation of a shovel and an axe on the side of the rack, preventing damage and/or dirt inside the cabin of the car.  I will keep my eyes out for those and snag them when I can (both for camping use, but also general travel utility), but for now, I am just thankful to have found one so close (in NYC, and on the evening Dylan was going to take the train from there anyways, so I just picked him up).  For an offroading accessory, it looks rather sharp on my car:

The Bajarack on the MFALCON, in the garage in NYC where I bought it

The Bajarack on the MFALCON, in the garage in NYC where I bought it

As a followup to the work I did in Maine with Mark, where we installed a new camshaft, I needed to change the oil early (after a mere 500 miles), to make sure any steel shavings or particulates from the cam wearing in are removed from the engine.  Interestingly enough, I had never actually changed the oil on this car myself, having only owned it since March 2013 and not having reached 10,000 miles until I was in Maine – Mark showed me the way to remove the under-engine cover, and that was the only thing between me and the oil drain plug.

As to avoid the DESTRUCTO DRIVERS of the New Haven area I would be at the mercy of if I worked on the street in front of my house, I actually did the work in the parking lot at school:

The number of very friendly "Oh can I call AAA for you" requests was noteworthy, but worth enduring: changing oil on Winchester is ASKING to be hit and killed

The number of very friendly “Oh can I call AAA for you” requests was noteworthy, but worth enduring: changing oil on Winchester is ASKING to be hit and killed

While the car was up on the ramps, I wanted to get another aspect of fluid maintenance under my belt – changing the manual transmission gear lubricant fluid out.  Given I do not know how recently it was changed by either of the previous two owners… or if it was ever changed… I wanted to do it.  This is a higher priority because the shifter has been a bit notchy recently (the closest word I can think of for “the shift pattern doesn’t always work every time, which means bad shifts unexpectedly).  Started to do it and then found out I was missing the 17 mm Allen wrench I thought I had.

Ordered it and two days later, dove into the project in the parking lot again, this time in 18 degree weather.  Cold and unpleasant for me, yes.  Cold enough to see the plastic tubing I was using to feed the new transmission fluid into the feed hole, yes.  I am still very grateful to and for my friend Chris, who drove up and got me, and took me to Home Depot (no way I could drive my car when there was no gear fluid in the transmission), and then ended up pouring the fluid into the funnel above the engine as I laid underneath and ensured most of it went into the damned transmission (the tubing I got was *exactly* the size of the godsdamned fill hole, so I had to wrestle and warp it into place, and then seal it with electrical tape).  Not the prettiest job, but it is both done and done well – the car shifts like a brand new vehicle.

New transmission gear oil, and then a much-needed filter for the boost gauge I added into the cabin - the filter will prevent buzzing as I crank the throttle up

New transmission gear oil, and then a much-needed filter for the boost gauge I added into the cabin – the filter will prevent buzzing as I crank the throttle up

Finally, to handle the other aspect of clutch maintenance, the brake fluid will need to be completely changed out – this car has the clutch and the brakes share a reservoir.  I did the easier version of this (namely, a turkey baster to draw as much out of the master reservoir in the engine as I could) in May, and the stuff in there was in NASTY shape.   To properly do this, though, I will need to bleed the actual valves at each wheel, near the individual calipers… and so I am leaning towards just holding off until I switch to the non-winter tires and will have the wheels off anyways, to do this.

The finishing touches: getting and modifying snowshoes of my own

Craigslist has served me remarkably well in the past few years, in terms of finding good deals on peculiar outdoorsy or car accessory items I would have to spend a fortune on to get brand new, and this past week was no exception.  In this case I had to travel fairly far away, to Blauvelt New York, but got a pretty good deal on some once-used snowshoes, some very old ski poles in good shape, and most importantly: she threw in a free pair of snowshoe bindings which I will use to modify the snowshoes and make them a LOT more reliable.

The snowshoes, VERY old ski poles (they have the original leather wrist holders on them!), and the snowboard bindings I will be using to modify the snowshoes

The snowshoes, VERY old ski poles (they have the original leather wrist holders on them!), and the snowboard bindings I will be using to modify the snowshoes.  Thanks, lady in Blauvelt NY whose name I never caught!

Thankfully I continue to have access, albeit not enough time, to go and make use of the CEID at Yale.  The trick in this case was being sure that the snowshoe ABS plastic (similar to what garbage cans are made of, its very heavy duty) was warm enough to not shatter, split, or crack… and to really ensure this, start with a very small drill bit and move progressively larger.  The bindings on the shoes stock sucked, to be honest – they are super easy to tighten…. and thus have no ability to remain tight!  The lady who sold me the shoes is a sort of collector of winter sporting goods and likes to sell it used (she had upwards of 75 pairs of skis in her basement, for instance) – and the snowboard bindings she tossed in were actually selected from a set of gear she had, to make sure my damnably large boots fit them.

Now, shifting back to reality for a moment, I did two separate multi-hour mechanical tasks on my car in less than 20 degrees this week, AND I drove more than 4 hours total to get a pair of snowshoes.  What I ACTUALLY am going to do on this trip to ensure the snowshoes stay on my feet mostly is: industrial strength velcro.  If it can hold the winter front covers on my car at 75 mph, it can hold the damned snowshoes on my feet at approximately 1mph.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, because:

The camera has arrived: purchasing and learning the weatherproof Pentax K-30

So after a LOT.

A.

Lot.

of research and speaking with photography friends, I decided to go with the Japanese-made Pentax K-30.

The camera body and the 18-55mm lens, which combine to form a completely weatherproofed camera

The camera body and the 18-55mm lens, which combine to form a completely weatherproofed camera

The major selling points for me were:

1) it is less than $1000 but is completely weather-proofed
2) it has the image stabilization built into the body (rather than the lens like Nikon and Canon, which drives up the cost of each lens AND makes older lenses less useful)
2b) I can purchase and use lenses as old as from 1956 from this company, and they will receive the benefits of the modern stabilizing technology.  This will save me large bundles of cash.
3) it will allow me to use AA batteries in a pinch (but I also bought a car-capable battery charger)
4) it offers great options for automatic use; full manual use; and intermediate steps, to help me better learn to do manual photography to a high degree of proficiency

The only drawbacks I read about in hundreds (no hyperbole, I read hundreds of reviews and comments) of online  testimonials were the lack of an external microphone jack, and some problems with image stabilization with taking video… but I am buying this to take stills only, so those do not concern me whatsoever.

One of multiple test photos, this one of the organ in Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School

One of multiple test photos, this one of the organ in Marquand Chapel at Yale Divinity School

With this camera, the car work, and having gotten in some great relaxation time… I dare say I am ready for camping the frozen wastes of Vermont next weekend.

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