Holiday: America 2013/14

Three months planning, not nearly enough, for a multi-part holiday in America.  As I write this post, quite a few things outstanding: itinerary not fixed, haven’t done any packing and watching the weather.

This trip consists of three parts, due to the previous Trek America outing leaving the feeling I’d not made full use of the airfare.  Additionally the trek advertised as New York to Los Angeles, is actually New Jersey to Los Angeles, with no time spent in either location!

  1. New York City – 1 week
  2. Trek America Southerner Winter – 3 weeks
  3. Los Angeles – 3 days
A week in NYC really is the minimum to get a decent experience without being insanely rushed.  Trek America tour covers a few miles, so 21 days will still be fast paced. The trek starts on Christmas day heading to Washington D.C., whilst New Year is seen in at New Orleans.
Planned highlights NYC:
  • Stay mid-town Manhattan, 1 block from Times Square.
  • Explore Central Park
  • Visit Aircraft Carrier Intrepid inc. Space Shuttle Enterprise and Submarine Growler
  • Sopranos Tour – See the sights from the TV show
  • Top of the Rock
  • Ice Skating under the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center
  • Ice Skating on the Wollman rink
  • Lots of Eating!
  • Many other tours and activities for experiencing NYC
Planned highlights LA
  • Rent an american sports/muscle car – Chevrolet Camaro!
  • Visit Battleship IOWA
  • Vist the auto-mobile museum round the corner from the Hacienda (missed last visit)
Yet more items off the bucket list, the rusty bucket with a hole in, yet to be posted.
NY’s recent storms & snow not mirroring our too agreeable +7 Celsius seasonal average is cause for concern.  Looks like I’ll get to land to cold but clear skies, Wednesday is esp. important with a visit to Top of the Rock.
Having pulled an all-nighter and still not ready – next task: intersection list and map traces in my Moleskin City Guide.  Then… when everything is packed, time to thing about Christmas presents, exhausted!  Really should fit in one or two episodes of The Sopranos and just in case I get hi-jacked and need to rely on counter-terrorism skillz – at least one episode of 24!
The fun starts this Wednesday at 1am…

SCD Update – Month 11

Eight months have passed since my last SCD update. Initially the lack of updates was intentional, I was stuck at 75.5Kg around the summer time. Nothing I did seemed to put me back into weight loss mode, in fact I gained over a Kilo.

Getting back on track was going to be trickier this time, as I needed to ensure strength training goals weren’t completely destroyed. Previously I’ve commented how the diet impacted willpower in the gym, any worse and I’d be dusting the equipment!

Decided to leave breakfast and evening meals alone, as they’re too important in providing a basis for good sleep and an effective day at work. Leaving lunch and the cheat day open to optimization. Cheating the cheat day, restricting the quaffing, is a big mistake as it leads to mid-week cheating backed by the fallacious logic that you deserve the tiny treat because you did so well on cheat day. Analysed without the help of a rumbling tummy, multiple mid-week cheats halt weight loss whilst leaving you with the same desire to nibble.

Feeding the simple carb/sugar monster midweek makes him stronger and your willpower weaker. It’s a lot harder to diet messing about, hunger + guilt/disapointment = random munchies.

Workday Lunch

  • Sainsbury’s Tomato Cup-a-soup
  • 10 Sainsbury’s Sea Salt & Pepper Croutons
  • Sainsbury’s Tomato Puree (1/10th tube)
  • Sprinkle Dried Basil

As well as knocking weight loss into gear, it’s super cheap! Each meal costing 30p.

Looking at the previously posted menu, I see ‘afternoon snacks’, was accidentally dropped. Always been bit of a snob regarding chocolate, but money saving goals resulted in Sainsbury’s equivalent of Mars bars (N.B. don’t consider Mars to be good quality…) for the afternoon snack. The less confectionery you eat, the more you care about it being decent when you have some. For the cost, the supermarket version is unbeatable and pretty good, however the taste got worse as the cheaper ingredients became more noticeable (cheap chocolate relies very heavily on vegetable oil in place of cocoa solids). The more effort put into kicking the sugar habit the better the food you eat is as you desire better and can afford it.

April → Dec Weight Kg Notes
Before 77.4 34″ trouser waist
After 74.0 Shorten watch bracelet

The end result isn’t impressive, due to the increase and stagnation, but still a solid maintainable reduction averaging ~100g per week. On that basis I could reach 70Kg by the summer.

Peugeot 306 Turn Signal Relay Clicking Sound

Within the last month my car started making a frantic clicking sound, for a few seconds after a turn signal was cancelled.  This progressed to occasionally clicking for no apparent reason.  This week it’s developed into an almost constant click sound, double or triple the frequency of a normal turning signal feedback.

Two weeks ago I’d read on the web about contacts and using a bit of air and un/plugging the stalks, tried this but no cigar.  The advice was, either as mentioned or buy a new stalk assembly – internal sealed unit not serviceable…

Well, telling me the black box contains magic and secrets I can’t possibly fiddle with, it’s an open invitation to pull it apart and level-up my skills.

To anyone looking to do likewise (the reason I post this), be assured most of the steps are stupidly easy.  First up – break something it’s your fault, die by doing something stupid or even clever – your fault not mine.  The starting point for any fiddling/hacking in unknown territory, is to reconcile yourself to the idea you might need to buy a replacement; And that your car might not be roadworthy (no indicators!) until you make good a botched fix.  ‘Should I try this?’  If you’ve got basic car and electronics smarts, you shouldn’t have any problems with this job.

No need to disconnect the battery, but you are fiddling under the steering column shroud, so there is the danger of setting off an airbag, just don’t go yanking or shorting anything!

Ok, so if you want to break out the Haynes manual, it’ll guide you through the process of using a coin to open the cockpit fuse cover, then unscrewing the shroud from the underneath the steering column, followed by lifting the top shroud off.  Now you can put the manual away, it’s not much use.

Peugeot spoil us with ISO sockets and plugs attached to a yoke (frame thingy) around the steering column, it’s really simple to press the side button on the socket and lift the plug free, they are keyed – meaning it’s impossible to re-connect the wrong plug or the wrong orientation.  The turn stalk body has two T10 screws (torx/star bit) holding it in place, remove these and slide the stalk left off the mount, these internal rails in the body make it super easy to refit later.

At this point you can stop reading and refit an eBay/breakers yard replacement in the same way.  Hopefully you’re up for discovering the elves that sit inside the box, waiting for you to signal & phoning the elves in the signal bulbs to turn the light on and off.

The body of the indicator has 6 plastic lugs for a snap-fit assembly, opening is always awkward with these.  Proceed carefully, but some grr is required or you’ll just mash and stress the plastic.  Place a tiny flat-head screwdriver into the clip recess to depress the thick part of the latch, with strong hands just prize the lid off (else use a 2nd flat blade under the lid rim to lever it out).  As the lid is removed be careful not to lose the bit of plastic suspended on posts at the back of the unit by springs, this is the switch mechanism for automatic cancelling of the signal by returning the steering wheel.

The stalk and body can now be separated.  The stalk controls a myriad of functions and so is quite complex in design.  The stalk consists of four collections of switches:

  1. Signalling is handled by the tip of the stalk moving from a central point in either direction where contracts are made within a trough by a rocking-point assembly.  This is the bit we are interested in.
  2. Sidelights/Headlamps(partial/full beam) controlled by a radial switch causing a gear to move a flat switch between several positions (the bit closest the stalk casing), I found assembly was easiest with the switch for headlights dimmed (middle position).
  3. Flash main beam, the stalk causes a small rod to push a button (about middle of the body).
  4. The horn activated by a push button on the end of the stalk, makes a connection in the body, between #2 and #3 using a thin strip of wire functioning as both a spring and connection

Nothing lasts forever, with repeated use, the plastic return position had gradually worn away.  This creates a slightly pronounced dip causing the edges of the rails to be grated by the tip of the turn arm.  Over time these bits of shaved metal suspended in grease built up and compacted enough to form a much weaker electrical contact in the rest position.  Using carburetor cleaner (great for removing everything, wear goggles…) and a rag, clean the track.  Wipe up any gunk and give the unit a moment to evaporate any left over highly flammable cleaner.

Reassembly is straightforward, angle the pivot point of the signal arm (the movement that would control the main beam flash) so the ball part of the arm can be slid into place and the gear teeth engage the switch.  Next press the horn button, if the assembly is correct the strip will contact a metal post (like a Morse key).  The tip should slide easily into position, refit the lid by holding the external part of the arm such that is forces the two parts together, if you didn’t mangle the lid too badly it should click into place.  Return to the instructions of removal for reassembly, then test with the car stationary.

This was another successful fix, but still no elves or magic :( oh well, maybe next time.  2nd hand signal stalk (make sure you find the right one) can be acquired for about £20, I’d expect 30min labor charge at a garage, so ~£70 saved, ~£150 @ Peugeot with OEM part.