Sunday, January 9, 2022

Finally ditched Frontier DSL

 Well, I finally ditched Frontier DSL in favor of the high speed internet offered by Spectrum.  For a long time DSL was sufficient, and relatively cheap, but more recently the quality was suffering, and I was rebooting our router nearly every day.  Download speed tests were sometimes showing less than 1 Mbps.  Compared to Spectrum's approximate 200 Mbps.  I kept getting offers to bundle Spectrum internet with my existing TV subscription, for 49.99 a month for the first 12 months.  From what I can tell, it goes up 20 dollars or so a month after that.  I was paying, with taxes and fees, a little over 50 dollars a month for the Frontier DSL (up from when I was paying around 35 a month).

The Spectrum equipment was delivered within a couple of days, and I had very little trouble setting everything up.  They have a pretty good video for self-installing.  Activation took just a couple of minutes, and from then on everything just worked.  I, of course, changed the router's name and password right away.  I am now enjoying excellent connections with zero downtime so far.

My biggest fear, quite frankly, was having to call to get the Frontier canceled.  You have to talk to a real live person, and they work in the Retention department, if that gives you any clue.  They obviously are going to try to keep you as a customer.  I nicely but firmly indicated that I'd gone to another provider, and wished to cancel my DSL.  I reaffirmed that another time or two during the conversation.

I must say, over the years I have had good DSL service and pretty good tech support.  Also, the person from Retention handled my cancellation professionally and promptly.  I was never put on hold.  My router was so old that they said there was no need to return it.  I received a confirmation email right away.

To the best of my knowledge, DSL over a phone line can never really compete with a signal coming in over coaxial cable.  So far, I am glad that I made the switch.

Friday, March 4, 2011

God bless local radio

Where else but Martin, Tennessee can you show up at the local radio station with a new song, and have them put it on the air within 30 minutes? I am talking, of course, about WCMT (1410 AM, 100.5 FM) owned and operated by Paul Tinkle who, along with co-DJ Chris Brinkley, bring us the "Good Times in the Morning" radio show. For several years now, they've been including songs from my first album (Til Jesus Is All) on their Sunday morning musical program, and I also stopped by one time with a new track (Lead Me to the Rock) that they played on the air.

Well, I once kidded with Chris that one day I'd write a song about the way the two would talk about anything on the radio. A few months later, the song came along, and I recorded it quickly and stopped by the studio the next morning with a freshly-burned CD-R. Sure enough, within a few minutes we were on the air introducing the new song, "Everything I Know In Life I Learned From Chris and Paul".

Since then, I've done the same with a few other songs -- "I've Died and Gone to Starbucks", "Shut Up and Drive", and "Chris and Paul Save Christmas". Also sang "There's Nothing Like the Bean!" with co-writer Jim Byford; that song has been the official theme song of the TN Soybean Festival (hosted by the city of Martin each year in early September) for about 3 years and counting. Just last Christmas, I showed up to play a few Christmas tunes (Paul also wanted to sing come carols on the air), and I finished up by playing my Christmas song, "More Than a Child".

In this day and age of pre-programmed radio controlled by the big dogs, it sure is nice to have a radio station like WCMT that is in tune to the area it serves, and has time to allow someone like me to share a new song now and then. God bless local radio!

Hunter Hayes singing one of my songs

It was Thanksgiving evening 2010, and for some reason I decided to Google one of my songs, "More Than a Child", probably because Christmas was coming up. To my surprise, in addition to my own YouTube video of the song, I found one posted for a musician named Hunter Hayes. Sure enough, it was my song! Searching around a bit more, I found out that he recorded it on his Christmas album a few years earlier. I was able to get in contact with HH, and he told me how he'd learned the song as part of a Christmas musical at his middle school (around age 12 -- he is 19 now) and wanted to record it on his Christmas album. The YouTube video was from a 2008 performance in Lafayette, Louisiana (HH is from that area) at a program called Festival de Noel. Hunter is a real musical prodigy, performing once at age 4 with Hank, Jr. At this moment he is wrapping up work on his debut album for Atlantic Records in Nashville, and is fixin' to take his new songs on the road (he's also been tapped to open for part of Taylor Swift's 2011 tour, in July/August). Anyhow, it was quite an honor to find out that someone with so much writing and performing talent in their own right, is a fan of my Christmas song. If you want to see/hear his performance on YouTube, I have a link from the song's page at:
Enjoy the song, and keep a look out for Hunter Hayes -- he's just now getting into high gear.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Shut Up and Drive!

Well, I finally put my thoughts on cell phone use and driving to music :-)
The mp3 can be found at my music website on this page:

[verse 1]
They're chatting in the fast lane
They're texting in the right
We're stuck on multi-tasking
Without an end in sight.

Our hands are on the wheel
But we're a thousand miles away
So busy contemplating
All the stuff we've got to say!

Shut up and drive!
Shut up and drive!
You know deep down it's really true
And I ain't talkin' jive.

I think we'd all be safer
Might even stay alive!
This world would be much better
If we'd all shut up and drive!

[verse 2]
You'll see 'em doing rolling stops
And swerving in the lane
Oblivious to what's around
Those cell phones are to blame!

And to a lone pedestrian
What a scarey sight to see:
A busy, chatting soccer mom
Turning left in an SUV!

Shut up and drive!
Shut up and drive!
You know deep down it's really true
And I ain't talkin' jive.

I think we'd all be safer
Might even stay alive!
This world would be much better
If we'd all shut up and drive!

[verse 3]
What on earth did we ever do
'Fore cell phones came our way?
How did we ever get things done
And make it through the day?

When we actually paid attention
To the things that we had planned
Instead of being captive
To that noise-box in our hand!

Shut up and drive!
Shut up and drive!
You know deep down it's really true
And I ain't talkin' jive.

I think we'd all be safer
Might even stay alive!
This world would be much better
If we'd all shut up and drive!

[verse 4]
So if you're driving past me
With that cell phone in your hand
And you see me mumbling something
That you cannot understand

Well, let me make it simple
It's not so hard to do
It's just a piece of sage advice
I'm offering to you...

Shut up and drive!
Shut up and drive!
You know deep down it's really true
And I ain't talkin' jive.

I think we'd all be safer
Might even stay alive!
This world would be much better
If we'd all shut up and drive!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Replacing the fuel filler hose in an Isuzu pickup

It's so hard to find good info on this topic, so I wanted to share how I was able to replace the fuel filler hose on my 1991 Isuzu pickup (and for only about 30 dollars). The original hose developed a leak in the lower middle to the point that I could not fill up without quite a bit spilling, and attempts to patch it up did not help much.

I bought a 1 and a half foot section of 2 inch diameter fuel-rated hose from a local NAPA store, about 26 dollars with tax. Although it is not particularly flexible, neither is it totally rigid, so it can do a slight curve as needed. I ended up using about 14 inches of it. The diameter need was determined by borrowing calipers from the NAPA attendant and measuring the fuel intake pipe that the top of the fuel filler hose connects onto (I will refer to this as the fuel intake pipe/plate); the digital calipers showed about 1.96 inches. I also used a couple of stainless steel hose clamps (the kind you tighten with a flathead screwdriver) that I already had on-hand, in place of the original wire clamps that were difficult to open/loosen (especially the one nearest the gas tank; that one took me nearly half an hour of trying to reach and squeeze together the two ends with my slipjoint pliers).

I tested loosening the 3 screws that you find just inside the fuel intake door on the side of the truck; about halfway thru loosening they were hard to turn, so I sprayed some WD-40 on them the day before, and I also found a more substantial phillips screwdriver for taking them completely out. Note on that the nuts that they screw into are fixed to the plate of the fuel intake, so you only need a screwdriver; you don't have to hold the nuts in place while turning.

To allow room to work, I took off the rear passenger tire, after blocking the front passenger and rear driver wheels for safety. I also found having a good flashlight was helpful. Even though working outside, since there would be a few gas vapors, I set up a fan to provide a strong current of fresh air toward me at all times. I also had goggles to protect my eyes just in case.

After removing the 3 screws holding the fuel intake plate/pipe to the side of the truck, I pulled off the small vent hose connecting to it. After moving the small clamp down a ways on this small hose, I carefully used pliers to twist it a few times to loosen it enough to be able to pull it free. After this, I closed up the end of it temporarily with some electrical tape, so that gas vapors from the fuel tank would not come out of it while it was detatched. After this, I was able to move the top of the fuel filler hose downward (after pushing the part you see from the outside inward past the hole it comes thru). Of course I had to first take off the filler cap to do this. The next thing to do was to pull the top of the hose off of the fuel intake plate/pipe. It was on tight, so I took a utility knife and cut a slit into the hose for the length of the pipe underneath, about 3 inches. After pulling the fuel intake pipe/plate free, I temporarily taped the fuel intake cap to the hose top, again so that gas vapors would not come out of it during the rest of the procedure.

The next thing was to free the lower end of the hose, where it connects to the gas tank. The hardest part, as mentioned earlier, was getting hold of the two ends of the hose clamp (with the pliers) so that I could pull the clamp further up the hose and thus off of the pipe section (about 2 inches) that portrudes from the gas tank. Took me quite a few tries but thankfully succeeded. I was careful to watch out for other small hoses and such in that area, so as not to pull, nick, etc, anything else under there. Incidentally, I had only about 1/8 of a tank of fuel, but I was still careful not to do anything to create a spark, since I was still working in the vicinity of at least trace amounts of gas vapor.

Once the old hose was pulled free, I put the lower end of the new hose onto the pipe coming out of the gas tank, with the screwdriver-tightened clamp already loosely in place. I clamped it just below the end of this pipe, which again is only about 2 inches in length. Tightened the clamp as much as possible. Then I determined how much, if any, I needed to shorten the top of the hose to be long enough but not too long for connecting to the fuel intake plate/pipe. In my case, I ended up using about 14 inches of the hose, although I could have gone as much as 15 inches. I wanted at least a couple inches of upper hose on the intake pipe. I then positioned the intake pipe/plate so that I could reattach it to the intake door with the screws. I found that I was able to firmly reattach it with the two screws on the right, without the left screw; after trying to position it flush to handle all 3 screws, it seemed that it was "close enough" with just those two, and likely required less strain on the hose overall. All completed, the hose was nearly straight from lower to upper, with just the slightest of bending along the way. Not bad for replacing the original hose that was obviously custom formed with a couple of bends. After completing the main hose attachment at the lower part (gas tank) and the upper part (fuel intake pipe/plate), I also of course reattached the small vent hose that connects to the fuel intake pipe/plate. Both hose clamps tightened as much as possible. On the upper part, the hose clamp was placed about a half inch below the end of the hose, but plenty enough above where the pipe extended into it from the fuel intake.

Hope this helps someone, even without pictures to go with it. It took me about 2 and a half hours, but I'm sure it could be done in less time. Having all tools handy will save time; for example, I had to hunt around for a stubby flat-head screwdriver for tightening the lower clamp in a very small working space. Time also includes taking off and putting back on the rear tire.

Finding a good hose replacement was the main challenge up front. No salvage yard in the area had one, and neither did the closest auto parts store (Advance). The closest Isuzu dealership was far off. Googling around, I noted that NAPA might be a solution, and sure enough, that is where I got the "generic" fuel hose. I knew not to try to use anything else (radiator hose, etc) as it had to be rated for handling fuel. It was sold by the foot, and so I estimated that I needed just short of a foot and a half. 26 bucks, not bad. I thought about having a car repair shop do the actual work, but then decided that, given sufficient planning and time, I could do the job myself. Really, the hardest part of it was working in a relatively cramped space. Otherwise, it was technically not a whole lot different than changing, say, a radiator hose. I've heard of some fuel filler hoses being some sort of "hose within a hose" but at least in this case, it was a simple 2-inch hose.

Well, I'm not a mechanic or a car expert, but perhaps my experiences will be helpful to someone who ends up trying to figure out the same thing.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Hooked on Farm Town

I am currently addicted to Farm Town, the Facebook app where you steadily increase and improve your virtual farm. In a little over a week's time, I'm at level 22, with an 18x18 farm, one barn, fence all around, and presently loaded with alternating crops, most recently the onions, which by careful calculation yield slightly better than the prior 3-day harvest winner, sunflowers.
My wife introduced me to the game, with no idea that I would jump into it with such reckless abandon. Funny thing is, I found out that many of my friends at the university, including several in my area (computer center) are also fanatics. We have learned to "crop swap" (a term I think I coined, meaning I'll harvest yours if you'll harvest mine... after all, that is how the farmer can get 25% additional income from the harvest, and the guest harvester also independently gets 25% of the value of the crops harvested). And thus we aid each others' addictions, comparing notes on crop yield, fence placement, types of trees, the lack of gain from farm animals, etc. And ever-increasing farm sizes means harvesting an entire farm at once can take a half hour (that doesn't count re-plowing) which has led me to stagger my crops, so that a third come in each day (replaced by a new set of 3-day harvests such as those wonderful onions). Still waiting to unlock the purchase of pumpkins, a 4-day harvest item with a pretty good sell price.
And when I have nothing more to harvest, I find myself rearranging my arbor of trees, the run of the fences, and such. And waiting for that next increase in acreage (which by my calculations I will have, like, tomorrow). And what will it be like when I reach the 24x24 size farm? Of course there are other buildings to buy, etc. And I am thinking about using part of it to design a maze using the green hedges... with all that acreage, you've gotta just have fun with some of it, and avoid the compulsion to plow every last possible square.
The social aspect is fun. I have about 16 neighbor farmers now, and it's neat to visit each farm, leave comments, etc. It's also a good exercise in planning. The rules are pretty simple, and compared to many SIM's out there, I'm sure many would find it elementary. But there it is, pulling you in like a vacuum. Alas, I am a Farm Town addict. And I am not alone!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Memphis Central High class of 1977 is alive and well

Our class had its 30th reunion on October 10 and 11. We'd never had one before; nope, not a 10th, 20th, nada. A few of us got together and decided to plan toward something, and we also decided to combine with the classes of 1976 and 1978 which turned out great. About 125 total attendance (about 100 plus some spouses). One of the best decisions was to have J2 Class Reunions handle the administrative stuff (collecting money, getting the venue, catering, DJ, etc) so we ourselves could enjoy the event just like everyone else. Another great feature was a 45-minute gig by the band Tahbet Wax, which was a reunion itself of a band comprised of a couple of CHS 76'ers and other bandmates. Two are currenly professional musicians, George Bradfute (of the Nashville music scene) who graduated CHS around 74, and Jon Wells, a free-lance Vegas drummer from CHS 76. Also Luther Bradfute on keyboard and guitar from CHS 76. Our reunion weekend started with the homecoming game itself on Friday night, followed by an after-game gathering at Tsunami on South Cooper (thanks to the generosity of Tim Smith, CHS 77, who runs the restaurant/bar with his brother). Saturday included a lunch (BBQ) in the CHS cafeteria, with the freedom to roam the school and see old and new features. Saturday night was the main event at Holiday Inn East on Poplar, with the full ballroom, catered dinner, cash bar, and of course music (with a DJ, except for the 45 minute band gig). The whole thing came together better than any of us could have imagined. Many friendships were reconnected, and it was just a great time to soak up the positive vibe of the evening. Over all too soon, but with enough inertia to launch reunions yet to come.