Accidents, mistakes, mishaps and other tales

Let’s get started:

Results of a deer vs automobile accident
Results of a deer vs automobile accident

It does not look like much, however, that is about $5,500.00 worth of damage. What you don’t see is the mashed oil cooler and radiator. This happened on my way from one place to another during the early morning hours. I was traveling at about 55 MPH when a deer bolted from the woods and entered the roadway from the right. I did not have time to a break.

In a ditch
In a ditch

A momentary lapse of attention causes a loss of $80.00. I think I was adjusting the defroster as I was driving down the road when suddenly, I felt the car tilt over to an alarming degree. You can see the tow truck getting ready to pull it out. Fortunately, there was no damage to the vehicle.

Troubles with the neighbor
Troubles with the neighbor

This is on the access road to one of our transmitter sites. The station has a legal right of way through this property, however, the neighbor seems to object. I spoke with him and showed him a copy of our deed, he has since changed plans.

One side of a balanced audio connection disconnected
One side of a balanced audio connection disconnected

This is the downside of using category cable to make audio connections. The wires are not as rugged as say Belden 8451. This was causing problems because it is at an AM studio/transmitter site.

Burned 30 amp three phase contactor
Burned 30 amp three-phase contactor

Three-phase, 30 amp, 240-volt contactor installed in a 480-volt system. Lasted a few years, anyway.

White face hornets nest
White face hornet’s nest

New tenants on one of our towers. This is a white-faced (or bald-faced) hornet’s nest. They are really paper wasps, but that difference aside, these beasts are nasty, aggressive, and have a painful sting. Normally, I am a live-and-let-live kind of person, but in this case, they gotta go.

Dummy load attached to plywood
Dummy load attached to plywood

This is at one of our AM client’s site. Somebody, quite some time ago it seems, made this test load for a 1 KW AM transmitter. It is very nice, with carbon ceramic resistors, 50 ohms, and surprisingly little reactance. Then they attached it to this piece of plywood. As one can surmise, the load gets quite hot under full power and full modulation conditions. We remounted this in a cage-type enclosure and bolted it to the cinder block wall.

Scala PR-950U cross polarized
Scala PR-950U cross-polarized

The client at this station is complaining of intermittent STL dropouts and low signal strength at the receiving end. Found this Scala PR-950U antenna mounted for vertical polarization, but the antenna element is horizontally mounted. We’ll call it “vorizontal.”

Ribbon cable from a Cummins 135 KW generator
Ribbon cable from a Cummins 135 KW generator

This was discovered during routine maintenance and thankfully not during a power outage. Mice got into the control box of a newish Cummins 135 KW generator and chewed through what looked like a data buss cable. The generator would not run and the cable and control board needed to be replaced.

Bulging capacitors
Bulging capacitors

There are more bulging capacitors removed from flat panel monitors.

And so on…


Broadcast Engineering from a contracting standpoint requires a lot of driving. I mean a lot of driving.  Since switching from full-time Director of Engineering to a contracting field engineering position, I have already worn out two vehicles.  Having reliable transportation is a key component of this job. Of course, the other consideration is the price of gasoline which can range from expensive to horribly expensive depending on the warring or not warring that is currently taking place.

Thus, when it came time to replace my strange-looking but roomy and reliable Scion xB, I did some research.  My complaint about the xB, other than the looks, was the lack of ground clearance and lack of all-wheel or four-wheel drive.  After a bit of reading, it seemed the Subaru Crosstrek XV was a good choice.  Long story short, I got my car last week and got a pretty good deal, as the car dealer was looking to get rid of all their 2014 stock.

2014 Subaru Crosstrek XV
2014 Subaru Crosstrek XV

As I was leaving the dealership, the salesman had one final question.  The conversation went something like this:

Sales guy: “Mr. Thurst, can I ask what it was that sold you on this car?”

Myself: “Sure, it was the oil filter.”

SG: “What?”

Me: “The oil filter.”

SG: “No, I heard that, I just don’t understand.  It wasn’t the price or the fuel economy or the features?”

Me: “Nope.  To be honest, you did give me a good price, I like the all-wheel drive, the ground clearance, the gas mileage, and all that.  But when I popped the hood to look at the engine and saw the oil filter, I was sold.”

SG: “No one has ever said that before.  Welp, good luck, and thanks for buying your car from us.” (now walking backward into the dealership,  smile fixed on his face and nodding slowly)

Here is a picture of the Subaru FB20 boxer engine:

Oil filter location on a Subaru FB20 engine
Oil filter location on a Subaru FB20 engine

See the oil filter right next to the oil fill plug, up right and easy to get to.   Not only that, some design engineer put a catch basin around the filter mount, knowing that when the filter was unscrewed, all the oil would run out of it.  Without the catch basin, that oil would run down the engine block creating a mess that would get worse with each oil change.

Little things.  Little things mean a lot.

Contract engineering, vehicles and the price of gas

One of the major differences between working as an employee and working for myself is the use of my car.  When I worked out of a central office, going to work meant driving there, then using the company truck to drive to the outlaying studio or transmitter site locations.  Now that I work for myself, I drive either my personal vehicle or the truck that belongs to my company.

Our radio clients are in several states in the northeast and covering all that territory on a weekly or monthly basis requires a lot of driving.  For example, it is 100 miles exactly, one way from my house to Bridgeport, CT.   Depending on what is going on, I can take the 1997 Jeep Cherokee, which has over 210,000 miles on it and gets about 21 miles per gallon, or the 2004 Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup truck, which has 68,000 miles on it and gets about 16 miles to the gallon.  With gas being about $4.00 per gallon, it’s choice of shooting myself in the leg or shooting myself in the foot.

1997 Jeep Cherokee in early April snowstorm
1997 Jeep Cherokee in an early April snowstorm

The Jeep I paid cash for in 1999 and I have kept it in good working order.  It is, by far, the best snow vehicle I have ever owned.  I don’t know exactly why that is, it has simple four-wheel drive (really two-wheel drive because of the full slip differentials).  I imagine the heavy cast iron inline-six engine over the front wheels has something to do with it.  This is an important distinction, as many off-air emergencies happen in the worst weather.  It is simple and rugged and wearing out.  I keep saying to myself, the first major problem, e.g. transmission or engine, I am having it towed to the junkyard.

Work Truck, Chevy Silverado 1500
Work Truck, Chevy Silverado 1500

The Chevy truck is owned by my company, I purchased it three years ago when I started the solar installation company.  It has the 5.8 L V-8 engine with the tow package and the “pre-snowplow package.”   It has real four-wheel drive with limited slip differentials front and back.  It handles like a tank.  I use this when I need to haul tools, materials, parts,  junk or whatever.  I have portable parts bins and tools that I can move from one vehicle to another, as needed.

The problem with these vehicles is the expense of operating them.  I generally try not to take gas payments from the company I work for, as I am not an employee of that company, I’d rather take the mileage write-off.  Still, there are times, especially at the end of the month, when I am filling up the pickup truck and watching the gas pump turn over the $100.00 mark, that I have to cringe.

Toyota Yaris 5 door hatchback, courtesy of wikimedia commons
Toyota Yaris 5 door hatchback, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps the next personal vehicle will be something more fuel efficient, like a Toyota Yaris hatchback.  They look pretty reliable and get good gas mileage.  If I need to take the big truck, I still have it.  I have just three concerns:

  1. I am fairly tall; will I look like a weenie getting in and out of this thing?
  2. I drive a lot of interstate miles; if I get into an accident will I get squashed like a bug?
  3. Will all my stuff fit in the back of this thing?

That being said, it would be awfully nice to get 36 miles per gallon…