Friday, December 30, 2016

Now you see it!

What on earth are these strange things I hear you cry. The answer is simple, gentle reader. They are remnants of the steel bed frames the hillbillies installed in the bus. They are also my new barrel hangers. The 4 hole side bolts to the opposing steel channels under the bus. The side with two holes has a chain joiner as shown but with a chain attached that supports the barrel.

My new drill has a variable speed that goes up to a reputed 3,000 RPM. Clearly I should have set it to a lower speed because after about 50 holes, the drill resolutely refused to cut deeper than the distance between the tip and the wider part of the drill. The edges must have overheated and softened. That put me even further behind schedule as I'll now have to head out to buy a new 5/16 drill bit. For steel I need a good drill bit. My old bit will still work for wood though.

The plan is to get a replacement drill bit tomorrow if the shop is open then to finish drilling the holes the same day. I want to have the barrel hangers all done before I go back to work on the 4th.

While I was looking at my angle bracket I measured it against the battery used for my ventilation system. The plan is to install that battery underneath the bus for which I will have to build a battery compartment. That's actually quite simple. Much simpler than I'd thought it might be. I might yet build a compartment to hold a lawnmower sized battery under the bus to use to charge my phone etc when I'm nit driving.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A day of disappointment

Today I had planned to work on my barrel hangers after the weather cleared up. Sadly that could not be done. The task needed to be completed was to drill holes. Nothing stunning, just lots and lots of holes. About 108 by my calculation and all to 5/16. That's where things went pear shaped.

As I share accommodation and borrow (but return) tools, I had originally a choice of two corded power drills and two battery drills plus my battery powered cordless screwdriver. Now the two battery powered drills died. One just won't charge and I don't know whether it is the battery or the charger. The other I don't know because somebody else used that one. For a long time I used one corded drill and somebody else used the other. I always returned what I used to the shed at the end of the day. Anyway, I went to the shed today and no drills were to be found nor was the other person that used them. Frustrating.

In the end, in order to ensure I can complete work on my bus, I headed to Walmart, having researched online and found Walmart's cheapest corded power drill was $25. Imagine my surprise when on the Walmart shelf, the drill I wanted was nowhere to be seen. There was a more expensive drill of the same brand though but my eye roamed the shelves and found a cheaper drill. Yes, cheaper and it was corded and not listed on the website. $18 will do me very nicely. If it doesn't last much longer than the time it takes to complete my bus, I can't say I'm particularly worried.
While in Walmart, the Christmas leftovers were on a 50% off sale. Out of curiosity, I bought an incandescent fake candle and an LED incandescent fake candle. The light emitted by them is little short of pathetic. They're not even as bright, combined, as a real candle.
Right now, as I sit in my bus, I have two led lanterns almost illuminating the desk where I'm writing this blog entry and further down the bus I have a single 40W bulb running off 120v fully illuminating the galley. Again, it seems that LED lighting is an example of the greens claiming it's possible to get 9 pints out of a gallon. I honestly do not find this LED lighting to be all that good. The LEDs are dazzling to look at but produce an insignificant amount of light. Indeed, I once heard an electronics technician not being very impressed as white LEDs use way too much power. As many of you know though, trying to find a decent LED lantern is harder than finding hens teeth. As for a real honest to goodness incandescent lantern - they seem to have gone right off the market.

So, I returned with my drill just after darkness had fallen, thus ending today on a mildly disappointing note.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Cutting angle iron

Today after running a mission, I set to and cut some steel angle inton. This was the steel that came from the hillbilly bed frames. It's fearsomely thick steel. Some measures 3.5mm thick and some measures 5mm thick. That's sturdy enough for anything I need! I tried to beat the thinner steel flat with a sledgehammer a year or so back and the steel just laughed at me. My 12lb sledgehammer swung hard didn't budge the angle.
In the photo, you'll see some of the 5mm angle, nicely cut with my angle grinder. The plan is to drill 4 mounting holes in one side of the angle and two holes for my chain connectors, one on each side of the other side of the angle.

In the photo you'll see a chain link welded to a piece of steel cut from one of the thinner angles. You'll also see three links with welds that didn't work. I have no idea why those welds didn't take to the steel as I cleaned the surface of the steel with my angle grinder before attempting to weld. You'll also notice my welds are a bit blobby. That's probably because the helmet is so dark I can hardly see through the visor. The leaflet says it's a darkness 10 but it's pretty hard to see what I'm doing. I've just ordered an 8 lens and I'll try to pop the 10 out and put the 8 in. If needbe I can always don sunglasses under my welding helmet!
In other news, I have been thinking about cleaning out useless junk. I have a huge pile of utterly useless medical coding and billing books relating to a year long course somebody persuaded me to undertake in order to get better paid work. It turned out that the course was pretty much a scam. Really and truly, all people do when billing and coding is look up the ailment online and put the ailment code down on paper. That's all it is - a course in how to look up a number. I was after the certificate because people here like certificates and yet upon successful completion of the course I was told there is no certificate though at the start I was told there was. It was listed as a Quick Jobs Course in the college prospectus. Anyway, the upshot was... best ever grades by a student and three years on, completing that course has not garnered me a single job interview. So, I looked at that pile of books and I'm just going to get rid of them. There's a ton of money there and I'm going to be lucky if I get my gas money back taking them to a secondhand bookstore to sell them. In fact, having looked up their resale value online, I might find I have to toss them in the garbage.

So, if anybody out there has been told there're jobs in Medical Coding and Billing, stop right there. Most people doing it have no qualifications in doing it. There's no need because 90% of it is computerized anyway. Feel free to slap the daylights out of anybody that advocates Coding and Billing as a career because it's a side job done by an entry level clerk. If any college has Coding and Billing on their prospectus then check to see if they really are accredited like they claim and be aware any college offering Quick Jobs is out to scam you. There are no Quick Jobs other than prostitution or drug pedaling (Though a college such as the one I attended might call it Street Pharmacy Technician).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The plot thickens

The plan today was to weld more chain links to pieces of steel in order to make barrel hangers. Well, that was the intention. That's not quite how things worked out though.
Cutting the steel had been done days if not weeks ago. Thus today the chain was cut then a while later the welding started. That was when all the problems began. Both the link and the steel plate were clean, bright, shiny bare steel. One link welded on perfectly. The next looked perfect but when hit with a hammer, fell right off leaving barely a mark on the steel. The next did exactly the same thing which was really frustrating. Then another stuck but every time the link was hit with a hammer, the link bent. Clearly some unwanted softening had occurred.

By the time all the problems occurred, the poor light of the day was fading. Thus a search of the internet for "weld won't stick" was attempted. That yielded nothing but bad advice from forums. Nothing really practical or sensible - forums can be discounted immediately as talking groups by people that don't know what they're doing,

It was then that I had an idea. I still have a lot of hillbilly angle iron. If it was cut into approximately 2.75 inch lengths with two mounting holes drilled on each end of one flat and a single hole drilled to attach a chain connector then it would be possible to complete the task with no welding. That would speed things up tremendously. The angle is made of pretty thick 1/8 inch steel. I wish I'd thought of doing this before. Given a modicum of daylight, the steel can be cut quickly and the holes drilled equally quickly. It's not a nice, neat solution like welding but it is something that can be quickly fabricated on the road should I need to, using just hand tools.

I must say that I'm getting a bit fed up of the slow progress. Given a good day of progress, there is no reason why using the new technique, both existing barrels couldn't be rehung in a day or two. Where I will carry on with welding is for the battery mount for the ventilation fan battery. That is best mounted under the bus. Other items that need welding will probably be my security bars.

One of the things that might be negatively affecting my welding is my stupidly dark helmet. It is so dark I can't see the work unless the sun is bright. It's not possible though to change the lens. I have what I have and I'm not going to throw more money into welding equipment I'm not likely to be using much longer. When the bus is done, I won't need to weld any more.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Taking stock

Today I sit on the bus, looking around. There are things that need to be done, things that should be done and things that might be done. On the whole, progress has been good.

I looked at the barrel hangers I welded and was unsatisfied as they should in my changed opinion, be oriented differently. Thus I have cut another piece of steel ready to weld links to. Originally, I was going to replace the mounts I'd already installed. I've changed my mind about that now. I'll just add two extra chains attached to four extra mounts. I'll then see which, if any, fail. That will support each barrel from 5 chains, hence I bought some more chain. Rather than buying extra connecting links, I might just weld the right length of chain to half the mounts so if any links fail, the chain will fall safely away from the tyres.

The battery powering the fans needs in my opinion, to be mounted underneath the bus. Thus, I shall make a mount and bolt it to the underside of the bus at the rear. If the mount breaks loose and falls off, oh well. At least it won't fall under my wheels. I keep thinking about a battery to power 12v stuff but thus far can't really see any great advantage. Solar powered extraction fans seemed a good idea but in practice, they're not as practical as they could be. Having said that, they do work and I imagine in the heat of summer they will work far better.

Meanwhile, my smartphone pretty much died about a month ago having been in varying stages of demise since September. I bought a Tracfone SIM card and for text messages it has been great. For voice I made one call to another Tracfone and the call quality was terrible. It remains to see whether it's good or just cheap trash. I must admit I really like the idea of paying $20 every 3 months for my phone service, given that nobody ever calls me. That's much better than the $50 a month that I was paying for talk, text and data with Straight Talk. I really do not need data. 

Thinking about data any my bus lifestyle I have realized just why people are so broke these days. Back in the 40s when life was good, most people didn't have a car. They cycled, walked or took the bus to work. They had a radio and some had a TV but no cable. Some had telephones but not everybody. Nobody had cellphones, internet nor most of the electronic gadgets we see as normal but which are in fact luxuries.

My bus has solar powered ventilation, battery powered lighting, a small gas cooker and no fridge. How much electricity do I need? Sure, I have a plugin that I can use in order to use mains power when available but that, I feel, was me making a blunder. I have a feeling that though nice, mains power is a red herring.

Today I looked for Christmas cards. Looking proved to me just how much absolute garbage has crept into my possession. I'm going to have to take one box at a time and see what I really need to keep. I suspect not an awful lot to be honest.

I seem to be moving farther and farther away from the modern electronic lifestyle. My bus has no TV, no video player, no sound system. I have a pocket radio that runs off a PP3 battery that never gets used because I love silence too much. My smartphone died so the only camera currently used is on my elderly tablet. Interestingly, the charge controller on my solar setup will also charge USB devices. That gives me the option of charging my tablet or my phone.

But what about the Internet? Well, my old friend Eric, blogs profusely but does not have his own internet connection. Instead he uses connections along his travels. While I do have a MiFi pad, the data is so appallingly expensive, I never buy data nor use it. 

So, how much am I saving versus spending?
No smartphone so I save $50 a month though I do spend about $6.67 a month on the Tracfone.
No internet so I save between $15 and $50 a month.
No electricity so I save $28+ a month. Batteries cost about $5 a month.
I do use a $3.50 cylinder of butane each week.
Rent - if I paid for land rent in a mobile home park that would be $200 a month as opposed to $525 which was the last actual house rent I paid.

Expenditure now... $25.67 but $225.67 if I rented in a mobile home park
Expenditure at the max... $650+ per month.
Annual saving $7,491

Note... I haven't factored in heating nor cable TV. I'm really unimpressed by beating. When I lived in Britain, in cold weather we wore warmer clothes and went to bed earlier, using minimal heating. Small gas heaters are available though their cost and running cost have not been calculated. The alternative is an electric heater.

So, no wonder everybody is broke. They all have to have the latest gadgets etc. I can put a light on, grab a mug of tea and sit down with a book when there's no available internet connection. We make life too complicated and too expensive with all our toys.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A mystery solved

Today I went to start my bus but the battery was flat. I charged it and drove the bus forward and back in the yard noting that the gizmo attached to the drive shaft is not a supplementary speedometer. The red power cable is disconnected and the speedometer functions. This is all particularly curious!

Starting the bus was a challenge as the battery was flat. I charged it and it started up straight away. Turning the kill switch on the battery I went back inside to find the power still on. Returning to the kill switch I discovered what a marvelous piece of engineering the people that installed it had done. The switch is on the negative terminal and the terminals on the switch are both uninsulated and in contact with the bodywork. What a stunningly bad piece of engineering! Until I can resolve the short in the ABS circuit, the solution will have to be duct tape over the part the switch touches.

Looking underneath the bus I found the steel plates on my welded barrel hangers are a little overlong. I can trim them though extra width would be welcome. I have a feeling that the hillbilly steel just isn't going to be any good for anything bus related. No matter how much I tried to reuse most of the hillbilly parts, I never could get them to work. I might end up having to buy more appropriate steel.

Today I didn't actually do much. I was just so utterly exhausted from working. My day starts at 4am when my alarm sounds. Typically I drive a school bus, picking up children between 6am and 7am, delivering them to two elementary schools then between 7am and 8am I drive for a high school. Add in a few extra activities and I'll be driving for approximately 3 hours. Then I go home and if I can manage it, I have a nap. The last few days that nap just didn't happen. From 1:35am until 4:30pm I usually act as an aide on a bus while the other driver drives. I take over at 4:30 if there are still children to drop off, dropping the other driver at a prearranged point (which changes). I can then be driving until 5:05 or occasionally 5:45. That's around a 12 hour day! I do that every day and by the end of the day I am shattered. Driving takes a lot of concentration because I have to be aware of what my passengers are doing, what drivers around me are doing and obeying the rules only school bus drivers must obey. Yesterday, for example, on the morning run I had to stop midway through a left hand turn because a car driver thought he could get into a non existent gap. Had I not been checking my side mirrors, he would have been an insurance claim. Then as I was slowing to pick up a child, with my amber lights flashing, a very long flatbed semi pulled out of a turning just in front of me. I'd already seen him as a risk but hoped he wouldn't be that dumb. I was prepared to stop and did. Finally, driving along a narrow road I spotted some children up ahead. As I drew closer one pushed another into the road I had to swerve and brake. Had I not already checked my mirror to see if I was being overtaken my only recourse would have been harder braking which could have thrown my passengers on the floor with injury potential. So now you know... my job is absolutely exhausting.

If tomorrow is warmer, I might get underneath the bus since the wasps have gone and see if I can use my carefully welded barrel hangers.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Nothing much today. Too cold!

Yesterday I built a solar oven using materials to hand. As there has been no sunshine to mention, the temperature inside did not reach any great heights thus the paint I put on my barrel hangers did not get baked on as I'd have liked.

I'm trying at the moment to demolish an entry room in front of a spare mobile home that's being used for storage. It's proving somewhat of a challenge. The problem is the floor of the entry room is unsafe so the whole room has to be removed in order to access the storage. I need to access that storage to put my excess supplies in while I complete the things I'm working on with the bus.

Not getting very far with anything much, I git a little depressed. Being asked to dispose of some ancient tubs of Greek Yogurt, I set them up not far away and built a little backstop then lifted my mood by shooting them with my .357 magnum. That was fun!

Demolishing the room is probably going to be best achieved by pulling the walls down by force. I'll have to work on that!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Ready for liftoff - almost

Having not started the engine in several months, today I tried to start my bus. Needless to say there wasn't sufficient power in the battery so I set to and charged the battery. While I was doing that I noticed there was a strange red wire coming from the battery and going to a peculiar box coming from the prop shaft. As I fiddled, the wire disengaged itself from its attachment. It had clearly been installed by the hillbilly previous owners.
I have absolutely no idea what that wire is doing other than taking up space. There's a white wire that clearly used to go to the reversing horn. The horn still exists but the hillbilly wiring has long since fallen off.

After a while I started the engine and ran it for 10 minutes noting that the battery gauge and rev counter were not flickering as they used to. I'm now wondering whether the hillbilly owners had added the reversing horn and all the bad wiring. I intend to replace the reversing horn wires but I will wire the horn directly to a switch on the console. The less automation the better!

Hunting around, I didn't find a paintbrush suitable to put white paint onto my barrel hangers. I did however manage to spray them with grey paint. As it is very cold, that paint might take days to dry. 
Thus my cunning plan involves a piece of plywood I found rotting on the ground, a retread tyre that fell apart and the remaining piece of plexiglass from the bus. The plan involves making a solar oven. The plan if the oven works as described is to use it to bake my paint.

Needless to say, as the solar oven comes straight from the green conspirators cookbook, its dubious as to whether it'll work. So many of these kooky green brainwaves never work. I can give a pretty long list of kooky green ideas that don't work yet cost a ton of money.
  • LED lightbulb replacements. I bought 5 and only one lasted more than six months. How is that green when they're unrecyclable and contain phosphorous? They hurt my wallet to five times the cost of a CFL bulb and ten times the cost of incandescent. The amount of power used by LED over incandescent is minuscule. 
  • Solar power. I've tried so many of these solar things and end up throwing most away because they don't last long. How is that green? Solar panels contain cadmium and other toxic elements. How are they greener if they're introducing unrecyclable toxins to the environment?
  • Fuel efficient things on cars. Electronic ignition came in in the 1990s. It saves no appreciable amount of fuel. It's a green conspiracy to make things more technology dependent and expensive. I wouldn't mind betting the green movement is a cunning plot by the Chinese government to make the world dependent upon Chinese electronics.
  • LED lanterns and flashlights. I have never had an LED anything that has lasted longer than the first set of batteries. LED flashlights are so bad that Harbor Freight gives them away free. I have several LED lanterns and none are as bright as a lantern with an incandescent flashlight bulb. They're blinding to look at but the light they produce is terrible.
  • The latest green scam is DEF - diesel emission fluid. It costs money, squirts toxins into diesel exhaust, adds electronics to the system and causes nothing but problems.
See where all these green things are going? They all add tons of extra electronics to everything. It has to be a plot by the Chinese to sell electronics. These greens are nothing but Chinese terrorists waging war on the western world. Forget Isis - the greens are far worse.

It is my goal to make my bus conversion as independent of electricity as possible. I tried a solar powered ventilation system. It kinda sorta works but worked far better before I added the battery, charge controller and even the solar panels.

I do use a cellphone and a tablet. That's it for me for electronics though. In fact I recently stopped using a smart phone and went back to a dumb phone. That was driven by Straight Talk pointing out that all I did with my smart phone was to play on the internet. I'm happier with a dumb phone and don't actually miss a smart phone.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Rain stops play

That's pretty much a standard thing for British cricket. People go to the cricket grounds expecting cricket and a few spots of rain hit the delicate little players so the umpire stops the game. Here, it's rather more of a torrential downpour that has stopped play.

Yesterday I finished putting undercoat on my brackets. The plan today was to give them a topcoat of white paint then while that was all drying, to weld some more brackets together. Unfortunately neither arc welding nor painting work well in wet conditions.

As many of you know, I'm not wealthy hence I'm turning a school bus into a home. Let me thus update you on the latest in the saga of my phone....

In 2013 I spent an inordinate amount of money on a flashy Nexus 4 smartphone. Google had dropped the price by $100 to get rid of the last 4s before the 5s were released. I spent about $300 on a phone that I hoped would last a few years. How wrong I was! In 2015 the charging port became so loose no cord would stay inserted. Thus I bought a cordless charger from China. That worked well until probably August so around about a year. It then started switching off after a few seconds.

Recently I ordered a new charging pad that was allegedly coming from California. That was supposed to arrive on the 30th. When it didn't arrive, I checked the tracking number and found it was fake. By then I'd been without a phone for a week. That's never good news.

The other day, I located the phone I took to Britain in October and put a Tracfone SIM card in it and bought the smartphone package at $15 for the month. Sadly it turned out that only the talk bit will work. Tracfone and Blu don't seem to be on the same page regarding connectivity. Thus, when the package ends in January I shall buy the $20 package giving solely talk and text for 3 months.

I'm looking at the costs of my phone service. I had a smartphone for $300 that barely lasted 3 years. That's $100 a year. I had a Blackberry prior to this that was $200 and which died after a year. Back then I was on a $35 a month plan with Virgin. Then I moved to a $45 a month plan with Family Mobile before eventually, $55 a month with Straight Talk.

Over the years I have questioned why I have a smart phone and then hunted around to justify  having one. Now I am by sheer happenstance using a dumb phone. Thus far I don't really notice any difference. Nobody much phoned me before and nobody much will continue to phone me. Nobody much texted me and I expect nobody much will continue to text me. As far as data is concerned, it was nice to be able to pull up email, websites etc, to take photos and play around.

I had an interesting email from Straight Talk, trying to get me to renew. That was a spectacular own goal! Let me show you the email...
How fatal is that? The phrase "playing on the internet" struck a chord. That was all I was doing. I was spending all this money on smartphones and data just to play aimlessly like a small baby. I don't know about you but I have better things to do with $760 a year than play quickly forgotten games online. My poverty stricken friends use Tracfone and spend $20 every 3 months. That's $80 a year and their phones had two huge advantages. The battery lasts a week between charges and the phones last for years and years.

Had I not been ripped off for the charging pad then I would never have realized that I wasn't missing much by dumping smartphones in favor of dumb phones. I was hung up on keeping GPS but since I already have a GPS unit, I'm covered. I have a neat little camera too. I don't need to be reliant upon my cellphone camera. As far as Facebook, Twitter and all that other online twaddle is concerned, I took those apps off my phones years ago. Straight Talk did me an immense favor by sending this email.

So my phone bill now drops to 10% of what it was. That's very good news!  More good news is the difference in size. My cellphone is now very small at about the size of a credit card and very light in weight.
I had been somewhat dismissive of the MiFi pads because the cheapest is $40 for 4gb that can roll over across just two months. Now that looks much more practical. In terms of cost, I used 2gb a month of wifi data and there's plenty free wifi around. I have to say that this change looks like it's going to be for the better!

My day job as a bus driver is a bit odd. We are not permitted to use electronics such as GPS navigation units. It's ok though to look at street names and a route description while driving. This has led to my making more use of ancient technology - maps and compasses. In order to better do my day job, I have ordered a street map of the area. I find it very interesting how low tech my life is becoming. I'm increasingly getting the feeling that all this expensive high technology, expensive stuff is why everybody is in so much debt. Indeed, people seem amazed that I have no full time power supply on the bus.

I grew up in Britain in the 70s and 80s at a time when CDs, DVDs, MP3s, cellphones, tablets and computers just didn't exist. It doesn't worry me not to have the latest electric or electronic toys.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Plans changing again

I had planned to put more barrel hangers together to hang barrels that as yet do not exist. Then I realized I'd be better just working with what I have. I can easily build more hangers. Well, that was part of the reason anyway. The other is I don't have sufficient hardware to hang more barrels. Thus, that can wait. Let me get these barrels hung better.

There are a couple of things I want to upgrade but I want to get the bus operational now rather than carrying out more upgrades. I've had my bus already two years and time is flitting past. One upgrade is to add a master breaker to my 120v plugin. That'll have to wait. I'm itching to get the bus operational.

Once it's operational, I have to sort through my stuff. I have several boxes with out of date papers, old tax returns and a whole load of other trash that needs to go the way of the dodo. Once all that is done, maybe I will take on some of the upgrades. The whole bus can be upgraded a bit at a time if need be.

My biggest failures so far are the woefully inadequate solar panels and my LED lighting. Combined
with a battery, they do actually work and power fans to ventilate the bus. His good that ventilation is, I'm not sure. As far as LED lighting goes, the supposedly bright LED lanterns are little short of abysmal.

Most of my lanterns have two or three settings aside from off:

  • Setting 1 - There's a dim glow over there. Is that where that lantern is?
  • Setting 2 - I can almost see the table the lantern is standing on!
  • Setting 3 - There's a tabletop. There's a pool of light around the lantern but I still can't see to read or do anything.
Now, one of these lanterns is made by such a prestigious brand as GE. The others, the manufacturers were so proud of their work they didn't bother putting their name to it. 

Sadly, all the manufacturers seem to have gone to LED lanterns these days. If somebody made a lantern that took krypton bulbs then I'd be interested. I know I'd get less battery life out of an incandescent light but on the other hand I get just as much illumination out of putting an unopened pack of batteries in a drawer as I get from these LED things. Indeed, the battery life would be better.

In the house I have been forbidden from bringing back any LED light bulbs. I bought 4 on Black Friday last year of which only one is still functioning. Given they haven't had but 90 minutes use a day or around 2500 hours out of their alleged 25,000 hour lives, that's abysmal. More do since they cost far more than a CFL equivalent. Indeed, in Lowes yesterday (the day after Black Friday) I saw huge boxes of those CFL lights at 89 cents each. I noted they didn't seem able to shift them. As my partner said, they're not worth having even if they were free.

It just seems to me that the world has been hoodwinked by the technology people. It has become normal now to buy an electronic gizmo then throw it out a year later and buy another. Not only is that very environmentally unfriendly but it's wasteful of money. The argument to ban incandescent bulbs was the carbon dioxide emitted by power plants. Rather than force power plants to clean up their act, in came compact fluorescent bulbs. How are these greener? Every part of an incandescent bulb could be recycled - metals, glass and the plaster. Compact fluorescent not so much - plastics are harder to recycle. Phosphorous and mercury rather more challenging but the glass and metals can be recycled. Coincidentally, a broken compact fluorescent bulb poses a serious health risk. Mercury is absorbed by the body and cannot be excreted. The first time you know you have breathed or ingested too much mercury, you'll be suffering the unpleasant  side effects and there is no cure. In terms of life, compact fluorescents do last a bit longer than incandescent bulbs. Then there're these accursed LED bulbs. They claim 20,000 hours life yet theurctrack record is so poor the European Union had to specify that they must last a minimum of 6,000 hours. I've not had one reach 6,000 hours yet. In terms of recycling, it's 90% unrecyclable plastic. Not very green at all and at a replacement cycle of one every few months, terrible for the environment.

Now let's return to those LED lanterns. Like all this technology stuff they seem to have been designed by somebody with Aspergers. All these extra light level options. Who in tarnstion needs them? Throughout history too much light has never ever been a problem. Why then do we have this ridiculous dim, dimmer, where the heck is the darn lantern settings? I fully intend to do a comparison between my lanterns and a candle and I'm not going to be betting on the lantern being brighter than the candle!

Remaining to be done on the bus...
A mount for the battery for the solar powered fans
Retitling the bus as a motor home
Replacing the existing barrel hangers with my new hangers.

Other than that, it's all upgrades. I'm going to say construction is pretty much done. The upgrade phase follows. 

Friday, November 25, 2016


Todsy I set to and tested my welds for strength. That was actually easier than I had envisaged. My original plan had been to attach a chain to the loop I'd welded then suspend the plate with the chain dangling down then attach a step to the other end of the chain and simply stand on it.
Life presented me with a simpler option. I took some of the hillbilly channel and cut it so that I had a point on one end. I suspended the steel plates between wooden blocks, passed the end of the channel through the loop then simply jumped up and down on the channel. Given that the weight calculations work out as follows, I think I have a good safety margin.

The barrel when full of water will weigh 125lbs.
The turnbuckle is good for 130lbs.
The chain is good for 520lbs
The connectors are good for 600lbs

The weakest point is clearly the turnbuckle which is itself strong enough to support the barrel all on one turnbuckle.

There are three chains in use. I've designed the system with redundancy in mind. One chain can fail without disaster ensuing. Thus, the designed stresses are as follows.

Each barrel hanger will carry 1/4 of the weight, i.e. 32lbs. In a sudden jerk caused by hitting a pothole then I'm guessing 3 or 4 times the weight will be exerted on the mounts. That's 120lbs.  Now I'm not going to say how much I weigh but I jumped up and down on that bar and I weigh over 120lbs. I'd say that my system is going to be safe.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Completed the hangers

This is my welding setup. It certainly saved my knees! Today I used it to weld 6 new barrel hangers. That should mean that I'll be able to hang nit just my two existing barrels but also the two planned barrels - whenever I get around to hanging the new ones.

It seems one little online group expelled me. I can't say I'm that bothered. I believe it was because they disliked my bringing reality to their unrealistic, rose tinted view of things. They were some little tiny home group. I only noticed they were not spamming me with announcements when I noticed how refreshingly  empty my inbox was. Such are online groups.
These are some of today's constructions. The welds look a little blobby but each unit had had 4 welding rods. Between rods, the slag was knocked loose with a hammer and brushed with a steel brush. 
One of my most persistent problems is my welding rod getting stuck. I use 1/16 rods and a 70a welder. It's annoying but just means pulling the rod off with pliers. 

People have been saying all kinds of nasty things about my welds. Thus I'm going to test my welds for strength. If they fail then it's an unfortunate coincidence. If as I suspect, they're fine then those online fools will be known to be fools. The plan is to pass the loop through a hole in a section of steel channel, attach a chain to the loop then attach a bar to the other end of the chain. The bar will be suspended and I'll stand on the channel which will be suspended a few inches.

The test above will test the hangers way in excess of their designed use. They're supposed to share the weight of a 15 gallon barrel between 4 hangers. I'll use 6 hangers for extra safety. 15 gallons weighs 125.18lbs. That divided by 4 is about 31lbs. Testing the welds by suspending my weight from them tests them to several times the expected weight. If each weld will support me then mission accomplished. If I have to redo some welds then better to find out in a controlled testing environment.
Well, that's part of my test setup. I'll do the testing tomorrow since tomorrow is Black Friday. There's no point in going anywhere tomorrow. The roads and stores will be absolute chaos with people rushing around and fighting over non existent bargains.

Once the testing is done, I'll look toward installing the new hangers. I'll have to get some 5/16 bolts since my existing hangers use 5/16 bolt holes. I'll use two standard nuts and when both are really tight will weld the bottom nut to the thread to ensure nothing can accidentally come apart.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Welding forward

I have been until now squatting on the ground or even kneeling on the cold, hard ground to do my welding. The last bit of welding I did though, I supported the work on a chunk of wood. Needless to say, the wood - somewhat inconveniently - kept catching fire and I had to pause to blow the flames out.

Going forward I located two wooden saw horses and placed a steel girder across them. This is the girder that was cut off the hillbilly rear shelf some 2 years ago. The girder has a nice flat area to work on. I can clamp work to it and not worry about it catching fire. The saw horses should be safe as the steel will conduct heat away and dissipate it.

I'm getting just a bit ticked at the people that tut tut at my welding. It reminds me of a conversation I overheard at work. A lady was on a phone call and said "it's no good telling me why I can't or shouldn't do things without telling me how I can do them. It's really not very constructive". Needless to say, everybody listening nodded their heads in agreement. I'm getting the same thing. People, particularly online people that might be trolls or indeed a cunning computer program such as Eliza.

My current plan keeps changing due to doubts these people/programs/trolls have put in my head. I shall have to build a test rig with which to test the strength of my welds. That will require a fulcrum, some calculations and a weight. I hope to test my welds to 300psi. That should be a safe figure that I pretty much plucked from the air.

Each barrel when full will weigh 125.18lbs. The barrel itself probably weighs 15lbs so I'll just estimate a total weight of 150lbs. Assuming hard braking will cause that weight to double, that would be 300lbs. I'll thus test each weld to 300lbs.

In fact, each barrel will be supported by 3 chains or 6 of my welded anchors. Thus the pull per anchor will be 25lbs. As each of the new anchors will be fastened by 4 bolts, each bolt will pull 6.25lbs. Assuming no chain breakage, in a hard stop the pull per bolt will be 12.5lbs. Of course being a CDL driver, I don't do hard stops. I plan my braking in advance and observe other people's regrettable driving.

So, I didn't do a lot today. I set up, ready to do my welding. I'll do that tomorrow. I'm not sure when I'll be able to get underneath to work though as there are still wasps and fire ants around.

Meanwhile, I hung up some of the mildew scented clothes I brought from Britain. They're hung in the shower of the bus. I figure a few days and the mildew scent will have gone. While I was in the bus, I measured up for a security grill over the driver's window. It seems I need two strips 27 inches long and eight strips 26 inches long. The annoying thing is the strips I can buy are 72 inches long. I can get  54 inches for two strips but have 18 inches totally wasted. That's quite frustrating.

The plan for tomorrow is to complete my welding for the chain terminators and maybe touch up those I've already done.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Wait for it....

I chatted to somebody at work about welding. It seems that my method of testing with a hammer is just fine and my welds look good.

I compare this with the baloney I read on a discussion group. All the things that I can't do with my welds, all the reasons why fault testing with a good look and a mallet won't work but no alternatives offered. Heck, people there even threw a wobbly over the weight of 15 gallons of water being 125.18lbs! Any engineer would immediately recognize that as 15 US gallons or would question why it wasn't their expected figure.

I have to say that it is really entertaining watching these online fools pretending to be experts. Indeed, when challenged with "For somebody claiming to be an expert, you seem to know surprisingly little", again, no question was ever asked. Instead the atta is continued with "Never said i was an expert and both my comments on water are correct, it just looks like a) you cannot take a comment on anything and b) you are always correct. Hope your welds hold as obviously you know that they will." Clearly this fellow is not an engineer.

Indeed, one comment I had on another welding discussion was so clearly asinine that I ended up posting: "Honestly, I think you're just blowing smoke out of your anus. If a weld will stand up to whacking with a hammer without chunks flaking off and without the work moving and as long as there are no visible cracks, it would take an X-ray to find faults. 90% of welding is not X-ray checked and it holds just fine. It rather sounds to me that you do not know anything about welding but are in fact one of those strange people (if indeed you're actually human and not some clever computer program) that spends their time trying to make people doubt themselves, their work, their God and tries to pee on everybody's sunshine." After that, I think they posted some other garbage but I had already given up on getting anything sensible from internet denizens.

Years ago the world split in two. Those that live through the internet and those that live real lives. I tried living via the internet but it was a bland, boring experience so I chose the real world. There still seem to be plenty people that believe the pap written online by various alleged gurus. According to online groups, my bus conversion can't work etc. what a bleating load of sheep!

Today I was reading various articles about social media. Some were in favor of it for job seekers, some were against and others were more inclined to dictating you you should use social media. I just hope that when the morons that posted garbage in my welding discussions have the common sense to delete their witterings before their employer sees them or perhaps their future employer.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Security bars done

Today after doing the months grocery shopping I finished the security bars for the front door. I need to do something similar but removable for the driver's window too.
I think they look quite good. Whether they will deter a determined villain I do t know. The casual creep I can imagine will just pass on it.
I also got on with brushing the slag off my welds and cut the welded steel into appropriate units. I decided overnight to add two supports to each barrel rather than to replace all 3 existing supports. It means more redundancy and I can check to see which chains are working best or worst or if indeed there's a difference between the systems.
The crap talkers made me doubt my welding. I'm thus going to take these into wirk and ask some of the welders there what their opinion is if my welding. I think it looks OK. That's the problem with these online groups. They talk so much absolute crap that it makes you question yourself a bit too much. Still, since they spoke crap about my welding, I'll ask another welder to look it over.

I need to make two more attachments and have cut some steel ready to weld loops to. Although I had a few minutes to do that, it was at the end of the day and I didn't want to feel rushed.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

More welding

Today I managed to squeeze in some work on the bus. The first thing done was to complete building the security bars for the front door. That involved riveting and as my long handled riveter is now broken, I had to use my hand riveter. It took quite some squeezing to work my steel rivets! It just wasn't worth buying another long handle riveter for something so trivial as half a dozen rivets.

Next, the bars were spray painted. Most of the paint is a rather nice, very hard Rustoleum black. The rest has been sprayed with bumper black since my black spray can ran out just before I finished the job. Typical!

Having done that, my attention turned to my next project. For a while I have been unhappy with the barrel hangers. They're essentially U bolts with zinc inserts attached to the subframe via two nuts. There's just no room on the thread for a second nut. I'd used stop nuts but was still not happy.

Today I took some of the excess chain and welded links to some steel angle. I'll cut the angle tomorrow and clean up the welds. The thought is that links welded to steel plate attached to the sub frame via 4 bolts per plate with two nuts per bolt and the endmost nut welded to the thread should be far more secure.

Meanwhile I had another jolly good fight on one of those iniquitous online groups. Basically it proved that nobody on the bus/camper/tiny home sites/groups know anything. Maybe that's unfair. Some probably do but there are a lot of fools proclaiming their ignorance while putting themselves forward as experts.

I posted my rather miserable experience of LED lighting, pointing out that LED lights are as horribly oversold as solar panels. I noted that every LED flashlight I've ever had has given up at or about the time it needed it's first set of new batteries, that out of 4 LED bulbs I bought for the bathroom, 3 have failed in under a year, that the LED bike lights I had were uselessly invisible and that all the 4 LED lanterns I bought for the bus combined are dimmer than a 40W light bulb. I let them run with a bit of prodding and repetition of what I'd said. The results were predictable. I had responses like...

1. Well, I have LED bulbs and they're great and I've had them for years.
2. You need to stop buying cheap bulbs.
3. Stop buying Chinese LEDs.
4. You're using them wrong.

Nothing that was at all constructive. Only one or maybe two other people echoed my experience with the bulbs as being terrible. Yet, I look online and found a beautiful article that echoed my experience. Quoting that got me the usual "that article is bullshit". I just find people's inability to see truth As being quite entertaining. If God himself turned up and declared that the oceans are filled with seawater I bet there'd be people ready to argue tooth and nail with him that they're not!

This is largely why I don't trust the internet for any form of research. It seems to be a concentration of stupidity.

Now the article echoed my experiences, namely...
1. CFL and LED bulbs do not last long
2. In order to get the same brightness as incandescent, the wattages have to be increased dramatically.
3. CFL and LED bulbs cost many times the price of incandescent.
4. Electricity saved is minimal.
5. Given the short lives of CFL and LED, the cost of lighting is now higher than ever.

Here's the article:

Tomorrow my task will be to cut the angle iron and to clean all my welds. I'll also have to figure out some way of testing my welds fir strength.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Back to work!

Today I got back to work on the bus. I started with the intention of finding my 3/16 rivets but though I found a few, I didn't find the box I thought I had. That was majorly annoying! In the end I found about 4 so I made progress on a new security bar for one of the windows on the bus door. I'd already attached bars over the third of the four windows.

Another plan is instead of using rope tie downs I'm thinking of welding single chain links to a thick sheet of galvanized steel. Then that sheet can be attached at all four corners using 5/16 bolts to the C section ribs under the bus. Finally, after having tightened the nuts as hard as possible, I'll weld the threads so that the nuts cannot possibly come off.

Meanwhile, I've been looking at the LED lanterns. The light produced is somewhat disappointing. I get more light from a 40w bulb in a standard lamp than from all of my 4 LED lanterns combined. Apparently 40W is about 600 lumens. One of my 4 lanterns is alleged to produce 300 lumens. All 4 should produce far more. The sad fact is, they don't. This is not really surprising to me. LED lamps produce light but it just can't compare to a real bulb.

I want to weigh my bus in order to be able to adjust tyre pressures etc. I'll have to finish packing up the construction stuff. Then there's a pile of medical books in the bedroom that I pulled out. I'm almost tempted to sell them in order to regain the space. They were part of a course I did in medical coding and billing that was alleged to lead immediately to employment but which never did. I call courses like that, scams. I shall never again attend another Midlands Tech course.

Monday, November 7, 2016

New thoughts on barrel hangers

My barrels are currently hung using cable grips which works pretty well. I am unhappy with the attachment of the cable gripper to the underside of the bus. They are held on using a single nut on each end of the gripper. In my opinion that's not secure enough.

I'd been idly thinking about other solutions, most of which involved a lot of welding. As I happened to be in Tractor Supply today to get two aluminum strips to replace some I messed up yesterday, I noticed a very interesting ring hanger.
Apparently it's good for 400lbs. It seems to take a 1/4 inch bolt so I can put two nuts on each of 4 bolts then, having tightened the bolts, I can gently weld the nuts to the thread. If I leave the existing attachments and add just two chains per barrel then I can be sure my barrels will not shift. Both attachment systems should work. It's worth the extra cost for the extra peace of mind.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cleaning up

Today while I should have been looking for clothes to take to the funeral and booking a flight, instead I sat numbly in the bus. Then I went outside and picked up as much construction debris as I could find in the yard. Normally I don't touch cleaning unless it's a dire emergency. It's so mind numbing that it's actually helpful right now.

Following cleaning up the front yard which basically entailed piling the debris up in a more organized dump rather than simply scattered, I moved on to cleaning the bus. I started with the bedroom, sweeping the dirt out the back door while rescuing screws etc. Then the plastic carpet had a wash on both sides.
The floor is stained but latex paint doesn't shrug the stains off like oil based paint. Had I know. It was possible to get oil paint in lowes, id have used solely oil based. Still, I can always repainted the badly stained areas.
Having cleaned the bedroom, I cleaned half of the bathroom and set the toilet up as ready to use. Next I have to clean the shower and sweep debris into the galley. Without a shadow of doubt, this bus is looking better.

I still didn't look out the clothes I needed nor book my plane ticket!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Charge and Engagement

Today I went to enter the bus and found that my magical front door unlocker wouldn't work. It had sounded somewhat sickly the last few days so today I charged 8 NiMh batteries to go into the power supply and hey presto, the door opener worked again. Of course, to gain entry, I had to use the back door and my steps.

I have no idea how long the batteries lasted because I have no count of how many times I use the door opener. I do know when I installed it which was July 27th. Bearing in mind I haven't been into the bus every day while sometimes I have been in multiple times in a day, I have absolutely no idea of the usage. Suffice to say the batteries have lasted all of August and September. It will be interesting to see how long the NiMh batteries last. Indeed, a future expansion could be to put solar panels on the front of the bus with the door opener tied into a battery charged from those panels.

Today also, out of interest, I looked at my long since abandoned Twitter account. If you remember, I stopped bothering with Twitter because my account was locked when somebody objected to my stating something mild like ISIS had better stay in the Middle East. As it appeared that Twitter supports ISIS - a fact corroborated by the vast number of ISIS agents that are reported in the media to use Twitter for communication - I stopped wasting my efforts on the medium.

Needless to say, my Twitter account has many automated features. One of those features is that every blog entry is broadcast via Twitter. According to the stats my Tweets had 1,900 impressions (I guess that means how many people Twitter thinks saw them). Of those 1,900 impressions there were just 4 link clicks. The page quoted other bunk such as 4 favorites (these are almost always automated) and 2 retweets (again, almost always automated).

So, my Twitter account that has apparently 98 followers (God alone knows why) has a phenomenal number of impressions that does not really bear out the number of Tweets. There is literally one automated Tweet a day with a synopsis of the days news and when I post to my blog, for some reason that posts twice. Thus if I posted every day with the 3 daily tweets that would be 3x98x28 or 8232 viewings (if every follower saw every tweet). The actual number of tweets this month has probably been considerably fewer.

What do I make of Twitter's "statistics"? Well, to be honest, like just about every one of these online figures about viewers, engagement etc, I think it's all a load of bunk. I don't think there's any truth to these figures at all.

Let's take that figure a bit further. The page views on this blog alone in the last month were 1,050. The pageviews on my other two blogs were 3,265 and 2,222. That's a grand total of 6,537. Each blog carries Google Adsense targeted advertising. Now you tell me that out of 6,537 pageviews only 8 clicks on 1 cent advertisements happened! That's right - my blogs earned 8 cents last month. It's 8 cents more than I had but a long way from the $100 payout.

So, you will understand my scepticism over online "statistics", "figures", "viewers" and so on. Unless it translates into cold, hard cash all these figures are complete nonsense. Twitter is peddling more nonsense by giving out those figures.

Look at it this way - the Twitter account is 100% automated. I never had any interaction off Twitter users in general which is something I tried to get for years. In fact when I was a student in university I used to reply to the graffiti on the bathroom wall and used to get more replies to my replies than I ever had from anything on Twitter.

This all goes back to my general experience of electronics (the internet included) which is that at least 75% doesn't really work. Yesterday, for example, I blogged on my other blog about LED lightbulbs and how 3 out of 4 that had an alleged 10,000 hour life each had been in the bathroom with limited use (only switched on when the facilities are in use) had failed in under a year. One didn't even last a month. I could say that LED bulbs are thus the least green option of any. Totally unrecyclable and just landfill.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Put on hold

Bus completion is temporarily on hold.

I have almost completed the bus. I need to tidy the inside in order to figure out if anything else really needs to be done. It's looking, honestly, pretty darned complete right now.

The reason for this arrived in an email from my father. It appears that yesterday my mother passed away. I need to fly 4,000 miles to attend her funeral.

Right now, a hurricane is about to come ashore too. That has pretty much grounded most flights. I vounteered to drive a school bus to Charleston to pick up refugees but it seems that the district had asked for too many drivers to attend. There were plenty busses but in the end, they sent just ten. Oddly, they put 3 drivers per bus. The half dozen of us left without busses to drive were sent home.

I shall return.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Waste Vegetable Oil

I have a friend that runs his diesel Transit off corn oil. Corn oil is, of course, far cheaper than diesel in Europe. That set me thinking a while ago about running my bus off vegetable oil. Diesel however has become a lot cheaper since then.

Interestingly, today I was reading about somebody's experience of using waste vegetable oil. They had filtered it and run their vehicle for about 20,000 miles on it. They had apparently been told that their savings in fuel would be offset by costs in repairs. Now I don't know how well they filtered their waste oil but I would be very cautious with waste oil. Waste oil has many uses but running a vehicle on it seems pretty hit or miss.

The upshot was that their valves were thoroughly caked in carbon. Interestingly, the inside of their cylinders were heavily scored and their turbo charger was burned out. Their advice was just not to use waste vegetable oil. That rather echoes what a diesel mechanic told me. He said that diesel is readily available at good prices so why fiddle about. I have to say that I agree.
The final coat of paint has now been applied. It looks pretty darned good in my opinion. All that's needed is for the space to be used. The bedroom floor needs a good sweeping but it's almost ready for use, whenever it might get used.

Today I had a bit of a tidying session inside the bus. I didn't do vast amounts. To be honest I'm a little depressed by the large excess of stuff that I just haven't used. I spent quite a bit on electronic junk that just isn't going to get used as well as a lot on fasteners. I really need to put it all tidily into a shed because I'm sure I'm going to find I need some.

Looking at the back of the bus, where I'd thought of putting a waste barrel, there's a problem. The exhaust system is close enough to melt the plastic. That would be a disaster! I do, however, have an idea for putting batteries at the back, between chassis members. My basic thought is to add weight, improving braking.

Finally, I put black paint on both sides of my security bars. Those will be installed some time. I'm not sure quite when though but probably this month. That was pretty easy.

Things remaining to be done on the bus are getting fewer and fewer. This can be split into things I need to do, things I want to do and things I might do.

Needing to be done.
Fixing the passenger side windscreen wiper
Fixing the reversing horn
Fixing the underbody wiring
Fixing the short in the ABS system

Things I want to do
Sealing more roof seams with silicone, just in case of leaks.
Putting in my main breaker box.

Things I might do
Tidy the paintwork in the bedroom
Replace some storage containers

Once the inside is cleaned and tidy, it'll be easier to see what needs work and what doesn't. I know my solar fan setup might need some work. Having said that, it has been working. Really, all it needs is fir the battery to be installed somewhere other than on top of a paint tin at the back of the bus.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

First full test

Today started with my painting the floor where I had riveted a patch over a hole left by the hillbilly bus owners. I'd covered it with plywood and had caulked where the plywood was too thin. I suspect the caulk might be too soft and I might have to redo this eventually though in the closet, it's not in a high traffic area.

The camera flash has shown up some discoloured paint that I'll hit when I do my second coat but it's really not looking bad at all. In fact, it's really hard to imagine there might ever have been a hole in the floor.

For my next trick, I timed the running of my fans. I set my charge controller to switch the fans on when voltage reaches 13v and off when it reaches 12.5v. It took 6 minutes to reduce the charge by 0.5 volts on my 5ah battery. From that we can see that my system works. It would probably work better if I was able to put my solar panels on the roof but for operational reasons, that's just not advisable. Had I thought of it when I was installing the panels, I could possibly have hinged them so they could have been flipped up but that would have added complications and as we all know, the less complications, the less the problems.

Eric and I spoke on the phone today since he's in Canada now. He is of the opinion my battery is a bit small. I know this already and have this battery solely because it was $25 in a Radio Shack going-out-of-business sale. On the plus side, it won't take too long to reach full charge.

Now, the reason I set the voltage limits so closely is that because the panels are vertical, there's not much light actually shining on them. Thus I'd rather get short bursts of ventilation than a long burst followed by a few days of nothing.
There's my setup. Two wires from each solar panel go to terminal blocks that are connected by wires and diodes (protecting the panels). They're 10 watt panels and that's a 20 watt controller. This whole ventilation system has cost somewhere in the region of $120 I believe.

Powered directly by the panels, the fans were constantly spinning though most of the time barely moving any air. This system should shift greater quantities of air as the fans run at full power but for short bursts. Charging time or the delay between bursts is variable due to the position of the sun in the sky and the orientation of the bus. Currently the bus is facing east. The fans went on at 5:10PM and off at 5:15PM. They went on again at 5:42PM and off at 5:47PM . Generally, I'm happy with what's going on though I wasn't impressed to find the battery took several days to go from 10.5v to 13v. Hence, I adjusted operational parameters. 5 times longer to charge than to use the power sounds a perfectly acceptible ratio in small doses.

Plans for the future? Well, I still need to put bars over the upper door windows and over the driver's window. Then there's general cleaning and sorting out. As for powering phones and other electronics, I might put solar panels on the front of the bus and do it that way or just buy one of those battery packs that can be charged from 120v when it's available. Heck, I could even run put a battery charged from the alternator into the system that uses a relay powered directly by the alternator to keep it in the system. Thus, when there's no alternator power, it's not draining the driving batteries.

I know I want to retitle the bus as a motorhome as soon as possible. I'd really like to drive it up to Virginia to take photos of the fall colors.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Beware the forums!

On school bus conversion forums it seems people are largely in way over their little heads with bus conversions. Thus they come up with idiotic ideas that are universally applauded by the clueless morons on the forums. All I can say is God help anybody that puts faith in anything posted on a forum.

The whole air I get from forums is that they think owning a bus will be cheap. Not so, I'm afraid. Most busses take two types of tyre - steering tyres and driving tyres. Both cost about the same. Really bargain basement tyres start at $230 and go up to $600 each. Remember there are two steering tyres and four driving tyres. Replacing all six could well cost $3,600. Needless to say, I used to read plaintive whines from people that wanted to use different sized tyres or even switch to single wheels from duals. These are the people that shouldn't be anywhere near a bus because they don't have a clue.

As far as tyres go, the reality is you can use retreads. The school districts use retreads and the law does allow this. The sole restriction is that the front tyres must not be retreads.

One of the pet theories everybody seems to come up with is that light weight means more fuel economy. The fact is that massive reductions in weight will result only in trivial reductions of fuel consumption. Of course nobody considers the implications of weight reduction because none of the bus converters have largely driven anything other than a car with front wheel braking. That is, of course assuming forum users are actually old enough to have driven a car!

The safety problem caused by weight reduction is increased braking distance. The heavier the load, the more the back tyres are pressed into the road and the better the braking. This is why it makes sense to put the heavy stuff like waste tanks, water tanks and house batteries behind the rear wheels.

Another of the stupid things people on forums advise is replacing the standard bus doors. My question is why. I made my standard doors lock and unlock and made them more secure without any difficulty. One of the things that they do or claim to do is to replace the door with a great big plank or house door that has none of the visibility. Heaven knows if that'd ever pass an inspection!

Really and truly everybody converting a bus needs to take a CDL class as most do t have a clue about what they bought! A CDL class will also teach how to inspect a bus. That's something everybody buying a bus needs to know. My bus had an illegal weld on a chassis cross member as an example. I've reduced that weld now back to just the cross member but I might give thought to replacing the damaged cross member.

Well,mtgsts all I have time for tonight. I have to be up at 4am, ready to drive busses at 6am.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bloody electronics

Windows is the epitome of electronics... Yesterday it worked, today it didn't. Electronics are just like Microsoft's increasingly ghastly and increasingly obsolete operating system (of which I am not the world's greatest fan). Of course, I speak of my solar charge controller.
As can be seen, the panels are wired in parallel, putting power into the charge controller. The charge controller puts power into a battery and also into my two CPU fans. Those are currently roaring away at their full 12 volts. The battery came from Radio Shack in their going out of business sale.
I should have bought more wire in the Radio Shack going out of business sale but thought I'd leave it until the next week. Sadly, that turned out to be too late because by the time I returned, several weeks later, there was just tumbleweed blowing around where they had been.

Today I took a quick trip to Lowes (hiss, spit) to get myself some wire and some more metal bar to out over the upper windows of the front door. I did see other things I could use too but as it is unlikely that I will even get as far as the front door, today, I didn't get them.

The battery is a gel cell. I will probably mount that under the bus at some point just in order to avoid a battery fire, should the battery catch fire. Interestingly, my solar controller says it'll work with lithium cells as well as lead acid. That might well be a route worth trying but again, under the bus and shielded such that a fire won't cause problems.

At 5ah, there's not much power in the battery but there should be sufficient in order to operate my fans. Interestingly, the controller will cut the fans off until the battery has sufficient power to run them. There's a cut off point and a cut on point. I gather they can be adjusted manually. That sounds really promising!

I looked at the manual and found an interesting setting. If it's set to 24 hours, the fans come on when it's light and go off when it's dark. I like that. There's a time delay setting that delays fan start until so many hours have passed. The instructions are bloody appalling. Even wearing glasses I can't read the teeny text. I had to find my jeweler's loupes in order to read it all.
I'm sure you can read it easily by simply enlarging the page. For me, that wasn't so easy as I had not scanned the images into my tablet. Needless to say, having set the battery to gel cell and the time delay, I decided to leave the other settings pretty much alone. I might tinker with them at another point.

One of the interesting things about this charger is that it has a pair of USB charging ports. Those might come in useful at some point.

While working on the wiring (which was extremely simple) I used one of the snap off blade knives. I'd bought it years ago but had never used it. Under very gentle pressure while cutting the web joining a figure 8 cable, the thing just disintegrated. Fortunately I didn't cut myself but I will be sticking to craft knives in the future.
I have no idea when I bought this knife. I vaguely remember buying it because I couldn't find my craft knife. I have no idea where I bought it either though I do know it must have been at least 6 years ago.

As I suspected, I never had time to work on the security bars. I have them ready to work on tomorrow between the two halves of my split shift. I'll probably cut them to size then spray them on one side. That should pretty much take up my free time.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

This is bullshit!

With great enthusiasm, I rushed to the mailbox this afternoon to take delivery of my new solar charge controller. I connected my two solar panels in parallel and connected the charge controller. Nothing! No lights lit up. The display remained blank. I disconnected the panels and connected a battery to the battery connections. Still nothing. I disconnected the battery, reconnected the panels and connected a CPU fan to the load connections. Still nothing. It appears I've bought another lemon. I reconnected my solar panels to my CPU fans and they buzzed away merrily. Well, perhaps not that merrily but they did spin and shift some air. Quite how much air, I don't know as I haven't measured it lately.

Next, I connected the batteries my 5 watt panel had been charging over about 2 days with the panel in direct sunlight. They powered a small CPU fan for an hour or so before giving up. I'm not surprised nor astounded. I have come to expect to be consistently underwhelmed by this solar baloney. My experience of solar products echoes my experience of LED lighting units. They work about 60% of the time and don't last anywhere near as long as they're supposed to. In fact, just like LEDs, the cost of solar is higher than conventional alternatives.

For decades I have tried to get somethething worthwhile out of electronics (solar, tablets, phones, computers, LED lighting) and have come to the conclusion that most of it is just plain old bullshit. Phones that cost $250+ and don't last more than 3 years, tablets that don't last more than 3 months, laptops that become obsolete and unusably slow in 18 months, desktops that become unusably slow in about 18 months, cameras that cost an arm and a leg for something that doesn't produce a storable negative that'd outlast funky digital media by generations, LED lights that last a couple of months at best as opposed to the decades claimed. Then there's this "wonderful" internet. Don't let me get started on that!

Oops... Too late... I search for something online and what comes up is usually worthless trash. I get so many forums, blogs, personal websites, social media garbage etc coming up. That's where instead of reading facts about a subject, fools will read people's opinions posing as fact. The internet reminds me very much of the graffiti I saw on the back of a Swansea University bathroom door "call this a library, I'd get more information from a freshly squeezed turd" though I'd suggest replacing the word library with the word Internet.

That brings me on nicely to forums. I tore one apart for the baloney posing as fact over driving licenses. As those that read this blog regularly will realize, I know a good bit about licenses, particularly those relating to busses. I also know a good bit about DIY and bus mechanics. I have a CDL B with P and S endorsements. Occasionally I glance at forums and am usually amazed at the bad advice being handed out. It seems somebody reads something on one forum then spouts it as gospel truth elsewhere without ever referring to primary sources. It's like claiming the moon is made of cheese while ignoring the information from NASA and other bodies about it's actual makeup.

So, I now have a solar controller that doesn't work, attached to the inside of the bus. I'm probably just going to leave it there. I'm not going to throw good money after bad, trying to replace it. I'm not going to buy more solar panels. I'm not going to try to recoup value from the money already blown on electronic components. I'm just going to leave my solar panels powering my fans. I'm going to build a little box for my 12v battery and put a small mains/car charger into it and create thusly a portable power unit that will charge my cellphone and or tablet.

The next stage with the bus is cleaning and sorting out the inside. The bedroom still has high humidity which makes me wonder about leaks. I think a sensible step will be to put silicone seal on all the roof seams that I've not yet hit with silicone seal. Maybe combine that with aluminum tape.

Friday, September 23, 2016


I like my lunchbreaks. They currently last from 08:45 until 13:15. That allows me to get a ton of stuff done on the bus.

Today started with my sweeping the floor of the bus down the stairs and into a cardboard box which I then went through retrieving useful things like nuts, bolts, screws and rivets. Having retrieved all my worthwhile bits, the rest including the copious quantities of sand were carefully disposed of into a nearby waste receptacle.

Next I spent positively ages, probably about an hour adjusting my new wing mirror. Bring a truck mirror, there were 4 degrees of adjustment top and bottom which meant I could attain perfection. That's why it took so long!

The new mirror was missing the amber reflector that I'd stuck on the old mirror. Peeling the old one carefully off revealed that it was held on by double sided adhesive tape. I found a few pieces from when I'd been making pitiful amounts of money from selling advertising space on an LED sign I used to carry on the back of my car. I'd used the tape to secure the sign to my back window. Sadly, there wasn't enough tape but I remembered I have some silicone caulk.

Bearing in mind the air was moist, I don't think the silicone will stick all that well but in the event it does, I will be happy. I had a go at gluing the reflector on the mirror in order to add that extra little but of visibility.

Meanwhile, I had taken a mug out of a cardboard box a week ago and it was slimy inside. I checked another and that was slimy too. It seems something had slimed all over a few things in that box. I'm glad most of my stuff is in plastic totes and impervious to critters. I'll have to check and rehome everything that's in cardboard boxes after cleaning it. I'll chuck the cardboard boxes.

And so the lunch break ends with my having to return to work. I have such a lovely day from 04:00 when I rise to 05:45 when I start work. I finish work for the day at 16:45 so it's about a 12 hour day with a gap in the middle.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The good thing

One of the good things about working as a school bus driver is that I get from 08:15 until 13:15 to myself. That gives me time in the day to do things.

Today I took the mirror that arrived yesterday and installed it. I got the vertical angle wrong but that's just a matter of adjusting the bottom bracket bolt. It was a matter of minutes to install using 1/2 inch and 9/16 inch spanners and a pair of pliers. It also involved an obligatory tumble down the front steps of the bus. I'm going to blame the sand that's built up there over the last few days for that!
The mirror didn't look like it had a 5/16 thread on the eBay photo but it did so I'm happy about that. My next task will be to locate a new orange reflector to put on the outer edge of the mirror.
Subsequent to my eBay purchase, I did find the mirror cheaper elsewhere but only marginally. I must say that the sellers packaging was superb. It arrived undamaged in the post.

Yet to arrive in the post is my solar charge controller. That's coming from Canada. I still have the broken one that arrived from China. I have no idea whether it really works though. As I've probably said, the mounting was broken so I contacted the seller who ignored me. Then I contacted eBay and the seller promised to ship a replacement. That never arrived so after a month, I notified eBay who promptly issued a refund. Subsequent to that, it still didn't arrive so I'm going to declare that Chinese seller doesn't care about honesty. Unless I can't get something from closer to home I'm unlikely to order from China.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Small steps

Yesterday I passed the CDL test and today I picked up my brand new driving license. I now have a license that says I can drive a bus with passengers and can also drive a Schoolbus. It doesn't matter a jot now that my own bus is 1,500lbs heavier than I can drive on a car license because I can drive big, heavy busses now.

As far as the test was concerned, I'd already passed the one test. Yesterday's test was in three parts. The first was whether I could identify and check all the major components of a bus. That involved rolling underneath the bus and touching the air brake cylinder, the push rod and the slack adjuster amongst a great many other things.

The second test involved driving through an alley made of cones then reversing back through that alley. It also involved reversing through an offset cone alley before finally parking in a bay made of cones. That was all pretty easy as long as the mirrors were used.

The third and final test involved driving on public roads. I did left and right turns, crossed railway tracks and junctions and drove on the interstate. I was asked about what the speed limit was and what my speed was. I also had to make safe lane changes. That was all pretty easy stuff to be honest.

Thus I am now a professional driver. I really couldn't care less about the label though. I'd rather be recognized as a safe driver.

In other news, my eBay wing mirror arrived. It's in pristine condition and had it not been fir the rain, I'd have installed it today. That was $25 well spent though it'd have been nice not to have to spend the money!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The mirrors, the mirrors

 Well, that's what happened to my mirror. The problem was the swivels were rusted solid and the body was plastic. Thus when I tried moving the mirror into place, it flexed and the glass didn't with the above result. I had a huge fight to remove the nuts in order to remove the mirror.

The mirror I bought on eBay the other day should fit. I can't see threads on the top and bottom so it might need new brackets. I'll just have to wait and see. It might be possible to make my own though.
As can be seen here, the bolt comes straight out of the bottom of the mirror. It looks to be a 1/4 by 20 bolt. I'd had major problems trying to undo it yesterday but today I bought a set of combination scanners and got it undone.

I had a fancy to put a different mirror system. In the end I decided for reasons of cost to stay with what I have. One of the convex and one cross view mirror do need work. Either replacement or polishing but I'm not sure which yet. The one mirror that was cockeyed, I did manage to straighten. Fortunately the swivels on that weren't rusted solid or I'd be looking at a another new mirror.

For the first time in several months I started my bus. Not just that but I moved it. Having taken bus driving classes, I was much more confident of moving it. Indeed, using the mirrors I did manage to turn the bus around. Even so, I had to get out and look a couple of times. I can't say I did my turnabout in three points because it wasn't. It was more like 9 as the bus is big and the space is not clearly marked.

The rev counter was playing its usual trick of being intermittent. I have a feeling that the problem is the hillbilly wiring. Other than that, everything seemed to work just fine.