DIY Car Repairs

I fancy myself as an amateur handyman and therefore I try to do things for myself. DIY car repairs are no exception. Have you ever gotten an estimate on auto body work? It will scare the pants off of you! After succeeding at building a small cabinet with borrowed tools and upon restoring a rusty antique collectible motorcycle gas tank, I was on my way to bigger and better things. I had found the hardware store down the street. I found a few online so I wouldn’t even have to leave home. Over the years I have assembled a few tools, and when I found some small dents and scratches on my car from parking too close to employees at work, I figured I could solve the problem myself. No expense to be incurred. This kind of thinking makes me so proud. I could hammer out the dents and then spray paint the fender. I happened to have a paint spray gun for car paint (like this: http://www.paintspraypro.com/best-paint-sprayer-for-car-paint/) that my father had given me when he cleaned out his shed..

I clearly overestimated my skills since the car repair was not perfect. It was okay, just so so. The dents were smaller but the surface was not smooth as glass. The paint didn’t match the original color and I did not feather it out on the edges to help it blend better. Knowing that I will get more scratches sooner or later, I decided to let it be. I have a few things to learn if I want to keep my handyman title. It is back to the Internet for proper repair instructions. Learning how to clean a paint spray gun nozzle was a real coup. I should have known. As for the wrong color, I had purchased it from a dealer, but my car had faded to a lighter shade. Drat! I am clearly a better software developer than I am a car painter.

No one is going to ask me to repair their dented car any time soon. I look around and see that most people leave them as is. It is a sign of experience, evidence of a car’s history and daily scrambles with other vehicles. A scrap is a dent or two and a major scrape is a battle scar. There are times when the car faces mortality and it is definitely time to get professional help. In the meantime, I am sticking to simpler DIY home projects like fixing a frayed electrical cord or redoing faulty lighting on a ceiling lamp. A tweak here and there around the house is all it takes and it is about as much as my skill level can handle. I stay away from stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, and dryers. Appliances have me beat. If the coffee maker needs cleaning due to lime stains, I can rinse it out in the sink. I promise not to boast of my prowess any time soon un less I have sufficient proof.

Hitting the (Mountain) Trail

There is nothing like hitting the glorious and challenging mountain trails of Toronto to let off some steam. It is an adventure like no other, alone or with friends. You can opt for rugged trails or smooth and easy through tree-lined neighborhoods. A day in fresh air pushing those bike pedals is my idea of pure enjoyment. The city has a lot to offer in the way of parks and recreation. It is really a gem for the inhabitants. But mountain biking is high on my personal list of favorites. I am busy upgrading my bike pedals for even better maneuverability of the bike. It will be in perfect shape when I am done. I like the hands on work. It is as relaxing as the ride. Plus I will get top performance from my bike every time.

There is an inner city cycling map produced by the City of Toronto. If you plug in basic information, you get a suggested route. For more wilderness types you want to get off the beaten path. Then you need to go by word of mouth as to what people like. You may need a bit more experience. For families, there is the Waterfront Trail consisting of Etobicoke (western section), Toronto (central area), and Scarborough on the east. Some of these trails are asphalt and are routed along quiet residential streets like the area that follows Lake Shore Blvd. The Toronto Trail is mostly off-road with many street crossings. In the Sunnyside Park area, the path becomes asphalt and it is shared with in-line skaters and a few pedestrians. Then we have Scarborough, a mix of off-road paths and on-road sections. These paths are always being updated to make them safer for riders. For example, wet unpaved trails can be slippery and challenging for cyclists. One section is hilly if you like variety.

Toronto is my city of residential preference for these reasons. Why not live where you can practice your favorite pastimes. Plus it is a beautiful city with a variety of architectural styles and views galore. You can choose from many unique neighborhoods. I am spreading the word all the time and now have a few friends in my would-be “cycling club.” We plan outings on weekends and promote photography as an adjunct interest. You can find our smiling faces on Instagram and Facebook. If you hit the local mountain trail, you will find us in a pack.

How great to find a sport you love that you can share with friends and family. I help take care of other peoples’ bikes as they are not all as adept as I am about maintenance and repair. I and teaching them the tricks of the trade slowly but surely so they will be on their own in case something happens. I believe in mastering your mode of transportation. Each bike is unique and requires special skills. I am sure that if you find one you like, you will be as hooked as I am.

Stuff I’d Rather Not Think About

Software development is a challenging field that demands a lot from your creativity and ability to make logical connections. I know for a fact that you can create a program for just about anything imaginable. You hope that it is something useful and that it will take off like wildfire. The more people that know about it, the more it gets around by word of mouth. I have been fortunate enough to have this experience, although it is one that is few and far between. I can use my skills to help the world solve problems and efficiently perform tasks. I can also use my skills for rather mundane pursuits that serve my needs alone.

Let me give you an example. I have a hot tub that requires the regular and ongoing application of chemicals to keep it safe and clean for human use. I have a particular formula that I like arrived at after some trial and error and consultation with the experts. While I like a salt water pool, it is not as practical for a hot tub. Most people have a pool man who takes care of the right chemicals for pools and hot tubs, but it is an expense I don’t need to acquire. I think I can handle the job on my own. Here’s what I did. I created a software program that tells me what days of the week I need to add certain chemicals to keep the unit running at peak levels. It was a labor of love. I can print out what I need each day since it is not the same on a daily basis. I add chemicals five days a week and once a month a special additive. The software program keeps me right on track.

I hear neighbors and friends complain about murky hot tubs that they would rather not enter. The owners are lax about care and haven’t a clue as to what chemicals to use. People don’t like to dunk themselves in a broth of harsh elements. At least their heads are not under water. Nevertheless, chemicals can burn the skin and make it dry and flaky. I heed these remarks which is why I am careful about the mix I use for my own hot tub chemicals. I let people know I have a software-controlled formula and that it is safe indeed to jump in and enjoy the warmth. So far I haven’t had too many naysayers. I feel that I should put out a little sign for those negative people. But overall, I entertain a lot and the hot tub is a central focus of the fun. Along with the build-in grill, I have everything I need for summer entertaining. No one need fear putting their toes in the water. My software, of course, is custom designed so it won’t work for everyone. I can adapt it for others if the need should arise. After, all this is my profession.

Creating Our Own Paintball Course

My friends and I are fans of playing paintball. After spending a long day at a desk in front of a computer screen all day, it is fun to get outdoors on the weekend and run around with pals. Shooting each other is just an added bonus, hahaha. My friend Steve has a decent sized piece of land, and he was totally up for us building our own paintball course at his place. I think his exact words were, “Well, I’m not using it for anything else,” and all around him, we were whooping it up because it was about the best idea any of us has come up with in a while. Over the summer, we worked on the design, and then the build, of the paintball course. We used cinder blocks, a couple of plastic barrels (we put sand in them first) and some 2x4s to give people barriers to hide behind and the like.

Next, we turned our focus on the guns. We all decided to get HPA tanks instead of CO2 because we figured we could get the air and fill them ourselves rather than dealing with going somewhere to get CO2 tanks refilled all the time, and because it is more practical to use the air tanks when you live somewhere like Toronto where it can be…let’s say cold…often (one of the few drawbacks of living here). There comes a point where you’re pretty much just shooting dry ice or nothing comes out at all. Since we’re all computer guys, we went online to figure out the best way to approach this, and it turned out that this part was not as easy as we thought.

First, we had to buy an air compressor. Cost-wise, we had a decision to make: we could buy a high-output compressor, which was pretty pricey, or a regular air compressor and a booster. We actually ended up going with a quiet air compressor, with the logic being that we wanted the rest of the group not to know if someone was refilling their tanks and if anything happened to either piece, it would be cheaper to replace than the entire unit. I am not sure if this was the best logic, but it was put to a vote and that’s what was decided. We were able to find a decently priced portable one with a 20-gallon tank, which is great. Next, because we’d gone with a regular compressor, we needed a booster. We ended up buying a Shoebox compressor because they are basically designed for this type of thing. It’s on their website and everything, it explains exactly what you need. Everyone kicked in for the two compressors because they were fairly big ticket items, and that meant it didn’t hurt anyone’s wallet too hard. It will “pay for itself” in the not-so-distant future, which is what I just keep telling myself.

Anyway, our first big weekend out on there is in a couple weeks because some of the guys special ordered stuff that won’t be in until then. Why they waited this long is beyond me. I am super excited. It should be a fantastic time, and I’ll have to let you know how it goes!