I talked at some length with my mother and my father today. The good news is that my cousin Priscilla has been moved from the University hospital to a trauma clinic of some kind to undergo physical therapy. They've apparently been working her quite hard and she's nearly exhausted at the end of every day, but that's better than the alternative that was rapidly encroaching on her and she knows it. My father will be taking my mother down to see her tomorrow. I am looking forward to the opportunity to visit with her as well when I get back into the state. The most interesting part is that she apparently spent a lot of time when she was on Death's door talking to my father, asking him questions about how he dealt with the situation I was faced with back in 1986 or so. My father confided that he had a moment with her that was a real tear-jerker, because right before she passed out after talking with him she asked him if she'd always been his favorite. I can't imagine how my father felt at that moment. The relief that she's made it this far was coming through the phone in waves while I spoke with Dad.
The not-so-good news is that the Expedition has been pulled apart, the oil pan dropped, the filter checked, the valve covers and the timing cover removed -- and it's not the timing chains like we had hoped. The chains are in good condition, the rocker-rollers were in their proper place on the valves and the oil pan was clean as a whistle. My dad poked around a bit in the bottom end of the engine and says that all the connecting rods are in perfect order, so we know that's not the problem.
Needless to say, we are both perplexed. The only other thing attached to the engine that would prevent a breaker bar from turning it over is the transmission, so my father and one of his friends from work started tearing the automatic transmission free. This isn't nearly as easy as you might imagine -- for one thing, the truck is a 4x4 so you have to remove the differential case first. Once they'd gotten that out of the way they had to drop the drive shaft and the cross members, then start unbolting the bell housing from the engine block. You can't actually get at the bell housing from the engine compartment because the Expedition uses the new "cab forward" design that was grafted onto the F-150 pickups in the late 90s so all the work has to be done from beneath. Eventually they worked the bell housing free (this was last night) and then discovered that the flex plate has four bolts on it that must be undone. Two are reachable -- but two are not, because the engine will not turn. If they can't turn the engine they can't get at the bolts. Starting to see the dilemma here? Yeah, my father did too. He purchased a set of wrenches today and has one that's nearly a foot long, so he thinks he'll be able to undo them tomorrow if he gets the chance to work on the transmission some more.
One transmission shop said they've seen cases with automatic transmissions of this model in F-150s tearing the torque converter apart and embedding it in the bell housing. Since that's attached to the crankshaft that would certainly explain why the engine won't turn over. We both agree that things are looking rather grim for the July 4th "due date" on this rig. If he CAN get the tranny dropped tomorrow he still has to determine what's wrong with it and how he wants to get it fixed. He might take it in for repair, he might do the work himself, he might trade it in as a core towards a rebuilt unit. Even if the tranny work was magically completed by, say, the 30th, he would still have to put everything back together. It's not looking real good but I do enjoy a challenge, so I'm going to devote as much of my time as possible next weekend to helping out on this project. Hey, maybe I won't be able to drive it home but I can do a lot towards making it as ready as possible otherwise.
Ra is still spending a lot of time in the litter box with very minimal results. The vet agrees it could be a UTI, a blockage or constipation -- how very helpful. I'm going to secure the cat tomorrow while I'm at work and then examine the contents of his litter box when I get home to see what sort of waste he's leaving. This is hardly glamorous, but one could say it's the responsibility of the parent toward one's child. Help me, I'm becoming domestic.
Work was pretty good today, and that's a nice change of pace. I got some diagrams done for one of our campuses that needs a little help in designing their VLAN architecture. I had an impromptu meeting with Rich L. and Tom B. with regards to a project I've been working on for quite some time. Apparently the team that's waiting on me has gotten impatient and went crying to him, so he came down to my desk to ask what was the holdup. I told him, we talked for a few minutes and came to a reasonable workaround for the time being until I'm able to present a finished solution. I love how Rich conducts his meetings, even unofficial ones. He's fast, to the point, not at all sharp and expects honest answers. If AC had been there I don't think we'd have been as productive as we were. This meeting was held at sometime around 4:10, and by 5:45 we had a solution coded and installed and ready to go. Productivity! It's so cool to see it in action some times, and very reassuring as well. I was starting to feel like I was trapped in a quagmire of non-productivity.
I brought home a Dell switch from our stockpile since AC told me I could have one. I'm not sure why he twitches at giving away $30 modems and then gifts $250 network switches to me, and I don't think that I really want to ask at this point. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. This switch will be a welcome replacement for the 3com switch that's currently serving our connectivity needs. For one, the Dell switch has a footprint about one-quarter the size of the 3com. Two, it's got no fans in it so it is much, much quieter. Three, it's far more aesthetically pleasing.
This morning I restarted "Good Morning Vietnam" in the DVD player and put in an hour on the treadmill. I tweaked my program again so that I was using an incline of 7 at 3.7 miles an hour and did my zero-degree-incline parts at 4.0 miles an hour. I burned over 500 calories in a little over 63 minutes. I'm very pleased with this.
All told I have to say that today was a pretty good day, despite my disappointment with the news about the truck. I'm very happy for Pris, my commute to and from the office was pleasant (the benefit of working the swing shift is not having to deal with rush-hour traffic) and I accomplished things at the office. Right now I'm sipping on a cup of decaff coffee that I've flavored with some of the Atkins zero-carb chocolate syrup and listening to classic Depeche Mode. Once I'm done with my drink I'll probably practice on the bass for a bit, then retire for the evening. My only complaint with the night is that we've got the air conditioning on so I can't enjoy the pleasant 70-degree air when I'm in the apartment.
Tomorrow is payday and AC is still out of the office, so that is certainly something to look forward to. I hope to tackle a few more helpdesk tickets, make some changes for the Kansas City campus and maybe convert some MP3s of mine into "on hold" music for my new IP phone. I think Neil Young's "Unknown Legend" would be a perfect selection for the job. Outside of that I imagine we'll do the pool hall as per the usual routine and maybe dinner at the Continental. Ah, the weekend will soon be upon me, and I for one am quite ready for it.
There's the old laughing lady