Monday, August 22, 2011

A Blog Beg.....I need some technical advice...

Not computer stuff, but a question about how to test an electrical circuit in a car.

I drive a 1990 MB 300SE that has never really had strong AC. Then earlier this summer the AC stopped blowing altogether, except that I noticed I could feel cold air when driving faster than 40mph. I figured the blower motor had expired after 20 years of near continuous use.

So. I set out to repair the motor myself. There are 4 potential items that would cause the symptoms I noticed.

1. The blower motor is dead. It is basically an electrical motor hooked to a fan, so if the motor is blown it should be a plug-and-play replacement.

2. It could be the regulator (the fan speed controller). The regulator functions by diverting some (or none) of the electrical current from the battery to a heat sink. At low speed, the fan gets about 6v of electricity, with six volts being transmitted to the heat sink. At high speed, the fan gets 12v and the heat sink gets none. The heat sink is actually a funky-looking deal that the guys on the MB World forum call "the porcupine." This is the regulator, with the three prong side connected to the dash (between my thumb and pointer finger), the two prong side connected to the blower (back of my hand) and the larger connector (near my middle finger) would be connected to the heat sink. I removed the porcupine for ease of handling.

This is the picture of where the regulator is hooked to the car body and where it hits the connection that goes to the dash selector.

I need to know how to test the female receptacle in this picture and whether I'm doing it right...

3. It could be a the dash selector, although I think i this is the case, it is a subset of 4.

4. It could be faulty wiring. I eliminated a fuse as the problem. The AC fuse on this car is NOT in the fuse box, but I found it and it's still intact.

UPDATE - After closer inspection, I rechecked my work and after breaking out a magnifying glass, I found a hairline fracture on the 30 AMP strip fuse! BINGO!!! I will have a new strip fuse installed tomorrow and that should solve the entire problem...WOOHOO.

The toughest part of this was the variable symptoms:

It started with weak fan strength me think it was a problem with the blower motor.
Then right before it died completely, the fan worked PERFECTLY for almost 30 minutes during my commute one day....which caused me to consider delving into this adventure in the first place.
Then once the fan died completely, and I removed it and tested it, it was logical to work back up the wiring diagram (to the regulator and the dashboard selector)...when I should have been more thorough with the fuse check in the first place. Ah, well, live and learn.
On top of that, the "check the simple things first" is a lesson I should have learned from my DIY mentor, my father in law...who solved a more complex diagnosis problem with his '00 S430 in much the same way...try all the hard stuff first and then back up to the simple stuff (which, naturally, solved the problem).


So, as I set out to eliminate these problems, I removed the blower motor and disconnected it from the regulator. When I hooked it up to the battery with some small alligator clips, it spun quietly and produced a strong quantity of air. It's not the blower motor. That eliminates 1.

On to 2 and the reason for my blog beg (bleg). How do I test the regulator? Or more accurately, how do I test whether I can eliminate the regulator as the problem? Initially, I left the regulator in place hooked and hooked up a multimeter to the blue and red ends that connect directly to the fan. Then I turned the car on, turned the AC on and started selecting different fan speeds looking for varying voltages. Nothing. No matter what I did, there was no voltage.

But, to make sure this wasn't a false negative, I ran the wiring back to where the regulator connects to the dash selector. Actually, I discovered a plug-and-play socket that made testing easy (or so I thought). And here's my bleg: How do I test the female side of the connector in the second picture. The "male" receptacle is connected to the regulator and is not powered in this picture. BUT, the female receptacle is supposed to be powered. It is still connected to the dash selector and (theoretically) the battery. So, I put the multimeter prongs in the 3 female sockets and repeated the AC fan speed drill. NOTHING. No voltage. No matter what I did.

So, I'm stuck. I've eliminated the fan, but I can't eliminate the regulator, nor can I eliminate the dash selector. My question is, how do I know I've tested the female receptacle properly? I can't tell why there are three live sockets? Is one a ground? Which one is it? If one is a ground, why is there no ground hooked to the blower motor?

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


I just had the greatest three-day weekend in a LONG, LONG time.

Knocked out an absolutely great hearing/mediation. Hooked up with family I hadn't seen in two years. Reconnected with the lawyer who gave me my first break in the legal world and his delightful family. Thanks Mark and Jeannette! Ate lunch and made up for lost time with a law school classmate. And spent two days tripping around one of the most beautiful (if most dysfunctional) cities in the world. AND. I found the mysterious "lost staircase"...which, to one of the coolest hidden gems of the City by the Bay.
Here are a few shots I took along the way.

Geli - this is the mysterious staircase I tried to get you guys to find when you were out in SF...but, it's *really* well hidden...and unless you know it's there, it's very easy to miss. I'll leave it at that.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I'm finally starting to feel a bit better and I don't look like a OGWGFIWASTWAY. Here I am starting my second lap at the Camp Hilbert Mountain BIke Race #2 outside Richmond, VA this Sunday. I *think* I finished in the top 15 in the Sport Men 20+. Results aren't out yet, but I'll post 'em when I get 'em.

Give me a couple more months and I may actually start to look like I've ridden a bike before.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Views of Kabul

This is Kabul from my seat on the plane on the way back to Dubai. Kabul itself is hiding behind the brown cloud in the middle of the picture.
This guy perfectly represents what I saw in Kabul: Traditional Afghanistan in his clothing, vegetable cart, beard, and new Afghanistan in the surfer shades.
Nothing better represents the difference between the old and the new than the way this butcher shop handles its fresh meat.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Black and White On The Coast

This is a Randall shot, taken with a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon 300mm f/2.8. I cropped it a bit and made it B&W with Aperture, but the artistry is all his. Nice.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mens Agitat Molem

This was Sunday's sunset at the Oregon coast.

This particular shot was on the digital, with no filters or any other through-the-lens trickery. I did monkey around with the in-camera color settings (a bit) and did a little light processing with Aperture, but nothing obscene.

Wait until my film comes back and we'll see how it compares!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Apple's Aperture 3

I've started using Apple's Aperture 3 as my primary photo management tool and I've been having some rather considerable trouble making my workflow work with Aperture's unique workflow. The program itself is easy - simple, actually - to navigate around in. The controls are nice, well laid-out and don't require advanced skills to make them work. And, because Aperture's editing never touches the actual digital file itself (all of the editing is non-destructive) it has encouraged me to experiment. All of which is great. Except, not unlike iTunes, Apple has a very Apple-centric way to manage your Aperture photo database.

The first thing I had to realize is that Aperture is the equivalent of a photographic darkroom. You bring your "negatives" into the darkroom, you select the good ones, you "develop" them and then you display (or "export," in Aperture terms) the ones you want to display. Aperture is NOT the primary place you view all of your photos. Instead, it is your photographic workspace. Now that I've figured out that difference (and adapted my workflow), I'll describe how I use Aperture.

Let me warn anyone reading - up front - that what I'm doing takes a TON of disk space. In fact, I'm using two separate hard drive set ups. One for the Aperture library and the second for the "exported" final products. The first drive is a 2TB LaCie drive connected directly to the iMac. This is where I store the Aperture master library and is the primary repository for every single photograph I take in any given day/month/year - and I mean everything. The second drive is actually not a drive, but an HP Home Server, with 8TB of redundant storage. Keep in mind, that I have somewhere between 150 and 200 THOUSAND pictures, all of which are automatically duplicated on at least two different physical drives within the server.

Anyways. When I go shooting for a day, I come home and slide the CF card into the slot and Aperture opens and I "Import" everything on the card. These shots then reside in the Aperture main Library (the LaCie 2TB drive). From there, I weed out the obviously "bad" shots: duplicates, out-of-focus, wrong subject, accidental exposures...whatever. With the remaining shots, I will use Aperture's Highlight tool and the Shadow tool to perform a blunt correction tool to the remaining shots. Then, I look at everything in "Full Screen" mode and determine which shots need further work. Once that is complete, I will "Export" the finished product from the Aperture main library to the main photo library sitting over on the Home Server.

I'm still working through the quirks of the Aperture system, but this little initial piece took me about a month to bring to a conclusion, so I thought I'd share it.

UPDATE: NIX ALL THAT. I've now solved the Aperture import issues, in a MUCH friendlier way. More later....

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


If you read one thing about "sports" this year, or even this decade, read this. It is a complete transcript of a 7-hour interview that Floyd Landis gave to Paul Kimmage about his life and the ordeal of his Tour de France victory in 2006. I have never read anything like it from any public figure, ever.

Landis is matter-of-fact, flawed, honest, and full of details. Details, details, details and more details. The system in place around "cycling" that Landis describes is spot-on-perfect. Full of scumbag characters, pay-offs, grudges, petty bureaucratic wrangling. A system, where no one is honest and there is no shred of beauty or grace. Kafka would be so proud.

If you ever had any doubts about how dirty cycling is, about how dirty, dishonest, petty, and loathsome the bureaucrats who run cycling in Europe are, read this.

The bottom line: Landis was very talented, and very naive when he went to Europe. He unwittingly irritated the wrong people at the UCI very early in his career and those very powerful people were afraid of him, because they got an inkling that they wouldn't be able to control him. And they kept the grudge until they could ruin him. There's nothing a stuck-up Euro-bureaucrat dislikes more than an American he can't blackmail. Bravo, Floyd!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Check This Out

Back in November I got lucky with this handheld digital shot at Great Falls. Trying to see what I could do with film, I returned to the same spot the very next day with a tripod and the N90s loaded with Velvia. Film is very challenging for me. Velvia, in particular, delivers great colors, but is just plain hard to get "perfect." Anyways, here's what happens when I get Velvia as perfect as I can make it. This is why I love film. Check out the difference between film and digital, in these pretty good (and very similar) shots. The first three are film, the last one is digital. Keep in mind, this is nearly identical light, with the same polarizing filter - look at the color differences:

Nikon N90s, Nikon 50mm f1.4; "S" mode, at 1/2 second; Hoya Polarizer, Velvia 50.

Nikon N90s, Nikon 50mm f1.4; "S" mode, at 1/2 second; Hoya Polarizer, Velvia 50.

Nikon N90s, Nikon 50mm f1.4; "S" mode, at 1/2 second; Hoya Polarizer, Velvia 50.

Nikon D200; 27mm f18; 1/5 second; ISO 400; WB shade; Hoya Circular Polarizer.