Saving The Jeep: A New Series

July 31, 2017 at 5:41 pm

There has been a 1979 Jeep CJ-7 in my family for nearly 40 years now. My Great-Uncle bought it new from the dealer, and it passed to my father, then my mother, and now to me. The Jeep has many fond memories associated with it. I can still remember the first time I road in it, with my uncle taking dad and me to the cabin. I remember when both my mom and dad were separately teaching me to drive and made me promise not to tell the other. I remember when, on one particular lesson, mom drove the Jeep off a steep embankment and I had to calm her down and get it out. Countless stories are wrapped up in that hunk of metal; precious memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Unfortunatly life gets in the way sometimes. Dad passed away many years ago, and the Jeep became an occasional driver. Mom got sick a few years ago, and the Jeep was semi-permanently garaged. Recently, Mom passed after a long battle with cancer, and now the Jeep belongs to me. I don’t know much about cars, but I know keeping a vehicle in an unconditioned space for several years is bad for it. So what to do?

I’m a fan of a show called The Survival Podcast (TSP). In it, Jack Spirko, a renaissance prepper-cum-duck-farmer, talks about dozens of topics ranging from stocking a larder to bitcoin’s implications on the global economy. It’s a fantastically interesting show. TSP also has something called an Expert Council, comprised of subject matter experts from fields across the spectrum. One in particular stood out: Charles Sanville, the Humble Mechanic. I thought if anyone could help and offer guidance, he could. So I sent the following email to Jack.

Question for: Charles Sanville

Question: What should I do for an inherited 1979 CJ-7 that’s been garaged for the last 5 years and had some odd modifications done to it? It currently doesn’t run, but I’d like to keep it, and learn the basics of car maintenance and “restoration”.
Background:
My great-uncle bought an odd CJ-7 new in 1979 from the dealer. It has
  • A straight 6, automatic transmission (I think AMC 232?)
  • Power steering,
  • Manual breaks
  • All-time 4-wheel drive, Quadra-Trac, which makes the jeep really squirrely at speed).
  • Less than 20,000 original miles
  • Almost no rust

Over the years, it passed on from my great-uncle, to my father, then my mother. It’s a family heirloom at this point, and I have many fond memories of going camping, hiking, and to our families cabin in upstate NY. Heck, I ever learned to drive in it! I really want to keep this vehicle for weekend/occasional driving, camping, and because it’s all I have left of my family at this point. I’d love for my son to learn to drive in it some day.

There are a few known issues with the vehicle:
  • My dad didn’t believe in modern emissions regulations and pulled most of those components. There are hoses the terminate in a bolt and hose clamp. The Jeep ran after these modifications, but I’d like to get it back to “normal” running mode so that it doesn’t potentially mess up the engine.
  • Some of the control knobs inside come off.
  • All four whitewalls are flat and don’t appear to hold air.
  • The spare tire was side-mounted so a rear wooden cargo-box could be added. That box is now falling apart. Should I rebuild it or try to restore the spare tire to the rear?
  • It’s in a garage in upstate NY, and I need to get it hauled to my garage in PA.

I’m an IT Architect/engineer who used to build a lot of sets for theater, so I’m competent with tools and woodworking, but I have almost no experience with cars. I’ve changed oil a few times and that’s about it.

How do you get started with something like this? How do you figure out what was removed from the engine? Is a car this old worth restoring, or am I letting my sentimentality get in the way?
Any insight or advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely,
-Derek M, in PA.
I sent it in wondering if the question was too specific for a followup on the show, but I figured it was worth a shot. A few weeks went by and no answer came, so I thought I’d have to figure it out on my own. Then, to my surprise, I heard my question on the air…

This is the start of a new series, documenting my Family’s 1979 CJ-7. Stay tuned for updates.

My First Wine Kit – Winexpert World Vineyward Chilean Malbec

November 21, 2016 at 2:40 pm

Ready To GoI’ve brewed beer about a half a dozen times over the last few years. It’s not a hobby that I’m not particularly active in, but I do enjoy it once in a while. I’ve made ciders and ales a few times, even going as far as to make a Trippel once. The only thing I’ve bombed was a batch of mead which, for some reason, refused to ferment. Ah well, it was college. I blame distractions. Anyway, I thought it would be good to keep a journal of some of these activities. So here goes, my first foray into wine making: The Winexpert World Vineyard Chilean Malbec.

Learning to Cook

November 18, 2013 at 2:52 pm

A friend asked me at lunch today: “How do I learn to cook?” Since this question seems to come up a lot in my life, I figured I would write a post on the topic so I could easily answer the next person.

I am passionate about cooking. I learned to cook from my mother at a very young age. She would always encourage me to help cut the vegetables, or stir the soup. Some of my earliest memories are of helping out in the kitchen (the others are of taking things, usually expensive, apart). For me, cooking developed naturally as I absorbed what my mother taught me. When I hit college, I started collecting cookbooks trying to improve on my skills in earnest. However, I quickly became disappointed in what the average cookbook had to teach.

You see, the problem with most cookbooks is that they are just recipe collections. Sure, some good ones will give you a  few brief pointers on how to knead bread, or broil a steak, but most are just a list of recipes that throw terms at the reader that they might not be familiar with. “Saute one cup of chicken, diced into one inch cubes”. What’s a saute? What’s a dice? What temperature? What pan? Do I cover it?

Most folks think that they know the vocab, and throw the recipe together in a way that makes sense to them. This usually results in an edible meal that roughly approximates the recipe, so most people leave it at that. Presto! We’re cooking now! Never mind the fact that our ragu is now more of a vegetable stew and our bread is completely crumbly without any of that nice chewy texture we were looking for… Cooking not only throws an entirely new vocabulary at you, it also throws you a new grammar and syntax, which most books don’t even touch on. By following the average cookbook, we are merely parroting back what we are reading and failing to understand why we’re doing any of it. This isn’t how you learn.

So how would I recommend you learn to cook? Learn the vocab, learn the grammar, and learn the syntax.

The vocab is basic, and fairly easy. It’s not like you are becoming a doctor and need to learn latin. To take our earlier example, sauteing involves cooking meat in a pan with oil while braising uses some other water based liquid. Most folks at home braise meats unintentionally when they cover their frying pans. The Professional Chef and Jacques Pépin’s Complete Techniques do a great job of going over the vocabulary of cooking, while illustrating it with both recipes and pictures.

Grammar is a bit more tricky. The rules are hinted at, and even discussed in a high level, in The Professional Chef. However, pick up a copy of Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking and you will really get a feeling for the power of culinary grammar. For a full review of Ratio, see this article I wrote a while back. To summarize it, though, imagine knowing the base ratio for a cake and then being able to make any cake you can imagine. Then imagine changing the ratio of the exact same ingredients and coming out with a scone instead. This is the power of culinary ratios. They free you from recipes and let your imagination take flight.

Finally come syntax, and this is one of the harder things to learn. Syntax, in the cooking world, is the fingerprint of a particular cuisine. More accurately, it is the flavorprint of a particular cuisine. What makes American BBQ unique when compared to, say, Vietnamese BBQ? If you look at the recipes, you will notice that it is all in the specific ingredients and flavoring agents that are available to each culture. Unfortunately though, no-one, to my knowledge, has written a good book on the flavor prints of the world. The only way to learn syntax is by reviewing recipe collections on specific cuisines, looking at the ingredients in ethnic markets, and analysing the flavors when you eat out at a restaurant that specializes in that type of cuisine. It may not be easy to learn syntax, but it can be fun and filling!

Since this is an article on learning to cook, I want to share my favorite cooking show as well. Good Eats is a fantastic show by the mad scientist of the culinary world, Alton Brown. It gives great examples of all of the above material and does so in a fascinating, highly entertaining way. Truth be told, Good Eats was one of the reasons I started looking in to the whys and wherefores of the cooking world. You can pick up the DVDs of the show on Amazon, and I’m sure you can find episodes streaming online if you look on the search engine of your choice.

Was this article helpful? Did you find it interesting or disagree with it? Please post in the comments below!

Edited to add: Turns out there are a few cheatsheets floating around on flavor profiles. Have a look.

Of Floors and Friends

June 5, 2012 at 10:20 pm

This past week, several of my friends and I went to the cabin to do some much needed renovations. I will be documenting these renovations over the next few posts and will link them here when finished.

Four of the five key players in this tale of triumph.

  • Putting up a Storage Shed
  • Living Room Demolition
  • Jacking up the Cabin
  • Foundation Work
  • New Living Room floor

Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking

January 5, 2011 at 1:02 am

Originally posted on the Zombie Squad Forum on Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:02 am

I’ve been cooking for most of my life, even though my definition of cooking has changed considerably over the years. When I was young, cooking meant helping my mother in the kitchen with whatever she would let me do. It started out with holding a spoon here and there, to stirring the pots, to actually cutting up the veggies. Cooking was listening to what my mother told me to do, and following her instructions closely. As I grew, cooking became more complicated. I found cook books and cooking shows, which opened up an entirely new world! All of a sudden I had recipes to follow instead of just my mother’s words of wisdom. This evolution continued as I learned to “customize” recipes. Take a little from one recipe, a little from another, maybe change up some spices here and there… This led to some culinary triumphs, like the oddly delicious scrambled pancake, and many culinary failures; pancakes should never have tendrils. The evolution continued as I realized there were different techniques for cooking. I purchased the Culinary Institute of America’s The Professional Chef and worked my way through bits and pieces of it to broaden my horizons and skill base. I watched shows like Alton Brown‘s Good Eats and began learning how ingredients actually worked together. I started to see the patterns in recipes and come up with some of my own. But I was still basing my culinary work on existing recipes in one way or another.

Review of the September 19th, 2009 Appleseed Shoot in Saratoga Springs, NY

September 19, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Originally posted on the Zombie Squad Forum on Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:39 pm

“Shooters, Your 2 minute preparation period has begun!”

The chill from the night is still in the air as I lay down on an old carpet remnant and examine my loaned Ruger 10/22. Chamber flag out, wrap the sling around my arm “hasty” and lie down… The sun shines at a shallow angle and warms me. It also creates some glare in the tech-100 sights. I focus on the target and dry fire a few times. Wait, this isn’t right. I remember the training from earlier: align the sites, create the site picture, control my breathing, focus on the front site, get into the shooters bubble, squeeze the trigger, and follow through… I run it all through my head. So much to internalize! 

Wiggy’s Sleeping Bag and FTRSS Review

February 4, 2009 at 3:08 am

Originally posted on the Zombie Squad Forum, Wed Feb 04, 2009.

Updates at the bottom of this post.

Overview:

Wiggy’s makes a line of top notch synthetic sleeping bags right here in the good old US of A. They carry a lifetime warranty, keep their warranty even after machine washing, and don’t appear to loose their loft when compressed. All bags come with a compression sack and Lamilite pillow. A particularly nice feature is that you can combine two bags into the Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System, or FTRSS.