Monday, November 28, 2011

Indianapolis Colts Haiku, Week 12 (plus two bonus haiku!)

Week 12: in which our intrepid Colts correspondent conveys the pathetic feelings of a Colts fan just sort of hoping they might beat the spread this week:

The 'Suck For Luck' Strategy: One Long Season of Footballus Interruptus

"Hey wow, look!
Ha! It's there! It's---uh, oh well.
Yes! Yes! Go! Go! Crap!!"

--Mary Campbell-Droze

In keeping with Patio Boat's business model, which continues to be "copying and pasting other people's haiku for the revolutionary price of FREE" we also present these 17 syllables of birthday well wishes from Ryan Claytor, which reflect so well the core values of the Patio Boat blog (apart from rubbing Katie the Beagle's belly, of course, which remains our most important mission):

Birthday Haiku:

It's John Magee Day!
Time for Colts, Rugby, and Cars.
... Enjoy your home brew!

--Ryan Claytor

This does, however, remind me to point out to the general audience that MC-D has the Patio Boat's complete and total Indianapolis Colts monopoly.  I already suffered an 0-16 with the Lions, and see no need to transfer any allegiance to the sinking ship from Peytonville.

And so I in celebration of the Lions recent return to their earlier won-loss habits, I present this extra bonus Lions haiku, in which I would like to point out that Oakland Raiders great Ted Hendricks was not a role model.

Lions, Week 12: The Thanksgiving Turkey

Ndamakong Suh:
"Kick 'em in the head, Ted" was
Not a coaching point.

--John Magee

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Woo-Hoo! Heat in the MGB!

I am bursting with manly pride today. Flush with the unbelievable success of our hardwood floor installation -- and I do mean "unbelievable ... I still can't believe how well it turned out -- I turned to a couple of other overdue tasks. First I re-tarred the skylights to prepare for the winter.  After dancing on the rooftop for a while, I came back to ground and finally tackled my other overdue winter task: replacing the defunct heater fan switch in the MGB.

A heater may seem irrelevant to a convertible that will never see the roads when the snow flies, but on cool evenings in the summer a bit of heat wafting up from the floor would be nice.  And it'd be darn nice to have a few extra degrees of warmth if we manage any more late fall cruising and when the spring cruising season starts up.  The MGB's heater itself seemed to be just fine, but the fan would never go on. So, in a burst of sheer optimism that the problem was just the fan switch and not the fan itself, I ordered up a fan switch from Little British Car Co. and studied up my various MGB guides in hopes that I might get a chance to take a crack at it this weekend.

Fixing the headlight switch shortly after I got the car this summer was a piece of cake compared to this switch, though the two switches look almost identical.  The headlight switch can be reached directly from beneath the dash.  To get to the heater switch you need to remove the glovebox and the center vents. This gave me a chance to discover what I had already suspected. If God had meant for me to be an MGB mechanic, he would've given me much smaller hands!

Here I am trying to blindly unscrew the fastener behind the center vents. This process involved lots of language that we shan't repeat on a family blog like the ol' Patio Boat.  Everything else was pretty easy, but reaching those screws behind the vent was a royal pain in the patootie, in part because my stubby screwdriver was a bit too short to reach past the back of the vents and my long screwdrivers were a bit too long to fit behind the dash.

If anybody ever has to do this themselves, what you really want for this is a phillips-head screwdriver with a full-size head that's about five inches long.  I'll buy one for myself if I ever have to go behind my dash again, though my stubby screwdriver (about 3" long) eventually did the job.

Frankly, it looks as if the MGB is eating me in this photo.

Eventually, I got the dash and vents out.  In this photo the nifty new fan switch has already been installed and tested. Success!  For anybody wondering about the part I used here, I went with the original part from Lucas, the Prince of Darkness.  I did the same for the headlight switch I replaced in July.  There are some cheaper replacement switches out there, but the Lucas part has the label nicely beveled in, and looks a little nicer on the dash.

Here are the center vents. You can see how they go back a bit.  The nice thing is that once you have them out, you can remove the right-hand one from the assembly before you put them back in.  This makes it a snap to screw the vent-holding assembly back in place.

And here's the vent going back into the dashboard.  After that the glovebox went back in lickety-split and I was in business and ready for a test drive.  I suppose a better photoblogger would've taken more pictures, but I was trying to get it done before the sun set and before the rain fell.

The sun was down when I finished the job, but tonight's rain hadn't yet arrived, so I took it for a spin.  It was only 57 degrees today, but I'm happy to report that my feet were toasty warm with the top down.  When the rain started to fall and I put the top up, I actually had to take off my jacket because I was too warm.


As an added bonus, my speedometer seems to be wavering a little less at speed.  I think it's possible that the bumping around behind the dash may have loosened its cable a bit where it's sticking.  A proper lubication for that is still on the to-do list, but even a manly man who has installed a hardwood floor, cooked a turkey and two pies, tarred the skylights, and repaired a busted heater switch in his British sports car has to call it a day sometime.

And so, with an MG-Experience-approved Old Speckled Hen ale in hand, I shall call it a day and reflect happily upon one of the most productive week-long staycations I've ever had.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Colts Haiku: Week 11

Yes, it's late.  But don't blame our intrepid correspondent, who continues to carry on bravely. This time it was Patio Boat headquarters that was asleep at the switch, lulled into thanksful unconsciousness by thoughts of L-tryptophan past, present, future, and pigskin...

What Is The Sound Of One Fan Napping?

If the Colts have a
Bye in a losing season,
Can anyone tell?

--Mary Campbell-Droze

John and Monique Are Thankful for Our New Hardwood Floor

This is what we like to call the "before" photo.  Notice the butt-ugly stained white carpeting on the left, and the painted subfloor to its right.  We pulled up 2/3 of that butt-ugly carpeting last year out of sheer disgust, but hadn't yet decided what to do in its place.  Monique slapped a cool painted design over the subfloor, which was fun enough for a while.  But we had tired of it.

Even Katie the Beagle looks depressed by this floor.

Eventually we settled on a plan.  We found 2/3 of a pallet of Home Legend hand-scraped maple saddle flooring on sale for 25% off in the surplus section at Home Depot.  It was just enough to cover our living room, and the color was just what we'd been looking for.  This is an "engineered floor." Each 3-1/2-inch x 35-1/2-inch plank has actual wood on top with a high-density fiberboard underside that clicks-and-locks in place to let you assemble a floating floor without having to glue or nail it together.  It also claims that the seven layers of aluminum-oxide protection on top will protect it for 55 years.  (I hope I get the opportunity to find out if that is so.  I sure as heck don't intend to undertake this project again for at least another 55 years!)

With the flooring purchased, we needed to find the time to install it.  So we took Thanksgiving week off from work and hoped that five days (Saturday-Wednesday) should be enough time to move everything, install the floor, then get everything back in place in time to host Arsen and Brigitte for Thanksgiving dinner.  In retrospect, we should've been hosting an HGTV film crew.  It was just the sort of arbitrary and ridiculous time crunch that those home-improvement shows love.

And now, to work!

Monique cleaning and prepping.  Next to the vacuum is our neighbor Mike's very nice mitre saw, which he was kind enough to lend us.  It made sawing the floor pieces a snap.  Thanks, Mike!

And now, a home improvement couplet:

Off, off with all the trim.
One shouldn't do this on a whim.

The craftsman at work. Note the stylin' work clothes. You can also see the first layer of the foam underlayer and the beginning of what would become giant piles and clouds of sawdust.  If we had this to do again, I probably would've set up the saw out on the porch. Fortunately, our neighbor Mike also loaned us his shop-vac and the attachment for the saw. Once I had that set up the cloud of dust was considerably reduced.

The first batch of flooring is in!

Monique plotting and planning.

Katie the Beagle has moved from depressed about the floor to suspicious of all the activity.

This corner is a pretty good example of the sort of measuring and cutting that needed to be done to make it all fit correctly.  To achieve excellence I employed a fine old home-flooring motto: "Measure twice, cut once, throw away the first board after you botch it, measure a couple more times, cut again, then cover with a crapload of trim."

In retrospect, I would've been well served to place my thumb a few inches farther to the left. Oh well, nine digits is plenty to finish this project...

Katie the Beagle continues to monitor the situation.

And now she comes down off the couch to help Monique fit a loose board.

Almost done!

The floor is in! Now John begins rewiring the home entertainment system while simultaneously delivering his masterful impersonation of an elephant seal.

Flooring in the sunlight.

Flooring in the shadows.

Katie the Beagle awards this new hardwood floor the Good Beaglekeeping Seal of Approval!

The floor was finished, the trim put back on the wall, and the furniture put back in place literally five minutes before Arsen and Brigitte showed up for Thanksgiving Dinner.  If this had in fact been an HGTV show, you would think we made up the timing of it all for TV.

This photo of Brigitte has nothing to do with the floor.  But it is hilarious.

John puts all of that sawing practice to good use on the turkey.

Katie the Beagle also awards the turkey scraps the Good Beaglekeeping Seal of Approval!

And now, with tummies full of turkey, festive Holiday Pumpkin Ales in hand, and a football game on the TV, it's time to kick back, relax, bask in the glow of our lovely new floor, and give thanks that we don't have to do THAT again anytime soon!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Beer in the Bottle

More news on the 2011 Holiday Pumpkin Ale!  It has now been bottled.  

Laverne and Shirley shoulda worked in such an elegant bottling factory.

Science tells us the alcohol content came in right on plan: 4.85%.

Will it be tasty? The preliminary taste test came in A-OK.  The real proof will come with the unbottling on Thanksgiving Day 2011, when the Old Sloshingforth Brewery will toast the opening of the holiday season!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Colts Haiku, Week 10

In which the Colts' 0-10 record drives our intrepid Indianapolis Colts haiku correspondent around the bend.  She goes happily, skipping sweetly, her blonde pigtails dancing erratically behind her like a Curtis Painter third-down pass....

Vultures Don't Sing, And Those Look Like Weeds To Me

Hark, the birds sing so
Sweetly this time of year! Oh,
Look! Flowers! Flowers!

--Mary Campbell-Droze

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Colts Haiku, Week 9

In which the ongoing disgrace of the winless Colts has led our grief-stricken haiku correspondent to turn her attentions to the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers and the quarterback of the New York Giants.  I can see her problem.  At least we Lions fans had Matt Millen to hold responsible for our ignominy.

Meanwhile, Kaylee the Granddaughter and Katie the Beagle are nowhere to be seen, having long since fled the scene for pursuits less stinky than the Colts, like filling dirty diapers and rolling in goose poop.

Delegated Gratification As Demonstrated By An Ex-Colt And A Sibling

Captain Comeback and
Baby Brudder: this season's
Only source of cheer.

--Mary Campbell-Droze

Monday, November 7, 2011

Practical gift-giving for the new MG owner

Alternate title: If you think I went commercial when I let the Google Ads onto the blog, you ain't seen nothing yet!

As Monique and I began to move into holiday mode and look at gift-giving options, it occurred to me that it might not be a bad idea to point a few of you towards some useful gifts for the new MGB owner.  And while this post is entirely and completely self-serving, stops anybody from looking at at their Christmas shopping list and thinking, "I dunno ... maybe I'll get John a Scottish Shaving Kilt" it may be well worthwhile.

For starters, the FUN MG's birth certificate from the British Heritage Motor Trust would be pretty cool.  (To get that, you'll need the VIN from its registry on the MG Experience site.)

On the MG book side, I've already picked up most of the basics, but a copy of MGB Electricals Systems (The Essential Manual) by Rick Astley would be handy, 'cause, you know, it's a 35-year-old British car.  There are a few electrical issues I still need to sort out.  Go figure.

Looking for the perfect stocking stuffer for the new MGB owner?  We only have one ignition key and one door/trunk key, and a deep fear of misplacing them.  If we had a few blanks, we could take them down to our local locksmith, cut some copies, and sleep better at night.  Here are the ones listed at Little British Car Co. in Farmington Hills that should fit our car:

Ignition keys:
  • BL STYLE MG IGNITION KEY FITS 1975-1977 (SAME AS 163-375) (BLP1120AA75)
Door/trunk keys:
Speaking of Little British Car Co., they're a mail-order parts supplier located in Farmington Hills that offers very good prices on all things MG.  As an added bonus they don't charge shipping if you pick up from them directly, though you have to arrange that in advance.  It's difficult to link directly to things within their site, but if you click on the "Specials" tab at the top of their page, you'll find that they offer up a near infinity of fun stuff for MGs and other Little British Cars, especially fun trinkets like coasters, patches, hats, mugs, shirts, etc.

What do I mean by "an infinity of fun stuff"?  Well, Katie the Beagle would like me to point out that she will not be needing the canine MG shirt (MG DOGGIE SHIRT RED MEDIUM 21-30 lbs; CNPDOGMGMED) because she has absolutely no intention of riding in the MG.  (Or any other car, if she has her way!)  And I should mention that nobody should feel obliged to blow $155 on a Biggles-style World War II British Flight Helmet (FLIGHT HELMET X-LARGE, 219-995) and another $115 on the goggles to match (VINTAGE RAF GOGGLES, 219-945). Fortunately, the cockpit of the MGB is well protected from the wind.

Hopefully if you look around there you can find something better than an Automatic Twirling Spaghetti Fork.  Well, unless you find an MG-branded Automatic Twirling Spaghetti Fork.  That'd be pretty ... well, that'd still be pretty useless.

And finally, a 2012 MGB Calendar from would've been a good idea, but I already have one coming.  One of next year's goals will be to get a picture of the FUN MG in the 2013 calendar, even if it means that Monique and I have to drive it to more fun places for photo ops.  That's just the cross we'll have to bear.  Work, work, work...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Breaking Holiday Pumpkin Ale News!

Be very, very quiet. The little yeasties are doing their thing:

The Old Sloshingforth Brewery thanks you for your attention.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The 2011 Holiday Pumpkin Ale

It all began with our hops crop:

John started by harvesting the hops:

Katie the Beagle, do you think this will turn out yummy?

Then you need to carve up some Jack O'Lanterns.  And what better way to carve up a bunch of Jack O'Lanterns than to throw a pumpkin carving party for Monique's birthday?

Wait, that Jack O'Lantern isn't a pumpkin! That's a birthday cake!

Now THESE are pumpkins!

Carve 'em up!

Lexi and Anna get to work on their well decorated pumpkins:

The results?

Next up. Roast the leftover Jack O'Lantern trimmings, then trim the skin:

Katie the Beagle continues to help:

Boil up the pumpkin chunks:

After 45 minutes add some hops and some amber malt extract:

Boil, boil, toil and trouble:

Mash the pumpkin. Then add some irish moss (to help clarify the beer later), the remaining hops:

And the spices:

Boil for another 15 minutes, then strain out the pumpkin and hops.  We pulled out the leavings with a course mesh strainer; ran water through the leavings to rinse out the sugars and flavors; poured the runoff back in the brew pot; then poured the wort through a fine mesh strainer and into the brew bucket.  The truly obsessed with clarity could use some cheesecloth, but that seems like a pain in the tuchus. Next time I think we'll add a big strainer to that process for easier sparging and runoff. Thus does the process of industrialization grow:

Add water to make five gallons.  When the wort cools below 80 degrees, pitch your yeast and seal it up.

After the yeasties do their thing, you'll need to bottle, but that's another step yet to come.

2011 Pumpkin Holiday Ale Recipe


  • 10-12 lbs. Jack O'Lantern trimmings
  • ~5 gallons water
  • 2 1.5-kg cans of Thomas Cooper amber malt extract
  • ~ 2 ounces mostly dried Golden hops from the plant outside our door
  • 1 packet Coopers Ale Yeast (premoisten for 30 minutes before pitching)
  • 1/2 cup ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup whole cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp. Irish moss

1) Roast pumpkin in turkey roaster at 375 degrees for 90 minutes. Let cool.

2) Trim skin from pumpkin scraps. Put in pot with a couple gallons of water.

3) Boil pumpkin for 40-45 minutes

4) Add malt extract and 3/4ths of the hops.

5) Boil wort for another 40-45 minutes.

6) Add the spices, the rest of the hops, and the Irish Moss.

7) Boil for another 15 minutes.

8) Strain out the pumpkin and hops.

9) Sparge those leavings: run some water through them a few times and pour the runoff back in the brewpot until it's reasonably clear.  (This will pull out more sugar and flavor)

10) Pour the pot through a fine mesh strainer and into the brew bucket.

11) Let cool to below 80 degrees.

12) Pitch yeast.

13) Seal, and wait for the yeasties to do their thing.

14) Once the yeast is done, bottle.

15) Enjoy with the rest of your holidays!  The last batch of this that we did was pretty raw at Thanksgiving, but had mellowed nicely by Christmas and New Year.  And it was yummy.