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Dodgy steering

I mowed the driveway yesterday. It was possible, but interesting using a machine that didn't want to turn right.

You can see what the problem is, the little vertical cog, which is already rather worn, is loose so it doesn't make good contact with the toothed horizontal lug to adjust the steering.

My mower's steering
My mower's steering.

After a lot of Googlage, I finally found an exploded diagram of how this is put together. It seems many Rally mowers use a different arrangement where the teeth on the end of the steering rod turns a horizontal semi-circle.

Exploded diagram of steering
Exploded diagram of steering; © unknown.
It looks like there's a split-ring (#8) that may be stopping the rod coming all the way out. So soon(ish) I can have another crack at it.

The whole problem is exacerbated by my not being able to remove the upper half of the steering column. There's a bolt that goes through both, so it just pushes down, right? Well, that's what I thought but it won't lift up. There's a few degrees of play in turning it with the bolt removed, but it doesn't want to move up or down. I'm not entirely sure what's stopping it.

A new lower half of the steering costs around €50-60 (for a piece of metal!). The entire thing (all that you can see in the diagram) is around €110-130. It should go without saying that there appear to be several types. Still, it's expensive for a piece of metal! My entire strimmer only cost a burger meal more than the rod alone.

So, something to look into.


Thankfully the other issue had a much simpler cure, and I think I have worked out a way to start the engine more reliably.

Okay, the diagnosis is that it was running very erratically. Like, shaking. I was wondering if the engine was going to throw its rod or something.

Then I noticed that when I disengaged the blades, it was like "thunk! thunk! thunk!". I felt all around and, granted there isn't much clearance but the blades weren't hitting metal. Plus, when the mounting failed and the blade did touch metal, it was a massive shower of sparks.
Can't help but feel that even I would notice that!

Missing bits in the belt
Missing bits in the belt.

Yup, a missing bit of rubber in a belt (that I'm honestly surprised hadn't given up the ghost) was the reason for all of the shaking and thunking. I had a spare belt. With that fitted, it runs smoothly. Well, about as smoothly as Marte is capable of!

It seems that the belt is a little tight. I'm going to look at the mower deck soon to see if there's something that could be loosened. I suspect the control cable needs to be changed (it's in pretty poor shape), among other things. But it seems to me that when the blades are disengaged, the belt is tight enough against the pulley under the engine that the crank is turning the blades as well as the engine. It happened previously, but it's worse now (new belt, less wear).
My current "solution"? Pop off the belt, and crank the engine with the choke half open (it turns quite a bit faster!) and wait for it to catch. When it does, slowly edge off the choke and closer to full throttle (as the engine warms up). Then idle down halfway (can't do this immediately or the engine will splutter and die). Once it's running slower, using the smooth side of a screwdriver, I gently lift the belt up until the pulley catches it.
The engine is doing a few hundred rpm, so this is obviously something to do with great care. The engine will sound a little more laboured (why I don't idle right down!) as the blades start turning.

There's always stuff to fix, but there are plenty of ways to Blue Peter it. The only thing that's a real priority right now is the steering. A mower that can't turn right would be... difficult to use!



I didn't sleep the night of Tuesday-Wednesday. Just... my brain wouldn't switch itself to Standby Mode.

Last night? I basically collapsed into bed at half eight. Woke just before my phone started playing Chihiro Onitsuka at quarter past seven.

Once upon a time, I could pull two or three allnighters doing mentally taxing stuff like debugging. Now? Wednesday was really weird. Towards the end of the day (at work, and when I was mowing), it was like I moved, and reality moved a half second later. Or maybe it was the other way around. They definitely weren't in sync.

Give me a few more years and I'll be like Grandpa Simpson that in the middle of a seZzzzzzzzzz!


Путин, пошёл на хуй!

First of all, please let me say Путин пошёл на хуй.

You must have been sleeping under a rock if you aren't aware that the Russian army is dropping bombs all over Ukraine, and seemingly taking some perverse delight in aiming for children.

What's perhaps more surprising is the effect that this has had around the world.

  • Germany, for instance, has abandoned it's three-quarters of a century of atonement and dropped a massive amount of cash into the military. As have other European countries, but Germany is the most surprising.
  • The EU and America were pretty swift about booting Russian banks out of SWIFT. There was some hesitation, because a lot of Europe's gas comes from Russia, but really appeasing Putin isn't going to go anywhere.
  • Talking of banks, the famously impartial "we'll take money from anybody" Switzerland has told the Russians to get stuffed.
  • I rather suspect that renewables may be on the agenda in a big way. There may or may not be nuclear as a viable option too (this is why France has been less hit by electricity price fluctuations, a lot of French power is from nuclear). Whether or not nuclear is taboo depends upon what Russia does with the Ukrainian nuclear power station they are advancing upon, and whether or not Putin is crazy enough to actually use nuclear weapons.
  • Not only has Putin given NATO a purpose, something they sorely lacked while Trump was bashing them as obsolete (not that you'd realise that, given he's currently trying to claim credit for... for what, not dissolving the whole thing?), he has also given Sweden and Finland solid reasons to join NATO.
  • And, of course, Putin has just exercised a masterclass in how to trash your own country's reputation, economy, and aviation industry.
  • And after decades of sowing distrust, misinformation, trolling, and anything else to try to break up The West... the West has been pretty united in their response.

Another harsh lesson is coming from China. In a recent motion (UN? I forget...), people pretty much expected China to back Russia because, unhinged despot dictators of totalitarian states stick together.
They abstained.
If actions speak louder than words, that was screaming.

You can understand why. China is actually doing pretty well out of the current world order. They are planet Earth's warehouse. Basically, if it exists, there's a fair chance it was Made In China. Not just the Cheap Chinese Crap we all gleefully deride. Expensive American Bling is also made in China. Look at the little label on the back of your iPhone.
This is probably why US sanctions against China have been lighthearted and mostly attacking Huawei as being spies for the state. Firstly, that's pretty comical given America's general attitude towards privacy (we're supposed to believe Cisco kit isn't backdoored for the NSA? do I look like I was born yesterday?). And secondly, while China would do itself a great harm if it got annoyed enough to simply say "we're not shipping anything else to the West", it would likely tank the entire western stock market. All of our PPE, for example, has little quality control tickets inside the box. Written in Chinese. I think both sides are playing a tit-for-tat in order to be seen to be doing something. So given China's position in the current world order, I rather imagine they don't want the boat rocked.

Speaking of which, I'm not really sure what the hell is going on. Okay, I get that Russia annexed the Crimea a while back, but the world didn't go nuts about that. It is perhaps because the Crimea is a bit like the situation with Israel and Palestine - two groups of people arguing for years about a patch of land, who will be arguing long in the future.
Putin came across as... well, a crazy Russian answer to Chuck Norris (if you believe the stories of him wrestling bears). The Russian economy handed itself it's own arse in the fall of communism. But in the years since, the country had been brought up in status in the world. A serious defrosting of relations between East and West meant that a worryingly large number of Republicans would rather welcome Putin than a Democrat. Quite a shift from the days of "red under the bed".
Many people got rich on supplying the west with oil and gas. The word everybody learned this week was "oligarch", or a person with enough money and clout to influence national politics. Some have had their superyachts seized, others have buggered off to the Maldives in theirs.
What is it with rich people and yachts, anyway?

So while east and west are never going to see eye to eye, as they fundamentally distrust each other, Russia was... doing alright.
Until last week, when their glorious president decided to give his country a crippling blow. For... what? To rid Ukraine of supposed nazis in power? The hell is it to him if Ukraine has some right wing nationalists in the government? In France, Marine Le Pen is trying hard to downplay her connections with Russia. In the UK, Farage is probably left of the current Tory party. Politics come and go. Countries go left and right. The hell is it to Putin if another country's politics isn't to his liking. Is he sore that he wasn't able to influence it?

Pretty much the only two outliers are Pakistan, who appear to be willing to help Russia. I don't think the rest of the world is going to let that slip.

And, sadly, the UK, who has dilly-dallied so much that surely everybody else is wondering exactly what side the UK is on. That, plus watching British politicians strut around like they actually have influence. They don't - Russia has already pretty much told the Brits to get lost. Certainly, not a one of them have the sort of statesmanship required in a situation like this. A very apt comment that I read in a comment on-line (on The Guardian, I think) was that Liz Truss was basically a heartbeat away from going full-on Cher-humping-an-aircraft-carrier.
Now try to get that image out of your head. ☺

The clear winners, however this pans out, have got to be the Ukrainians themselves. While a million (so far) have fled the country (and kudos to Poland for not only letting them in, but also giving them free rail travel), many have remained and are doing a rather astonishing job of fighting back against the Russian army. Makes me wonder, for all the waffle about the Dunkirk Spirit, that if Mother Russia was marching in from Dover, would the English teach themselves how to make and use molotov cocktails? Well, perhaps if it was properly risk assessed...

To add a bizarre moment of levity to the entire situation, the Ukrainian tax office has said that captured Russian tanks do not need to be declared as an asset. With tongue firmly in cheek, they stated (according to The Guardian), that "Thanks to the courage and victory of the defenders of the Ukrainian state, enemy military equipment usually comes to you already destroyed and disabled, which makes it impossible to evaluate in accordance with the law".
You know, for the one citizen that actually gives a crap about whether or not a seized tank is a taxable a war.

Social media is the place to turn if you happen to have a Russian tank and want to know how to drive it and ram the bastards back home. Failing that, you can learn all the best places to aim for with molotov cocktails.
Perhaps the most surprising is that many of these people aren't military. They're citizens who absolutely aren't going to take "Putin" for an answer. Ukrainians are just bad-ass.


I'll end this bit how I started: Путин пошёл на хуй.



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Gavin Wraith, 3rd March 2022, 21:39
I forget who described the Vietnam war by the image of an adult hitting a clinging child. Putin appears to think that bombing people is the only way to make them respect him. He must be scared for himself now. How low will the poor patient Russians let him drag their name down?
Pieter, 4th March 2022, 11:25
> For... what? 
Moscow did not like the increasing presence of NATO/Western military units in Ukraine. (Imagine feelings in Washington if the Warsaw Pact had started supplying and training America's closest neighbours, if you are old enough to remember what the WP was). They warned for years not to exceed a certain line on their doorstep. 2008 and 2014 also showed they were serious about this. And because nothing changed...
Rick, 4th March 2022, 14:49
Is that the real reason, or is that something people have come up with since nobody is buying that twaddle about Ukraine not being a real country...?
David Pilling, 5th March 2022, 02:06
Gears... get a lathe, or often there is someone nearby with a lathe and a lack of projects. 
Ukraine - UK has been supplying weapons and training (before the war started). 
Before the war senior UK military visited Russia - red lines have been drawn - there's an agreement about what is allowed and what isn't. 
Pieter, 5th March 2022, 09:46
That seems to be at the core of the military conflict. 
It is not certain at all that sanctions will lead to the desired outcome. They say they did not work before because they were too shallow but it becomes dangerous if you go too far. America adopted economic warfare against Japan in 1941 and we know how that was interpreted and ended. I would be very careful.
Rick, 5th March 2022, 10:21
That's certainly good advice when dealing with a madman that has access to nuclear weapons. 
The worst possible outcome would be "if I'm going down, you're all coming with me". 
Sadly, I'm not really sure that the sanctions are going to prove particularly effective. I think the idea is that"the people" get so annoyed by it all that they oust him. This is unfortunately based upon western democratic thinking. Russia has never been western or democratic. So likely the people have an inkling of what is going on (if the news says all is well then you know that means it's all going to hell) and mostly just keep their heads down and hope it blows over quickly. 
David Pilling, 5th March 2022, 13:34
It can be said WW2 was fought over resources - both Germany and Japan were trying to get them. But Russia is already a resource superpower and after it has taken over Ukraine will control 1/3 of the world's wheat supply. 
A lot of the sanctions have the air of doing the Russians good at a cost to the West - Shell and BP have given up billions of pounds of investments - that's money taken from pensioners in the UK and handed to Putin. 
Meanwhile the BBC has stopped licencing 'Strictly' - it will play well ripping off Western intellectual property. Lot easier to break the protection on Windows than produce a huge amount of wheat. 
There has been mention of food rationing (here in the UK) and measures like 50 MPH speed limits (as in the 70s)- hasn't happened yet and probably won't, but that's the way the wind is blowing. 
The vague idea is not that the man in the street will turn on Putin, but the very rich and powerful around him will. 
If Putin is wise enough to known when to stop he may have done very well. 
Rick, 5th March 2022, 15:39
I'm not really sure that Putin has thought any further than "kill them all". 
I wonder, given the wheat situation, if the local farmers will start planting wheat rather than planting maize for our endless obsession with biofuels. Feeding people should always take priority. 
If nothing else (and another thing Putin has messed up), it has highlighted how dependent the west has been on Russia. I rather suspect that's going to change.
Rick, 5th March 2022, 15:45
Be funny if France brought in 50kph (30mph) speed limits. I'll be like "see, it's not so bad!". 
Apart from some places with 90kph limits, and major routes with 110kph limit, most regular roads are already 50mph (80kph). 
It was done a few years back in order to try to reduce the number of horrific fatalities on the roads, though it's been somewhat controversial, given that the French driving mindset is basically "speed up, the car in front must be me"...any wonder there are numerous impressive crashes? 
They did try, for a short while, blaming stupid drunk English people on the wrong side of the road. Which does happen, but it's rare enough that it makes the newspaper. Nope, sorry, the "must be first" attitude is the problem. Most of the road to work is 80kph. Not that you'd know it, given the speed cars usually pass me at... 
J.G.Harston, 15th March 2022, 22:55
The thing that really got my goat about Liz Truss was her statement supporting British volunteers going to Ukraine. 
If she knew any history - or had any nous - she'd have recalled that the 1930s UK government was *very* careful *not* to comment at all on British volunteers going to Spain. Because to do so would be declaring the British government to be actually entering the war on one side. 

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