Tag Archives: Alaska

Dirty Thrills | 1995-2015 | RIP

Mud racing became part of my family’s DNA in 1993 courtesy of my brother in law Chad and his silly yellow Ramcharger with “big tires.” Things went into full swing in 1995, I was too young to drive my Dad’s procurement, but not too young to rename it from Tsunami to Dirty Thrills. Thus begins an era of my family participating in and volunteering in Interior Racing Association mud drags.

There were a lot of noteworthy events and also changes in Dirty Thrills 20 years with us starting with the color change of the 15×15 steelies from Caterpillar yellow to glossy black. The truck won more state championships than I can remember, plenty of them ousting myself in Wild Thing.

I’m aware of at least 7 pilots although I’m sure there are some that I’ve forgotten. It was always powered by a cast iron small block Chevy, starting with a 327, eventually becoming a 350 as a matter of circumstance then dialing the 383 with aluminum Eagle heads after Tundra Terror brought forth a challenge to its reign.

In 20 years I don’t recall a single season it missed. I would guess the number of IRA sponsored races that the truck wasn’t a participant in those 20 seasons could be counted on 2 hands, maybe less. There is no questioning that it is the most dedicated and decorated vehicle in IRA history. I only recall seeing the truck *stuck* in the mud 1 time, coincidentally in its final day of racing.

The final trip through the mud happened on the last race, last class, last round of the 2015 season. Max was driving and competing against only Allan in the Tundra Terror that day. Max had a smoking run through the fast pit but a bad exit.

Allan should have lost on the technicality (out of bounds) but actually even lost heads up. Dirty Thrills sealed the deal the same way it always has, consistency 1st, fast 2nd.

Dirty Thrills began an era for my family, and a part of our lifestyle that we’ll never be able to shake. Thanks Dirty Thrills.

If you read this and have any corrections, memories, or comments of your own about Dirty Thrills please drop a line here.

Steese cleanup, a decade in the making.

Last week I spent in Alaska. The purpose of the trip has been a purpose many trips have had as an aside, but this time it just had to get done. In Fox where my parents live only 1Mb Internet service is available. Their building also has a couple of tenants, all of which share the same Internet service. Up until last week they just had 4 modems, one person would connect to one, another to another, sometimes they didn’t all work and someone would switch out, etc. It was a big mess. To add to the logical mess of things, 10 years of wiring additions without clean and tidy installation got to be too much to handle.

The cleanup performed in 2005 – Before:


and after:


I felt pretty OK about that, but after 10 years of negligence this is where things ended up:

To start I removed… everything. I gutted all the clearly unnecessary wiring and relocated the modems to a more suitable location out of the way. This photo also includes the new patch panel which is probably the most substantial part of the cleanup, none of my before photos included the dangling wiring mess caused by the lack of a proper patch panel for the building:

Yes, I’m unwilling to provide free advertisement for the abysmal company that provides that building with Internet services.

Here you can see my punchdown work, not that I’m particularly proud of it, it is what it is:


And the dressing:

After the POE injectors were velcro’d up, router was installed and cabled, switch was installed and cabled, here is the final product:

 The patchwork between the panel and the switch leaves a bit to be desired, but there wasn’t too much I could do with it since they’re so close together. The other part of this project was some outdoor cleanup, unfortunately I didn’t grab a before picture, but here is the after:

Note the pile of cable that got removed. There was excess draped all over, some even had become part of the weed growth at the base of the building. It’s not pretty, but it’s better than it was.


ACS Network Status Update – Sucks

If I spent 10 minutes writing about every poor experience I’ve had with Alaska Communications I’d be busy writing for over 24 hours. The number of people I’ve interacted with at that company that were actually pleasant to work with could easily be counted on 1 hand, and most of them worked in customer service in Anchorage. Today I’m going to just complain about one interaction with this company, my least favorite organization on the planet (no exaggeration).

The red circle was last Friday, ACS rolled a truck to *upgrade* the speed of my client’s Internet. The blue line is a continuous stream of data between my client and my servers in MN. It’s not obvious from the image above, but the speed *upgrade* took my client off the Internet for a total of 4 hours and 18 minutes during normal business hours. I suppose in the 1990s it was acceptable to have such a large outage for such a modest *upgrade*, but it’s 2014. I suggest that the upgrade was a modest one because they were attempting to go from a 3Mpbs business class service to a 7Mbps business class service. Not long ago I upgraded my low-cost and low-priority home Internet from 6Mbps to 50Mbps. There was no outage and the total amount of invested time on my part was about 15 minutes. In my mind this is how upgrades should happen in 2014.

The Friday outage was split into 2 parts. The first was a lengthy 3 hours and 3 minutes, during which time it was blackout for me. I had no knowledge of what was happening. I was E-mailed prior to the commencement of the upgrade asking if I had any advice. I replied with a basic structure of what my client’s router expects to see in order to reinitiate the connection to the ISP and the disclaimer that if he or she didn’t understand my E-mail then they should postpone the upgrade until we could work together on it. They proceeded so I assumed he knew what he was doing. I was eventually contacted by an individual back at the Alaska Communications call center, they needed my assistance (and understandably so) getting the office back online. I told them to reboot the router, at which point the PPPoE connection came up and all was fine, it seemed the technician did his job OK  just my ddial PPP connection wasn’t coming online. A reboot is simple enough and something that Alaska Communications themselves wouldn’t hesitate to do with most customers, it just so happens my router is slightly more intimidating looking:

After the line came up I asked the technician to not touch anything further and leave the room. Although my client still wasn’t on the Internet, the remaining portion was up to me. I did my business then it was my time to leave work so I started my commute home. The connection stayed up for all of 15 minutes and 10 seconds. About 1 mile into my commute I got a text message saying it was down again. Normally I’d turn around to put myself back at a terminal, but this particular Friday I had a meeting after work that I didn’t want to miss. I continued on my way and did phone troubleshooting with staff at my client’s office.

After probably 45 minutes of great help from one of my client’s employees, we found the inability to connect even just using a laptop and Windows 7’s Internet Connection Wizard. I turned the problem back to Alaska Communications with a phone call back to the individual who had called me earlier. That ACS employee contacted my client’s staff, had them plug the router back in and it miraculously came online. I’m aggravated as I’m sure the ACS employee played it off like nothing was wrong the entire time when there is no doubt in my mind he did something on his end. There is no other explanation since we couldn’t even connect with a generic Windows 7 box. The 2nd outage while only a mere hour was big enough to make 3 9s system when measured over a year.

This brings us past the red circle above and into the orange circle. The Internet was online all of Friday evening, all of Saturday even though speeds dropped in the early morning as you can see, but the connection did stay up. The blue circle encompasses the Sunday outage, one which started about 30 minutes prior to the end of AK Daylight Savings Time. The outage lasted through the day, meaning for an entire day and then some my client could not send nor receive E-mails. Their servers were unreachable so no doubt some correspondence was bounced. ACS doesn’t have a 24 hour business unit, or at least not one with a listed phone number, so I had to wait until they opened at 8:00AM. The good news is even after they opened the technical support I was able to contact was utterly useless. “I can see you’re not online, but we can’t do anything about it without someone onsite.” Certainly I agree it would be nice to have someone onsite, but unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards. The people that would normally be there on a Sunday were out of town this particular weekend. The annoying part was that he didn’t even bother to look at connection logs or any such, they just gave up at “you’re not online.”

About 30 hours past, the connection was brought back to life Monday morning at 8:09AM AK time. This is what availability looked like for the week – Tuesday morning through today, note that the point when the *upgrade* started is clearly visible:

Since their Internet presence returned yesterday morning, my client hasn’t fallen back offline. Their bandwidth remains pretty random. At the end of the day, my only prayer is that I don’t have to work with ACS Personnel, ever again, in my life. They’re one thing I’ve been unable to leave behind by leaving AK, and I wish more than anything that I could change that.

Alaska to Minnesota January 2014

The justification was mostly for dad to come down and get his boat. Nice lake boats really don’t exist in Alaska, so dad bought one in Wisconsin to be transported back to the frozen North.

I flew up on Tuesday afternoon January 14. I took care of a little bit of business around town then we left in the morning Thursday January 16. The trailer looked like this:


The drive took us down the Alaska Highway, through Edmonton and then down into the US via North Dakota’s entry on Highway 52. We arrived in Minneapolis at my house in Lino Lakes around 2:30 PM on Sunday the 19th of January. This is how things looked when we arrived:


Nothing really to report about the journey. To prove this I recorded a time lapse of the journey on the GoPro and posted it on YouTube. Enjoy our 3+ day journey compressed into less than 8 minutes of video.

How to turn your GoPro time lapse photos into a video uploadable to YouTube coming in the next post.

As for the return trip, Dad is on his own and en’ route as I type this. This is after day 1: