Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why?

I'm forty-eight years old.

I've never listened to (or purchased) a Rolling Stones album in my life.

Why?

Many reasons.  They're not my thing.  Beatles or Stones?  Beatles. Pride. Ignorance. Just don't care. Life is too short.  Which is strange, because I've purchased albums of other artists who I've never cared for to see what, if anything, I might be missing.  Bruce Springsteen comes to mind as an example.* So does Prince.**

The 'Stones came up on some random playlist on the interwebs the other day.  It might have been YouTube or Pandora, but it was probably Amazon's music service which flows though the tele into the stereo into my family room.  An album is a click away, and so I clicked and added "Sticky Fingers," to my subscription, an album I remember for the vulgar intent of its cover, depicting and even providing an actual zipper embedded therein for purposes of, well, you get it, going back in time to regarding it as a mid-teen (15 years of age? 17?) in Strawberries, Nashua "mall," ca. early 80s.  The album itself, it turns out, was released in 1971, me just a toddler of a Toadroller, somewhere in Ohio; most likely in Dayton near an Osinski domicile, not a resident of Plumwood Road.

And so, this evening, as I relaxed from a Sunday of Maine-styled roof-shoveling and errand-running and oil-changing and who knows what-all, reviewing the internet's denizens' definitions of capitalism and economic paradigms and generally making a rage against General Theory, I listened to "Sticky Fingers" from start to finish.

Not bad.  Bluesy, swaggery, sloppy, hardly polished and slick, but in the best way, and decent in attitude.

I'll listen again.

*Shame on me.  I've bought them, on vinyl even, but still haven't given them the "spin" that vinyl affords.
** Prince, it turns out, was awesome.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Quadratus Lumborum! Quadratus Lumborum!

...is Latin for "root cause."

Well, maybe not.  But I do think it has been the root cause of much of my back pain.

Over the last few weeks I've been at it again, trying to strengthen my core and stretch anything I can think of to stretch, getting to know various yoga propositions (they're not positions, as there's no way I'll ever reach them).  And while noticing strength improvements, I've not really been gaining much in the old-man-flexibility index, which has been hovering around .001 for the last 4-5 years.

Until another set of searches for lithe young yoga practitioners spewing self-spiritu-harmonious advice while tying their legs and arms behind their necks in positions that would confound a salty sailor's knowledge of knots brought me to some videos with diagrams and musculo-skeletal aparatus with very largely bicepped  and tricepped men standing beside them talking very seriously with big medical-physio terms and the dos and don'ts of muscle development and gain without the wrong kind of pain. 
 
I'd tried this last year and was convinced of the need to strengthen my Tiger-Woods-style de-activated glutes of maximus, medius and even minimus varieties to the point that I was strong right up until the whole house of cards collapsed and I spent a month barely able to walk, much less laugh or swing a golf club.  Which was bad, because it was May.

Well, these very large men who apparently like to pick things up and put them down an awful lot then proceeded to sit on the floor and demonstrate by stretching to an extent to make Mary Lou Retton blush.

What's this Quadratus Lumborum then?


These are the muscles of the lower back that connect from the top of your hip bones to your last rib.  Check.  They said these are the ones that like to zing and grab.  Check.  They said if you sleep on your side, one hip is hiked up for long periods of time, and these relaxed Q.L. muscles are happy to shrink up and bind.  Check.  Oh, and if you're the type of person who often sits in a chair with one leg underneath a hip... Check mate.

They said not to stretch, just yet, but rather to do deep-tissue activation, which they demonstrated by lying on the floor and shoving a tennis ball under their backs at the location of these muscles, and then rolling around on it, doing what to me looked like tenderizing the meat before putting it on the grill.  I'm sure you could pay a Helga good money to inflict this type of pain upon you in what is known as a massage.  Then they instructed stretches in a couple of ways that were similar to my yoga ladies' propositions, but were frankly obscene to be seen from a large man.  Men can't stretch like that!

So I got out a tennis ball and tenderized my Q.L.s what I hoped would prove sufficiently, then folded my legs at the hips and knees this way and that, and began to stretch. Chunk, chunk, chunk! Chiropractic spine cracks rang out in the most satisfying way, and I was able to lean what seemed a good way forward and just rest into the stretch.  For a while.  It's taken me years to understand that stretching isn't so much about the pressure you put on the muscle, it's about letting the muscle relax once you get it to a stretched position.  I unfolded and refolded myself in the opposite direction and gave that a go.  Chunk, chunk, ah....

And then I stood up.

I have not been that loose in the hips for twenty years.  Elvis' pelvis had nothing on me.  I mean, the whole lower back wasn't being held rigid by some tight pressure; I could move.  I'd demonstrate, but no one really wants to see that.  Not even Mrs. Toadroller.  Apparently especially not Mrs. Toadroller.  Suffice it to say the change was dramatic and immediate.

And just the beginning.

Over the last two days (in addition to about 5 hours of waltzing my snow blower through 20 inches of snow), I've tenderized and stretched and been able to lean more and more.  This has allowed my other muscles to get back to their fundamental responsibilities and stop helping the Q.L.s out.

Hell yeah!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I find your lack of pressure disturbing

What does it say about about me (or about Audi) that my gut reaction to red low oil pressure warnings animating themselves in  glaring red on the instrument panel is to blame and replace the sensor?

Surely the sensor is bad.  It's old.  It's like a fuse.  If the engine hasn't given up the ghost after twenty years and 257,000 miles, why would something go wrong now?  A replacement sensor was five bucks.  I'll tell you if it was the culprit a little later on.

Failing that test, the next is to get an oil pressure gauge and check it out.  Thirty-five bucks on Amazon, or Autozone can loan me one.

Should it fail that test, I may achieve my Uncle Jim's dream of killing a modern car engine through benign neglect.

Edited to add:

One hour later, I'd removed the airbox to get at the old sensor, tucked away as it was under the exhaust manifold.  I practiced a little patience with a crescent wrench (who has a 24mm open end wrench?) and it came smoothly off.  It replacement went smoothly on.  I buttoned her back up, double-checked everything and went for a drive. 

Rev the engine, no error light.  Up the drive way, no error light.  Up the road, no light.  Romped on her up to 60 a few times, no light.  Drove her in to town and got some gas, no light.

Fifteen miles later, no light.

I love it when it's the sensor!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Mental anguish

Have you taught yourself to ride a bicycle lately?  Tie your shoes?  Worked to improve your penmanship?

Nor have I. 

But I did receive an electronic drum set for Christmas, and it's much the same experience.  My brain (and I suspect yours as well), on trying to learn a new coordination, simply hurts.  There's a wall, a humming, a pressure, a blocking obstacle, an insidiously spawned anxiety attack there that is just this side of physical when I try to enforce a new coordination upon it.  I can only battle it for a few minutes before I have to get up and walk away.

I encounter this when I make a change to my golf swing, when I try to learn a new song on the guitar, or when I sit down to develop the logic and flow of a customer presentation.   There is an order to be investigated, there is a sequence to be memorized, and a tempo to be met.  It takes repeated practice for it to stick.

This is mental work.  Thinking is hard. But this goes beyond problem-solving and reasoning; here we're doing something physical, ingraining a coordination so we can ride without the training wheels, read and write without spelling each letter of each word, and in the case of drumming, run through a pattern of 1-y-and-a, 2-y-and-a without counting it out. 

I draw different insights than, say, Destin and his backward bike, but I bet the mental anguish was the same.  Watch his struggles here:


The breakthroughs, though, are worth the sacrifice.  After much effort, the passive coordination kicks in and you're able to simply do things, and it's on to the next challenge. 

Over the next week I'll be spending a lot of time in a hotel room in Las Vegas on business.  I'm not one for gambling, so after a long day of work and thinking and smiling and trying to remember people's names, I'm looking forward to getting back to my room with a pair of sticks and a practice pad to blow off steam with some coordination integration focused execution and speed on a two stroke roll, a para-diddle, and a five stroke roll:


By the way: the exceedingly slow, mechanical strikes he begins with are very important; they tell the muscles what to do.  Your brain automatically absorbs the slow and key coordinations through the full path of the drumstick.  I played along with this one and was almost able to keep up to the height of his speed.  I couldn't believe it.  And no, Yoda, I did not fail.

Getting a little fancier, here's a drummer who'd been at it for ten years before he really broke down the para diddle rudiment and then knocked it out of the park.  It only took him a few months of steady practice. 


Wish me luck.

It's a Raymond Chandler Evening

Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep starts with:
It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.  I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be.  I was calling on four million dollars.
And gets better...
The lean black-eyed credit jeweler was standing in his entrance in the same position as the afternoon before. He gave me the same knowing look as I turned in. The store looked just the same. The same lamp glowed on the small desk in the corner and the same ash blonde in the same black suede-like dress got up from behind it and came towards me with the same tentative smile on her face.
+++
It was raining again the next morning, a slanting gray rain like a swung curtain of crystal beads.  I got up feeling sluggish and tired and stood looking out of the windows, with a dark harsh taste of Sternwoods still in my mouth.  I was as empty of life as a scarecrow's pockets.  I went out to the kitchenette and drank two cups of black coffee.  You can have a hangover from other things than alcohol.  I had one from women.  Women made me sick.
 +++
 The blonde spat at me and threw herself on my leg and tried to bite that.  I cracked her on the head with the gun, not very hard, and tried to stand up. She rolled down my legs and wrapped her arms around them. I fell back on the davenport.  The blonde was strong with the madness of love or fear, or a mixture of both, or maybe she was just strong.
+++
 A small man with glasses and a tired face and a black bag came down the steps from the pier.  He picked out a fairly clean spot on the deck and put the bag down.  Then he took his hat off and rubbed the back of his neck and stared out to sea, as if he didn't know where he was or what he had come for.
+++
 
The dialogue's vernacular is comprised of dames and soldiers, dusting-offs and skipping town, colts and blackjacks, club-ears and worn suits; they're crafted into phrases like "Shake your business up and pour it.  I haven't got all day," and "You've been following me around for a couple of days, like a fellow trying to pick up a girl and lacking the last inch of nerve.  Maybe you're selling insurance.  Maybe you knew a fellow called Joe Brody. That's a lot of maybes, but I have a lot on hand in my business."

Lose yourself in West Hollywood hacks and private dicks, spoiled rich women and crooked cops, dirty smut and desperate dames.  It's better than watching the tele.

Friday, December 23, 2016

One's Rogue Thoughts

I took the Toadrollers to see "Rogue 1, a Star Wars Movie" last night.  I've since had a million thoughts popping into my head from as if from hyper-space and thought I'd jot them down while they're still fresh.

Spoilers

  • The Empire should really look into better passcode verification algorithms on their shuttles.  I can't believe how many times in these films Rebels have made it past the Empire's most guarded gates with last week's password.
  • About CGI and Grand Moff Tarkin: I sat there watching the scenes with him and wondering to myself, "isn't Peter Cushing dead?" and "How'd they do that?"  So from my perspective, totally fooled. 
  • Still no clarification on what a Moff is, by the way, and why there should be a Grand one.
  • These recent Star Wars movies have been fun thrill rides.  Sure, there are plenty of plot holes and "why didn't they just..." moments, but they've basically been good fun and adventure on a Star Wars set.
  • It's pretty clear to me that there won't be a sequel to this one.  Or a prequel.  One Toadroller wittily indicated that George Lucas had directed the sequel already; called it "A New Hope."
  • It's also clear that these aren't the "Rei's parents" you're looking for.
  • About three quarters of the way through the movie it dawned on me just precisely where it was going to end.  That was my Movantik moment. Shit!
  • At what point in the Empire's corporate ladder do you get your own shuttle?  Since each one is personal, is it kind of like sitting down for a portrait?  Does one work with the design team or do you leave all that to your executive admin?
  • Star Wars Episode 2, "The Clone Wars," was generated from an off-hand comment by Kenobi to young Luke while Threepio shut down to conserve power.  "My father fought in the Clone Wars?"  This was a moment of mystery that did not need exposition via the second worst film ever made.
  • Star Wars Rogue 1 (are the kids calling it R1?) also tells a back story, but one I never expected to see, and didn't mind seeing in the least. I thought it was generated from the line "many people died to bring us this information," but research (searching YouTube) proves this line was from Return of the Jedi, and about the second Death Star.
  • We bump into some familiar characters in the movie, but without the usual"that's right kids, we put this in here too!" fanfare.  It was intriguing to see Red Five give up his slot.  If I'm looking to have point-to-point connections being drawn, Threepio talking with Luke in Uncle Owen's garage ties back to R1's Threepio / Artoo cameo.  But to be honest, there's not much to tell.
  • Weird that they put forth all that effort to pull a Betamax tape out of the world's biggest storage tower.  And seriously, tape backup?  I guess it was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
  • I'm pretty sure that Jakku is not Jedha is not Tatooine, but their travel brochures sure look the same.
  •  X-wings rock!
  • Young Toadroller Jack claims he saw Hera's freighter Ghost in the big space battle.  I wish I'd seen it too.
  • I entirely appreciated the lack of using the old Force crutch to flip every damned switch on and off.  It was a very minor character.  Not a midichlorian to be found.  Lots of good blasters at people's sides, though.
  • That said, it was weird to have the force show up as a mantra-prayer through a blind Tibetan monk-acolyte.  Guided through a firestorm of blaster bolts only to bump into a table?  Awkward.
  • In the same way, it was nice to see a Star Wars movie almost entirely without light-sabers.  Less was more.
  • Vader sounded older, but then James Earl Jones is 40 years on from the original.  His helmet and balaclava at the neck just looked wrong.  
  • In the previews for other films, we saw five previews for sequels to various franchises and one for an original film pretty obviously hoping to become a franchise.  All while waiting for the 8th installment of this franchise.  
  • The force will be with us, always, apparently.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Quarters

It was my freshman year in college when, forced to do laundry on my own for the first time, I started making change for quarters.  What good will two dimes and a few pennies do when your weekly budget is somewhere around eight dollars and your bank balance is just under forty?  You need quarters and so you make change for them. 

Fast forward a few years to living on my own in Denver and the challenge was the same: things were tight; I needed quarters.  Whenever I bought something at the local Safeway, I'd pay in cash and add in the extra 13 cents in order to get quarters back.

Along the way, I developed a habit of checking the quarters I received.  In 1976 they coined a bicentennial quarter and they were conspicuous by their difference from all the others.  Easy enough to do: take the quarters in your hand, flip them over and glace at the back-sides.  Drummer-Patriot image?  Fantastic!  A smile on your face.

Over the last decade or so, whenever I've come across one, I've set it aside in a drawer, doing my little part to deflate the currency by slowly take them out of circulation.  I come across one or two a year.  2016 has been a bumper crop.  I've probably received five of them in change. 

Some habits are hard to break.  I still find myself making change for quarters.  It's a satisfying little obsessive-compulsive thing to do.  There's something proper about getting three quarters back from a purchase.  But these days I drop the quarters from my pocket into a big old jar.  Who knows what we'll do with that?  Or when? 

Mrs. Toadroller's mother was diligent about putting quarters into her own (rather large!) piggy bank every week, regularly, for years.  One for each child and maybe one for the coffee pot as well.  As we went through her things, we all had fun stacking, sorting, counting, and finding the occasional rare pre-1965 quarter.  And that fun may have been worth more than the monetary value of the collection.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Charging ahead

If one were optimistic, they'd look at the third alternator in 256,000 miles and 19 years and say, "wow, 123,000 miles per alternator, not bad!"  or "wow, 9.5 years per alternator, not bad!"  The sad truth is I got 252,000 miles and 19 years on the first alternator and 4000 miles and 6 months on the second.

Regardless, it's in.  I may have tweaked my back.  Tomorrow and the weekend will tell.  I did snap a bolt on re-assembly,* and let out an "ahhhh, shit" worthy of Grandpa Toadroller.**   All told, four hours of labor and a quart of lost antifreeze later, she's back where she was a week ago.   She does great shifting gears!  It's still risky to take her out of state, but I'm stupid that way.  I'll keep her local until she proves seaworthy.

Oh, and I just remembered which bolt I didn't tighten.  Dang it.  I think I should be able to drive her up on the ramps and get to it without too much disassembly to access the guilty bolt. 

Is it time, is it a hobby, or is it a lifetime car?

* Because I just knew I was going to snap it but didn't stop.
**You've been given a title!  It was one of those moments when you hear your father's voice in your own.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Here we go again

When last I drove the Thousand Dollar Car, I noted that it was shifting... reluctantly... and ...confusedly...

Well.

There are two possibilities.  Firstly, the transmission could be going.  If so, so be it.  The second, and easy to rectify, is that its adaptive learning software has worked itself into a frazzled state.  I searched the internet for the definitive manual reset process, which involves putting the ignition key into the "run" position but not starting the car, holding the gas pedal (not a fancy "accelerator" like the Merc, no; a real, genuine cable driving a throttle body) to the floor for ten seconds as it holds a "full throttle" switch, then a strange combination of turning the key off, letting go, turning the key on, putting your left foot in, pulling it out, and performing the rest of the Hokey Pokey.  Anyway, I did all this and started it up and marveled at how nicely it up and down-shifted to my whims.  Hooray!

Except the battery light was on the whole time.  Deja vu.  In May.  Six months ago. 

I brought her into the garage and accessed the battery compartment in the trunk.  Yup, filled with cold water, easily half-way up the battery.  Batteries don't like cold, and a cold water is happy to sap energy quickly.  I wrestled the battery out of there and scooped/siphoned/sponged the water out of the plastic compartment.  How is it getting in there?  The only place I can think of is the sunroof, but its drains go forward and empty on the front door A pillars.  I ran some water through them to verify they're not blocked.  Back in the compartment, I noticed a small, flat circle stamped into the bottom of the tray.  Could this be a drainage hole, blocked by accumulated soot  through the years?  I grabbed an awl and started scratching.  It wasn't looking promising until I got a little to come up, then a little more.  I was in 3/8ths of an inch when I grabbed a drill bit.  Spin, grab, spin grab and then a breakthrough.  I grabbed a gallon of water and started pouring it in and sure enough, it evacuated down and out by the back wheel.  So there is a drain!

I took the battery over to Autozone and their tester said it was down to 45%; they'd keep it and see if it would take a charge.  Two hours later, they called that it was ready.  Next step: alternator?  Everything hooked back up, 12.6 volts off; 12.1 while running.  Crap! Could a cold, wet battery that won't charge take down an alternator?  Apparently it had.  After 6 months.  Ah well, Autozone was happy to cover it under warranty and put in the order.  I'm sure It will show up in a few days.

In the meantime, she's back in the garage, up on blocks, drying out from the overnight rain (but with a dry battery compartment!), waiting for  me to begin the long sequence of removing the front end to gain enough clearance to relieve the serpentine belt's tensioner enough to slide it off a pully so I can pull the alternator itself.  Probably about two hours of work, maybe a little less now that I've done it... a few times.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Chrome Wheels, Fuel Injected

...and stepping out over the line!

So says Bruce Springsteen in Born to Run.

I swerved down into Harpswell, ME, on the way home from Boston Logan airport and another business trip, and checked out a 2010 Audi S5.  As sexy as coupes come, and pretty much as quick as they do as well.  350 horse, same with torque, and all wheel drive combine to get you to 60 in 4.9.  After driving it, I don't doubt it.

I spent last night and half of today trying to convince myself I want it.

But then I took an hour and put the replacement fuel injector into old blue, the A8, hooked up all the plumbing and wiring and crossed my fingers as I turned the key.  Stumble, stumble, rumble, rumble and then the fuel rails pressurized and the familiar sweet swell and steady, smooth idle of this old soldier of an engine settled in.  Yap, that's what she's supposed to do.  I backed her out of the garage and up onto the road, honked the horn, and gave her some heavy footage.  She just ran away, smooth, refined, competent, quick.

Now that's what I like in a car!  Sorry S5; you're unrefined like a mustang.  And you're not as much fun as this old girl.

I picked up the Mercedes with her new accelerator (not a gas pedal, nay-nay; an accelerator) and pointed her towards home.  After the hour of driving I'd put into the A8, the Merc was simply sterile and boring.  And she'll be headed out the door.

I'll bide my time and wait for the right 2011 A8 to come along.
Keep in mind that the exterior is even more beautiful.
The back seat is pretty nice, too.

It's taken a lot of dates for me to realize that what I want was waiting for me at home all along.  Of course, Mrs. Toadroller was quick to say she'd told me so, and she was right.  Again.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Thousand Dollar Car! Thousand Dollar Car! Thousand Dollar Car!

I am a fool.  I know this; I understand this; I admit this; I share this.

For I own not one but four German cars.  Three of the four-ringed variety and one of the one-ringed, tri-starred variant.  It is a given that, at best, three will be road-worthy at any given time.  There are days like yesterday when that number is reduced to one, and that one not the newest and shiniest of the collection.

Two weeks ago, I embarked on an airport run to Boston in old blue, my thousand dollar car, my precious A8.  I'd been of the "why am I keeping this?" persuasion and felt it was time to give her one last run.   Before I left I swapped on the spare set of snow-tires/wheels I have to test how much of her rumbling is alignment and how much is balance.  Driving down the road at 50 mph showed that alignment is bad; the wheels droned against each other even on fresh pavement.  But as I gathered up momentum to 80mph on the interstate headed south, I was amazed at the smoothness of the ride. Tires in balance, what a concept.  To be perfectly honest, I enjoyed the shit out of that drive to the airport and fell in love with old blue all over again.  Yes, I promised her, I'll spend $100 and get you properly aligned.  I'll get the hole in your exhaust pipe patched.  Together we'll make this journey many times through the winter and let the newer Merc just sit warm and cozy in the garage!  257,000 miles is merely your youth!

I returned from my travels and fetched her from the 6th floor of Boston Logan's parking garage.  Navigating the lefts and rights that hinder your attempts to flee the airport and head north, she started to stumble.  One moment perfect, the next as running on 7 cylinders.  Or as running out of gas.  Shit.  I'd been here before.  She's temperamental about gas - do not let her go low- and when she does, it takes at least 5 gallons down her throat to get her running properly again.  See previous tribulations on this site for more information.  I pulled into the first gas station and loaded her up to the top, simultaneously ruling out one possible cause and raising her retail value a solid 10% 

No dice.  Stumble, rumble. I searched my memory banks and recalled the times it had previously behaved this way.  An Ignition Control Module the first time; ignition coils on the plugs the second.  Screw it.  I kept her in low gears through Revere and Saugus, and held her in 4th for the 150 highway miles to home.  Seven cylinders of insanity.  Not wise, but the car is disposable.  Made it home, parked her at the bottom of the driveway and went to bed.  The problem would be reviewed in the morning.

I recently hopped into Mrs. Toadroller's recently rejuvenated S4 to take one of the elder Toadrollers to work.  As we headed out of the driveway, I thought I heard a scrape.  Three doors down, Mrs. Toadroller phoned to let us know the exhaust system was drooping low, low, low.  Ah, sweet chariot, back to the garage with you.  Sit next to the A8 where she rests with her hood open, engine shrouding and wires spread about the shop.

Yesterday I hopped into the Merc to head to the chiropractor.  I started her up and got a christmas tree of warnings on the dashboard, along with the fairly useless message "Electronic Stability Control system is inoperable.  Consult Owner's Manual."  What?  Shut her off, started her again, same.  Put her into gear and could barely get out of the driveway.  Turned her back into the other side of the driveway and let her sit.

I took the car the boy drives. 

I'm flabbergasted.  The Internet says this Merc issue happens and then goes away.  It doesn't for me.  Battery disconnect/reconnect, fuses; no matter- the ESC is damned well inoperable and no, you won't be able to drive this thing to the shop.  Fine.  You're confined to the corner.  It might be the accelerator, as it is German and wouldn't deign to have a gas pedal.  I'm sure it's fly-by-wire rather than a throttle cable.  Which means a few hundred bucks plus tow.  She is not the car of the decade.  She will not last a year.  There's a feller down in Harpswell with a new enough S5 with appreciable miles, but priced accordingly.  It's got that 4.2 liter V8 I love so much in the A8 and S4.  Are you listening, Mercedes? 

Meanwhile I have an A8 to fix and a droopy tail-piped S4. 

I jacked up the S4 and saw that the metal bracket hanger had rusted off where it was welded to the exhaust.  I jacked the exhaust back up into position and wound her around five times with steel cable.  That will last the ten miles to get her to a shop for a repair.

On to old blue.

It wasn't Ignition Control Modules.  They are cheap through Amazon, however, so I replaced the pair of them and kept the others in my spare parts box.  It wasn't the ignition coils.  That was an adventure in its own way, where the replacement coils were shorter than the originals.  I mean originals.  19 years, 257,000 miles.  They are forgiven and retired now, in the parts box, ready for the dump or for further experimental testing at some future date. 

Computers, codes, internet, thinking.  A martini.  I figured it had to be a fuel injector (also original) or the wiring to it.  Please let it be the injector, as tracing and re-setting that wiring is a fool's errand.  Yes, I am a fool, but I'm not insane.

It took an hour of careful disassembly of fuel lines, fuel rails, fuel injector connectors, vacuum hoses and clips to get a pair of the fuel injectors out.  It is amazing to think those were simply squeezed into place on an assembly line in Germany and haven't been touched since.  Wiggle, wiggle, tug tug and out they came.  Friction and o-rings and retaining clips.  It had been my intent to swap the offending cylinder's fuel injector with another cylinder's and see if the engine warning codes switched to that new cylinder.  I checked the resistance on all the wiring leads to the fuel injectors.  They were all the same.  Good.  Promising.  It then it occurred to me that a fuel injector is basically a solenoid that gets triggered to open a valve.  Why swap them when I can test hem manually?  I took the known good injector and a pair of alligator clips and tapped it to the battery.  Click, click, click.  I took the bad one.  Nada, nada, nada.

It is at times like these that fools break out into a shit eating grin.  Grinning thus, I placed my order for a replacement ($40, Amazon Prime, will be here on Tuesday even if I won't) and took a shower.

The score is two on, two out, and Mercedes is at the bat.  Will she strike out?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Propaganda

I haven't read newspapers for about a decade.

I turned off the television news many years before that.

Earlier this year, I unplugged from Twitter, my main news feed, because it had become ridiculous.  I knew more about what was going on than most, but the alarming descent from argument with a hint of debate to simply positional propaganda, regardless of topic, was too steep and too much.

A few months ago, I added the FoxNews feed to a web home page, just to at least know what some of the current headlines were with, perhaps, the least liberal of propaganda perspectives. 

Alas, no.  Here's today's list of important news items:

So, let's review.
  • "We're not giving up!"  How's that for positioning?  I dislike Trump immensely, and hate Mrs. Clinton even more.  But that's quite the spin on a headline about a "path to victory."
  • Indecent Proposal.  See previous.
  • Historic Rape Ruling.  Is this in the top three of important happenings in the wolrd?  Why do we have to promote rape?
  • Bob Dylan Slammed.  I personally find this humorous.  If I were shunned like the Nobelers, I'd like to think that I would act Nobler.  Why should he be slammed?  He didn't ask for this and probably doesn't want it.  If I refuse to go to your party, don't talk bad about me on Facebook.
  • This Bribe's for you.  More titillation in the top ten.
  • Police fear missing teen.  Sad.  But again, why is this top ten news?
  • Photos: Loose emu.  This I gotta see.
  • Rolling Stone writer recalls the moment.  Wait.  Isn't this rewriting history?  Did not the author blatantly fabricate this story to an end?  Was not the author caught in this fabrication?  Didn't the world shrug a big "who cares?" because even the idea of rape was, to her, more important than the students whose lives were ruined by false allegations?  See Matthew Shepard, of whom Mrs. Toadroller's catholic alma mater put on a play in tribute.  Diversity trumps truth.
We live in a time of watching events be rewritten in real time.  Of Winston not even bothering to go back through the headlines and re-write them, as few care to check if the emotions provided are the emotions they need.  Those that recall correctly are wronged, ridiculed, and recommended for sensitivity training.

We've always been at war with East Asia.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Nanny, Nanny

  • At the checkout counter in the grocery store yesterday, the clerk told the customer in front of me that she could no longer sell the customer the bottle of wine in her cart because her child had touched it.  
    • "Really?  Why not?" 
    • "It's the law."
  • A list of business articles from LinkedIn found its way into my email inbox.  One had the headline "Natural Resource Management: The Great Public Land Heist Has Begun."  I was shocked to see an article that could possibly be warning people that the government was about to take more private property and so I clicked.  And of course the article wailed and gnashed its teeth about the exact opposite: that a proposal through congress would begin selling off "our" lands to private interests.  Cue the Woodie Guthrie.
  • Two of the younger Toadrollers are attending a Catholic youth conference this week.  A letter from the busybody diocesan organizer stated that all prescription medicines and medicine schedules would be turned in to a medical practitioner on check-in, to be disbursed at need.  Apparently, there was an issue last year with two kids sneaking off and smoking pot, so naturally confiscation of medical prescriptions was in order.
  • In polite conversation with a colleague I'd recently met, it came up that he lived near Cleveland.  
    • "Really?  Whereabouts?  I was born in Cleveland."  
    • "Oh, in Solon.  It has a really good school system.  That's the most important thing, isn't it?"
  • Independence Day is one helluva marketing campaign, isn't it?  I love the American Idea, but loathe propagandized nationalism.  Every country has its independence day these days.  It's the latest thing.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Well Struck

The well struck golf ball provides a glimpse of perfection.

I can tell on impact what the shot will do and how closely its flight will match my intentions.

When I strike it pretty well, I can finish my swing then look to a spot the sky where I know it will be.  I tapped it a little to the left, but cutting right.  It's on a high trajectory.  Yup, there it is.

But when I strike it really well; when my thoughts were only on my target and the swing was as automatic as tying shoes; well, then I can simply look back to my target point on the ground and wait for the ball to drop in.

Joy.





Friday, June 17, 2016

Slowly, Centered

My back, in this past month, has demanded that I slow down.

While this takes me away from my routines, forces me to abandon interests, and causes discomfort... there are lessons to be learned.

Proceed slowly.

I'm destination oriented.  I want to get to that destination as quickly and efficiently as possible, be the destination achieved by walking or working or thinking.  The simplest of these, walking, cannot, per my back's dictates, be rushed.  And so as I walk, I walk slowly.  I find myself having to force myself to slow down every ten to fifteen steps.  In other words, going slow requires a conscious effort, for it is not my habit.  But when you walk slowly, you have time to notice the sun, the birds, the smells; that it's June.  That the year is 2016.  All good things to be aware of; all important things which are lost to me when I'm focused on my destination. 

Stay centered. 

I cannot lean to one side.  I cannot bend over to pick up something dropped.  I must squat (slowly- see above) to retrieve.  My balance must be centered both left and right and fore and aft.  Within these constraints, however, I'm incredibly flexible.  The proper golf swing serendipitously required just these things: being and staying centered and balanced, within which you execute acrobatic feats of flexibility. So my bad back is great for understanding the golf swing.

The glass is half-full, my friends.