Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
  • Somewhere in the crusty outer layer of small towns surrounding the warm creamy center that is Oklahoma City.
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    Thursday, August 31, 2006

    Those who can't do math...

    ...will lose their shirts to those who can.

    "Joe" is a homeowner who did not want to give his full name for this story because he’s ashamed to admit that he soon won’t be able to afford his monthly mortgage payments.

    In order to get the $800,000 house he bought early last year in California’s Silicon Valley, Joe got an “option ARM,” an adjustable-rate loan that lets him choose from a variety of payments every month. The smallest payment included no principal and less than 100 percent of the interest due. The unpaid interest was tacked onto the principal, creating “negative amortization.”

    Rest of the story here.

    One cure for the problem can be found here.

    Posted by Tom, 8/31/2006 6:46:33 AM (Permalink). 7 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    My favorite teacher

    Mr. Davis taught Geometry & Calculus. He was notorious for his habit of testing all sorts of knowledge, not just math. Under the school rules, he had the right to test on anything he covered in class. So he almost never gave a math test that was not in the form of story problems, and all of his teaching examples were taken from history, geography, politics, business, current events, and even pedestrian subjects like construction and carpentry.

    We all thought he was a hardass of the first order. Then in calculus class, which was a mere half-dozen students, he told us a story in the waning days of my senior year: When he was our age, he took the SAT under the old scoring system, and missed a scholarship cutoff by 2 points. He couldn't retake it (for reasons I forget -- I think retakes weren't allowed then), so he worked his way through college in a rubber factory, pulling forms out of the oven 10 hours a night, catching a little sleep, going to class, studying, catching a little more sleep, then back to work.

    2 years he did this, sweating his butt off, getting burned multiple times, always exhausted, always running on empty. Every night, he said, there was one thought on his mind: 2 points. Pull a form -- 2 points. Get burned -- 2 points. Collect a meager check -- 2 points. Pay the bursar -- 2 points.

    Mr. Davis' dad was a tool & die maker. Mr. Davis had the opportunity to apprentice to his dad and make a very respectable middle-class living in the skilled trades. In the end, he turned it down and decided to get his teaching certificate instead, working for half the pay he could have earned. He told himself that he would be merciless in his pursuit of pounding every spare scrap of knowledge into his students. He would drill them on everything he could think of. Why? For 2 points. All he wanted was one student who beat that damned test and got a scholarship out of it.

    20-odd years later, from my senior year, he got 3 -- the first our school had ever had -- all from that calculus class.

    Posted by Tom, 8/29/2006 8:06:16 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Spread. The. Word.

    Watch the second trailer. It's intense.

    I find myself excited at the prospect of someone calling the government on the carpet, if only to watch the heroic weaseling that must inevitably ensue. On the other hand, I fear a "conspiracy theory" type movie. I don't want to see another JFK or Michael Moore movie. I don't want to see insinuation and half-truth. I want to see hard facts, and bureaucrats squirming under the microscope. Please oh please tell me that's what I'm going to get.

    Posted by Tom, 8/29/2006 5:41:02 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, August 28, 2006

    New fence is DONE

    I hereby pronounce this project complete. I have just finished wiring up the electric fence, and Zoe the Dumbhead has already tested it for me. Zeus is treating it with caution even though he's only been zapped by the old electric fence. Apparently you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

    Lessons learned the hard way:

    1) Oklahoma clay is like granite when it hasn't rained recently, and sticks to shovels and pickaxes like superglue when it has.
    2) Jackhammers are heavy. Ever wonder what the "shrug" move in weightlifting is for? It's for using a jackhammer.
    3) Soldering irons get hot. Really hot. So does solder.
    4) It's dang hot outside in August in Oklahoma.

    Many thanks to Eric, Lisa, John, Thomas, and Kelly for all their help.

    Posted by Tom, 8/28/2006 2:47:58 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    It's about time!

    Finally, the government has produced an anti-drug commercial that doesn't treat us like imbeciles:

    I smoked weed and nobody died.
    I didn't get into a car accident, I didn't O.D. on heroin the next day, nothing happened.
    (Shot widens to show the guy with two friends sitting on the couch)
    We sat on Pete's couch for 11 hours.
    Now what's going to happen on Pete's couch? Nothing.

    Link to page with video

    Now if they could just stop pretending that there's only one choice, and then see their way clear to not wasting taxpayer money on this whole crusade, we might find something to agree about.

    Posted by Tom, 8/28/2006 10:36:17 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, August 27, 2006

    Fence Nearing Completion

    Continuing the story of the new dog yard, here's an update. First, pictures of yours truly mixing cement in preparation for setting a corner post...

    ... and the finished product ...

    One down, 49 to go...

    Some shots of the finished product...

    Some of you may remember Zeus the destructo-dog. Well, he's equally adept at tearing apart chain-link fences. Tears it right off the posts. I'm not kidding -- I wish I was making this up.

    So anyway, we added a little disincentive for Zeus, in case he decides to start chewing on this nice new fence. It's a fence that bites back!

    The only things left to do are connect the zap-o-matic fence to the power source, bury the cables, and start tearing down that old privacy fence. Woot!

    Posted by Tom, 8/27/2006 9:12:48 AM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, August 25, 2006


    I've been watching my hit tracker for a while now, with some amusement. It tells me where people are logging in from, what page they were referred by, and in some cases what search terms they used (as with Google).

    First, I think I know who's coming in from Cleveland, OH. I have no clue who's my regular in Albuquerque, NM. But hello to you both.

    Amusingly, my two most popular sources of "random" connections seem to be my rants about Dell and General Motors. Dell has me linked at their customer relations blog, and that is generating hits like nobody's business. I'd like to note, for the people at Dell, that I did issue a later statement that they did make up for a lot of my frustration. My GM hits, based on the Google search terms, seem to largely be coming from frustrated home mechanics searching for "tension bar GM 3.1 liter", which of course is a source of endless amusement.

    Anyway, howdy y'all. Hope you like wallowing in my crapulence as much as I do.

    Posted by Tom, 8/25/2006 4:00:13 PM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, August 23, 2006


    Check out this video recreating classic arcade games using common household objects.

    Posted by Tom, 8/23/2006 6:51:04 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, August 22, 2006

    Brain Echoes

    Anyone who's read a significant amount of Stephen King knows well his penchant for dropping little bits of poetry or imagery or song lyrics into the story, that one character or another can't seem to get out of their heads. One of the better-known is the repetition, throughout the novel It, of the rhyme:

    He thrusts his fists against the posts, and still insists he sees the ghosts

    Lately I feel like I'm living in a Stephen King novel. I've got all these little turns of phrase that I've seen or heard somewhere that refuse to shut up. Sometimes they keep me up at night. Wonder if that means I'm going crazy like one of King's characters. Here's a sampling:

    ...see the stars shining like nails in the night... (U2, "Exit") a madman laughing at the rain... (Soul Asylum, "Runaway Train")

    ...when the stars threw down their spears, and watered heaven with their tears... (William Blake, "The Tiger")

    There's more, but I can't think of them right now. Funny how sometimes they shout at me, but when I want to recall them, they hide from me.

    Posted by Tom, 8/22/2006 6:30:51 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Yay, government!

    An officially induced panic

    More than a week after the US and UK announcements that an alleged terror plot to blow up commercial airliners flying from Britain to the US had been foiled, the official claims are unraveling. Authorities have been unable to provide any concrete evidence to back up the story that police raids and mass arrests in Britain thwarted an imminent attack that would have taken the lives of thousands of transatlantic travelers.

    Significant details, in fact, have come to light that indicate the opposite. Not only has it been revealed that no bombs were actually in the process of being assembled, but none of the suspects—British-born Muslims, who at this point remain in custody without having been charged—had purchased airline tickets. Some did not even hold passports.

    It is becoming increasingly evident that the government-media hysteria about the alleged plot was prompted not by security concerns, but rather by a politically motivated desire to divert attention from the growing crisis of both the Bush and Blair governments.


    It is now clear that there was no imminent attack to be thwarted. But the massive provocation unleashed by Washington and London has succeeded in creating a climate of near-hysteria, at least within official circles, the media, the airline industry, and police agencies, that has spawned a string of incidents in which minor occurrences were sensationalized and reported, replete with wild claims and lurid rumors, as new “terror events.”

    ...and the whole thing just sort of fades off the radar. The threat was bogus, but everybody feels safer, and gives government credit for making them feel that way. The critics and cynics are duly chastised and remain so, because now that "the crisis has been averted", there's no need to keep rehashing the event. The "boys in blue" are just doing their best, ya know?

    God, I get tired of this crap.

    Posted by Tom, 8/22/2006 6:41:27 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Sunday, August 20, 2006

    The Kleptocracy is at it again

    Done nothing wrong? Got lots of cash? Better hope you don't run into a cop, 'cuz he's allowed to steal it from you. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals says so:

    A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that if a motorist is carrying large sums of money, it is automatically subject to confiscation. In the case entitled, "United States of America v. $124,700 in U.S. Currency," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit took that amount of cash away from Emiliano Gomez Gonzolez, a man with a "lack of significant criminal history" neither accused nor convicted of any crime.

    To recap: you're already losing a third to a half of your income to taxes, which are extracted from you under the threat of force. But if you happen to have a little too much after that, they can just keep taking it from you, apparently until you don't have "too much" anymore.

    I'm curious, for you supporters of the "social contract" delusion: what kind of contract allows one party to steal from the other, makes that same party the ultimate arbiter of all disputes, and allows that same party to unilaterally change the deal at will, such that it can demand more and more of the other party, without notice?

    Posted by Tom, 8/20/2006 6:38:17 PM (Permalink). 2 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Friday, August 18, 2006

    Libertarian bumper stickers

    I sometimes wish I had an old beat up car to drive to work, so I could have some of these on display. Guess I'll just have to settle for blogging them. Here's some of my favorites:

    The 2nd Amendment IS the equal rights amendment

    Pro-environment, pro-human, pro-capitalism

    I'm pro-choice on everything!

    My vehicle, my choice: keep your laws off my SUV

    Those who can, do; those who can't, govern

    The DEA: practicing medicine without a license

    Save the environment: Repeal a Law

    Corporations are created by governments

    Give Iraq OUR constitution: we're not using it!

    Ignore your rights and they'll go away

    I fear government more than terrorism

    How on Earth could 121,068,721 people be so dumb?

    That last is the number of people, according to one website, voting either Republican or Democrat in the 2004 presidential election. I thought about adding in the Nader voters, but figured that would be petty.

    The cream of the crop, in my opinion, are these:

    God gave you free will, libertarians let you use it

    Just vote libertarian until you're too free

    The beast won't starve itself

    And of course, no list of this sort would be complete without the classic:

    Who is John Galt?

    Posted by Tom, 8/18/2006 6:05:16 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    "Macs are more expensive than PCs"

    Not anymore.

    Posted by Tom, 8/18/2006 7:15:41 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thursday, August 17, 2006


    I've finally found the time to get the comment feature working again. Enjoy!

    Posted by Tom, 8/17/2006 6:01:04 PM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006


    I first learned of namaste in a book called My Grandfather's Blessings, by Rachel Remen, MD (a book I highly recommend, by the way). Namaste literally translated means "a reverential bow to you", and is more contextually translated by the Wikipedia in some of the following ways:

    The Spirit in me meets the same Spirit in you.
    I greet that place where you and I are one.
    I salute the Light of God in you.
    I bow to the divine in you.

    I'm partial to Dr. Remen's translation, "I see the divine spark within you". It is a greeting of respect and value, of discarding the differences which separate and embracing the sameness which unifies. As one might imagine from the literal translation, it is often accompanied by a gesture -- a bow with both hands in front of the body, palm-to-palm with fingers straight -- easily recognized as a typical Eastern method of greeting, much as a handshake is in the West.

    I have only encountered namaste once in the context of Christianity, but I would like to encounter it more. Ironically, some of my fellow Christians with whom I've shared Dr. Remen's book have reacted negatively to such ideas. Rather than recognize the love and respect inherent in a concept like namaste, they adopt a "not invented here" attitude and shun association with it. It's as though spiritual truth does not exist unless they can find it literally spelled out in the Bible.

    Others have said that bowing to another person is blasphemy (no, I'm not making this up). But the point of namaste is not worship of the other person. It is acknowledging the divine within them, whether we call it "Jesus living in their hearts" or something else. And if we are to go the next step and say, as some do, that Jesus is not present in the hearts of unbelievers, we still must acknowledge that God loves them, and thus their lives are touched by the Holy.

    Of course, the most obvious response, if such people were willing to listen, is to point out that the life of Jesus was a continuous practice of namaste. Jesus made a point of recognizing the value of each person He met, of acknowledging that all are loved by God, and building on that measure of sameness. It is not that He never disagreed with anyone, as His relationship with the Pharisees surely attests, but even those He disagreed with were welcome to share God's love with Him. I believe Jesus saw the potential for holiness in everyone He encountered, even those who would eventually call for His execution. He continually preached a message of reaching out to those we see as different or alien, of challenging ourselves to find common ground with them.

    More literally, Jesus preached a message that displays the principle of namaste almost word for word, in Matthew 25:31-46, particularly verses 34-40:

    34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

    37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

    40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

    41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

    44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

    45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

    Here, God identifies Himself with those seen as "lesser" or "different" or "unworthy", and challenges those who would ignore or mistreat them to "see the divine spark" and serve it. How is this not namaste?

    It is my belief that namaste is a Christian value too, and that my fellow believers need not feel threatened by the fact that another tradition has identified, labeled, and formalized it. I believe that if we are to be serious about following the example of Jesus, we have to be practicing namaste. We should be constantly seeking that divine spark within others that we can acknowledge, honor, and value. Granted, it is easier to find in some than in others, but that is no excuse for not trying.

    I believe the act of seeking and seeing that divine spark is more important than the physical gesture of namaste. However, I think there is a place for that as well. As I mentioned, I have only encountered namaste in a Christian context once (it is also the only time I have personally encountered it in any context). The lady who performed the gesture is, in my local church community, highly respected and above petty reproach for her piety. But she did perform it, in the middle of a workshop designed to open our hearts to one another, as a symbol of her recognition that we are all beloved by God. She did it this way because we have no equivalent of namaste in Western culture or Christianity, at least to my knowledge. But she did not forsake her faith in so doing. The gesture seemed out of place among a group of Americans, and because it seemed so, it caused us to stop and reflect more deeply on what it meant. If someone sneezes, we say "God bless you", without really thinking about the full meaning of what we've said, and the person who sneezed generally doesn't either. However when someone does something unusual, that does not "fit" in our cultural context, we are forced to take the time to contemplate it. And so it was with her use of the formalized namaste gesture.

    Personally, I have formally practiced namaste only once, though I believe I will do so again. I recently had a discussion with a fellow message boarder with whom I've argued quite strenuously and at times venomously in the past. I could feel the tension rising as we staked out our opposing views, and I really did not want to argue with him yet again. So as plainly and as simply as I could, I stated my position, acknowledged his right to his opposing view, and closed my post with "Namaste", as one might sign a letter "Sincerely yours" or whatever. I don't know if he already knew the definition of the word, or if he went and looked it up, but peace fell over our conversation. Suddenly we were able to simply coexist in our opposition, though connected by our mutual recognition of the other person's right to his own opinion without needing to ascribe evil motives to the holding of that opinion. We never really reached a consensus on the issue at hand; we seemed to have lost the need to do so.

    Maybe what the world needs is less pushing to create consensus. Like the mountain metaphor, what if we stopped trying to force connection and agreement where there is none, and instead focused on the connection that already exists? What if every discussion or debate began with a reciprocal exchange of formal recognition of the other person's right to disagree, and to hold on to their disagreement even at the end of the conversation? What if we all practiced some form of namaste?

    (originally posted at Cross and Flame)

    Posted by Tom, 8/16/2006 7:14:06 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    It's about time

    I've always wondered why people in wheelchairs have to spend all their time at nose-to-crotch level. Finally, someone's doing something about it. Well, OK, Dean Kamen already did, but I think the new design is spiffier. It also looks like a certain other Dean Kamen design.

    Posted by Tom, 8/16/2006 7:01:24 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    V for Vendetta

    I finally saw this movie, though I probably should have seen it in the theatres. As one might imagine for a libertarian-themed movie, I liked it. It was a bit comic-bookish, but I suppose that goes with the territory, since it was inspired by a comic book.

    The film's major flaw, in my opinion, is the use of a "burning the Reichstag" plot device, though I must grant it was well done. I just think it's a bit played out, and it is primarily for this reason that I place Serenity above it in the list of the past year's libertarian films. (Other reasons include a much more sympathetic lead in Malcolm Reynolds and "frickin' outer space!", of course). Serenity's government created horror entirely by accident, with a nice "road to Hell/good intentions" layer that was far more satisfying.

    Beyond that, V for Vendetta was a good film, if occasionally disturbing (Evey's journey to placing something higher than her own life, for example). Since it's been a theme in my conversations of late, I especially enjoyed the illustration of how those holding power in government continually and remorselessly escalate violence and aggression, never stopping to consider that they might be in the wrong. It is only in the consciences of lowly subordinates (Inspector Finch, the soldiers in the final scene), who have not yet given up their humanity entirely in exchange for power, that any mercy or empathy is found.

    Posted by Tom, 8/15/2006 7:28:52 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

    Here's how I rate comedies:

    10: Laughed so hard I couldn't breathe, tears rolling down my cheeks, stomping and pounding the armrest of the chair.

    7: Laughed out loud

    5: Found it amusing, got a few chuckles, brought smiles to my face throughout

    3: A few smiles.

    1: Stupid.

    On this scale, the American Pie movies got about a 5, There's Something About Mary gets about an 8, and the last 2 Austin Powers movies get a 10 (primarily for the silhouette scenes). Talladega Nights gets a 5.

    Funniest line: When Grandma Bobby is throwing out the grandsons' violent toys, and the little guy says "Aw, grandma, not my prison shank!"

    Posted by Tom, 8/15/2006 6:23:59 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, August 14, 2006

    Seen Elsewhere...

    I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I ran over and yelled "Stop! Don't do it!"

    "Why shouldn't I?" he said.

    I said "There's so much to live for!"

    He replied "No, there isn't. Life is pointless."

    Quickly trying to find some common ground, I asked "Are you religious or atheist?"

    He said "Religious."

    I said "So am I! Are you Christian or Buddhist or something?"

    He said "Christian."

    I said "So am I! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"

    He said "Protestant."

    I said "So am I! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"

    He said "Baptist."

    I said "So am I! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"

    He said "Baptist Church of God."

    I said "So am I! Are you original Baptist Church of God or Reformed Baptist Church of God?"

    He said "Reformed Baptist Church of God."

    I said "So am I! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?"

    He said "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915."

    I said "Die heathen scum!" and pushed him off the bridge.

    Posted by Tom, 8/14/2006 9:15:51 AM (Permalink). 1 Comment. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, August 8, 2006

    Goodbye, Blackie

    My grandfather just told me that his dog Blackie died recently. He said that Blackie had been slowing down for quite a while, and that he must have decided it was time to go. Blackie took off one day, as many dogs do when they feel the end coming, and found himself a nice shady spot under an oak tree to lie down and breathe his last.

    Gramps searched for him all day and couldn't find him. The neighbor's son Mike found him the next day under his oak tree.

    In his characteristic manner, Gramps visited with Blackie one last time, and noting the beauty of the spot Blackie had picked, decided that he would bury Blackie right there. As he said, it's where Blackie wanted to be, and Gramps was not about to question his judgment.

    Sometimes I'm jealous of the way a dog lives and dies. They get an oak tree. We get a sterile hospital room with machines and tubes and such. It's just not fair.

    Posted by Tom, 8/8/2006 5:56:36 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Even their kids get it...

    Reason has a nice little blurb about the BATFE's recent drawing contest for kids. One of the winning entries just has to be seen to be believed:

    The irony is so thick, you could beat down a recalcitrant gun owner with it.

    Posted by Tom, 8/8/2006 7:16:25 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Monday, August 7, 2006

    Lady in the Water


    I've heard the complaints that there's no surprise ending. Shaddap. As a friend of mine likes to say, expectations are merely premeditated resentments. A director like M Night Shyamalan needs to be appreciated for the stories he chooses to tell, and each of these in and of itself, not as part of a body of work with some gimmick repeated ad nauseam. Yes, some of his films have had the cool twist at the end. But The Village sent a subtle signal that the director was changing his direction and looking for new storytelling techniques, so the whiners with regard to Lady in the Water's lack of surprise ending are just too wrapped up in themselves to pay attention.

    What I'm trying to say here is, if you're the type of person who can't take the risk on even as highly regarded an artist as Mr. Shyamalan without having someone else's opinion in hand, save us all the trouble and just don't see it. But if you can put your self to the side, experience the story as it's being told, and simply revel in its telling, you're in for a real treat.

    Posted by Tom, 8/7/2006 7:00:57 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Git R Done!

    So I started working on the new dog fence this weekend. Drilling holes with a 1-man auger is definitely easier than with clamshell posthole diggers, but it still sucks when the ground you're digging into is approximately the hardness of diamond. As my boss would say, it took all day and cost at least a hundred dollars. And since it was about a billion degrees outside (actually about 104), I went through almost a case of bottled water, all of which came out through my pores. Anyway, here is a yard full of holes, from two angles, with the existing fence in the background:

    The holes next to the house required some "percussive maintenance", since the foundation extends a few inches out from the walls on all sides. That led to this cheeseball pic:

    More coming as work progresses.

    Posted by Tom, 8/7/2006 7:46:25 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Happy Centennial, .30-06!

    Here's an excellent article by Massad Ayoob on the history and use of this classic cartridge.

    Posted by Tom, 8/7/2006 7:29:31 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, August 2, 2006

    Tom vs. the Alternator

    We own a 1995 Oldsmobile Achieva. Recently, the alternator went bad. Since I've replaced an alternator before, I elected to replace this one myself and save labor costs.

    For those that don't know, this is the typical procedure for replacing an alternator, which sits right on top of the engine:

    1) Disconnect battery cable.
    2) Get a big wrench and torque the tension pulley, creating slack in the serpentine belt, and remove same from around alternator pulley.
    3) Remove 2 bolts holding the alternator to the engine.
    4) Disconnect wires from alternator.
    5) Connect wires to new alternator.
    6) Bolt into place.
    7) Replace belt.
    8) Reconnect battery cable.

    Simple, huh?

    Now, here is the sequence of events for doing the same thing to a GM vehicle with a 3.1 Liter V6 engine:

    Day 1:
    1) Disconnect battery cable.
    2) Search for tension pulley.
    3) Consult Chilton's manual.
    4) Search again for tension pulley.
    5) Get a flashlight.
    6) Nope, not there...
    7) OK, that must be it. But how do you reach it?
    8) Look inside wheel well for removable access panel.
    9) Consult Chilton's manual again.
    10) Decide the Chilton's people have never actually worked on a GM vehicle with a 3.1 Liter V6 engine
    11) Pack everything up 'cuz it's getting dark, resolve to ask guys at auto parts store.
    12) Log in to Chilton's website in hopes of finding updated documentation.
    13) Find updated documentation. Pay $19.95 to get it, even though it should be free for owners of the printed manual. Note the requirement of a special tool.
    14) Search Auto Zone's website for tool.
    15) Re-word search.
    16) Re-re-word search.
    17) Re-re-re-word search.
    18) Browse through categories looking for anything having to do with serpentine belts.
    19) Find "belt tool". Note part number.

    Day 2:
    20) Go to Auto Zone on lunch break, buy tool, which is essentially a long flat bar with a doohickey for socket drivers on the end.
    21) After work, attach 13mm driver to tool, attempt to fanagle it into place.
    22) Attempt #2.
    23) Attempt #3. Why the %$#@ does GM make these cars so hard to work on?
    24) Curse GM's engineers.
    25) Get tool into place. Attempt to torque tension pulley.
    26) Realize that tool is merely turning the bolt that pulley is attached with.
    27) Wonder how to get the pulley to move without the bolt moving.
    28) Flashlight.
    29) Curse bad viewing angle, but get vague impression of a squarish hole in tension arm. Hypothesize that socket attachment block on tool actually fits into that hole.
    30) Remove socket from tool, test hypothesis.
    31) Success! Belt removed from alternator. Mentally note that pulley turns opposite direction from Chilton's documented procedure. Wonder again if they've ever actually worked on a GM vehicle with a 3.1 Liter V6 engine.
    32) Disconnect first bolt from alternator.
    33) Wonder how in the heck to access second bolt.
    34) Curse GM's engineers.
    35) After much contortion, remove second bolt.
    36) Attempt to lift alternator from engine. Wonder why it's so difficult.
    37) Note existence of 3rd bolt. What the hell?
    38) Note that 3rd bolt holds a plastic bracket keeping all the nearby cables and hoses in line.
    39) Attempt to remove 3rd bolt. Vainly go through entire collection of sockets looking for one that fits.
    40) Curse GM's engineers.
    41) Decide that plastic bracket is a fancy way of doing the work some zip ties could do just as well. Grab wire snips, chew bracket in half.
    42) Remove alternator.
    43) Disconnect wires.
    44) Discover for completeness' sake that socket required would have been a deep 10mm. Note absence of same in toolbox.
    45) Connect wires to new alternator.
    46) Re-attach bolts, including 3rd bolt which is now basically superfluous.
    47) Torque tension pulley, place belt over alternator pulley.
    48) Clear off tools, have wife start car.
    49) Remember that bolts are not tight yet, live dangerously and tighten them with engine running.
    50) Curse GM's engineers.

    Posted by Tom, 8/2/2006 7:04:53 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Apparently, they do end...

    The telecom tax of 1898, created to pay for the Spanish-American War, has finally ended after 108 years of oppressing Americans. Social Security is still looking to go belly-up at or around 2040 (or so I hope), so apparently it takes 100 years, more or less, to get rid of a tax.

    Of course, there's another interpretation: it took 108 years to actually pay for the damned war. This would be yet another reason to stop picking fights with people. Your great-grandchildren will still be footing the tab long after you're dead.

    Posted by Tom, 8/2/2006 6:59:51 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...