24 December 2005

More Ford

From the Alternate Brain Mail Bag, a reply to my email to Ford on their commitment to GLBT advertising:

Thank you for writing.

At Ford we value diversity among all of our constituents and pride ourselves on strong and clear values - respect for our customers, communities, employees, suppliers and dealers; acceptance of our differences; inclusion of different people with different perspectives; and integrity to always do the right thing. We value all people - regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and cultural or physical differences. This is a strong commitment we intend to carry forward with no exception. We are pleased to clear up any misperceptions and get back to doing what we do best - building the best cars and trucks in America.

Thank you again for contacting Ford.

Customer Relationship Center
Ford Motor Company [my emphasis]

Cross-posted at the Brain.

18 December 2005

Classic Woodies

At my age, all my woodies are 'classic', but I digress...

This is an article in my local paper, the Sierra Sun, about preserving Lake Tahoe's maritime heritage. Good picture of some old Tahoe boats, and a link to the Tahoe Maritime Museum.

I like old anything: bikes, cars, trains, planes, boats, outboard motors, tractors, you name it. I guess it's because they were a lot newer when I was young. Maybe part of the nostalgia stems from the fact that we don't have to put up with them anymore, or they hark back to a simpler, less time-sensitive go-go-go society.

In the case of bikes and planes, the old ones sound better than the new ones, too.

08 December 2005

Paul Teutul Sr.

Everybody's favorite New York biker is Paul Teutul of Orange County Choppers. There's an interview with him in Newsweek Online.

For a guy who loves building motorcycles, collecting muscle cars and has a walrus mustache streaming across his face, you wouldn't think Paul Teutul Sr.'s favorite beverage would be club soda. But then again his favorite smell is glue. And his best memory is getting sober.

NEWSWEEK: What's in your driveway right now?

Paul Teutul Sr.: Oh geez. I don't know if we have enough time. I have an assortment of muscle cars. I have a '70 GTO, '69 Camaro 427, a 1969 442. I have a '41 Willies, a '33 Ford Hot Rod. I have a 1960 Corvette, 2006 Z06 Corvette - that's a 500 horsepower 'vette, a limited number are made. I have a Mercedes AMG 55, I have a 1970 396 Nova Supersport, I have a 1967 427 Shelby, a 427 Cobra, I have a '67 396 Chevy Nova.

Life's a bitch, huh, Paul? (sigh) Read and enjoy.

11 November 2005

Green cabs

Tami pointed me here. I'll be waiting to see how these hold up under the right foot of most NYC cabbies.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co. on Thursday introduced a mini-fleet of hybrid taxicabs to serve New York City, part of its push to promote cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles.


09 November 2005

Service vs. Oil change

I get asked, "F-man, you talk about service every 3000 miles. What's the difference between a service and an oil change?" Well, my little Lugnuts, let me 'splain.

An oil change is just that. Unscrew the drain plug, drop the oil, unscrew the filter and replace, fill with oil, see ya. We don't do oil changes.

A service entails:

Drive car around the block to see how it drives.

Bring it in, check all the lights, wipers, and horn.

Put it up, remove oil filter, and start oil draining. Pull a front and rear wheel, check brakes and hardware, set tire pressures and check tire wear and condition, check for leaks or unsafe conditions underneath. Check exhaust system for leaks and damage, check suspension for damage and wear, and proper operation. Replace drain plug and filter. Lower car.

Fill with oil. Check condition of belts and hoses. Check fluid levels and top off as necessary. Check anti-freeze protection and adjust as necessary. Check for any anomalies under the hood (frayed wires, damage, etc.), and prepare report for customer. Finally, put a service sticker on the inside of the windshield so the customer knows (easily) when he/she sould bring the car back for the next service.

That'll cost you $50, money well spent for the peace of mind to know nothing unexpected should pop up. If you want anything less, go to Juffy Lube or Auto Spa.

That's the difference between an oil change and a service. What would you rather have done?

02 November 2005

Since November is here

I'd like to take this time to remind you to have your car looked over by your local mechanic in preparation for winter (For those who live in LA, Arizona and the like, isn't it time you changed your oil anyway?). One thing I'm especially concerned about, in the areas where winter is a reality, are your tires. Have them looked at before it snows. If there's any doubt, get new ones.

A few links:

My post on tires.

Gord's post on winterizing your vehicle.

Gord's post on getting small engines in shape for the cold weather.

Be ready for winter driving. It could save you money and your life.

22 October 2005


Using the parts inside a single molecule, scientists have constructed the world's smallest car. It has a chassis, axles and a pivoting suspension. The wheels are buckyballs, spheres of pure carbon containing 60 atoms apiece.

[. . .]

This is the next big thing in the health care industry and also the vehicle to build infrastructure in inhospitable climates. Just an aside, nanomachines can also be used as a weapon as I illustrated in Technocracy. Nanotechnology is the next frontier. I feel like I did when I was young, watching the Apollo missions to the Moon. Oh the possibilities . . .

Great thanks to the Renegade. Cross-posted at the Brain.

10 October 2005

Not good

Auto parts supplier Delphi Corp became the largest auto firm in US history to declare bankruptcy when it announced it was seeking Chapter 11 protection for its US divisions.

While Delphi and its former parent company, General Motors, insisted that there would be no supply interruptions, the move is certain to reverberate across the industry.

[. . .]

This is not good from where I sit. Even though I bitch about Delphi's (and GM's) quality and their downhill spiral since 1973, this opens the door for even less dependable manufacturers. I'm of the 'Better The Devil You Know' school. Not only that, but GM talks bullshit when they say there'll be no interruptions.

[. . .]

Delphi may be the largest, but it is not the first US supplier to seek bankruptcy protection as a result of stiff competition from abroad and shrinking demand for American cars.

It employs some 185,000 workers, including 35,000 in the United States. [Link]

[. . .]

You know there will be layoffs, and while current year manufacture might not be affected. God help them if they have to retool a part thanks to recall. I remember in '92 (not long after Ford bought control of Mazda) the Probes of that year (built by Mazda) had a bad run of vehicle speed sensors. They started going bad a couple months in (December '91 -January '92) and the recall began shortly after. Some cars were inoperative for months until capacity could catch up with demand.

Also something to ponder, the American taxpayer will probably have to pick up the tab for Delphi's pension commitment.

[. . .]

Delphi, which lost $4.8 billion last year, said that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. (PBGC) could take over the company's pension obligations, but the federal agency might not guarantee the full amount. For a retiree under age 65, the maximum benefit is $1,710.51 per month or $20,526.12 per year, an amount lower than the typical payout to Delphi workers.

[. . .]

This could be the beginning of the end of GM. Look for Buick and Pontiac to go the way of the Oldsmobile shortly, probably within 5 years.

06 October 2005

The $800 car . . . the reasons

I got customers in this cycle. It pains me to see them agonize over whether to fix a car they promised me they'd only run for the summer, the winter, until I find another one, you've grown to love it, whatever. I have a guy with an '85 Olds Custom Cruiser or some shit. You know the one, the big fat station wagon with the redwood trees on the side. V-8 of course, carbureted, a million miles on it. 5 years ago, he bought it 'just to get him through the winter'. 5 years ago. He's put more money into the fucking thing in the last 5 years, he could have bought 2 new ones . . . cash.

Every year it gets harder to get it though emissions inspection and every year it costs him more money. We beg him to get rid of it. I offered him $500 bucks for it just to get it away from him. Nope. He's got thousands into it and he can't bear to walk away from the investment. Rule: A car is not, never was, never will be, an investment. I don't give a shit if it's a classic, antique, whatever, you'll always sink more money into it than you ever get out of it.

Like the guy with the 20 year old Coupe DeVille with the 4100 HT motor (junk when it was new; we say the 'HT' stands for 'hand-tight') and a million miles on it and would rather stick close to a grand into it for a water pump and radiator instead of taking the plates off it and calling the scrap yard. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be a good mechanic. If he'd go to some of the other clowns in the area, the thing would be in the junkyard by now.

Anyway, try to stay out of the cycle of dumping money into a piece of shit. If you can buy new, do it and get rid of it before the warranty runs out. If you have to buy used, get the newest car you can and try to stick to the solid nameplates. And always, always have your mechanic look at a used car before any money changes hands.

The $800 car . . . revisited

Since I'm on the subject of used cars, let me talk to you about the side benefits of leasing. Every three years (generally) people turn in their lease cars. It might behoove you to check the local dealerships for any off-lease cars they might have. If they have a sharp sales manager, he'll sell it to you for a little more than the residual value of the vehicle.

We're talking relatively low mileage vehicles that have been just turned in. I know there are some lucky folks out there who got the last 4 of my wife's cars when they came off lease. Think about getting a $40,000 vehicle for a little over $19K, that was taken care of, with only 25,000 miles on it. Granted, they're V-8s and with the price of gas nowadays, but you get my point. Good cars like this come off lease every day and banks are happy to give 5 year loans on 'em.

Figure the $800 bucks you were prepared to pay for a car, the first couple oil changes and a brake job on the cheap car (necessary expenditures), and you've got a pretty good down payment. You can find a good $10,000 car out there that will last you a long time (if you change the oil, say it with me, EVERY 3000 MILES) and won't break down every other week.

It's just a thought if you can swing it. It might save money in the long run. A 3 year old Honda Accord, for example, should give you 10-12 good years with minimal repair costs. Same with Toyota's Camry and Nissan's Maxima. The Taurus (make sure it's a 6 cylinder) is no slouch either. Good reliable vehicles all that take a small bite out of your wallet at the pump and the repair shop.

05 October 2005

So you wanna drive in New York?

(Hunts Point, The Bronx - WABC, October 4, 2005) - A tanker truck burst into flames near the Bruckner Expressway in the Bronx Tuesday afternoon - shutting down the roadway and bringing some rail service to a halt. One person lost his life- the driver of the truck.
Police identified the driver as Harbey Munez, 46, of Queens. No other injuries were reported.

The accident is still causing major traffic trouble, and commuters who use the Bruckner Expressway are being warned to steer clear of the accident area Wednesday morning. Northbound lanes on the Bruckner Expressway are closed starting at Sheridan Avenue along with the southbound lanes at the Throgs Neck extension. Also, lanes in both directions on Bruckner Boulevard are closed from 138th Street to Hunts Point Avenue.

[. . .]

Traffic's gonna be fucked up for months as they fix the roadway.

02 October 2005

The $800 car

I know some of you say, 'F-man, you elitist, pretentious bastid, not everybody can afford to buy a new car. Some people have to by cheap cars because it's all they have to spend'.


If you're gonna spend money on a high-mileage and/or old car, fine. Have your mechanic look at it and make sure it's safe and won't break down next week. Thing is, don't sink money into it. If something breaks that costs say . . . more than $100 to fix, get rid of it and get another cheap shit to drive until it breaks. Oil changes and wear items (batteries, brakes, belts, bulbs, etc don't count).

Rule of thumb: Never put more money into a car than it's worth. If your mechanic says it needs a timing belt or a water pump and it'll cost $500, tell him to take the license plates off it and junk the thing. Ask him to find you antoehr cheap pice of shit to run until it dies.

Recognize the $800 car for what it is, temporary transportation. The only people who should really consider fixing cheap cars are folks who can do the work themselves. (Example, my old Hyundai Excel. I got it for nothing but the head was so warped I had to do a new head gasket every couple months. It was $16 for the gasket and it got to where it took me 20 minutes to change. I did nothing else to the car and threw it away after a couple years). Never, never buy one because you love the thing. Buy it because it starts and runs. At that point it doesn't matter what make or model it is, you just want it to run. When it stops running, get rid of it.

01 September 2005

Cuckoo's Nest

Harry took Mrs. Harry to New Brunswick (Canada) on vacation and he split today. The inmates are now running the asylum for 2 weeks . . . if the place remains standing that long. Mrs. F suggested I bring the dog to work to act as our adult supervision. Heh.

30 August 2005

GM recall

You see why I bitch about General Motors products? This is just the latest for this line of vehicles:

Make / Models : Model/Build Years:
CHEVROLET / TAHOE - 1999-2002
GMC / SIERRA - 1999-2002
GMC / YUKON - 1999-2002
GMC / YUKON XL - 1999-2002

Potential Number Of Units Affected: 804000





If I were you, I'd put a 'For Sale' sign on it (or trade it in) after the recall is completed and buy a Ford or Dodge. If you're into Japanese, Honda and Toyota are your best bets.

And a note: If you're ever wondering about the recall status of your vehicle, you can check out the NHTSA website to find out. More good shit here.

24 August 2005

Another loser

(Tampa-AP, August 23, 2005) - Former baseball star Dwight Gooden was being sought by police Tuesday on a felony warrant after he allegedly drove away from an officer who stopped him on suspicion of drunken driving.

Gooden, 41, left the scene of the traffic stop early Monday after refusing to get out his 2004 BMW to take a field sobriety test, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.

[. . .]

You have more talent than you deserve, you've had an outstanding career, and earned more money than God. Why the fuck do you have to throw it away for stupid shit? Been hanging around with Darryl Strawberry for too long, have ya? Idiot.

19 August 2005

Where I work

Harry's office.

Our cash register. Yes, that's all we use. Don't take credit cards neither.

Mmmmm . . . beer!

Only 2 bays. Quality over quantity. Looks like someplace you'd see in the desert, don't it?

The NYS inspection machines and dyno (sorry, I didn't sweep yet).

Ya think they could park 'em in a line when they drop 'em off?

16 August 2005

Saving on Gas: Use a little Sense.

Here's an article in the LATimes on what people are doing to stretch their gas money. It offers some solid tips and debunks some myths.

How about driving behind a big rig? That also can improve fuel economy.

"It's the same theory that Lance Armstrong exploits whenever he's riding in the Tour de France," Shames said. "He's taking advantage of the draft created by other riders to reduce the amount of effort he has to make."

However, experts don't recommend the technique for motorists because of the dangers of being in the trucker's blind spot.

I used to commute 70 miles a day in L.A. on a motorcycle whatever the weather, and I know a little about this. Drafting a truck, or "getting a tow", gets you out of the wind and it's warmer there, which is why I did it. You can hear your RPM increase when you hit the right place, which is a lot closer to the truck than is really comfortable, maybe ten feet, and you can maintain freeway speed with just a whiff of throttle. The air displaced by the truck's passage actually swirls in behind you and pushes you along. Some truckers don't like this and will do stuff to try and shake you. Take the hint. Most don't care, especially the ones who have helpers to wash you off the back of the rig if something goes awry. Your main wish is that the rig's brake lights work. Also, if there is some object on the roadway, you won't see it until you either run over it or the truck kicks it up in your face. I ran right over an entire car exhaust pipe and muffler once. A truck kicked it up and luckily it hit my front tire instead of my face. Thank God I was on a Triumph. It twitched once and went on. If I had been on a lesser-handling machine, they would have buried me with it as one lump. I absolutely recommend against this practice.

I think the best lines in the article are:

Even with the average price for a gallon of regular now at $2.71 and premium grades going for more than $3, most drivers aren't in a position to stop using their cars.

So they are responding in much the way they try to lose weight - with complex special diets, instead of by simply eating less and exercising more, Kloza said.

"It's like that scene in 'Goodfellas,' where one of the guys says, 'How come this food tastes so good?' 'Because it's stolen,'" Kloza quoted.

"When people save money on gasoline, it gives them an immediate sunny countenance. They think they pulled the wool on somebody."

I still keep a length of fuel hose in my handlebar. For emergencies only, you understand. It's an "Okie credit card".

Gas is still the cheapest thing you can buy for your car. Keep it all in perspective.

14 August 2005

The Ol' V & T R R

The last coupla Saturdays have been spent at Carson City Toyota & Scion finishing getting our new truck built. One more trip to Trimline Truck Caps & Accessories and we'll be done. Full report in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, while they were installing a few accessories, (among them: running boards for better footing during high-speed shootouts with the Feds), we had some time to kill so we went a little ways up the street toward downtown and paid a visit to the Nevada State Railroad Museum which is basically the resting place for the remains of the Virginia & Truckee Rail Road. We go by this place all the time and have always wanted to stop in and see it.

It's a comprehensive, but fairly small museum. The staff is pretty much volunteer retired gentlemen who are eager to have you see their baby, and are in no hurry. The two websites in the paragraph above were stamped on the back of my admission ticket by Casey Jones himself, who made sure I knew about it. $4 each, and well worth it.

The V.& T. R.R. was not a huge line, running mainly from the Transcontinental Railroad line in Reno south about 50 miles to Minden, with an east-west spur from Carson City to Virginia City. There are a couple of restored locomotives, with photos and placards on the history of each one. There are models of the ones that no longer exist, again with photos and histories.

There is quite a display, and some dioramas, on the history of the Chinese laborers who built the railroad. I didn't expect that, and it was pretty cool. At the diorama depicting the "Chinese Woodcutters", I came around a corner to find myself staring at the south end of a northbound mule. Good thing I'm used to that.

Out back of the museum proper is an old train shed, full of restored and unrestored rolling stock, including a French "40 et 8", for 40 men or 8 horses, which was donated by the French people in appreciation of Americans saving their asses in two world wars by riding in them. The barn was again staffed by cool old farts with all the time in the world to share stuff with you. One of 'em was wearing a 6thMarDiv cap. They were only in one little fight, at Okinawa. We spotted each others' Marine caps and got along swell.

There is a small, but well-stocked, gift shop. Translation: the joint is jam-packed. If there's more than three people in it, you do the "suck it in" dance to proceed. They have everything you would think they would, and more besides.

Probably the crown jewel of the joint is their running steam train and its one mile of track that you can ride on. We didn't, but we will. I want to see what happens: the locomotive and its two cars and caboose pulled out of the depot just like a regular train, but after it got out of sight, something happened. When it returned, the locomotive was backing up, pulling the caboose. I wanta watch the switch! I guess the track doesn't run in a complete circle, but I don't know.

It was fun and we'll pay it a return visit, I am sure.

Since I just know my review of this joint is going to have you making plans to visit, while you're there take the time to go a few blocks to the Nevada State Museum. I first went there when I was about ten years old and it still dazzles me. If the walk-through recreation of a silver mine doesn't get you, the extensive display of 19th century surgeon's tools sure will.

10 August 2005

Free Advice

Please, please, please, I can't say this enough, please bring a used car to me (or other reputable mechanic) to look at before you buy it.

I got these customers, a couple, hard as hell on cars. This past winter, they blew the transfer case and front differential out of their Jeep Grand Cherokee. Paid me a lot of money to fix it and they don't have much. Fine.

The male half of the couple gets a wild hair a couple months ago and buys this Mercedes S-something from a guy he works with who's moving to California. It's 15 years old. Ya think he would have had the guy bring it to me, or he'd get it and bring it to me, before he bought the fucking thing. It's a Mercedes, it's gotta be good, right? Yeah, right.

He drops it off this morning. He tried to drop it off before I got there to open up, but I beat him in. "When'd ya get that?" I ask.

"Couple months ago," he replies, sheepishly. "I made an appointment with Harry, it runs a little funny."

"Funny how?" I ask as I take his keys.

"You'll see," he says as he heads off towards his wife's Jeep. "Can't miss it."

Six hours later, I call him to tell him about the $1500 bucks for the exhaust he's gonna need and another $500 for the complete tuneup (I gave him the fuel filter and my labor to put it in, just to keep it idling so I could figure out what the fuck else was wrong. I could stall it by misting water on the sparkplug wires.), and the $250 for new driveshaft couplers (the vibration at 30 mph shook two of my fillings loose). I swear I heard him shit himself over the phone.

"The guy I bought it from said it was in good shape," he says.

"What did we say when we looked at it?" I asked knowing damn well what the answer would be.

"Uh, I didn't bring it to you."

Idiot. Pay up, sucka. We would have told you not to buy the fucking thing to begin with.

Note to potential used car buyers: Just because you can afford a luxury car at a good price, make sure you can afford to fix it. Before you buy that S-Class, find out what parts cost and then compare 'em to parts for less luxurious cars. It'll open your eyes.

04 August 2005


WASHINGTON -- Adriann Nelson remembers reading about the tragedy that took 2-year-old Cameron Gulbransen's life in October 2002 when his father accidentally ran him over while backing up his BMW X5 sport utility vehicle in the driveway of his Woodbury home.

"That poor family," Nelson of Dix Hills, recalls thinking at the time. A year and half later a similar tragedy would befall the Nelson family when an elderly relative backed over her 16-month-old son Alec when he was momentarily placed on the ground.

"You think this can't happen to you . . . you always read in the papers it's someone else," Nelson said Tuesday on Capitol Hill, where she, her husband and three surviving children traveled to push for auto safety legislation sponsored by Rep. Peter King.

[. . .]

How the fuck do you back over your kid? How the fuck do you put your infant on the ground when there are cars moving around? This is why I bitch at people about taking driving seriously. The shop is a madhouse, we have customers, their kids, their dogs all running loose in the morning as people are dropping off their shit. WTF? In 35 years, nobody has gotten backed over. Well . . . I almost backed over Harry once, but that was sorta intentional too.

You know how many times on my 30 mile drive to work every morning I see people reading the fucking paper as they're driving on the Long Island Expressway? Yeah, I drive fast, but the most I have in the way of distractions is when I light a cigarette. Jesus H. Christ, your car is not your fucking living room or your breakfast table. It's a couple tons of guided (sometimes barely) missile. You can fuck people (innocent people) up for a long time, maybe permanently. If you can't get your morning constitutional done before you get in your fucking car, get up earlier. What the fuck is so hard about that?

Driving is about getting you from Point A to Point B in relative comfort and haste. It is not a prick-waving contest. As I said, I drive fast. Don't bust your ass to get your little rice burner to pass me and then die. I drive 90 mph so long as I have open road. If you've gotta prove your car can reach 100, more power to ya, just keep it up, I'll let you go. If you get it up to 100 to pass me, because you don't like people driving faster than you, and then back off to 70, we're gonna have a problem.

This also goes to the left lane. THE LEFT LANE IS FOR PEOPLE WHO TAKE DRIVING SERIOUSLY! Rule of thumb: If people in the lane to the right are going faster then you, keep moving right until they're not. Jesus fucking Christ, there are a million other assholes out here with you, don't do 45 in the left lane, talking on your phone, playing with yourself, whatever. You're the same people who say, 'look at all the crazy people on this road'. Know why they're driving crazy? They're trying to get around YOU, shithead.

Don't weave through traffic, dickheads. You're not gonna get there any faster and you're gonna fuck somebody up. If there's bumper to bumper traffic moving at 65, be happy about it and stay in line.

Watch when you open your door. Christ Almighty, at least twice a month, somebody gets a door taken off in front of the shop. The post office is next door and the locals come up to check their mailboxes. Look in the mirror before you fling your fucking door open into traffic. You could lose an arm or a leg in the process.

Do not drive fast on side streets. What the fuck is wrong with you people? There are peoples' kids, pets, all sorts of shit. Do you think you're gonna ever have a good night's sleep again if you kill somebody's kid? How would you feel if somebody ran over your kid or dog or cat?

All I'm saying is driving requires your full attention and common sense. The stupid shit you do could ruin a lot of lives besides yours.

03 August 2005


If you're driving a sporty little Lexus and your vanity plate has some convolution of numbers and letters that spell 'attitude', don't be going 50 mph in the left lane when I'm trying to get home. I will show you attitude. Idiot.

30 July 2005

Status Report

2004 3.0L V-6 Ford Ranger Edge 2x4

Well, I bought this thing about 13 months ago and I'm just coming up on the 15,000 mile service. So far, so good. It's is fun to drive, very, and has better get up and go than a V-8 thanks to the 5-speed standard transmission and the 4.10:1 rear end gears (I can leave rubber on the first 3 shifts). It also handles like a sports car thanks to the suspension and 2 wheel drive. I call it my undercover mid-life crisis because I don't look like an old guy in a little sports car. (Mrs. F to old guys in little red sports cars: 'Sorry to hear about your dick'.) Only one drawback, it sucks in the snow. But this fall, I'm actually gonna spring for snow tires and throw a couple hundred pounds of sand in the bed. Either that or do what I did last year, drive the Mrs.' Explorer.

Just for info. Ford calls for a blended synthetic 5W-20 motor oil. I however have been using Mobil-1 0W-30 full synthetic and have had zero problems. No wear yet (I use a magnet and cheesecloth in the stream when draining the oil and have yet to see any visible wear metals). Trust me, this thing does not get babied. Aside from a daily 90+ mph run home, I use it for road calls and chasing parts around town. I am truly impressed with the vehicle and will probably trade it in (in a couple years) on a newer version of the same.

More reports to follow.

29 July 2005

Still working

Minor tweaks now. I'll be completely done later tonight. Another test post.


Don't use comments until further notice. I haven't set up Haloscan yet. I'll do it this afternoon and all the Blogger comments will be lost.

Comments are up.

28 July 2005

20 July 2005

For the record

This is not me:

[. . .]

Richie Wood escaped by running into a marsh, prosecutors say, but this time he couldn't run away fast enough. Mr. Wood will be arraigned on charges that he and other suspects stole a gold chain and a wallet from a passenger on the A train Sunday night.

Police sources say Wood and his friend intimidated the victim with a gun at the Grant Street station in East New York, threatening him with the weapon until forcibly grabbing the goods and running. He was arrested about 45 minutes later.

Police say the victim in this case was able to follow his muggers and point them out to police. Also Mr. Glen Moore, who suffered a fractured skull, is apparently doing much better. He's been discharged from Jamaica Hospital.

I been hearing shit about it for 2 weeks now. I'm not a criminal and I'm certainly not that stupid.

15 July 2005


As many of my readers here and at Alternate Brain know, I work in a small shop on the north shore of Long Island. There are 4 of us working (see the lineup in the sidebar) but we also have a regular cast of characters who show up on a regular basis. They come, hang out, get coffee, bullshit, and then leave. At any time of day at least one of 'em is around.

Joe and Ma: Joe owns a tree service . . . well, Joe is the tree service. When he needs help, he heads into Glen Cove and picks up a couple illegals for the day. Ma is Joe's dog (a 13 year old Pit Bull with eyes that look like Marty Feldman's) and adult supervision. Joe has about 10 pieces of equipment (bucket truck, dump truck, etc) but no place to park them so he leaves them in parking lots around town overnight. Inevitably, one of us is giving Joe and Ma a ride somewhere in the morning to get one of his trucks. I dropped them off at Burger King one morning where Joe left the bucket truck the night before. Ma was in heaven.

Franz the Kraut: A pain in the ass old German who has too much free time and knows everything. Reminds me too much of my old uncles, but I do keep my German fluent by practicing with him. At least once a week I'm telling him to 'shut the fuck up before I slap the old right outta ya'.

Bob the Admiral: The dried up old squid who lives across the street from the shop. He was blown off a destroyer during WW2 by a Kamikaze and spent like 4 days in the water before they found him. He sits on his front porch and watches all the women go into the Post Office (next door to the shop). The crusty old geezer yells at us across the street and gives us the finger. We yell back for him to get off the porch, he's scaring the children.

Grumman Dave: Former still photographer for Grumman Aerospace until he retired a couple years back and now has too much free time. His wife sends him up to us when she's had enough of him. Unlike the three above, he actually is a customer and has been for 30 years. That's why we don't tell him to get out as quickly as we do the others.

Clyde: Retired Nassau County cop. Works part time playing carpenter. He stops by in the evenings so he can drink beer before going home to his wife.

Jeff the Pimp: A brother who went to school with PDB. He thinks he's a big pimpin' playa but he ain't got two nickels to rub together. It's fun to watch the looks women give him when he lays his line on them. One of his favorites: 'Wasup, breakfast?'.

Shanghai Johnny: Chinese immigrant mailman who is fascinated by cars. I'm the only one who can understand him.

Kommissar John: The New York State legislator for our district. Republican, spitting image of former Connecticut governor (now convict) John Rowland. An asshole extraordinaire and I tell him every chance I get. He usually checks to see if my car is in the lot before he shows up. Tries to avoid me like the plague but his local office is line-of-sight from our door. Try to guess how many times I've mooned him. Yes, the locals are used to driving by the shop and seeing me in the lot, mooning somebody up the block.

So, aside from all the crazy shit being an in-demand mechanic entails (we're always busy, no comebacks) we have these clowns to put up with. But that's what makes us unique. It's a garage plucked off of Route 66 fifty years ago and dropped on Long Island. I wouldn't work anywhere else.

11 July 2005

Shit happens

I broke my finger today working on this piece-of-shit Subaru. That started the day off well. I reset it and taped it up and went on a road call to get one of our customers' cars that wouldn't start. Ran down to the IGA in town to find it was her husband's car and she didn't realize it had an alarm in it (Huh?). Once I reset it, it started. Oy! I get back and Harry sends me out again. Old guy runs his fat Lincoln off a 12 inch high curb. "Oh, it just has a flat tire," he tells Harry. When I get there it has 3 flats, he just saw the one on the driver's side. I pack him in my truck and call for the wrecker before dropping him at his house. I just put 2 new tires, ball joints, and swaybar links and bushings in the thing last month. He's gonna need new ones again along with more shit. Another old guy who shouldn't be driving, but that describles most of my customers. Then I had to deal with a guy with his Goddamn Sedan DeVille who's got a transmission torque converter malfunction that the body computer is seeing. This means, he can't get an inspection sticker. He's pissed at me because he doesn't want to spend $2200 to get the thing fixed. He's called Albany and the DMV and they tell him the same thing I do. He has to get it fixed. He says he shouldn't be forced to pay that much. I say, if you own a luxury car, be prepared to pay more for parts if shit breaks. If ya can't afford the parts, maybe you should be driving something that's cheaper to maintain.

25 June 2005

Road test

2005 Chrysler 300C

One of our customers brought one in the for service and inspection other day and told us to try it out. Has he seen us drive? Anyway, I got it first. Heh.

As I left the shop, I blipped the throttle, lighting up the tires and leaving rubber all the way to the stop sign. The 5.7L V-8 Hemi (Not the Elephant motors of the Sixties and Seventies but a suitable replacement, same thing for the '300C' nameplate. The car doesn't insult its legendary predecessors.) has more power than I would have thought; better than the pickup truck version.

I took off from the stop sign, working the throttle to keep traction instead of burning up $600 worth of tires. In half a city block I was up to 70 with neck-snapping performance. Next test: get it stopped before the next stop sign.

It did with aplomb and panache, and I was never worried about keeping the car straight or not getting it stopped (The brake calipers and rotors on the front are HUGE. No worries about fade here.) I sat there and grinned, definitely aroused. I was impressed . . . very. I took the opportunity to bring my breathing under control and wish for a cigarette (We dont' smoke in customers' cars), and look around the well-appointed interior. It was comfortable, the leather seats seem to envelop you like a good, familiar lover. The dash is laid out well and easy to read. My only problem is the shifter which stops at 'Drive' and then has the side-to-side '-'/'+' thing that's the current fad among automakers. Just give me the old 'P-R-N-D-3-2-1' and I'll be happy. I'm murder on automatic transmissions anyway and that's just one more complication I don't need when I'm in the process of blowing one up (That's why I have a 5-speed in my Ranger pickup; I can rebuild one of them in a 1/2 hour, in the dark, with a hand tied behind my back. 30 years in the industry and automatics are still pure fucking magic to me.).

Well back to the shop before I get in trouble (The 70 mph drag run went past the local police booth. I came back the other way.). The boys were wating when I got back and the shit-eating grin was still on my face. It told them volumes. We put it up on the lift and got the next surprise.

The running gear and suspension, the exhaust system, everything underneath was classic Mercedes-Benz engineering. No wonder it ran and handled like such a well-balanced car. Again, impressive.

Overall thoughts can be summed up easily. A good car. It's a luxury car, no doubt about it, though well appointed for under $30K. If it came in an AWD version, I'd consider one when the lease was up on the Mrs.' Explorer. A caveat, I don't know how their electronics will weather age, but if Daimler had as much influence as it seems, the engine control electronics should be above par. If you're in the market for a full-size luxury sedan, it's worth your time to give the 300C a test drive. Make sure you tell 'em you want the Hemi. Having too much horsepower is like being too rich or too thin.

07 June 2005

On parenting

Generally, I don't tell people what to do with their kids. Hey, they're your little delinquents, but I'll just offer a bit of advice, even though you parents say I couldn't possibly know what it's like because I don't have any.

If anything, teach them respect for authority and their elders. Your 17 year old gets in my face because he's been walking all over you for most of his life, I'm gonna drop him like a bad fucking habit. You give me any shit about it, I'm gonna drop you too.

Just to make this clear. You are not your kids' friend. You are their parent. Teach them that the world does not revolve around them. Because the first time they meet up with an asshole like me, they are gonna have a very rude awakening. That is all.

06 June 2005

Dog wisdom

Got this from another member of the Australian Cattle Dog Club of America:

Things we can learn from a DOG

Never pass up an opportunity to go for a joyride

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them

When it's in your best interest, practice obedience

Let others know when they've invaded your territory

Take naps and stretch before rising

Run, Romp and Play daily

Eat with Gusto and Enthusiasm

Be Loyal

Never pretend to be something you're not

If what you want lies buried, dig for it

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them

Thrive on attention and let people hug you

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do

On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree

When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body

No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout
- run right back in and make friends

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk

29 May 2005

Danica Patrick

INDIANAPOLIS -- Friday would have been ho-hum, just another day of outrunning every male driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Danica Patrick.

Except that this was the final practice, giving her game, set and match in the mind games leading up to Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

[. . .]

I don't see what the big deal is about her being a woman. Indy car drivers are all women anyway. Buncha whiny bitches.

25 May 2005


[. . .]

Industry watcher Sean Kane, who investigates auto safety issues for attorneys, uncovered at least 20 cases in which old tires, some barely used, have disintegrated causing accidents. The cases led to 10 deaths.

"We suspected for some time that the industry has been unwilling to tell the public how serious a problem it is," said Kane, a partner with Arlington, Va.-based Strategic Safety. "Tires as a commodity should have a shelf life or expiration date on them."

Kane isn't the only one concerned about this issue. Last week a British trade association, the Tyre Industry Council, issued the tire industry's first ever warning on the subject, imploring people to refrain from selling tires six years old or older and to not use any tires 10 years old or older.

In addition three major German auto manufacturers, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen, include warnings about using older tires in their owner's manuals. There is also a concern about spare tires, because they sit so long until needed.

Tires Degrade Over Time [my emphasis]

[. . .]

I can't stress this enough and I don't know how many times I've had this conversation with customers. They look at me sideways when I tell them they should replace tires that don't look bald or worn funny. Sunlight and heat have a deteriorating effect on your tires. So does feeling the curb with the right side rubber as you park. What's even worse is a car that sits for months at a time. Hitting potholes also distorts the steel belts under the tread. 45,000 - 60,000 miles should be the rule of thumb in normal driving conditions (10,000 - 15,000 miles/year), 4 - 6 years if you're like the little old ladies from the neighborhood who just go to church and the IGA. Might be a good idea to get a wheel alignment when you put those new sneakers on too. Your new rubber won't wear out as fast and the car will handle better.

24 May 2005

On The Road Again

Following up on my previous post, I am thrilled shitless to report another unqualified success: Toni's Hawg is wrinklin' the pavement once again!

One thing I've learned in 30+ years of fixing things is: always start in the cheap seats. Here's the rundown on the magic tricks I performed to get this little sucker goin':

1. Installed the correct grade of spark plug.
2. Filled the gas tank with the correct petroil mix
3. Aired up the tires
4. On the theory that you can only do so much to the bike, then you have to work on the rider, I educated her on the correct position of the choke thingie

Since I was leaving on a vacation, I snuck this little jet into her garage and beat feet, leaving her this note:
Offishul Documentation in the case of The Screaming Yellow Zonker aka “Toni’s Hawg”

This moped runs about as well as it’s ever going to. Remember, at 6000 feet it loses about 1/5 of its horsepower. This drops it from about 2hp to 1.6hp. It wouldn’t be as noticeable in a bigger engine.

Truth is, if it were a leaf blower, I'd ask for my money back. In motersickle technical jargon, the thing "don't make enough power to pull a dead whore off a piss-pot". By crawling under the paint, turning my cap around backwards, and giving the beast a merciless caning, I managed to get it up to 27mph on the flat. Trust me, that's spooky fast on that little sneezer, but I'm nothing if not brave in the service of my customers. Mighta got 30 out of it at sea level, but it loads up a little when it's blazin' on the main jet. Trouble is, there ain't much "flat" around here. She has to ride about a mile extra to get to streets the thing will climb to get to our street. She gets to work in two minutes flat, tho', about a mile away.
Make sure the choke is in the up position for runnin’ down the road.

The specification for the gas:oil ratio is 25:1. If you mix your fuel 25 gallons at a time, put in one gallon of good quality two-cycle oil. Otherwise, put 5 ounces of oil (about 2/3 cup) in each gallon. Mix it at home in a gas can as the mixture will be more accurate. Since the tank won’t quite hold a gallon (I’m not going to tell you how I determined that), fill up at gas stations only on long trips (Ha!-ed.). Use 4 gas caps full of oil for each HALF gallon of gas.

I recommend selling this ride and getting an actual small motorcycle, 125cc to 200cc, just because of the hills around here. Getting my lard ass up my driveway required more LPA (Light Pedal Assistance, actual correct term) than I like.

Happy motoring, Ducks

PS: I’ll be back from vacation in about ten days. Make proper arrangements with your banker to settle up!

And settle up she did! Within a half hour of getting home from my trip, she was bangin' on my door with payment. We hadn't discussed price, but I was gonna charge her twenty bucks, and there she stood with a bag with twenty bucks worth of homemade tamales! Square business, I'd say.

Did I mention that she's happier than a pig in shit with all the gas money she's savin'? Not too happy with the last "mechanic" she took it to, tho', who charged her $80 and didn't get it right.

More thrilling tales of mechanical heroism later on, I bet.

10 May 2005


May 9 NEW YORK — Tony Danza got quite a scare when he and NASCAR star Rusty Wallace were racing go-karts during the taping of a segment for the nationally syndicated "The Tony Danza Show."

Danza was leading as they entered the final lap Monday morning on West 66th Street, the show said. After Wallace gave Danza's vehicle a little "bump and run," the 54-year-old talk-show host lost control of his go-kart, which flipped over.

[. . .]

Ha! I laugh. First, because I can't stand Tony Danza. Second, because Rusty's my boy. Third, it serves Danza right for agreeing to race a NASCAR driver. You never want to race a NASCAR driver in anything. Didn't he watch Days of Thunder? Idiot, hope it knocked some sense into ya.

03 May 2005


The 25 year old TV in my office(it was my mom's and was in the house when she passed) suddenly switched to Black & White. And it's staying that way. Looks like I gotta go shopping. I think mom can rest easy knowing she got her money's worth.

02 May 2005

Spring done Sprung

Spring is here! How do I know? The snow is almost all melted? I'm deterring Bluejays from building nests in my eaves? Mais non, mes amis!. Here's how I know:

The first moped has snuck into my driveway for the classic Spring "make run" job!

Its arrival was announced yesterday by my neighbor Toni's 6'3", 220lb teenage son knocking on my door to tell me that his petite (6', hunnert 'n mumble-mumble lb) mom was, at that very moment shoving said prime mover up my driveway.

She bought the thing last Summer to save money on gas and she's rarin' to git 'er goin', what with the even higher price of gas now.

As she explained to me what all it wouldn't do (run above idle) and explained all the tech stuff ("This is the throttle, these are the foot pedals, this is the gas tank") to this 30+ year motersickle mechanic, I thought she had ridden it the three doors from her house until I realized those weren't two-stroke fumes I was smellin', but, in fact, Merlot.

The clue came when she unscrewed the gas cap and showed me the little cup attached thereto for measuring oil into the gasoline: "Just put this much oil in when you gas up!" I tried to ask how much gas she was adding "this much" oil to, and she showed me the gas tank again. I took leave of my senses at this point and swiped my finger in the rear of the muffler. My finger, and the muffler, were dripping oil. I think I'll start by looking for a possibly carboned-up muffler baffle, install a fresh fill of petroil mix and go from there.

The moped itself is a Bombardier-Puch. That's Bom-bar-dyay. A French Canadian/Austrian model. An interesting conglomeration, non? I've never seen one before, and there's no manual. I'm hopin' my career has prepared me for this monster, but I'll give it a shot. Luckily, I think I can put the whole plot on my workbench. Try that with a Hawg!

I hope it doesn't need any parts.

The lovely Toni has made the offer of dinner for me and Mrs. G if the operation is successful. I'll keep ya posted.

30 April 2005

27 April 2005

Road test

We just picked up the Mrs.' new Explorer a couple weeks ago and today is the first I've driven it in inclement weather. It's equipped with the new AdvanceTrac RSC:

Let’s face it, we all occasionally find ourselves in difficult driving situations. Ford proudly offers AdvanceTrac® with industry-exclusive Roll Stability Control™ (RSC), to help make those situations less difficult. With its technologically advanced capabilities, RSC seamlessly helps reduce the risk of losing vehicle control. AdvanceTrac® with RSC is a new, smarter, safer system, which gives you greater driving control and peace of mind when you get behind the wheel in any driving situation.

AdvanceTrac® with Roll Stability Control™ is standard on Explorer, and available on Expedition.

Now, I'm not one to have a computer help me drive. I don't use cruise control so having an active suspension was something I looked at skeptically. The Mrs. drove it to Philly and back on business and loved the way it handled, but being in the business I have to see for myself. We'll keep it.

It's especially noticable on an off-camber turn (car leans away from the direction you're turning). It was a really cool feeling as I dove into one on an exit ramp (a sweeping right) at highway speed, the left rear stiffening up and the right front softening to keep the body almost level. Never touched the brake. Did I mention it was a driving rain? The All Wheel Drive pulled it through without a slip. Outstanding. I think they also added more nut to the 4.6L V-8 too. She just starts breathing at 85.

25 April 2005

Is it me?

Or does Kirstie Alley look better with a little extra weight on? Hope she don't lose too much.

19 April 2005

Just a point

Just so we have the mechanic-customer relationship right. You don't 'let' me work on your car. You'll be happy I 'agree' to work on it. Got that? There's a lot of broken cars out there and I don't need yours to pay the bills. You ain't doing me any favors bringing the thing to me. Take it to somebody else who thinks it is a privilege to work on your broken down piece of shit. Thank you. Now back to regularly scheduled programming.

31 March 2005

Ridgeline Road Test

I reported some time back on the new Honda Ridgeline pickup. Here's the first test I've seen of it, in Newsweek of all places.
Pretty, it's not. Practical, it certainly is. Need to haul 1,500 pounds of cargo? No problem. Want to tow something weighing 5,000 pounds? Sure. Its 3.5-liter, VTEC V-6, 255-horsepower engine is up to the job, and the four-wheel-drive traction works well. It also sports a tighter chassis than some other trucks in its price range, making it a stellar road handler. I felt completely safe plodding through L.A.'s rain-soaked streets during a recent storm; there wasn't a slip from the 17-inch wheels.

Not pretty? I think it looks great.
Still, I noticed one oversight: that all-important visor vanity mirror. Then again, maybe not everyone wants to check her lipstick while hauling 1,500 pounds of drywall.

Oh, that explains it! I always put mine on before I leave the house. Women testing pickups! What'll they think of next?

16 March 2005

Happy me!

The Mrs.' parts came in today and went in without complication. Set the toe-in and it's off to the alignment shop in the morning. I left it with the Indian this afternoon so he could drive it with an objective eye (I get anal with my own shit). I'm a HAPPY guy. Maybe tonight she'll let me move my bed back in from the garage.

Update: 15:10:

Indian just called and said he got it up to 70 on the S-turns in the hills near the shop and the car steers like a charm. I'm doing the Dance of Joy!

15 March 2005

Of course

Of course I can't get parts for the Mrs.' car in the aftermarket world so I hadda order 'em from Ford. Still waiting . . . The Mrs. still ain't happy . . . Car's still at the shop . . .

14 March 2005


The local news said this morning, that if you want to travel by car to all 5 Boroughs of NYC in one day, it would cost you a minimum of $27 in tolls. Welcome to New York, bring your wallet.

13 March 2005

Shit happens

I snagged a high curb with the right rear of Mrs. F's Explorer last night while I was getting gas on the way home from a restaurant. Thankfully, we weren't far from home because I couldn't get it over 20mph and I was getting a wicked oscillation when I tried, or when I hit a bump. I know I broke a control arm because the right rear wasn't pointing straight ahead last night. Thankfully, I didn't tweak the frame (all the doors open and close properly). I gotta head out and look at it in the daylight (and sober, let that be a lesson to me), and figure out exactly what I'll need for parts. Then I gotta call my friend Kenny to come with the flatbed and bring it to the shop. Oy! Let's just say the Mrs. ain't pleased. Thankfully, she left for Charlotte early this morning and won't be standing over me as I check out her car. She also made it known she has to drive to Philadelphia on Friday and intends to use the Explorer.

So, it sucks to be me this week, don't it?

Update: 09:45:

Just came back in from groveling under the Mrs.' car and it ain't as bad as I thought. I blew the right rear tie rod in half and the running board got shwacked, but nothing I can't fix easily with a minimum of parts and a run to the wheel alignment shop. Yay!!!!!

10 March 2005

Friendly advice

Even though Jeep calls it 'shift-on-the-fly' 4-wheel-drive, when your Grand Cherokee is 10 years old and has 198K on the odometer, it's not a good idea to slam it into 4x4 at 60 mph. Unless you want me to pick up your transfer case, and its contents, with a broom and snowshovel.

07 March 2005

Crash tests

DETROIT - The Dodge Neon, Ford Focus and Volkswagen's New Beetle are among the small cars that got the lowest safety rating in new side-impact crash tests performed by an independent, nonprofit organization.

[. . .]

Do I need to say any more than 'duh'? A small car doesn't survive accidents well, period. Basic physics, ladies and germs. If you're in something that weighs 2500 pounds and you're hit broadside by something that weighs 4500, you're gonna be seriously fucked up, I give a shit how many airbags you got. In fact, if I were driving a little car, I wouldn't want an airbag. I'd want to be killed outright rather than have my wife feed me and wipe my ass for the rest of my life. "Look, F-man lived through it but he has to breathe through his ears and piss out his nose." No thanks.

My point is, right or wrong, if you're in a little car, and you want great gas mileage, you're gonna give up some of the safety you get in an SUV. I give a shit what all these consumer reporters say, they ain't been in the business for 35 years. A full-framed vehicle survives an accident (and so do the passengers) better than a unibody. That's why the Mrs. drives an Explorer. I insist on it for her safety, just in case some moron (we got a lot of 'em here) decides to drive into her.

06 March 2005

Andele, Vatos!

I just watched the first-ever NASCAR Busch Grand National race in Mexico. It was held at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico city. It is a road course, naturally, as all the ovals in Mexico are for bullfights. I like road races because it's fun to watch the stock car boys try to turn right.

There were several Mexican drivers in the field, including a woman, Mara Reyes.

Local piloto Jorge Goeters (Ford, Brewco Motorsports) of Mexico City set fast time and led from the pole for quite a few laps until his motor went caca pupu, which is the only technical phrase I know in Spanish, and means "done blowed up" in English.

Martin Truex, DEI Chevy, won. Adrian Fernandez, Mexico's Athlete Of The Year and superstar driver, came home in the top ten.

I liked it. The facility is very nice, and hosted 105,000+ spectators.

The NASCAR truck drivers convoyed from the border, which must have been quite a sight for the locals along the route. Mrs. G says that they can fit quite a few pollos in the haulers for the trip back north!

01 March 2005

Really Dead Ed

Indian just called me. Our office guy, Dead Ed passed away a couple hours ago, finally succumbing to scleraderma. He fought it until the end. Take care, pal, and happy trails. Good to have known ya.

Ed Distilli

26 February 2005

The Need For Speed

Good article on repairing and hopping-up computer cars from the Washington Post.
"I think making modifications is kind of like an addiction," Dan Chi said. "When you feel fast, you get used to it. You want that feeling of being even faster, of, like, the G-forces pushing you back in your seat and stuff."

"Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death!"

I can dig it.
Using his dad's old tools, Dan was able to install a new air intake on his own. But to make the computer and hardware changes that allowed his engine to jump from nearly 300 horsepower to nearly 400, Dan sold a collection of vintage Nike sneakers for cash and paid a professional.

How come I never thought of that?

21 February 2005

Just a question

For the powers-that-be at NASCAR. Why is it you threw a caution flag for debris with 5 laps left in the 500? Why is it you did it a half-lap after Jeff Gordon passed Little E for the lead? If you had done that in the past, we would never have had the outstanding finishes between Richard Petty and David Pearson, or A.J. Foyt and Cale Yarbrough, who would bang fenders for the last couple laps, spewing debris all over the track. This is just another in a long list of incidents where NASCAR has shown favoritism toward the Hendrick Motorsports teams over the past couple years. Don't think I'm the only fan who's been noticing.

20 February 2005

Racing Season!!!!!!

Finally, NASCAR season kicks off today with the Daytona 500. I'm doing the Dance of Joy. My colleague the Indian is there now, been for the last week and he'll be back a week from tomorrow. I can't wait. Been working with Per Diem Boy (a guy who helps us out when we're swamped) and it ain't the same. Indian and I have been working together so long, we generally don't have to talk when we're both jobbing on the same car. Not that PDB is a bad mechanic, just the reverse, one of the best I've ever met, but it's a difference in style. Okay, so I admit it, I miss my pal. Anyway, Daytona starts at 1 Eastern on Fox.

19 February 2005

New Yorkers


































18 February 2005

I'm not an idiot

I know some people would disagree, but when it comes to cars, it's best if you do what I tell you. Case in point: Intermittent problems.

These are things that go wrong with your car whenever they damn well please, but will go away for an indeterminate amount of time. In today's computer-controlled cars, shit like that happens. These are the hardest things to diagnose; the things that I can't make happen when I want them to. If you tell me your car bucks like a rodeo horse every time you go uphill it's one thing. I can take it for a road test and feel what it's doing and troubleshoot it.

If your car, once every couple weeks or a month, decides to spit and fart for 10 seconds as you're driving down the highway, that's another. If I can't find something stored in the vehicle's computer, or recreate the condition, there ain't much I can do. This is when people look at me like I'm an idiot when I tell them to drive it until it happens on a regular basis, or under the same conditions (weather, road, speed), and then bring it back. "Don't you know what it is?" They ask me.

Now, here I have two options. I can tell you the truth. "Not really. I checked a few things that might cause the condition, but I can't find anything out of order."

Or lie. "It's a computer problem. Leave it and I'll call you when it's done."

I'd rather tell the truth than throw parts at a car (usually at great cost to the customer), and have it not fix the problem. This doesn't satisfy people for some reason. They want to spend money. Fine, take it to somebody else. Some do and it isn't long before the same car is back for the same problem. This time it began happening regularly and I was able to diagnose it. Thing is, even though they don't tell me they took it to somebody else, I look under the hood and see new spark plug wires, spark plugs, filters, every fucking sensor on the engine, and belts. They took it to somebody who told them a lie, soaked them for hundreds, if not a grand or more, and still didn't fix the problem.

So, if you have a problem that comes and goes, without a discernable cause, and your mechanic says he can't find it right away, don't look at him as if he's a moron, or run to somebody else. Consider it a good sign that you have an honest guy.

Note: This shouldn't be applied to safety problems. As in, every so often my car swerves wildly to either side. There's something seriously wrong and your mechanic should be able to diagnose it easily. This is for stupid shit, like the radio not working at odd times, or the heater shutting off, a spit and a fart once in a while, shit like that. Brakes, lights, tires, and steering are all critical and should be attended to as soon as you notice a problem. If you do regular maintenance at a reputable shop (oil change and service EVERY 3000 MILES), your guy should catch little problems before they turn into big ones.

17 February 2005

Orale, Nice Short, Man!

Nice article in the LATimes about the Bentley Continental GT.
Who could be more disenchanted with cars than the men who work at the carwash at the corner of Sunset and Alvarado? But when I pull the Bentley in, the workers eagerly scrimmage for positions around it. These are guys who are standing in rubber boots half filled with cold, soapy water, whose hands must hurt from the biting detergent. Why are they so happy to see me?

The crew foreman scoffs at the Lexus waiting in line. "This is a true car," he says in Spanish.

When (not "if") I hit the lottery, I'm gonna have a 4WD Bentley pickup. No Rolls for me, too ostentatious and uppity.


I just got these words of wisdom by e-mail from Mrs. G and thought I'd share:

1) The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue. -Anonymous

2) Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful. -Ann Landers

3) If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. -Will Rogers

4) There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face. -Ben Williams

5) A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself. -Josh Billings

6) We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It's the best deal man has ever made. -M. Acklam

7) Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate. -Sigmund Freud

8) I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult. -Rita Rudner

9) A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before lying down. -Robert Benchley

10) Dogs need to sniff the ground; it's how they keep abreast of current events. The ground is a giant dog newspaper, containing all kinds of late-breaking dog news items, which, if they are especially urgent, are often continued in the next yard. -Dave Barry

11) Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog. -Franklin P. Jones

12) If your dog is fat, you aren't getting enough exercise. -Unknown

13) My dog is worried about the economy because Alpo is up to $3.00 a can. That's almost $21.00 in dog money. -Joe Weinstein

14) Ever consider what our dogs must think of us? I mean, here we come back from a grocery store with the most amazing haul -- chicken, pork, half a cow. They must think we're the greatest hunters on earth! -Anne Tyler

15) Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea. -Robert A. Heinlein

16) Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. -Groucho Marx

17) Speak softly and own a big, mean Doberman. -Dave Miliman

18) If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you; that is the principal difference between a dog and a man. -Mark Twain

19) Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. -Roger Caras

20) If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them. -Phil Pastoret

21) My goal in life is to be as good a person as my dog already thinks I am. ~ an OleHoss

15 February 2005


From Sadly, No!:

LONDON (Reuters) - A British woman was sentenced to two and a half years in jail Thursday for ripping off her ex-lover's testicle with her bare hands during a drunken brawl after he refused her sex.

[. . .]

11 February 2005

Family viewing

No tits or ass or foul language . . . at least on the humans' part. The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is coming to Madison Square Garden next week. Monday and Tuesday on USA Network. These are the best of the best and a showcase of some beautiful animals. As always, we'll be rooting for the Australian Cattle Dog for Group Winner. Best in Show is far too much to hope for in such an obscure breed.

Also, this Saturday evening at 8, the NASCAR season begins unofficially. The Bud Shootout marks the beginning of Speedweeks for the big cars (Nextel Cup), leading up to Daytona on 20 Feb.

10 February 2005


I feel a little guilty after the post on the pavement-wrinkler (below), so to balance it out here's the goods on the classically-styled (that's a fancy way of saying it's the latest update of a bike that's been built continuously since 1955), Indian-manufactured, not-legal-in-California Royal Enfield.

Some of us old farts still like single-cylinder, pushrod-engined motorbikes. It's about a quarter the cost of the Triumph as well. Just don't be in a hurry. I'm not sure how much the brakes and lights have been upgraded.

Update: I didn't notice when I posted it, but the first link is not the "latest update" on this model, but a '00 model. Shows you how much it matters.

09 February 2005

No Substitute for Cubic Inches....

If you like big, fast motorcycles and subscribe to the theory that "wretched excess is barely enough", go see the Triumph Rocket III.
Secondly, a large handful is going to have you thinking you have inadvertently hitched a ride on the Space Shuttle during takeoff, however, and you better be hanging on. Producing 147 lb-ft of torque at 2500 rpm and 140 bhp at 5,750 rpm, you are in for a wild ride. As the approaching landscape goes into some sort of manic fast-forward and your stomach internals attempt to wrap themselves around your spine, the Rocket III just keeps feeling as if it is never going to run out of power.

Awesome. It sounds like this monster will just ravel the road up in a cloud of blue smoke and burning rubber and bring your destination to you. I want one.

02 February 2005

Honda's New Pickup

Since Honda makes every kind of power product from nose-hair trimmers on up it's about time they came out with a pickup. This article in the LATimes tells about it and has some sociological comment as well.
You might think "Honda" and "pickup" go together like "Bill O'Reilly" and "perfect gentleman," but company execs argue that it has a long history in the light-truck market.

What does it all add up to? A blue-state pickup. The portage duty the Ridgeline is assigned isn't cement, or table saws or lumber (though a 48-inch piece of plywood will sit flat on the bed floor). It's motorcycles and ATVs and climbing gear, the bric-a-brac of affluent leisure. It can't pull a road-grader up a hill but it can haul a 22-foot boat up the ramp at Lake Shasta.

Sounds like a good rig if that's your cup of tea.

Here's something I learned years ago from the President of Triumph Motorcycles America who had been the sales manager at American Honda:

The Honda Corporate Meal Prayer

Hondas are good.
They're fast and they're neat.
The more Hondas we sell,
The more food we can eat.

Look in American garages, boys. Eat hearty.

30 January 2005

What's up, Doc?

I got this e-mail from my friend Larry in L.A. a few minutes ago.

Things Are Not Always As Easy As They Seem

A mechanic was removing a cylinder head from the motor of a Harley motorcycle when he spotted a well-known heart surgeon in his shop.

The surgeon was there waiting for the service manager to come take a look at his bike when the mechanic shouted across the garage, "Hey Doc, can I ask you a question?"

The surgeon, a bit surprised, walked over to where the mechanic was working on the motorcycle.

The mechanic straightened up, wiped his hands on a rag and asked, "So Doc, look at this engine. I open its heart, take the valves out, repair any damage, and then put them back in, and when I finish, it works just like new. So how come I get such a small salary and you get the really big bucks, when you and I are doing basically the same work?"

The surgeon paused, smiled and leaned over, and whispered to the mechanic..."Try doing it with the engine running."

Now, that's pretty funny.

Truth of the matter is, mechanics would go to jail for doing some of the shit doctors get away with as a matter of course. In matters of diagnosis, estimates, and billing, let alone performance, mechanics are bound by so many laws it's a wonder sometimes that we can fix anything and make a little money on it.

Doctors work on one basic model. Mechanics may work on hundreds and are expected to be experts on all of them.

Doctors have a powerful lobby and malpractice insurance to pay for their fuck-ups. Mechanics have neither.

I've heard of artificial hip salesmen coming to the operation and making sure the doctor installs it correctly. I can honestly say I've never had the parts guy do this when I'm putting some new high-zoot accessory that I've never seen before into someone's sled. Don't human replacement parts come with installation instructions?

Mechanics are bound to their diagnosis the minute the customer signs to authorize the repair. If we mis-diagnose something, we eat it. Doctors just keep working and the meter just keeps running. To be fair, we can take something as far apart as we have to to find out what's wrong with it, and leave it in boxes until the part comes in. I'm not sure doctors can do this.

Hospitals charge $6 for an aspirin. I'd love to be able to charge $6 for a shot of WD-40!

If we make a mistake, we are bound to fix it, and good mechanics will do this so the customer never knows about it. If a doctor makes a serious mistake, he can simply bury it. He still gets paid, too.

To be perfectly candid, we can probably fix a lot more shit with a ball peen hammer than a doctor can, but we still have to know how and where to hit it.

Mechanics must know what they are doing better than doctors. We apply our skill. Doctors are always practicing their trade.

If my doctor reads this, I hope I don't get sick.

27 January 2005

What'll they think of next?

Go see the Jeep Hurricane and Gladiator, and the Chrysler Firepower. Concepts only, but perhaps a portent of things to come. Look for the photo gallery.

I think the Hurricane might be a little over-the-top, but I like the styling. The Gladiator is bitchin'.

The Firepower is cool. Chizler has some great styling lately in the 300, Magnum, Crossfire, etc. Must be the Kraut influence.

20 January 2005

Jury duty in New York

From fellow New Yorker James Wolcott:

[Jury Duty]...two words that make hardened New Yorkers break out in hives.

. . .on TV, it's the sexy lawyers who drive the action, but in the court room it's the froggy judges who set the tempo, draw the eye. Sam Waterson's McCoy. . . wouldn't last ten minutes in Judge Ira Gammerman's court . . .

Been there, done that. It ain't nothing like Law & Order.

18 January 2005

Man wisdom

Cross-posted from The Brain:

This probably belongs at TF&G, but what the hell. It's a subject near and dear to my heart. From Jen at Gillard:

[. . .]

If nothing else, most Smart Boys know that a) giving a lady an orgasm earlier in the night takes a lot of pressure off for "the main event" and b) decent "oral debate" skills make up for any, um, underendowment issues quite a bit.

[. . .]

I might not know the ins and outs of the political/government situation as well as I'd like, but pleasing a woman is something I'm eminently qualified to speak on. No bragging, statement of fact. Guys, please your woman (or man, but it's not the same) before you do your thing, or just after, or both. They are not objects solely for your gratification. If you don't know how (common, for some reason) ask her to show you. You'll thank me.

13 January 2005

Man rules

Another gem from Mrs. Indian. (She and Mrs. F email all day long. Surprised any work gets done.)

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl. If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Sunday sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

1. Shopping is NOT a sport. And no, we are n! ever going to think of it that way .

1. Crying is blackmail.

1. Ask for what you want.
Let us be clear on this one:
Subtle hints do not work!
Strong hints do not work!
Obvious hints do not work!
Just say it!

1. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

1. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That's what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

1. A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

1. Anything we said 6 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. In fact, all comments become null and void after 7 days.

1. If you won't dress like the Victoria's Secret girls, don't ! expect us to act like soap opera g uys.

1. If you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us.

1. If something we said can be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you sad or angry, we meant the other one.

1. You can either ask us to do something or tell us how you want it done. Not both. If you already know best how to do it, just do it yourself.

1. Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

1. Christopher Columbus did not need directions and neither do we.

1. ALL men see in only 16 colors, like Windows default settings. Peach, for example, is a fruit, not a color. Pumpkin is also a Vegetable. We have no idea what mauve is.

1. If it itches, it will be scratched. We do that.

1. If we ask what is wrong and you say "nothing," we will act like nothing's wrong. We know you are lying, but it is just not worth the hassle.
1. If you ask a question you don 't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

1. When we have to go somewhere, absolutely anything you wear is fine...Really.

1. Don't ask us what we're thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as baseball, the shotgun formation, or monster trucks.

1. You have enough clothes.

1. You have too many shoes.

1. I am in shape. Round is a shape.

1. Thank you for reading this. Yes, I know, I have to sleep on the couch tonight; but did you know men really don't mind that? It's like camping.

12 January 2005

Be careful

Now your car can be used as a witness for the prosecution:

The National Transportation Safety Board wants all cars to be equipped with black box data recorders, which keep records of, as Fox News reports, "everything from speed, brake pressure, seat belt use and air bag deployment."

The Fox story sums up some privacy advocate objections, and includes this mordantly amusing example of regulators' thinking:

According to Joe Osterman, director of highway safety at the NTSB, the recommendation was inspired in part by a tragic auto accident involving a 86-year-old man who drove his car into a crowded Santa Monica farmers├ó€™ market last summer, killing 10 and injuring 63.

Osterman said a black box in the car might have not saved the people in the crash, but would have allowed investigators to find out how it happened and how cars could be better designed to reduce the likelihood of greater injury in the future.

Since there is no reason to believe that that tragedy occurred for any reason other than a bad driver stepping hard on the gas, thusly propelling him forward, at a time when a competent driver would have been stepping on the brakes, Osterman's comment belongs in the hall of fame of lame uses of tragedy to justify government action.

I debated this topic last December, when California became the first and so far only state to mandate that car buyers had to be told when their cars had the devices, on CNN's Talkback Live with Public Safety's Joan Claybrook; transcript here.

I saw an article in Newsday (the fishwrapper) yesterday at the shop about an accident here on Long Island where the anti-lock brake computer was allowed as evidence against the driver at fault. I'm still looking for the link to the story online. The story above was written last September.

Now, I personally think the computer is the greatest thing that ever happened to the automobile. They're cleaner, faster, and more powerful while using less gas than ever. You three-huggers bitch about a 10-cylinder Excursion, but it still gets better gas mileage than a mid-60s 6-cylinder and runs a thousand percent cleaner.

Thing is, if you got a problem with your car's computer tattling on you, you'd better get with your elected representatives, cause the computer in your car is here to stay.

11 January 2005

Is he fucking kidding me?

You're in New York now
, Dicknose. We don't care that you're 6'10" and a 5-time Cy Young winner. Keep up that attitude, somebody's gonna hand you your head.
The 6-10 Johnson, who was traded to the Yankees last week, got into a confrontation on a Manhattan sidewalk with a newspaper photographer and a television cameraman Monday on the way to his physical, then apologized in a statement released later in the day.

10 January 2005


Out West here, we're having a terrific series of Winter Storms. I've dug myself out every day since last Wednesday. Down in Reno, they've got two feet of snow on the ground, the most since 1916, and it has flat paralyzed the "Biggest Little City In The World". It's kinda funny, actually. I mean, they've got the Sierra Nevada (Spanish for "Snowy Range") in their back yard, literally, but when the snowfall moves two miles and actually gets to town it shocks the shit out of them and brings the whole joint to a slippin', slidin', shovelin' halt.

I remember that when I worked at Harley-Davidson of Reno a few years back, we were next door to a four-wheel-drive emporium, and every time it snowed they had a rash of jobs fixing locking hubs (I'm dating myself, huh?) that had rusted in the "unlocked" position due to lack of use. Remember, "SUV" stands for "Shiny Unused Vehicle". We got a big kick out of it.

We benefit, however, from their discomfort in the fact that there have been many articles about Winter in their media. Here's one that I felt would be of interest to TF&G readers. From the Reno Gazette-Journal column, "Street Beat".
Look outside. If you see a white blob where your car should be, stop reading now, and head outside with a shovel.

No, wait. First read this, from Puzzled Reader (not her real name):

No, wait. First read this, from One Who Knows (not my real name): Shovel around your car. Don't shovel snow off your car. You'll fuck it up. Use a Snohoe. A shameless local plug. They're made in the next town down the road from here.
“All around me,” she wrote (I’m paraphrasing here), “I see people zipping effortlessly through the snow, while my delightful Ford Ranger gets stuck every other block.

“I thought trucks were good in snow. How can I join that mobile throng?”

You need a combination of will, new tires, judgment, faith and a handful of no-cost hints Street Beat will hereby impart. Keep reading even if you don’t have a pickup, because they’re applicable to nearly all vehicles.

Enjoy. Learn. Snicker at the un-preparedness of them city slickers. Something I've known for years: The real reason for four-wheel-drive is to get a thousand pounds over the drive wheels, not to make your dick bigger.

08 January 2005

07 January 2005

License Plate Cams

Now, I know that no one smart enough to read TF&G would ever even think of doing anything illegal or unsafe, but we all screw up once in a while and so do the cameras. You might be interested in this product:
A product that hides license plates from traffic-enforcement cameras at intersections may appeal to those frustrated by malfunctioning cameras but poses a major safety threat from those who hope to use it to slip through red lights.

I understand there are automated toll booths with cams, too....

01 January 2005

The class of 2004

Happy New Year, folks. If your one-year-older sled is looking a little raggedy, this article in the LATimes oughta give you some good ideas. Since these are last year's leftovers you can probably get a smokin' deal.
It was a good year for machinery. We saw a gangsta Chrysler, a $90,000 VW, the Ford Mustang and Ford GT born in clouds of vaporized-rubber glory. We saw a 617-hp Mercedes-Benz SLR and the $450,000 Porsche Carrera GT — these cars, collectively, might be called the Excess Express. For every one of these machines, there is an ideal buyer. On this page, some of the great cars of 2004 and the types of L.A. owners they might attract. Here's hoping for better times and better cars in 2005

As for me and Mrs. G, we think we can sqeeze another year out of the '92 Dakota while thinking about a Tundra. Why mess with success?