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A Brief History Of Cars

Number: 1
Name: Jessica
Make / Model: Ford Escort (wagon)
Year: 1994
Owned: 2005-2009
Price paid: $2600
Reason for parting with: Accident damage / rust damage.

Jessica was my first car, and I still have fond memories of her. But she had the misfortune to be a northern car, and suffered numerous problems with rust, often in completely unexpected places... like the alternator, and the gas struts holding up the cargo hatch. Ultimately, I rear-ended someone who decided that it was a grand idea to come to a complete stop in the middle of a highway. The damage was repairable, but at the cost ($1300) I decided the money would be better spent on buying a southern car completely without rust issues.

Number: 2
Name: Cassandra
Make / Model: Ford Escort (wagon)
Year: 1994
Owned: 2009-2011
Price paid: $2300
Reason for parting with: Second engine failure.

Cassandra had a thing for betraying my trust. With her, it was always something unexpected. Like the time I drove from Florida to Vermont, and didn't see the check engine light until I was on a Vermont back road, and got ripped off by a local shady mechanic. I wanted to trust her, but things just kept happening. Blew an engine after less than 10k of ownership, and various lesser things with alarming regularity. I must have put almost twice what I paid for the car into it over those two years of ownership. My final impression after she blew a head gasket and ruined her second engine? No more domestic cars.

Number: 3
Name: Lisa
Make / Model: Volvo 960
Year: 1992
Owned: 2011-2012
Price paid: $998
Reason for parting with: Bought the Mercedes.

Lisa is currently what I'm driving. A strong old Swedish brick, I got her cheap as dirt, and she's behaved herself very well. Not requiring anything more than routine wear and tear work and maintenance (some of it overdue) to be roadworthy in a 20 year old car for less than $1,000 impresses me. And at 187k, I trust her more than I was trusting Cassandra for the last year. I'll be sorry to see her go, and hope I can find someone who'll appreciate how solid a car she is, if a little rough around the edges.

Number: 4
Name: Ruhe (preliminary, subject to change. German for "Serenity")
Make / Model: Mercedes-Benz 300TD (euro spec)
Year: 1984
Owned: 2012-∞
Price paid: $3600
Reason for parting with: Over my dead body.

Everything I've ever wanted in a car. A reputation for extreme mechanical reliability and durability, a body with some fucking CLASS (chrome trim is godly), and an engine tolerant and flexible when it comes to biofuels. She's a fixer-upper for sure, but if I put the money in, pretty much anyone who knows these cars says that it's not even halfway through it's usable lifespan, and that's the conservative estimate. Frankly, the old girl will probably outlast me.


Still Alive / Prolonged Agony

It isn't over, oh no.

I spent a long time at the place the guy from Ybor Tire sent me to, called "Rent a wheel". They rent and sell all things tires and rims. They mounted the tires I bought from him, but it turns out I did bust the rim that I drove to him on. I'm not sure if I did it before I noticed it was flat, or if it happened on the way to him when I was knowingly driving it on the rim. But they don't actually FIX rims... so they threw the spare on for me, and it was off to someplace else.

What I thought would be another fairly sizable business turned out to be a tent on the side of a side road next to a church, populated by two black dudes... one elderly and toothless, the other looked like what I imagine Paul Bunyan or Popeye would look like if they had a darker skin tone. Quiet man with huge arms told me that he could fix the rim no problem, and it would run about $75. I left the rim and my number, and I'm waiting to hear back.

So far today, I'm looking at having spent about $375. On fucking tires. $200 for the set, another $100 to have them mounted and balanced, and $75 to fix the fucked up rim. Oh, and I have to go back to the rent-a-wheel place to have the tire mounted on the repaired rim. So two more stops before this is over.

And I still have the engine belts to check, the breaks need work, and the check engine light is on.
So, I don't believe in karma. If I did, I would have to admit that I had done something horrible in a past life.

I get out of work today (mind you, after 15 hours, I'm not exactly at my best) and start driving out of the port. I get a mile or so, and I notice severe pull to the left. I pulled over in the first spot I could find, and find tht the driver's side front tire is flat. I go to jack the car up, jack is missing parts. Not only that, but there's an anti-theft locking lugnut on the wheel.

Detered thusly from changing the tire, I pulled my can of fix-a-flat out of the trunk. It, of course, fails me utterly by being defective, likely because it's so old.

Weighing my options, I decide to drive (slowly) on the rim to a tire shop a mile from the port. I could've called AAA, but they wouldn't have been able to get inside the port complex anyway.

I drive to Ybor Tire, and there they find that they are also unable to remove the locking lugnuts. The owner kindly made several phone calls on my behalf, and found someone who was able to remove them for me. I bought a set of tires from him that were 80% tread for $200. A tow from AAA, and I'm there now. Another $100 to balance and mount the tires, and with luck, I'm on my way.

Saved By The Swedish

So, the Escort died on me unexpectedly.

I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. Late model American cars really are junk, I have come to see.

What happened? I ran over a piece of wood. It smashed the exhaust manifold, dented the oil pan, and ripped the coolant line out of the bottom of the engine. Engine overheated, and cracked the head gasket. I could've tried to fix it, but I was looking at $3000, and likely another new engine. Doing that once was enough, so I decided to scrap it.

I was lucky that I had people visiting me, or buying a replacement vehicle wouldn't have been as easy as it was. I looked at a few in the $1000 range, and decided on a Volvo 960 at a low-rent dealership.

It's a nice car, feels very solid and drives well. Not without it's problems, but some basic maintenance and it's running quite well. Nothing fancy, either. Battery, air filter, oil change, and a tank of fresh gas.

I have to say, this is my first European car, and so far, I have a very favorable first impression. It reminds me of the build quality you used to see in American cars back in the 1980s and before.

Regardless, I won't be keeping it for too long. As soon as my 300TD is refurbished and ready, I'll be on to that. I hope I find a good home for Lisa, though. She's got plenty of life left in her yet.

Posted via LJ for WebOS.

I was going to detail the last few days' sleep deprivation, but it turns out that I'm so deep into sleep debt that the details are fuzzy.

What I do recall is as follows:

Follow the schedule on Sunday. Eric has me on it starting a boat on 223 around the end of the day, but the pilots' website doesn't even have that boat on it. I call him before laying down that morning, but of course he doesn't answer. So I plan on showing up when the boat that WAS on the pilots' schedule is supposed to show up at 223. Three hours of sleep. Get to the K/M building about to get radios and paperwork, and I get a text message from Eric "relieve Brian on 223 at midnight". So, I grumble to myself and go home. Another 90 minutes of sleep.

Worked 12 hours, went home and promptly passed out on the couch from 1PM to 6:45 or so. Eric actually calls, but my phone was in the other room charging, and I slept though it. When I call him back, Eric tells me to come in "mid-day" the next day... And then Brian (who I am relieving) calls me at midnight and tells me that it's 9AM, not mid-day. Wasn't able to fall asleep again until about 4AM. Sleep from 4:30 to about 7:45 or so. Another three hours, yay.

Relieved Brian, and sat around waiting for them to okay the jet fuel to start for over seven hours, and was here until relieved by Paul at 10:30PM. Eric had absolutely no contingency plan for relieving me, so he grabbed Paul because Paul always says yes.

So, I got home about 11:15. Had dinner, and then walked over to CVS because I knew I was going to be needing some chemical stimulants for today. Went to bed at 12:30, got up at 3:30 in order to be back in to work at 5:00.

And today, I'm going to be here from 0500 until at least 2000. Lovely 15 hours today.

I haven't been this tired in a long, long time.

Posted via LJ for WebOS.

Automotive First Aid

Though I have mentioned it in tweets, those don't really give me enough detail to be able to explain what happened the other night with my car.

I was driving home from work, sitting at the Fletcher / Dale Mabry light. I hear *boom* coming from the engine compartment, and a moment after, clouds of white smoke pouring from under the hood. Fortunately, this happens to coincide with the changing of the light, and I proceed into the intersection, and look for a place to turn off the road so I can avoid using the shoulder (which is right next to a steep ditch on that part of the road). I go about a block, and turn into the parking lot of World Of Beer / Chili's and a few other businesses. In my near-panicked hurry to get into a space ASAP, I nearly blow a stop sign and hit a smart car that's obscured from view behind a tree. Ultimately, I do yank the car into a space and the key is off the instant it's in park.

Pull up the hood, and somehow, I knew what had happened. The upper hose blew itself off of the radiator again... this time, I wasn't parked when it did, however. I wait a good half hour for the engine to cool (and the toxic fumes to dissipate) before attempting to reconnect the hose and fill the reservoir with the jug of antifreeze I keep in the trunk. All seems to go well until I turn the key to start it. Click, and then a sound like an electrical cutoff. My initial assumption is that coolant got into some electrical component and was causing a short, since it had sprayed everywhere over the engine compartment.

Thinking that waiting for it to dry out would take all night (especially in the cold, damp air) I called AAA up for a tow. When the guy got there, he noticed that my battery's negative cable was just loose enough to not be making electrical contact... possibly I had knocked it loose when I was mopping up the large puddles of coolant with paper towels. But once that was making tight, proper contact, I was able to start the car. I filled the coolant reservoir one more time, and that seemed to be what I'd lost (about a gallon) and I limped it home.

I didn't get home until about 2AM, and I got up at 7AM to take the car in to my mechanic (who's only open half days on Saturday). I got away for the cost of a new hose, and a thermostat, about $70.

I have noticed that while it still seems to run a tad hot, it does cool off quicker than it was, and I could swear there has been a 20% or so reduction in vibration while idling... possibly my imagination, but it does jive with the thermostat being busted.



Lying awake in bed, an idea for an interesting piece of cuisine came to me. What if I took the idea of "mexican pizza" to the next level?

Now hear me out, before decrying this as a cross-cultural abomination.

Start with a pizza shell (or perhaps dough). Possibly even styled like a tortilla, or made with corn flour. Next, impregnate with a reasonable amount of tequila, say a half cup, for flavor. Next, salsa in place of the traditional italian-style tomato sauce. The cheese could be one of several things, but there's this really soft cheese that is popular in our Spanish-speaking community that I think would work really well. For toppings, jalepenos (of course) chopped tomatillos, and I'm open to other suggestions.



Writer's Block: Background players

What is your computer wallpaper right now?

I have six screens. The primary screen's wallpaper never changes, it's permanently fixed to a close-up shot of Akeakamai's face. The other five rotate randomly through a stash of several hundred images every 24hrs.

PPD - Pony Personality Disorder(s)

In reference to my offhand comment a few posts ago, I found this link: http://www.reddit.com/r/mylittlepony/comments/h12nm/pony_personality_disorders/


Phase II

So, the boss calls (waking me up from my nap) and says the vessel's pump time will probably end about midnight, at current rate. So, if I want hours, I can come in earlier than he said, and instead of 14 hours, I'm looking at maybe 9.

I'm really in awe over the amount of misinformation and hassle that has occurred for a single goddamned shift.


Moar Scheduling Bullshit

I am more than slightly annoyed by my boss (and this job) right now.

Okay, so yesterday afternoon, the boss calls. Wants me to switch from one dock/ship to another, and a different time for my shift the next day. Not a big deal, it's a full day's notice. Then he tells me that the online ship schedule says one time (0130) and the vessel's agent told him on the phone that it'd be 0530. He tells me to watch the online schedule for changes, and then that he'd call me back sometime around 8-9PM after he had more information. I tell him that if I don't hear from him otherwise and the online schedule isn't updated before bed time for me, I'll be there at 0800 (we add 3 hours to the vessel schedule time to get the dock arrival time).

9PM rolls around. 10 after. Still nothing. I call the boss, it rings through to voicemail. I leave one, and then try another call half an hour later, and leave a text message. No answer to any of these. As of me going to sleep, the online schedule says 0130.

I get up at 6:45, go through my pre-work morning routine. Then, the boss calls while I'm in the shower around 7:15, asking where I am. Apparently the vessel showed up at 0630. I stopped short of asking him why he didn't answer his phone the previous night, but I do tell him that as of when I went to bed, the schedule online had the 0130 arrival time listed, and it arrived at neither of the times he'd given me. I do have to actually have some notice, after all. He acts all butthurt because he's got to go down there himself. I tell him that I'll be there at 0800, like I had told him I would be last night, if there was no further changes to the online schedule or notice from him.

Twenty minutes later, I'm on the freeway, and the boss calls again. I put the phone on my lap on speaker and return the call. He says to me "this ship is going to be here a long time, here's what I'm going to have you do: come in in 6-7 hours". I was not pleased with this, but bit my tongue. So I did an about-face and headed home. I'm glad there wasn't a lot of traffic.

So, I ended up driving 24 miles for absolutely no reason, in addition to not getting a lot of sleep and further jerking my chain with the schedule times. This boss of mine isn't very good at contingency planning. I wouldn't have minded so badly going in for the 0130 time (which means I'd have to be there at 0430), but if he wanted that, he should've said something to me when he had me on the phone. I can't sit and watch the online schedule for changes all fucking night, after all. I have to sleep sometime.

And now, I have to be in at 1600. So I'm going to try and get a nap in.


Sisterhooves Social

The latest ep of MLP:FiM was pretty good. I don't want to spoil anything for whoever might've not seen it yet.

I'm a little concerned about this season taking a slightly different direction from the first. I've noticed a trend of episodes focusing on a single character to the complete exclusion of the rest of the main cast. While the first season certainly did focus one or another of the main ponies, it was seldom to quite this extent. Is it just me?

Also, I am about 95% sure at this point that Rarity has OCD. As someone who has it, I recognize the markers.



So, as I've said before... the schedule at work is far from anything approaching stable.

I got in tonight at 2100 (9PM), and my boat wasn't there. No biggie, I set things up and I waited, after a few minor hiccups with there being no one to let me in to get sample bottles/paperwork, and me not having keys to the new manifold locks.

The ship gets in a couple of hours later, and then I'm waiting. And waiting. I have a brief conversation with the gauger, who tells me that for some reason, they aren't going to be starting this ship until the Sunshine State over on #223 is finished unloading... tomorrow afternoon. So, I call (and wake up) my boss to tell him about this. Later communication with the operations people tells me that the Sunshine State won't be finished until 1700 tomorrow, and the Seabulk Trader (my ship) wouldn't be starting until it was done. So, there it is, almost 1AM, and I can't touch anything for something like 17 more hours. i don't mind downtime, but seriously, fuck that noise. The ops people tell me to go home, and I ended up getting pretty much four hours on the nose. Really worth my time, and the 36 mile round-trip drive.



All right, I give up resisting. I'm a brony now. Happy?!


What I Do

Since I've gown weary of explaining exactly what it is that this new job entails, I've written the following explanation, and further inquiries will be sent here.

I work on what is a giant fuel rig. Lots of pipes. Tanker ships come in, filled with any combination of the following: regular gasoline, premium-grade gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel (JP4), ethanol, biodiesel. We assist the vessel in hooking up the 8" hoses, go on board, do some transfer paperwork, and then start product flow. We monitor the fuel pressure and take samples while it's running. All the while, communicating with the operations people, who control where the product goes. At the end, we unhook the hoses, and pump them back to clear them of product, do some more paperwork, and put everything on the dock away, and make sure everything is closed and locked.

There's a lot of downtime, but that last bit with the hose pumpback is most assuredly not a cakewalk.



I promised this a while ago, but since then, either I've had the time and not the drive to write, or the drive and not the time.

I suppose I should start with my new job, being as that's really the biggest change.

I was initially very apprehensive about all the little details with the precision of measurements and paperwork, but as I've actually done the work, I've realized that it's not as bad as I thought it might be. I can give approximations, I don't have to be extremely precise in what I do, so long as I make an honest effort to do my best. So that much is good. However, the scheduling troubles me. I knew going in that it was going to be unpredictable, and that they weren't going to guarantee me 40 hours, but the reality of it has turned out to be a little more chaotic than I was expecting. This week for example, every single day this week, the schedule has been revised at least once (we're on revision F so far), and I've only worked a single shift. I knew I might not get 40 hours per weeks, but I didn't sign up for 18-22, either. In effect, I'm working 2-3 days per week, but still only making about what I made at ABC, on the average. I was hoping for more, it would really be helpful.

My concerns with how many hours and the scheduling aside, I like this job. It's easy, there's a lot of downtime, and not having to deal with the public on a daily basis is fantastic; I no longer want to stab people in the face. I get to read for hours on end, or watch TV/movies on the tablet or laptop. Indeed, I've taken to using my phone to get the laptop online and watching stuff streaming from Netflix on there. I make good use of both my unlimited data and my Netflix subscription that way. And to think, I not only get paid for that, I get paid decently, too! I think I'm a good fit for the type of work, because I don't mind being there long shifts or random hours of the day/night.

And now, the car.

I called the Goose Creek people back after about three weeks. I spoke to them, and the lady I talked to told me that it would likely be as long as one or two months until it was to the point of being ready for sale. She also said I should feel free to call them back every 2-3 weeks in order to keep tabs on it. When I asked why it was taking so long, she told me that it was being worked on by their mechanic "between other projects". Upon later reflection, I came to the realization that this vehicle probably was a fairly low priority for them to sell, since they would undoubtedly put a lot of work into it, and not be able to sell it for a large profit margin. The cars they could make more on would undoubtedly have priority over it. Makes sense to me, and I certainly can't blame them. So long as when it does come up for sale, my name is still at the top of the list. While I understand, I am undoubtedly antsy about this. I'm eager to unload the Escort and get used to a "new" vehicle. I want to get acquainted with her and take a few nice long road trips. But I'm not a fool... I know enough to take my time and wait for one that's a worthwhile investment. It's all too easy to get a lemon!

Other than fixating on work and replacing the car, I really haven't been up to a lot lately. There's been a lot of down time when I think I'll be working, only to get a phone call from Eric (my boss) telling me that it's been pushed back 12hrs, or a whole day. I'm reading and watching a lot more TV, since I really can't plan far enough ahead to really do much else.


Balance & Liberation

I try to not think too deeply or hard about my life. When I don't think about it too deeply, things are good.

When I dwell on my life, all the things that make me not want to get out of bed in the morning just hit me in the face like a brick fired out of a mass driver.

When I don't think about things too hard, I am able to maintain my self-delusion that my life is great. Once under the microscope, I see the flaws. Being trapped in retail, being trapped in my job (which I hate), being poor because the job market is perpetually horrible. Constantly fretting about one thing or another, my health... and many more items of lament.

Under normal circumstances, I maintain my generally jovial mood and moderately positively outlook on life with liberal doses of self-delusion and apathy. It sucks big time when those break down.


Woop Woop

We had a guest from store 95 (the one close to where I live) closing. He accidentally did something to the door that set the alarm off, but by the time it started to go off, his car was already on the road out of the parking lot.

So, there I am sitting in my car, with the store alarm going off. For a moment, I ponder just saying "fuck it" and going home... as I did try to wave down Mike as he drove off, and he either didn't see me, or didn't give a shit.

So, since I had the store key (which I hang on to when someone from another store is filling in) I decided to go back inside and call Chris (the store's assistant manager) and ask him what needed to be done. Apparently, when the alarm goes off, the phone line cuts out, so I couldn't call Chris or the alarm company from the store phone. I did both from my cell. I almost didn't have them call the police and cancel them coming out to investigate, since I've never had to deal with this problem before.

I just love the fact that I had to do a keyholder's job, but I don't get the pay for it. Fuck this place.


Missed Opportunities, Late Learning

When I was younger, I used to go out of my way to avoid being one of the jocks, and I rebelled against the stereotypically macho things like giving a shit about sports, and being into cars.

Well, I still don't care about sports (and frankly, I've gone from indifferent to abject dislike) but the more I learn about cars, the more I wish I'd not been so negligent in learning from my father and others when my brain was younger and more able to absorb things readily.

I've been looking on and off for a replacement for the Escort for a long time now. But while I've had Cassandra (current car) and Jessica (her predecessor) I've learned a lot about maintenance and basic mechanics that I might've not if I'd had a new car covered by a warranty. There is something to be said for the "fuck, I can't afford to fix this" and then roll-up-the-sleeves-and-do-it-yourself method for learning. Especially with a well-chosen repair manual, wikipedia, and youtube.

I'm not about performance, I never have been, and I think beyond a certain threshold, it's really just a masculine pissing contest. I have come to respect designs that are more durable and efficient, which is why I'm so insistent upon a diesel for my next car, and such a specific engine in it.

A while back, I wanted to get a Volvo (the 200 series) with a diesel engine, since Volvo is known for reliability. But the more I learned, the less appealing it became. They're near impossible to find with automatic transmissions, and when you do find them, you lose a significant slice of engine power and fuel economy. Also, the engines in the diesel 200 series aren't actually made by Volvo. They're made by Volkswagon. And while there's nothing wrong with Volkswagon, they don't have the same reputation for engine reliability as Volvo does.

I don't recall exactly what caused me to start looking at the Mercedes-Benz 300TD. Perhaps because searches for "diesel wagon" tended to turn them up when I was looking for Volvos, I'm not sure. But I gradually learned a bit more about them, and realized that the Mercedes 300Ds had a small but extremely admiring following, and apparently for good reason. Some of the ancillary systems (door locks, power windows) might be a bit touchy, but overall, they last. And last. And last. And first and foremost, I want a vehicle that I can reasonbly expect to drive for at least several hundred thousand miles. And frankly (as much as I do love the Escorts) they just don't last that long. 180-200k is an extremely long life for them. The 300(T)Ds have been known to flip the 6-place odometer and keep on going, which frankly impresses the hell out of me.

As I've learned more about the old Mercedes, I have been impressed by the durability and overall excellent design. The 1979-1985 300D was powered by the OM617 5cyl 3.0L engine. Which to this day diesel enthusiasts insist is one of, if not the best engine ever designed. Simple, reasonably powerful, and durable as fuck (cast iron block).

I know I will get my hands on one eventually, it's just a matter of when, as well as the kind of condition. and frankly, as well-designed as the OM617 is, I'm thinking this will be the first car where I'm going to be doing as much of my own work on it as I can... not to save money, or that I'm not afraid I'll break something fragile in the process (as has been the case with the escort in past at certain times) but because I want to, and I think I'll enjoy it.

I am also fascinated by diesels because such an old design seems to have held up so well in the face of modern technology. And with each new facet I discover, I am intrigued a bit more. For example, as a layperson, I never knew that they were self-lubricating due to the thicker fuel mixture.

I think perhaps I should've gone to school for mechanics or to be an EE (electrical engineer). I've always been about the details, and in both of those disciplines, that's an essential skill. And no doubt my OCD would make it fairly easy to excel.

Return To The Old Stomping Ground

Today was my first day back at store 96 from 19. I missed how quiet it can be during the day. But the grass always seems greener from the other side, and the memory of some of the unique irritants about working there was dulled. Ah well, nothing I can't deal with given time a generous helping of Fuckitol.

I'll happily trade the rich white douchebags for the rude and clueless hood rats. At the very least, I'm able to honestly believe that I'm better than they are, because I don't revel in my ignorance, and treat others with respect. Too many people looked at ME like that at 19, and Mike went out of his way to pander to them if they waved around enough cash.

In short, it's good to be back, but not without a few caveats.