Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Jeep Saga continues...

Day 2:
I picked up the starter from the parts store. Hurried past the dead Jeep, eyes averted. Went inside to write, instead of fighting with rounded-off bolt holding starter to Jeep.

Day 3:
Pretended Jeep was fine. Worked on ms. Thinking I'm onto something--writing as avoidance activity...

The trick is to be avoiding something so assiduously that even writing is preferable.

Day 4 and 5:
Investigated more ways to remove bolt, once bolt head is useless. Hung out at autoparts store, picking over twitchy CarQuest guy's brains. Bought more tricksy bolt-extraction tools. Wrote some more.

Day 6:
Called Pater and whined.
Got one bolt out. One down, one to go. Victory!
Now it's only a matter of time.

I hate this. I hate working on cars. I loathe being cold and greasy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Author Scoop

So a friend of mine has undertaken an ambitious project. Haskins is a hell of a writer, a talented poet, and an all-around good guy. I wish him most excellent luck with Author Scoop.

And how can you not love a site that opens with collected reviews of King's latest?

Don't be a stranger, William.

A Peek Into the Writer Mind...

My good-natured housemate has bemusedly observed on more than one occasion that it sometimes seems to take an awfully long time for me to accomplish what seems like a fairly straightforward task. I've been thinking about that, and realized I know precisely why. It's really easier to illustrate, than to explain, though. So, if you'll bear with me?

So the starter goes on my beloved twelve-year-old jeep, this week. I ascertain that it's the starter through tricksy diagnostics: It won't start, so I replace the several-months-expired battery, and that doesn't fix it; so then I consult Google, then spend some time lurking on the Jeep-Fixing Fora--yes, they really are plural--which leads me to believe the starter is the real problem. I'm here to tell you, though, those people badly need good tech-writers.

*note to self: must remember to put fresh candles on the Google altar.

Day 1--Since I consider myself a handy, mechanically-inclined sort of a woman, I decide to fix it myself. Also, the webpage I found most closely describing the symptoms said it's surprisingly easy to replace your own starter.

It seems like a good way to get some hands-on experience at something I'm only passingly familiar with--and that always engages my curiosity. I start wondering, at this point, about the etymology of the word "torque." Pretty sure it's Latin. Sounds Latin.

So I gather a mostly-complete socket set from the top of the dryer, the windowsill, my nightstand, the junk-drawer in the kitchen, and the tool chest in the garage, and go out to the driveway.

I pop the hood and spend some time staring at the engine. It occurs to me that this would be a much easier job if all those bits and pieces were clearly labeled. I start mentally composing a friendly and hopefully funny letter suggesting as much to the Jeep People. Back inside to google images for "jeep starters" and I run across an interesting essay about why I need to replace the solenoid, if I'm replacing a starter. More googling. The solenoid on a '95 Jeep Wrangler is apparently attached to the starter itself, so I'm golden. Print the clearest pic. Back outside.

Staring at the engine, identification picture in hand, I have a slowly dawning suspicion that the starter isn't going to be found from topside. Go inside to write draft of less friendly, less funny letter to Jeep People.

Nothing to be done for it. Back out to the driveway and wriggle under the jeep, behind the passenger side tire, to peer up into shadowy interior of engine compartment. Locate what was probably once the starter. At least, the shape is vaguely similar to that in the picture I'm clutching. Consult directions, and realize I was supposed to disconnect the negative terminal of the new battery. Wriggle back out. Spend some moments picking gravel from waistband. Disconnect battery, and spend self-congratulatory moment feeling totally chuffed that I didn't accidentally zap myself. Or run over myself. Or whatever Bad Things happen if one doesn't remember to disconnect the battery.

Crawl back under the Jeep. Stare into engine mass from bottomside, once again. Have brief daydream about being Scotty, aboard the enterprise. Say lots of stuff in terrible accent. "She's givin' us all she's got, Captain!" "I dinna think you should bang on 'er like that, Captain..." (I get to be Captain Kirk, too, now.)

I do manage to disconnect the battery from the starter and solenoid, though. Accomplishment!

Then things begin to deteriorate. The bolts actually holding the starter to the rest of the engine stuff have funny-looking heads. After some experimentation, I discover that a 3/8 hex-head socket will fit over the bolt heads, without obvious slippage. However, when I apply pressure (with a length of pipe slipped over the wrench handle for increased leverage, because those puppies ain't movin') the socket slips, I badly skin most of the knuckles on my right hand, and the bolt itself still hasn't budged. Now I begin mentally composing a caustic letter to the author of the webpage that claims this is "surprisingly easy."

I spend a long moment, then, thinking about Laura Mixon's lecture concerning "unconscious incompetence" and suppress premonitory chill.

No worries. I've got the battery disconnected from the thing, so I can just pick up the actual squiggly-looking socket I need, when I go purchase the new starter. Confident in my eventual triumph, I picture the engine smartly spinning and roaring to life. And off I go to CarQuest.

(Turns out the funny looking bolt heads take a Torx-head socket. I found out from the nice CarQuest guy who looked like he was trying very hard either not to sneeze or not to laugh.) They have to order the starter, but I'm okay with that, actually. I can wait til tomorrow for the inevitable flush of success and accomplishment. I believe in delayed gratification. Besides, I don't have the old starter off, yet, even.

The CarQuest guy tells me to bring the old starter back to them, and they'll refund my "core charge." I raise an eyebrow, because I know what the old starter looks like, and I'm suspicious that the core is actually showing, but agree. 60 bucks is 60 bucks, and who needs a big, filthy paperweight?

The twitchy CarQuest guy can't tell me the etymology of "torque," however. I promise to share it, tomorrow, after I've had a chance to look it up. He seems strangely disinterested.

Home I go, new sockets in hand, and crawl back under the engine. It occurs to me that I've gotten used to gravel down the back of my shirt and pants, which starts me thinking about human adaptivity, which gives me a proto-story idea. I consider stopping to jot notes, but decide to let it percolate a bit more.

So the Torx socket doesn't really want to fit on the bolt head I rounded off. A few sharp raps with a hammer, though, and it pops right on. It can only be a matter of minutes, I figure.

Twenty minutes of swearing and reinjuring my already insulted knuckles, and the bolt head resembles fossilized chewing gum. At this point, I quietly acknowledge to myself that a sane person would seek a Qualified Mechanic Guy. I, however, resolve to stick it out by reminding myself of the eventual sense of accomplishment, and the satisfaction of useful skills gained. Clearly, a bit more research is required, though.

Also, I'm still wondering about the etymology of "torque."

Back inside the house to google torque, because I can't stand not knowing. Unabridged (v 1.0.1) - Cite This Source
torque[tawrk] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation, noun, verb, torqued, torqu‧ing.
1.Mechanics. something that produces or tends to produce torsion or rotation; the moment of a force or system of forces tending to cause rotation.
2.Machinery. the measured ability of a rotating element, as of a gear or shaft, to overcome turning resistance.
3.Optics. the rotational effect on plane-polarized light passing through certain liquids or crystals.
4.Also, torc. a collar, necklace, or similar ornament consisting of a twisted narrow band, usually of precious metal, worn esp. by the ancient Gauls and Britons.
–verb (used with object)
5.Machinery. to apply torque to (a nut, bolt, etc.). cause to rotate or twist.
–verb (used without object) rotate or twist.

[Origin: 1825–35; L. torquēre to twist; (def. 4) F. torque L. torques torques (torc perh. <>
Yep. Latin. I'm pleased.

Also, it turns out there's another tool you can use, just to remove big friggin' bolts without viable heads.

I'll let you know how it all turns out.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pass it along.

From Making Light. Feel free to pass it along, with attribution and a linkback to the original souce.



Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:05 AM * 10-2-06

You are not required to obey an unlawful order.

You are required to disobey an unlawful order.

You swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

The Constitution states (Article VI):

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

Here is article 3, the common article, to the Geneva Conventions, a duly ratified treaty made under the authority of the United States:

Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.

Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is straightforward and clear. Under Article VI of the Constitution, it forms part of the supreme law of the land.

You personally will be held responsible for all of your actions, in all countries, at all times and places, for the rest of your life. “I was only following orders” is not a defense.

What all this is leading to:

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, it is your duty to disobey that order. No “clarification,” whether passed by Congress or signed by the president, relieves you of that duty.

If you are ordered to violate Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, this is what to do:

1. Request that your superior put the order in writing.

2. If your superior puts the order in writing, inform your superior that you intend to disobey that order.

3. Request trial by courtmartial.

You will almost certainly face disciplinary action, harassment of various kinds, loss of pay, loss of liberty, discomfort and indignity. America relies on you and your courage to face those challenges.

We, the people, need you to support and defend the Constitution. I am certain that your honor and patriotism are equal to the task.

This post may be quoted in full. A linkback would be appreciated.