as for the truck...

...for those who were left hanging: the truck lives, in a manner of speaking. it sits on the lawn next to the driveway, having weathered a summer immobile, by virtue of having been replaced by my new 2008 Ford Escape.

following repair, the Dakota ran well for some weeks of normal duty, constituting the time elapsed to the closure of my home mortgage refinancing, followed by a period of researching some intended purchases.

having traded an increasingly daunting, mounting stack of credit card bills (about $24,000, with payments in the neighborhood of $550/mo.) for a $34,000 increase in principal (equal to a modest $120 increase mortgage payment and a five year increase in term), and having locked in a fixed rate approximately 1 percentage point lower than the rising, variable rate i replaced, and having paid closing costs from this same draw from my home equity, i was left with about $6,500 in cash.

with this cash i intended to purchase outright both a new computer and a new HDTV.

it is with no small satisfaction that i view the creation of this post on what may be the most impressive 24" LCD monitor i've yet seen: my Acer P243WAid. i could type the specs but i'm sure neither of my readers are particularly interested.

unfortunately, for the moment- for a very long string of moments now, actually- it remains coupled to a donated, decidedly outdated computer which is nevertheless a substantially more powerful machine than the P3 500MHz i'd been using up to that point (thanks Scott). i intended to relegate this newer dinosaur to work duty months ago (sans kick-ass monitor, naturally) but the absolute madness that is a summer spent working at Hollywood Lights has so far seen half the components of the most badass computer i've ever seen still in their boxes. at this rate they'll be obsolete before i ever get them assembled.

(readers are graciously excused their great collective sigh of relief as i inform them i hereby avoid including copious self-indulgent paragraphs of in-depth analysis of the painstaking research and complicated purchasing procedures and shipping disasters associated with the acquisition of those components.)

nonetheless, the lack of progress on the computer assembly front is unacceptable! progress must be made!

thankfully, we've seen the last of full-on summer madness (it is, after all, nearing the end of October) and the hours i work should diminish signficantly at this point, which of course leads to an increase in the amount of free time i have.

as usual, i follow a tangent too far forward. allow me to digress a bit.

having spent a considerable amount of time researching makes and models of more fuel efficient vehicles, i was further spurred toward the purchase of one by further difficulties with the Dakota.

the first stimulus was the unknowable longevity of my repairs. though they held for weeks, they were unfortunately followed by the death of the Dakota's ignition switch. this ushered in a pathetically prolonged period of starting the truck with a screwdriver across the solenoid terminals.

incidentally, this required a surprisingly stressful constant vigilance in the selection of opportune parking places from which the truck, lacking a functional parking brake since the day it was purchased in November of 1995, would either not roll (in neutral) while i opened the hood to start it, or would roll back slowly enough, after being taken out of gear, to allow for the placement of something behind one of the back wheels (usually a 2-gallon antifreeze bottle filled with water, kept in the truck bed against the possible failure of the coolant system repairs), while i opened the hood, started the truck, and closed the hood, and then again roll back slowly enough, after removing the ad hoc wheel chock, to allow me to jump in the cab to apply the brakes before hitting anything.

during this period of pseudo-manual starting of the motor i realized it would soon be much more convenient to have 2 vehicles. Loren was rapidly approaching driving age, and i figured i'd be less apprehensive handing him the keys to something less likely to leave him stranded on the side of the road. i also began to feel it would be basically irresponsible NOT to buy something better equipped to protect him in a collision if i had the means to do so.

but once again, i veer from the story of the pickup. its battery eventually died, refusing to charge (despite passing bench testing) and though i replaced it and continued driving the truck for a few more weeks, that proved to be the last push i needed to buy a new vehicle.

i'd basically made my mind up to buy a Honda Civic, probably a Civic Si 4-dr 5sp; i even made an appointment to go test drive a slightly used one with every option i'd imagined, at $8000 below list, but i was diverted by a loss-leader ad from Jason's brother JR's dealership (Frontier Ford in Stanwood, WA) for the Escape i now drive. i got an excellent deal on it, and bought it from someone i know, so i know i'll be taken care of if i ever do have a problem. i have to say buying a car from someone you know is an experience i highly recommend to any that can do so.

still, sometimes i wonder if i made the right choice. the Escape is a great vehicle; it gets between 27 and 30 mpg overall (note that probably 90% of my driving is on the freeway, predominantly in moderately-to-extremely-heavy traffic and my Escape is 4-cyl 5sp manual), and it has superior ground clearance, and likely much better visibility than the Civic (it certainly is much easier to see out of than the '08 Focus i test drove the same day), and the added size and accompanying practicality of an SUV are certainly positives, but the Civic would likely have been an extremely reliable sport sedan, and it's certainly a sexier ride, having a more powerful engine and superior handling, and it gets a bit better mileage. in the end i opted for the cheaper of the two vehicles (comparing showroom prices) and for something less likely to tempt Loren to put the hammer down, and for something less likely to be damaged by the huge potholes in the often-barely-gravelled excuse for a road that is the last quarter-mile or so approaching Loren's mom's house.

Loren is enrolled in driver's ed and able to get his permit, though he opted out of doing that today (basically his earliest possible opportunity) in favor of sleeping in and attending a birthday party this afternoon. nonetheless, he'll be climbing behind the wheel of the Escape in short order, likely next weekend. by the time he gets a full-fledged license, i may let him drive the pickup sometimes, depending on his skills. some have thought my intention Loren drives the better (more expensive) vehicle strange, while his skills are developing, but 2nd-generation airbags are the deciding factor for me. i'm looking to err on the safe side with my only son.

i've told Loren if he manages a 3.0 cumulative GPA throughout high school, he can have the Escape when he graduates; or, if he prefers, and i believe his driving skills are good enough, he can have the pickup. if his GPA comes in below 3.0 he'll have to take over the remaining three years of payments on the Escape if he wants it, or buy the pickup from me if that's his choice of vehicle. i'm hoping it's enough motivation for him to apply himself- which is all it will take for him to hit the mark. so far this year he's on the honor roll, with a 3.5 GPA for the year at mid-trimester- the best grades he's managed in a long time.

so far the Escape has seen 3 trips to George, Washington, for concerts at the Gorge Amphitheater (an addition to the summer routine that Loren welcomed enthusiastically, including- in reverse chronological order- the Dave Matthews Band, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Police w/Elvis Costello and the Imposters, and- in the pickup, prior to buying the Escape- Rush). i've racked up about 11,400 miles on the new ride in something like 4 months. my daily commute is about 75 miles; a single trip to Loren's mother's to pick him up is 26 miles round trip....the Escape will likely be nearing 100,000 miles by the time Loren inherits it. it's my goal to give it to him without a scratch on it. technically, this is already impossible, since the deflowering of the paint job- less than a week after i drove it off the dealership lot- was accomplished by Moose, Loren's otherwise AWESOME big galoot of a dog (at his mom's). that taught me quickly not to leave Chowder in the vehicle and Moose unattended outside the vehicle while parked there. i managed to buff nearly all the claw marks out of the driver's side door by hand (you have to get your nose very close to the paint to notice them), and i could probably get a bit more out with some more aggressive buffing compound, but for the moment i've let it ride. i'm happy to report i've managed to avoid spilling any drinks or staining the upholstery with fast food thus far.

i tried not to smoke in it, but settled for never smoking in it without at least one window open. so far, though it doesn't smell new anymore, it certainly doesn't smell like the interior of the Dakota, which lacked the luxury of heat.

however...allow me to change course once more, from the 2nd of my post-refi purchases to the 3rd.

happily, i can report i successfully acquired a rather stunning, top-rated 50" Panasonic plasma TV, model THPZ800U, for the steep but quite reasonable sum of about $2000- a $130 discount on an already-decent list price from Video Only in Lynnwood, due to their being out of stock at the time i purchased it.

interestingly, having recently given a one-hour summary of my weeks of television research to my parents, who found themselves lacking a television upon the death of their very nice standard-definition Sony, they purchased the exact television i was leaning toward, and i was afforded the opportunity to put it through some of its paces in their living room prior to my own purchase. ironically, they purchased the set at the same store i did, and their purchase contributed to both the lack of that model in the store's stock when i purchased, and the subsequent discount which allowed me to purchase the set for less than they paid. the wait was worth the money.

the setup and implementation of the new TV was obviously much easier than that of the new computer, and was accomplished before the 2nd Sunday of football season. to be honest, i'm sure partial credit for this can be attributed to the absolutely massive box obstructing my living room. the set is heavy, at about 100 pounds, and the weight, combined with the dauntingly unwieldy shape, forced me to wait for help (Loren's) to remove it from the box and place it upon the TV stand. i opted against a wall mount, since the best available are about $300, require even more complicated installation, and preclude turning the TV 90 degrees in relation to the wall. Loren and i have a longstanding habit of turning the television toward the dining room while we eat, and the wheeled stand we've used works excellent with the new set.

i opted to upgrade to Comcast's telephone service, and digital cable w/the NFL network (in order to catch the Thursday night games available in November) and a DVR box, which i'm hooked on now. having never experienced OnDemand or the ability to pause or rewind live television broadcasts before, not to mention surf the HD content available or record 2 programs at the same time, as well as getting a complimentary 1-yr subscription to the Starz premium channels, and eliminating my $30 Verizon land-line bill and lowering my overall Comcast bill by $20/mo. for a year (effectively saving me $600 over that time), i'm happy with the new setup.

all this leads me closer to the present, in which things have taken an unexpected and decidedly somber twist, which seems to me to belong to another post.

here's to a long post after a long dry spell. more to come sooner than later but later than now.



facebook is a trip

watching people hook up is pretty khoul. i don't mean in the biblical sense. people who haven't seen each other for a long time, that used to see each other all the time.

i used to know so many people, back in high school and for a few years after. the 'college' years are a trip for people who don't go to college. there's a whole generation of guys more or less like me, that spent their early 20s or even early into their 30s workin' graveyards at 7/11 or workin' on an assembly line, or whatever, just squeaking by with minimal effort, partying constantly...

it's nice to be immortal and not even consider consequences...to be naive and bulletproof...

i definitely make better long-term decisions as i'm approaching 41 than i did at 21. at 31 i had a lot figured out; i have a little more figured out now. i suppose i'll get a little wiser before i'm finished, and that's something to be gained.

being bulletproof would be nice, however...

lots of stuff has changed. everything changes all the time.

i should post more often.

[is this thing on?]


it might be the end

of the road for my truck.

since sometime approximately coinciding with the onset of winter, i've been having cooling system problems. leaks, blown hoses, overheating, etc. i noticed when the truck was getting low on water it would overheat quickly when i got stuck in traffic. i tried winding the engine up a little while stopped in traffic and the temperature would go down. start driving again and the temperature returns to normal. this prob'ly happened infrequently for about a month- the month of December, which was was (predictably) more insane than normal, driving-wise. let it cool off when it gets hot, put some fluids in it. check the fluids a lot, fix everything that goes wrong as it goes wrong, never get the engine hot for long, baby it. but the killing blow might have come a week ago last Friday, Jan. 11.

cruising along in the morning on I5 southbound, in very light traffic (south of 128th in Lynnwood, for anyone that means anything to) with no problems, i heard a pretty loud bang, and it seemed like all the water blew out at once- very strange. never seen anything like that: huge cloud of steam, maybe bigger than any i've seen come off a vehicle. but the truck doesn't overheat, and it seems to be running fine. scratch head. consider worrying. consider not worrying. seriously consider pulling off the road. decide to pay attention and wait for a sign confirming that something is actually wrong...and keep driving. light a cigarette.

drive remarkably far with no problems, cynically acknowleding the way the hope that nothing's wrong struggles to overpower the certain knowledge that something must be. step on brakes as traffic thickens and slows.

slow down, speed up, slow down, wait- wait- ...yup. stop.

nod inwardly as temperature gauge rises rapidly. experience morbid satisfaction that world is operating as it should. weigh options. gauge position. (halfway between 175th & 145th exits in Shoreline, for those same few that means something to). weigh options: [1] exit on 145th (2-way 4-lane arterial literally miles from anything resembling a service station, for anyone who doesn't already know), or [2] drive approximately the same distance to a downhill exit which ends precisely at a gas station. wring hands, pull hair, gnash teeth.

decide to stick it out.

drive about 4-5 minutes in heavy traffic. listen to engine getting very loud- as i pass the point of no return- resembling the sound my '63 Rambler made, circa 1985, when i ran it out of oil, in what i didn't realize until this very moment- as i'm typing this- that that happened in the exact same place...22 or 23 years ago. wow.

ok where was i? my truck engine making lots of noise- getting damn hot- gritting teeth- approaching exit! coast as much as possible aaaaaaaand shut off engine! coast down exit ramp, turn key to AC position so the steering doesn't lock up, coast through S-cuuuuurve....to red light. growl. wait for a couple cars to clear the intersection. turn key- engine totally protests for the first time ever...but turns over. bump truck into gear, give it enough gas to pull right-turn-on-red U-turn into gas station parking lot, killing engine ASAP. park truck, pop hood, protect hand, pull radiator cap, retrieve water bottles from truck bed. light cigarette. slowly, carefully empty water from one bottle onto passenger-side exhaust manifold, avoiding the head and block. repeat with 2nd water bottle on driver's side. discover formerly-free air and water facilities have become coin-operated, and missing the water hose entirely. grumble. check oil. YIKES- very low. and strange; the truck doesn't go through much oil at all, and usually lights up on the dash before it's this low. shake head grimly.

take bottles inside and ask for some water. buy some oil. follow directions to spigot on far side of building, fill water bottles, walk back to truck, put 2 quarts of oil in. turn key to AC and check temperature gauge: acceptable. pour more water on exhaust manifolds, walk back, fill bottles, walk back, fill radiator. light another cigarette. cross fingers.

turn key.

truck starts right up, idles fine. sounds normal again- incredibly normal. too normal. pull truck around building, fill bottles, head for the road.

drive in off-and-on traffic to work (maybe 8 miles?) with no problem, waiting for the loud bang that says, "game over." it doesn't come. truck begins getting hot as i approach work.


fill all 5 water bottles with hose. fill radiator. check hoses and look for leaks. sure enough, it's slightly streaming out the bottom, just a little. exactly like it did the last 3 times i had to replace the water pump. experience the particularly irritating kind of annoyance that only comes when (you think) you know what you're in for. resign myself to fate.

drive work van home, get Loren from his mom's, deal with stuff i always deal with on the weekend. set up water pump purchase for following Monday, drive van to work, home to get pump. bring pump to work in the morning, wait 'til quitting time, start truck, pull into bay, start tearing it down. remove radiator fan cowling, pull off serpentine belt (bloodying face with cheater bar when the wrench slips off the stripped spring-tensioner bolt), disconnect a couple hoses....realize i have the wrong water pump; i have the compression-fit-nipple pump and need the threaded-nipple pump.

often the parts stores get the wrong part, but i couldn't remember which was on my truck (it could be either) and had to guess at the parts store; it's my bad. grimly acknowledge the truck will not move in its state of disassembly. put everything except hoses back together. pull truck back out into lot. drive van home, to parts store, exchange water pump. experience relief they have it in stock. bring new water pump to work. miserably fail to again summon the motivation to fix the water pump after work. very busy, all week....decide to fix truck on Saturday.

which brings us to the present, precisely 11:47pm PDT, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2008 A.D.

figured i'd throw that in there, since this post is obviously not going to post until early Sunday morning.

drive to work on Saturday. pull truck in bay. re-disassemble everything i already did. drop appropriate number of bolts and fasteners into engine cavity, skin knuckles in predictable ways, remain calm, try to be methodical despite everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong, a pattern which would continue until my efforts were exhausted. remove remaining hoses and water pump mounting bolts, pull water pump free of block. comes loose, but still stuck. hmmm. realize i missed the Dastardly Bastard hose that's never been removed (only disconnected at the water pump in the past) at the top of the water pump, due to its position (buried under the air conditioning motor, and the bracket it- and the alternator and some other stuff- is mounted to. loosen clamp, attempt to pull water pump from hose, watch hose tear effortlessly. swear loudly, knowing i must go to parts store. remove air filter assembly, remove air conditioning pump from mounting bracket and set to side, remove alternator and mounting bracket (without disassembling) and associated crap, loosen now-accessible rear clamp on Bastard 4" slightly angled hose. remove hose with malicious intent.

attempt at great length with inadequate tools to remove fan clutch assembly from old water pump, eventually crushing old pump blades from spindle with vice. clamp newly accessible spindle in vice and forcibly remove fan clutch assembly with reluctant disregard for scoring the huge fan clutch assembly mounting nut.

go to NAPA (closest store). attempt unsuccessfully to buy a chunk of the same-size hose. no can do, they sold out of (what they identified as) 1-1/4" ID radiator hose a couple hours ago, some guy bought it all up. great. helpful-but-ultimately-unhelpful sales associate finds a pre-formed hose that has a section on one end with approximately the right length to "match" my hose...for $15. realize i should have measured the pump fitting before i left. buy hose, and a putty knife to help scrape the rest of the gasket material off with. sigh. return to truck, methodically final-clean the water pump mounting surface. debate whether to attach fan clutch assembly to water pump. hmmm. disinclined to hold new water pump in vice after watching last water pump destroyed. prepare gasket and mount the water pump.

realize with horror that the last bolt (one of the far shorter ones, on the passenger-side bottom) will thread but not tighten: STRIPPED. since the bolt hole on the water pump is a pass-through hole, the threads must be stripped in the block. imagine a bell, tolling once, faintly, in the distance.

pace. review options. only one option: try it. torque down water pump as well as possible. wrap bolt in...first choice would be aluminum foil, second would be teflon tape....have neither...screw it: electrical tape. it will almost certainly melt but i just want it to grab a little- and see if the truck holds water. check new hose. too big. i knew it! dammit!

drive back to NAPA for smaller hose. NAPA is closed. realize i should have tried the hose FIRST and that it's getting late, 6:30pm. i'm 6 hrs into a project i've done previously (more than once) in 2-4 hrs.

drive to Schucks in Rainier Beach (much farther), get the right hose, return, install hose and all remaining hoses, replace alternator and mounting bracket and associated crap, replace air conditioning motor, replace air filter, serpentine belt. scratch head about how to install fan clutch assembly to water pump. hand-tighten fan clutch assembly to water pump as well as possible while holding water pump pulley as steady as possible, with very limited success. scratch head about how to hold pulley still. try unsuccessfully to feed something through tiny, much-closer-to-the-center-in-the-new-water-pump pinhole in water pump pulley. scratch head. feed tie line through pinhole, hoping i can make it feed out from behind the bell of the pulley- success! tie off line to rigid air-conditioner pipes, torque down fan clutch assembly hard enough to break tie line. guess that it's on tight enough that it won't fly off while idling long enough to determine if the thing holds water or not. hope i don't shred my hoses if it does fly off.

realize the fan cowling doesn't fit over the fan clutch assembly without the fan blades loose. remove fan blade assembly from clutch assembly, try to feed cowling in. no. works coming up, but not down; the edge of the cowling catches on heat-sink grooves in the clutch assembly at this angle- it's impossible. swear loudly! break out brand-new battery-operated sawzall (19.2V Alltrade/Kawasaki brand, xmas present from my folks- thanks again), repeatedly shoo Chowder away from large reciprocating saw blade, deftly cut clean arc through cowling bottom one-handedly, while holding the cowling with the other hand, removing just barely enough to clear the fan clutch assembly. install cowling and upper radiator hose. cross fingers. pour water in radiator, waiting for leaks. huge leak! wtf? oh. did that last time, too- forgot the bottom radiator hose, the one that's a lot harder to do once it's all back together...but not impossible. install hose. fill water bottle, pour in radiator, check for leaks. nothing by the stripped bolt. good. nothing out the bottom where it was leaking before- also good. tiny, tiny leak seems to be coming from...where?....the upper radiator hose? no way. wierd. that hose is new, and the clamps on right, and it's the most accessible piece of the whole job. check clamp. repeatedly top off radiator, waiting for water to settle, until full. try to figure out how water is leaking from upper radiator hose....jiggle connection a little-

SNAP! plastic upper radiator nipple breaks off effortlessly, taking a jagged, sizable piece of the radiator top with it. realize the BANG i heard when all the water blew out of the truck was the radiator blowing it's top. experience wonder and amazement that i managed to make it about 16-18 miles to work with a blown radiator, and that the engine still runs. wonder if the 20 or 30 teflon-enhanced oil filters i used for 10 years (until they recently became unavailable) has anything to do with that. realize that it's now 9:30pm and there's no way this truck will be road-worthy today. weigh options.

coat edge of broken piece and edge of hole in radiator with thick coat of tube-gasket adhesive/maker. set in place as well as possible and apply pressure by wedging edge of radiator hose against the nipple. stuff another piece of hose between the radiator cowling and the broken piece on the other end. realize there's no way this can work but still hoping against hope that it will be enough to get the truck on the road....long enough to replace the radiator.

pull truck out of bay (experience mild relief that it's able to move out of the way!). realize engine seems to be running rougher than normal. it's firing smoothly, started easily, responds to the throttle strongly, but is vibrating more than normal. realize i know this engine really well, having run it and worked on it for the last 12.5 years. acknowledge that this means something is most likely out of balance with the water pump, and/or i did actually damage something when i overheated it. run engine for a few minutes and watch fan clutch assembly....it's a little rough looking but not too bad. it doesn't have to be that bad to completely fry things. acknowledge that the temperature outside has been hovering in the low 30s to low 40s with high precipitation and the gasket material i'm trying to use as a temporary seal on the broken radiator piece will likely never set up in these conditions- let alone the 3-hr normal set-up time.

clean the place up. drive the van home. light cigarette. write blog post.

sign off, thinking it's time to buy a new car, knowing i don't have the money to...let alone the time to find one, or a vehicle to drive around and find one in, except the company van (which may also be on its last legs due to a serious suspension problem in the driver's-side front wheel). and i predict my boss's patience for me borrowing that van is going to be understandably limited...

you MUST have wheels to work 37 miles from home and ferry a kid back and forth, etc. i need to buy a car, like...now.


it got big

a month and a half since i turned 40 and i still haven't posted anything.

as if nothing happened at all...except (obviously) things did.

where to start posting about them? argh! everything just gets big.

that's the phrase my friend Pat and i came up with (many moons ago) to describe a circumstance in which two people (usually two who are very close) are having a conversation about something, and one is explaining some (often very complex) concept to the other, and while the explainer endeavors to express that concept in exactly those terms which fully and accurately convey that complexity, simultaneously avoiding digression along any of a seemingly-endless torrent of pertinent tempting tangents, he realizes that ultimately, though his expression of the concept remains unfinished, its full meaning yet undefined, the listener has intuitively identified with the concept, in all its subtlety and complexity, rendering the explanation prematurely complete (and/or moot).
less often (but no less appropriately) it can be used by the explainer as a term to indicate his inability to continue the explanation in the face of insurmountable tangent formation.
it may be used (possibly, but not necessarily, in combination with the first example) in cases where, during the explanation, it becomes apparent to the explainer that the language itself has no words for expressing the fundamental essence of the concept being explained (which, incidentally, does not preclude the possibility of the listener's understanding).
it is sometimes used as an escape route for the explainer when it becomes clear that the explanation is inconvenient, annoying, or otherwise unwelcome to the listener, or the explainer determines mid-explanation that the effort required to finish the explanation isn't worh it.

in proper usage, when any of these circumstances occurs, the next appropriate thing for the explainer to do is immediately discontinue the explanation and utter, "...it got big."

(please note that there is some lingering uncertainty regarding whether or not the appropriate subsequent response from the listener is, "shboing.....shboing shboing."

this whole post seems to be a demonstration of the inability to refrain from following a tangent, as i mentioned in the

...it got big.

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