This evening I decided I’d motor home with the moonroof open in the Saturn, and flipped the switch between the two visors. The glass lifted obligingly and then froze about 1″ away from the front edge of the opening, dead in its tracks. No sound from the motor, no grinding in the tracks. This has happened before, a number of years ago when Saturn was still in business and the car was under warranty, and they replaced the broken part free of charge. Now we’re on our own.

A search online revealed a detailed explanation of how to disassemble the roof of the car to get at the relevant parts (and take the entire moonroof assembly out), and another post contained the key bit of information I was looking for. GM, in its infinite wisdom, used a drive motor with a built-in manual gear to help wind the glass closed in the event of just such an emergency. In their customary stupidity, they hid access to this manual gear by covering it up completely, so in order to get a screwdriver on it, one has to remove the entire headliner. (Contrast this with our Honda, where there’s an unobtrusive plastic cap over the manual wind mechanism in the middle rear of the roof. Pop it off, and you’re in business).

So, tomorrow morning I’m going to head to Crazy Ray’s to see if they’ve still got one of the three SC-1’s from a month ago, and pull the switch to see if that’s the problem. If it still won’t close, I’m going to pull the headliner down over the weekend, crank the window closed manually, and just enjoy the breeze from the side windows instead.

Date posted: April 22, 2010 | Filed under money, projects | Leave a Comment »

I don’t know how to play chess, but I understand the basic concept—it’s the rules I never bothered to learn. It can be used as an allegory for many things in life. Like yesterday, for example. Jen had an early morning client meeting, which meant Finn needed daycare. Which meant I needed to get her there in the CR-V. But Jen had to be able to pick her up, so I had to get the CR-V back to the house and swap it for another vehicle.

Meanwhile, Pep Boys replaced the defective battery they’d sold me late last year, but I hadn’t had the time to drop it into the Slattern, so I was going to have to take the Scout on her inaugural test drive to work when I brought the CR-V back. Got all that? Good.

Jen made it to her meeting on time, Finn made it to daycare on time, and I made it to work about 30 minutes late, but the Scout did just fine. No leaks, no spitting coolant, and everything felt great.

During the day, I called Bank of America to replace my ATM card for our joint account, and after one abortive attempt I was able to get a CSR to order me a new card. before I hung up I asked her to verify the account she’d altered, and she gave me my primary checking account, not the joint account. (This, after punching in the joint account number and my soc in order to access the main menu, then repeating it to the CSR as soon as she got on the line. Isn’t technology amazing?) So I corrected her, verified she had the right account and verified she hadn’t cancelled my primary checking card. See where this is going?

On my way out the door from work, I called to order some kebabs for dinner, because Jen didn’t have time to get anything set up and because it was a LOST night. I turned the key in the Scout and got a lovely click-click-click from the battery, which had fired up just fine in the morning but decided to crap on itself sometime during the day. The guy downstairs in the booth, who couldn’t have been nicer, didn’t have a battery charger, and the garage was pretty deserted by the time I was there, so I reluctantly called Jen, who was in transit with Finn, to come and give me a jumpstart. She made it into the city  in record time, and after some fiddling with the jumper cables (they will be replaced next month) we got the Scout to fire up. Driving back to the ‘Ville, we separated so I could go pick up dinner, and I left it running while I ran inside. When the guy ran my ATM card—you guessed it—declined. The BoA lady had, indeed, cancelled my primary card. I made like I was going to run home and get cash, but the proprietor, who couldn’t have been nicer, told me to take the food and come back to pay when I could. So I will endorse Cafe Kebab on Frederick Road not only because their food is delicious, but because the owners are exceptionally nice people.

Returning home, Jen had food ready for Finn, and we all devoured our dinner a full hour past our usual schedule. I ran out to pay for our meal, and then hurried back to help Jen give Finn a bath (she had played outside for a good portion of the day, and thus was covered in sunblock). After putting her to bed, I had 15 minutes for my next mission:

  1. Pull the good battery from the Jeep, which was parked across the street.
  2. Drop the new battery in the Saturn.
  3. Move the Saturn out of the driveway.
  4. Drop the Jeep battery in the Scout.
  5. Pull the Scout into the garage.
  6. Pull the Saturn into the driveway.
  7. Put the bad battery on the charger for one more test.

Thankfully, I made it inside just before the first commercial break of LOST. Which kicked ass, by the way.

Jen also informed me I’m not allowed to drive the CR-V, because she’s afraid I’m going to fuck it up somehow. Which, after all of this mechanical drama, is probably true.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: April 21, 2010 | Filed under humor, money, Scout | Leave a Comment »

Early Saturday morning, Finn woke up from a bad dream and called to us from her crib. I went in (Mama has weekends off) and soothed her, laid her back down and tried to leave quietly, but she wasn’t having it. After I settled her down again and laid on the spare bed in her room, she snuffled her way back to sleep, leaving me to try and catch a few more Z’s before dawn broke. I’d just found my way back to REM sleep when it was time to get up for some breakfast, and we went downstairs to find Mama was already out the door on her mission for the morning: to check out the nearly new sale at the Howard County Fairgrounds. No sooner had I hit the bottom step when she called in to check on us; she’d seen a used red wagon that had been snatched from her grasp at the last second and wanted to know if we’d left the house yet. Finn and I wolfed down some breakfast, changed into dayclothes, and hit the road for our mission: picking over the community yard sale across the street.

In years past, we’ve found all sorts of useful things for sale in the surrounding area, from cameras to toys to cars. We were hoping to fill some of the small gaps in Finn’s wardrobe and maybe find some larger used items so that we weren’t paying full dealer price; the depreciation on little red wagons is atrocious as soon as you’ve driven them off the lot. Because we’d gotten a late start, she and I didn’t hit the bricks until 9:30, a full hour and a half after the official starting bell, so much of the good stuff was gone by the time we made the rounds.

This year’s sale seemed to favor fussy wingback chairs, Christmas decorations from the Reagan era, a metric ton of stupid glassware (always with the glassware, these people) and ramshackle pressboard furniture, but little or no interesting or useful stuff. There were some isolated deals on children’s books, and when Mama joined up with us, we scored a pair of $.50 Converse lowtops with room to grow in for the girl, but otherwise the local selection of kids items was thin. Perhaps the biggest surprise, then, was when Jen pointed out a sign at an otherwise uninteresting sale which mentioned radiator covers. Curious, we followed the seller back and peeped out a metal cover in excellent condition stored in the back of a garage; we hurried home with measurements and a phone number, and confirmed that it was perfect for our dining room.

$100 radiator cover

After returning home, we bundled up the girl and headed out to her swim lesson. She’s doing really well with the stuff that scared her the first couple of weeks, like being underwater and floating on her back. She still has a look of confusion when she comes back out of the water, but she’s not as prone to crying about it like before. We played together until I could feel her shivering in my hands, and then it was time to go home. But not before checking out a fire engine in the parking lot! The local volunteer department brought it down for kids to check out, so Finn got to sit in the rear jumpseat and poke around the cabin while we chatted up one of the firemen.


Saturday afternoon I started working on cleaning up the clutter in our basement, first by hauling our old kitchen cabinets from of the center of the floor and hanging them on the back wall of the garage. At that point I realized the garage was in far worse shape than the basement, and commenced to organizing and cleaning as much as I could in there. Into the cabinets went the piles of debris from the workbench, a crate of motor oil, and a crateful of garden fertilizer and tools. I pulled the remainder of the rodent-chewed insulation off the walls and bagged it for disposal, reorganized the handtools, and put parts spares up into the attic. Nothing is going to make the floor any cleaner, but having the raised portion cleaned up is very nice. And when I’ve got a dumpster parked outside for the side porch, I’m going to find a way to disconnect the old gas stove and make that disappear as well.

One of the things I keep running into as I’m working on our cars is an unorganized toolbox filled with an explosion of wrenches. I’ve got two sets of SAE and one set of metric box-heads, and being able to find them quickly would be really helpful. After looking through the organizational section at the Home Depot and coming away unimpressed, I decided something simple would be the best solution—I’ll be happy to buy a couple of these when our budget allows. I’ve also got to find a way to organize sockets by size and type so that I’ll wind up with the correct handle for the right socket.

Sunday was just as busy. Finn’s friend Stella turned 2, so we stopped by her birthday party and sang, danced, painted, and played games with a group of other children the same age. By the time we left, she was pooped, and slept pretty much the whole way home.

Birthday Party

While she was down I continued working outside, getting the back lawn mowed for the first time, then doing some battery swapping with the Slattern. It looks like the battery I bought last fall to replace the original is bad, but I’m not 100% sure; I replaced it with the Jeep battery and the car seemed to fire over a lot more happily. I also switched out the taillight wiring on the off chance there was a short in the original, but I’m going to try to see how well Pep Boys honors their 1 year replacement warranty this evening before I call this fixed.

Date posted: April 19, 2010 | Filed under finn, general, house, tools | Leave a Comment »

Another bit of good news: Obama wants to give gay couples hospital visitation rights on par with married couples. Hallelujah, amen. I’ve seen the incredible healing power of having a loved one at bedside; I can’t fathom the idea of being kept away from a sick wife, child, or family member for any reason. Maybe someday this country will grow up completely.

Date posted: April 16, 2010 | Filed under politics, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Today the U.S. Government charged Goldman Sachs with fraud for their role in the financial meltdown. What took them so long?

Date posted: April 16, 2010 | Filed under money, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Finn greeted me when I got home from work last night.

Date posted: April 16, 2010 | Filed under finn, photo | 1 Comment »

I’ve always liked the simplicity and quaint design of the original Gadsden flag. You’ve seen it in history class—it’s the yellow flag with a coiled rattlesnake bearing the motto “Don’t Tread On Me”. Actually, I much prefer the “Join, or Die” cartoon designed by Benjamin Franklin that predates it, but my libertarian sensibilities are more in line with the spirit of the later design.

The Gadsden flag was designed and popularized by Christopher Gadsden, a soldier and statesman from South Carolina. According to Wikipedia, the U.S. Navy was created in 1775 in order to intercept ships bringing supplies to British troops in the colonies. Five companies of Marines were mustered to accompany the Navy, and they carried drums painted yellow with the rattlesnake and motto. Gadsden gave the Navy Commander-in-Chief a version of this design as his personal standard to carry into battle, and the rest is history.

What bums me out is the current usage of the Gadsden flag by the Tea Party movement. This morning on my way to work I spied a guy waving a 5′ Gadsden flag on the I-83 overpass at passing traffic; I don’t think there’s any rally locally today, but this dude seemed to really be into his freedom of expression. I’ve heard a lot about the Tea Party and how they’re mad about things, but it wasn’t until I read this article that some of the distinctions became clearer. Apparently the majority of the group is white, evangelical, identifies as conservative Republican/Independent, is over 45, 1/3 southern, and owns a gun. They seem to believe Obama is making the country more socialist (healthcare reform), and believe he has increased taxes (not true).

Asked what socialism means, roughly half of Tea Party supporters volunteered government ownership or control, far more than any other answer. Eleven percent cited taking away rights or limiting freedom, and eight percent said it means the redistribution of wealth.

According to the CBS poll,

They are more likely than Republicans and Americans overall to see illegal immigration as a serious problem (82 percent), doubt the impact of global warming (66 percent) and call the bank bailout unnecessary (74 percent).

So this Tea Party thing would make more sense to me if I actually understood what they were so upset about, but I think it’s a pretty good analogy for our culture and mass media in general. These folks are pissed off at…something, presumably whipped up into a frenzy by Mr. Beck and Mrs. Palin, but from all I’ve seen and read, don’t offer a whole lot of actual solutions for fixing things. They rail away at “Big Government” daily, but seem to forget that de-regulation is probably one of the biggest factors in the banking meltdown (and subsequent bailout).

Everybody has their right to be angry at something, I guess.

Date posted: April 15, 2010 | Filed under history, politics | 1 Comment »

This is a great idea, but with one fatal flaw. Emeco’s 111 Navy Chair is made from old Coke bottles, 111 of them to be precise. Of course, because it’s being sold at Design Within Reach, they want $250 for one.

For the record, I love the design of the Navy Chair. But there’s no way in hell I’d spend $250 for one made from soda bottles; $25 is more like it. (via)

Date posted: April 14, 2010 | Filed under design, humor, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

Last night before LOST, I was in the garage with the Scout, tightening everything up, mixing new coolant, adding it to the radiator, pumping up the tires on my bike, and making sure everything felt solid. My plan was to rise before school really got started in order to avoid getting stuck in the lights on Frederick Road, and I missed all but the last one. She fired right up, turned over smoothly, and never showed signs of distress, which was a huge relief.

This afternoon, the word from the mechanic is that a pressure test shows the water pump itself is leaking, as well as the gasket at the water filler neck (no surprise there, seeing as we had to pull it off to get the water pump out). So, barring any supply catastrophe with the gasketry, I may get it back by the end of the week—just in time for another cold snap.

LOST was relatively good last night; even if it wasn’t as well-written as last week’s. I liked the Hugo storyline, and it was cool to see Libby again. They’re still playing chess with the characters, but things feel like they’re starting to come to a head of steam.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: April 14, 2010 | Filed under Scout | Leave a Comment »

We saw Brian Williams in the hall at NBC a few years ago visiting our friend S., and she tells us he is as cool and down-to-earth in person as you would hope he is.

Date posted: April 13, 2010 | Filed under humor | 2 Comments »