Conversation with a British Person today

Transcript of an instant messaging conversation today:

Patrick: god, people and their ringtones!
Patrick: someone’s phone is out there playing one of the songs from an American Idol winner
Patrick: and instead of answering it, she’s singing along!!!!
Patrick: and your country doesn’t allow firearms!
vick: Technically, we don’t really allow American Idol either.
vick: meeting – back later

Make a reservation now, Athenians

If you’re going to try and see the Rose of Athens Theatre’s production of ‘The Bible, The Complete Word of God (abridged)’, you better move fast, since Friday is completely sold out and the Thursday and Saturday shows are getting full.

Shows with tickets remaining are Thursday 7 Dec (8pm) and Saturday 9 Dec (8pm).

Call the box office at 706.769.9829.

It’s a very funny show, and unfortunately cannot be extended due to Lisa Mende’s commitments to another show in Las Vegas, so see it while you can!

While we’re on the topic of May Day

And what it means to be a worker in the US, I think it’s worth mentioning that there are several great pieces of writing in the web about the disappearing working-middle class.

First, it appears that Billmon gets a little misty-eyed about seeing working class people marching to protect their rights, just like me.

Additionally, there’s some serious fur flying over at the TPM book club. David Sirota is blogging about his book Hostile Takeover.

From the lede:

As I note in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed today to kick off the formal launch Hostile Takeover, our government has been the victim of a hostile takeover by Big Money interests. That has meant the elimination of the boundary between Big Business and government to the point where government has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corporate America.

Oh sure, pundits, political operatives and other Establishment apologists like to come up with all sorts of theories about why lawmakers do this or that, what the political ramifications will be, and what it means for both parties. They incessantly focus on gossip, horse races, or perhaps most vapidly, decry supposed partisan polarization – even though the hostile takeover that drives American politics is quite bipartisan. But, then, that flood of distracting chatter is the Matrix at work. The fact is, most of that nonsensical political discourse is designed to hide the two fundamental truths that nobody wants to talk about, but everyone knows: that our “democracy” is really a legalized bribery, and that every outcome in this system of legalized bribery is one that exclusively serves the interests of Big Money.

Additionally, this is the sort of gut-check that Steven Colbert would be proud of, but I am seeing more and more coverage of the fact that real wages aren’t keeping up with inflation. Gas prices have been the catalyst in the coverage, but it’s something that has been brewing since the economic downturn immediately post 9/11.

And finally, Mrs. Dog and I were checking out the Make Work Pay site, last night. Follow that link and find out how long it takes the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to “earn” your salary. It takes them about a day and a half to earn what I make in a year.

I was wondering as I was falling asleep last night, What does a semi-radicalized (or at least, a group of people who work for a living and who aren’t ashamed to say “And I deserve a good life!”) immigrant working class bode for workers’ rights in this country? Could this be the beginnings of an awakening of the American people, realizing the the purpose of government is NOT to protect the CEO class? Is the Democratic Establishment in DC too neutered to capitalize on this?

Imagine the impact of a Democratic Party running on the slogan “Putting Working Americans First.” I mean, yes, I know that they WON’T, but dream with me for a minute….

If you need me on May 1st-

Don’t call my office.

Pro-immigration activists say a national boycott and marches planned for May 1 will flood U.S. streets with millions of Latinos to demand amnesty for illegal immigrants and shake the ground under Congress as it debates reform.

Such a massive turnout could make for the largest protests since the civil rights era of the 1960s, though not all Latinos — nor their leaders — were comfortable with such militancy, fearing a backlash in Middle America.

“There will be 2 to 3 million people hitting the streets in Los Angeles alone. We’re going to close down Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Tucson, Phoenix, Fresno,” said Jorge Rodriguez, a union official who helped organize earlier rallies credited with rattling Congress as it debates the issue.

It’s not just ‘Day Without a Mexican’ Day, it’s a Solidarity Day, too. You’re either for working people or you’re against us, even if you are a working person.

Who’s with me?

Bring it on home, Mr. Lee

Interesting article from the NY Times:

SHENZHEN, China — Persistent labor shortages at hundreds of Chinese factories have led experts to conclude that the economy is undergoing a profound change that will ripple through the global market for manufactured goods.

Hey, guys… y’know, I know some places in rural North Carolina where folks will work cheap… and you wouldn’t have to burn all that diesel fuel getting the stuff from China to Wal-Mart… I mean, there’s Wal-Marts everywhere here…

Doing what I should have been doing all along

Today I am going to be taking a day off from work to mix the Music Hates You record. This also means that I will be taking time away from my internet connection, so, y’know, talk to you later?

I might pop in over the course of the day.

But mostly I will be busying myself with making a massive, huge sounding record.

In the meantime, American students get serious about the cost of draft beer

and taking a break from drunken date rape to fall to their deaths from balconies.

While, in Paris:

Protests have turned violent in France as at least 250,000 people rallied against a controversial new labour law.

Protesters object to new two-year job contracts for under-26s which employers can break off without explanation.

Students fear the First Employment Contract (CPE), which passed into law last week, will erode job stability in a country where more than 20% of 18- to 25-year-olds are unemployed – more than twice the national average.

Mr Chirac has called for dialogue between ministers and labour leaders, but union officials say they will not enter into talks until the CPE is suspended.

Oh, hey, American Idol is on….

Slow weekend in Dartville

I have often made the mistake of assuming that if a replacement part for a car is cheap, then the repair itself is going to be a breeze. It’s a prejudice that makes no sense, unless you consider it in terms of major repairs: New transmission= very expensive part= very difficult replacement job. New motor? Same thing. Headlight? Cheap and fast.

Meet the paradigm smasher:

Motor mount for a 1972 Dodge Dart? $3.64. No big deal, right? It’s just a piece of rubber with two pieces of steel bonded to it that bolts into a bracket on the engine… which rests on it, so… yeah. I don’t know what I was thinking.

I spent the better part of Saturday driving from parts place to parts place LOOKING for a motor mount. I finally found ONE at AutoZone. By then, I was starving, so I stopped at my favorite taqueria and got a plate of roast chicken, beans and rice. Then I went to Don’s shop.

I pulled the Dart up onto the ramps and borrowed Don’s motorcycle jack (which cradled the oil pan perfectly) and jacked up the motor. Everything went swimmingly until I made the novice error of novice errors: I put the socket INSIDE the bracket and then backed the bolt right into it, which captured it there. I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go back.

Don was in his shop working on something or other.

“Hey…. uh, Don? You got a second?”

We both hacked at it for about 30 minutes before I jammed a screwdriver in there, reversed the direction on the socket and made enough slack to get it loose. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

After that, getting the holes on the bracket to line up seemed pretty easy, though a lot of crap fell off of the engine and into my eyes while I was doing it. (My kingdom for a lift.)

Don’s corgi, T.S., likes to come and see what you’re doing when you’re lying under a car, by the way. He likes to get right on top of your head and then look up. He’s a very cute dog. That’s what saved his life.

The old motor mount came out in two pieces. It had been destroyed by the constant dripping of power steering fluid from the leaky pump that I replaced. Once I had the old one in, we tested it by doing a couple of burnouts in the parking lot. So far, so good.

I still have a freshly dipped intake manifold waiting to be installed. It’s so clean you could eat off of it and I am going to paint it this week, but I didn’t want to get into pulling off the old manifold, the valve covers and all of that without nine hours of daylight to play with, in case I broke a fastener or something.

I spent Sunday running the tiller in our garden plot. We are already planting tomatoes and basil down here. More on that later.

Dodge Day Afternoon, pt. 3

What a thrilling weekend *I* had. Working on cars, rocking a house party, shooting guns, friends in from out of town…

What follows is more auto geekery, and if you’re not into that, trust me- nothing that follows will be the slightest bit interesting.

I took Friday off from work and went to work for my buddy Mike, at his garage. (He recently had to let his office manager go…)

I went there ostensibly to be a warm body to answer the phones and fend off salesmen, but I got put to work running errands and fetching up some breakfast before I was even in the door.

As things slowed down around lunch, I rolled the Dart in and put it up on the lift. Boy, is it nice to be able to walk around under your car. I immediately identified some things that “needs doin’.” While I have pretty much stopped the power steering fluid from leaking from the pump and the return hose, there is still a pinhole leak in the steering gear itself. A new steering gear is $159.00 from AutoZone (refurb) and a custom steering gear with the police package on it (which makes the steering less mushlike) is available from these guys for $299.00.

I tell ya, I don’t know that I mind the mushy old Dodge power steering enough to spend an extra $150. I don’t even mind the pinhole leak enough just now to jump into that job. I checked into the stop-leak stuff that my father’s mechanic recommended to stop the dripping of a power steering pump, and it would void the warranty on the new power steering pump I just bought. It is, unfortunately, also a temporary solution at best, since what it does is cause the gaskets to swell temporarily and plug the gaps that have opened from years of wear and tear.

Also noticed, while I was underneath, the muffler has a couple of cracks in it, and the exhaust pipe is a little rusty. Time for a glass pack? OK, not really. But it’s going to need a new muffler sooner or later.

The most noticeable thing this week is the “thump” when I accelerate hard from a dead stop. That turned out to be a motor mount that has collapsed under the steady drip drip drip of power steering fluid for all these years.

Also, Friday was “New U Joint Day.” I had almost forgotten. Good thing someone sent me a “Happy New U Joint Day” card a little early.

Mike called his parts supplier and they brought over a couple of U Joints and I got to work. Pulling out the drive shaft was exactly as easy as you would expect it to be on a 30 year old car. Four bolts, a little tug and start walking. I carried it over to the bench and vice. Getting the old U joints OUT , on the other hand, was a trial. Also, once I managed to bang the old U Joints out of the yokes, the yokes turned out to be slightly less than parallel… like someone had been hitting them with a big hammer… whether or not this was me has been debated between Mike and I. (I think it was the last guy, personally….) I took the brass hammer and the punch and pushed the yokes back into position.

We did manage to seat the new U Joints, after a fashion, and they were turning freely once we’d worked that out.

I also put eight new spark plugs in- all Champion Platinums.

Saturday, I rose early and went to meet David Elder. David is the President of the North Georgia Mopar Club. This guy has about 19 A Body Mopar cars, a 1970 Dodge Van, a 1961 Seneca and a big 1958 Dodge D-500 truck in his driveway. HUGE truck. Dodge’s idea of an excellent cargo hauler back in the 1950s.

The cool thing about the D-500 is that you can tell that they were made for export, since the cab is perfectly symmetrical. There are holes in the firewall for all of the controls, the steering wheel and the pedals on the right side as well as the left. The ignition key is dead center in the dash. We used the D-500 to deliver an engine jack to a friend of David’s who is putting the finishing touches on a PERFECT 1967 440 Charger (with about 29k miles on it and factory paint. PERFECT car) before it goes up to the 40th Anniversary of the Charger celebration at the original factory in Michigan. That’s later this summer. Someone will then probably hand the owner a suitcase full of money. If I had it, I would, except that no one will probably ever drive that car on the highway again. Which is a shame. ANYWAY….

Dave’s friend offered to help me put the motor mounts into the Dart when I get them. He recommended the performance mounts from this Mopar aftermarket company from Seattle. They were $30 each. NAPA has regular motor mounts for $9.00 each. I hope his feelings aren’t hurt when I go to NAPA.

I went back to David’s and kicked the tires on his ’68 Valiant and his ’65 ‘Cuda race car. He gave me a spare intake for a 2-barrel carb (because everyone has extra ones of those since they toss them aside on their way to 4 barrel racers) so that I can take it and have it “tanked” at some engine rebuilders (that is, submerged into a vat of solvent) to get the carbon out of it. That way, I will only have to spend one day when I pull my clogged one off, along with the valve covers, etc….

By the way, straight from the Mopar-obsessed horse’s mouth: best way to get crystallized carbon off of the inside of a valve cover? Easy-Off oven cleaner. Coat your valve covers in the stuff, put them in a black plastic trash bag and let them sit in the sun for ten minutes. Apparently, this breaks up even the worst carbon crust on a valve cover.

I didn’t get a whole lot done on the Dart today. I did pull the door panels off of both doors on the passenger side- hit the lock mechanism on the rear door with some WD-40 and it finally goes up and down without a fight. AND I FIXED THE RATTLING IN THE WINDOW on the front door. That was driving me nuts. The mechanism is anchored by some sort of metal pin that attaches to the door frame. It must have had a rubber washer at some time, which is now gone, and it was rattling and banging whenever I had a passenger who let the window down even a crack. That problem was fixed using the rubber band that came with some broccoli. THAT’S why I never throw anything away.

I will probably head back over to Dave’s friend’s garage next weekend to install motor mounts, and he thinks he can roll out the dent where someone backed into the passenger side (before I bought it). He also thinks that I can hunt down a rebuilt RV-2 air conditioning compressor, replace two hoses and the condenser and be on my way to ice cold R-132 air conditioning. That would cost about $200, which of course seems extravagant now and totally won’t in about two months.

That’s all the big stuff.

It’s going to get oil changes every thousand miles for a while to try and ease the sludge out without having it slough off into the oil pan, clogging the intake for the oil pump and causing my lifters to collapse.

Then, time to dig the bondo out of the lead seams on the rear of the roof, re-bondo, sand and then get the paint touched up.

At some point in all of this, I should clean out the interior. OH, and buy a washer bottle. Damn things are $40. Sheesh.

dirty hands, clean conscience…..