Saturday, July 17, 2010

Annals of DIY

All physical labor is now a realm that's entirely owned by The Three Stooges.

Over my lifetime, I've changed the oil on a car somewhere around 100 times.
(Keep in mind that, in the bad old days, the standard change interval was 3,000 miles.)

I finally changed the oil on our Mazda MPV, and managed to do basically EVERYTHING wrong.

OK, I'm now old enough to not much enjoy crawling under cars, so, for the past eight years I've been paying people to change the oil on my wife's minivan. It's irked me, but

1) There's a shroud that needs to be removed to reach the oil filter (and then replaced)
2) The drain is far enough back that it needs car ramps to reach comfortably - and my ramps are too steep to drive the MPV up
3) It's a 5-quart system, which is a lot more mess to dispose of
than my usual 3-qt-cars.
And (needless to say)
4) I hate that car with every fiber of my being, and don't WANT to work on it.

Tracking down the MPV's current gas leak, I had occasion to look under the engine room, and discovered that, at some point, the chimps at Jiffy Lube have snapped off the part of the shroud that covers the oil filter.

Which is actually a GOOD thing.

OK, the "underneath" portion of an oil change for the MPV used to consist of ten or twelve steps, depending upon what you count as a discrete therblig:
a) Remove THREE bolts, remove shroud
b) remove drain bolt
c) remove filter
d) replace drain bolt
e) replace filter
f) replace shroud, run home THREE shroud bolts.

With the shroud now pre-broken for me, the task now reduces to the same four steps (b-e) as any other oil change. So I went out and got myself a set of MPV-compliant car ramps and changed the oil. (And now I'm the owner of TWO cheap sets of car ramps...)

My oil-change kit is small enough to fit in a hand box in the trunk of the Miata.
The drain bolt on the MPV is 15mm, not the 17mm that I keep in the car (, space being at a premium in the Miata trunk, I don't keep a full socket set there...) - so I had to go inside and rustle around my tool chest until I came up with a 15mm socket. ("Spread out, spread out!")

OK, climb back under and remove the crankcase drain plug - and there was enough oil in the crankcase (and shooting out through a smaller hole...) to send the stream several inches further than I usually see, so it missed the drain pan entirely, and splashed on the driveway.
("Hey, FELLAS!")

Five quarts is a lot more than 3 quarts - so the drain pan I've been using for at least 20 years of Miata changes FOLDED under the weight, splashing a cup of hot used motor oil on my shoes, on the driveway, etc. ("Nyuck nyuck nyuck")

(Note to self: buy a bigger, stronger, more rigid drain pan.)
And then the drain pan was full enough to overflow its pouring spout, spilling more used oil down the outside of the Used Oil jugs.... ("Hrrr-RUFF!")

Oh, and I dropped the drain bolt into the drain pan. Which I've done before, of course; but this time I managed to pour the bolt INTO the 'used oil' jug, and had to decant the oil back and forth until I could fish the thing out.
("Woooo wooooo wooooo wooooo wooooo wooooo....")

If I had been deep enough under the car to require the use of my garage creeper, I would have done my version of the "Curley-spinning-on-the-floor" dance move.

Jiffy Lube is now something like $36?, $26? with coupons? Something like that. Even NAPA is $27, with sales tax.

DIY cost me something like $13, so I saved at least ten bucks, maybe twenty.
I'll put that toward replacing my oil-splashed shoes....

Addendum: On the walk-around, I spotted a bubble on the front-right tire, something that I would NOT have caught had I simply gone to Jiffy Lube. So, it's entirely possible that a DIY oil change saved our lives.

Tomorrow's Thrilling Installment: On to BJ's to buy new tires.

Update: I TRIED to put a pair of tires on it - but the shop REFUSED to let it in when it's dripping gas. So the new tires have to wait until the gas leak is fixed, probably Thursday.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010


That big new bio of Monk:

Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

was published October 6, 2009. ($30.00 list, Amazon currently shows it for $19.80)

I had it out from the library, played with it a bit, but didn't read much of it.

Today (July 3, 2010) I found it REMAINDERED at my neighborhood Borders.
Not only is it not yet a year old, it's not even 9 months old.

Apparently the lifecycle is still accelerating, for books as well as for everything else.

The point is: I cannot get to and read a new book in nine months. So, why would I EVER pay new-hardcover prices?

Edited to add: Oh, right: it was remaindered for $5.99, but I made them apply the current "33% off" coupon, so, for you, a special price - $4.01.

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Forward, into the past

Around 1978, I bought a pack of 100 negative preservers for 120 film ($12 at State Photo...), to go with my new 6x7 back for my Crown Graphic. I carried it around from apartment to apartment for years. Actually, though, I used most of them here in the 21st century; in fact, mostly since I re-started using film mailers around 2004.

I finally finished the hundred-pack earlier this year - so, on average, that's a whisker over (3 rolls of 120 film) per year.

The hundred-pack took about 31-32 years.

I just finished the 25-pack that I bought to replace it. (It's July....)

Clearly, as digital takes over, I'm doing more and more medium-format photography.

Similarly, I'm just finishing a bottle of glacial acetic, and a bottle of PhotoFlo 200. The latter has a label: "State Photo, $2.07".

State Photo closed in 1986, 24 years ago.

Note to self: order/buy some more negative preservers. Oh, and some acetic acid.

The larger story: back in the '80s, we bought a house, and I installed a home darkroom in the corner of the basement. Then we started having kids, and I discovered that grandparents want to see color prints of their grandchildren. So I largely switched away from B&W and color slides, and shot mostly C-41 for most of the '90s.

I had a developing tank with two rolls of 120 Plus-X that I loaded around 1995 (give or take a year...) - and then went off to chase my kids.

Now that my eldest is out of high school, I JUST got back to that tank, roughly fifteen years later. (Not surprisingly, it has lots of base fog....)

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