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A photo blog of sad cars

I've been meaning to do this for a while, since the bay area is full of excellent specimens of... low rent racing.

I've put up a few pictures of car sightings already, and I'll put up more as I see them. And also, send me your pix if you have some good ones.

(If you were curious about whether or not Lotus ships its Elises with the word "LOTUS" spray-painted on the back, the answer is "no".)

Tools of Despair
Hey kids! It's time to talk about working on your car. Today's lesson is about tools.

If you're serious about being your own mechanic, then you probably have many tools in your garage, each with their various uses and purposes. But there is a small handful of tools that only come out at certain moments. Dark moments... moments of reckoning... moments most often brought on by one of two situations:
  • One of your car's mechanical systems is really broken and needs to be dismantled by any means necessary
  • You don't understand how a part goes together / comes off.
Confusing these two situations is the cause of much despair, and brings on the usage of what I like to call the tools of despair.

The first of these is The crowbar. You use the crowbar to pry two parts apart when they are really stuck. They might be stuck because your car is a 20 year old rust bucket and everything is seized up like the hinges of a lead refrigerator in a junk yard. OR, there is a bolt holding the two parts together that you don't know about because you didn't read the shop manual.

If usage of the crowbar does not result in (a) a solution, or (b) the destruction of the unseen bolt and a subsequent trip to the parts counter, then it's time to move on to the rubber mallet. The mallet is used when you are convinced that steady force is insufficient, and you need to gently tap parts of your car by imparting brief spikes of instantaneous high force.

The mallet is giant and hard to get into small spaces, so it sometimes hits your thumb or your face sooner than it hits the part in need of tapping. The mallet also makes a squishy thump that is kind of unsatisfying, so once you are no longer convinced of it's efficacy, it's time to move on to the steel hammer.

The hammer solves (or creates) the same problem as the mallet, only more-so. You select the hammer once you see that the part in question needs substantial percussive maintenance in order to be persuaded away from it's rusted (or bolted, you don't know) neighboring parts. Your hands are dirty, so you won't bother to go get the ear plugs you should be using as the steel-on-steel impact ruins your hearing with a series of 140dB pings.

Once you have failed to get the part off with the above tools, you finally read the shop manual and realize that there is, in fact, a bolt that you were supposed to remove. Once you locate this bolt you'll see that it is now bent and fucked up, probably as a result of using the hammer.

Nevertheless, it must come out, so it's time to bring the most unholy tool in your garage to bear on the bolt, and that is your 250ft-lb impact wrench. This tool is the distilled embodiment of your white-hot rage against your car, and you will (after donning eye protection) loosen (or shear, you don't care which) the bolt off in an ear-splitting CLACK-CLACK-CLACK-CLACK-WHIIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Now you will use your other car, which you wisely left intact, to drive to the auto parts store and replace all of the parts you broke. Enjoy!

Some very crazy friends of mine made me a lovely birthday cake this weekend. It's a rendering (in butter creme icing) of the famous race track Laguna Seca, with a hand-made border of sprinkles which form checkered flag walls. (Christine has OCD rather fiercely.)

The cars include a correctly painted replica of my miata crossing a tiny, hand-painted finish line. The other cars are seen here understeering off of the track and crashing into dunes of icing, which is typical for Laguna Seca. There's even a tiny car being towed after crashing into the tiny lake.

If you're familiar with the track layout, then you'll recognize the corkscrew near the blue car, which is an actual hill made out of raspberries packed in frosting.

Also pictured is my friend Danna's birthday cake. Danna is a marine biologist and a chocolate fiend, so she got a chocolate octopus cake, of course.

Thanks you guys!

Bizarre Celebrity Moment

It's kind of mind-blowing how high profile my project at work is becoming--- I know this sounds like boasting, but it's honestly pure bewilderment on my part.

For example, last week our program manager mentioned off-handedly that Secretary Colin Powell might be dropping by my team's office to see a demo of PowerMeter. This is the sort of thing that is usually (a) overstated and (b) likely to get canceled.

So it was a little surprising when he actually walked in. Fortunately the product worked fine, and we weren't horribly embarrassed. Hooray!

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