for a good three miles
Thursday, September 7 2006
This morning Gretchen was off teaching her English classes at the local community college, a place where instilling education can feel a little like building a snow man in April. Meanwhile I was walking the dogs in the forest. All the recent rain has been great for late-summer mushroom season, and I would have collected the Chicken of the Woods I found today had it not been past its prime (which, in the case of this species, makes it too woody to eat). At some point Eleanor got separated from the rest of us, and she didn't materialize until a half hour after I'd returned to the house. When she appeared she was breathing heavily and her face was covered with dirt; obviously she'd been having fun. I snapped some pictures.
There was plenty of grout out in the garage, though none of it was any good, so I was forced to drive to town to buy a small amount for the laundry room tiling project. Before I set out, I installed a 7.5 amp fuse in the Honda Civic Hatchback's fuse socket #15, hoping this would fix my erratic speedometer/erratic automatic shifting issues. It did, but the fix only lasted about a quarter of a mile before the fuse blew and the car started acting crazy again. I managed to get to town and back, but the shifting problem made climbing Dug Hill Road from Hurley Mountain Road a bit of a nail biter.
After grouting the tile, I threw myself at the task of finding the short causing the car's fuse to blow. A careful reading of a post on this web page eventually led me directly to the problem. Most of the wires under the hood of my car were well clear of any metal surfaces, either neatly bunched together in plastic wire runs, fed through corrugated plastic tubes, or wrapped in layers of electrical tape. In one place, though, a bundle of wires (all of them still covered with what looked like good plastic insulation) emerged for a tiny distance from their bundle and lay against the metal bracket supporting the intake manifold from below. This bracket is covered with black enamel and at first I doubted a short could develop against it. But then, pushing rubber hoses out of the way and shining a flashlight, I thought I could make out a tiny unplanned weld mark on that bracket. I couldn't get a good look at the lower surface of the wire that might have shorted there and made that mark, but it seemed possible that nine years of vibration and heat could have eroded a spot through its insulation. So I wrapped the bundle of wires with electrical tape and then lay a piece across the bracket itself. This time when I installed a fuse it lasted for a good three miles of driving. It seemed I'd fixed the problem!
In the process leading up to this wondrous moment, I'd also managed to fix a second problem. The other day I'd been poking around the engine, not really sure which manifold was which. My first suspect manifold turned out to be the exhaust manifold, but before I'd realized this (because it was so rusty), I'd removed its heat shield and noted, with dismay, that it was cracked. The crack ran from a sensor in its main trunk up to the split between its two center branches. It wasn't a wide crack, so I'd figured I'd just try patching it with some furnace cement, the kind I've used on both the boiler exhaust and the woodstove pipe. Evidently this fixing of the exhaust manifold crack was all I'd needed to do in order to clear an annoying set of four error codes in the car's embedded computer. With those fixed and the fixing of the short, the "check engine" light finally winked out for good! Now the only annoying light on the dashboard was the one labeled "SRS."
(When visiting my parents recently, I'd loaned this Honda to my mother for an errand into town so she could avoid driving one of her big gas-guzzling American-made pickups. She'd seen the SRS light and, without her glasses, had read it as "GAS." The result was a free full tank of precious peak-oil fuel.)
Eleanor's dirty face today.
Sally (in the foreground) and Eleanor (in the mid-distance), with the woodstove in the background.
Me today in the laboratory.
This evening Gretchen and I watched the original version of Ocean's Eleven made in 1960 and starring the rat pack crooners Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin. Supposedly it was shot in Las Vegas during the day while the stars performed a series of gigs each night. Gretchen and I had both seen the recent remake of this movie multiple times and so pretty much knew what to expect. What we couldn't have anticipated was the dull pacing of the original. The first half is full of long rambling scenes of people standing around having comic dialogue, but it's the kind of comedy that just isn't funny to the modern sensibility. Then there's the movie's terribly unsatisfying ending, the inevitable consequence of trying to make a heist film under the Hays Code, which stipulated that crime must never pay.
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