February 26th, 2007

#283: OMG WTF US Invading Mexico!!!!

This is a BBC news article about how upset Mexico is over US border violations. One such violation had US workers all of ten meters inside Mexico.

Pot, meet kettle.

Mexico is upset over this issue because Mexico's primary source of hard currency (particularly dollars) is the money sent home by illegal immigrants, and the "incursions" happened as a result of the rather useless 700-mile border fence currently under construction.

"Many Mexicans see the fence as offensive and say it will be ineffective and potentially cause more deaths in border crossings."

Here's an idea: if you're so worried about dying while crossing the border why don't you stay in Mexico?

The people who come into the US illegally are criminals. They break the law to come here; they break the law by staying here--and the reason they do is because they get away with it and we pay them to do it.

If we are not going to secure our borders--if we're going to let illegal Mexican immigrants come and stay here--why should we make anyone jump through legal hoops to stay in the US? I would like it if I didn't have to secure a visa for my girlfriend in the Philippines; why do I even have to, when Mexicans can just walk across the border and get all kinds of free stuff from my government? (Hell, why can't I get that amount of free stuff from my government?)

Sooner or later the issue of illegal immigration will reach a tipping point. Right now most Americans consider it a nuisance; if that gets worse, you will see barbed wire, land mines, and armed guards at the US-Mexico border, and people trying to get into the US from Mexico, illegally, will be shot.

If we have another major terror attack on US soil, and it turns out that the terrorists got in by flying to Mexico and walking across the border, expect that. Expect the Minutemen to be down there with semiautomatic rifles and guard dogs if our government doesn't do anything.

It's long past time to stop the hispandering and close the border.

#284: Adventures with a Modern Jalopy

This series used to be called Adventures in Escort Repair but I forgot where I was and I'm too lazy to look up the number of the last entry. It is the true-and-real tale of a man trying to eke out an existence with a $400 car.

"Jalopy" has a nice ring to it, anyway.

The red 1995 Escort LX that I bought in June for $400 has a new issue that needs attention--and I learned this after I had taken three 100-mile trips in the car.

The right front tie-rod end needs replacing.

In the Escort, the right front wheel is on the "thrust" side of the differential. This means that when that tire begins to spin, the car stops accelerating. Most front-wheel-drive (FWD) cars have open differentials, meaning that there is no mechanism distributing the power equally to both driving wheels in the event of poor traction.

Most of the time that's not an issue. On dry pavement, an open differential supplies power to both wheels, more or less equally. There is some bias, but not a significant amount.

Still, it's enough. In my green 1995 Escort, I had to replace the right-side tie rod end after about 80,000 miles. On this car, it has already been replaced once, and now needs it again. How do I know this?

Last week I noticed that--on dry, level pavement, with the wheel held straight--stepping on the gas yielded a definite pull to the left, and subsequently letting off the gas yielded an equal pull to the right.

I put the car up on jack stands and checked out the right-front wheel for play. Sure enough, grabbing it at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions and giving it a wiggle revealed significant play. 12 and 6 o'clock, nothing.

Thank God, it's just a tie rod end and not a ball joint, thought I.

And the left side, of course, is just fine.

Replacing a tie rod end is really pretty simple. You remove a cotter pin, unscrew a castle nut, hit the castle nut with a hammer before you take it all the way off, to pop the rod end loose from the steering knuckle. Then you loosen the jam nut half a turn or so and unscrew the old rod end. Screw a new one on, tighten the jam nut, put the end into the knuckle, etc, etc, use a new cotter pin to secure the castle nut. Grease the new end.

Take the car to a shop and have it aligned.

This is all fine. The problem is, I haven't fixed the rear springs yet.

The Escort (particularly, it seems, the 1995 model year) has a serious problem with rear springs; the factory springs break. They only lose about one coil, but it still prevents proper alignment. This car is no exception, and I have little doubt that the rear end is one of the reasons I got this car for $400. (Well, that, and the fact that it needed a week's worth of work before it could be safely driven. And the oil burning, of course.)

My green car had that issue arise, and I fixed it; well, when I scrapped the green car I took the low-mile rear strut and spring assemblies off of it. They're sitting on the garage floor. All I have to do is remove five bolts on each side...put it together with the good assemblies...and then take the car for an alignment.

See the pattern here?

So, sometime this week I'm going to be doing some suspension work on the jalopy.

#286: More fun with spam

I just love how these great e-mails keep coming and my spam filter keeps dumping them into the bit bucket.

First up: Susannah demonstrates that even dried-up mummies have the ability to make wacky rhymes. Someone alert Jesse Jackson!

Moin Khadem shows us his best Marilyn Manson impersonation. Or is Moin the "plastic-face bitch"? Come to think of it, which one of them is that?? Only God knows!

Pete B. Wells sends corporate crap-speak to me! No inbox is safe!

Eleanor tries to help me out with my flow! I think she's all wet!

I don't know what philosophically is trying to warn me about, but damn, does she look like an alien or what?

What is Kaitlin Burgess saying to me? Her words are muffled and typographically incorrect! I think I'm afraid!

Dave Haley is trying weird combinations again. Or maybe he's just unfamiliar with English homonyms and is trying to sell herbal shampoo! We'll never know!

Billyu Kho gives us a glimpse of hellish babies! They will eat your pets!

#287: There's only one problem with this.

The two spam humor entries suck down all my FTP bandwidth. I only get 4 MB per hour! So if the pictures don't load, that's why...and I've learned my lesson.

<* * *>

Today I placed an order for a Gateway computer. After tax and shipping, ironically, it cost exactly what I had into the Great Upgrade Project of 2007 before I took all the hardware back.

Anyone want to buy a copy of Vista Home Basic upgrade?

Gateway says it'll ship March 12. *sigh*

I had a moment of panic after the order was placed. It looked like the video card would require an LCD monitor...but looking it up, I see that it has VGA outputs as well as DVI outputs and TV outputs. This will significantly ease the process for making DVDs out of internet videos. Instead of laboriously converting them to MPEG-2, all I have to do is set up the DVD recorder and hit "play" on the computer...

But if the ship date is right it'll be a couple weeks before I even get to play with the thing. That's all right; I'll live.

<* * *>

February only has a couple days left in it. I'm not sorry to see the month end; it's been a pretty disgusting month, all told, particularly last week. Hopefully March will be better.

<* * *>

On the model railroading front, I bought a rather nice transformer early in February. It's a Model Rectifier Corporation unit, similar to the kind I've wanted for a long time. It has "momentum" circuitry; when the momentum is active, you can crank the throttle wide open and...nothing happens--for a moment. The locomotive slowly starts to move, and pick up speed; and it gradually winds up to whatever throttle setting you've selected.

When you want to slow down, you can "close" the throttle completely, and the locomotive will continue to move, losing speed all the while. A "brake" button allows you to realistically dump speed, just as if you'd applied the train's brakes.

It's really cool, and I first got to play with a transformer like that when I was about 13.

That's the nice thing about being an adult. You can actually do things; you don't have to wait for Christmas or birthdays. This transformer was not particularly expensive; it probably cost a lot more in 1981 than it did in 2007, both in terms of actual price and adjusted-for-inflation currency.

The layout itself has not progressed beyond the living room coffee table; I have been too busy with everything else even to think about it. But soon, soon...soon I will have more time to fiddle with things like that.