August 14th, 2015

#4866: Maybe a new caliper is warranted.

So I worked at it and worked at it, and got the caliper reassembled. The piston goes in and out smoothly enough, and the dust seal is back in place.

Mrs. Fungus got home from work while I was trying to extract the slide pins. The top one simply would not come out, and I had to knock it out with a drift; I had gotten it out and was just turning to the second one when she drove up.

That ended the car work for the night.

I have no idea why the caliper slides won't move in their bores. They're clean, the bores are lubed--yet they won't budge unless I hit them with a hammer...and that was after I was able to push them in with my thumbs.


One way or another I need to get the Fiero buttoned up and back in the garage today. For dang sure I'm not going to figure it out at 5:30 in the morning, though; and the alarm's set to go off at 8, and when it does I have to run to the store before I can return to bed.

Which I'm also going to do right now.

#4867: Yes, gas is more expensive if you add all kinds of taxes to its price

It takes a special kind of stupid--or gall--for someone who advocated increases to gasoline prices to then demand to know why gasoline prices are so high.
It’s impossible to simply skim over the irony of someone demanding to know why gas prices are so high in the very same press release where they push for an additional ten percent tax on oil extraction. Does Tom Steyer actually understand where gas comes from? While it may come as a terrible shock to find out that gasoline is refined from crude oil and the cost of extracting and refining that oil feeds directly into the cost of the finished product, there’s more at work than that. California is a regulation and tax happy paradise and the voters there can frequently be rallied to support all manner of referendum driven schemes when they are portrayed as ways to save the world. Steyer himself has participated in quite a few of these, some of which are coming home to roost in the form of the precise problem he’s now trying to solve.
Surcharges, taxes, limiting supply, all these things increase the cost of fuel. If you can't understand that--if connecting that cause and effect is beyond your capability--you have no business running for dog catcher much less governor.

Gasoline is expensive because supply is artificially limited by severe constraints on refineries. There aren't enough of them to keep supplies up unless they run 24/7. Old ones end up being decommissioned because they can't be economically retrofitted to comply with ever-stricter environmental standards, and it's virtually impossible to build new ones.

But, absolutely, the thing to do is to make it more expensive to produce gasoline and then demand that the oil companies explain their price gouging...when government gets more money out of a gallon of gas than the oil companies do.

* * *

It's no secret that police in America carry guns. So if you are an unarmed thug and a cop attempts to apprehend you, perhaps fighting back is an unwise choice, one with an entirely predictable outcome.

* * *

One-day sale at Jewel--Pepsi, six-packs of 16 oz bottles, $1.50. I stocked up. I wasn't the only one. That's $0.25 per bottle FFS.

* * *

Tomorrow is Saturday, and the day after that is Sunday...and then comes X-day, the first Monday at the new job, where I must get up at 4 AM to be there by 6. Ooh yeah.

I'm looking forward to it. I got an I-pass for the Jeep today, and tanked up while in Indiana buying Pepsi. Gas is $3.40 a gallon in the Fungal Vale, and $3.20 a gallon in Indiana. (The price differential is never enough to make it worthwhile to make a special trip there, but if I happen to be there anyway....)

It was a dollar cheaper on Monday, damn it. (See above, "refineries". *sigh*)

* * *

I really do need a little more sleep before I go back to working on the car.

#4868: Energy and grim economic news

Crude oil is already trading lower than it has in a very long time. $43 a barrel--because of inventory build, mainly; OPEC is keeping the taps wide open to put the Dakota shale boys out of business, and Iran is now able to sell its oil again, too--so even at a time when American refineries are running flat out, it's cheap as tap water, just about.

And as the linked article attests, American refineries don't run flat-out year-round without maintenance. They can't--no machine can, and a refinery is merely a complex machine--and the consumption of crude will taper off as the summer demand does. People put away the boats, the motorcycles, the sports cars. The oil companies expect it, and schedule accordingly.

The problem is, there's no excess capacity; if one refinery goes down unexpectedly, the rest have to make up for it, and then gas costs more.

Union Pacific is cutting hundreds of jobs because coal shipments are down 26%, because Global Warming And Clean Air.

And automakers are ramping up production into decreasing demand. The auto industry is a sizable chunk of the US economy; there's no two ways about that. But the demand for new cars is soft because they cost too damned much money--an econobox will set you back twenty grand--and in a depression sensible people will hold on to something that's paid for rather than trade it in on the new whizzbang.

New cars are expensive. It's not just inflation; if it were you wouldn't be seeing a prevalence of 60-, 72-, and 84-month loans--five, six, and seven years, respectively.

If car prices were merely inflated, the ability of people to pay the monthly payments would have kept pace, and 60-month loans would still be the upper limit. But because car prices have outstripped the ability of the average person to pay them, now we see these longer-duration loans.
$500 x 60 = $30,000
$500 x 72 = $36,000
$500 x 84 = $42,000
...and one must remember that the final figure includes interest, not just principal, so that 60-month loan will buy perhaps $18,000-$20,000 worth of car, depending on interest rate...and as I said you can barely get into an econobox for that.

If there is anywhere that deflation is needed it is in the automotive industry.

* * *

Turns out that geologist who slammed the EPA knows a little something about the subject of groundwater containment, having worked as a geologist in the field at various mines around the world for some forty-seven years.

Apparently the EPA just went in there with heavy equipment and started digging, without evaluating what kind of conditions were present, and the consequences--which were easily predictable by an expert, even in the absence of knowing exactly what the conditions were--surprised them.

Gee, I didn't know Walter Peck had moved from New York to Colorado.

* * *

I have much to do today.

I got home from my early-morning errands and just collapsed after the blog post was done; I slept nearly three hours and woke up wanting more. But I was hungry, and my unfinished projects gnaw at me, so I got up.

The list of errands must be completed, and I think I'm also going to go to Autozone and order that brake caliper, since they've got the best price of any of the parts stores. The pins won't move, and the hardware kit I need to make them move again is half the price of a new caliper, so screw it.

I need to get after the Jeep's other side, too; at least I need to examine it and see what sort of condition it's in. That'll have to be Sunday; my Saturday is spoken for.

Man, it seems like Monday was yesterday. *sigh*

#4869: Took the victory lap.

Even though it's f-ing hot outside, I got to work on the Fiero, and I'm pleased to report that but for a few cosmetic and/or minor things, she's back together and fully functional.

First step was to figure out how to unstick the slides. As it turned out, soaking the o-rings in isopropyl alcohol, wiping them clean--and then lubricating the slides with silicone spray--was the thing to do. They're still stiff, but they can move without taking a hammer and drift to 'em.

Got the caliper back on the car, and spent forty bad minutes trying to get it bled. There's still air in the system, but there's not enough of it to keep the brakes from working. I'll need help to remedy this, but not much help.

With the car reassembled, I cleaned things up a bit and then took her to the street. I didn't go faster than 30 MPH, but a few things were immediately obvious:
1) Timing really needs setting. She hesitates when the throttle is opened--just a bit. I got it pretty damned close when I put the distributor back in, though.

2) Brake system does have some air in it.

3) Car still handles like a go-kart. People who think the pre-'88 suspension is shit are high.

4) There is nothing like the feel of a mid-engined car.
I've got to get a nut and bolt through the brake line bracket, and I have to clean the hell out of the car, and I have fifty-eleven other things to do. The plate should cost about $30 and I don't think insurance is much more than $50, and then I can--

Oh. Yeah. "Why are you doing all this?"

Selling it.

Really: the car has sat in my garage for four years, immobile, because I simply haven't had any interest in getting it running. Not enough interest, anyway, to overcome my sheer inertia; and because of that, I figure it's probably better to let her go to someone who will appreciate her a lot more than I apparently do.

My real problem is, I'm too much of a dilettante. I get interested in something, I learn what I can about it, and then...lose interest. Every single last hobby I have ever had ended up the same way, everything from model rocketry to cars to computers to...well, everything. I hardly even watch anime any more, for crying out loud. I like it, but not enough to make time for it the way I used to. (Of course I got married, which tends to reduce one's time for crazy anime hijinks...but I was already losing interest before that.)

It's not that I don't like Fieros any more; it's just that there isn't anything I can do with them. I'm not the kind of guy who customizes vehicles, and my Fiero is such a pristine example I didn't want to modify it. That's why I got the '86; I'd originally intended to throw a Cadillac 4.9 V8 into it, or maybe a good strong 3800 V6...and we see how that worked out: I lost my job, I had no income, a whole bunch of other crap went wrong, and I never did anything in particular with the car, except putz around with it. And after Dad died I had a lot of other things to worry about, anyway.

Customizing cars takes time and money and facilities...and I never had all three at the same time.

Plus side: my '85 has something like 56- or 57,000 miles on it, which is damned low for a 30-year-old car. The engine now runs like a swiss watch (albeit one that needs a few minor adjustments) and nearly all of the issues it has are cosmetic in nature...and if you don't open the decklid, nearly all the cosmetic issues are invisible. The interior is clean and the radio surround is almost entirely un-warped; the car has been garage-kept for most of its history.

It should fetch enough money to pay the latter half of the property taxes on the bunker.

I had sworn that this day would never come, that I'd never sell that car, because where would I ever find another one like it? But if it was so important to me, why did it languish in the garage for four years? I can't justify keeping something when I need money, particularly when it's something my wife never saw in one piece until we were married for two and a half years!

Partly I must have had some anxiety about how difficult it would be to get the car running again, and couldn't stomach the idea of putting it back together only to find that it still ran badly--and so rather than try I just let it sit. Well, there's a lesson for you: you don't know UNTIL you try.

The next project, once the taxes are dealt with, is the dirt bike. That's another thing I have on hand which only requires effort to be fully functional again; unlike the Fiero the dirt bike will remain mine, because Dad told me never to sell it outside the family. Ideally I'd like to take it apart, clean and repair everything, and put it back together again; even if I didn't paint anything other than the frame, I could make it look a hell of a lot better than it does now, and certainly get it adjusted into spec. Then I could enjoy it a bit. Maybe even find some trails to take it on.

...and even motorcycles will pall, eventually.

My interests, over the years, were not wasted: I can fix just about anything mechanical, and I have the capability to make things that I need made. I've got enough technological experience that I can usually synthesize an answer to a question, whether it be about electronic or mechanical things; and I'm even capable of doing minor plumbing and home maintenance. My hobbies--even the abandoned ones--have left me with a broad education on a large variety of topics.

But I never get tired of people, not unless they're complete shitheads. And I don't even get tired of the asshats very quickly. People are irreplaceable. Machines (and hobbies) are not.