Review: Cambridge Auto Repair Shop (C.A.R.S) in Cambridge WI (Highest Rating: 5 stars)

I like my mechanic Terry. He is an honest guy. Unlike the car dealership, he does not charge me $80 to run a diagnostic on my car's ECM (engine control module - the computer brain), because it is only a five minute operation and he knows he will get future work from doing so. He also knows that it is crooked to charge $80 for an easy five minute operation.

Terry is not a charlatan.

I am not a mechanic. But I am a scientific and technical thinker. When Terry pulls ECM computer codes from my car's computer chip to diagnose a problem, he often gives them to me so I can go research them online with respect to my make and model of car.

My car has recently been throwing a code indicating low engine power, where it will stall out after startup. I found out that this is a common issue with 2001 to 2003 Priuses (Prii?). It can be related to overfilling the crankcase with oil during oil changes. It turns out that my Prius only holds 3.9 quarts of oil, not the usual 4 that most cars do. This can lead to oil escaping into some valve, clogging it. My engine often dies on startup in the cold, because this oil is more viscous then. It does it less so when it is warm.

The warm weather occurrence is actually a slightly different code. The code in winter is a "failure to start" issue, whereas the other one is "low engine power." The latter one is the issue I have had lately and is the reason I am typing this post in the waiting area at my mechanic's.

He is doing an oil change in advance of my 4.5 hour drive north for BIKE WITH (OR WITHOUT) MELINDA this weekend. During this operation he is going to have a quick look at this problem valve mentioned earlier and see if it is clogged or corroded. He is also going to only put 3.8 quarts of fresh oil in my car during the oil change.

It will be hard to know if this fixes the low power problem. It happens very intermittently, so if it doesn't happen after this oil change, there is no way to know if it is fixed. But if it does happen after this oil change, then the problem may be elsewhere in the gas engine system. At that point, we will troubleshoot some more.

I dig this synergistic relationship I have with Terry. He is open to me researching car issues online and sharing the info with him. Unlike the car dealership, he does not treat me like a total moron and listens to what I have to say. He is knowledgeable and open minded, as well as honest.

That is a kickass local mechanic. 5 stars.

Why I Probably Won't Vote For President Obama

I am a man of principles.

So is President Obama. I like the man. He is smart and well spoken, thoughtful and often clever.

He is everything a President should be. So why am I not likely voting for him?

I will tell you.

But first let me tell you that I might vote for him. I do not think my one vote is going to swing any elections and I don't expect anyone else to change their voting based on anything I say.

For me, it is that Obama has lost sight of the greater vision for America. He is putting out fires and solving small problems in a reactionary way, mainly to get re-elected. For most Americans, this will probably do the trick. Americans are simple minded. They like men of action. But I like men of vision, from whom action follows.

The earth is cooking in it's own juices due to climate change. But regardless of whether you believe in global climate change, there are hard realities that come with basing our society exclusively on fossil fuels. We have to be friends with some real bad people in order to satisfy our fossil fuel addiction.

A visionary resource conservation policy is needed for America. We can't hope to cut our dependence on foreign oil unless we reduce our collective oil consumption by 50%. There is no physical way to do it. If we tapped every known source of oil in America it would not even dent the 50% of total oil we import.

When we stop depending on foreign countries for our energy infrastructure, wars end almost overnight. When we stop invading other countries, killing and torturing their people, for resources, they stop hating us.

Funny how that works. Imagine if your house was broken into every night by armed soldiers, your children scared and screaming, while the soldiers ransacked your house, with no intention of restoring order. They might even haul you off to jail for a while, just for shits and giggles.

Not cool. So why do we think it is alright in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Anyway, you get the picture. I am not even suggesting we switch to alternative renewable energies. We just need to cut our consumption of fossil fuels in half. I can live with half the gasoline prices and energy bills I pay now. How about you?

I encourage Mr. Obama to focus all his remaining energy on sound environmental policy. He can kill so many birds with that one stone. No more need to play nice with heinous murdering dictators in Saudi Arabia and other places. Cleaner air, water, and soil. No fracking. More money in peoples' pockets and less in the pockets of the oil company monopolists.

If more people biked and walked to work, health care costs would go down. Less road rage and traffic. Fewer oil and tire changes.

It's a domino effect.

So that is why I might not vote for Obama. He has not indicated he is serious about pursuing a strong conservation agenda with regard to environmental policy. It would be so easy. Nothing has to change. It is simple supply and demand. We just need to decrease demand for fossil fuels by 50%. Everyone wins EXCEPT the greedy oil companies.

But, perhaps, it is the campaign dollars of these companies that cloud Mr. Obama's vision and weaken his resolve.

In any case, my path is clear. If I see a major focus of the President's administration on environmental policy in the next couple of months, I might change my mind.

But honestly, I think it is too late. Two months is not enough time for me to be sure he is resolute.

But don't let my decisions persuade you. Vote for whoever you want. I am actually not too afraid of Obama losing. He should be able to whoop crooked Mitt Romney's arse handily on almost every issue. And if he can't then perhaps he does not deserve to win.

More Republican rule might actually be good. The faster the United States is relegated to third world country, unfettered free market status, the faster we can start rebuilding. Because you can only go up from ZERO.

Logic of Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

To the people who say welfare recipients should get drug tested, I have to ask...

Do you really think it is feasible or practical to drug test ALL the big bank and oil company CEOs before they can receive their taxpayer funded bailouts and subsidies.

I mean, I know a trillion bucks can buy a lot of drugs, but still...

Good Peeps

My friend Alexandra is awesome.

Even though her friend bailed on her tonight, she still came out by herself to hear me play jazz at Come Back Inn in Madison WI. That's the sign of a true comrade.

As a result, she got to hear a phenomenal jam session. We really laid it down. I had not played with the drummer Matt before and we were really in tune on the grooves. "In the pocket," as they say, laying down a fat foundation for guitarist Charlie and the horn players.

I kind of pity those who missed it. I mean, I know they had their other priorities, and that's cool. But no matter what those other priorities are, I can guarantee you that their soul is less fulfilled than if they had come to jazz night.

But Alexandra's soul is on FULL right now.

The waitresses at Come Back were also super cool. They were both named Olivia (not relevant) and managed to get us free food and drink discounts as part of the band.

My buddy Kyle (trombonist for jazz) and I ate dinner with Matt and Kristen, who are also good peeps. Matt dates Kristen who plays sax with the jazz group. Kristen started an LLC and asked if I could refer her to my awesome accountant to help with taxes and the other hoops that independent contractors have to jump through. She is contracting as a personal trainer. Both her and Matt do triathlons.

A really fun time tonight. I am glad I was able to do it.

Jazz gets me out of my rock-n-roll comfort zone a little bit and that's important to do every once in a while.

See ya!

Douchebag Apocalypse

Am I the only one who thinks douchebaggery is on an epidemic rise?
This eCard I found on Facebook would suggest others have noticed it too.

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I have observed a lot more douchebag drivers during my bike commutes over the past few weeks. Drivers have become downright mean spirited toward bikers, even in a city that facilitates keeping bikes out of the way of cars with bike lanes and paths (Madison WI). But it is not the behavior of bikers that sets these douches off. My theory is that these people are simply jealous and angry. They have to pay $4/gallon for gas and then sit in slow traffic going to and from work (while bikes whiz by). Plus, many of them probably work crappy jobs for douchy bosses, and that just adds insult to injury.
I can totally see why douchebaggery is running rampant. Still, I do not think it is right.
I think we should do something about it, maybe start an Anti-Douchebag Apocalypse group or something.
Today, as on most days, I parked my car in the subdivision in Cottage Grove from whence I bike to work, saving miles on my car and gas dollars (that I can spend on other things), as well as protecting the earth.
When I got back to my car after work today, I was confronted by a woman (named Connie, as it turns out) who told me that she did not much appreciate me parking in HER subdivision, because I did not live there. Really, Connie?
Anyway, I was as nice as I could be, not confrontational at all. You see, douchebaggery can be contagious. You have to willfully resist its pull, or you will become a douchebag too, once one has bitten you.
After explaining to Connie that I had been told by the Metro bus department that it was OK to park in the free lot next to her subdivision (it is not actually a residential lot, but a separate area completely open to visitors), to which she replied "What do bus drivers know?," I decided to fight her douchebaggery with the only weapon that I know works against it...KINDNESS.
I told her I totally understood her point of view and I wanted to respect HER space, and could she please advise me on where would be a better place to park in the area.
This seemed to throw her for a loop. I think she was expecting some defensive douchebagging from me, but when she got full acquiecence, she did not know how to respond. So, I followed up with, "Should I maybe park on the street instead?"
This spoon fed answer seemed to satisfy her, and she nodded, although she added the caveat, "...if you can find it, YES."
"Well, my dear Connie," I thought (but did not say). "I can find it." Many people park on the street in that neighborhood and it is really not a big deal, there is plenty of parking for all.
What I did say was, "I apologize for parking here. I will totally respect your space and park on the street henceforth. Thank you for letting me know that you hate me." The italics, of course, I did not say, but may have briefly thunk.
Having behaved honorably and chivalrously, I then added for an extra facial firehosing of nicety, "I am Joe, by the way. It is nice to meet you."
Again disarmed by my gratuitous response, she reflexively said, "Hi Joe, I am Connie." And that is how I learned her name.
Douchebaggery crushed in its tracks. Sadly, my parry was not enough to get her to reconsider my parking option and say something like, "I'm sorry I was a douchebag. You know what, Joe? Go ahead and park here. You seem like a nice guy."
However, we made it to a first name basis and I was no longer an anonymous parasitic invader in her sacred lands.
I bet the interaction did leave her feeling like a mean spirited douche and maybe she won't be so quick to dash a dose of douche-load on the next stranger who violates her air space by parking next to her condo complex. Hopefully, that next guy is as nice as me and not a murderer or a rapist.
Karma, Connie. Karma. All douchebags are beholden to it.
"Do unto others..." and "What would Jesus do?" and blah blah blah.
Good day.

3 Reasons to Bike Commute

Here are three no brainer reasons to ride your bike to work sometimes:

1. You are fat. Regardless of who is reading this post, this statement has a 75% chance of being true, according to health statistics. Riding your bike is exercise. If you do it during your commute to work, you have killed two birds with one stone, multitasking your workout and your commute at the same time. That's time available for other things.

2. You save on gas. If your car gets 30 miles per gallon and your commute to work is 5 miles, you save a gallon of gas every six commutes. Note that the round trip commute is 10 miles, so you could actually redeem this in 3 days of bike commuting. If you live farther than 5 miles from work, but are too fat to bike the entire distance (see #1), consider driving part way to work and biking the rest.

3. It's exciting and fun. Bike commuters are a friendly, elite group. You see things biking you won't see in a car. You can talk to people and make new friends. You can zip past people in cars stuck in traffic. You can find one or two co-workers to commute with and make it a bonding experience. Of course, if you hate your co-workers, perhaps you need to get a new job, one closer to home that you can bike to.

See ya.