Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mosquitos In The South

Brace yourself, summer is coming. Well, here in the South, it's already here. The rest of the country may be digging out of a late spring snow, but here in the South, we've got temperatures in the 80's already. Soon we'll be encroaching on the 100's and yes, Arizona and New Mexico already hit near the 100's and do it all the time, but it's a dry heat and they're not in the South so I won't include them here, so there.

I hate the heat. I mean REALLY, I hate it. Even more than the heat, I really hate the bugs. And in the summer, we got those harbingers of death and pestilence - the Mosquitoes.  Big ones.  I mean big.  I know everyone says that the mosquitoes in their area are the biggest, but here in the South they really are.

In fact, in Florida they expect an influx of a super sized mosquito, Psorophora ciliata, known colloquially as "gallinippers."  How big  you might ask? The 'Galnipper' can get to be as big as 20 times the size of a standard Mosquito.  TWENTY TIMES!  That's easily the size of a small dog!  (ok, maybe not THAT big, but pretty dang big!) I read one description that says the bite of the Galnipper is like "having a hot nail driven into their skin." Yeah, that's a reason to get up every morning!  (Factoid: The name Galnipper allegedly got this moniker "because they're so big they can nip a gallon of blood with a single bite.") Ok, seriously? This is not good.

Ok, Easy Fix.  Machine gun on the roof, pointed South, Florida, right?  Nope, not enough ammunition in the world to take them on.

So the next step is to slather yourself down with some DEET based ointments, or maybe some of those ookey smelling oils just to keep them critters from biting.  Head on down to the drug store and you'll find all sorts of products just made for this one problem. 

More than 20 years ago, when I first moved to the South, I found that those blood thirsty critters found my blood to be in high demand.  In addition, my daughter also found that she was allergic to their bites, swelling and itching like mad.  At about the same time, a neighbor nutritionist gave us a bit of information that in years since, I've never found anywhere else, not in print or on the net.

Vitamin B-1.  Yes, vitamin B-1, when taken in mega doses keeps mosquitoes from biting.  It sounds like some sort of urban legend, but sure enough, it works.  I take two 250 mg tablets each day during the bad months (just one if I'm not going to be outside much) and I've not been bitten by more than one or two in the last 20 years. When I try to tell folks about B-1, they look at me like I'm wearing cats for earmuffs.  That's ok, I'll continue to take them, safe in the knowledge that, at least for me, B-1 works.

Why does it work, you ask?  Good question! From what I understand, the B-1 is a 'water soluble' vitamin and any excess you take is disposed of in the usual manner: human waste and (more importantly for our discussion) sweat. Yes, your sweat now smells like B-1.  Mosquitoes don't particularly like it, so they stay away. Only the hungriest of flying pests get through it, and make no mistake, a couple do make it through - just a lot less than without it.  So, ask your Doctor, and give it a try.  Just be sure to tell your Dr, that Marv, that good ol' boy from the South suggested it. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Southern Pet Peeve - The Mechanic's Instructions

Living and working in the South is a joy and has given me the opportunity to learn a great deal.   Not the least of which is car repair.  As long at it's on the outside of the engine, I'm ready and willing to tackle the job. As you can see above, this last repair - all shiny and beautifully installed - is a water pump on my 10 year old jeep.  The pulley is the last item to be put on, and it is also the pet peeve I have with so many so called 'experts' in the field.  

Before I even attempted this repair, I took the time to hit the Internet looking for tips, tricks and downright full instructions on how to a) remove and b) replace the water pump.  What I found was both enlightening and infuriating.  

On one site, I was told there were only 4 bolts you need to remove to take the water pump off (there are actually 5.) In another reference, I was told to loosen and remove the Power Steering Pump (there is no need to do this,)  and in a video I found, they started with the water pump already OFF the engine.  THIS is my rant this week. And Rant I will, just you stand back and hunker down so none of it gets on you. 

In order to remove the water pump (5 bolts, using a 1/2" socket) you must first remove the pulley.  There is no way to get to most of the bolts with the pulley in place. In most of the places which actually said to first remove the pulley, the instructions were exact: "Remove the pulley."  Yes, that's it. "Remove the Pulley." and in one place it was just "Remove Pulley" as if it was a generically known step.  No instruction on HOW to remove the pulley. Not in Chilton's, or Haynes' manuals, not the videos or even over on the JEEP expert forums. 

Ok, off to the Auto Parts Store where, I am told, they rent a special TOOL just for removing the pulley ($50, but when returned, you get the entire $50 refunded!)  I asked them and they were gracious enough to show me how to use the tool.  We went out to my car and they looked at the Pulley and said "Oh you don't need this tool, just remove those 4 bolts and pull off the pulley."  I was ecstatic!  4 little bolts! Just PULL OFF the pulley! I rushed home and got right to dismantling things to get to the water pump and get it all replaced.  

And again, I hit a snag.  In every description of how to remove the water pump, there is also a simple statement 'remove the fan/shroud by taking off the 4 bolts which hold it in place.' At least this time they told me there were 4 bolts (10mm, in case you're taking notes.) Yet there is no mention of the fact that you need to have an angled 10mm wrench and the hands of a 9 year old boy on the arms of a contortionist in order to get TO the bolts.  3 hours of work (which included bending one of my wrenches using my vice and a big hammer) and the shroud comes out.  Just the shroud.  I was so happy, I nearly cried.

Now, as told by the 'experts' at the Auto Parts Store, I remove the 4 bolts and the Pulley - is stuck in place.  It won't 'pull off' no matter how I work on it. I grab it with both hands and yank it - HARD. No dice. I rap it with the wrench and a rubber mallet (careful, don't want to bend it out of shape.) Still no movement. I worked under the edges with a lever - nothing. 30 minutes turned into an hour and the pulley is firmly in place. At this point I should mention that cursing at it like a drunken sailor also made no difference.  Go figure. 

After a lunch, suggested by my lovely Mrs., as a way keep my blood pressure in check, I took up the new water pump and threatened to toss it on the roof of the house. It was at that point that I noticed a couple of odd fingernail shaped cut outs next to each of the bolt holes.  Looking at the @^%$! Pulley still stuck on the car, I could see that these cut outs were still visible, albeit just barely. See what I mean?  

I then got the AMAZINGLY CLEVER idea that a small screwdriver worked into these spots might assist in loosening the Pulley...BINGO, the pulley came off with no additional cursing and, of course, no needed retrieval of the new water pump from the roof.

As you can also see, the peeve I mentioned stands. NO WHERE in anything I had read, not by Chilton's, not by Haynes, not by the experts on the Internet or from the so-called experts in the Auto Parts Store mentioned these little curved slots as a way to loosen the pulley.  Even Neighbor Bubba, who came over to help remove the shroud, (you didn't think I did that alone, did you?) didn't know about the slots, but feels that my figuring this out is merely one step closer to my being considered a Good Ol' Boy and certified shade tree mechanic. Will wonders never cease... 

Now, if I can just get the manuals all changed and the experts educated.  
It's going to be a long hot summer here in the South.  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Silver Savior - The Side Mirror

Duck tape is the Silver Savior.  It secures things where they belong and makes repair easy, although maybe not so pretty.  I found this lovely repair job in my very own town, at a parking lot where we stopped last Saturday.  At first, I  didn't notice the side window, covered with plastic, taped in place with clear packaging tape. What I noticed was the passenger side mirror.  Well, actually, what I noticed was the Duck Tape - about 20-30 layers of it.  

I really love this repair.  Why?  Oh my look closely, my faithful reader!  Note with care the shape of the repaired item in question even with the 20-30 layers of Saving Grace.  Note #1, it's narrower at the right than at the left.  Note #2, it's got some big ol' fitting or shaped end there on the far right.  What would cause that? Why cover it with so much Duck Tape, especially when you're not taping it TO something?

Here's why, Bubba: That mirror is for a DRIVER'S SIDE DOOR.  Now, at first, you want to laugh. This guy, this clever good ol' boy, found himself a mirror but it was for the wrong door, the driver's side door.  But here's the interesting part; he didn't let that stop him, he went ahead and taped that sucker in place where it was needed and then he covered the right fitting with more tape, not because it needed it, but because he felt it was necessary to cover over the right fitting in such a way as to disguise it's true use.  Brilliant!

Did he succeed? You be the judge. The mirror is useful and it sure as heck ain't goin' anywhere. So, I'd say he did a pretty good job.

As for the window...well, we'll leave that for another day.  After all, it's got none of the aforementioned Silver Savior on it!

Such is life, and car repair in the south.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Southern Repurposing the Right Way

Southern Repurposing is just that.  Taking something with a certain use and finding a good way to reuse it.  I'm not talking about using a Pringles can to fix one's air intake, but something more logical.  Like that toy carrying case above.

My wife and I spend at least one day a week at the local Thrift Stores.  I can't tell you the number of great things we've found there.  My wife has a knack for finding clothes with the original tags still on them.  She's also purchased brand new appliances for less than a buck. I recently found a near new Keureg Coffee maker which as anyone who knows me will tell you, is the king of my kitchen gadgets.

Whenever we stop by these places I always walk slowly, studying each donated item with the idea that some of these things can be reused for other purposes, if you just rethink a bit.  The case above is a perfect example.  You can see the LEGO logo on it, and it's in perfect condition.  Made for holding (and of course carrying) lego toys, the moment I saw it, I knew exactly what it could be used for.

Many tools you buy these days don't come with carrying cases and for just a few dollars more (yeah, a few they say) you can purchase a carry case.  The ones that come with carrying cases have this cost built in, so I usually end up going with the lesser price and of course, no carry case.  My nifty drill motor is a prime example. 
Behold the Southern Repurposing!
Though I didn't measure it, I somehow knew that the drill would fit the Lego Carry box like a hand in a glove.  Not only does it make it easier to store, I don't have to worry about spiders (shudder) or rust growing in the motor.  It also makes it easier to store, stacking the various cases one on top of the other.  Pulling one out is easy and quick, rather than pulling it out of a bucket and 20 minutes untangling the cord from the other tools in the bucket.  

My neighbor Bubba, the Tool Master, has only given this repurposing a minor glance, so I know he doesn't feel I'm too strange looking carrying what appears to be a set of Lego Building blocks to work on some household issue. 

Perhaps I am finally becoming more of one of the Good Ol Boys!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Invention Intervention - the Door Gadget

There is nothing better than a good southern invention.  A pair of boots filled with cement and used as door stops.  Maybe a fork used as a handle of some sort. Even a hat with a pair of holders for beer seems to get me smiling. 

I also enjoy a good mystery.  Figuring out how to fix something in an uncommon way, or seeing how someone fixed something really is intriguing to me.  This thing, however, has got me stumped.  

Let's take a closer look, shall we?  The driver's door has been embellished with what appears to be a piece of a downspout off the side of the house.  It's been attached firmly with tie-downs of some sort not just once or twice, but three times.  It's positioned next to a side mirror, but it's not there to either support or enhance the mirror in anyway...and the opposite is also true, neither the mirror nor it's bracket seem to be there to support or enhance the gadget.

What the heck is that thang?  At first, I had thought it was a sort of driver's spittoon. A driver could spit into the drain, and not worry about hitting the people behind in the windshield with a gob of dark viscous matter.  (Yeah, doesn't that sound nice!)  Then I realized that the gadget is too far forward for the driver to easily spit into it.  Then I had thought it might be there to protect the door from hitting something.  But it doesn't' stick out enough even to protect the mirror, so that idea doesn't work either.  We should also agree that we don't know if the other door might also be so enhanced similarly so we won't speculate on that. 

Ok, junior G-Men, let's all work together to figure out this most incredible of inventions.  I am fairly chomping at the bit to see what other ideas you may have for this.  Write your idea in the comments, or write me privately, but let's figure this out!