Sunday, June 28, 2009

I'm reinforced in my desire to change engine oil myself

Changing the oil on your own car is something I don't think everyone should do, but it's good to know how (and how internal combustion engines work). My mother's late model Corolla was due, but I detest oil rigs and wasn't about to take it to one for her. As I mentioned a few years back, I like to do it myself, and I've always done it on my own car ever since these idiots so overtightened the drain plug and nearly stripped the threads!

Then there's the question of trust. I'm actually not sure of the last time the oil and filter were genuinely changed on my mother's car. For all we know, they've just been draining the oil and leaving the same filter. It's no mere stereotype that mechanics try to rip people off, and they can see an elderly woman like my mother coming from a mile away. Unfortunately I don't have the time to bring her car to a shop for her, which has cost her. When the car had only 34,000 miles, some scammer said she needed new brake pads and rotors. Her brake pads seemed fine to me, let alone the rotors, but what the hell did she know? So she ok'd the job and in the end paid $700.

Moreover, this last oil filter, a TVI brand, put on is a piece of junk. A "cap" filter wrench, the kind that fits over the edge of the filter and hooks onto a 3/8" ratchet, just kept slipping on the smooth painted end. The flattened parts were still too rounded. Ordinarily that's not a problem; I'll just get what I consider a "true" filter wrench, except that some Toyota designer was drunk on sake and designed a tight space with no way to turn a wrench! Even with the swiveling handle at 90 degrees, I had no room to turn it such that it could grip onto the filter. There could be room if I removed the oil pan, but what a job just for an oil change.

Maybe it's no coincidence that, frustrated, I came inside to rest for a minute and saw that my wife was watching mass on the Filipino cable channel. The priest was saying something about the Lord pouring grace or whatever, and I said, "Well maybe the Lord can do something about this filter!" After some water, I went back outside to think of what I could do. I've been known in my family since I was little for ingenuity in jury-rigging or otherwise doing things with limited materials and tools, and this time was actually easy. "Oh what the hell." I started hammering the cap wrench onto the filter, uttering a steady stream of curses, and miracle of miracles, that did it. It wasn't perfectly tight, and I had to hammer it back on several times, but each time I could get several degrees of turn on the filter.

"Maker of quality parts" is printed on the side. What a joke.

So I got the little bastard off, and the rest was straightforward. At least now the job is done, I know it was done, and it was done right. Props go out to Craftsman, maker of awesome tools like this ratcheting wrench set. Sometimes you can find them on sale for half price. When I first saw them, my frugal wife initially thought I'd be buying the equivalent of toys, but they've more than earned themselves, including today. Memo to self: 14mm next time.

Props also to Fram's oil filter designers, who have the sense to put rough grips on the end.

Finally, to whoever made the starting-to-rust two-ton jack that's served me so well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Life is fleeting

Christian Albin, executive chef of The Four Seasons, passed away earlier this month, only five days after being diagnosed with cancer. Tonight, we were just told that one of my wife's uncles, whom we visited a couple of years ago, suddenly died. I only met him that one time and wish I had gotten to know him better. He was a gracious and generous host and seemed like a good man.

In his last days, if not last hours, is a good friend of my family. He was only recently diagnosed with cancer himself. He received his brother, who came halfway around the world to pay final respects, but he doesn't want us to visit. His wish is that we stay away so we'll remember him as strong and hale, and we will respect that. He will be missed greatly.

He moved to the United States from the Philippines quite a few years ago, when the Marcoses was in power. Our friend lived in one of his wealthy family's mansions, one that Ferdinand and Imelda happened to notice and desire for a retreat. They arranged for a visa and one-way airfare to New York, and told him to get out of the country "or else."

Another MSM lie: "Stocks end mostly higher after Fed assessment"

As I've pointed out before, the mainstream media spins any economic news as the end of the world while a Republican is in the White House, and it glosses over bad economic news or rewrites it as "Not too bad" once a Democrat takes over.

Today's headline "Stocks end mostly higher after Fed assessment" is so utterly dishonest, as is customary with anything from the MSM. If this had been several months ago, the headline would have read something like, "Stocks lose rally steam after Fed announcement." Let's take a look at what really happened:

The plain and simple fact is that once the Fed made its announcements, stocks dipped. The only reason the NASDAQ and S&P 500 ended higher than their opening is because, unlike the DJIA, they didn't dip enough to erase the gains from earlier. They didn't crash, but the NASDAQ and S&P 500 indices closed at around 1% from today's peaks, and the DJIA closed nearly 1.5% off its peak.

Despite all this, the meaningful indicators are of movements in U.S. bond markets. For example:

This tells you something. The Fed released a statement today at 2:15:
The prices of energy and other commodities have risen of late. However, substantial resource slack is likely to dampen cost pressures, and the Committee expects that inflation will remain subdued for some time.
Investors overall clearly didn't believe that, evidenced by the sudden afternoon spike in the 10-year's rate. For months now, I've been pointing out that the Fed is creating money out of thin air to inflate the money supply, which inevitably results in inflation. We're in trouble, but most Americans have no idea what's coming.

Indeed, "prices of energy and other commodities have risen of late." I pointed out three months ago that the Fed's pumping of new dollars into the economy is the reason, the only significant reason, that this is happening.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

So much for "the most open and transparent" administration

A White House blog post, January 20th: "Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and will play a major role in delivering on that promise."

The headline yesterday: "Obama blocks list of visitors to White House"

Now why wouldn't they want the public to know who's coming to dinner? Jeremiah Wright? Bill Ayers? This reporter Dedman had better not dig too deeply, or this Chicago-rooted administration will do a Vince Foster and make him just like his name sounds.

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Just this once, I wish Islamic terrorists had succeeded

Target: Jimmy Carter. Supposedly. It could just be an attempt by Hamas to look like "good guys" to the ignorant.
"Nobody in Gaza will touch this man [Carter]," Hamas adviser Ahmed Yousef said. "He is on a noble mission. Everyone here respects him."
That there speaks volumes.

But like the exchange in "A Few Good Men" where Kaffee asked Jessup why the transfer was necessary if he'd given an order, if nobody in Gaza would touch Carter, then where did the bomb come from?

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Who doesn't love a good stimulus, other than John Q. Taxpayer?

Two hundred million dollars to "create" 500 jobs. But what's $400K per job when we can all feel good about it? John Q. Taxpayer's feelings don't count, though.

Think about it. If this were a loan, then if each job generated $40K of economic activity annually, it would take only 10 years for this cockamamie idea to break even. Think of what the $200 million could do to create real work, not dream jobs for ultra-rich and their lackeys who use the power of government to redirect money their way. I have no problem with the mere fact of people amassing and keeping wealth, but I do have a problem with them forcing me into it (the force being the government spending). I never invested in this project and probably would never want to, and by definition, whatever is left of a "market" in this country also didn't want in.

The truly tragic part is what I've been pointing out, that all this "stimulus" spending isn't being funded by taxpayer dollars, or even by true borrowing of money that already exists. The Federal Reserve keeps creating new dollars out of thin air for the federal government to borrow. In the end, this spaceport will be paid for by everyone, the "inflation tax": the value of our dollars will decrease, but the ones mostly hurt are those of us who save for the future. Inflation has a lesser impact on those who spend their earnings quickly.

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A new Chinatown counterfeiting crackdown?

After some business yesterday in midtown, we went down to Chinatown. We go for fruit, vegetables and baked goods, not counterfeit items. However, it was impossible not to notice that a lot of the, uh, "establishments" on Canal Street have been shut down. There was a crackdown on counterfeiters last year (see here for a picture of that goddamn idiot Bloomberg doing a poor impersonation of Eliot Ness), but the actual counterfeiting area is really much larger. That I ever noticed, the shutdown never affected the "stores" beyond that small area (like west of Centre, especially around Lafayette). Until now.

We hadn't been down there in several months, so I couldn't tell you when, but based on what Cyn in the City reported, I'm guessing it's lasted from this past March. One wall even had a restraining order forbidding that "establishment" form engaging in trademark counterfeiting. I tried not to laugh.

Not that it's stopped the counterfeiting, mind you. It only seems to have shifted the business from one racial group to another; go figure. The sidewalks are filled with plenty of black people hawking fakes, and further west on Canal Street (toward Broadway) are plenty of black-operated storefronts with every imaginable type of knock-off.

Here's a map, courtesy of Google, of the area.

Monday, June 01, 2009

For once, a good court ruling

The headline "California high court says bank doesn't have to pay $1 billion for overdraft fees" is actually incorrect. The court ruling is that Bank of America doesn't have to reimburse the overdraft fees that they charged their customers.

If people's accounts are overdrawn, then the bank is perfectly entitled to charge fees as previously agreed, which usually means the fees are deducted from the next credit to the account. There's absolutely no basis to question this. It doesn't matter that these disabled and/or seniors are "poor": an overdrawn account means that they're using money that doesn't belong to them, and the bank will charge a fee. The money belongs to the other depositors at the bank. The fee is partly to discourage overdrafts, and partly to compensate for the managers' time in reconciling accounts. The bank is entitled to charge that fee based on the agreement the customers voluntarily accepted when opening the accounts. As with all things, if you don't like the conditions, then take your business elsewhere.

This all started become some twit evidently saw new money in his account, which he should have realized was more than what ought to have been. Instead of notifying the bank of a probable error, he was stupid enough to debit more than what he really had. It reminds me of the idiot family that went to an ATM that suddenly started spitting out tens of thousands of dollars. Instead of bagging and returning it, they treated it as having fallen from heaven and started spending it all. But don't be fooled: banks will track down the error, and the family was caught and ordered to pay it back. I can't find an article on that American family, but here's one in England that similarly burned through other depositors' money, and they were properly jailed for it.

It may start with a bank's error, but a bank's error does not force people to act irresponsibly. Some might say this "disabled man" had cause to complain, because the bank charged him a fee after reversing their error. However, he made the serious error: he should have double-checked how much his account should have, rather than treating it like Christmas.

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Sotomayor: perfect for the Supreme Court

Blogging's been a little light now that the weather is warmer and daylight hours are longer, but this is a topic I might as well jump into. Ever since her nomination, I've realized something: Sotomayor is perfect for the Supreme Court. Say that just as Abe Vigoda did in "The Godfather": perfect.

But don't misunderstand why I say that. This is the Court that tramples all over private property rights (ask Susan Kelo) and states' rights (ask Angel Raich). So Sotomayor, who thinks your skin color helps make better decisions and ruled on the side of an extortionist, will be a great fit. She'll continue in Souter's best anti-liberty tradition, and she'll be a credit to the Court that tramples all over individuals' rights. Heaven forbid you want to alleviate your cancer pain in a way that harms no one else, or keep and dispose of your own property as you see fit; such things are everyone's business to decide for you.

The simple truth is that Sotomayor is a racist bigot. There's no possible way to spin what she said:
Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O'Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O'Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle. I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life.
So much for blind, impartial justice. Sotomayor can't even be objective when it comes to language! Liberals like her will call someone "wise" when agreeing, and decry someone as "unwise" when disagreeing.

There is one exception. "National origin" can count in that a true American can have one prejudice and one alone, that of advancing toward liberty.

Someone once said, "I, like Professor Carter, believe that we should not be so myopic as to believe that others of different experiences or backgrounds are incapable of understanding the values and needs of people from a different group. Many are so capable. As Judge Cedarbaum pointed out to me, nine white men on the Supreme Court in the past have done so on many occasions and on many issues including Brown." Oh, that was also Sotomayor -- in the same speech.

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