Sunday, November 20, 2005

All that work for a $10 lightbulb

What ever happened to do-it-yourself car repairs. Sometimes I swear that manufacturers intentionally design cars just so that it's next to impossible to make simple repairs yourself. Now, I'm not trying to replace the engine, or anything like that... I'm not crazy. I just found last night that one of my headlights was out, so logically, this morning I go to the auto parts store up the street and pick up a replacement bulb. I figured, pop the old one out, put the new one in, piece of cake, right? WRONG. A job that I expected would take no more than 10 minutes ended up taking over an hour.

So I pop the hood, use my trusty maglight to scope around for an easy way to replace it. I can see exactly where the bulb connects to the car, the problem is you basically need hands of a 6-year-old to even reach down in there, plus once you do, there's not enough clearance to get the bulb out anyway, because the battery is in the way.

Plan B: Remove the battery. Easy, right? Sure, just disconnect the battery terminals, and loosen the one bolt that holds the battery down, and it just pops right out. Battery terminals... considering I've never replaced the battery the nuts that hold the terminals on were a little tight and awkward, but I managed to get them off with reasonably little trouble. Then that big bolt way down at the bottom that holds the battery on... not such an easy story. I can get a ratchet down there and it just fits in perfectly. One problem... there's no space to TURN the ratchet. Minor details.

It's at this point I second guess myself just wondering if there's an easier way then taking the battery out. So, after messing with my own intuitional instruction manual, I opened up the glove box and found the owners manual and flipped to the page on replacing head lamps. (At least they still put the instructions for this in the manual.) I call it "How to replace the headlamp in 9 easy steps." The first 6 steps involve removing about half a dozen screws, nuts, and bolts and basically disassembling the front corner panel of the car, followed by 3 quick and easy steps to disconnect the bulb and replace it. The additional caveat, "based on the complexity of the procedure, we recommend taking your vehicle in to an authorized service center for replacement." Taking the car into the dealer to replace the headlight? I think not. Removing half the front end of the car just to replace the headlight? I also think not.

I now return to the original plan of removing the battery, this time with a bit more resolve than the last time. Using a creative combination of the ratchet, vise-grips, and crescent wrenches, I managed to get the bolt holding the battery on loosened. From this point forward things become decidedly easier. I removed the battery, which gave me a wide-open reach at the back of the headlight. A few twists and disconnections and the bulb came right out. The new one went in equally easy. Of course, since the battery was now sitting on the floor of the garage, I had no way of knowing whether or not the new bulb was installed correctly and working, but I had hope.

I replaced the battery, reconnected everything and screwed everything back in (albeit this time, not nearly as tightly as it was in previously, because inevitably next week my battery will die or something). Turned on the headlights and it worked beautifully. The only lasting side-effects: my radio presets were all reset, but I'd been meaning to change them around anyway, so it worked out well. All in all, everything's fine but it was incredibly too much work for such a simple task to replace a $10 lightbulb.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Curling updates

Well, curling is still keeping me busy these days. Monday night curling went, I wouldn't say "well", but by the right combination of luck and decent shots we managed to win. As you might tell from the line score:

Things were looking bleak after 3 ends, but somehow we managed to turn things around at just the right time to make it work. In related news, as is part of the Monday night league, each week 2 teams bring food for everyone, and this was our team's week to bring food... or so we thought. There was a shuffle of the schedule a few weeks back, at which we thought we got moved from last week to this week, so we brought food this week. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to think we were supposed to bring food last week, so confusion abounded. Either way, there was plenty of food this week and everyone was happy. :)

And in other news, in our Sunday novice league, we had a mini open house... basically a "bring your friends curling" day, and I convinced Jonell and Chris to come. They both ended up having a good time... after they discovered the miracle of slip-on grippers to go over their shoes. Being a med school resident, Chris has no consistent schedule, so a weekly event like curling doesn't mesh well. But Jonell has decided to join the novice league this year, and will be out curling with us next week. How exciting!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Do they think people won't notice?

Have you noticed that commercials take certain "artistic liberties" when promoting their products and services? This has probably been done since the dawn of television, but it makes it look so fake and unbelievable. Now, I accept the "best case scenario" advertising, like you see in the fast food commercials. You see the Burger King commercials for a Whopper... have you EVER ordered a Whopper that looks like that? Of course not... mine has usually been squished and flattened, with no strategically-placed beads of ketchup and mustard glistening out of either side of the crisp red tomato. But theoretically, on a particularly lucky day, it might look something like that... the commercial is simply what you might get in the best case scenario. This doesn't really bother me.

What I'm taking about are things that are completely changed for the purpose of the commercial. Take credit card commercials for example. It's so common these days to demonstrate the "convenience" of using credit / debit cards to make purchases. Their favorite way of showing this to show the customer swiping their card at the terminal when checking out. Of course, they take certain care to hold the card so you can see the Visa logo (or Discover, or whatever, they all do it) while they're swiping the card. Freeze the camera. Go pull a credit card out of your wallet... go ahead, I'll wait...



OK, good. Now tell me, what's wrong with this picture?:

I'm all about product placement, but tell me exactly how productive this transaction is going to be, considering the magnetic stripe on the card isn't even going through the machine. Plus, if you've ever had a senile moment and tried to swipe your card this way, you'll quickly notice how it doesn't slide particularly well when you're running over the raised numbers! Every time I see this, it drives me crazy. Think of how many people mimic what they see in the commercials, and then feel stupid because it doesn't work. Maybe they should sue Visa for emotional distress caused by their deceptive advertising? No no no, that would be a frivolous lawsuit... and that's a blog for another day.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election updates...

Watching the election results come in can be a satisfying experience... well, when you're in the apparent majority. As a follow-up to my Initiatives blog from a few weeks back, apparently the majority of the state had mostly the same sentiments I do. What we have learned tonight:
  • Nearly 2/3 of Washington citizens don't like smoke, at that's something all 39 counties can agree on. In 30 days, look forward to enjoying smoke-free bars, casinos, and bowling alleys.
  • Confusing initiatives about healthcare and malpractice reform don't win enough votes
  • As much as people hate gas taxes, they hate our current roads more
  • 57% of Washingtonians still listen to the trash that comes out of Tim Eyman's mouth, but ironically, most of the rural counties in the state have him figured out. I'm not quite sure what to make of that.
  • Seattleites are fed up with the monorail, and will be glad to stop hearing about it for good.

I guess I don't have much to complain about, believe it or not. The people have spoken.

And in a last-minute reminder and plug for my other blog, the Amazing Race 8 Travelblog had a special guest columnist this week, so be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

And the Oscar for best movie reviews goes to...

In what I will officially credit as the find of the year, my friend Andrew stumbled onto a biweekly online video segment on that features everyone's favorite heckling Muppets, Statler and Waldorf, live From the Balcony with reviews (or rather, what seems to be more of a cynical view) of recent and upcoming movies. Each segment is about 10 minutes or so in length, and 99.9% hilarious. The current episode is actually the 10th in the series, but fortunately for those of us a little late on the uptake, they have the entire archive of past episodes available for viewing. And the best part: it's absolutely free! It can't be beat!

Each episode features clips from trailers, special features starring other members of the Muppets crew including Pepe the King Prawn, as well as the weekly "Balcon-ism". This is high-quality entertainment, so much so that it merits being immortalized on my featured links segment right here in the Universe of Synergy! Now if you'll excuse me, I have more reviews to watch.